This Mann’s a jargon-free zone

Nicholas Mann of Interdirect
Nicholas Mann of Interdirect

NICHOLAS Mann, 42, pictured, has run full service agency Interdirect for 16 years. Here we find out what makes him tick.

Do you think business leadership can be taught or is it something that comes from a natural instinct?

I think that some people are naturally business orientated, some can be taught, but others can’t. From my own personal experience I think that being a successful leader is down to commonsense, professionalism, and creating mutual respect among your staff. It’s also important not to take yourself too seriously. I spend more time with my staff than I do my family, and it is the same for them, so it’s really important to me that we have respect for one another, and enjoy ourselves at work.

What is the name of your main business and what does it do?

Interdirect is a vibrant, multi award-winning, full service agency, specialising in digital design and development, advanced content managed websites, bespoke software solutions, PR, marketing and social media. Our clients include some of the nation’s best known brands, including Champneys, Bluewater, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which span sectors as diverse as luxury health spas, shopping centres and professional bodies.

What was the turnover of your main business in the last reporting period?

Interdirect’s turnover for 2010 was £1.3million, and the projected turnover for 2011 is £1.6million.

What positives can you extract from current economic conditions?

Throughout its 16 years, Interdirect has never been busier than it is right now. Perhaps we are just lucky, but I don’t believe so. The digital arena has never been more exciting, with the fusion of really useful handheld devices and significantly better data transfer rates, coupled with the hugely popular uptake of social media, creating a world of possibilities just waiting to be explored. The real challenge for us is helping other businesses to recognise that now is the time to invest in services such as PR, marketing, and social media management rather than cutting those budgets.

What motivates you to get up in the morning and go to work?

My main motivation is, and always has been, to prove to myself and other people that I am capable of building and maintaining a successful business. I guess to some degree I have done that now, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to achieve even more. I’m not massively motivated by money, although it does help! I have a good lifestyle, and so do my three children and I have to continue to work hard to maintain that.

At what age do you aim to retire and what will you do after that point?

I sometimes feel like I want to retire tomorrow, but other days I feel like I’ve got another 20 years in me! I am really lucky to have such a great team working for me, and in the future I would like to create a board of members that sit under me, who can manage the day-to-day running of the business. This is probably a while off, but I think that you have to have some self awareness to know when it is time to take a step back, and be less involved with the day-to-day management of things.

What is the most important thing you learned at school?

I was captain of the rugby team, which remained unbeaten for three years. I think that taught me some great leadership skills, and encouraged me to build and maintain good relationships with my team mates; skills that have proved essential for running a good business.

What one extra subject should be placed on the curriculum?

Understanding the value to yourself, your family and society of working hard and playing harder. I suppose you could call it citizenship, but what I really mean is not just working hard at your job, but doing your bit for the community too. This doesn’t necessarily have to be donations to charity; it could be any contribution to creating a better community.

Have you ever had to sack someone on the spot and why?

No, in the 16 years that I’ve been employing people I have never had to sack someone on the spot, and not wishing to tempt fate, I have never been taken to an employment tribunal either. I try very carefully to pick the right person for the role from the outset, and if they need more skills, we train them up.

What percentage of your success is inspiration?

I’m inspired by working hard and proving myself, and by seeing admiration and acknowledgement from other people. So this could be 0 per cent or 100 per cent depending on how you look at the questions. 100 per cent if you take into consideration the above or 0 per cent if you mean looking to others for inspiration.

What percentage of your success is perspiration?

Interdirect’s desire to be the best is what keeps us working hard. It is easy to have a good idea, but it is putting those ideas into action that takes the hard work and determination, so I would say it is 100 per cent perspiration.

Who is your inspiration in business and why?

I believe that inspiration comes from within. I’m too busy to read other people’s books about how they make their money, and I don’t feel I need to copy a path that someone else has paved.

What time do you get up on a working day?

I get up at 6am on a work day and go for a swim before work.

How do you switch off and relax?

This has changed recently, nowadays I never seem to be far from my laptop. I never really completely get away from work, as servers need monitoring constantly, but I do occasionally get time to switch off.I recently did the three peaks challenge, which was time off, but not exactly relaxing! I also like to relax in my local, with the rest of the ID team on a Friday after work. And anyone that knows me will also know that another hobby of mine is driving fast cars.

How do you measure business success?

I measure the success of Interdirect by its reputation and the recognition it receives, rather than money in the bank, although that is nice too.

What is your favourite piece of business jargon and why?

I loathe business jargon, I hate the word ‘synergy’, and I hate people using the word ‘revert’, they always use it out of context. I don’t see the need for business jargon, I think people just use it to cover up the fact that they don’t know what they’re talking about. I just wish people would speak plain English.

What is the most pointless piece of red tape you’ve had to deal with?

This is easy – it has to be the UITF 40, which Gordon Brown introduced, and now means that you have to guess your profit before it’s actually generated. The work in progress figure can affect monthly profitability by as much as 60 per cent, so it is very annoying that we now have to guess such an important number.

Where does your confidence come from?

Fear of being seen to fail. Confidence is an illusion, I think mine has probably grown through the length of time I’ve been achieving success, and from getting bigger projects and more clients.