Gayle Marshall is joint managing director of Big Bridge, a Queensland company that produces TV commercials, audio-visuals, websites, CD-ROMs and DVDs. Marshall is also a director of the Brisbane Powerhouse. She worked in children’s television production at Channel Nine in Brisbane, and reported and presented the news, before starting her own business.
You started out working as a television presenter and in TV production. How did you find the transition to running your own company?
The transition was easy and enjoyable. My last job in television was in news. When you report on news, you find a story, and for the most part it’s over and done on the day with a 30 to 50- second piece. With corporate communications and the kind of work I was doing, and indeed am still doing today, the difference is that you can get on to a story or a program and follow it through. You really get to learn a lot about a lot of different things. You get to meet fabulous people in all sorts of places and visit interesting work sites.
What are the biggest management challenges in running your own business?
Achieving and maintaining outstanding levels of customer service. By that I mean with internal and external customers, and they are obviously related. You have to get your team right and working well for your team to deliver the standards of service your clients expect; they have to be well trained; they have to understand the culture of your organisation; and they have to buy into your values.
How do you go about establishing the culture of an organisation?
It’s certainly driven from the top. The owners of the business, the directors of the company, must have a clear idea of what they want their culture to be if it is not there yet. So, once you understand what you want to be doing and how you do it, you then live it. When you do that, it’s easy for others in the organisation to see where you’re at and where your expectations are. You find that people who don’t want to be part of it, or who can’t be part of it, don’t stay. For me, culture is about the way you treat each other, it’s about operating the business ethically and having good solid values that you work to. And it’s about the standards of service you deliver to each other and to your customers.
Media and multimedia are consolidating worldwide. How much room is there for small operations such as Big Bridge?
Plenty. The fact that the media are becoming bigger – more globalised – leaves lots of room on the next level for companies that work with clients one on one. That is a huge advantage for us. Corporate clients that want things like television commercials, CD-Rom, DVD, website or online application products often don’t know quite what they want or how they want to use them. So, we offer them strategic advice, and you only get that when you know their business. You can’t get that level of understanding when you are working with big corporations.
Ten years ago content was king. Then we had the “tech wreck” and content was a pauper. What’s the status of content now?
I would have to say that it’s improving and it has improved from where it was. People are coming to understand that looking flashy is fab but, really, if there’s no substance, it’s not going to do the job for you. We are careful to find a balance between content that will work for the client and presenting it in a way that’s engaging and interesting and effective. It’s always a balance between content and presentation.
You are on the board of the Brisbane Powerhouse, the city’s centre for contemporary live arts. What are the management challenges in running an arts organisation?
Again, I would have to say it’s about balance. It’s about ensuring that good management practices underpin the creative stuff. Powerhouse does that well. Good business practices have to underpin every arts organisation – or they ain’t gonna be there in five years’ time.
Why should businesses sponsor the arts? What’s in it for them?
There are benefits in supporting arts organisations. For corporations, it gets them looking outside their business. It gets them looking at how their company relates to the community. It’s about reaching beyond where they are normally, and there are huge benefits in that, for their staff and for others in the community.