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Publish Interactive provides award-winning ePublishing solutions for market research publishers. With their platform, publishers can deliver their research in a unique interactive format which is proven to increase their revenue and customer retention. Businesses who buy research from their customers, meanwhile, can use it much more flexibly and efficiently which is why 17 of the world’s top 25 financial firms and 24 of the world’s leading 25 pharmaceutical companies are already accessing research through their software.
MO: What inspired you to launch Publish Interactive?
Daniel: I used to work as a technology analyst and it was whilst I was packaging up my own research reports using data tables in Excel, figures in PowerPoint and commentary in Word that it struck me how little sense it made to flatten all the rich data before sending the research out to customers, which was the traditional process. Businesses were spending thousands of pounds on these reports and ending up with PDFs that they couldn’t do much with. For me, trapping all the valuable research into an inflexible document format was a complete waste of the Internet’s potential to improve the flow of information, so I decided to build a system which allowed research teams to easily find, extract and use the most pertinent sections of reports instead. I’d always had entrepreneurial aspirations, but when I had the idea for the Publish Interactive software, it really did feel like a ‘eureka moment’ and I just knew it would work.
MO: Can you share the experience of securing your first deal and the process of negotiating with seasoned deal-makers when you had nothing but a cool idea? What advice would you pass on to someone entering a similar situation?
Daniel: Once I’d created the system, I presented it to the management at what was then Reuters Business Insight. The Research Director loved it. The Sales Director loved it. The Managing Director said “no way!”. It turned out to be the price that he didn’t like. I’d proposed a revenue share agreement and I suddenly realized it was only important to him because he knew what a success it would be. I saw no logic in reducing my cut, so I stood my ground. I think it’s important to command the respect of the deal-makers rather than allowing yourself to be bullied. You should always have your fall back option and be ready to walk – start out nice and try to understand their concerns, but don’t keep it up if their ideas are all about their win and your loss. I’m someone who likes to keep everybody happy and strike win-win deals, so the best advice I was given is that you shouldn’t feel you need to agree to anything there and then – you can always say “thanks for making an offer, it’s still short of what I thought would make this viable, but let me reflect on other options and come back to you.” If you do decide to accept a lower price than you were hoping for, propose that something is taken out of the service you are offering, or agree that the price is a time-limited discount that you’ll review later.
MO: Can you talk our readers through your unique interactive format and how it increases your clients’ revenue and customer retention?
Daniel: The thing that makes our software fundamentally different is that we store each component of a document (e.g. chapters, figures, tables, sections of text) separately. Ordinarily, searches only work at document level but with our unique approach, users can search inside the research to find exactly what they need. They can then extract and use the most pertinent information very efficiently. The interactive format has allowed us to develop a suite of tools to automate the tasks users already do with research. If they needed to create a data model, for example, they could export tables straight from reports into Excel, rather than having to manually retype all the data first. They could also amalgamate information from across their entire research library into an executive summary or a presentation-ready PowerPoint document in a matter of seconds. In the past these jobs would have taken days. The time and effort saved by the end-users of research helps our customers, the publishers, to transform their fortunes. One of our clients for example, Technomic, has increased report revenue by 184%! We’ve designed many features specifically to encourage sales, but the primary reason for publishers’ improved revenue and retention is simply that research users love our software, so they want to buy more content from the publishers who are using it.
MO: Publish Interactive is growing at a rapid pace. Have you faced any challenges in scaling the business accordingly? Have you had to pivot your business model as you evolve?
Daniel: Our business model scales very well – we’re completely self-sufficient financially and we’ve always taken a savings-first approach. Our customers pay us regular subscription fees (we sell on a SaaS basis), which makes it easy to make well-informed choices as we invest in the development of the software and the growth of the company as a whole. I think one of the greatest challenges in any small company is finding the right people to make up the team. Individuals who aren’t the right fit or don’t pull their weight just hinder progress, and this has far more impact for SMEs than it would have in much larger teams.
MO: What are your top tips for leading a successful business team?
Daniel: 1) Set goals within your means. Ambitious long-term strategies are brilliant, but don’t put too much strain on your team, yourself and your finances by chasing unrealistic short-term goals. If your employees are consistently under delivering, consider that you may have lost touch with what to reasonably expect.
2) Respect and listen to every member of staff if you want the best out of them, especially your sales team who share the (sometimes) uncomfortable truth about what your customers want! Also ensure you have fun and celebrate successes with your team. It’s vital that achievements are rewarded so that everybody understands what the business’ development means for them.
3) Identify your own personal limits – be honest with yourself and plan accordingly to compensate. There’s no point trying to be a hero and plugging away at stuff you hate doing. Instead, structure your team and processes so that you can avoid tasks you dislike, otherwise your enthusiasm will be sapped and your ability to grow the business will be limited.
4) Resist the temptation to micro-manage. It’s satisfying in the short-term and makes you feel important, but it ultimately prevents employees growing into their roles and feeling valued. It also stops you developing the business beyond your own limits or ever taking a break.
5) Take a long holiday. If everything runs smoothly in your absence, you’ve done your job properly!
MO: Can you share how your vision and principles have shaped the vision and direction of Publish Interactive and how it sets you apart from your competitors?
Daniel: I firmly believe that your company’s culture is an extension of your personality – be positive, approachable and creative, and this will be replicated within your team. I think it’s very important to establish an environment in which everybody feels valued and genuinely motivated by their work and the business’ goals. As a software company, it’s particularly important that we constantly innovate, so part of my job is to inspire creative thinking and enthusiasm from as many different sources as possible. Because what we do is so unique, we don’t actually have any direct competitors at the moment. I don’t believe in resting on laurels though, and we’ve got some fantastic projects in the pipeline. These should take us to a whole new level of success in the near future, which I know the whole Publish Interactive team is very excited about!
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