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MPLC’s roadmap to success – how a bold new strategy inspired growth

In 2020, faced with the thrilling prospect of untapped markets, MPLC’s CEO had a raft of strategic projects to tackle. He invited Tenzing Sherpa, Rory Shedden, to take them on with the goal of helping to rapidly position MPLC to capitalise on the opportunity. However, an unusual set of circumstances pivoted Rory into shaping a transformational new strategy that propelled MPLC towards remarkable success.  

The company

The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) is the world leader in licensing films, TV and other content for public viewing. Under the leadership of former CEO Mike Weatherley, the company partnered with Tenzing in January 2020 with the goal of growing the business by building on its strength in the US and through international expansion. 

The challenge

In summer 2020, MPLC had weathered the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to its strong customer base and resilient business model, sales had stalled but not collapsed despite several of the firm’s main markets being among the worst-hit sectors. 

With a value creation plan and business strategy to deliver, Mike identified a list of vital strategic projects that would deliver major benefits to MPLC. To drive these projects forward, Mike reached out to Tenzing, who provided him with Sherpa, Rory Shedden

The objective

MPLC’s bold growth plans centred on international expansion and boosting sales in the UK and USA. Supported by significant systems investment and a cultural transformation to support its next growth phase. 

Rory’s mission as a Sherpa encompassed several key projects:

  • Identifying potential additional countries for MPLC to launch in.
  • Pinpointing the optimal location for a new US sales office. 
  • Researching the market for cutting-edge data sources to empower MPLCs royalty calculations for the future. 

“As a Sherpa, you’re insulated from the day-to-day tasks which can soak up so much executive time. I was free to go after the big ticket items that helped drive the business forward, making it quicker and easier for MPLC’s team to deliver.”

Rory Shedden, Sherpa Alumni

The solution 

Guided by Mike, Rory rapidly tackled each initiative:

  • International expansion – Rory identified prime countries for MPLC’s growth and created a blueprint for international expansion success. This manual included documentation and process flows which empowered MPLC’s teams to swiftly operationalise new international operations.
  • New US office based on Rory’s analysis, Mike chose Salt Lake City for MPLC’s US expansion. The city’s robust talent pool and strong transport links positioned the operations teams for success, facilitating rapid office set-up and efficient staffing.
  • Allocations calculator – Rory gathered market data and insights from content distribution companies and conducted rigorous due diligence. This led to a more detailed research and analytics project with a leading data provider.

In an unexpected turn of events, Mike passed away in early 2021, leading to a transition in leadership. MPLC’s Chair, Louise Rogers, temporarily stepped into the CEO role, with Rory assuming the position of Chief of Staff.

Amidst this unplanned change and the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, MPLC grasped the opportunity to realign its priorities. Collaborating with Tenzing’s Growth Team, Rory and Louise spearheaded the development and implementation of Project 21. A bold, confident and ambitious three-pronged strategy focused on the following goals:

Growth – improving top-line sales 

MPLC honed in on its core markets, the UK and USA, while keeping one eye on international opportunities. By refocusing on these primary areas, MPLC’s leadership could target their efforts on the parts of the business offering the most growth for their rights holders. This strategic shift propelled the business forward, accelerating growth.

Prepare to scale – streamlining infrastructure.

As a 30-year-old business, MPLC grappled with a large amount of technical debt and legacy processes. To spur growth, it was vital to move away from inefficient legacy practices and modernise systems and procedures for quicker, more robust and scalable operations.

Supporting and developing our people – creating a dynamic culture

Recognising the importance of culture early on led to a strong emphasis on transparent, collaborative employee communication. With the help of Tenzing’s Employee Engagement Subject Specialist, Cat Lewis, MPLC’s leaders crafted a cadence of regular, transparent and accessible strategic messaging which formed the backbone of the communications strategy. Uniting the C-suite and the workforce and aligning everyone with Project 21.

This new approach fostered two-way, human communications that gave everyone the opportunity to share their ideas and expertise and encouraged active participation in the company’s strategic journey. 

“MPLC had a lot of the ingredients for success. Project 21 focused everyone’s actions in the same direction and gave them the context and tools to help them deliver. This empowered every individual to think and act in a way that supported MPLC’s continued growth.”

Rory Shedden, Sherpa Alumni 

The results

Project 21 refreshed MPLC’s priorities, accelerated the change process, aligned the management team and mobilised the business around a clear path forward. 

The strategy created a new culture of transparency, collaboration, empowerment and high performance. Individuals and teams were encouraged to innovate, driven by clear strategy, defined performance expectations and strong leadership support. 

By engaging every employee with this vision, MPLC created a vibrant energy throughout the company. It also crafted a compelling story – and reality – about its commitment to growth and improvement. A narrative that has proven to be instrumental in attracting new talent and engaging external stakeholders.

Many of the projects Rory undertook in his Sherpa role fed neatly into the new business strategy. And a strategic systems overhaul, including the adoption of tools like SalesForce, streamlined operations, reduced technical debt and removed over £1m of costs. This unlocked and empowered talent in the business, drove additional operating cost savings and enhanced efficiency. 

Combined with a larger sales team and new sales techniques the business saw an exceptional 30% increase in revenue and established a stronger overall financial position for the future. 

“With Tenzing as our partner, we could draw on expertise and ideas that wouldn’t have been available to us otherwise. The depth and strength of Tenzing’s investment experience has helped to supercharge our growth.”

Roy Shedden, Sherpa Alumni

Business benefits

Empowered employees

A transparent, well-articulated strategy inspired employees, empowering them to actively drive change and growth.

Solid systems

The integration of cutting-edge technologies revolutionised MPLC’s operations, simplifying processes and cutting business overheads.

Growth

Concentrated efforts in the core US and UK markets fueled consistent revenue growth and positioned the business strongly for the future.

Project 21 was a game-changer for MPLC, catapulting it to unprecedented success. The strategy established a robust foundation, helping the company make up ground lost during COVID-19. Not only was 2021 a record year for US new business, but MPLC began to catch up on its original growth projections too.

Though unplanned, Rory’s move to become CEO in December 2021 was a natural progression. His experience as a Sherpa and Chief of Staff made him the ideal leader to execute the strategy he helped craft. Under his guidance, the business has continued to excel with impressive growth continuing through 2022 and 2023. 

With ongoing support from Tenzing, MPLC is set to continue its remarkable journey of growth and innovation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie's spent the last decade in some of the world’s leading tech businesses running Marketing & PR. She shows entrepreneurs what it would be like if they partnered with Tenzing. Her true passion lies in community building, so she's in her element connecting marketing professionals across the portfolio. Talk to Charlie about sales and marketing alignment, demand generation, event strategy and team design.
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