The Royals on cultivating a successful indie agency with thick skin and a healthy sense of paranoia

The Royals' managing partner Dan Beaumont opens up to Mumbrella about losing his biggest client less than a year after winning it, cultivating a sustainable culture, and having a healthy sense of paranoia.

2018 has been a successful year for independent creative agency The Royals. The agency scored the creative accounts for Bakers DelightSpotifyAustralian SuperiSelect, Grill’d and Northern Territory’s master brand, to name a few.

However, its triumphs haven’t come without challenges. In fact, managing partner Dan Beaumont argues this year the agency faced one of its “most challenging days”.

The Royals has offices in both Melbourne and Sydney

In November, the independent agency lost iSelect’s creative account after winning it just nine months prior.

The agency shakeup came four months after Warren Hebard was appointed as iSelect’s chief marketing officer. Hebard replaced Geraldine Davys, who stepped down in February.

In 2005, Hebard started his career as an account executive at Fenton Stephens and remained with the agency for more than five years. Fenton Stephens is now iSelect’s ad agency of record.

“That was a massive setback for us, we put our heart and soul into that pitch in order to be a much more established, larger multinational agency to that business.

“We were absolutely thrilled when we won it and the working team [at iSelect] at the time were just as excited to work with The Royals and that working relationship for probably six months was excellent.

“Then things changed, like they always do. People moved on at very senior levels, which had a big influence over the status quo or the roster of agencies and it didn’t just impact The Royals, it impacted a lot of agencies.

“The business decided to change direction and they wanted to do it with new people. At no fault of anyone who worked on the business, we lost a substantial piece of business, which meant that we took a huge financial hit and for an independent like ours, that isn’t particularly large, that’s a pretty bad day when you face that reality,” Beaumont says.

The three month pitch for iSelect’s business was a gruelling process, which the agency “invested in heavily”.

“We didn’t even get the chance to recover those costs or even get ahead,” the managing partner explains, arguing the impact from loosing the business “drew on every ounce of fortitude and veracity in order just to push through it.”

Despite this, The Royals bounced back with humility and tenacity and managed to bag the creative account for Australian Super not long after.

“Thankfully, call it serendipitous, but it basically replaced the iSelect revenue and it required the same kind of people and the same kind of capability and service levels. It was virtually a like for like swap in and swap out process for us,” he says reflecting on the past year.

Beaumont says “the biggest trick is having thick skin”

Earlier in the year, the agency also managed to scoop Mumbrella’s Independent Agency of the Year Award, with the judges claiming the agency has “outstanding culture, incredible work and a lot of happy clients”.

Pitching is another struggle agencies like The Royals are constantly facing, with Beaumont saying maintaining the agency when losing accounts comes down to having “thick skin” and a healthy sense of paranoia.

“I think the biggest trick is having a thick skin in order to recognise the highs in any given day and understand that you may not be far from a bad phone call.

“You always have a healthy sense of paranoia working in advertising, so the business these days needs to be run in a lean way, so that you can absorb a knock every now and then, but at the same time, when you do win business, you don’t have people sitting around ready to jump on it.

“You’ve got to make sure that your recruitment pipeline is full, that you’ve identified really great candidates that fit our culture well before we need them, so that when a new piece of business walks in the door, which it can do quite quickly, particularly project work, we know exactly who we want to hire and we can move quickly on that so that we can scale up proportionately.”

Speaking humbly, the managing partner realises that The Royals are not immune to setbacks, but it is about having the flexibility to restructure and reallocate resources.

“I think that that’s something that we’ve certainly perfected in the last 12 months,” he adds.

But for Beaumont the ingredients for a successful agency include momentum, a clear forward focused vision, knowing what the role of an independent agency is in a “very congested landscape” and having a clear point of view and difference.

“It’s a good body of work, good points that the business is growing, that you are employing more people every year and that you’re actually expanding and not contracting and that your culture is firing on all levels.

“For us, we start with culture, as we said in our entry, that our people and creating an environment within The Royals that induces lots of good work and lots of creative thinking is a number one priority. I would almost go as far as saying that that comes before anything else, because unless that’s working well then the work we produce for the clients we’ve got isn’t the best it can be.”

The Royals’ Independent Agency of the Year Award entry

But culture isn’t just ping-pong tables and casual Fridays, the managing partner says, instead he refers to it as “a strategy from management”.

Culture at The Royals is ingrained in how it hires employees, initiatives within the business and its employer value proposition.

The Royals, who also received a highly commended in Mumbrella’s Award for Culture category, said cultivating a strong culture is more than just having it, it needs to be implemented and ingrained into every part of the business.

“Culture in a nutshell is the operating rhythm of the agency. It’s how we work and it’s also the more softer, intangible measures of how much we prioritise humanity and life within the agency so that people feel like they have flexibility and that they can do what they need to do within the four walls of the agency, but also have the opportunity to be able to work outside of the agency and fit work in and around their life. I think that’s culture as well.”

With culture comes talent, Beaumont recognises, labelling the agency as “a talent business” rather than an advertising agency.

Bravery is another key ingredient to a successful and award-winning business, Beaumont says.

The managing partner defines bravery as much more than just the work and agrees “all independent agencies are brave, because they’re working with their own money”.

“For any agency to be brave, it goes far beyond the work and into how they operate, how they think, how they get remunerated and as the industry gets tougher and budgets get smaller and we’re being pushed harder by clients.”

Being brave has to go beyond the work, the executive creative director and the client, he says. “It is also about knowing when to say no and pushback because it’s in the best interests of your own business and the people within it.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.