Find your ‘magnetic north’ – Trinity Mirror chief’s advice on managing business change

“Your organisation must match your strategy” – the CEO of Trinity Mirror Group PLC Simon Fox gave this advice to assembled business leaders from the worlds of marketing, media and publishing at Propeller’s recent round table dinner.

Fox, a former Chief Executive of HMV, shared lessons in managing change in businesses facing disruption and undergoing digital transformation at the event held at The Club at the Ivy, London.

He stressed that digital disruption is seeping into every sector and businesses must understand the pace of change in their sector, otherwise they can make big mistakes. He recalled how Waterstone’s, then owned by HMV, felt the shock of the arrival of the Kindle ereader at Christmas in 2009. Disruption came fast in the book market, however he also pointed out that this sector found its bottom and is now actually back in growth, albeit at a lower base.

His key points of leadership advice were:

  • First 100 days – a new leader should be able to get under the bonnet of a company and decide on the direction of travel in the first 100 days. The detail may still need to be worked out but the “magnetic north” should be apparent. For Trinity Mirror, Fox decided that the strategy was to be a scale player – and then the company had to organise for success. It pursued a One Trinity Mirror strategy that removed siloes and regional fiefdoms and allowed centralised single structures for commercial, sales and other divisions.
  • New skills, new people – The existing team won’t get where you need to be. New sets of skills will be needed, such as developers, analysts and social media specialists. There will be a core of current people who can adapt to change and there will be those who cannot.
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight – change will be harder and take longer than you think but you must stay optimistic. You have to set your course and make sure your staff know where you are heading. You can’t communicate enough. And make sure you get staff feedback regularly to help gauge morale and whether messages are getting through.
  • Culture – every leader should have culture at the top of their agenda and it is up to the leader to set a company’s values, behaviour and a spirit of collaboration. Make sure reward and incentive schemes are not antithetical to fostering co-operation. However good the organisation is, if your culture is not coming to life every day the business will not be optimised.

Attendees for the dinner, pictured from bottom right anti-clockwise, Simon Fox, CEO of Trinity Mirror; Matt Edwards, CEO of WCRS; Nelius De Groot, CEO of Mporium; Zoe Harris, Marketing Director of Trinity Mirror; Peter Zillig, CEO of Cheil UK; Daren Rubins, CEO of The Lighthouse Company; Rose Bentley, Global Head of Reputation at Wolff Olins; Martin Loat, founder of Propeller; Parveen Dhanda, Future Fifty Programme Lead at Tech City UK; Ivan Mazour, CEO of Ometria; Kieran Kent, Managing Director of Propeller; Becky Munday, CEO of Mando; and Julio Bruno, CEO of Time Out Group.