OPINION - QUESTION TIME WITH ... Francis Goodwin - The Maiden director’s new role has an international flavour

Francis Goodwin is about to embark on the next stage of a 25-year career that began, surprisingly enough, with a job flogging packaging machinery in Venezuela. The tenuous link between these humble beginnings and his new job at Maiden Outdoor is that he is moving into an international role which may enable him to use his fluent Spanish.

Francis Goodwin is about to embark on the next stage of a 25-year

career that began, surprisingly enough, with a job flogging packaging

machinery in Venezuela. The tenuous link between these humble beginnings

and his new job at Maiden Outdoor is that he is moving into an

international role which may enable him to use his fluent Spanish.



In January, Goodwin will hand the post of managing director over to

David Pugh, who left Mills & Allen earlier this year. Pugh will head a

beefed-up sales team and take over the day-to-day marketing and

management of the poster operation.



Goodwin’s new role is less clear, mainly because he does not want to say

too much about it. His key task is to expand the company’s international

presence through acquisitions, initially in Europe. ’But it’s not

something I want to be drawn on, because obviously we will be looking at

businesses that our competitors may be interested in,’ he says.



The criticism of Maiden’s poor financial performance in the first half

of the year obviously still smarts, although Goodwin insists it was

merely a reflection of the state of the market. ’And you have to

remember that we are a publicly quoted company -which our competitors

are not - so we have to be honest while they can be a little more

economical with the actualite.’



His eyes light up when he talks about the time he spent in South

America, a part of the world he still adores. ’Travel is my biggest

annual expenditure,’ he admits. He went to Venezuela in 1974, when the

UK was in the grip of power cuts and the three-day week, and stayed for

six years.



His first unpromising job selling packaging machinery led to a much

better post as a marketing trainee at Colgate-Palmolive, a position he

says he would never have been offered in the UK ’as I’d only done an

HND’. By the time he left in 1980, he headed a team of eight. He

returned to the UK to work at Terry’s of York, shortly before United

Biscuits bought the company.



The next few years were patchy - Goodwin seemed to develop a knack of

joining companies that were about to be restructured. He was made

redundant three times - the last time was in 1991 from More O’Ferrall.

’That could have been awkward. I was coming up to 40 and media is

generally regarded as a young man’s business.’



During a short period as a freelance consultant, he met Ron Zeghibe, who

was at that time running an outdoor company in Holland. The pair joined

Ian Powell of More O’Ferrall to stage a ’bimbo’ (buy-in/management-buy

out) of Maiden.



Nearly a decade later, Goodwin clearly takes a paternal pride in the

company, relishing its family atmosphere and the fact that some members

of staff have been there for more than 20 years. He admits Maiden lacks

the scale of its Decaux and ClearChannel-owned rivals, but adds: ’Of

course, not everyone wants to team up with a monolithic US operation, or

a tightly controlled family organisation like Decaux.’





Goodwin on the future



’I don’t believe, as some have commented, that outdoor will become an

irrelevance in the age of digital media.



’There has been a sea-change in attitudes towards outdoor as the quality

of our service has improved, in terms of better sites, better research

and better marketing. But there’s still enormous potential in this

sector.



’The dot.com companies and digital TV services need to market

themselves, and they will use traditional media to do that.’



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