Directors, Founders, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Dave Levett, Managing Director of Murmur

June 10, 2019

Dave Levett is the co-founder of MURMUR, a creative advertising & marketing agency helping businesses achieve their goals with audience research, marketing strategy and creative design.

Having worked for over 10 years with some of the UK and Australia’s largest media and entertainment companies, Dave is a well positioned expert with an understanding around the challenges, and opportunities that lie in the entertainment and creative industries.

Balance the Grind spoke to Dave about running a digital marketing agency in 2019, colour coding his diary, brainstorming ideas during weekend brunch, training for an Ironman and plenty more.

This conversation is brought to you by Teachable, a powerful yet simple all-in-one platform to create and sell beautiful online courses.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

I currently own and run a digital marketing agency called Murmur, we help our clients develop their brand & marketing strategy, manage their media, and create advertising campaigns for them.

I spent 4 years in London with my then-girlfriend, now-wife, and we started Murmur as a bit of moonlighting and helping other friends’ businesses.

When we moved back to Australia in March 2016, I saw a gap in the market to build a data and insight led agency, and so kicked things off officially.

In the three and a half years we’ve been going, we’ve worked with some really well known brands like Melbourne City Football Club, Nando’s, Afterpay, Vegeta, Toyo Tires, and Bathurst Council on events like the Bathurst Cycling Classic, and the Inland Sea of Sound music festival

It’s not always plain sailing though – when I got out of uni, that first break took a while.

I love music, so would call the four major music labels every Monday, Wednesday & Friday – offering my services for free, doing work experience, an internship, anything they could give me – until finally after 6 months EMI relented and offered me a work experience role, and from that I took off.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

I’m currently Managing Director of a Creative & Digital Marketing Agency.

On a day to day basis, my role is now more about managing the business, growing and scaling the staff and services, and am heavily focused on business development.

I’m involved with our clients on their strategy and campaigns, so we’ll have more high-level strategic conversations about their audience segments, brand positioning, opportunities they can be exploiting, and I have a great team underneath me now that can help execute the ideas.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m lucky in my role – no two days are ever the same.

I’ll spend a lot of time on the phone, calling clients, partners, suppliers, and prospects – email can be a distraction, and when you need to get decisions made, nothing beats a phone.

There’s definitely times when you have to jump into the backend of clients platforms like Google Analytics, Facebook Business Manager, AdWords, and all the other digital platforms to review activities with the team, and look for things to improve.

I colour code my diary using the following system:

  • Red – Admin related tasks, i.e. invoicing, quotes, recruitment
  • Blue – Revenue driving activity, i.e. doing the work that clients are paying for
  • Black – Strategic Activity, things that will help the growth of Murmur, like networking events, workshops, pitches

Everyone in my team knows the rough % of each week that should be dedicated to each colour, and having this system helps with your day to day management.

4) In between everything you do and all your responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

There’s going to be times when you do have to pull late nighters, and work to the early hours, but I try to keep those to a minimum.

My wife and I love going out on the weekend morning and grabbing a brunch, and finding the small moments you have with someone so close to connect can be amazing.

Some of Murmur’s best ideas, have come from a conversation we’ve had just tossing ideas around.

I’ve recently been waking up early in the mornings to get exercise in, whether it’s swimming, running or cycling. I’m training for an Ironman so developing that routine has really helped.

I also use my calendar to block out times to catch up with my mates on a regular basis, and and make sure we’re always catching up.

My friends joke that I have way too many things on, but it’s surprising how much you can fit into a given week!

5) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

I try to keep a level head and not stress with situations, as a leader in the business even if things aren’t going to plan, you need to stay calm, and steer the ship.

Exercise helps, I can’t position it highly enough, but finding a routine to help you de-stress, means that when you do recharge whether it’s a getaway, or a holiday, it’s easier for you to tune out.

6) Are there any gadgets, tools or products can’t you live without?

My iPhone. I’d prefer to use and rely on it less, but with everything so close and connected these days, they’re an instant portal to information.

My team and I use Slack everyday, I am in Evernote for note taking probably every day, and I’m constantly using Trello for process mapping, business development of the pipeline and so much more.

7) Do you have any books that you love and would like to recommend?

I’m reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life at the moment, it’s quite dense, and am having to re-read some sections a number of times, but it’s got some good messages that I think in the media have been over-hyped and taken out of context.

How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp is a great marketing read, but is also quite relevant for large brands, and the lessons for smaller to medium brands in the book, need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo is my favourite book of all time – it’s fiction, but just has a message that really resonates with me.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I’ll generally try to get in about 8am, and use the first 30 minutes to help set me up for the day: write down a list of the things that I have on, or what I have to do: today, tomorrow, next week, and next month.

I’m finding that a good practice to give clarity on the day, as well foresight for the days and weeks ahead and keep things top of mind.

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