This weeks interviewee is Mike Dee, the commercial innovations manager at DC Thomson, a private company and one of the leading publishing houses in the UK. The company’s headquarters are in Dundee, Scotland, with a London base in Fleet Street. DC Thomson publishes newspapers, magazines, comics, and books including titles such as The Dandy, The People’s Friend and Sunday Post. The company also has interests in radio, printing, retailing and online services.
1. Biggest mistake of your career & how you fixed it?
Being seduced by the greener grass.
As a young, up and coming media professional the moment someone dangles the first overblown job title and subsequent chunky salary in front of you, common sense flies out of the window. I was headhunted from a large publisher to work at a much smaller, ‘boutique’ organisation to help define and develop their commercial strategy – with a wonderful title and salary to match.
The day before I joined, the chap who had head-hunted me left; I turned up on my first day to a sea of bemused faces as to my reason for being there. I had no desk, no phone – that’s when I got the fear. However, I saw it as a challenge and as I was guaranteed a significant bonus each month, I convinced myself it would be fine.
It wasn’t. The company was misleading customers and producing substandard products. My involvement was, in my opinion, damaging my credibility as a media professional. After weighing up the odds of financial reward vs. career longevity, my working life won. A few weeks after joining I took a pay cut to move to a leading media company so I could advance my career properly, without trying to take shortcuts to the top.
2. A lightbulb moment
When I realised how fundamentally dull I was. In terms of my presentations, anyway.
I’ve always been a pretty personable chap who doesn’t struggle to engage in conversation or develop relationships, yet for some reason in a presentation environment, I became a completely boring bastard. The day I realised that media agencies and clients alike do not want to see slide after slide of bullet points resplendent in wanky bollocks and jargon, everything changed. A presentation with personality amidst deck after deck of Calibri 14-point will be remembered.
3. Tip for tomorrow
Ask yourself “so what?” and ask it a lot. When you’re writing a business plan, sales pitch, training guide, keep asking yourself “so what?”. There’s always a temptation to fill professional documents with a plethora of information that YOU think is interesting. Particularly as a salesperson you’ll be inclined to tell your client that you’ve got the biggest/fastest/most technically accomplished thing, but do they really care? Does it help them in any way? If not, then leave it out. Vanity doesn’t win business.
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