The Western Way

First year under new ownership, Western Business Media claims to have had a “phenomenal” 2020, despite you know what…

By James Evelegh

The Western Way

On this week’s podcast, Mark Sennett, CEO of Western Business Media (WBM) recounts his first year in charge. As (bad) luck would have it, the year following their MBO coincided with… the pandemic.

Despite that, he assures host Ciar Byrne, 2020 was a “phenomenal” year and he’s yet to have his first argument with business partners Danny Kosifou and Keith Gabriel.

What can other publishers take away from their success? Based on what Mark had to say, here are some tips for business success, the Western way:

  1. Create a sense of shared ownership: by being transparent with finances and profit and loss figures, you build trust. (Of course, it goes without saying that this is only possible if you’ve got nothing to hide…)
  2. Maintain high standards: a particular hobby horse of Mark’s is ABC auditing. He’s a passionate believer in the ABC audit as a quality differentiator. In short, if a title’s circulation claims are not audited, are they believable? WBM’s are…
  3. Invest in the business: whilst many owners dream of the big pay day and retiring to somewhere nice in the south of France (is that even doable now?), you mustn’t stop investing in the business.
  4. Strict cost control: you need to know all your costs, right down to how much you spend on pencils. Are there areas of expenditure that you can cut without damaging your product?
  5. Don’t do stuff just for the sake of doing it: Do you have a Facebook page that no one visits or a podcast than no one listens to? You have to be ruthless and cut out “frivolous” activities.
  6. Focus on quality content: this might seem obvious, but, in the past, some B2B magazines were little more than product catalogues. Mark is introducing a more features-led approach for his titles.
  7. Make your company a fun place to work in, where people feel valued: at WBM last year, working hours were reduced, a games room added (sadly not much used since March), an extended Xmas break introduced, an Xmas bonus given and a staff away day to Spain planned (currently on hold).
  8. Plan for the future: For WBM, 51% of their revenues still come from print advertising. That’s worth holding onto, but not at the expense of developing new sources of income through webinars, podcasting, digital conferences et al.
  9. Believe in B2B: Mark began the interview with the shocking revelation that B2B was not what he aspired to on day 1 of his journalism course. However, B2B really matters. Never more so than now, “what we write makes a difference”.

Mark told Ciar he’s in it for the long run. He bought the company to grow it and to have a job until he retires. Given that he’s only 36, that bodes well for the employees of Western Business Media.