This week’s small business superstar is Alex Northcott, founder of media empire Gorkana, one of the world’s largest media intelligence firms.
Having built his company from the ground up, Northcott sold Gorkana for £200m, which enabled him to create Roxhill Media, where he is now serving as CEO.
On the agenda this week is how to launch a successful media campaign, women in business and what every entrepreneur should be doing with their online company.
Tell me more about Roxhill and your role within the media industry
I used to do the PR for Morgan Stanley but got bored saying ‘no comment’ every day. So I launched Gorkana, a media database. I sold this in 2010 and now have returned with Roxhill.
In a nutshell we tag journalist stories to topics. We cover a variety of topics, including stories on SMEs; the Northern powerhouse debate; infrastructure; raising capital and over 800 other topics.
Roxhill helps PRs identify experts in their fields (mainly in the media) so that they can collaborate together and work on certain projects. We enable these PR’s to find the best people for their companies and give them a way to get in touch with them.
What are the vital elements of a successful media campaign?
Having patience and being part of a great team. There is a huge amount of noise out there in the media world today, with some journalists receiving 500 emails a day.
For anyone creating a successful media campaign, you need to target the relevant journalists and be effective in your approach, but this process takes a lot of time.
What’s your favourite quote?
I was a Gurkha once and our motto is: it is better to die than be a coward. We were taught to believe in a number of things when I was a Gurkha. We were taught to never give up, to keep trying, to look after those around you and to lead and to inspire.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I sometimes read people saying Steve Jobs. But after reading his biography I put the book down thinking what a cold and ruthless man he was.
I think many people inspire us all and we select the nuggets we want and discard those we don’t, which is a bit like parenting. I have learnt to use my late father’s humour but to discard his temper!
How do you relax when you’re not at work?
I love to combine my two favourite things – sport and being an over competitive parent on the touchline.
I’m also always trying to explore new ways to engage with communities. For example, I am working with a Sun reporter to see if we can develop a footballer’s database to help aspiring players understand the demands of football, agents and their earnings.
Do you think there are enough women in business?
In my industries of PR and Journalism, there is a strong female community. I think the working Mums community is a great asset for UK businesses to have.
Right now I run a team that is full of working Mums who are working anywhere from three to eight hours a day. Their productivity and contribution outstrips any other dynamic in my company.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Having a go. I’m taking on my old company Gorkana (having set up and sold them) because I think big companies can become complacent very quickly. Companies like these always forget the key question: What are the needs of my clients?
Who is the best person that you’ve ever worked with?
When I was in the Gurkhas I served under a man named Sergeant Gorkana. He was in the Special Forces and always led from the front. He took the silver spoon out of my mouth and taught me how to lead, a skill which I still use today
What’s your least favourite ‘buzz word’?
‘30,000 ft.’ is the phrase I dislike the most as it contradicts the fundamental rule of running a business.
Clients want you to get the small things right, to nail the detail and deliver for them. The company I sold Gorkana to demanded a ‘30,000 ft.’ view and to offer clients multiple things that none of them wanted.
What advice can you give to new entrepreneurs who want to market their company online?
Business is all about communities, so make sure you know yours. Engage with them; tell them something they don’t know, keep a regular dialogue with strong editorial content. Also, always remember that getting your message out there takes time, so be patient.