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At home with the licensing industry: Maarten Weck, WildBrain CPLG

How is business continuing for the industry now working from home is the new normal? Source talks to Maarten Weck, evp and md, about how WildBrain CPLG has adapted.

With the licensing industry now working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, Source talks to key licensors, licensees and agents to find out how they are keeping business going.

Today: Maarten Weck, evp and md, WildBrain CPLG.

How is the team’s day now structured, with everyone working from home?

The day starts with internal video calls including with the senior management team, direct reports and working groups. We then spend time on specific COVID-19 management such as speaking with licensors, licensees and retailers – all while doing some home schooling in between! When the US and Canada comes online, we have COVID-19 management calls with our parent company WildBrain to talk through how we are going to find and execute new opportunities during this time. Between all of this, there’s of course the usual day-to-day work and inbox management.

Could you provide a rough timeline of your day?

My day starts at 08:30 and ends around 22:00 with regular breaks throughout for home schooling and some much-needed relaxation.

How is the communication with licensees and retailers continuing? How important is it to continue keeping these lines of communication open during this time?

We’ve seen lines of communication become more efficient and direct than they used to be – I think is because of the strong sense of ‘we are all in this together’, and the greater level of understanding and collaboration we’re seeing across the industry.

Which projects are you able to move forward on right now?

It is business as usual in that sense – our staff are busier than ever and remaining very productive. It’s important for us to keep activating new projects where possible and, although we are in the midst of this horrible pandemic and life is far from being normal, we need to continue forward planning and seizing opportunities wherever we can.

What piece of advice would you give about how best to continue to feel like a team while WFH?

Video calls – particularly on Microsoft Teams and Zoom – have become very popular among our team. I would particularly recommend encouraging everybody to turn on their cameras (even if they are in their onesies!) as it makes it more enjoyable and personable to see your colleagues. Somehow video conferencing etiquette has changed in a very short space of time for the better and the effectiveness of these calls has substantially increased.

We’re also sending out internal videos recorded by our ceo and senior management execs addressing the situation. I think it’s important to keep this stream of communication with your staff open and for senior management to provide their teams with clarity during these testing times.

How are you keeping up morale?

We have started an informal channel on Microsoft Teams specifically for staff to chat about non-business topics – advice on having fun while in lockdown, sharing picture of kids and there’s a lot of cat videos, too! We’re also encouraging each of our regional teams to create videos for our wider group – this can be about any topic they want and gives them a chance to spend time collaborating together on a non-business activity. Lastly, we’re really encouraging our staff to reach out to one another and keep in touch as much as they can, while of course making sure there a much-needed element of fun throughout the day too.

Best thing about WFH?

There are a lot of upsides to working from home such as no commute, increased flexibility on working hours and spending more time with family. However, there are some downsides such as staff siting behind their laptops for hours at a time so we’re encouraging our teams to take regular breaks and keep moving.

What’s the one thing you’ve discovered about each team member since WFH that you didn’t know before?

I have now (virtually) met most of my team’s children as all communication has become more relaxed and informal.

If you have children, how are you managing keeping them entertained/educated while you work?

Well, this is the hardest part, especially with my youngest. We’ve been doing a lot of arts and crafts, going for runs in the morning, enjoying board games, playing in the garden, baking cupcakes, completing LEGO challenges and, of course, the iPad (thank goodness for TikTok). I think, given these challenging circumstances, the usual rules around screen time can be bent a little!

What advice would you give to people in the business who are worried about the future?

We are all in this together. While the industry may never be the same, over these next weeks and months, we come together and use the creativity this industry is recognised for to solve problems and forge new paths. I believe positive thinking is the key to unlocking new opportunities and, in these testing times, it is more important than ever. If we stick together, support each other, and remain honest and positive we will overcome this.

If you or your team would like to take part in this feature, simply email Samantha Loveday on saml@max-publishing.co.uk.

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