Ask our non-execs: Trenton Moss

Nick Jaspan
14.03.24 11:24 AM Comment(s)

Trenton Moss

Trenton - how did you start your journey in the agency world? What were the factors that compelled you to want to have a go for yourself?

I took a few years out after university, travelling and living abroad. I came back to the UK aged 25 and decided I should start a UX agency. It was a bit random! 
I had no experience, no money, no office, no clients, no contacts... but a lot of drive and determination to help brands sort out their customers' digital experiences. 

It ended up being a 15-year journey, starting with an idea in my head and culminating with us being acquired by another much larger agency.

Running a business can be lonely. How did you reach out for advice when you felt it could be useful?

I leant heavily on members of our leadership team and on our external advisors. We had an advisory board for 10 years with some pretty heavy-hitters in the agency world. I even had the Head of WPP UK on the board! I also went to lots of agency leader events - mostly for a bit of group therapy!

Did you always plan to sell your agency?

It was always there as a pipedream in the back of my mind. What stopped me were the 3 fears: 

1. My team have bought into the agency culture and values that I’ve created. Surely they’ll hate me for selling out?

2. I’m unqualified for any other job and I don’t have any ideas for another business. What will I do next?

3. I might start the M&A process and find out that no one wants to buy us. Does that mean I’m stuck here forever?

In the end, it was all fine and I was worrying about nothing!

Building, managing and ultimately exiting an agency requires several different skill-sets?

At every stage of your agency you need to have a vision, hire great people, point them in the right direction and then get out of their way. Doing this requires emotional intelligence, people skills and strategic thinking and you need these throughout your agency journey. 

What advice can you share with ambitious marcomms bosses who also seek to grow and sell their businesses?

Don’t listen to all the M&A guys who only seem to care about your having a £500k-1m EBITDA! I sold my agency off the back of our worst year ever - revenue was down by 15% and we made a 10% loss. Potential acquirers are also interested in the value you can bring to their business - and there’s a price they’re willing to pay for that. 

That said, we did turn around our revenue decline and clawed back the money we'd lost by the time we sold 9 months later!

Can you elaborate a little on your new role and why you feel it works well for others? 

When I was running my agency we launched a client leadership programme internally. It was super-successful and revenue from existing clients increased by 35%. I now run this programme for other agencies as part of my new business, Team Sterka. The programme is all about people skills and emotional intelligence, applied to client situations.