Margaret Manning is the CEO of Reading Room, a digital communications agency. Reading Room Singapore won three Gold Stevie® Awards in The 2013 International Business Awards: Advertising/Design Agency of the Year; Fastest-Growing Company of the Year (Asia, Australia, and New Zealand); and Margaret herself, now based in Singapore, was named Executive of the Year - Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations (Entries to The 2014 International Business Awards are now being accepted, get your Entry Kit here.)
We talked with Margaret her about her company, her move to Singapore, and her thoughts on the launch of the Asia-Pacific Stevie® Awards.
Over the last fifteen years, Margaret Manning and her team have grown Reading Room into a global, award-winning consultancy, with offices in London, Manchester, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Reading Room is the UK’s top digital agency (Design Week Top 100) and a global top ten digital agency working with clients such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Skoda, Philips Healthcare, ASEAN, and UNHCR.
Since January 2012 Margaret has led Reading Room through a period of very high growth in all territories, but particularly in Asia and Australia. Margaret recognized that the downturn in Europe had the potential to be long lasting and therefore looked overseas and particularly towards the Asia-Pacific for growth opportunities.
Margaret explained what brought her to Singapore. “Our arrival in Singapore in 2011 was actually off the back of a personal invitation from the Singapore Government for me to mentor young entrepreneurs in the start-up tech scene.
“At the time, Reading Room had two offices in the UK and three in Australia. I knew that to grow the company we had to work in the APAC market, we just weren’t sure where. I landed in Singapore and instantly fell in love. It had a market that was coming to its digital maturity and had realized the importance of integrated digital strategy.
“We conducted a thorough market and competitor analysis and found a gap in the market that allowed us to step in and provide consultancy services that were not being offered by anyone else. In addition, we found that our targeted sectors were looking towards the UK and Australia as thought leaders in our space, providing us with powerful credentials.
“Within four weeks, we had registered our company and rented a small, converted shop space in Chinatown. We started out with three staff members. Now we have over 50 staff and—of course—a much bigger office, although still in Chinatown, I’m pleased to say.”
We asked Margaret how Reading Room’s success in the Stevie® Awards had affected her business. Her initial response was: “Wow, where does one start?” On reflection, she continued: “First of all, we won the awards for our clients. Not only were they greatly appreciated by our clients—which in consequence provided us with repeat business—but also they made a great story to tell in all of our communications.”
Reading Room received its own accolades in The 2013 International Business Awards. Margaret told us how these have provided opportunities for her company in new regions as word of its success has traveled beyond its sectors of operation.
As she puts it: “The exposure that these awards have given us has gone beyond our expectations. I am, of course, most proud of my personal awards, particularly for Executive of the Year in The 2013 International Business Awards. This has literally catapulted my own standing within the business community, and has contributed significantly to our growth in Asia.”
Impact of New Awards
With the launch of the new Asia-Pacific Stevie® Awards in 2014, we asked Margaret for her business perspective on what these Awards will mean to her. She told us: “It’s great to see the Stevie® Awards localized for the APAC market, and we’re going to see some fierce contenders. There is so much opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region, and I believe that in 2014 we’re going to see the most fierce competition ever!”
Margaret made Singapore her global operation headquarters tasked with expanding Reading Room in the APAC region, which resulted in two more office openings in Hong Kong and Melbourne, each servicing different sectors and local clients.
Singapore has had a huge amount of growth since, doubling from 25 to 50 people since 2012. It is currently one of the fastest-growing digital agencies in Singapore. Since its foundation in 2011 Margaret has led the Singapore office to achieve 300% turnover growth in the APAC region.
Reading Room Singapore now successfully supplies consultancy services to every Singapore government agency and Margaret has been personally selected by the Infocomm Development Authority to mentor Government bodies on user experience to citizens.
A Springboard Into Asia
Margaret has advice for companies thinking of doing business in Singapore: “We find that a lot of businesses look to Singapore as a springboard into Asia, which it is—but remember, it’s much more than that: It is a vibrant, exciting society filled with opportunity; with great people; terrific food; and fantastic weather—so long as you don’t mind humidity.
“There is opportunity here, but to make the most of that opportunity you have to work hard within the Singaporean community.”
Concludes Margaret: “It’s a great testament to the Stevie Award team that they recognize the impact that this region is currently having on global business.”
Margaret tells us that it’s a strong coffee that helps her to hit the ground running in the morning, but that her inspiration comes from working in an innovative sector where there is constant change and challenge. “It is impossible to be bored, and I work with an amazing bunch of people that feel more like family than work colleagues.”
Margaret has one weakness, however: “Honestly … Candy Crush. Ok, so it’s not for business purposes, but it allows me to take two minutes here and there and just relax!”
About Margaret Manning
Margaret Manning is founder and CEO of Reading Room, a Top 10 Global Agency (IMA awards 2012) with offices in the UK, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Margaret won a Gold Stevie® for Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2012 Stevie® Awards for Women in Business; and the Best CIO Awards held in Singapore chose her for the top prize in Women in Leadership. The London Observer named Margaret one of the top 50 media people to watch in Courvoisier The Future 500.
Margaret loves her work, adores her family, and feels very lucky to have such a great team around her.
About Reading Room
Reading Room is an international digital communications business with over 200 staff across offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Manchester, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney. They provide strategic consultancy, creative, and technical production services for web, mobile, and social channels including user research, content management, and campaign management.