Blog | 8 January 2020

How I did it James Waldron, Advertising Manager, Walk

My sales career began with a job that taught me more in seven years than I may learn in the rest of my working life.

I studied media at college (2003-2005), which I failed, as that’s what I did in exams in my younger days – big fat FAIL. It’s not for everyone, and it certainly wasn’t for me. I’m more hands on and learn as much as I can as I go. Just don’t test me on it!

Straight from college, I went to work for the family business, which was a showroom in Knowle (near Solihull) selling bespoke fires, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. I worked alongside my brother, mum and dad. As we all get on so well, it was a pleasure every day (well, most days). My brother and I worked on the sales side. We came up with lots of wild ideas, but in 2008 we all agreed that we had to take the business online and join the forces that were slowing down our showroom sales.

Lots of meetings and data inputting later, we had our own ecommerce website. Within the first 12 months of the launch, we had quadrupled the turnover of the business and become the third largest website in our sector in the UK, with our own warehouse and new offices. Life was good. But nothing lasts forever. After a couple of years, out of nowhere, our top two suppliers pulled the plug on our account as they ‘didn’t agree with selling online’. Overnight, the sales plummeted, and this continued until we were forced to close our beloved family business. It was pretty tough to have the whole family out of work, but it was my catalyst to get up and go. I learned the highs and lows of business and gained a lot from the negatives, too. If only I could have turned back the clock!

Soon after, in 2012, I moved to London. Six interviews later, I was ready to give up and go back to Brum, but I had one more to attend: a 10-person interview for one role at a magazine publisher. You can imagine I wasn’t overly optimistic, based on my recent setback and the volume of candidates I had to get past. I messed up on the ‘tell me about yourself’ section. I lost my train of thought and froze. I screwed up my notes and just talked. I can’t remember what I said, but I was told that my initiative got me the job. So, there I was in London in my first media sales role.

I started on a magazine called Leadership Focus, which was a members’ magazine for the National Association of Head Teachers. This was my first job in media, and I was looking after a magazine on my own! I had a good team and I learned a great deal from them about how to organise myself, my magazine and my client. The foundations of the way I work now are based on the way I did things seven years ago, when I started, because it brought the right results. I was hitting targets and making some good money. I had the buzz back and I loved it.

I worked my way up to sales manager – via about seven other magazines, which crossed both B2B and B2C – to end up on the National Trust account. Here, I sold the National Trust’s first-ever full-page rate card… more than you could imagine for a full-page advert.

I worked on the National Trust account for around 18 months. In terms of magazines, the circulation doesn’t get bigger than the National Trust magazine, so the revenue I was making for Redactive was mind-boggling.

After hitting target on each issue, I felt it was time for a new challenge. I moved to another agency, where I managed a team on baby and toddler magazines. Not exactly my forte, but I gave it a good go for just under a year.

In 2019, I got a call from River to say there was an opening on Walk magazine. I’ve now been here for about six months, and I can see that River is moving in the right direction, winning lots of new business. I’ve become familiar with the account, and I have plenty of knowledge of the market. The feel-good factor is back.

I suppose the moral of this story is that when things go bad, don’t worry. Take the negatives and turn them into positives. Don’t be scared of new ideas. They may work, they may not, but you’ll never know if you don’t try!

Taimen Zlattner
Taimen Zlattner
Social Media Manager & Marketing Executive at The River Group

Taimen is the Social Media Manager and Marketing Executive for The River Group companies, specialising in social media and marketing strategies. Follow her on Instagram @tai_zlattner

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