Posted: Mon 17th Sep 2018
Jeff Taylor is the founder of Courier magazine, the London-based publication which shares stories of modern business.
Ahead of the company's first ever event, Courier Live, on 28 September (which Enterprise Nation is delighted to be exhibiting at), the entrepreneur shares super honest insights and advice into how he is growing his brand and how you can do the same.
Read to the bottom of this post for details of how to get 20% off tickets to Courier Live.
!(https://enterprisenation.blob.core.windows.net/enterprisenation/7007284966bae811a96a002248072cc3/jeff taylor 2.png)How did you come up with the idea for Courier and what did you have to do to get it off the ground?
The idea for Courier really evolved over a two-year period when I was working as a CMO for a large multinational, travelling the world constantly and saw my friends and colleagues (and increasingly myself) getting frustrated with the lives we were leading.
We'd been to good schools, had great careers and were making good money but not really enjoying the process.
The idea of a magazine dedicated to helping people work and live on what we called 'our own terms' kind of evolved from there.
I'd been thinking about a media concept for a while and, after a good bit of development, Courier was born.
How did we get it off the ground? The same way so many of the people we feature got started. We just began!
I knew I didn't want investors (and anyway, who would have invested in print when everyone was predicting that the iPad would destroy the magazine and book industry!), so I started bringing in strategy and creative work for brands (which was my background) and we used the profits from that to develop our first issue.
We produced, I think from memory, two sample issues and then pretty quickly got the first 'debut issue' out. It was 36 pages.
We printed 2,000 copies or something and distributed them in coffee shops in Shoreditch and at Shoreditch House. We got a great reaction, made a few tweaks here and there and the rest is history!
What business challenges do you face running a print magazine in a world that's so digital? How do you deal with those challenges?
I'm not sure the challenges are really print versus digital. Courier lives in magazine (and now newspaper) form, but also in email, online and at events, so our challenges are really more around being a relatively small voice in a big media ocean. That's an issue whether you're trying to attract more followers on Instagram or you're trying to sell print editions.
Around print specifically though, whilst the macro environment for print has certainly tightened, there's more than enough readers and advertisers to still enable young, fresh titles like us and quite a few others to thrive and grow strongly.
The challenges in print are more around trying to convince advertisers, distributors and retail chains to support us.
We're a small team and still a relatively small title (we sell around 40,000 copies globally vs a title like The Economist, which sells around half a million) so it can be hard to convince media buyers to consider us as worth the extra admin and complexity of including us in media buys.
But that said, we've got a killer sales team and we've spent a lot of time getting our proposition into a place where brands and buyers increasingly see the value in working with us.
And of course it helps that we're growing quickly.
What do you think are the key reasons behind the success of Courier?
There are a few factors, but I think our initial instinct that there were a load of people who were interested in stories of businesses and more importantly the people behind them has rung true.
Although we often sit in the business section of newsstands, we're really a title about people, not companies. And I think that's very different to everything else out there.
Because of that, we're really comfortable not playing the typical business media game: taking stories from press releases and churning them out (all our reporting is strictly original) or focusing on the same tired business cliches you see on things like Dragons' Den.
We're fiercely independent and focused on what our audience is really interested in. That helps a lot.
We're clear our customer is the reader, not the advertiser, and we do everything we can to make sure our readers get as much value as they possibly can from the £5 they spend for an issue.
And finally, I guess, although I've never given it that much thought, we tend to cover a lot of stories that you just wouldn't find anywhere else.
It's not deliberate, but it seems most media aren't interested in the things we and our readers often are.
We don't fetishise tech brands, we're not particularly interested in the opinions of overexposed so-called business 'experts', and we don't consider getting rich as the key reason why many of us choose to break out and work for ourselves. I think all that helps.
What three tips would you give for entrepreneurial success based on your own experience?
Ha! I get asked that a lot and my number one tip is don't listen to anyone's 'tips' for success too seriously.
What I mean by that is that there's an awful lot of '10 tips for business success' (whatever that even is) type stories out there and they're bulls**t.
If there's one thing I've learned both in doing my own business and in all the myriad businesses, we've been lucky enough to cover is that every business and situation is unique and there is absolutely no one path for success.
You can turn left, and I can turn right, and we can both succeed or fail. Instead, and you'll see this in Courier where we never tell people ourselves how to succeed, what I encourage is for potential founders to soak up loads of experiences from many others.
Build a really rich tapestry of other people's successes, failures and more importantly the ones in-between who have neither set the world on fire nor crashed and burned.
Secondly, I'd strongly recommend that you spend as much time on self development as you do on developing your business.
As a founder, it is your resilience, your confidence and other elements of what are often called emotional intelligence that will end up making a bigger difference than how good your idea is or whether you can raise capital.
Can you hustle? Can you stay positive when everything looks bleak? Can you sustain your energy fuelled solely by your own internal dreams and beliefs when things get tough? These are skills that can be learned and developed but often get lost in the high-level coverage of start-ups.
And finally, I really encourage generosity. It's taken us an awfully long way. It's hard when you're so busy to do things for others with no immediate return, but each time you do, you not only feel great and strengthen a relationship, you also slowly get admitted to a secret club of people who look after each other.
Nobody talks about this and if you watch something like The Apprentice you're taught the opposite, that 'business' is dog-eat-dog. But I can honestly say we wouldn't be here today without the incredible generosity of so many people who had no need to help us but did.
And I try to do the same. I get incredible satisfaction from helping others solve their problems, and a lovely side benefit is that when I've really needed help and people to turn to, other like-minded people have been there ready to step in.
Which start-ups you've covered in Courier have impressed you most and why?
I'm not dodging this one but I don't like to single individual businesses out. The reality is that if you pick up a copy of Courier you won't see negative stories and self-publicists inside. To get into the magazine you have to impress us in the first place.
But there are certainly types of people I'm impressed by. I'm super exited by the incredible diversity that the business world is increasingly fostering: opportunities for women, people from racial, social and gender-based minority groups and especially opportunities for people with diverse neurological backgrounds like dyslexics, those with autism and ADHD, etc.
Founding a business and seeking to find a place in a crowded marketplace is tricky. It involves doing things differently.
Small business has for centuries often been the place where people who didn't see the world quite like others did, or who didn't fit in found opportunity, and I think this is more prevalent than ever. It's exciting.
Where others see refugees and misfits as a problem to be solved and a burden on society, I get incredibly excited by the energy, determination and drive that is just there waiting to be unlocked given an opportunity.
Why do you think people should attend Courier Live?
Great question although I might not give an impartial view.
The short answer is whether you're just thinking about starting out, you're in the process of getting gong or you've been in business for a while, you'll find a really rich and useful variety of insights and knowledge and you'll meet some incredible people.
With Courier Live, the whole team has worked really hard to bring the entire magazine to life, in all its different elements, in 3D.
Our editors have assembled an incredible lineup of fresh and interesting voices for talks and panels that will fill three simultaneous stages all afternoon. It's not the usual suspects either.
You'll hear everyone from unicorn 'rockstar' Ali Parsa from Babylon Health talk about his incredible vision for the future of healthcare, all the way through to sector experts on getting your food product onto grocery shelves, or what to do when you receive a big lump of investment.
Many of our regular columnists are also joining. You can meet and hear Courier names like Phoebe Lovatt, Fleur Emery, Emma Gannon and Dave Hieatt.
The Workshop section comes to life with clinics and experts in areas like legal, insurance and finance, plus sessions on everything from 'how to hustle' to working with selvedge denim.
And finally, our Courier Life section will come to life with an incredible brand market: 30 of our favourite brands from food and fashion to homewares will have stalls.
You can try and buy but even more exciting, you can meet the founders one-on-one and hear their stories, too.
If you buy a VIP ticket, you'll get access to our networking lounge where you can meet loads of interesting people and get access to our after-party on the roof of the venue with music from our great friends at Spiritland.
Is that enough for you?
Get a 20% discount on tickets to Courier Live on 28 September
If you're an Enterprise Nation member, access a 20% discount to Courier Live and meet the movers and shakers of modern business. The details will be in your member email newsletter this Wednesday (19 September).
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