For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Madelaine Guppy.
As a pioneer in new and evolving mediums, Madelaine Guppy has worked with the world’s top production companies and directed talent to shape award winning successful commercial campaigns, independent entertainment production, tech and experiential projects. Madelaine develops new business strategies in emerging industries to develop and strategize with the world’s leading brands, platforms, networks, studios and creative hubs. In a new world of creative innovation, Madelaine has mentored the creative development process from start to finish to ensure that projects translated across all creative, production and technical objectives into saleable business opportunities. Madelaine has developed original IP, packaged and sold to major studios and financial partners. As an asset to sales and distribution she continues to develop IP and business relationships whilst growing operations, process and infrastructure to aid business success.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been drawn to innovative brand storytelling. Originally this was a vital part of driving new business for the talent I managed. At SMUGGLER, I had a commercial film roster of 40 of the industry’s most successful directors. After working on executions across multi-media channels, that varied from Virtual and Augmented Reality to Broadway plays, it became clear to me that audiences were dramatically diversifying and becoming fractured, with less tolerance for ‘traditional’ marketing; increasingly, 360 campaigns, world building experiences, and cultural partnerships were key to audience engagement. Working on these trailblazing projects to drive audience engagement with top talent, film studios, brands and tech, cemented my focus on creating business solutions that align brands with their target audience by leveraging culture and creating new partnerships with the storytellers that create it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Bar a few weeks, most of my time with Wheelhouse has been during the COVID-19 epidemic. The company has been so full of energy and determination, and despite one of the company’s USPs being the face-to-face, social element, the team has managed to adapt to a remote world. The team has been solution orientated; it reset goals, restrategized and continued to deliver results. It has been incredible being part of the hustle.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started out at SMUGGLER I worked on reception, a few days into the job, I received a call from one of the company’s top directors asking for a QuickTime file to be edited and then urgently sent back to him. Of course, I said yes! Having downloaded the file, I frantically googled free editing tools. I started downloading a free trial and quickly realized I was unlikely to deliver anything on time, with my heart racing I told my new boss in a panic, he stood me up and walked me over to the Edit Vault where an entire team of people delivered these types of requests all day long. The lesson — do not be afraid to ask questions when you don’t know what you are doing!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The leaders throughout the company have all been successful independently and have expertise in key areas that are second to none. The element that makes us different is the collective entrepreneurial drive to create something unique. The versatile network that surrounds our leadership team, as well as the 360 connectivity between different business channels across Wheelhouse Group means that the company can create new ways of building business opportunities for our clients, productions, and brands.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At Wheelhouse Labs, we have been working on an influencer campaign with an inspiring brand called Green Goo. The female-led and family-driven company creates plant-based first aid and body care products. They have just completed a ‘Seasons of Goodness’ campaign where they have donated thousands of gallons of sanitizer to essential work establishments.
We also have an inspiring upcoming content series from Spoke Studios (part of Wheelhouse Group) called “Operation Awesome”. It takes a look at how kids are changing the world every day. Five incredible young people with the biggest, boldest, most amazing ideas for change will get the chance to make their dreams come true. They work together with local volunteers to help others launch new initiatives, making an impactful change in each community they visit. This will be launching on BYUtv on March 10th.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Notice diligence within your team no matter how big or small; creating an environment where hard work is appreciated drives ownership and responsibility. It also sets up a progressive feedback loop for further team communication.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Build relationships with everyone on your team and know how each individual feeds into the wider ecosystem. This in turn allows team members to feel valued and visible. Being close to the detail also helps you identify holes in infrastructure or team capabilities and allows for efficient management.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been lucky to have multiple mentors and strong leaders throughout my career. In the UK, I worked closely with successful and inspiring females like Dame Heather Rabbatts. Heather was the governor of the BBC for three years before moving to Channel 4 to run education programming. She was also the first ethnic minority to run the England Football Association and the only female on the board. She has always given me counsel, business advice and helped me carve out perspective when I have felt overwhelmed. Patrick Milling-Smith and Brian Carmody, my bosses at SMUGGLER, have always championed me, guiding me from my starting position as receptionist to eventually becoming their Chief Commercial Officer. My current CMO Wheelhouse/President of Wheelhouse Labs, Dan Sanborn, has had a big impact on me; we met when pitching projects together and maintained a business relationship, and his innovative and inspiring business approach drew me to my current position within his group at Wheelhouse.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
A focus of mine is to find storytelling techniques that help educate, connect people, and create impact. In 2018 working alongside Director Samantha Scaffidi, in partnership with The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), we created short film to help bring attention and a sense of urgency to the plight and obstacles facing survivors of sexual assault. Samantha brought a personal account and a quiet yet searingly powerful truth to the film in its fight for care and justice. Our position in creating and amplifying the piece meant that through one piece of storytelling we could create signposting and support survivors.
I also believe utilizing new and unique storytelling tools allows for audiences to identify and form a sense of empathy, community and action. A good example of this was a project I worked on called ‘The Displaced’, a VR documentary created in partnership with The New York Times. The film followed the lives of three refugee children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine, and Syria. The unique medium allowed for journalism and storytelling to penetrate the NYT audience in a new way and increased impact and connection; the accompanying NYT VR app was downloaded over half a million times and 1.3 million Google Cardboard sets were distributed as part of the launch.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Choose to become someone’s mentor. When I look back I realize my mentors chose me rather than the other way around. They gave me their time, patience and advice. I always felt supported. It is one of the biggest gifts I have had in my career.
Play the long game; relationships and opportunities are not instant. Each conversation and introduction is the start of a potential possibility that can come to life years down the line — they are often not instantaneous and need to be nurtured. The more you learn about what drives people, the more likely you are to provide something they find truly valuable.
Stay close to what keeps you passionate. As a leader your enthusiasm and commitment will resonate through your team. We all have times where deadlines and responsibilities become priority. Give yourself time to connect with the elements that reinvigorate you.
Don’t worry about being wrong or failing, just never stop learning — if you do, then worry!
Always hire people better than you. I learn new things from my team members every day. I’m happy to ask for their opinions, as it inspires productive conversation as well as personal growth.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe mentorship is the key to progression, particularly in entertainment and advertising. I have been learning about incredible organizations such as ‘HUE You Know’ run by Bree Frank — it is a 12,000+ member production resource group for media professionals of color where the principal focus is to create a safe space for professionals of all levels to post employment opportunities, seek mentorship, and community. If everyone in positions of influence could support and mentor it opens up infinite possibilities for those that might not otherwise get the opportunity.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘WORK HARD AND BE NICE TO PEOPLE’ Anthony Burrill
I have this poster in my office and look at it multiple times a day — it has never let me down.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Although it might sound like a cliché, Ryan Reynolds ticks a lot of boxes! All jokes aside the way Maximum Effort confronts and uses culture through storytelling is inspiring and disruptive. The multi-dimensional approach to content creation and storytelling speaks to an audience that is becoming increasingly important for brands and culture. I would love to ask about Aviation Gin and Wrexam FC, and his perspective about being the owner, creative director, influencer, and a lead in the business.
How can our readers connect with you on social media?