h1

Ink Co-CEO & Founder, Simon Leslie, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “If There Was Ever A Time When People Needed To Go Back To Trusted Sources Of Information, This Is It.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 22, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (20)

“Our message is we’re going to come back stronger; we’re going to come back more energetic, more positive, more enthused. We’re going to do everything we can to grow and use this as an opportunity, while others are shattering and closing and stuttering, we’re going to be prepared, ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities.” … Simon Leslie

“We don’t have to reinvent anything; we can just get better at what we do and improve our products and improve our way of doing business. Improve our communication with both our readers and our clients to make sure we’re giving them much more value, because I think that’s what we’ll end up doing during this period, showing people how much we care, because ultimately, this is about who cares. The companies that are shown to care about their employees, their clients, their advertisers, will come out of this much stronger that people who’re just after having the least impact on their bottom line.” … Simon Leslie

Ink travel media was founded in 1994 and has grown from six offices around the globe to 300. They’re storytellers and sellers of advertising to some of the largest brands in the world today, such as American, Qatar, Etihad and Virgin Airlines and also sells digital media space to airlines. The company’s Co-CEO and Founder, Simon Leslie, is remaining totally positive during this pandemic. While the world may see this tragedy as an enormous enemy to the magazine media industry, Simon prefers to see the possible opportunities it presents.

I spoke with Simon recently and we talked about how basically the entire world has come to a standstill, but also how he has chosen to see the potential this pandemic offers to the world of business, rather than the detriments. And how caring about people and your company is paramount to the continued success of your business.

My conversation with Simon was upbeat, positive and a delightful one to have during a time when those attributes are hard to come by.

So, now here is the 20th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Simon Leslie, Co-CEO & Founder, Ink.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Ink is operating during the pandemic: We’ve gone from six offices to 300,  and we don’t have many landlords. So, it’s a whole new world that we’ve created. It’s been a little bit challenging in terms of being an office-based business to a work-from-home environment, but actually I think we’ve adapted quite well and quite quickly. We’re doing things to keep people entertained and to learn and grow during this period.

On whether the work-from-home transition was smooth or difficult: With the technology we had, we were already set up to do most things. The technology was quite adaptable, we had to buy a lot of headsets and setups and landlines so people could work from home. We had to buy a few extra printers, but it wasn’t a huge shift.

 On how the pandemic has impacted business as usual for Ink: It’s business very much unusual, most of our carriers are grounded. The only airline that’s continued publishing all the way through is American. Obviously, as the biggest airline in the world, they haven’t stopped. The others have stopped and when they’re going to be back at reasonable levels of passengers, we’ll start publishing again. We basically lost most of April, May, and maybe a little bit of June as well.

On whether he ever imagined working during a pandemic, where basically the entire world shut down: I’ve always thought about something like this, where we could switch off for a couple of months. I’ve been working flat-out for 33 years and the ability not to have to worry about a target, a budget, and hitting some sales numbers is quite pleasant. So, it’s not a perfect scenario, but we’re going to make the best of it. And we have to go back when this finishes and make sure that we did something that was productive in this period, that we don’t just waste it and fritter it away.

On what he thinks magazines and magazine media may learn after the pandemic is over: I think what has been interesting, and I’ve been watching and observing some of the things people have been saying to you, for example; I’m not sure anyone is learning anything, they’re just trying to reinvent the wheel. And some of them are trying to reinvent it as a square. And I believe that’s wrong. This is an opportunity where we have to look at everything we do and figure out the most sensible way we can stay in business.

On what message he is communicating with his employees, clients, advertisers and readers during these uncertain times: Our message is we’re going to come back stronger; we’re going to come back more energetic, more positive, more enthused. We’re going to do everything we can to grow and use this as an opportunity, while others are shattering and closing and stuttering, we’re going to be prepared, ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities.

On whether he sees any negative things about what’s happened to the magazine industry during this or is he thinking strictly positive: I think it’s just going to be different. People are still going to behave, and I keep challenging myself on this point, which is are we not going to want to go to a football match and sit next to somebody, are we not going to go to a bar and get a drink? Are you going to go into the most popular bar in whatever city you’re in and everyone is going to stay at six-foot intervals? That’s not how we behave as humans. So, I just think for a short period of time we’re going to be a bit more germophobic, but after that we’ll just go back to normal. And I think that the normality will come.

On looking at the pandemic as an opportunity: I certainly love opportunity and I love when people get scared and I love it when they start panicking because it’s not a time to panic. It’s not like a war where something is broken and the infrastructure is gone or like when the banking system broke in 2008. This is a situation where we’ve all been hit by the same wave and it’s no one’s fault, nobody caused it. We’re all going to come out of it relatively at the same time, most of us pretty much scarred by it, but nothing is fundamentally broken.

On why he thinks print media is relevant today: I’m going to let you in on a little secret, for the first time in I don’t know how long, I bought a newspaper yesterday. I wanted to read something, I wanted to have an opinion and I wanted to see what people were saying. The letters to the editors were interesting. And the paper was still thick and full of advertising and full of great content, trustworthy content. I’m sick of watching the news. I’m sick of watching the press briefings. They’re all saying what they want to hear, they have their own hidden agendas.

On what keeps him up at night: We had a speaker once who came on and told us that we have to think about the next day the night before, so we’re excited when we wake up. And I was so excited I couldn’t actually get to sleep, so that has always kept me up a little bit. Nothing is really worrying me right now. I’m excited about the opportunities that are going to present themselves, I really am.

And now  the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Simon Leslie, Co-CEO & Founder, Ink.

Samir Husni: How is Ink operating during this pandemic?

Simon Leslie: We’ve gone from six offices to 300,  and we don’t have many landlords. So, it’s a whole new world that we’ve created. It’s been a little bit challenging in terms of being an office-based business to a work-from-home environment, but actually I think we’ve adapted quite well and quite quickly. We’re doing things to keep people entertained and to learn and grow during this period.

Our teams are doing creative work for our clients, so we’re helping them with their social, outreach, messaging and their videoing. We’re keeping everyone busy and we’re going to come back in a good way. We certainly have our sales team on high alert, so when the doors open again they’re going to be rushing back out.

Samir Husni: You said you moved from six offices to 300, how was the move to work-from-home? Was it a smooth transition?

Simon Leslie: With the technology we had, we were already set up to do most things. The technology was quite adaptable, we had to buy a lot of headsets and setups and landlines so people could work from home. We had to buy a few extra printers, but it wasn’t a huge shift.

And maybe some people are asking why we even have to go back to the office, why can’t we just work from home continuously, but I don’t think any of my team is asking that, they’re looking forward to getting back to the office. Our culture is very much about being together, celebrating and doing stuff together. While we do have a lot of meetings while we’re working from home, it’s not the same as just walking up to someone and chatting in the office.

Samir Husni: How has this impacted the current status of publishing the magazines; is it still business as usual or are you cutting some of the frequencies or suspending some of the publications?

Simon Leslie: It’s business very much unusual, most of our carriers are grounded. The only airline that’s continued publishing all the way through is American. Obviously, as the biggest airline in the world, they haven’t stopped. The others have stopped and when they’re going to be back at reasonable levels of passengers, we’ll start publishing again. We basically lost most of April, May, and maybe a little bit of June as well.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic, where the entire world was grounded?

Simon Leslie: I’ve always thought about something like this, where we could switch off for a couple of months. I’ve been working flat-out for 33 years and the ability not to have to worry about a target, a budget, and hitting some sales numbers is quite pleasant. So, it’s not a perfect scenario, but we’re going to make the best of it. And we have to go back when this finishes and make sure that we did something that was productive in this period, that we don’t just waste it and fritter it away.

I’ve been through every single challenging situation since 1988 and there’s never been anything where you can’t go and pray, you can’t fly anywhere, you can’t do anything; all the things we love to do have been taken away from us. But then again, we’re all in the same situation. And no one is going to look at us in five years’ time and say, you had a terrible 2020, what did you do wrong? We’re all going to have a blip on our balance sheets, on our profit and loss this year, with the exception of the toilet roll and hand sanitizer producers. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Once this pandemic is over, what do you think the magazine and magazine media industry will have learned?

Simon Leslie: I think what has been interesting, and I’ve been watching and observing some of the things people have been saying to you, for example; I’m not sure anyone is learning anything, they’re just trying to reinvent the wheel. And some of them are trying to reinvent it as a square. And I believe that’s wrong. This is an opportunity where we have to look at everything we do and figure out the most sensible way we can stay in business.

Also, at the same time, we don’t have to reinvent anything; we can just get better at what we do and improve our products and improve our way of doing business. Improve our communication with both our readers and our clients to make sure we’re giving them much more value, because I think that’s what we’ll end up doing during this period, showing people how much we care, because ultimately, this is about who cares. The companies that are shown to care about their employees, their clients, their advertisers, will come out of this much stronger that people who’re just after having the least impact on their bottom line.

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your employees, clients, advertisers  and readers during these uncertain times?

Simon Leslie: Our message is we’re going to come back stronger; we’re going to come back more energetic, more positive, more enthused. We’re going to do everything we can to grow and use this as an opportunity, while others are shattering and closing and stuttering, we’re going to be prepared, ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities.

Over the last year I’ve been craving a recession, because there are so many good businesses out there which are being poorly run, and I would love to get my hands on some of these brands that seem to be underappreciated and uncared for by the people who own them. If I can use this as an opportunity to pick some of those up, I will be doing that.

Samir Husni: Do you see any negative things about what’s happened to the magazine industry during this, other than the blip on your P & L, or you’re thinking strictly positive?

Simon Leslie: I think it’s just going to be different. People are still going to behave, and I keep challenging myself on this point, which is are we not going to want to go to a football match and sit next to somebody, are we not going to go to a bar and get a drink? Are you going to go into the most popular bar in whatever city you’re in and everyone is going to stay at six-foot intervals? That’s not how we behave as humans. So, I just think for a short period of time we’re going to be a bit more germophobic, but after that we’ll just go back to normal. And I think that the normality will come.

If there are three businesses that have been affected by this it’s travel, advertising and publishing. And I have all three of those right in my sweet spot. So, I don’t think I could have been hit any harder, and yet I’m standing here and I’m actually grateful for this opportunity. I’m grateful that we’ve had this time and I promise you the people who have stuck with me, clients, staff and advertisers, I will do whatever I can to repay that support.

Samir Husni: So, you’re looking at the pandemic as an opportunity more than a negative?

Simon Leslie: I certainly love opportunity and I love when people get scared and I love it when they start panicking because it’s not a time to panic. It’s not like a war where something is broken and the infrastructure is gone or like when the banking system broke in 2008. This is a situation where we’ve all been hit by the same wave and it’s no one’s fault, nobody caused it. We’re all going to come out of it relatively at the same time, most of us pretty much scarred by it, but nothing is fundamentally broken.

How people will behave will depend how quickly and completely this is over. I think having been locked down for 12 to 16 weeks, most people will be dying to go to a restaurant or a bar to sit and relax, just do things they haven’t been able to do. And especially get on a plane.

Samir Husni: What makes print magazines and print magazine media relevant today? Will print play a different role after the pandemic is behind us?

Simon Leslie: I’m going to let you in on a little secret, for the first time in I don’t know how long, I bought a newspaper yesterday. I wanted to read something, I wanted to have an opinion and I wanted to see what people were saying. The letters to the editors were interesting. And the paper was still thick and full of advertising and full of great content, trustworthy content. I’m sick of watching the news. I’m sick of watching the press briefings. They’re all saying what they want to hear, they have their own hidden agendas.

This is a crisis of communication. If there was ever a time when people needed to go back to trusted sources of information, this is it because our leaders are telling us something different, there’s inconsistencies in countries, and there are inconsistencies even within governments. And we’re supposed to believe a load of people who, quite frankly, haven’t ever managed this type of situation in their lives either.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Simon Leslie: We had a speaker once who came on and told us that we have to think about the next day the night before, so we’re excited when we wake up. And I was so excited I couldn’t actually get to sleep, so that has always kept me up a little bit. Nothing is really worrying me right now. I’m excited about the opportunities that are going to present themselves, I really am.

If there are people out there who are in media and are frustrated with their current employees, or they’ve been taught to go and do something else, tell them to reach out and talk to us, because we’re going to grow after this, we’re going to take on more people. We have lots more inventory that we’re creating and I genuinely believe that if you want to be in an industry that’s going to bounce back, travel is definitely going to be part of it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: