Next Fifteen Group CEO: moaning Brits are a pain in the arse…
That's a slight misquote. But onto that in a minute.
Here’s a funny thing. If you visit the Next Fifteen Group's website’s homepage (skip the intro), there’s a bunch of little pictures at the bottom. Hold on a few seconds and they start changing. It’s all big teeth and ears….quite spooky. Rather like looking into the Tupperware boxes in a serial killer’s freezer.
Anyway, Tim Dyson is CEO of the Next Fifteen Group. Companies within the Next Fifteen Group – particularly Bite, Inferno and Text 100 – feature regularly in posts here at TWL sitting, as they do, right in the middle of the UK tech PR industry.
Ages ago, we sent Dyson a bunch of questions to answer as the first in a (most probably very sporadic) series of interviews with the big knobs of technology PR. He took weeks and weeks to come back to us – in fact we were about to give him a slating for ignoring us when he did. We’ve now taken as long to do anything with his answers. So here, for you reading pleasure, is an out of date chat with Dyson.
We’re good, aren’t we?
Around the world, in all the companies it owns, Next Fifteen employs about 900 people in 36 offices in 19 countries. In its last financial year (to the end of July 2006) the Group turned over £56m and made a headline pre-tax profit of £4.4m – both representing 30%-plus growth on the previous year. The Group is listed on the AIM stock market in London with a stock price of (at time of posting) about 80p, giving the Group a market capitalisation of £43m. If you ignore the massive spike in the Group’s stock price around the boom and bust of dotcom madness, it seems to be on a slow and steady climb upwards.
Dyson sits at the top, therefore, of what looks like a decent business. He’s a 45 year old Brit but has lived on the west coast of America for more than a decade. He’s got a wife and kids and that…probably a really big house and a nice motor (‘cos he gets paid a quarter of a million a year and owns 5.5 million shares in the Group). Let’s cut to the chase:
TWL: You're a Brit living in America , right? What's the most annoying thing about that? If it's easier, just rank your top 20.
1. Driving – it’s too easy to drive in this country so you don’t need to be any good at it.
2. They don’t have pubs which is presumably why they invented Starbucks.
3. Talking to Brits who are here that like to complain about the place but seem to have a great life.
4. TV – thankfully I don’t get much time to watch TV though.
TWL: Virtually all of the (Next Fifteen Group) revenue growth (in its last financial year) came from North America (OK, OK a bit in APAC too). Revenues in EMEA (an we're including UK in EMEA too) are virtually flat, with PBT falling quite significantly. Is there limited potential for growth across EMEA now? As an organisation, how much more resource are you focusing on the US and APAC markets against EMEA? Do European PR professionals who really want to do well need to emigrate?
Dyson: APAC is actually the place where the real new growth is coming but the market is still pretty small. There are clearly some great careers waiting to be had for people in markets such as China and India. This doesn’t mean that EMEA is anything like a dead market. Mainland Europe is still slow in some places but overall there are plenty of growth opportunities. When you look at a region, it’s important to look at what client mix agencies have when analyzing their growth. Agencies that service mainly large companies will be generating only modest growth in revenues and their margins won’t be doing much. Agencies with a mix of large, medium and small will produce more solid growth at all levels. I guess this means that if you are looking for a career with growth opportunities in a more established market like the UK then look at the agency and how smart you think the people are but also try and evaluate what the business growth of the clients is likely to be like in the next few years.
TWL: You recently blogged about the potential resurgence of 'big tech' and highlighted the stock performance of a number of the big names (quite a few being clients of your Group's). There was a time when your stock seemed to almost track the performance of tech stocks, but seemingly no longer. Why is that?
Dyson: Good question (Thanks! Ed) In truth our stock has now pretty well caught up with their growth in the last six months having risen from the 50s to the high 70s. It seems we now lag the market in that respect though.
TWL: What's the biggest challenge for the Next Fifteen Group over the next 3-5 years?
Dyson: People. It sounds corny but if we can continue to hire and keep great people we will continue to win good clients and grow.
TWL: What's the biggest challenge for the PR industry over the next 3-5 years?
Dyson: Delivering value versus other disciplines. The PR industry is in a great place right now while the ad business is struggling. The most dangerous competitor is the one with their back against the wall.
TWL: What keeps you up at night (you can't say "kids")?
Dyson: I’m lucky in that one in that my kids sleep better than I do. I actually don’t tend to worry about specific issues in the business, instead I worry more about longer term issues that I’m trying to figure out that will affect the business. For example we have invested a lot of time and energy in the Clean Tech space as I truly believe this is a great area and a good area for us to be in. However, I know we have to become ‘greener’ so I’m looking at how we can do that. This is a long term challenge for us if we are to do it right.
TWL: Can you ever foresee a time when you'd shell out £1m for an anonymous, irreverent, beautifully-written and highly amusing blog?
Dyson: Can’t say I can.
TWL: Bugger. What a waste of time.