In February 2011, I was seven years into my role heading up FM World, now Facilitate, the magazine which I had launched for the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (then BIFM) back in 2004 but had a serious case of the seven-year itch. I needed a fresh challenge.
I’d spotted a gap in the market for a PR agency which specialised in the built environment – specifically facilities management, which knew their clients really well but also had a wider range of skills and more capacity than a freelance PR. The name comes from the old CMYK colour model, which I’d used in my publishing background. Magenta is also a bold, bright and fun colour and seemed the perfect match for the new venture.
After a life-time of working for someone else, going it alone is scary, but also exciting. Securing our first long-term client SitexOrbis, a vacant property management firm based in Uxbridge, just as the business was launching was my first highlight. But they weren’t just any first client. Having had several PR agencies in the past, Marketing Manager Debansu Das gently guided me into what I should be doing and how I should be doing it and this advice was instrumental in how we run our client relationships even today.
Winning clients is great, but it was when we’d won enough new business to warrant hiring someone that it really hit home that I was running a business. Five months after I set up Magenta, our first M person walked through the door. It was the start of creating the Magenta culture that sets us apart today. Creating the sort of company that I wanted to work for was really important to me. But with people comes responsibility – you realise that you’re not just running the business to pay your mortgage and bills, but there are other people relying on you to make it a success.
Over the first five years, we grew quite quickly and, because we were niche, clients took us with them into new markets. We started supporting clients in Australia in 2012, Canada in 2013 and the US in 2017. We now have an office in Toronto, headed up by Simon Iatrou to support the North America market and we have associates all over the world. Being able to deliver global projects never ceases to excite me.
But not all relationships work out and it’s important to know when to walk away. We’ve only had to do that very occasionally in our decade in business but the first time we did that was a very powerful moment. The client was treating our people badly, kept changing the goal posts and wasn’t investing in the partnership. We tried to make it work but when we gave notice it was the most amazing feeling – and showed our people that we will never put profit above them. Working relationships will only be a true success if they’re built on a foundation of mutual respect and shared values.
While the pandemic was tough financially for Magenta, there were definitely upsides. As a team we became much closer – we shared our feelings and experiences in a way that we would never have done before – and we really upped our game in terms of wellbeing activities to keep us motivated. We all experienced tough times over the pandemic (fortunately not all at the same time!) and we helped each other through it. We also became much closer to our clients – like our colleagues we helped each other through a challenging year.
The person who set up the business is not always the right person to take it to its next stage. In October 2019, after 8.5 years as MD, I stepped back to a Chairman role and Jo Sutherland, who has been with Magenta since 2015, became our MD. Jo was a fantastic account lead injecting energy and passion into all her relationships, and over the years, her leadership skills have really come to the fore. In the 18 months since, she’s taken Magenta to the next level spearheading the move towards being an integrated communications consultancy. She’s now a new mum on maternity leave, which has given me a chance to step back more into the business and to recognise how much the business and specifically the built environment has changed.