Women's History Month - Amy McManus
by Ellen Corsie, on 24 March, 2020
As it’s Women’s History Month, we’d like the take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on the badass women who work in the marketing and technology industry. This is a series of blog posts we'll be publishing to celebrate the incredible work they do for the industry. So without further ado lets introduce you the amazing women in martech.Introducing Amy McManus
Meet Amy McManus, CEO/Founder of AM Marketing a full-service marketing agency based in the UK. Amy is a UK Women of the Future finalist, freeman of the London Guild of Entrepreneurs, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, finalist for IoD Young Director of the Year and winner of UK Female Business Speaker of the Year 2018.
AM Marketing is an award-winning Google Partner agency that was placed in the Top 30 UK
Google Agencies in 2017 and has a portfolio of clients all over the world. The team at AM
Marketing are experts in their field and have worked on some of the largest marketing
accounts in the world, including Disney, Marvel, Very.com, and Easy Jet, winning an Amazon UK Business Award in 2017.
What’s your job title, if you could choose an 'honest' job title, what would it be?
CEO / Founder. Honest job title: The Honest Extrovert: who brings people together.
How would you summarise your career journey?
The summary title... a TV soap worthy story that would be right at home on an Eastenders set! But with a happy ending...and I never got to throw anyone out of a pub.
I went straight from uni into a store manager role. The store was failing and I was in the right place at the right time. I didn't have an area or regional manager and was the only store in my county, it was up to me to turn this store around. After initiating my own marketing campaigns and partnerships with other businesses, the store had gone from closing down to hitting every target, within 3 months. Turnover was up 273% and I was head hunted by my first marketing firm.
On my first day in my new role I was introduced to the team (all male bar one) as one of my new co-workers shouted from the back "great, there's somebody else to make the tea." On my second day I was introduced to one of the directors at Holland and Barrett as their new account manager and told to present...without pre-warning. Then dropped off at the NEC to manage a stand for a client at a national food show for 4 days. Thrown into the deep end was an understatement, but I swam.
Within a year I had brought on Amazon and Harrods as clients and was managing the accounts for 700 retail stores across the UK and Ireland. I was the youngest person to ever win the Holland and Barrett Product of the Year award as responsible for over £8m in sales in a year, but it was at the cost to my mental health. I worked silly hours, my social life went out the window, and I suffered burnout. I was underappreciated, underpaid and referred to, by my boss, as 'some bird in the agency.' I left this job with nowhere else to go, but I did it for my health and happiness. I later found out the company continued emailing my clients from my account pretending I still worked there.
My next role was very different! I rebranded ferries! It's very rare for a company to build a commercial ferry nowadays, it's much cheaper and simpler to lease them from another firm. My job was to ensure that every deck of these huge commercial ships were rebranded to reflect the new owners. Every single logo from the old company had to be covered...this includes the one on the side! One of my most bizarre memories from this job was in Gdańsk in Poland; it was January and freezing cold. I was attempting to attach new signage to the wall and I couldn't as the glue had frozen. 300 crew, 3 women, 10 people spoke English. I don't know about you, but my Polish is a little rusty? Within 9 months I had rebranded 5 ferries AND also looked after the onboard marketing for 5 commercial ships on the channel. That's a job I'll never forget!
After this I started a role which I thought was going to be my dream job. I was hired as the Marketing Director for an agency, which specialised in marketing for start-ups. I handed in my notice within 28 hours... While looking at some client invoices I realised the numbers didn't match up; some of the money hadn't reached the company account. I then discovered my boss hadn't paid some of my co-workers in months. I then discovered she was paying some of them in other ways... When I confronted her she lied about her finances and attempted to forge a cheque from HMRC for £300,000. I reminded her that HMRC don't use Times New Roman as a font. After reporting her to fraud investigations I was out of there. I felt really bad for the clients who had their money stolen, but were still waiting for work so I said 'I'll do it to help out while I'm looking for another job,' but that other job never came.
The referrals came in really quickly and I picked up a couple of business awards within my first year. One day I pitched for a campaign and the company said they wouldn't work with me unless I was a company; AM Marketing was formed in 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon and that's the branding we still use today! 2 years later I went for a pitch I never thought I'd win, 3 hours later I got it. I had to ring my husband and tell him to hand in his notice...I was his new boss now! Ha! So here I am now, award-winning, 6-figure digital agency, Role Model of the Year, International Speaker, CEO, Digital Entrepreneur. AM Marketing began like a soap story line. Now we provide world-class digital marketing services to clients all over the world and support young talent to start their digital careers.
What has kept you the most motivated throughout?
The people around me that lift me up; my family, friends, husband and awesome clients. Plus my amazing team. I've got my personal and professional teams in my corner!
My chronic pain has also kept me motivated; I've just been too damn stubborn to give up, so I haven't. There was no way I was going to let a car crash I couldn't do anything about cause my business to fail.
What has been the biggest barrier throughout your career journey?
Sexism, Agism, and my own Imposter Syndrome. I began my career at the age of 21, I was managing the retail and promotions for 700 stores by 22 and signing contracts with Harrods in the same year. I've been referred to as "some bird at the agency" and have been told I'm "another girl to make the tea." I've been told what specific makeup I need to wear to a meeting and asked if I'm the secretary for my own company. Even when coming off stage after giving a keynote at a conference, an audience member asked "Isn't it lucky how you ended up working for a company that matches your initials?" When I started my career I tried to be what my employers wanted me to be, but I quickly realised that the most powerful thing to be is yourself and that is how I have successfully managed and grown my agency for almost 7 years. A few years back I realised there is great power in being underestimated, people don't try to compete with those they don't view as a threat. It also makes it all that much sweeter when you see those who doubted you in the audience while you're giving a keynote on stage; a situation I've been lucky enough to have several times. Now that my career and the results speak for themselves, it is my own impostor syndrome that provides different barriers. I think it's beneficial to keep moving forward and refining your craft, but I must remember to pause and enjoy my own successes.
Do you think it's important to maintain balance between your personal life and work - do you have any advise for how you achieve this?
It is the most important thing. I am very fortunate to have been in the position where I genuinely thought I was going to die, and YES I really mean fortunate! I was lying on the cold hard ground thinking 'this is it.' When I was in that position I didn't think 'Hmmm...I'm really glad I worked late last week and got that project done.' I thought about my friends, my family and the good times I spent with them. After that, I knew that every day could be my last. It taught me how to say no, it taught me that my energy was finite and I should spend it wisely.
So now I am VERY strict with myself and my team. If you're working a 40 hour week, you turn off the laptop and stop at 40 hours. If you're going to meditate or go to the gym, you stick it in your diary and that's what you're doing. Even when you're doing nothing at all, THAT'S what you're doing. If you don't recharge the battery, you won't have any energy to use or work or play. Let me tell you a secret...the people with full batteries do the best award-winning work.
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Get some sleep. Slow the fuck down. Only spend time on people who lift you. Also...you're going to be a shit hot award-winning CEO one day getting interviewed for Women’s History Month!
(Younger me would have liked me emphasising points with swearing.)
What would you like young women to know who want to get in to marketing/technology?
This industry is ready for you! I want to see it 50/50 by the time I retire so you had better get on it!
Advice for getting a job: read and read. There is so much information available online from blogs to vlogs and training courses. No matter who you are and what subjects you studied, marketing / tech is so varied that there will be an area that is suited to you perfectly. If you can enter a grad scheme or entry level position, look for companies that will train you in several areas so you can get a feel for what you want to specialise in later on. Then when you're in the biz, go back to your school / uni, do a talk and show the next ones what they can be too.
Who's a professional woman you admire?
My Mum. She's a biologist and Head of Science at a secondary school. I remember sitting in her lab as a kid and doing my homework after school. The smell of science labs gives me a huge nostalgia kick and reminds me of her. Most importantly, she showed me that a woman working and leading in STEM was no biggy at all.
Also, fictional by still important, Captain Kathyrn Janeway. Yes, I'm a massive Star Trek fan (Picard not Kirk obv) Janeway was an absolute boss and no doubt played a huge influence on a 7 year old Amy.
Best advice you ever received ? Professional or otherwise.
You can't polish a turd, but some people roll it in glitter. However, it's still a turd underneath. Thanks for that one, Dad.