Feature

Haymarket 50 Years: Simon Tindall - the motivator

Simon Tindall ran Haymarket with Lindsay Masters. Michael Heseltine remembers how the 'formidable salesman' had an infectious energy and enthusiasm that rubbed off on staff and clients.

Simon Tindall joined Haymarket about a year after Lindsay Masters. While I was away in the army doing my National Service, Masters hired an engaging ex-public schoolboy who exuded great personal charm and played a good game of cricket.

He'd been offered a job at an advertising agency, but thanks to Masters' persuasiveness he joined us instead to sell space. It was a hiring that was crucial to Haymarket's future, because the two of them went on to run and grow the company from the start of the 70s to the end of the 90s.

Tindall was a formidable salesman, but in as different a way to Masters as it was possible. Clients bought space from Masters because he argued them into an intellectual position where it was no longer possible for them to refuse. They bought space from Tindall because they basked in his friendliness and good humour, unaware of the unrelenting determination and steely intelligence that lay beneath.

To start with, Tindall was under Masters' wing, but he really emerged as a major player when we did the deal to take over the running of BPC's scattered magazine portfolio in 1968. We found ourselves responsible for a motley horde of publications with such reverberating titles as Practical Scooter & Moped, few of which were making any money to speak of. Overnight, the company's staffing levels and turnover doubled, but the bottom line was barely improved. Tindall grasped with alacrity the prodigious task of turning this curious basket of titles into a profitable consumer magazine division.

He did this with astonishing success. He proved to have a sure touch as a publisher, even though he claimed never to read magazines because there was rarely anything in them to make him laugh. Instinctively he knew what the people in our various specialised markets wanted to read, and he also understood with great clarity where the money really came from.

In 1966, we bought a struggling little periodical called Amateur Tape Recording, which I think cost us £27,000. Tindall came to me with an analysis of its advertising, which showed that the majority of its space came not from tape recorder manufacturers at all, but companies promoting hi-fi products.

We agreed that he should relaunch it as Hi-Fi Sound, and it became profitable very quickly. Its descendant today, What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, is an overwhelming leader in what became a very large consumer market.

But Tindall's most remarkable ability was as a motivator of people. His endless appetite for hard work was driven by a prodigious energy, and that energy was infectious. It was not only the ambitious and talented who prospered under his direction. Members of the rank and file found that Tindall believed them to be capable of greater things than they did themselves: and they usually found, to their surprise, that he was right.

When, in 1967, we found a home for the company in one place, on the top floor of a department store in Oxford Street, the business titles occupied one side of the building, under Masters' stern eye. The other side of the building, where Tindall's consumer titles were housed, seemed to echo with gales of laughter, and during hasty 20-minute lunch breaks illicit games of cricket were played in the passages. Yet they built market leaders too.

Tindall was unfailingly loyal to his staff. When a magazine failed or was sold, he would use great ingenuity to find an inventive lateral move for a staff member, rather than see him or her be made redundant. In several notable cases, that lateral move would rejuvenate a maturing career.

Always the optimist, he would seize on any good new idea and champion it. Many of the launch proposals that filtered up from his lively lieutenants in the consumer division were never going to fly, but he would view every one positively, indulging their proponents' enthusiasms before sympathetically rejecting them. And when he did believe in an idea, he would espouse it whole-heartedly, and set about persuading Masters to support it too.

What Car?, which quickly grew to become Britain's best-selling motor magazine, was very much his own idea. So was its then revolutionary title, complete with question-mark: that was another Haymarket innovation that was to be copied by many other publishers. The impetus behind Haymarket's successful move into the exhibitions business was very much Tindall's, as was the setting up of Frontline, a powerful distribution company with the BBC and Emap.

It was when times were hard that Tindall's motivational skills were at their best. When targets were being missed, his mix of optimism, good humour and ingenious lateral solutions to apparently insoluble problems came to the fore, and restored everyone's energy levels. Generations of young writers, artists and salesmen stayed at Haymarket to build life-long careers because they found it more fun to work with us than with our competitors. If Lindsay Masters is responsible for the sinew of creative quality running through Haymarket's DNA, it is Simon Tindall who is at the root of its indomitable energy and bounce.