"I think being able to be open and humble are the strongest qualities" - Ithica Films MD Matt McGough talks to BQ about what he thinks makes a great leader, and takes us through his journey so far.
What is it the company does?
We create films for businesses, we work in a lot of sectors but we always have a cinematic approach to the content we’re asked to create with our clients.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
At one point it was everything. As we’ve grown this has been refined into developing the strategy for the business, leading business development and briefing the team. I’ve finally made my peace with not being on the tools everyday although I still keep my skills up as a practitioner. I really enjoy the MD role as it allows me to think about the big picture while still getting my hands dirty.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started as a Production Assistant in 2005 while I was still studying TV Production at University. I quickly moved on to become a Production Manager and earned my broadcast credits as a Camera Operator and as a Reporter. My role was really varied which helped me develop my skills and I made my first moves into BD on top of my production role in 2011. All of this led to giving me the confidence to form Ithica Films in 2014.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think being able to be open and humble are the strongest qualities. I’ve felt I’ve been at my best when this has been at the forefront and it’s been impressive when I’ve seen other people do it. This allows my team to know that I really care about what they have to contribute and that they’re not just there to fulfil my brief – they take what I do and make it so much better.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
We went through a major shakeup last year, something we dubbed The Second Startup where we asked the question “if we were to start the company from scratch now, what would we do differently?”. It was incredibly liberating but required a great deal of energy to keep the company moving while making major changes to it in terms of infrastructure, equipment, team members and overall strategy. We’ve got some minor aspects of this that are still being worked on, and although I’m not in any rush to do it again soon, it definitely helped us understand more about where we wanted to go.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
It has the odd stressy moment but I feel that it takes a lot for it to get to me. I never really switch off but I try my best when I’m with my kids – I finally took the plunge and got a work phone so that I’ve got the option of physically switching work off which has definitely helped. Other than family time I’ve got the same hobbies as I did when I was 17 – a lot around film and music. I’m into film and try to watch a film a week by myself, other than that it’s playing on my Fender Jazzmaster or my vinyl records – a lot of Mogwai, The National, Twilight Sad.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pilot. It kind of happened to a degree as I hold a CAA PfCO drone pilots license.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I hate mess. I’m often the culprit though.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We should have doubled in size from where we’re at now. We’ve grown by 400% between years one and five and our targets are achievable without being unrealistic. I’d like to see us continuing our great work in the North East while expanding our national and international presence. I think by then we should be in new premises – what shape that takes is up for debate but our next move must incorporate some studio space. I’d love our HQ to still be around the Boho area in Middlesbrough so I’d be delighted if we could make that happen.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Put the hours in and run your own race. There’s no point trying to sprint if you’re running a marathon.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Embrace the contradictions. That’s where all the interesting stuff happens and trying to fit things in a neat box is futile.
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