Getting To Know You: Simon Cox, CEO, Peach

Simon Cox Peach

Simon Cox the CEO of Peach explains how the business started as a result of a problem in radio advertising and is a now technology-based service for all media.

What do you currently do at Peach?

I am the CEO, a role I’ve held since 2006. I work in several different ways.   On the one hand I aim to give the company clear goals and keep it focussed on them; it’s easy to get distracted. The less you know about a new business the more attractive it is, so it’s tempting to stray towards the new.

Hiring and keeping great people is another vital part of the role and ingredient for success. My own background is in corporate development – acquiring and investing in other companies – and that’s something I typically get very involved in each year.

Peach (formerly Group IMD) provides a technology-based service joining up the advertising and media industries. Once a video advertisement is finished and approved by a client at the end of its production process, its workflow needs to be managed to get it a range of different destinations, whether broadcasters, online publishers or technology platforms that “serve” the ad to consumers.

Peach does this by connecting production sources with media.  We quality control the video files that are uploaded into our cloud-based software platform. We let people or systems that have a media plan enter it; this tells us where the ad needs to go.

Then we reformat the ad in several different ways so it will play nicely when it reaches each destination in the plan. Finally we let the people involved in the ad’s campaign know it’s arrived and archive a copy of it for their future reference.

We do this in over 100 countries and have local sales forces and support staff on the ground in 30 working from 40 different locations.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

It started with a problem in radio advertising. Charles Dunstone had founded Carphone Warehouse, and as a retailer he wanted to launch radio campaigns at short notice promoting his latest offers. At the time radio ads were delivered on tape to radio stations using couriers or using a very expensive satellite system that only worked at certain times; it was all very slow.

David Haynes had run LBC, the first commercial radio station in the UK and realised that his advertisers were frustrated.  So the two invested in “IMD”, Peach’s first outing as an online radio ad delivery company.  It was hugely successful and became the industry standard for getting ads to radio stations in less than two years.

A few years later, it became obvious that TV ad workflow from production to media needed the same transformation and Peach created that larger market first in the UK and then across the world to dispense with tapes and couriers in favour of faster, greener and more automated online video ad workflow.

Who do you admire?

Charles Dunstone.  He’s successfully built two businesses; Carphone Warehouse and Talk Talk.  While Peach was a public company (IMD plc) he sat on our board and I worked with him for six years. He’s incisive and has a great marketing mind.

I remember when I brought my first acquisition to the board.  He asked, “How will it help our core business?” suggesting perhaps we shouldn’t do the deal it if wasn’t of any help to our existing business. It was the right question to ask, he’d spotted that I didn’t have a solid synergy based reason to do the deal.

We did it anyway for financial reasons, which worked out; in the end Charles didn’t block me. The point about Charles is that he is an extraordinarily decent, humble man. He’s proof that you don’t have to be a ruthless to become a billionaire.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

I should have fought more in early 2009 when David Haynes our founder forced me to pull out of one of our two new start up territories because they were both loss making and the world was being turned upside down in the wake of the Lehman crisis. I chose to shut down Spain rather than France.

I’d hired a fantastic country manager for Spain who left and joined our competitor after a non-compete period. She’s since built a large business for them which dominates the Spanish market.  As it turned out we weathered the recession well as we were bringing a solution that saved money and grew rapidly in new markets so there had been no reason to pull back.

What defines your way of doing business?

Combining humility, patience and determination. Everyone should be respected and listened to carefully. That way you can build trust in Shanghai or Santiago de Chile, in Tokyo or Mumbai and at home. I don’t have an office; we work in open plan and I don’t have a PA. Every month colleagues and I deliver a video update on the business to everyone globally so that everyone understands the broader context of what they do.

Determination has been essential in our business. For example when we arrived in Japan after introducing our service successfully to most countries in Europe as well as India and China, we hoped that we could convert the Japanese market in a year or two. However, despite their innovation and technological prowess in some fields, the Japanese advertising and media industries weren’t prepared to follow the same pattern as other countries we had entered.

Instead the industry embarked on a series of industry committees, workshops, studies and overseas visits to decide how to best go about the change we were trying to bring. The Japanese like to do things thoroughly and they came up with an innovative solution. This took 5 years.

All the time we maintained a presence in Japan and kept up a dialogue. I visited twice a year. When the industry eventually opened the doors to the online delivery of TV ads we were lucky enough to deliver the first campaign for Shiseido the leading Japanese cosmetics company.  And now, despite competition from six local players, we are number 2 in the market.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Stay focussed.  If you half answer a lot of business problems you get nowhere. Few businesses are that easy to get going, so the one you pick will need loads of concentrated energy; don’t dilute it.

If you believe that you’ll succeed you will. I really wanted to buy our competitor in China and believed that its seller was an honest man and would close a fair deal which we did in the end. But the negotiations and our due diligence were difficult and the deal almost collapsed several times.  I kept on believing that we’d get there and we did.