MT 40: The encouragement business

MT was the offspring of a fledgling company. Although Haymarket had started in the late 1950s, by the mid-60s we were still a tiny operation when we heard the British Institute of Management (BIM) was looking for a publisher to produce its magazine.

by The Rt Hon the Lord Heseltine, CH Chairman of Haymarket Group
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

We joined forces with the Economist and the Financial Times to pitch. I remembered a story I'd been told by Donald Stokes, who went on to create British Leyland, about how he'd won a pitch for a bus contract. He let the opposition spend hours presenting their blueprints and visions, making sure he went in last. When his turn came, he took the committee outside the building, where a full-size prototype was parked - the vision made metal. He won.

So, that's what we decided to do. We gave the BIM a 96-page printed edition of Management Today - which we'd put together over a weekend. It happened to include a profile of the chairman of the BIM - the first and last time we allowed editorial judgment to be influenced by commercial interests.

One of the keys to MT's success was its outstanding first editor Bob Heller, who remained at the helm into the 1980s. The thing about Bob that always impressed me was that when he produced an in-depth article about a company, he would send it to the CEO or chairman before it went to press.

He would not guarantee to change anything, but he wanted to hear what they had to say. There were huge risks in this and fireworks often followed.

As a politician, I've never read an article on a subject with which I'm familiar that didn't contain errors. They never get it totally right - but Bob did. He was a terrific journalist and his contribution to business journalism in the UK is without equal.

Looking back on 40 years of British business, the landscape has changed beyond recognition. The '60s and '70s were decades of decline. Great companies went downhill fast and British prestige was disintegrating. We had high inflation, a rigid economy and restrictive union practices. And the whole demise was overseen by a British management that was, frankly, of indifferent quality.

But the worm has turned. In the past two decades MT has watched professionalism in UK business rise to a new level. We've seen our manufacturing economy being replaced by a service model - which worries some, but I often wonder if it's more important for the GNP to comprise pounds taken from tourists visiting our country or earned selling pins (or magazines) to them at home.

These days, the UK is the economic centre of the European community, which is as it should be. In my view, it has never been easier than it is now to start up a business in the UK, build it through hard work and accumulate a substantial amount of wealth in the process. Over 40 years, MT has done more than its fair share to encourage and applaud the British entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. Long may it thrive.

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