Time for a new CPL story?

As CPL completes its four-year management buyout and reaches its 25th anniversary, Mike Sewell looks ahead

”Thus concluding the repayment of the First Loan Notes.”

This brief piece of financial jargon, hidden in a formal note to CPL’s founding shareholders last month, signalled an important milestone for the agency.

Back in January 2017 we announced we had agreed a management buyout (MBO) to keep CPL in shape for future growth. Now, four years on – and coinciding with the agency’s 25th birthday – the buyout has been completed.

For this, there are a lot of people to thank, including:

  • Our board members – Laura Saunders, Neil Adcock, Richard Walters and Sophie Hewitt-Jones – who have backed the plan, made some tough business decisions when necessary and proved that my trust in them when originally scoping the MBO was well-founded

  • The whole team at CPL – those who have been with us throughout the four years, those who have moved on during that period and those who have joined, bringing fresh dynamism and thinking to the agency

  • CPL founders Jonathan Wilson and Mark Rosselli, who have been incredibly supportive, giving the new board space to take the agency forward, while making – and hopefully learning from – a few mistakes along the way

  • Our clients, who regularly tell us how they benefit from our twin commitment to excellent work and excellent customer service 

  • Everyone else who has supported us, including talented freelancers, wise consultants, supportive bank managers, astute accountants and loyal suppliers.

Building a sense of belonging

Our business purpose – and the guiding principle that has supported and informed the decisions we’ve made over the past four years – is that “we help people belong”.  

I really hope everyone in the list above feels a genuine sense of belonging, both to CPL and to the diverse range of organisations on behalf of which we have created and delivered a wealth of different content strategies before and since 2017.

So… what next?

Having completed the MBO, and with confidence that we can benefit from the economic optimism that seems to be abounding as we come out of lockdown in the UK, now is a good time to revisit what CPL is all about.

So we’ll be spending the next few months reviewing all aspects of Our Story – the document where we outline our purpose, values and priorities – to make it relevant and motivational for the next four years. 

That means starting at the beginning by reassessing our business purpose, asking the basic questions any organisation should pose – like ‘what we want to stand for’, ‘where we want to go’ and ‘how we want to get there’. We intend to understand the views of people inside and outside CPL, so please be ready to offer your perspectives and insights if asked.

Reasons to be bullish

We will be carrying out this review from a position of strength, bearing in mind that we:

  • Achieved record profits in our last financial year

  • Are in far better shape now than I feared would be the case when Covid-19 first struck just over a year ago

  • Have already won and retained some key contracts in 2021

  • Have hired and developed some fantastically talented employees and freelancers who are extending the scope of the services we offer.

To prove the last point, just take a look at some recent items on the CPL website:

The fact we are now in a position to offer such a range of disciplines, alongside the journalistically led, multi-channel contract publishing and media sales on which the agency was founded, makes me feel pretty bullish about the future. 

Meanwhile, assuming we continue to make decent profits, we will have the opportunity to invest at least a decent proportion of them on something that sounds a bit more interesting than “repayment of loan notes”.

It could be an exciting few years ahead.

Mike Sewell
is managing director
at CPL

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