I’m waiting in the lobby of MediaCom’s home in Holborn to meet Josh Krichefski; a six storey hive, buzzing with the to-and-fro of a thousand-strong population, tied together by a dominating atrium.
Expecting to head straight to the executive suite on the top floor, his assistant instead guides me to the second: “he likes to be in with the team,” she tells me. Considering MediaCom UK has been the number one media house in the UK for 15 years straight – billing £1.5bn a year – it’s incredibly relaxed within. Usually when interviewing AdLand executives it’s tailored suits and velvet jackets, but Krichefski, in his glass-fronted corner office, is casual in a jumper. You get the immediate impression he’s a new breed of business leader.
House of fun
“It’s really important to me that work is fun,” he tells me. “I love coming through the door in the morning, I genuinely do. And I want everybody to feel like that. No one went into media to take things too seriously, and I think it’s important that in a creative industry we feel light enough to be able to enjoy ourselves.”
Relaxed perhaps, but he offers no easy rides. Krichefski is straight-talking with no frills. Having been at the helm of MediaCom UK for a year, he is making his presence felt – not just through winning millions of pounds worth of sought after contracts, from British Gas to Sony Playstation, but redefining how his teams work. “My vision for MediaCom UK is for us to be the best agency in the world,” he says, confidently. “And for us to deliver that, there are two key things that we need to really nail: our culture, and a ‘will to win’ in our DNA. Ultimately, if you look after your talent, you get the best results.”
Krichefski’s approach is a bit Silicon Valley, offering his staff myriad extracurricular activities, incentives, and freedoms: flexible working, an email ban after 7 o’clock, mindfulness courses, to name a few. But there is method in his madness. “I’m a bit of a workaholic if I’m really honest,” he says. “If I can’t switch off at the end of a day, it affects me, and not in a positive way. And if that’s the case for me, it’s probably the case for everybody.
“It’s very important for us to be able to encourage our people to work flexibly, and in a way that best suits their lives. Really, you don’t have to be in the office at any time, you can work anywhere – down the road at the British Museum, at home, in a cafe. You don’t need to be here 9:30 to 5:30. Your hours need to suit your lifestyle. Ultimately everybody knows what their objectives are and what their output needs to be.”
His hands-off approach to management wouldn’t work without the right people. “I’ve got this thing,” he says quietly, as if telling me a secret. “We need our people to want to be the best. And quite frankly, if you haven’t got that drive; this might not be the best place for you.”
We move onto his future plans for MediaCom UK – it’s been a successful first year, but Krichefski says maintaining the number one spot keeps him up at night. “We’ve got no god-given right to be number one – our competitors are strong businesses who want to take our place, and we have to work bloody hard to maintain it,” he says. “We’re always focused on keeping the back door shut – and giving a lot of love to our clients.”
The current political climate, especially the Brexit vote, has posed some challenges for MediaCom UK. Largely unphased by a slight dip at the tail end of last year, Krichefski remains positive. “We’ve learned over the last 40 years through recessions and times of uncertainty that the brands who continue to invest come out the other side stronger – in terms of bang for their buck, but also long-term improvement in their brand metrics versus their competitors.
“On a separate note,” he says, “MediaCom is quite unique in the way that we are set up; we’re part of a very successful global network, but actually MediaCom UK is a very local business. In fact over 80 per cent of our clients are UK based. So unlike many of our competitors who depend on global clients, we’re very self-sustained, and I think that – time will tell – but I think that will serve us well. “