- Company: New Media Publishing
- Player: Irna van Zyl, founding director
- Visit: www.newmediapub.co.za
Related: What Type of Entrepreneur Are You?
Irna van Zyl is one of the founding directors of New Media Publishing, one of South Africa’s most successful media houses. Having founded the company in 1991 and growing from five employees to over 250, she has a wealth of knowledge on partnerships, leadership and hard decisions.
What do you attribute the growth and success of your company to?
You can’t grow a successful business by doing everything yourself. We’re a partnership of three — myself as executive director (ED), our MD Bridget McCarney, and co-founder and FD John Psillos. Making partnerships work isn’t easy, and with three people you end up with a triangle when the best structure is a circle.
In the early days we decided there’d be no MD, but soon realised a good company needs a strong leader. We brought on McCarney in the early 2000s, and through her skill, vision and leadership, the company has grown by around 500% in ten years.
Describe a critical business lesson learnt
Be humble, but temper it with confidence in what you believe. You’re only as good as your last project and today’s success is no guarantee of tomorrow’s.
We learnt this the hard way when we lost the Edgars Club account. We were dealing with a manager and we failed to press our expertise and beliefs. In retrospect we should’ve gone over her head to the Marketing Director.
Surely there’s risk in doing that?
Absolutely! But when it’s well-motivated and in the best interest of the client, it’s a risk you must be prepared to take. There are ways of going about it without being rude. It can’t be about your ego or general disagreement, but because it’s right for your client’s business.
How do you foster collaboration?
It’s productive to brainstorm as individual ideas can be improved after collaborating. Constructive collaboration comes from company culture where we foster open debate. Our values are C3RLE (curiosity, creativity, client service, respect, leadership and excellence).
With these values in mind, debate is always polite, constructive, and we honour good work done before moving to the next level.
What is the best advice you ever received?
It was to set goals. My executive coach taught me that you can only achieve big things by doing little things every day. You can’t have a grandiose idea and think you’re going to get there in one big jump overnight. You have to build a business stone by stone, lay good foundations and, years later, you’ll see you’ve built something amazing.
What lessons have you learnt in walking away?
McCarney’s vision for the company of ‘through less we could do more,’ guided us to cut loose some under-performing projects. When we saw the immediate benefit to the bottom line it reinforced the feeling that we’d made a good, albeit hard decision.