Meet the MD: Wes Stanton of UK Game Fair

Meet the MD: Wes Stanton of UK Game Fair

From his mum's kitchen to producing a variety of magazines and events, Wes Stanton talked to BQ about his experiences in the publishing industry and the UK Game Fair 2016.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I like to get things moving. I tend to see big-picture opportunities quickly and have a knack for getting the right people in place to make things work. I’m hopeless at routine stuff.


What is it the company does?

My company, Blaze Publishing, produces a variety of magazines and digital products as well as live events like the UK Game Fair. We’ve now been going 16 years and it all started from my mum’s kitchen table. It’s been a while since we spent the weekend stuffing magazines into envelopes but that kind of bottom-up experience is really important.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

‘Career’ seems to be a funny way of looking at it – I’m not a corporate banker, am I? My path to where I am now is largely borne of not having a clue what I wanted to do. I got into publishing by having an unusual knowledge about the sport I used to compete in – clay pigeon shooting – and being fortunate to find a job that needed that knowledge. I moved on by being unceremoniously sacked from Clay Shooting. The owner at the time – or more specifically his wife – thought I was too big for my boots. I was. I bought the title seven years later and still own it.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

People will forgive all manner of character flaws and traits provided there is a clarity of vision and direction for the business. But being a human being, talking to people as people with respect for their commercial and personal sensibilities is important.

Leadership is, in my opinion, more about what you do than who you are – though I do think you need to take people with you and appeal to their desire to be part of something, rather than bang the table and make demands while keeping them in isolation.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

As MD of the publishing company, perhaps the biggest challenge was in 2008, when we bought a title immediately before the credit crunch. It lost a fortune in four months and risked the overall business – and at the time, the Euro was at parity with Sterling and our paper prices across the company soared by over 30%. I managed to get the costs under control, and got it to break even for a year before we sold it. But it was the most miserable experience for all involved.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

My wife said a few years ago that I should either get a personal trainer or a solicitor. I opted for the personal trainer and now enjoy long-distance running, and ran two marathons last year, and have more planned for 2016. I like it because there is very little about it that is cerebral, so it provides an excellent way to switch off from work.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A number of things: a chemist, an explosives engineer or a veterinary surgeon. I wasn’t academic enough to be any of these things.


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

People who spend time looking busy but being unproductive. They tend to be the most resistant to management.


Where do you see the company in five years time?

Someone far wiser than me once said never overestimate what you can achieve in a year, and never under-estimate what you can achieve in ten. My vision is for the next year, ensuring we do the rights things with our new show, and then we will continue to explore the opportunities on the periphery of the markets in which we have strength.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Work hard. Keep working hard. Then work harder. And work hardest at keeping your sense of humour.