Grey's Eduardo Maruri on being present, elevating the work and adapting in a crisis

Maruri: 'I know what it feels like to go to work, get mugged on the way in and have no electricity when you get there'
Maruri: 'I know what it feels like to go to work, get mugged on the way in and have no electricity when you get there'

CEO of Grey Europe talks about making difficult decisions and staying driven during lockdown.

Next up in Campaign’s "Leadership in lockdown" series is Eduardo Maruri, chief executive of Grey Europe, who talks about making difficult decisions, staying driven and how his Ecuadorian background has prepared him for this crisis. 

Where are you spending quarantine and how do you run your day?

I’m at home on my own in London. My wife went back to Ecuador with the kids when the schools shut so that they could be close to her parents. 

Like everybody else, I spend my day on calls. I’m avoiding back-to-back calls to make sure I have time to think and recap in between them. I start my day early, just in time for the first call, even though I usually go to bed late. 

After I’ve finished my calls, I usually go for a walk or a run. My priority is being present and making sure that I am here for my team, our clients and the people at Grey Europe. I’ve decided not to focus obsessively on exercising; I don’t need the extra pressure.

In the evening, I speak to my son in LA and my daughter in Miami, catch up with family and talk to friends, many of whom are also colleagues. After all those interactions, I find it relaxing to sit on the sofa and watch TV; I loved the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, and Sunderland 'Til I Die. I’m also a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm – I’m rewatching the whole thing.

What were the biggest adjustments that you had to make in the first few weeks in terms of your work, your team and your clients/external partners? 

I’m from Ecuador, where we live in constant crisis. I know what it feels like to go to work, get mugged on the way in, have no electricity when you get there and find out the bank account has been frozen. I’m used to adapting, so functioning from the comfort of my own home by myself hasn’t been too challenging. 

I spent the first week making sure that everybody, from my family to my team and our people in the region, was safe and checking that we could deliver all the work we had in the pipeline. The priorities move on every week. Next, it was about taking financial decisions aligned with Grey global and WPP, and making sure that we keep pushing the creative output, because Covid-19 is not an excuse to stop doing great work. After all this, I moved on to new business and personally took charge of the biggest pitches myself.

My leadership style has always been about adapting; people and situations are different and you can’t expect individuals to all react the same way to a crisis. Some who are normally calm can be stressed, while others who become too calm might need a push. There’s not a right or a wrong way to react, but they all need time and support in different ways. 

How has your business made savings and why have you chosen certain routes – eg pay cuts versus furloughing versus redundancies? 

As any other companies, we’ve looked at all options. It’s not been easy, but I’ve been really proud of the solidarity I’ve seen in the region. I’ve been touched by people’s willingness to step up, make sacrifices and take pay cuts. 

What has been the hardest part and what has been the most uplifting part of lockdown? 

The hardest part was implementing all the financial decisions. Every single one has personal consequences and it’s painful. But when I look at everything we saved by doing that, it gives me a bit of relief. 

The most uplifting part has been the work. As a creative, I love talking about the work, exchanging ideas and always trying to elevate creativity.

What are you working on?

Bringing new clients on board, elevating our creative output, getting ready to come back and focusing on the future is what I’m working on. How do we not waste a good crisis? It’s a chance to reshape, relaunch, restructure and understand how we can better support Grey and WPP’s strategy. There are many moving pieces to think about. I’ve been talking a lot to Michael [Houston, worldwide chief executive], John [Patroulis, worldwide chief creative officer] and Javier [Campopiano, Europe chief creative officer and Grey London creative chairman] on what this means for Grey in Europe and globally. 

How do you find inspiration?

As before, from everywhere and everyone. Even though my day to day has changed due to all those video calls and the social distancing, my way of working stays the same: I’m always "on". I start working as soon as I open my eyes in the morning and I stop when I close them at night. I’m a very driven person; I think I was born that way. 

Has the experience taught you something that you’ll change when you get back to working from an office? 

Yes. I’ve probably got to know some members of my team better. I’ve had the opportunity to work with more people more closely, which means I’ve found some amazing creative talent that I didn’t know was there. I’m sure we will be able to work with them more in the future. 

What change do you expect to see in the industry when this is over? 

I don’t think there will be a specific day when it’s over. It will be very gradual over the next year-and-a-half. The whole industry will be thinking about whether we really need all the overheads we’ve built up; all the buildings, all the administration and the systems. We need to go back to basics, to prioritise our resources on the product and the people who make it. Clients want famously effective ideas – the rest is secondary. We’ve shown we can have and deliver them remotely. Just give us a brief.

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