Philip Ercolano certainly showed early potential for success. In 1999, at the tender age of 17, he was signed by talent supremo Simon Fuller, the man behind such sensations as Pop Idol, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance? Just 10 years later, Philip struck out on his own and set up the now flourishing Cassius Management talent agency. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing...
For a start, Cassius Management was launched at the height of the economic downturn. “Brand distribution was one major challenge,” says Philip. “Just getting your brand out there, raising awareness has been difficult.”
So why launch at such a fragile time in the UK’s economy? “When the economic downturn kicked in,“ explains Philip, “we saw that a lot of the talent wasn’t being managed. They were sweating the top 10 percent of their talent and not really looking after the other 90 percent. The obvious path was to target our business at emerging talent and making sure that they’re correctly looked after and managed, be it on the pitch or off the pitch in the case of a footballer, or in front of the camera or behind the camera. ”
Even the most fundamental aspects of his job haven’t been easy for the past few years. “Just getting the talent in such a competitive market. You’ve got to be quite diligent in that you’ve got to go out and compete against people without over-selling your product.” Philip’s credo is: If you’re good, you get found out, if you’re bad, you get found out. “Hopefully,” he says, “we’re good and our reputation’s growing day by day.”
Even before being taken under Simon Fuller’s wing, Philip’s grounding as a Harrods’ management trainee put him in good stead for the business world. “I went on to launch a business and worked in the media subsequent to that experience. It was really valuable and enjoyable. The education I got in dealing with premium brands certainly carried me through in the way that we run our business.”
Keep a big smile on your face and enjoy it. It’s a long road, it’s not a motorway...
Cassius Management primarily grows its client-base through word of mouth. “We’re not just the typical agent who meets someone for half an hour and says, ‘ok, now you’re on the books’,” says Philip. “We have three meetings with our full team, creative director, commercial director, business development person, etc, to really understand our clients’ needs and position in the market before was say yes.
“If we pick up the phone to a sponsor or a broadcaster or a football club, we know what their personal likes and dislikes are – in the case of a footballer, whether that club may be suitable for them. You’ve got to know your clients very well to know what floats their boat outside of the camera or outside of the football pitch, because that’s what makes them happy. And when they’re happy, they play well or perform well.”
Cassius Management has employed the same senior management team for the past six years and Philip Ercolano regards this as being one of the company’s strengths. He also enjoys the freedom of choice that running your own business brings. However, Cassius’ progress has not been straightforward. “If I’ve made one mistake,” he says, “it was misjudging how quickly the company would grow. I come from a business model where things happen very quickly. With Cassius, you can add another 50% to each timescale.”
Would he encourage other entrepreneurs to strike out on their own? Definitely, but he warns it is important to get certain aspects right. “Make sure you get your business plans right, make sure you’ve got a good team of people around you, and make sure you look after them," says Philip.
“Keep a big smile on your face and enjoy it. It’s a long road, it’s not a motorway...”
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