Mach Media’s founder and Managing Partner, Taunya Renson-Martin, recently had the honor of being interviewed by the Belgian Magazine, Trends. We’ve translated the article, but you can find the original here.
The Ghent-based marketing and communication agency Mach Media, currently celebrating its ten years, works with a team full of expats and identifies itself as a cultural translator between mainly North American and European companies.
The American actress Taunya Renson-Martin moved to Belgium for love at the beginning of this century. She still acts in small roles (including series such as Cordon and Het Goddelijk Monster), but her main role nowadays is being an entrepreneur. In 2008, she founded Mach Media. The communications agency now employs seventeen people of, among other nationalities, Polish, Irish and Indonesian descent, and in addition to its headquarters in Ghent, it also has a branch in Washington DC. Mach Media offers communication services and digital strategies, from managing websites and lead generation to internal communication, PR and advertising. This year is the second in a row for Mach Media to feature on the INC. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in Europe.
“An American company doing business in Europe quickly learns that it cannot use the same tone and approach as it does in the United States, and vice versa.”
The Inc. 5000 Europe ranking is based on turnover and growth rate. Mach Media’s turnover grew to 2.38 million euro between 2013 and 2016, a 53.82 percent increase. This growth happened in a struggling sector. The relationship between marketing communications agencies and their customers changed due to digitalization. Advertising agencies take on an increasingly strategic role, especially for companies with relatively small marketing teams.
Mach Media opts for growth but avoids hiring new employees too quickly, since that can make a communications agency vulnerable when faced with adversity. “Every time there is a new trend, some agencies tend to hire new people, in order to have all the skills in-house,” says Taunya Renson-Martin. “If you do that, you must continue to feed the ‘beast’.” Mach Media works with specialized partners instead.”
“Furthermore, many agencies like to market their creativity, but for us it’s more important to act smart and to think like business people, to know their strategy and goals. For example, social media is still a new phenomenon for many traditional companies. They’re only starting to realize that they have to use social media and need a lot of resources for it,” continues Renson-Martin.
Mach Media has found the niche in their sector, with mainly multinational clients. “We see ourselves as a cultural translator in communication: an American company doing business in Europe quickly learns that it cannot use the same tone and approach as it does in the United States, and vice versa,” says Taunya Renson-Martin.
One of those customers is Entrada Group, an American company that advises foreign companies on how to set up a production facility in Mexico. North American companies approach this in a different way than European companies, since Americans and Canadians are of course more familiar with Mexico’s geography, business and labor market. However, Entrada also tackles the marketing differently.
“For European companies, it is especially important that Mexico has 46 free trade agreements and is right next to the US and Canada: they can enter a new market from which they can export to the United States and Canada,” says Business Development Manager Europe Gabriele Schwinghammer. “They tend to see the low labor costs as an extra benefit. With American manufacturers on the other hand, we tend to focus on low operating costs in our marketing, because that is an important competitive advantage for them.”
The long-term relationships Mach Media has with its clients, its role as a ‘cultural translator’ and referrals all gave Mach Media the ability to grow in recent years along with the companies it works for, explaining its presence on the list of fast-growing companies. But in recent years, growth has stagnated for the first time and Taunya Renson-Martin had to create an extra management layer. “Until two years ago, everyone reported to me, but now we have a director for the US and one for Belgium,” says Renson-Martin. “2017 had smaller growth, but 2018 will once again be very strong. We did business development and lead generation for everyone, except for ourselves. So we said ‘let’s apply that to ourselves as well’, and the first results are already there,” says Renson-Martin.
“Many agencies like to market their creativity, but for us it’s more important to act smart and to think like business people, to know their strategy and goals.”
Mach Media is part of the Across Group, of which the internet entrepreneur and author Peter Hinssen is one of the co-founders. Most parts of the Across Group have been sold in recent years, including the technology leg that is now part of Delaware Consulting. Peter Hinssen, who made his name with Porthus and founded the innovation consultancy nexxworks, is still one of the partners of Mach Media. Another serial entrepreneur and investor in Mach Media is Luc Osselaer.
Renson-Martin wants to continue to grow her business but like so many entrepreneurs before her, stands in front of a dilemma: how to keep the advantages of a small company where everyone knows each other, during a growth spurt? “I would like to know how to grow without losing what we have now: being connected with one another and our customers, that everyone can speak up and share their ideas – which is an ideal environment right now. Growing means having to split up in teams. I work with a lot of international companies and I see things happen that I don’t want to see happening here: complexity, bureaucracy, people who have lost touch with the workplace, and all the change management programs.”
Although Taunya Renson-Martin does not yet know how to tackle this, she does already have an idea. It comes down to employees not limiting themselves to performing their duties, but thinking together as entrepreneurs and feeling the responsibility of the entire company. This can only happen if the management is transparent, she says. “We share the results of every quarter with everyone, even interns. The turnover, how high the costs are…If we don’t meet our goals, we discuss how to solve it. Our people can reason like entrepreneurs.”
Written by Benny Debruyne