Lunchtime Lecture with Wayne Davies
by Erika Iacovou
We were reminded how complex the business of publishing is by Wayne Davies, one of the two founders of Quercus Publishing, recently acquired by Hachette. Davies gave an excellent presentation to ambitious, future publishers here in Oxford Brookes University with the title: “Starting (and growing) your own publishing business”.
The presentation begins by a short introduction and with Davies explaining what he does for his company. His tasks mainly involve working with investors, financial issues, expanding the company and securing sales. This is the part where most students start cringing since the business and finance department of publishing is often referred to as “the dark side of publishing”. He calms us down by explaining why someone would want to start a business. “Well, there are many reasons why someone would want to start their own business and I am not necessarily saying that these apply to you.” Davies says pointing out some of them: I want to be my own boss, I have a great idea and I make too much money for my employer, among other reasons. There is hard work and stress but it is very rewarding!
Cold reality hits us when listening to the process of setting up a publishing business. “A great idea and a great product are not enough. Will it sell?” Davies asks. This is where marketing comes in by identifying the need of a market and getting to know your customers. The speaker emphasizes that you need to be flexible and explore all options.
Finally starting the company is where the hard decisions come into play. What is the main goal of your company? It is important to set it upfront because it affects how quickly you want to grow and what investors you will need. “Don’t go alone in it…” he advises, “It’s good to have another person to support your decisions.” Starting a company will at some point be too much to handle. Finding a partner with complementary skills and personalities would be the best case scenario. At this point, Davies stresses getting professional support as well. Lawyers, accountants and non-exec industry figures are beneficial, and in nearly all cases, essential.
“You have to give a piece of yourself into the company.” Our speaker says on the topic of investments. The importance of a properly structured cash-flow is key at this point. Finance will need to be done right, cautiously and with optimism otherwise it will cost more later on. Finding and working with investors is a topic Davies knew all too well. Finding them could be easy, whether they are family/friends or professional investors, working with them, he says, is the difficult part. Good communication is essential as one will need to understand that the investors have their own timetable and problems. “They are not the enemy but they do have their own agenda.”
Davies emphasises that a good cash flow, contingency and tackling problems early, help in making the business a success. He reminds us that at the end of the day it’s about the right people and culture in a company. Mistakes will happen but the results will be rewarding whether you decide to sell your business in the end or expand globally.
Wayne Davies concludes with the hope that some of the Brookes publishing students in the audience will one day be inspiring entrepreneurs. Some seem sceptical and maybe a bit fearful with all the talk of finance, but I do believe that some of us will eventually aim to start (and grow) a publishing business.
Last edited: 28 11 2014