My best business decision was moving to Random House Group in September 2008. I’ve never worked in the same sector twice. I see that as positive because it shows I’m not a one-trick pony – it shows that I can repeat my successes in different industries, different cultures and within organisations of different sizes.
I had a great career with the Home Retail Group, and it would have been pointless to go to another retailer. Working in a creative industry is as different as you can get. People here are incredibly passionate about what they do, so it’s not just about commercial imperatives. It’s about maintaining a culture that fosters creativity. It’s about taking risks, and leading the publishing industry forward.
From an HR point of view, you need to think carefully about interventions, rather than reaching for an off-the-peg solution that has worked in a previous business. It’s about what fits where I am now – particularly at the moment, when we are trying to take a creative business through a downturn without impinging on its creativity. This role has really stretched and energised me in terms of my performance. It keeps me constantly challenged.
Early in my career, I had to represent my company at an employment tribunal. It was the first one I’d done, and my then HR director assured that me that it was very much run of the mill, and that the company had done loads of work on this particular issue.
So I arrived at the tribunal offices in Croydon, where I was completely turned over by the opposing solicitor, who was excellent. We adjourned while the decision was made. Thirty seconds before we were called back, I tipped a cup of coffee over my lap. I had to walk back in, with my trousers steaming, to hear that we’d lost – over what I now recognise as an obvious technicality. I was absolutely gutted, and decided that I’d better inform the managing director. He picked up the phone, and I blurted out my story, only to be told he’d just heard that his father had died, so he’d prefer to have the conversation later. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the HR director then admitted that we’d never been involved in a tribunal of this type before, but that at least we’d know where not to go wrong next time.