My Media Week: Ben Hughes

This week Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO at the Financial Times, revisits the Oxford spires and meets rugby legend Will Greenwood.

Ben Hughes: FT deputy chief executive returns to Oxford
Ben Hughes: FT deputy chief executive returns to Oxford

Monday

I'm in nostalgic mode as I take my senior management team to Oxford for a two-day 360-degree appraisal. I was a student here at Jesus College many moons ago.

Today's sessions are focused on excelling both as individuals and as a team. I'm proud to report that we score 86% on team feedback.

We all learn which areas we need to improve upon as managers, and I discover that my weak point is giving people direct feedback if I've anything negative to report. I put this down to my longing to be loved.

Dinner entertainment is a talk by Ed Stafford, who walked the length of the Amazon in 860 days. If anyone knows how to succeed individually, it's him.

Tuesday

Day two of the appraisals is focused on business issues. We hear from Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com, and our global circulation director, Greg Zorthian.

In all, it's been a fantastic team-building exercise, and we return to London armed with action plans for areas of improvement.

That evening, we invite about 80 of our client and agency friends to a dinner with rugby phenomenon Will Greenwood.

He speaks about making a difference, winning and focusing on the right things in the context of world-class rugby and I can't help relating back to our appraisals.

If I can get just 1-2% better at the things I need to work on, it will make me a better manager – surely the whole point of the exercise.


Wednesday

Office days always begin with breakfast with one of my teams. I find it the best way to get feedback on what's happening in the business, and an opportunity for me to show where we stand in terms of numbers.

Next week I'll present my monthly update to the global team, which will be sent out as a video to Asia and the US so everyone knows our position.

Today I'm on the judging panel with Pinky Lilani (is this the best name ever?), who's hosting the Asian Women of Achievement Awards – we interview five or six women in press and I'm blown away by their extraordinary CVs.

Lunch is with Lindsay Weedon, chief executive of our media buying agency Maxus UK. We talk social media, in particular how Twitter has become my daily news feed (see Thursday). If someone had told me this would happen two years ago, I'd never have believed them.

Thursday

I awake in the London crash pad that acts as my base during the week, located in Borough Market just around the corner from FT HQ. First thing I do is check Twitter. I follow the FT and trade titles including Media Week, to get a complete glance at the world in which I'm operating.

To stay relaxed, I also follow a couple of sports players – the yin to my professional yang. It's amazing how Twitter has become a personal newswire, through which I effectively get personal press releases throughout the day.

Lunch is with the lovely Charlotte Lambkin, group comms director at BAE systems, before getting my business updates from Asia. China is a huge market – we've just launched a new high-end glossy mag there, 'FT Riu', and also offer a subscription-based product, 'China Confidential', providing analysis of China investment themes.

I'll be going to Japan in a couple of weeks – I feel it's important to show great compassion and support after the recent catastrophes.

Next up, one of my favourite tasks - writing my weekly Media Week blog. I particularly relish this when I'm travelling (about 40% of the time), can step back from day-to-day business and waffle about things that interest me. Following my chat with Lindsay Weedon, I'm inspired to blog about social media.

That afternoon I meet Leslie Morphy, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, to plan our annual campaign persuading businesses to donate instead of sending Christmas cards.
We'll run a double-page spread over Christmas highlighting those companies that take up the challenge.

Friday

I'm back home in Cranleigh, near Guildford, for Easter. I reflect back on my recent trip to Paris, where our business is driven by the luxury sector.

I met up with Moet Hennessy communications director Antoine Cohen-Potin to discuss our joint quarterly dining club events.

Our past speaker line-up has included British Airways chief Willie Walsh, and a pre-presidential Nicolas Sarkozy – a true inspiration. I also made time to meet with Olivier Perruchot, chief executive of our luxury watch client, Piaget.

I'm in the process of organising our next Luxury Summit with Jayne Van Hoen, who runs FT's conferences globally from the US. She's made the FT brand work fantastically in line with the conferences, which are fast becoming a lucrative global business.

The next will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland, emphasising a financial theme in the context of the economic trials and tribulations of the last couple of years.

For now though, I just want to relax with my wife, my 18-year old twins, my black Lab and a little purchase I made – the new Peugeot RCZ.

Let's just say the salesman warned me to engage my brain before engaging the accelerator.



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