3 questions with Sarah Vick
Sarah Vick has spent 20 years working for agencies and helping them to grow and change. Sarah was the Group MD for Reading Room and was a key member of the board that sold the business in 2015, after helping it to grow to 250 people in 7 offices around the world. Since leaving Reading Room Sarah now works with agencies and creative tech companies who want to grow.
1. WHEN YOU WERE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF READING ROOM WHAT WERE THE MAIN OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED?
I think the answer to this question is very dependent on the person’s background before they became an MD. Mine was client services, project management and business development so those were the areas I felt most comfortable with, and that knowledge served me well as an MD. The pieces I had to learn were around finance, legal, HR and all the operations stuff that goes with having 7 offices around the world. I became the group MD at the same time we decided to execute an exit plan, so I had to learn all the new areas very quickly. That was tough. When you’re faced with a steep learning curve like that and you’re 15+ years into your career that can be challenging. I learnt very quickly not to try and blag my way through finance meetings.
2. IN IDENTIFYING A BUYER FOR THE BUSINESS, WHAT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS YOU LOOKED FOR?
We were looking for someone who would share our aspirations, understand what we did and how we did it and would help the business to continue to grow. Getting the right deal for both our shareholders and our staff was a priority, and not always an easy one to navigate, but it was important to us to choose a buyer that would look after our staff. Money was obviously a key consideration, but it was not the most important aspect.
3. WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IN THE SALE PROCESS SECOND TIME ROUND?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I think if we had our time again there may have been things we dealt with differently during the process, but overall I think as a group we felt we got the right outcome.
One thing I wouldn’t change next time around is the team we put together to work on the deal. There were only about 5 people involved and we managed to carve out time for all of them to work on the deal as we would do a large pitch or project. Similarly, everyone had a specific role and set of responsibilities and we had all worked together for many years so when it got tough we knew how to get through it together. We kept the deal secret practically up to signing which helped not to distract others within the business.