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My Publishing Life – John Bardsley

John Bardsley, managing director of Intermedia Brand Marketing, answers our questions about his life in publishing.

By John Bardsley

My Publishing Life – John Bardsley

Q: How did you get where you are today?

A: My career in the industry started back in 1986, when I joined WH Smith Wholesale as a packer driver at their wholesale depot in Chelmsford. I was the third generation of the family to join the company, following in my father’s footsteps – he had a 40-year career with the company, starting as a packer and working his way up to senior management.

My school holidays were very often spent going to work with him, packing newspapers and magazines, and so I guess it was simply in the blood! My career choice was therefore a very simple one and I couldn’t wait to get started – on my sixteenth birthday, that is exactly what I did!

I progressed my career with WH Smith for eleven years, working my way up the managerial ladder and had the opportunity to work in a number of their distribution depots mainly in and around London and the South East. My first managerial opportunity came at the age of just nineteen when I was appointed magazine sales manager of their Crawley Depot where I spent four years and then subsequently promoted to the Croydon depot which was then, the flagship operation within the WH Smith News network, where I spent a further three years.

After a short stint working for the Buying & Marketing team in WH Smith News head office, greater ambition got the better of me and I took the difficult decision to leave and join Marketforce to take up the role of circulation manager within their Independent Publisher Group.

I enjoyed ten great years with Marketforce and again, was fortunate to progress my career to the next level and gain a huge amount of experience along the way. I held a variety of different roles in the business including marketing services controller and subsequently head of circulation planning, before leaving the company to take up the position of client services director at a smaller distributor, working across a broad portfolio of specialist magazines.

In 2010, the opportunity to launch Intermedia Brand Marketing presented itself and was one I simply couldn’t resist. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q: What is your typical media day?

A: I can most certainly say that no two days are the same and that is one of the most enjoyable aspects to my role.

My day does however start early, typically with an immediate check of the BBC News website to see what’s going on in the world, quickly followed by a review of overnight emails.

My itinerary is invariably shaped by meetings with clients, staff and trading partners and most days include all three at some stage or another. I will either be heading straight to the office in Crawley, travelling to meet clients, or taking the opportunity to visit the team at our logistics business, Intermedia Solutions, which operates from an independent warehousing facility.

The daily agenda is busy, and as a service business, we are now very much a 24/7 operation given the online aspect to our portfolio of services; but overall the day is ultimately client led.

I am a self-confessed Radio 2 fan and occasionally listen to Radio 4 too (must be an age thing!) and I opt for radio over television whenever I can. My use of social media is generally limited to LinkedIn and Facebook on a daily basis and I will frequently catch up with BBC News online periodically throughout the day. I also love to read the Sunday Times whenever time allows at the weekend.

Q: What is the secret to a happy working life?

A: Getting the balance between home and work life is incredibly important – and I am sure something my wife and children would tell you is not something I get right all of the time!

The magazine industry is complex and increasingly challenging and so creating and maintaining the right culture across the business and the team is vital. This is something that both myself and the management team work incredibly hard to achieve because I am a great believer that job satisfaction is without doubt one of the biggest ingredients to a happy working life.

Q: How do you see the sector evolving?

A: Without doubt, changes to our industry will ultimately be driven by changing consumer behaviour, not just in the way magazines are purchased and consumed, but also the way in which magazines are increasingly becoming brands in their own right, and no longer pure ink on paper products.

The whole concept that ‘print is dead’ is not something I have ever bought into. The development of magazine brands creates a whole host of opportunities for publishers and as a business, we are working hard to embrace new concepts and ensure our business is best placed to support through the breadth of services we offer.

Q: Who has particularly influenced you?

A: I have been extremely fortunate in my career to work for, and with, some incredibly talented people, many of whom are not just colleagues, but good friends too.

I have worked for many different bosses, all with different management styles and experiences which have inspired and encouraged me to be the best that I can be, and for that I will always be grateful.

I guess, without doubt, the one person who taught me the most, both personally and professionally, was my father. He was a man with an absolute love and dedication to the industry and from whom I guess I have developed my own style.

Q: What advice would you give someone starting out?

A: I learnt very early in my career that job satisfaction was massively important. This can come in all sorts of different ways, but it should not be underestimated.

Secondly, it is important for anyone starting out in their career to recognise that along the way, they will work with all sorts of different people, each with different skills and styles. My advice would be to watch and learn carefully in order to benefit from the good and disregard the bad.

Finally, work hard and smart!

Q: How do you relax outside work?

A: In all honesty, I am not a person who relaxes easily!

Outside work, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, often ferrying my teenage son and daughter to various places, playing golf (often quite badly) and find that walking our chocolate Labrador through the countryside at weekends is a real escape from such a busy work agenda.

Q: In an alternate life, what would you have done?

A: Now there’s a question! Whilst my career choice was set at a very young age, I’ve always had an interest in property, so I guess it may well have been something along that line.