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Richard Thompson: "Aiming high is everything"

in Interviews by . .

The chairman of talent management agency Merlin Elite believes aiming high is everything. He talks to Real Business about the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

Name: 

Richard Thompson

Role and company: 

Chairman of Merlin Elite; a talent management agency based in London

Company turnover: 

The company has a turnover of £10m

Employee numbers: 

Currently ten people and recruiting

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

The company has been consistently growing and improving over the past ten years. We hope to see a growth of 25 per cent or above in the next three.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace: 

As a business we are driven by passion and commitment to excellence. We aren’t looking to be the biggest, we’re looking to be the best. We help to re-invent - sometimes re-package - and treat every client individually. We deliver a totally bespoke approach to managing and developing a career in the media.

Our core values are simple: partnership, trust, creativity.

What's the big vision for your business? 

Aiming high is everything. I have always set difficult but achievable goals for the company. One of the biggest visions is to become the number one management agency for the careers of world class broadcasters.

At the moment, we have a small footprint abroad, but I’m always looking into opportunities to expand.

With career re-invention being at the forefront of the agency’s vision, I enjoy putting together creative for personalities and watching their profession change and evolve.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

As above, at the moment Merlin’s international footprint is minimal but I have hopes to develop this over the next few years. We are currently assessing various expansion opportunities abroad and hope to develop them into more concrete plans.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it: 

My biggest career vice was putting my eggs in one basket. In the past, I had a tendency to focus too much energy on one particular aspect; which isn’t effective, especially in a recession based climate, where nothing is a given. I’ve learnt to split my time and effort over numerous projects as not to make the same mistake again.

What makes you mad in business today? 

For me it has to be arrogance with no ability to back it up.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years? 

BBC becoming a part commercial broadcaster. Off the back of the recent issues, given charter renewal is not far away, it would take a brave government to consider selling or even floating the BBC; but maybe now the un-thinkable is more thinkable.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things? 

They usually can. I have luckily never had huge finance problems or let it hinder my expansion plans - if you’re determined you will find a way. From my experience working in this sector, opportunities usually arise for financial support.

How would others describe your leadership style? 

I would like to think direct and by example. Leading by example is extremely important. How can you expect your fellow colleagues to follow in your footsteps if you do not set a good example? Throughout my working career I have had the fortune of learning from the best and hope to instil this in my colleagues.

Your biggest personal extravagance? 

My bike. I feel like I’m jumping on the bandwagon but I’ve just spent too much money on a road racing bike.

You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

There are many things that frustrate me about running a business in the UK. First and foremost I would look to change employment laws – two things that would make a vast difference in my opinion would be to provide un-secured loans to the right businesses and encouraging UK companies to buy from other UK companies.

I would also want him to look at introducing entrepreneurial training into the national curriculum. Creativity begins at a young age and so does entrepreneurial development. Giving young talent the proper support to help nurture and develop it could lead to a huge increase in world class businesses.

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