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Commercial Strategy Media The Guardian

My 25 tips from 25 years in media – the Guardian's commercial chief

By Nick Hewat, commercial director

December 6, 2017 | 5 min read

This December marks 25 years in the media business for The Guardian News and Media's commercial director, Nick Hewat. His career spans from radio to news brands and every disruption we've seen in the digital world. Here, he reflects on what he has learned over that time, offering an insight for each day of the nativity calendar (how very festive).


I was once told to “act your job title”. It’s great advice


You should never move jobs for more money, say the people who invariably have money. But you should certainly only move for money once.

When you leave a business, you’ll get the blame for all the things you didn’t do, and no credit for all the things you did.

Get to a meeting 10 minutes early - you never know who you will meet in reception. Woody Allen said that “90% of success in life is just showing up”. That’s true in our industry, where the well known are more highly regarded than the well good.

Email is the most evil work invention created in my career. You’re only really “off” when everyone else is. Basically, Christmas.

Heed the advice of social scientist Dan Pink. Every day, he has his MIT (most important thing). That gets done first, before the inevitable distractions

Never ask for your gazpacho soup to be heated up in front of clients.

Some people with strategy in their title can’t define clearly what it means. The best definition of strategy, courtesy of McKinsey, is “where, when and how to compete”.

Some people with the word marketing in their title can’t define clearly what it means. The best definition, courtesy of Matthew Wilcox, is “marketing is about being chosen”.

Most managers proclaim that “people are my most important asset”, and then pay little or no attention to their recruitment process. This is not rational.

Talking of recruitment, Warren Buffett was once asked what he looked for in a prospective employee. “Integrity, intelligence and energy, he said. If they don’t have the first, the other two could kill you”.

Talking of recruitment, hire what you don’t know. First, you have to admit you don’t know everything. It takes a very long time to acknowledge that.

There’s a quadrant in parenting books. The top right box is to be “supportive and demanding”. Same for managing people.

I was once told to “act your job title”. It’s great advice. Before you go to a meeting, check that you are ready to deliver on the expectations that come with your role.

If you have a Google calendar, you can change the meeting setting by default. So 30 minute meetings become 25, one hour meetings become 50. It’s a great nudge.

You’ve got 21 chances to exercise each week. Seven mornings, seven lunchtimes, seven evenings. Everyone who says they have no time to exercise needs to find a better excuse.

An antelope spends a good part of its life running away from mortal danger. Minutes after, it’s swishing its tail and eating grass, muscles twitching. We’ve started to use the word antelope at home when one of us is going off the rails and needs perspective.

At work, athletes say that “feedback is a gift” - they’re interested in getting better at what they do. That still seems rare in office culture, where the coach / athlete relationship is not as defined. But beware, if Adam Foley, our Commercial Strategy Director, says “only you could have done that”, it is not a compliment.

One of the leadership values of the Royal Navy is “cheerfulness” because, they say, “no-one follows a pessimist”.

“Management – the only field we can think of where practice precedes formal training.” From a book called What Management Is. So true, so wrong.

Dotted lines in organisation structures literally mean neither one thing or the other.

There’s an innovation imperative (thank you Richard Morris) in our industry. Keeping a balance between that and what is proven is tricky. Maybe 70/20/10 deserves a comeback.

Read, particularly things that challenge you. As a psychologist once said, “don’t believe everything you think”.

The more senior you are, the earlier you should leave the pub after work. That’s what friends are for.

We all focus on what will change. We don’t focus on what won’t (Jeff Bezos)

“Don’t just do something, stand there”. Doing is highly valued. Thinking often isn’t.

Nick Hewat is commercial director at the Guardian

Commercial Strategy Media The Guardian

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