Rick Tobin, managing director and founder of Circus PPC, gives BQ an insight into what it's like at the head of a growing pay-per-click agency...
What does your role involve?
Day to day I work with the directors and pay-per-click (PPC) managers to ensure client goals and standards are being met, as well as working on sales and pitches. But in all honesty, PPC is my true passion so I try to spend as much time working in the business as I do working on it. I have my own subset of clients that I work with and I’m constantly working to ensure that my knowledge is expanding and growing so that I can disseminate this to the team, to clients and to a wider audience.
What is it the company does?
Circus PPC is a dedicated pay-per-click agency – there aren’t that many agencies out there that solely focus on this one niche. I founded the agency in 2009 to manage and develop pure PPC campaigns; unlike other agencies, we don’t try to be a jack of all trades.
We believe that this sets us aside from other online marketing agencies that will try their hand at anything and it really gives us the focus and desire to excel in our niche. We aim to be the best at PPC and the only way we can achieve this goal is to dedicate ourselves to achieving it!
Our team is built up of highly skilled PPC experts who really know and love what they do. We don’t hire sales or account managers, we only use and train up experts who love nothing more than PPC account work for their clients.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Ultimately, I think being dedicated to one goal or dream and ensuring that this is communicated to and supported by the whole team is what makes a great leader. I ensure that I involve the entire team in top level decisions; I really feel that this fosters a sense of buy-in to the company culture and helps to ensure that we’re all moving in the same direction. My key leadership values are honesty, transparency, determination, a sense of humour and above all, a willingness to help, learn and grow with the team.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Getting the company culture right as the business has grown has been one of the biggest challenges; ensuring that the team is engaged and happy so that they do the right thing for both their clients and their colleagues while working hard and striving to achieve.
I’m not afraid to say that it has been difficult to go from a one-man consultancy to an eight strong team. When you work for yourself, every decision is your own to make but as the business grows, you involve more people and that decision making process becomes elongated. But I know that having an incredible team around me has allowed me to get a wide view which allows for a more productive outcome or approach.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I’ve given meditation a go to alleviate stress but I absolutely love reading and find it really helps me to wind down at the end of a busy day. I spend a lot of time reading up on new technologies and what’s changing in the digital world. I’m also a big fan of team building events to help the whole team blow off some steam.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Even when I was little I was really into technology - fascinated by its progression as the years went by, from hardware to software and then the internet came along. I think I always knew that I would get into something that involved computers as I always loved the idea of how technology impacts everyone’s lives.
Any pet hates in the workplace?
I really hate back biting, team fallouts and back handed comments. I appreciate that in some cases it’s inevitable and sometimes understandable but I would always hope that these things can be worked out in a friendly, open environment. We’re a team and we should support each other when problems or issue arise.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
I’d like to hope that our culture of excellence and our expertise will still exist, just with a bigger team! Our industry, customers and technology moves incredibly fast so I would hope that we will remain at the forefront of the incorporation of new technologies such as voice search, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Concentrate on what you do best and do it for the right reasons – for the clients and for your team. The financial rewards come further down the line. But in the meantime, shout about your business and your team’s achievements. Foster a healthy working environment and really focus on the team you have around you. Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders!
Where did you start your career?
I started my career in one of the UK’s largest independent media agencies, Brilliant Media, working in PPC side by side with traditional TV, press and mail teams – this was when the digital age was in its infancy! As the industry grew, so did its importance and honestly, I was in the right place at the right time to be involved in something truly ground breaking and very, very exciting.
Back when I started in PPC, it was easy – there were very few competitors, the technology was basic and bidding was straightforward. As the years progressed, the technology improved, the budgets increased and the industry boomed. There were so many more ways we could deliver for our clients and get the right ad in front of the right customer at the right time.
The industry continues to grow today with new technologies, more networks and new ways of connecting customers to brands. PPC started out as a marketing role but it’s now much more a data driven, engineering role.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.
I began my career at Brilliant Media before moving to Stickeyes to head up their PPC team in 2008. It wasn’t long after that I decided to go it alone and set up Circusmedia. By 2010, we had won our first new client and our first employee came on board in 2011. Since then the company has grown, with the team and the client base expanding, we now have 10 experts in our team and work with over 40 clients, so in 2015 we decided that it was time for a rebrand and became Circus PPC Agency Ltd.