Ponderosa Group managing director Richard Midgeley.
Jane Imrie

Meet the MD: Ponderosa Group managing director Richard Midgley on honesty, collective efforts and seeing his people and region flourish

With nearly three decades of industry experience, marketeer Richard Midgley is putting his knowledge to good use.

As the founder and managing director of Leeds brand communications agency Ponderosa Group, Richard is an outspoken supporter of growth, both within his team and across the Yorkshire region.

Richard took the time to speak to Bdaily about his route into marketing, and his vision of Leeds as a centre for digital excellence.

Can you tell the readers about yourself first of all - i.e. your background, where you are from etc?

“I’m born and raised in Bradford and now live in Ilkley with my wonderful wife Vani, two teenage boys and and untrainable rescue dog.

“After doing a geography degree at Cambridge University I went into marketing because I couldn’t really think of anything else and I didn’t want to be a weatherman!

I joined Principles as a media buyer in 1992, set up their planning department in 1995 (the first in Leeds) and then progressed to client service director.

I joined an agency Called England as MD in 2007 and set up Ponderosa Group in 2010. Since then we have grown to a team of over 50 after recently acquiring two other leads agencies – Marvellous and Grapple.

What does your role entail?

“I’m 49 years old and have racked up almost 30 years in this industry so, as founder and managing director of Ponderosa Group my role is to use this experience to lead, teach and learn.

“It’s my job to be generous with my time and for the business to invest in the team through training and experiences so that we are giving people the skills to do a great job for our clients.

I’ve seen the changes, I’ve seen the trends and I know that technology is important and keeping abreast of what’s new is essential but, understanding the brand is at the heart of everything we do and the key to our success.

“I’ve seen people get carried away with the latest app, tech toy or social media platform but, what we focus on at Ponderosa is stepping back and understanding the brand and the story and from there everything flows.

“It’s also my job to be honest with clients and not afraid to challenge them or say no. That’s how you build working relationships that last.”

When was Ponderosa set up, and how has it grown since then?

“We launched in 2010 so will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary later this year.

“I was working with John Halewood of Halewood’s and he offered me the opportunity to set up on my own and lead on the launch of Crabbies. I did and from there I joined forces with Steve Henry and we have since grown the business to where we are now.

“With the acquisition of ecommerce specialist marvellous, we are now a 50 plus strong team who can deliver digital insight-led brand marketing for independents, national and international clients.”

What is it about your organisation that motivates and excites you the most?

It’s really exciting times at Ponderosa as we are at the precipice of a new chapter. The recent acquisitions mean we can now deliver e-commerce led projects for clients, work with different sectors and also develop the team.

“Seeing people flourish when they are given the time, support and training is definitely what motivates me to keep going, even on the bad days!”

Looking back on the past year, what has been your biggest achievement?

“Definitely the acquisition of Marvellous and merger with Grapple.

“This is the culmination of a considerable amount of work and we have already seen that it’s benefiting us as a business as well as the individual team members.”

What have been your biggest challenges during your time at Ponderosa Group so far, and how have you overcome them?

“When we lost a big client in 2016, overnight it changed us.

“We had allowed the client to get too big and disproportionately important to our business. It was the equivalent of losing six clients!”

“We had to make 12 redundancies which was tough. It forced us to reposition and ensure that we are never in that position again.

What does the future hold for your company? Any exciting projects in the pipeline we should know about?

“We are at the start of a great next chapter as an agency. We have a bigger team, wider skill set – we have recently been certified as Magneto partners – and new clients like University of Cardiff and Audio Technica. And, at the end of this year we will be celebrating our 10th year so watch this space.

“It’s also a really exciting time for agencies in Leeds. We have all spent too much time squabbling over each other’s clients when we should be taking the fight to Manchester and London.

“We did a good job with Channel 4, working together to get the job done and hopefully this is the start of more collaborations and a collective push of Leeds as a centre of excellence especially in the digital space.”

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