When Felix Erken joined Junk Mail in 1998 it was a weekly print publication, a solidly old-school business – but in the 15 years since it’s also become South Africa’s largest online classified advertising site, with a huge mobile reach as well thanks to their custom-developed mobile site. Here he shares some of his best and worst moments.
A few years ago we were in negotiations to buy into a company that had launched some niche magazines. The deal almost fell through because on many occasions the owner of the business just reneged on all we had agreed to and didn’t want to do the deal anymore. Everyone said we should walk away, and I was about to pick up the phone to tell him this when something stopped me. I somehow still believed in the deal and in the owner. Eventually after some long discussions and convincing the owner we would be great partners, we signed the deal. This company has since become the biggest contributor to Junk Mail’s business.
The decision made sense to me because I believed in the business we wanted to partner with. It fitted our style of publication and we had the infrastructure to support it. It was a no-brainer.
The key lesson here is to trust your instincts and be empathetic. I believed that the partnership would work for both parties – it was a win-win situation for us all.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You react to the circumstances at the time, but it’s only later that you can fully assess how good or bad the decision was.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You react to the circumstances at the time, but it’s only later that you can fully assess how good or bad the decision was. So it’s a difficult question to answer.
At one stage we launched a car product that competed with our main product. It was a bit artificial because we took the content from our Junk Mail and reworked it to fit this new product. When after two good months, the new product’s sales stars dropping – and even worse took sales away from Junk Mail – it was clear this product was in no man’s land.
The key lesson here? Don’t be greedy. Don’t compete against yourself just because you can.