'It's not about surviving'; Paykel founder on being acquired

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 14 February 2019
Tony Paykel, Paykel Media

Being acquired as an independent agency isn't about surviving, it's about growing and continuing to innovate, says founder of Paykel Media, Tony Paykel.

Following news this week of the long-standing independent media agency being bought by Active International, Paykel tells AdNews it is about business owners “doing what they think is right for their business” to keep up with the changes already taking place. 

Banjo founder Andrew Varasdi previously told AdNews he predicts the days of independents are numbered, saying that agencies must be part of a bigger group to thrive. However Paykel disagrees.

“No, this was no about survival,” Paykel says.

“It was about being better in the future by strengthening our service offerings for clients, partners and media.

“For me it was a natural step to collaborate with another successful company which, in line with a rapidly changing communications landscape, will enable us to continue to pursue additional avenues for growth and development.”

So would Paykel do it all again from scratch or is that too terrifying given it took him two decades to build what he has today.

“I don’t think 'terrifying' is quite the right word, but, for me, I’ve done it and for anyone doing it now, they would think differently from me and bring different skills with them that suit the communications world of today.

“People should always follow their passion and not be at all frightened about starting up a new business – if that’s what they want.”

Paykel says there will always be room for independent businesses of any size and that applies to any industry, not just advertising.

“I’ve always believed there is enough business to go around for all well run businesses and each of those businesses brings its own unique skillsets and capability to the market,” he adds.

Major learnings and challenges along the way

In terms of his top three major learnings as an agency founder, he says all clients are great – “until they don’t pay”; you have to be across all elements of your business everything and that it's important to always do the extra things for a client or a staff member.

“It’s so important to always do the extra things for a client or a staff member – a thank you note they weren’t expecting or a follow up they thought you may have forgotten about, and most importantly, if you make a promise of any sort – deliver on it.”

When it comes to the challenges of running your own business Paykel says the mental side of worrying if they are doing well and if they can survive, let alone prosper, was hard at first, adding that he can safely say “that battle has been won”.

More recently he says keeping up with the change in the technology side of the industry and adapting the business to keep up is always there – as well as making sure that all employees are looked after as best they can be.

“We’ve had 70-80 people work for us over the period and I think on balance, the majority would say they had – and are still having – a great experience at Paykel,” he says.

In Australia, independents, such as The Royals and Apparent, have remained strong, with The Royals adapting to the modern market to remain successful.

Some independents profess to be 'independent forever', but Paykel was not one of them.

“For me, nothing’s forever of course,however, for us retention of our independence has always been very important,” he says.

“That is why I was never going to sell the business to a large holding company agency.”

He says with this acquisition by Active, it has the best of both worlds – by retaining its independence, the brand name continues on and it continues in business as it is – but with access to more intelligence and resource from another independent business spread throughout the world.

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