BQ meets Ben Maughan, who started his first business at just 16 years old, and now runs social media advertising agency Epic Social.
What is it the company does?
Epic Social is a high-end social media advertising agency based in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, which specialises in premium-quality content generation and highly-targeted advert placement to help brands maximise the impact of their digital marketing activities.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My official title is managing director, however, because we are still a relatively small team, I wear a lot of different hats in the office! My role encompasses account management on behalf of clients, accounts and marketing among other things, but I spend most of my time generating leads and bringing in new business.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started my first business at the age of 16, a clothing label called ‘Niche Threads’ which had stockists in Newcastle and London. After a few years, I realised that my real passion was for marketing so together with an investor, I founded my own marketing agency, ‘Very Niche’ in 2013. From there, I moved to London to join the team at HiUp as marketing director. HiUp is a mobile app that helps people to find jobs and training courses so this was a big step away from my comfort zone, but I learned a lot in a short space of time. On returning to the North East, I joined forces with my now business partner, Aidan Sunter to establish Epic Social in 2017.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think there are three main character traits that define great leaders, patience, people skills and empathy. Leaders should be personable and approachable on a human level, but also inspiring and motivational to make people want to follow them or work for them. Respect is key, but it needs to be earned.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Balancing my time has been and always will be my biggest challenge. I would love to spend all of my time out on the road, meeting new business contacts and building and maintaining relationships with clients, but there needs to be a balance so that you don't lose control of what is going on internally at the office with projects and staff.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I do try my best to switch off, but when you’re the head of a start-up business and you are simultaneously trying to grow your business and keep it running effectively, this sometimes proves very difficult! I don’t get stressed very easily but I do like to sit quietly over a cup of coffee to help me gather my thoughts every once in a while. Like with any job, you have good days and bad days, the good days help you to get through.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was always my dream to create a business, be my own boss and build a legacy off the back of it. I really feel like we have cracked this with Epic Social. The business is growing day by day and is quickly on the way to becoming one of the region’s fastest-growing digital start-ups. We’ve been incredibly lucky from very early on to attract some great regional clients such as franchises of Porsche, McDonald’s and BMW which have really helped us to open doors. We’re in a position now where people are really starting to sit up and take notice of the work we’re doing and this can only mean good things for the future of the business.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I absolutely hate excuses! Everyone who knows me knows that excuses just don't wash with me, I can always provide an alternative solution to a problem. I’m a really hard worker and I expect the same level of dedication from everyone I work with so excuses are a real bugbear.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Technology and digital media is advancing all of the time so we have had to stay agile and continually adapt our services to meet the evolving needs of clients and the ever-changing market. Due to the industry we are in, it’s been difficult so far to acquire clients that have large budgets for social media, as the focus for many businesses’ marketing strategies is still on traditional platforms such as print advertising and PR. As we continue to grow however and businesses catch up with the digital marketing revolution, we feel like this will change the shape of our business and allow us to acquire market share on different platforms which will hopefully see us move into new geographical areas across the UK and United States as a result.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Don't give up! Have patience with everything that you do and don't ever rush, take the time to understand people's emotions and always put 110% effort into everything that you do.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
With any business venture, especially when you’re first starting out, there is an element of risk involved. You are either going to learn by doing what you do for a very long time, or you are going to learn by making mistakes and failing a handful of times, either way will get you to your end goal, but you need to be very aware of this from the outset. I wish someone had told me this! It’s so easy to be disappointed when things don’t work out first time, but patience is key.
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