Dynamic Duos: 303 Mullenlowe Perth’s Todd Baker and René Migliore

In this week's Dynamic Duos, Mumbrella chatted with 303 Mullenlowe Perth's Todd Baker and René Migliore about how a phone call in 2012 set off a friendship and professional partnership that saw the pair take on the role of joint MDs in 2019, just 7 years after Baker joined the business.

In Dynamic Duos, Mumbrella each week asks two members of the same organisation with a professional and personal affiliation to share with readers the importance of workplace relationships in an increasingly hybridised world of work.

Todd Baker:

Sitting at your desk, job bags in precise order, safety blanket wrapped around you, friends chatting like best mates and an air of familiarity floating through the office. It’s a wonderful place to be in and where my career was at in 2012. I’d had a quick rise through the ranks at my first agency job at Workhouse Advertising, built a solid client reputation (well I thought so) and was loving coming to work every day. Who wouldn’t? Life was good…it was fun but most of all, it was comfortable.

And then the phone rang…it was another agency calling…and not just any agency, but one with a pretty big reputation in the Perth market (303 MullenLowe). There was also a guy on the end of the phone with flash name, offering me a flash salary (I wish), selling me this flashy agency and client portfolio as good as any in Perth.

And that’s where it all began – in the summer of 2012.

Ten years later, here we are – joint managing directors, partners, mates and the Ying to each other’s Yang, driving an agency we are both passionate about and one which really does feel like home.

People do often ask – how do you run an agency with two leads? Do you sit down and divide up responsibilities? Who do your clients and staff go to for leadership? The answer is pretty simple. We’ve never had to discuss any of those things. Not even at the start.

303 MullenLowe has never been built on hierarchies, egos and set agendas, it’s a family and a bunch of talented brothers and sisters working in true harmony to deliver remarkable communications. Yes, there’s guidance from top (us), but it’s not a dictatorship. René and I wholeheartedly trust each other, lean into each other’s natural skillsets and experience and run the agency together – based on the needs and wants of our staff and clients. We listen, we learn and we continue to build a better 303 MullenLowe, as a dynamic duo. It has come very naturally and I think the agency is seeing the benefits of this cohesion and the power of not one, but two leaders.  Rene and I have also more recently added to our support network, with the power of the Attivo Group. This new relationship is seeing us benefit from a strong locally led agency in Perth, with the backing of teams in New Zealand and of course our Sydney office.

It’s been 3 years since we took over the reins and it has been an absolute pleasure to not only lead a talented bunch of people and exceptional clients, but not many people would be able to say that they’ve been able to do it with a guy that I can truly call a mate. There’s not been a single disagreement in the 3 years we’ve had together and René’s experience, knowledge and connections has helped to further my career, leadership and skills to be a better suit, leader, father and person.

Finally, I really do owe my success and my career progression to that little phone call from René in 2012. If he hadn’t pulled me out from under my safety blanket and given me an opportunity at 303 MullenLowe, I certainly wouldn’t be here writing an article about ‘Dynamic Duos’. Yes, I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, but someone needs to give you that chance. Thanks Ren.

René Migliore:

Joint Managing Directors isn’t unusual but it’s also not common. It’s certainly a first for 303 MullenLowe and I often get asked…how does it work with you guys?

The answer is pretty simple, Todd and I run the agency together.

We have different skill-sets, experience, personalities and connections so it’s a real case of ying + yang. We bring really different perspectives to the table.

Of course what we have in common is equally important; we’re both fathers, we both care deeply about the agency and the people in it, we both have a mutual respect and I’d go so far as to say professional admiration for each other.

Our agency is and always has been driven by collaboration, openness, no egos, supporting each other and allowing everyone to play to their strengths. That’s how Todd and I work and it’s the reason Joint Managing Directors as a model suits 303 MullenLowe. Our partnership reflects the agency – we bring different perspectives and experience to the table, but always back each other.

I first met Todd in 2012 when he joined 303 MullenLowe and I was head of client service. One of his first clients was TAB, which for Todd was the ultimate opportunity to combine passion and professionalism – he’s a mad punter but more specifically loves horse racing! If he hadn’t been genetically gifted with height, he’d have been a jockey for sure. And if he could get away with it, would have worn silks to work. Of course, it wasn’t long before his leadership ability began to shine through and a few years down the track (pardon the pun) he’d stepped up to head of client service.

I’d left a few years before that to pursue other career interests (including switching from client service to media) but over the 5 years I was away from the agency, we stayed in touch.  In that time, he’d been through it all, won some great clients, lost some great clients, ridden the wave of ownership restructures and all the while remained committed and proud to be there.

As I look back, the foundations of our future partnership were already there.  We shared a history and passion for the place and knew what made it tick – I’d spent 7 years at 303 MullenLowe previously and although I’d been away, never lost my connection and affinity for the agency.  We also had an established history, trust, and solid working relationship from working on clients and pitches together. So, when there was a change of leadership, and we were tapped on the shoulder to take the reins together…it was an easy decision. And we were able to just get on with it.

Given I run Mediahub (the media agency in the group), I have a specific focus on supporting our rapid growth in that part of the business, but generally we’re both across everything and provide each other with ongoing counsel. As a duo we can cover more ground, and work on the business as well as in it.  We share all the problems, the opportunities, the pain and the joy in the agency.

As we approach 3 years into the joint managing director partnership it’s a really exciting time. Todd is looking forward to his second bub, I’m looking forward to reduced school fees as my eldest finishes high school. We’ve found our groove, we have a great relationship with Attivo Group (our new ANZ owners) and the other full-service agencies in the group.

We also have a great relationship with our Sydney counterpart in Joanna Gray and her team, doing lots of work together. And we have 40 odd (some very odd) people in the agency that we have the absolute privilege of leading.


Todd on Rene:

Your most memorable moment with Rene:

I was going to list a couple of agency social events as memorable moments – and they are memories that will never be forgotten…but also probably shouldn’t be re-told. But it’s actually the small things that I remember the most and why our partnership is so valuable to me. Boring as it might be, but it’s simply standing back and watching the proud moments together of our evolving agency. The agency interaction at an all-staff function, one of our staff claiming an award at an industry event, the agency gathering to celebrate a new-client win or great presentation, the social club bringing the agency together to raise money for the Cancer Council Biggest Morning tea. It’s these moments that René and I don’t share alone, but share together. We are at our best, when our staff are at their best.

Describe Rene in one word:

Sharp, connected and compassionate. René is one of the sharpest dressers in the industry and whilst I try and keep up, I’d need a bigger wardrobe to deal with the number of jackets, three-piece suits, loafers and floral pocket squares. But he needs the large wardrobe, the man does a lot of networking and drinks a lot of double shot flat whites with clients over breakfast. You can’t rock up with the same suit week in week out. This leads to my next point around connection. He’s always got a mate, a client, a supplier only a call away and he’s well respected in town that they also answer the calls. Finally, he’s also a great listener. As JMDs we share a lot with each other, make a lot of decisions together, share a beer with each other and just be there for support. René always has an ear for staff and there to support me too – especially with my younger words of wisdom.

Rene’s most annoying/endearing habit:

He thinks he can sing and play netball. Not at the same time but give Ren the microphone or a netball bib and the man is in his element.


Rene on Todd:

Your most memorable moment with Todd:

We stepped into the role of Joint MD in late 2019 and at that point were busy making plans for the year to come, which as well all know was a year everyone would rather forget!

In a real baptism of fire, we had to make some significant decisions regarding the health and safety of staff during a pandemic, deal with the logistics of sending an agency home to work, continue to deliver against client expectations, win new business and keep the culture and spirit of the agency intact. As you can imagine with so much at stake, it made the partnership strong. We had to communicate constantly, always cut to the chase, divide and conquer and trust each other implicitly. We came to realise that our partnership is more important than any individual motivations or ambitions and in fact when we put the partnership first it means the agency wins and of course personal success and satisfaction follows. It was a significant time for us both.

Describe Todd in one word:

I like to think of Todd as a brother from another mother…

He’s young, I’m less young.

He’s super organised, I’m super agile.

He plays golf, I hate golf.

He’s buttoned down, I like a few buttons undone.

He’s stripes, I’m florals.

You get the idea.

Todd’s most annoying/endearing habit:

We bring different perspectives and experience to the table, and don’t always agree, but ultimately, Todd backs me (and I back him) 100%.  He’s the kind of guy that gets excited by new projects, is comfortable in the weeds but also sees the bigger picture. He brings together a great balance of passion and professionalism – all pretty endearing.

If you and a colleague would like to submit your story to Dynamic duos, please email kwelch@mumbrella.com.au.


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