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Bossing It: Focusing on the End Goal with Toby Walsham


FAMILIA partner and MD on building a future-proofed business and why mentors are so important

Bossing It: Focusing on the End Goal with Toby Walsham

As a partner and MD of FAMILIA, Toby has helped to develop amazing talent and worked with some of the of the worlds best creatives. He has produced projects in some of the most unique places on earth, from the snow topped South American Andes, to 35000ft above the ground floating around in a zero gravity plane.

With over 10 years experience working internationally, he has produced projects for a diverse range of clients, including Adidas, Facebook,, VW, Tag Heuer, Panasonic and FIFA.

LBB> What was your first experience of leadership? 

Toby> I am the oldest of four siblings. So you might say the responsibility of running around after my younger brothers and sister was my earliest experience of leadership. At this time in my life it was more stopping my sister from eating lego bricks than dealing with complicated production issues.


LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be? 

Toby> I was lucky and I had many great role models, excellent bosses and colleagues in my formative years. Many of whom I am still close friends with. All of them understood that being a leader is a balance. I looked up to these people and what they all had in common was that they generally cared about me and my development. 

I want to be a managing director, who builds a future proofed business. One that is a space for my team to thrive, build their own careers and all the while helping to build a business they too can be proud of. 


LBB> What do you think makes a great leader?

Toby> The boss in every movie is super smart, aggressively mean and shouts his orders at his terrified staff. Old-school leaders managed their staff through commands. Back then it was about barking orders down the chain of command and demanding results. 

This would never work today and certainly not in our industry. 

The job of the leader today is far more complex. Results are only seen if your team is cared for. Today it is about influencing, building trust and ensuring your team is emotionally supported as much as they are intellectually supported through training and development. At FAMILIA every employee has access to a monthly pot of money to attend training sessions and more recently we have also established a service for our staff to attend therapy should they just need someone to talk to. 

A great leader gets results, whilst also ensuring their team is supported. A great leader understands that leading is a give and take economy.

LBB> As you developed your leadership skills, did you have a mentor?

Toby> When I first started having the responsibility of managing people, I would find myself reading articles and interviews from great leaders. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk to name a few. They all spoke so highly of themselves and their achievements felt so alien. They spoke of intuition and gut decisions. All of this was so unhelpful to a young aspiring producer looking for a few tips on how to better deal with staff disagreements, or a client who was 90 days behind on their invoice. Whilst reading about the greats is interesting, I learnt far more from my mentors over the years. People with real, every day, real experience. 

Go get yourself a mentor now. Do not get sucked into any of the celebrity mentorship programs you see online. These are pyramid schemes that are not worth a penny of your money. Find someone you look up to in the industry and reach out. I have 2 mentors I speak to regularly whose advice I value more than any book, article or interview i’v read.

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? How much of leadership is natural and how much can be learned?

Toby> I am not sure when it happened. I don't think I ever wanted to be a leader. I wanted to be a flame op, then a producer and then an EP. It was a very natural progression that just felt right. 

When I was younger, I had always assumed that you had to have grey hairs to be an MD or CEO. The recipe for a leader seemed to be experience, intelligence and wrinkles. 

I mentioned Bill Gates, Zuckerberg and Elon above. What's interesting about these three modern day leaders, is that they all dropped out of university, all had a lot of failure on their way to the top and all led huge businesses at a very young age. 

LBB> What are some ambitions and plans you have for your new role as MD at FAMILIA? 

Toby> Well that would be telling now, wouldn't it…. FAMILIA has had an excellent 2022, with a 100% win rate. But this has meant that the team has been non-stop, so whilst I have been looking to hire quickly, it’s always hard to find the right people to join the family. We recently appointed Cairan Bennet and Mikey Levelle as EPs and FAMILIA now has the biggest and most experienced team it has ever had in its lifetime. I don’t believe there will ever be a time that I can happily say ‘completed it’, as it's my opinion that building a business and running a team is never done, there are always improvements to be made. 

We have some very exciting plans for the near future. Watch this space.


LBB> What are the most helpful tips you’ve found along your leadership journey? 

Toby> Start at the end. Being a leader is about focusing on the end goal. 

Focus on what you wish the outcome of the situation to be and then fill in the steps between where you are now and where you need to be.  

Be unreasonable. Set goals just a little bit higher than you think is achievable. If you end up short, you still likely achieved more than you first expected.

And finally, 

Results are the only thing that matters. Not the number of meetings you have booked, emails you have responded to or the hours you have worked this week. It's about results.

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FAMILIA, Wed, 23 Nov 2022 12:49:00 GMT