Striking a balance – The Times news article 30th September
Brothers balance needs to keep company on track
The two publishers have to make an effort to separate work from family life, they found they needed to delegate more too
Name David Allan
Position Group chairman
Company name Ian Allan Group
Growth trajectory “We are expanding in property, travel and organics”
“Travel is still growing, motor is stagnant, publishing is doing better with fewer titles — turnover is down but profitability is up.
Overall, the group is holding its own and we are about to expand in travel, property and organics. These are our growth markets,” says David Allan who, together with his brother Paul, heads the group of companies that began when his father published the first train-spotters’ guide in 1942.
Juggling the needs of the many different companies in the Ian Allan group is a balancing act that the brothers share. Paul Allan’s training was in travel and he is very interested in motor cars.
“I am a military historian and interested in history and my background is in publishing and printing,” says David Allan. “In the 15 years since my father retired, Paul and I have become more central to the company and he’s in charge of travel and motor, while I am in charge of publishing and Chase Organics. That’s basically how we balance it.” The two also delegate to a management team who have in-depth knowledge of the different specialist markets.
Nonetheless, Allan still finds it difficult to remain strategic and not to get involved in details. “You have to be disciplined and not let yourself get dragged into the day-to-day, getting too involved. We all police each other,” he says.
“Probably when I first became a managing director I was far too involved in the details and had to make a conscious effort to separate myself. [I had to] let others make decisions and go with what they recommended. It was hard if it was a project I was really strongly committed to, but you do need to listen to advice. It is a team game,” he says.
Allan also emphasises the need to separate family and work. “It’s quite difficult. We all used to talk business all the time but it is quite important to keep family life separate from business life so you can relax and talk to people as people. We manage that quite well, I think.”
He does add, however: “I enjoy publishing, and publishing on subjects I really enjoy, so it is difficult to separate my hobbies from work.” He also keeps in touch with the office while on holiday. “I take an iPad with me and do a few hours every day on it. It does mean I don’t relax completely but I don’t want to spend hours catching up when I get back to the office, so it makes sense.”