Fast 10: Bullfrog’s Dalton Henshaw On Mohair Suits & Not Running A Self-Serving Agency

Fast 10: Bullfrog’s Dalton Henshaw On Mohair Suits & Not Running A Self-Serving Agency

Dalton Henshaw is one of the most exciting CEOs in adland. After founding his first company aged just 19, he went on to start Bullfrog in 2020. Now, with a B&T 30 Under 30 Award under his belt and a finalist spot in B&T’s Emerging Agency category in 2023, he sat down with Greg ‘Sparrow’ Graham to reflect on a crazy four years.

1. Your talent model is built around a disproportionate number of senior people, what’s the rationale behind this?

It’s really simple. In our experience, the best work is done by senior people. Many of us have worked in agencies where senior people have been figureheads, rather than on the tools, but the senior people we’ve hired genuinely love the work and love the industry. They don’t want to spend their days administering a business. They want to work with businesses to solve difficult problems – whether that’s a commercial, strategic or communication problem – or help them realise their potential.

I also realised that growth can’t be scaled when it’s overreliant on one individual. Every one of our people is empowered to build relationships, get into our clients’ businesses (physically, as well as metaphorically) and to operate autonomously.

2. The agency name is cool – why Bullfrog?

Sparrow, you could be the first person to say it’s cool, I’ll take it. I’ll answer with another question: do you know what a group of Bullfrogs are called? An army. And an army has an unwavering commitment to a shared mission. Without that, Bullfrog wouldn’t have realised the rapid growth we’ve had.

3. We all want to foster innovation. Have you any specific examples of how Bullfrog nurtures innovation?

Every quarter this year, we’ll be running business pitch nights where team members will prepare a business idea that solves a genuine problem in society or an area they are deeply passionate about. Before pitch nights, the team will work with the partners to help build a business case for their idea and ultimately, pitch it like any entrepreneur or founder. By encouraging these skills, the team develops a far greater context of what’s involved in creating a business, what could be driving decisions for our clients, and how the world of creativity and commercial reality intersect. And, we’re expecting to launch a few staff-created products in the near future.

4. What sets you apart as an indie agency?

For any creative business, it’s people and partners. You can have all the processes in the world and relentlessly encourage curiosity, but without people who engage and want to constantly grow, it’s moot.

The reason Bullfrog has grown to where it has today is because of three key ingredients in how we hire (I’m a hobby cook, so let’s call this a recipe):

  • We hire the person, not just their skillset or what their CV says
  • They align with our values
  • They share a burning motivation to never settle on the same answer twice.

5. As the founder and CEO, you started early as an entrepreneur at 19, what was your motivation?

Without going too deep or too personal for the B&T readers, I grew up in a pretty broken household, like many people across Australia. As the elder brother to two wonderful sisters, I always felt an innate responsibility to pave the way or show that there’s always another way to chase after what you want in life. What today looks or feels like doesn’t have to be the same tomorrow. So, my environment fueled independence, a burning curiosity for many things and importantly, an understanding that if I want things to change it’s would take hard work to get there. I guess, now 11 years later, that attitude is still holding me in good stead.

6. I know it’s like naming your favourite child, but what piece of work are you most proud of?

I think my favourite piece of work is always the one we’re working on right now – it’s always like we’re working on the new “best”. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for our Movember x Politix collaboration – the Mohair Suit – because it felt like a real moment in time when the ambition of Bullfrog had landed. A Guinness World Record will do that for you. But I’m also a huge fan of our most recent work for Interpath, a business that makes joint supplements. What could have been a fairly rational, pedestrian campaign ended with osteoarthritic blacksmith with a mace collection.

7. Bullfrog is a creative business, does this drive business growth?

That’s the first and primary metric we hold ourselves to. We’re not in the business of making “award work.” We’re just not that self-serving, and from conversations with partners, we know that acting in that way erodes client trust.

While marketing for any business is a critical driver of growth, it is only one function of a business and it can’t be solely held responsible for growth. Bullfrog, with the brilliant minds we’ve hired, can impact every touchpoint of a business – from product through to ads. Our CFO is more involved in the work than I think any CFO in Aussie adland. As a result, one of our partners sits on the leadership team of a clients, and another one has just worked with Oxfam’s innovation team to help shape what their future looks like.

8. Several years ago you won B&T 30 under 30 how did this impact your career trajectory?

To use a sports metaphor: while there’s a person’s name on that trophy, the logo on the front of the jersey means the most. Winning the award was an incredibly humbling experience, but it’s a recognition of the work every member of the team has put in. That being said, being in the room with a lot of impressive people has certainly opened up some discussions with like-minded businesses and potential partners.

9. Can you share with us something that’s not on your LinkedIn profile?

I used to be Dalton Graham and now I’m very proudly Dalton Henshaw, after taking my other wife’s name at marriage – the other CEO in our household.

10. Do your parents know what you actually do?

Ha! I just messaged my Mum to ask, ’cause I really wasn’t sure. She replied: “You’re the CEO of Bullfrog and you lead people,” so I guess she does… I didn’t get more than that.

Check out the rest of the Fast 10 series:

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