What I've Learnt: Peter Martin, Managing Director at SMP

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

Peter Martin was appointed SMP's Managing Director in October 2019, having previously held managing roles at companies including Cheil Worldwide and Arc UK.

Martin is a senior marketing communications board-level leader, with more than 20 years’ experience running businesses and brands. At SMP, he's recently overseen the launch of its newest arm Melody, an eCommerce agency helping brands succeed on Amazon.

SMP works with clients including SanDisk, WD and Fitbit - providing shopper marketing services to streamline buying.

We found out what he's learnt throughout an illustrious career.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

It’s the same every morning. At 7am, you’ll find me on the commute getting my daily double-fix of caffeine and sport. I’ve lost count of how many sports news apps and podcasts I’ve got - surely that's what commuting was invented for?

What's been your luckiest break?

So there I was after university, stuck in the graduate programme for a rather large insurance group and in the middle of sitting my ACII examinations, when I happened to go to a basketball match at the London Arena with some friends. I got talking to a mutual connection who was working at the time at the creative agency FKB Carlson.

Long story short, two weeks later I had a job at FKB Carson - and my 20-year career in marketing started.

What's your best failure?

Like most people who have been in the industry for a number of years, I’ve had a couple; but without wishing to blow smoke, failure often means as an agency you’ve pushed the norm and tried something new. I’ve learned from all these experiences - and whilst I know it’s a cliché, each one has made me a better leader.

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

In 2009, I volunteered for a charity triathlon and had to buy a wetsuit for the open water swimming section. Now I’m at 35 triathlons and counting and I can still (although it is a tight squeeze) fit into that original wetsuit!

How would you describe your work/life balance?

To be honest, I’ve never really bought into the debate that it’s an either/or. I’ve always taken the view that whatever you are doing at that moment in time, you should do it to your maximum effort, be it family time, personal time or work.

Also, we all know the nature of our industry, so it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that at times, the hours can be long. 

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek and have just finished reading his latest book, 'The Infinite Game'. His TED Talks are some of the most viewed and I’m off to see him speak when he’s in the UK later this year at the London Palladium. I’d recommend other business leaders do the same!

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I’d tell young Peter to define what success means to him and to him alone and work out how he wants to measure it. Then ‘play the game of life’ with those goals in mind. Don’t let anyone else tell you what it means to be successful - decide that for yourself.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Without question it would be Andrew Edwards, the powerhouse who was regional president when we were both at Arc Worldwide before he went on to lead Leo Burnett across Europe. He understood the business side of the creative world better than anyone I’ve come across and taught me rules of commercial thinking that I still use today.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I once lost a final at my golf club to an opponent who got two holes-in-one in the match. One is fine, but two?

What does success look like to you?

At both SMP and Melody, we believe that to help clients thrive, you must be ahead of the curve; delivering for the now but also setting them up for a bright future. Success is about innovation, embracing change and not standing still.