Target Chronicles part four: 10 years ago

The highs and lows that breed resilience

In this article, I am looking at the decade from 1997 to 2007, by which time the optimism of the previous decade had been given a good kicking.

After 1997 things had continued to go pretty well for a while with returns from the TDA investment increasing and Target’s PR division continuing to grow, but the advertising/creative side of the business began to stagnate. However, there was still plenty of fat on the bone and many reasons to look forward with optimism, when a plan was executed in 2000 to use the company funds to buy back Patrick’s shares over a period of three years, assisted in 2002 by Target selling its remaining shareholding back to the other TDA shareholders.

Four of us became owners of the Target business, but with the different pressures of being a shareholder two left very quickly. Other directors and shareholders were brought in and for a while things started to improve. In 2002 we celebrated our 25th Anniversary with a splendid 1970s-themed party and spirits were high. The mid 2000s saw some big wins; Lloyds TSB and Stroud & Swindon on the creative side and Specsavers, Jewson, Powergen and GR Lane on the PR side.

By 2004, after establishing and leading the PR business for eight years growing from just her to an award-winning team of 15 and becoming a Top 100 consultancy, Sheena Brand reluctantly resigned as a group director/shareholder. She could not agree with decisions being made regarding the management of the advertising side of the business; these would prove to be decisions and well-intentioned strategies that actually reduced our new business pipeline.

When the revenue from the creative side began to fall in 2005, I became very concerned that my sound business philosophy of making sure that costs are in line with future revenues was being ignored; pay rises and new staff were taken on, when future revenues were forecast to drop.

The crunch point came in January 2006. After an extended Christmas Break I decided that I could no longer work in an environment where my advice was being ignored, only to find that the MD had decided to resign. But this wasn’t to be a straight-forward departure, having broken a number of terms of his contract. After protracted negotiations, I bought the shares and became the majority shareholder of Target.

Another director resigned shortly afterwards, so it was time to refocus and almost start again. Sarah Bryars took over the leadership of PR and Zak McKinven advertising/creative. Sarah and Zak worked very well together and a number of integrated projects were won including an award-winning project to support Gloucestershire Tourism in the wake of the 2007 floods, and the stationery business Staedtler.

We’d come through the most difficult time of my career and a period that had been unsettling for staff. Directors are not going to agree on everything all the time, but having a defined strategy and ability to work together is vital. It’s this that has seen us through the past decade and come out on top despite life’s challenges; our next test would be the rise and fall of the economic storms. More of that in my next post!

Away from Target, 2007 saw Gordon Brown take over as Prime Minister in May, Chelsea beat Manchester United to win the first FA Cup Final at the refurbished Wembley, and Gloucestershire was hit with flooding in July.