An interview with Excite Media Co-Founder, Scott Maynard, on our response to COVID-19

The Morning Kick Episode 1 - With Scott Maynard

Andrew talks to Excite Media founder, Scott Maynard, about how we started and how we’re navigating COVID-19 as well as what sources we’re drawing on for information.

Interview Transcript 👇

Andrew Pitchford:
Well, welcome to The Morning Kick, and this is just probably a bit of a sign of the chaos that’s happening around the place at the moment that the first episode of The Morning Kick, essentially kicking in at 11:59 Brisbane time. Welcome to our first show and we’re going to be having a talk to a lot of business hosts, specialists, people that can give us ideas of how to navigate what’s been happening with Covid-19. Now, very pleased that we’re going to be able to welcome one of the founders of Excite Media. Of course, this is where I work in Brisbane, a digital marketing agency that’s been going for 14 years, and this certainly doesn’t look like the office we’re normally in. Scott, welcome to the show.

Scott Maynard:
Yes, thank you, Andrew. Actually, it does look like your office with all the toys the background. Your office at work is exactly like that, isn’t it?

Andrew Pitchford:
It is not too different. I like to feel at home. So tell me how are you adapting to things in terms of the home work experience?

Scott Maynard:
Not too badly. I don’t mind working from home generally. I think as everyone’s finding, is when the kids are home, which they have been a little bit, and like all parents probably struggling to make the decision what to do with the kids. But when the kids are not here, it’s no problem at all. When the kids are here, it’s a little bit more challenging. But yeah, no dramas at all from connectivity point of view. May need to kick the kids off the Netflix occasionally, but yeah, so far the NBN’s holding up. I’m happy in my little home office, so yeah.

Andrew Pitchford:
I hear there’s been a bit of a run on Officeworks. People buying webcams, and cables, and microphones, and desks, and chairs, and everything else. Was there anything that you needed to get the home office all set up?

Scott Maynard:
Not really, other than just the external monitor, brought that home from work. And other than that, no. It is funny seeing all the little things that you don’t predict that are going to have shortages, or something like that. It’s all interconnected and I don’t think anyone’s really prepared to have to react in all sorts of different ways. I guess the toilet paper is the first example that we didn’t think we’d find ourselves in that place, but we did.

Andrew Pitchford:
Yeah. You haven’t got to the stage that there’s limit to two squares, or anything silly like that [crosstalk 00:02:06]?

Scott Maynard:
No, I’m waiting for that announcement.

Andrew Pitchford:
Yeah, I’m coming back to why we’re doing this, The Morning Kick, it’s the whole idea of inspiring business. You’re a business owner. You and Nathaniel founded Excited Media how many years ago?

Scott Maynard:
End of 2003 we started in business. We had a name change in 2006. My math isn’t good, but I think that’s 17 years in the web and digital industry.

Andrew Pitchford:
That’s amazing. I hear that we’re essentially probably one of the longest running digital marketing agencies in Queensland. When you look around, the landscape’s changed over the years. Let’s go back and just have a little bit of a friendly reminder of exactly where it all began. Look at that handsome dude there. Have you any idea about how long ago that might’ve been?

Scott Maynard:
I’m going to say… That was when we were in the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce. I think that was around the 2005 era, I want to say. 2004, 2005. Yeah, I’m liking Nathaniel’s goatee there. Yeah, that’s quite stylish. And the jacket as well is really good.

Andrew Pitchford:
I was looking at that Dell. I’m pretty certain I had that version of the Dell laptop as well back then. That might have been a 5500 or something.

Scott Maynard:
That was sleek.

Andrew Pitchford:
Tell me how you guys actually got started. Obviously you were kind of coming up with business plans at school and things in the past as well.

Scott Maynard:
Yeah, Nathaniel and I have been friends since grade nine in school and we both had a common interest in music. I play guitar. I taught him to play guitar. He’s now surpassed me in that. I moved over to the drums. So we had bands, which was always, I guess, an entrepreneurial outlet for us at the time. That’s all you can do, so then that’s what we do. You know, forming the band, finding band members, planning concerts, gigs, that sort of stuff. That’s I guess where the spark came from.

Scott Maynard:
Then after we finished school, we both went to uni. Nathaniel did music production. I went to UQ for electrical engineering, so throughout uni… I guess we’re both focused on our studies, but at the same time we did find ways to run businesses, so we had a tuition agency during the uni days called Total Tuition. So it was basically connecting uni students with high school students to tutor them. Yeah, had some fun setting that up, set up a lot of infrastructure, phone systems that… Because we’re at uni, so we had to have an automated phone system that someone could press one to do this or two to do that. Main lead source for us back then was the newspaper. I know… shock horror!

Andrew Pitchford:
Newspaper. Wow.

Scott Maynard:
But it worked. Just the local classifieds. That’s how we got customers. In terms of finding tutors, I’m a little bit ashamed to say that I did engage in a little bit of spam before spam was really a thing. I was just doing what I knew how to do, which was contact uni students by their university email addresses, which are in student number format, so I kind of put the word out there. I made an access database that did that, sent out emails, that sort of stuff, before that was a wrong thing to do, and that’s how we got our tutors.

Andrew Pitchford:
It’s an incredible journey, and I understand that I was a little bit late to the party as far as you actually started doing voicemail messages or telephone messages at one point.

Scott Maynard:
Yeah, no, we did. Yeah. There’s all the offline stuff that I guess has faded a bit into the distance, the newspapers, the phone, message on hold, all that sort of stuff. But it’s good to not forget about that stuff because sometimes people forget it exists, but there’s still an audience there and you… It’s just, yeah, it’s about matching demand, and if there is demand there and your competitors aren’t there, it’s a good place to be.

Andrew Pitchford:
Let’s have a talk about The Morning Kick in terms of why this program’s come together. You mentioned going to the Kenmore, I think it was like a business networking group and different things like that, but we feel there’s a real need right now for businesses to come together, isn’t it? You’re kind of looking for information, seeking out the advice of others at the moment?

Scott Maynard:
Yeah, definitely. I think running a business can be a lonely enterprise for a lot of people. I think Nathaniel and myself are lucky that we are a partnership and we’ve got each other to lean on as well as the team at Excite Media. We will regard a lot of advice from people like yourself and who often contribute and support each other, but I know not all businesses are in that position where they’ve got someone to talk to. So yeah, I’d like to build a bit of a community around that, particularly at a time like this. There’s a lot of information out there, it’s hard to decode it. I mean, it took me hours to decode the stimulus packages, how it all worked, that sort of thing. If people can help each other with those sorts of things, I think that would be great.

Andrew Pitchford:
Yeah, we tend to agree, and one of the things that we’ve… Well, we’ve got a couple of initiatives, so probably once a day we’re going to come up with somebody on The Morning Kick and get their advice. But also we’d like to invite you to come along to a new Facebook group that we’ve created, and that Facebook group is called the Business Thrive or Mastermind. So we’ll get all the details down the bottom there. If you go to Facebook and search for Business Thrive or Mastermind, please share around. While we’ve set it up for the Excite Media clients it’s really for anybody, isn’t it?

Scott Maynard:
Yeah, definitely. I’d really actually like to see people from other unrelated businesses get in there and see how it’s affecting people. I think a lot of business owners really want to get a feel for the marketplace in general, as we do. We’re keen to see what people’s appetite are for marketing in a time like this, as well as other business owners are going to want to know what their service offering, where the demand is, what people need help with. And I think it’s one of those times where even if people aren’t buying, I think if you’re still present and you’re still offering value and advice, then at least when things kick back up you’re still there, you’ve built a community and there’s positives that can come out of it.

Andrew Pitchford:
Yeah, it’s really good that I’m seeing a lot of business owners talking about how you can choose to be kind, choose to be able to assist, which is a great way to think about it. In fact, I love this little thought, “Find calm and kindness.” There’s a lot of chaos, but it’s funny when you actually start to give out or think about somebody else that just tends to slow things down.

Scott Maynard:
Yes.

Andrew Pitchford:
We were also trying to think about how our clients can actually review what they’re doing, think about solutions and then act. So we’ve put an initiative in place. Can you talk to us about that initiative?

Scott Maynard:
So yeah, the Thrival Plan, which was put together. I think where that spawned from was we just saw that immediately as news started to come out in Australia of what was happening the landscape changed so quickly, and I think it’s quicker than we’ve ever seen something like this change. Even thinking back to the global financial crisis, it was not this sudden that it had this impact on Australia. I think Australia was fairly well shielded actually, in general. I remember trading through that time. It didn’t feel… It was a conversation on people’s minds, but it didn’t stop life, it didn’t stop business.

Scott Maynard:
Yeah. So we were just seeing that consumers are behaving differently, so in the advertising space, in the marketing space, and I think businesses need to be ready to adapt. It might be pivoting for some businesses, so it means shutting down some of their marketing activities. For some it means ramping them up. For some it just means changing what you’re focusing on. Some shorter term wins rather than some longer term. So it’s really just a bit of a checklist. It started off… meant to be a one pager but-

Andrew Pitchford:
We tried!

Scott Maynard:
Yeah, we tried. We put the best minds at Excite Media on it. One page is not usually where it ends up. So it’s a larger document, but there is actually a quite a lot of meat to it, and it’s really just prompting questions about the different channels that you might be marketing your business in and what changes might be needed. So originally it was really a tool for our clients to use and for us to talk them through the plan. Each of those checkpoints in their digital marketing plan, we go through and see what do they need to do to. Do they need to cut down, do they need to increase, do they need to pivot? What are the unique things in this marketplace? Obviously there’s a lot around sensitivity about the way you’re marketing yourself. You don’t want to have scheduled a Facebook post or forgotten that your Google ads are running something that might not seem appropriate in this climate. So you’ve got to really tailor your message to meet people where they’re at in terms of their current mindset.

Andrew Pitchford:
No, it’s been really good thinking, and as you say, we’ve had specialists within Excite Media, people who know what you should be doing as far as getting messages onto your website, people that understand how you should change maybe your Facebook or Google ads campaigns, and assessing… We’ve got clients that are pausing, but we’ve got clients who are ramping up. Obviously it’s affecting different businesses in different ways.

Scott Maynard:
Yeah. Now as I was saying before, it’s the sort of thing that you don’t realize how interconnected everything is, and I guess how vulnerable we’ve built society to be, that we rely on different things until something like this happens. And that’s why I think once it’s all over that there are going to be positives out of this, and there’s going to be such a big learning experience for society about how to have redundancy built into some of the supply chain. All sorts of things are going to come out of this. And I think while it’s a terrible thing that’s happening, and it’s disrupting a lot of people, you’ve got to look at the silver lining out of it, and when things like this happen people do rebuild and we learn from it.

Andrew Pitchford:
Can you just share with us… When you’re looking at Excite Media situation, obviously we are trying to take care of our clients first and our staff, making sure that each individual is looked after. We’re responding as quickly as we can, but you’re also looking at the structure of the Excite Media business and kind of trying to get a sense of what’s going to happen next. You’re looking at the stimulus package, for instance. Can you give us any gems or where you’ve looked at for advice?

Scott Maynard:
For me it’s about planning and predicting, and that is the hardest thing at the moment, is to predict. And it’s changing daily. Things that we thought we would have to enact, or pivot on in two months time, we’re finding, “Okay, we need to bring that forward.” I think as long as you’re planning actively and not hoping… I think you’ve got to have a plan… Plans can change, but gathering your data… So for us that’s looking at income, making a prediction on that, looking at expenses, all that sort of stuff. Looking at the stimulus as to how it’s going to affect us. And it is great the government are responding, and they have indicated they will do more. So for me it’s about, I’m a numbers person, and it’s about prediction and… For us, basically we put a plan together of three scenarios, three financial scenarios, just to make sure we know what we’re prepared for, and how we’re going to respond to it, and how we’re going to recover from it.

Andrew Pitchford:
And be fair to say, one of the things I’ve admired about the way Excite Media has worked is communication, particularly when you’ve got a team of people that you’re responsible for. Just keeping them in the picture and basically trying to be as transparent, to provide information without it being alarmist.

Scott Maynard:
Yeah, exactly. And usually it’s easier than this. When there’s some kind of issue or semi-crisis in the business, there’s a lot more certainty that you can have as a leader about how you’re going to respond to it, and what the steps are, and what the timeframe is, and the levers that you’re going to pull. In this kind of environment that’s really hard because you don’t know what levers you can pull. You don’t know how the business community is going to react, all that sort of stuff. I think even communicating that you don’t know but you have run some plans and you’ve got things that you can do, but just… Even if the update is, “We don’t know yet, but we are monitoring this, and these are things we’re monitoring and we’ll update you again tomorrow, or next week,” or whatever the timeframe you think that people need to hear from you is.

Andrew Pitchford:
That’s really good. I guess just one thing that we’re going to close off is as we go forward choose to care, think about your people, your staff. Scott, we’re going to be coming back with more guests. Hopefully we’ll get you back on The Morning Kick at sometime in the future as well. Tomorrow we’ve got a great guest that’s coming to talk to us and that is Professor Nigel McMillan from Griffith University. A lot of people that are wondering exactly what’s the vaccine, what’s the cure, how does this all work? So Nigel McMillan has offered to come on and answer some questions. I hope that you’ll be able to join us on The Morning Kick. Now, this video is going to be available on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook. Please feel free to share and we’ll try to promote who the guests are. Already we’ve got nine episodes lined up ready to keep you informed about things that we think that can help your business. Really appreciate that you’ve spent some time with us this morning and we’ll be back with The Morning Kick tomorrow.


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