Adrian Hughes, group managing director of Marketforce, answers our questions about his life in publishing.
Q: How did you get where you are today?
A: I’ve always enjoyed the industry that we work in, from the day I started work at a Birmingham wholesale depot for what was then WHSmith Wholesale. After a couple of years working with newspapers, I moved to the publisher DC Thomson spending six years mainly on the road selling magazines to multiple and independent retailers. It was a great role for developing confidence and being able to listen well and understand the retail world.
I then moved role and location, heading to London and to Marketforce. From a career perspective, this is where I started to develop and I was able to take roles in retail, and then move to circulation director roles within IPC and our third-party business. Along the way, I kept a keen interest in learning through my 30s and was able to take a Spanish business diploma after working with the Hello circulation team along with qualifying as a teacher, as well as taking opportunities to study at Ashridge Business College.
When I look back, I think what has enabled me to take a leading role is down to three things: a hard work ethic, a bit of luck at times and having had good bosses that encouraged and allowed me to move roles and experience new challenges; that has been key to picking up those all-important transferrable skills that I needed to progress and run a business.
Q: What is your typical media day?
A: One of the great things about working with many different publishers is that there is rarely a regular day. I tend to be up early and either in work ahead of the teams or meeting clients or suppliers for breakfast. Days are generally full catching up with the team or clients. We have an agile working environment in our business locations, so we don’t have personal offices or fixed desks and that has been great in helping communication across the business and our senior team.
Q: What is the secret to a happy working life?
A: From a personal perspective, it’s challenging to work in an industry that is volatile and complex whilst having the challenge of both print and digital. Getting the balance right between home and work life is important; but probably more so is laughing and enjoying those small things that improve or develop your business or team. I’ve been lucky to always enjoy whatever job I’ve done.
Q: How do you see the sector evolving?
A: In consumer magazines, that volatility and complexity that the sector faces at a high level is well documented and there are challenges to retaining profitability on the newsstand. However, one of the great aspects of my role is that I work with many different publishers, both large and small, and I find tremendous positives in the way businesses are developing new products and ways of generating more revenue through using good insight. The business model will change, based on serving consumers’ passions in new ways, from the basic principle of great content at the right price, to additional products and services.
Q: Who has particularly influenced you?
A: I think that when you look back at the people who influenced you, there are always a number of people that stand out. As I said earlier, I’ve been lucky enough to have good bosses who have both inspired me and allowed me to grow; all of them have influenced me over my career.
Q: What advice would you give someone starting out?
A: It’s difficult to give general advice, but I learned very quickly that making a positive difference was key to getting noticed in any organisation; listening, understanding and talking to people and taking time to think how you can improve businesses is important. As I developed, I focused on: Financial & Commercial Skills, Strategy Skills, Leadership Skills and Personal Impact. I believe those four elements are a good base upon which to build any career.
Q: How do you relax outside work?
A: I tend to run a lot, a bit like Forrest Gump, and I also spend a lot of time mountain biking thinking that I’ll somehow develop championship ability… the reality is that I’m a middle-aged bloke that likes to get outdoors and see a bit of the countryside. It’s relaxing to be in the Surrey Hills and it feels like a million miles from the busy world of Canary Wharf.
Q: In an alternate life, what would you have done?
A: My other passion in life is motor racing; I frequently bore my colleagues with trivia from Formula One. The engineering aspects fascinate me along with the commercial world, so I’d choose racing driver, or, more likely, a mechanic in that world!