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This week on the PRmoment Podcast, in the latest of our life stories series, I’m pleased to welcome co-founder and CEO of Lansons Tony Langham.
Lansons is one of the UK's largest independent PR consultancies - with a fee income of circa £14m.
The business was founded in 1989 by Tony and his now wife Clare Parsons. Lansons has about 110 employees.
Here is a summary of what Tony and I discussed:
[00:00:42] Tony tells us about the series of events that led to him and Clare launching Lansons.
[00:02:56] Why, despite maxing out his and Clare Parson's new AMEX cards when they launched Lansons, they didn't really see it as a risk.
[00:03:55] Tony tells us what it's like running a business with his wife for nearly 30 years.
[00:06:47] Tony talks us through Lansons' ownership structure - where half of the business is owned by employees and approximately 50 percent is owned by Clare and Tony.
[00:07:28] and [00:05:23] Why Lansons tends to follow a business cycle of investment where profits flatten for a while before it goes off on another growth spurt.
[00:08:25] How, driven by uncertainty around Brexit, Lansons is hedging its bets by looking at international expansion.
[00:11:11] The process of how Lansons has "themes" of investments it would like to make and then attempts to recruit the right person or people for the opportunity.
[00:11:55] Why the need for consolidation in the agency market is an opportunity for independent cash rich firms like Lansons.
[00:14:56] How does entrepreneurship manifest itself within an agency environment?
[00:15:56] Why every single entrepreneurial decision has an upside and a downside.
[00:18:33] Tony talks us through the investment decisions he made for Hope&Glory and Opinium Research, the combined revenues of which are now almost the same and Lansons.
[00:23:28] Why Tony believes the British are too cautious investors in business and why he worries that we're getting more cautious.
[00:24:36] Tony tells us why he decided to write a book on Reputation Management: The Future of Corporate Communications and Public Relations.
[00:26:20] Why Tony believes the PR sector is not defining its contribution to business in the right way.
[00:29:22] How writing a book meant he only got four and a half hours sleep for six months.
[00:33:49] How Tony sees the PR agency model changing.
[00:38:12] Why holding companies like WPP and Omnicom seem to be accepting that agency brand names aren't that important.
[00:39:20] Whether an agency’s customers buy its services because they trust the brand or because of the quality of its people.
[00:40:19] Tony identifies which agencies he believes are on the up.
[00:42:04] Why Tony believes that "if the (PR) industry has a danger, it is that it's running itself at too lower margin and it's competing too aggressively."
[00:42:41] How the differential in remuneration between management consultancies and investment banks on the one side and PR firms on the other has increased during Tony's career - and why he worries this will impact the future talent the sector is able to attract.