At this year's PPA Independent Publisher Conference, Julian Rose spoke about the way in which his company, Chemical Watch, has pivoted from a B2B news business to an enterprise membership platform. I spoke to Rose about the market research behind this decision and how they are maximising customer value.
What made you want to work in the publishing industry?
It’s a privilege to get to know a professional community and find out about the issues that matter to them.
Chart your career journey from the start to where you are now.
My way into the information industry was as a science journalist but that quickly morphed into environmental business journalism, and then B2B publishing. In the early 1990s I worked for a really small firm that published three magazines and had a gutsy approach to trying new things. The job only lasted 9 months - the magazine I worked on was a flop - but it gave me the appetite to try my own thing when the moment was right.
What was the driving force behind your decision to change Chemical Watch's model?
We had been growing successfully for 10 years; from nothing we had built a subscriptions and events business with 50 employees and more than £4 million in sales. But I guess after 10 years of growth, we could see there was significant untapped potential if we could find a way of building deeper relationships with our customers. Our market research showed that many of our customers were not aware of the full range of services we had to offer. So we decided to re-brand our business and create a unified enterprise membership proposition offering unlimited access to all our services.
What steps are you taking to maximise customer value?
We talk to customers tirelessly and take every possible step to feed back information to our departmental teams. We appointed a Chief Customer Officer - she used to be our Managing Editor - and her job is to be the customer’s voice.
How does being a member of the PPA add value to Chemical Watch?
Networking, hearing other people’s experiences and being honest about challenges is very important.
How do you handle your deadlines?
Publishing deadlines bring focus and the adrenaline can be helpful. But a different approach is required when planning longer term change - e.g. in relation to digital platform improvements or changes to management processes:, deadlines are less immediate and more considered.
What is a typical day?
I’ve learned to get up well before I have to go out or start work. That’s when I relax and prepare for the day psychologically. Then work kind of follows me around. Often I can work at home, sometimes in the office, on the train, in a cafe. Half our employees are home workers so we have developed a very flexible culture.
What is the worst piece of advice you have ever received?
All advice is useful if it’s sincere - you just have to weigh up whether to act on it
What would be in your Room 101?
Ties and cufflinks
Introvert or Extrovert?
Having a shell to hide in is very important. So is being able to go outside and say hello.
Optimist or Pessimist?
Is optimism the same as naivete? Either way, I must be an optimist because otherwise I would never have started a business.
Film or TV?
Sweet or Savoury?
What magazine would be your long train journey read?