Feature

Haymarket 50 Years: What I learned at Haymarket

Getting a job at Haymarket really can set you on the road to fame and fortune. Some of the company's most successful alumni tell Dave Hall their stories.

MIKE POTTER

Mike Potter joined Haymarket as a graduate trainee in 1971, selling job ads in Gardeners' Chronicle, later Horticulture Week. He was hired by Josephine Hart and loved being one of the first male "tele-ad sales girls". He went on to work on Accountancy Age and Investors' Guardian. In his mid-twenties, he was chosen to work on new ideas with Paul Buckley. He left after 12 years as the publishing director of Campaign and Marketing. He founded Redwood, which he ran for the next 20 years. Recently he co-founded Seven Publishing, where he is the executive chairman.

- A lot of the things I learned at Haymarket went into making Redwood such a great company. We were great at innovation, with customer publishing - applying the principle of controlled circulation to consumer magazines - and creating programme magazines for the BBC, neither of which had been done before. Innovation I learned from Haymarket, the spirit that it doesn't matter if it's not been done before.

When Redwood became part of the BBC, we applied Haymarket's opportunistic approach to a ministry that wasn't suited to taking quick decisions. We launched 11 magazines in five years, including three market leaders: BBC Top Gear, Good Food and Gardeners' World.

And Haymarket's sales training has never left me. Josephine was a great influence. People say I am good at pitching and persuading people. Haymarket taught me to love it, and that you have to win. Jo's first husband, Paul, also taught me about new-product development. Plus there was an accountant, Malcolm Franklin, who could spot a flaw buried in a spread of figures. I have a similar reputation now.

New product development taught me the importance of thorough budgets and business plans. When we sold Redwood to Abbott Mead Vickers, I had a detailed five-year business plan.

Although Haymarket was a success, there were tough moments, but they dug in when they had a problem and got themselves out, a determination we had to apply in Redwood's early days.

I loved the place and had no long-term aim to leave; I loved Campaign and the ad industry. But I'm glad I did, because there would have been no Redwood or Seven. The most important characteristic I tried to carry on from Haymarket was that of the chairman, Lindsay Masters, who understood the importance of style, and achieving a higher standard."

CHRISTINE WALKER

Christine Walker, dubbed the Iron Lady of Media, joined Haymarket 32 years ago as a graduate, selling space on the Directory of Opportunities for Graduates (DOG). She left to join the ad agency Benton & Bowles less than a year later. She went on to co-found Zenith Media, which revolutionised the industry, and retired this summer as the chairman of Walker Media, which she also co-founded.

- Haymarket taught me the world didn't owe me a living. My boss, Mike Potter, had the week's targets on a board. It woke me up: you had to hit those targets to pay the rent and have some beer money.

Living in permanent fear is quite good; not fear of bullying, fear of not hitting the target. That is essential if you're in a service business. If I'm not worried about the business, why should anyone else be?

Training was highly concentrated, quite a hothouse. Later, anyone from Haymarket who had applied for a job with me always got an interview.

Thanks to Potter's board, I learned to think relatively big. Selling a colour page was what really affected your bonus. I sold one client four in one edition of DOG. It paid my rent for a month. I learned never to fear rejection. The worst they can say is 'no'. Life goes on. Potter drummed in to me that someone might say no today but could still say yes tomorrow.

I learned to know the business of the customer I was about to call. That helped me land my first ad agency job, and the client who bought the four colour pages later became a client there. I learned it's human relationships that really count. They are not built by e-mail, but by meeting and talking on the phone. Telephone selling all comes down to tone, assertive, but not pushy. Your voice and personality have a far greater communication impact than any e-mail.

I had wanted to be a writer. Then I started to read Campaign. It wasn't too long before I learned that what I really wanted was to work in an advertising agency, even if in those days I didn't actually know what it involved ..."

JANCIS ROBINSON

Jancis Robinson OBE began her writing career on Wine & Spirit in 1975 and left as the editor in 1980 when she was appointed wine correspondent of The Sunday Times. She became the first Master of Wine from outside the trade, pioneered coverage of wine on TV, and edited the Oxford Companion to Wine. She is the wine correspondent for the Financial Times and publishes her own wine website, Purple Pages, at jancisrobinson.com.

- There are two possible interpretations of what I learnt at Haymarket: either 'I managed to bluff my way into an ideal job for which I did not seem qualified' or 'Haymarket publishers were very perspicacious'.

I applied for the job of assistant editor on the trade monthly Wine & Spirit. At the interview, the publisher told me: 'We've had a lot of applications for this job and our problem is that either we choose a trained journalist and have to teach them about wine, or we choose a wine expert and have to teach them how to write.' He looked at my application, adding: 'You, of course, are neither of these things. But you're the favourite for the job.' Presumably, the fact I was taking a drop in salary from my last permanent position worked in my favour.

Come the next Christmas party, after I'd been promoted to editor having learnt practically everything I knew from the junior office assistant and reckoning that if there'd been some misunderstanding, it was too late to throw me out, I asked why he had taken me on. Was it the year I had just spent in Provence? My giddy position as restaurant correspondent of Isis? The series of temp jobs that included writing entries for The Good Food Guide? Was it, I asked, that I'd worked briefly for a wine company (as a barmaid, though I'd not spelt out this detail).

'None of those things,' he said. 'We were impressed by the fact that you had organised the skiing side of Thomson Holidays. We thought that although you didn't know anything about wine or magazines, you would organise yourself to learn.'

With the benefit of hindsight, he was right. Although he should have checked that I could at least type. Thank heavens he didn't."

BRIAN GILBERT

Brian Gilbert had ten jobs, including selling sausages, before learning media sales as a junior on the launch of Management Today. In 1971, as a group ad manager, he left to acquire and revive moribund publishers, including, later, United Trade Press. When UTP was taken over by Robert Maxwell, he joined Maxwell's board, but resigned at the first opportunity. When the tycoon died, Gilbert built his second publishing venture, Wilmington plc, from the Maxwell wreckage. He retired from Wilmington as chairman in 2002 but remains a significant shareholder.

- I picked up my media sales skills at Haymarket, and learned content is king. I got my passion for the industry there. I learned the difference between editorial and advertising staff and how vital people are in publishing, one of the most people-oriented industries. Haymarket realised that. It had some of the best.

I learned to appreciate a fantastic atmosphere. Working there was like a holiday camp, even if the pace was hard. You woke in the morning and wanted to go in. It was work and social life too. I tried to recreate that in subsequent companies I ran.

Management accounting was superb. I took Haymarket's systems wherever I went. Financial reporting at Wilmington today is based on the original Haymarket system.

Relationships are important. I regard my boss at Haymarket, Simon Tindall, group MD for three decades, as my mentor; I've always had commercial connections with Haymarket, from Panther, the radio-controlled motorcycle messenger company I founded at UTP, with Haymarket as its biggest customer, to a joint venture that became part of Wilmington, with Haymarket a significant shareholder until well after I retired.

I learned the importance of stretching people, helping them grow. I learned hunger and to fight for what I believed in. Haymarket was full of people with strong views, robustly put. It stood me in good stead building my companies, and with Bob Maxwell. We would scream and shout at each other behind closed doors. People would queue outside for the entertainment.

And I learned the motivational power of equity, the importance of being able to cash it in for serious money. It was crucial in building my businesses, but is much harder to arrange in a private company."

TIM BROOKS

Tim Brooks was the media editor of Campaign until Haymarket decided against backing an idea for a new magazine, so he left to found Media Week. He is now the managing director of Guardian News & Media Limited.

- I learned five things at Haymarket. Good companies manage their talent. When I intimated to my editor on Engineering Today, Simon Caulkin (now once again a colleague, writing the management column for The Observer), that I perhaps didn't see my future as necessarily entirely wrapped up with that publication, I received a call from the editorial director, Bob Heller, and within half-an-hour found myself with a shiny new job on Campaign - a magazine of whose existence, up to that point, I was wholly ignorant (not a fact I shared with Bob).

How brilliant news editing works. Bernard Barnett, then the editor of Campaign, ran a superb weekly news machine.

The Saatchi genius for spin. My time on Campaign coincided with the Saatchi brothers' heyday, running Europe's top agency with Tim Bell, then their trusted right-hand man. What those three didn't know about news management could be written with a chisel on Alistair Campbell's left thumbnail.

London's best restaurants. Bernard gave me a list of 20 key media people, and told me my job was to be on first-name terms with them. He further advised that the best way to achieve this was to buy them each lunch at the restaurant of their choice; and that my expenses had no limit. Happy days!

It pays to listen to your staff's ideas. When I pitched, with a friend, the idea for a separate media publication to sit alongside Campaign, we were politely rebuffed. So we went off and launched Media Week. You can do the irony bit yourself ..."

SOME FURTHER ALUMNI

JAMES ALLEN

Was: Reporter, Autosport (early 90s) Now: Formula One commentator, ITV

MARK ARTHUR

Was: Publishing executive, Newspaper Focus (late 80s) Now: Chief executive, Nottingham Forest Football Club

EMILY BELL

Was: Reporter, Campaign (mid- to late 80s) Now: Editor-in-chief, Guardian Unlimited

PHILIP BERESFORD

Was: Editor, Management Today (late 80s to early 90s) Now: Rich List creator and guru

JONAH BLOOM

Was: Reporter, PrintWeek (mid-90s); editor, Campaign Media Business (1999-2001), editor, PRWeek US (2001-02) Now: Editor-in-chief, Advertising Age, New York

SEAN BRIERLEY

Was: Reporter, Campaign (late 80s)

Now: Editor-in-chief, Middle East Economic Digest

VICKY BUTLER HENDERSON

Was: Road tester, What Car? (mid-90s) Now: TV personality

FAITH CARTHY

Was: Advertising manager, photography titles (late 80s) Later: Group account director, Zenith Now: Managing director, i-level

ANDREW DAVIDSON

Was: Editor, Marketing (mid- to late 80s) Now: Profile writer, The Sunday Times

NEILL DENNY

Was: Deputy editor, Marketing (mid-90s) Now: Editor, The Bookseller

CONOR DIGNAM

Was: Reporter, then editor, Marketing (mid-90s to 2000) Now: Publisher, Broadcast

ANDREW ENGLISH

Was: Sales executive, New Technology Now: Motoring correspondent, Daily Telegraph

GEORGE ENTWISTLE

Was: Features editor, What Hi-Fi? Now: Head of TV current affairs, BBC TV

VANESSA FELTZ

Was: Editorial assistant, Campaign (80s) Now: TV personality and columnist

ELINOR GOODMAN

Was: Secretary, Printing in Britain and Lithoprinter, then chief reporter, Campaign (early 70s) Later: Political editor, Channel 4 News Now: Chair, Affordable Rural Housing Commission

RON HALL, CLIVE IRVING, JEREMY WALLINGTON

Were: Topic reporters Then: Founding "Insight" team on The Sunday Times

JOSEPHINE HART

Was: Head of sales training, then publisher (mid-60s) Now: Theatre producer, author

STEFANO HATFIELD

Was: Editor, Campaign (late 90s) Then: Editor-in-chief, Metro (US) Now: Editor, thelondonpaper

ANTHONY HILTON

Was: Editor, Accountancy Age (mid- to late 70s) Later: City editor, then managing director, Evening Standard Now: Columnist, Evening Standard

MARK JONES

Was: Editor, Campaign (early 90s) Later: Features editor, Evening Standard Now: Editorial director, Cedar Communications

MARK KLEINMAN

Was: Chief reporter, Marketing (2000-2003) Now: Asia business editor, Daily and Sunday Telegraph

INDIA KNIGHT

Was: Reporter, Campaign (late 80s) Now: Columnist, The Sunday Times, author

ADAM LEYLAND

Was: Editor, PrintWeek (mid-90s), then launch editor, PRWeek US (late 90s) Now: Editor, The Grocer

TESS MACLEOD-SMITH

Was: Sales executive, MT (late 80s) Now: Publishing director, Luxury Group, The National Magazine Company

SIMON MARQUIS

Was: Editorial director, Marketing (early 90s) Later: Chief executive, ZenithOptimedia Now: Chairman, National Readership Survey; non-executive director, St Ives plc

RICHARD MARSHALL

Was: Sales executive, Datalink (late 70s) Now: Co-founder, Tullo Marshall Warren

JAMES MAY

Was: Production editor, Autocar (90s) Now: TV presenter (Top Gear, James May's 20th Century)

FIONA MCINTOSH

Was: Reporter, Campaign (mid-80s) Now: Editor-in-chief, Grazia

PADDY MCNALLY

Was: Reporter, Autosport (early 70s) Later: F1 entrepreneur Now: Second (after Bernie Ecclestone) on Auto Trader Rich List

GRANT MILLAR

Was: Sales executive, What Car? Now: Joint managing director, Vizeum

JOHN OWEN

Was: News editor, Campaign (mid- to late 90s) Now: Planning partner, Dare Digital

MICHAEL PARKINSON

Was: Features editor, Town, then deputy editor, Topic (early 60s) Now: Television chatshow host, broadcaster, journalist

MARK PORTER

Was: Art editor, Marketing, then Campaign (late 80s and early 90s) Now: Creative director, The Guardian

ALICE RAWSTHORN

Was: Reporter, Campaign (mid-80s) Later: Media correspondent, Financial Times; director, Design Museum Now: Design critic, International Herald Tribune; columnist, The New York Times Magazine

MAURICE SAATCHI

Was: Personal assistant to Michael Heseltine and Lindsay Masters (mid-60s) Later: Co-founder, Saatchi & Saatchi Now: Lord Saatchi, co-founder, M&C Saatchi

JAMES SANDERSON

Was: Sales executive, then advertising director, Campaign (late 80s to mid-90s) Now: Joint managing director, glue London

FIONA SCOTT

Was: Sales executive, Campaign (late 80s) Now: Managing director, Craik Jones

JANET STREET-PORTER

Was: Editor, West One Weekly (60s) Later: TV executive, editor, Independent on Sunday Now: TV presenter, author, walker

NICHOLAS TOMALIN

Was: Town journalist, then editor of Haymarket's weekly news magazine Topic Then: Foreign correspondent for various London-based newspapers. Killed at work in 1973 covering the Yom Kippur war

MARTIN WHITAKER

Was: Reporter, Motorsport News (80s) Then: Head of motorsport, Ford Europe Now: Managing director, Bahrain International Racing Circuit

BOB WILLOTT

Was: Editor, Accountancy Age (late 60s) Later: Co-founder, Willott Kingston Smith Now: Editor, Marketing Services Financial Intelligence, visiting professor, Nottingham University Business School.