Meet Jo Bottrill, Managing Director, Newgen UK. Jo’s career in publishing spans more than two decades. He’s seen a significant amount of disruption in the publishing space. In the article below, he shares not only his learnings and views thus far, but also what motivates him to forge ahead.
‘The publishing industry is no stranger to crisis, and so as a whole the industry has kept trucking through the recent global issues relatively unfazed. In recent memory the e-book marked the demise of publishing, and before that the invention of the wireless, the television, the advent of desktop publishing – all of these developments prompted a debate about the future of publishing. Now we face the existential threat of Artificial Intelligence along with disruption from Open Access, and yet consumers, teachers and learners alike all demand original, well-constructed and imaginative stories and teaching. Somewhere along the way there is a role for a publisher in curating and facilitating that creative process and in distributing the results.’
These are some shrewd observations from Jo Bottrill, Managing Director for Newgen UK. He continues, ‘Don’t get me wrong, I understand this argument sounds complacent, and our industry is crying out for change in so many ways, but the centuries old art of publishing content is set to continue I have no doubt. As a service provider I am in the unique position of being able to help improve the bottom-line results of a whole host of publishing businesses, whilst enjoying the process of moving content from the imagination of the author to the page or screen of the consumer or learner. As I’ve progressed, first through the publishing industry and now through the world of publishing services, I have learnt an enormous amount about business, about running a profitable enterprise and about managing operations efficiently. The drive to improve services to publishers and their readers, whilst increasing the bottom line for all involved keeps me going.’
To Jo, being open and honest, sharing problems and being responsive are the routes to success both in teams and in business. As a service provider he admits there is a pressure to have all of the answers to all of the problems, but as a responsible member of a complex supply chain, he feels there is a much wider responsibility to debate and experiment – innovation rarely happens in a vacuum and by taking our well-deserved place in a fast-changing industry, one has a huge opportunity to create a successful future. As the services industry continues to consolidate the importance of relationship and partnership grow ever more vital to delivering successful outcomes.
Jo has worked with Newgen in some fashion for most of his career, but it’s only after he’s been in the business that he appreciates the unique and special culture of the place. This came to the fore during the Covid pandemic, when the company’s open, flexible and supportive culture helped the organization and individuals alike get through some of their toughest times. To him, Newgen is refreshingly flexible with its staff – expecting high standards of work and a good level of commitment but affording the individual the maximum flexibility as to where, when and how the work gets done. As a leader in the business he is given a huge amount of latitude to manage his teams and operations, a freedom and responsibility that takes some time to adjust to. That freedom is balanced by an open-door approach to problems. He says, ‘As leaders we know that a problem shared is a problem halved, and work hard to encourage allcomers to share their challenges and the blockers to our progress so that we can own them as a unit and move forward together. That takes some humility to embrace, a strength I am yet to master.’
Jo also says, ‘Although I occupy a leadership role in the business, there’s nothing I like more than getting my hands into a workflow, talking to an author or working on a production challenge. Sometimes my tendency to get stuck in is to the detriment of our progress in other areas, and our ability to adapt and learn as an organization. Knowing when not to dive in is my toughest challenge right now!’
Publishing, first and foremost, is a people business. Newgen’s success relies on the inventiveness, commitment, creativity and resilience of everyone who works for the company. He adds, ‘The pandemic helped us unshackle recruitment from our physical locations, and now we welcome people into the business from all over the world. This is gradually helping us become a more diverse organization and our work from anywhere culture has been a huge leveller – now you don’t need to be in the office to hear the latest news, to talk to a manager or to connect with a colleague from another part of the world. For us, not going back to the office has helped us be more connected, but this brings its own challenges. Checking on the wellbeing of a colleague, managing difficult conversations and fostering a team ethos are different now and we have to continuously work at keeping everyone actively engaged and connected.’
In a business and an industry such as this, the ability to lead people through a changing landscape and being able to think creatively about operational and resourcing challenges are at the top of the toolkit. Reducing a problem down to its simplest root cause is a powerful skill when approaching operational and workflow challenges. Jo says, ‘Leading teams in a global business affords me the opportunity to bring people together from across the business, and from across the world, working on new opportunities in a creative and efficient way. Leading diverse and dynamic teams in this way is hugely rewarding and makes Newgen an exciting place to work.’