Shaper: Diane Young

Show aired on 23rd January 2016

Transcript

Elliot Moss
A great way to start the programme, that is Milestones from Mark Murphy, nice and racy. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Jazz Shapers the place where you get to hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, a Business Shaper. I am very lucky to have Diane Young today as my Business Shaper; she is the co-founder of The Drum. They are a marketing and media business who is set up to provide services to, and you are going to hear what they are, to the marketing and media world. She does it for not just people in the UK but everybody globally – how about that – she is now turning over around six million pounds in her business. You are going to be hearing lots from Diane very shortly. In addition to hearing from Diane you will also be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business. And some music of course, we are going to have some brilliant music here this morning on Jazz Shapers, one of my favourites Gil Scott-Heron, we’ve got some Gregory Porter and this from Dr John and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

A fresh take on the classic When You Are Smiling The Whole World Smiles With You and I hope it is smiling for you right now. Diane Young is my Business Shaper, as I said and she is the co-founder of The Drum which some of you may have heard of and you wouldn’t probably have heard of very much before the last five or six years because it has suddenly become very big and powerful in its world, in its category. It is a marketing and media business serving that community. Diane thank you so much for joining me.

Diane Young
Good morning.

Elliot Moss
Good morning. Tell me in your own words, what does The Drum do?

Diane Young
Well we are a media business that serves the needs of marketing and media people. So we cover stories from around the globe about interesting brand stories, we are very interested in how tech is changing the way that brand messages can be put across to audiences and we just report the news as well for that community and round about the website which is the core of our business now, we have a printed magazine that comes out every two weeks. So we are still doing print and we still love print and we also have a lot of other services around that. We do awards and conferences and we have other services to help people within that sector to achieve what they want to achieve in their business.

Elliot Moss
Now you’ve got around a million people I believe that are visiting your site every month.

Diane Young
That’s right yeah.

Elliot Moss
Which sounds like an enormous number. Take me back before we go into how that became. You, I believe you did a degree in mathematics? University of Strathclyde I am informed I think correctly? Went into the health service. Someone told you apparently that you would never make a marketeer. When did you realise or when rather did you make the move from the health service world to the marketing world and why did you do it? Why did you ignore that awful person that got it completely wrong?

Diane Young
Well the business was founded by my husband, Gordon and his mum originally and then his best friend from school joined. They had run a school magazine together called Pupils Own at Lenzie Academy in Glasgow and Gordon was from a media family and I think he was probably always destined to end up in publishing in some shape or form and he had been running that for a number of years when we met and I just graduated, I couldn’t get a job which is ironic because now somebody with a mathematics degree is in great demand but…

Elliot Moss
Especially if you are woman as well, I mean this is the whole thing about stem subjects and women and the whole push that the Governments making so yeah funny that at that point it still didn’t help you very much.

Diane Young
Well nobody knew what to do with a mathematician at that point really. There was very specialist things that you could do but I wasn’t very keen on those in the end so I worked in the health service for five years. I had met Gordon, we had got married and during that time I became interested in what he was doing and I wondered whether I could transition into marketing. I went to see a recruitment consultant who told me that having worked in the public sector there was probably very little chance, maybe I could get a job in marketing in the public sector but apart from that there was no real hope for me. So I went away and had a think about it and in the meantime Gordon had said, ‘look I think you should join our business’ and I joined to start doing awards and events which is now about 40% of the overall turnover of the business. And before long it became clear that between Gordon, Nick and myself, I was the person who could do numbers and systems whereas they couldn’t so I became the managing director of the business when I was twenty nine.

Elliot Moss
Wow. Well a few messages in there; firstly don’t listen to everyone who tells you you can’t do stuff, in fact, don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t do something and secondly, mathematicians are incredibly powerful and scary and I am going to ask you about specifically why they are maybe underrated. Much more coming up from Diane, my Business Shaper. Time for some music though right now, this is from Gil Scott-Heron, it’s Lady Day and John Coltrane.

That’s Gil Scott-Heron with Lady Day and John Coltrane and I am enjoying the music this morning, I hope you are too. Diane Young is my Business Shaper and she is the co-founder of The Drum and she is a mathematician she was telling you. So when she says it is around six million pounds turnover, you’ve got to believe her. Diane you said you joined the business, you ignored that person, we will leave him as that, a person who said you are not going to be a marketing person. You are now running this business, this is a few years ago. I always have this feeling that mathematicians, and one of my oldest, closest friends is a mathematician, can kind of do anything. I think that art students like me are more limited. Have you found as this business has grown that you can, although you focus on the numbers and the systems and bringing leadership to life through that way, have you really found that you’re super useful across almost every spectrum of the business? This is not a time for humility. Come on Diane, tell me the real deal with you and Gordon, that’s what I want to know.

Diane Young
Well the way the business works amongst the three of us – there is three of us in the business.

Elliot Moss
Yes.

Diane Young
Is that Nick looks after the technical side of things and design related matters. Gordon looks after editorial and content and he is also very commercial and he comes up with lots of ideas that are now very valuable to the business and I initially was quite systems focussed, I mean things like awards are quite formulate and once you get a system going you can replicate it lots of times. But over the years I think I have become better at doing the right side of the brain stuff as well. I think that hanging about with lots of people who are really keen on generating ideas and just being interested in the world really is, you can make yourself be more creative by doing those two things. So I hope now that I have got a wider range of skills and I also found out that I could sell stuff as well.

Elliot Moss
You see my theory is right, the mathematicians can take on all these things but art students can’t necessarily go the other way but anyway…

Diane Young
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…we’ll just pretend for a moment we can leave that there. The business was not really doing very well at all five, six years ago and it was tootling along. I recall when I was in the advertising world looking and on line and there was some content but it wasn’t really happening. It was okay, it was just another thing to look at. What was the moment that things changed. Why did you go from a very small business to now a very fast growth business – indeed you are one of the Elite 100, CityAM Mishcon De Reya Companies – how did that happen?

Diane Young
Well for a long number of years the business was based in Scotland and the English regions and we realised that the business was a bit vulnerable because it was a marketing title in a small area and we took the decision that we would diversify the markets that we were in so we then started having a legal magazine, we had an architecture magazine, we started a magazine for entrepreneurs as well and the idea was to build the same model that we had for The Drum but we laboured away at that for a number of years and it was really quite thankless because we weren’t able to really crack anything particularly well in any of the markets we were spread far too thin and really the business was quite poor. We were living at the limit of our overdraft for a long time, sometimes we were worried about whether the payroll would be met and just life was very difficult and we had none of the real advantages of running our own business, you know, the advantages you can do things that you want to do and you know, make your own decisions but actually we weren’t able to do that because we were just in a weak position. So eventually one day I realised that if anything was going to get better I had to get better at what I was doing in the business and I set out to educate myself about how to run a business properly and to emulate people who were doing a really good job of running businesses.

Elliot Moss
And hold it right there because we are going to hear what that actually meant in the real world because obviously it had a big impact. Lots more coming up from our Business Shaper, Diane. Before that though latest travel in a couple of minutes and even squeezed in before that, we are going to have some words of wisdom from our programme partners for your business and those words of advice are coming from Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, every Saturday morning I have the privilege of talking to someone who is shaping the world of business. Today my Shaper is Diane Young, she has been part of the Leap 100 I mentioned it earlier, it is an initiative from Mishcon De Reya and CityAM and in 2016 you will be hearing from some of those people selected for that particular list of people. I am talking here to Diane, she is part of the 2015 list but in 2016 we will be doing more of those special fast growth businesses right here on Jazz Shapers. Diane you were talking before about the moment when you said, ‘you know what, we were bumbling along, it wasn’t working, all the benefits of having your own business weren’t there and I decided I was going to learn about how to run a business and emulate those people, the best people’. What did that look like? What did you pick up and then how did you apply it?

Diane Young
I started off reading a book called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It is a very old book but a very good book and the real impact of the book on me was that it changed the way that I thought about things and the way I thought about how I might improve our lot I suppose. So the underlying thing about that book is to emulate people who have done well so it was written by a man who interviewed some of the top captains of industry and found out what their habits were and distilled it all down into a book and one of the things in there is about getting an education, it’s about hanging about with people who have done really well so that you can be encouraged, so that you can gain from their wisdom and you can basically copy the sorts of things that they do that have made them successful because amazingly if you start to do that you start to become more successful yourself. So that led me on to other kinds of training, I started going to loads of courses and conferences. I joined coaching groups, I started to read books. Another book that was really influential on me was a book called The Language of Leaders by Kevin Murray and that helped me to change the way I acted. So Think and Grow Rich changed the way I thought and The Language of Leaders changed the way that I acted and that really helped in the business as well.

Elliot Moss
So all this stimulus, I mean fantastic stuff and it sounds like kind of book learning but also practical learning which is I think the two, the kinesthetic view of the world of learning is definitely the best one. What did that then mean? What was it that you did in the business that took it from small to now getting bigger? Was there a particular thing or were there two or three or four things at that time about five or six years ago?

Diane Young
Yeah there were a few things. One of them was that we were spending a lot of time on things that weren’t really scalable and that’s mugs work really because you can work so hard but there is a limit to how much return that you can get on that. So we took some of the things that we were doing that fitted that and stopped doing them and started to focus on things that were scalable. The other issue in magazine publishing is that every time you finish a publication you have to start again, you know, all the pages are blank and you have to fill them with advertising and editorial so that again is quite a different business model so we started to look at things that we could do whereby we could make things once and sell them many times and those by definition give better margins in the business.

Elliot Moss
So give me an example? Is that an event or some awards things? Is that one of those?

Diane Young
Well events in some way fall into the same thing as the magazine where you know, you do have to start again but we have other parts of our business that are now membership based and subscription based. We have a fantastic service that helps brands to choose agencies based on ratings. It is a bit like Trip Advisor where you don’t just blindly go in and you know, choose your agency. You get some real insight into what it is like to work for them.

Elliot Moss
This is the Recommended Agency Register?

Diane Young
The Recommended Agency Register yeah, and that took a long time to build. It wasn’t that it wasn’t any work, it wasn’t easy but once we’ve built it we’ve got something there that we can spread out geographically. We can spread out to different types of company and we are constantly working to improve it but at least the core product is always there and it is always functioning and so having those kinds of things in the business just makes a real difference to what we can achieve and that has allowed us to make our plans to go global.

Elliot Moss
She knows what she is doing this Diane Young. Stay with me for more tips from the top, my Business Shaper, Diane Young today; co-founder of The Drum. Time for some music, it is the phenomenal Gregory Porter with the enchanting Wind Song.

That was Wind Song from Gregory Porter. Diane, you mentioned the things that you did and like many of the people I interview, it’s not matter of fact but it’s like ‘well you know, I learnt this, I did this and then we just did that’ and it all worked out beautifully. I imagine it wasn’t quite like that and when you are in the middle of it, even five, six years ago, and you can see the turning points and you and Gordon and your other partner are all going ‘this is working’ – did you become excited? Did you realise that what you had learnt was now actually reaping rewards and if so, how did you keep your feet on the ground?

Diane Young
Well the first thing we had to do was take the big decision to get rid of the other titles that we had and to stop operating in those markets to focus on The Drum and to take the magazine to London which is the biggest market in the UK which we weren’t in. So that was a real turning point when we realised that actually we can, we can actually go into this market, we can compete against the big players, the Plc’s that are in that market so we are very pleased that now we’ve actually taken a lot of the market share from those competitors and we’ve overtaken them in terms of readership and I think probably in terms of the size of our business.

Elliot Moss
So one of the things that intrigues me and I think it intrigues most people in business today is the ability to connect with people digitally and I know you have an on line proposition but you look at the big brands, the big retail brands and you look at yours which is not technically a big brand, a million people are looking at your site, unique visitors every month. How have you built that level of connectivity with the world? I mean that is extraordinary. Do you have a silver bullet for me please? That would be useful?

Diane Young
A silver bullet, I wish I did. I think the key to The Drum is that we create content that we really believe that people want to see. It’s also a little bit of luck I suppose from where we came from in Scotland. You couldn’t sustain different magazines for all the different parts of marketing for PR and design and advertising so we covered them all and as time has gone on the market has changed so that actually all the different disciplines are converging together so compared to some of our competitors who are still working in niches, we cover the whole of the market and that really reflects how things are moving so that was a piece of luck in a way but the other thing that we’ve done which we believe is crucial to our success is that we haven’t put up any pay walls or any gate keeping on our website. We use our website to build community, to draw people in with the great content that we’ve got and then that allows us to show them other things that we’ve got that could help their businesses.

Elliot Moss
There you go, no excuse not to get a million unique visitors by the end of the month whatever you are doing. Final chat coming up with Diane plus we will be playing a track from Thelonious Monk that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

I must confess to love, Thelonious Monk or as my daughter calls him, The Loneliness Monk. That was Straight No Chaser. Diane we were talking earlier about how you digitally have grown the number of people coming on to the site and enjoying it, it’s a million as I said which I still think is an extraordinary number for any business. You talked about community, you talked about content, you talked about it being free – really smart stuff. As you now look at the business for the next few years, what have you got in mind? Is it more of the same? Is it the systematised version of your life, is it sales down to the precise you know, everyone knows exactly what they are doing? Are there fresh ideas? Is there a mixture of it? What do you do to take your six million to ten million if indeed that’s your ambition?

Diane Young
I think that everything that we’ve laid the groundwork for we are now ready to really make it go much bigger so all the work we did in making things that were scalable and geographically neutral we now have a fantastic foundation to take the business outside the UK and actually 40% of that web traffic comes from outside the UK already so we now have an office in New York. We have got representation in Portland, Oregon where our American editor is based and this week have just incorporated a company in Singapore and our Asian editor is going to be travelling out there to start The Drum’s coverage of Asia in the next few weeks. So we still feel that we’ve got a long way to go. We are still innovating with new products in the company all the time. We are starting new divisions to meet the needs of our customers and yeah, we’ve got a lot we still want to do definitely.

Elliot Moss
And you seem up for it and I imagine that your two partners, including your husband, seem up for it. Do you… is there anything that can stop you achieving what you want to achieve because it sounds like you have the plan. It sounds like as you said, you’ve got the foundations. Are there choppy waters ahead? Does it worry you that this year on paper has been full of the most turmoil in the markets that we’ve seen probably since the last, you know, quote/unquote recession 2008 moment. Are you fearful of anything or is it just we are going to do it?

Diane Young
Nope not fearful of anything. I think that we’ve got a really great business now and that we’ve got a strong foundation to grow. We’ve got good ideas, we’ve got fantastic loyal customers and we’ve got a great team because all of these things that we are doing in the business it is not just the three of us. We’ve got really good people who work with us and they are all up for the journey as well so I think we are confident that we are going to do some great things in the next two to three years.

Elliot Moss
The other thing I think just before we ask you your song choice, the thing I would like to just ask you about – you are a strong supporter of Access Aspiration which places kids into work placements, kids that wouldn’t necessarily have access to things like that. You are also involved in Founds for School I believe which is all about technology, connecting with schools for their benefit. Where do you find the time to do that? You sound quite busy?

Diane Young
Well these things are really important to me. I think that a lot of the time education or certainly in my past, education has been extremely disconnected from commerce and business you know, in my school careers library you could be a nurse or a doctor or a lawyer or you know, anything that had a professional title but nobody ever said, or you could start a business or be, you know, run a business later so I think it is really important to try and get that across to kids and to inspire them in a way that perhaps I wasn’t inspired. I was lucky, I met Gordon and that’s how I got into business but it is such a thrilling thing to do, run your own business when you are doing it well. Maybe not so thrilling when you are not doing it well like we were before but once you get to grips with it and you have got something that you passionately believe in and that’s giving value to your customers, it’s a great thing to do so that’s just my way of trying to give back a bit. It doesn’t take up much time and you get really good energy back from the children as well. I can’t believe how you know, motivated they are with their young enterprise companies that they are running and the ideas that they’ve got and the confidence they’ve got to stand up and talk so it’s very, it’s well worthwhile and it doesn’t take up much time.

Elliot Moss
Listen its fantastic you are doing that and I think that connection with education and business you are absolutely right, I think it is something everyone is trying to work on making better because it needs to be improved. Thank you so much for your time today, I have really enjoyed meeting you and good luck with the business. I look forward to it being six hundred million pounds, not too far in the future. Before I let you go as I mentioned before, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Diane Young
My song choice is Feeling Good by Nina Simone for two reasons. One is that when I hear this song I like to turn it up really really loud and sing along so hopefully the microphone will be turned off for that bit but secondly because I just think it is so important to enjoy life. You don’t know what is round the corner and you know you might as well have as good a time as you can and I try to do that as much as I can so feeling good is important to me.

Elliot Moss
You’ve earnt the right to have it. Fantastic reasons for it. Here it is, it’s Nina Simone and Feeling Good.

The incredibly big sound of Feeling Good from Nina Simone, the song choice of Diane Young my Business Shaper today. Someone who has pushed herself over the years to educate herself to become better and to great effect in her business which has flown as a result, someone who said scalability is important, don’t just do things that are interesting, do things that you can actually replicate because that’s the secret to growing your business and someone who believes in the power of educating young people about what is possible when they leave school i.e. you can create your own business you don’t have to go into a profession as such. All really really good stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s 9.00am sharp here on Jazz FM for Jazz Shapers next Saturday. In the meantime though stay with us because coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Diane Young co-owns The Drum – an outlet covering marketing, advertising, design and digital news – and its associated companies. She was PPA UK Publishing Innovator of the Year 2014-15.

The Drum website is visited by 1 million people every month with 30% of those coming from outside the UK. At the same time, it is are producing more print and revenues are rising. The Drum Works & The Drum Studios support brands to produce content, and they’ve just opened our New York office.

Dianne Young is am married to Gordon Young, editor of The Drum. They have a son and two daughters.

The Drum is in the City AM Leap 100 of fast growth businesses.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Follow Diane on Twitter @SymmetriGal

“We are very interested in how tech is changing the way that brand messages can be put across to audiences.”

“…nobody knew what to do with a mathematician at that point really.”

“…one day I realised that if anything was going to get better, I had to get better at what I was doing in the business.”

“Over the years I think I have become better at doing the ‘right side of the brain’ stuff as well.”

“…in my school careers library you could be a nurse or a doctor or a lawyer…anything that had a professional title. Nobody ever said you could start a business.”

“The other issue in magazine publishing is that every time you finish a publication, you have to start again.”

“We were spending a lot of time on things that weren’t really scalable, and that’s mugs work really.”

“I think the key to The Drum is that we create content that we really believe people want to see.”

“It is such a thrilling thing to do, run your own business, when you are doing it well. Maybe not so thrilling when you are not doing it well.”