Simon Leslie

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Always look on the bright side of life…

If there’s one thing that’s certain about the travel industry right now, it’s that there is no certainty anywhere. Not a jot.

No one really knows when they’ll be able to jump on a plane again with any kind of freedom. Or whether the destination they’re heading to will even allow them to disembark if they do get a flight. And that’s before we talk about the visitor quarantines that will doubtless feature in any future holiday planning.

Assuming you do secure that flight and the borders are open, then what? At the airport, how much longer will you need to build into your journey to clear security and how is social distancing going to be enforced – both on the ground and in the air? What kind of PPE might you be required to wear?

All of the above is undoubtably true and worth thinking about, but it’s also undoubtably thinking that’s based on perception and fear, rather than the broader reality that’s forming alongside it. Already, we’re seeing airlines taking to the skies again: Etihad has just resumed flights from London to Australia, with Emirates following suit; while some European carriers – Wizz and Ryanair, for example – are making bold, headline-grabbing predictions about getting their fleets back in the air as early as next month. I don’t doubt it will spark a domino effect among other airlines, too.

We also know – for a fact – that people are increasingly desperate to travel. You just need to witness the daily increasing numbers searching for flights to see that.

Put those factors together and it’s safe to assume that we will all be travelling sooner than we think – even if the journey itself is more painful than it was before the Covid-19 outbreak. The industry will find a way to make it happen, and we’ll just put up with it. There will be short term over reaction. If we are kind, sympathetic and considerate to our fellow passengers, remember the hygiene rules, life will be even better than before.

And you know what? When we get to where we’re going, that feeling will be just as glorious and life-affirming as it was before – if not more so. The flight forgotten in an instance. Why? Because we’ll no longer take any of it for granted. As soon as you’re lying on that beach or enjoying that first margarita, or just connecting with friends you’ve not seen for a while in a familiar far-off place, you will feel more alive. I guarantee it.

The pictures on social media will change from the doom mongers, to pictures of people enjoying themselves once again. The FOMO will kick in. The prices will be attractive enough for you to put fear aside and go and live your life.

I’m so certain, in fact, that we’ve just made a short film about this very subject, which I’d urge you to watch if you’re feeling depressed about the future, as it that makes this case far better than I can here. In imagining just how we’ll all feel when we’re finally allowed to travel again (hint: bloody marvellous) and just what we’ll be doing (going everywhere, seeing everything, hugging everyone), it a provides what I think is a real reason to be cheerful about the future amidst all this uncertainty.


The power of storytelling

When the market comes back – as it will – how can you make sure visitors choose your destination, airline or hotel as their first choice? By telling them a really great story – a story about you

There’s an old saying that nicely underlines why storytelling is so important to the travel industry: “I’m not sure what I want,” the saying goes, “but I’ll know it when I see it.”

Because nobody really knows that they want to go scuba diving in Tahiti or enjoy wine tasting in Santorini until someone else has put that idea in their head. 

Before they’ve booked their trip, they’ve first dreamed about it. And, more than likely, that dream has been inspired by something that they’ve heard, read or seen.

It’s upon this concept that the business of promoting global tourism is founded.  

As the CEO of a global travel media company, producing magazines, video and digital content for some of the world’s biggest airlines, we’ve been inspiring the choices of travellers for more than 26 years. In that time, we’ve helped many, many thousands of our travel and tourism partners to bring many, many millions of people to them with the stories that we’ve told. 

It’s astonishing how the adverts, magazine features and documentaries we’ve made have helped all those millions of customers choose one particular place over every other destination on the planet. Let me give you an example.

We produce a monthly travel show for United Airlines, which runs on its inflight entertainment system. Each episode features a video guide to a destination on the United route network, called Three Perfect Days. What makes our video different is that viewers are shown around by locals, be they tour guides, business owners or local celebrities.  

The very first one we made, back in 2018, was for Springdale in Utah. As a destination, they’d never done anything like this before, but just from featuring in our show, their room nights and visitor numbers shot up astronomically. This was a place with only one hotel. It’s tiny so you could easily see the uptick when people suddenly started arriving. Everyone in the local tourism industry was so happy with the story we told that we still hear from them, more than two years later. 

And remember, it’s one thing convincing people to spend their hard-earned savings on a trip to London, Paris or New York – everybody already knows how great these places are – but to encourage people to go to Springdale? That requires a big shift in perception.

So, what made our narrative so engaging? Aside from the stunning footage, which showcased the area’s natural beauty quite brilliantly, the fact that the message was delivered by real people was the clincher. It told a real story, rather than just relying on information from a guidebook.

There’s a statistic that perfectly illustrates why this method of delivery is so much more impactful for driving engagement: according to the cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a compelling story. 

Stories evoke excitement or suspense. The best ones actually encourage you to picture yourself in them – something psychologists refer to as “narrative transport” – and the emotional response they trigger is far deeper and longer-lasting than anything a simple statistic can achieve. 

Think about it: when it comes to booking your next holiday, are you more likely to choose Grenada because you’ve heard it has 45 beaches or because you’ve heard that the sand on those beaches is powder-soft and pearlescent, and shimmers pink as the sun sets? I know what makes me want to visit.

Now, more than ever, the travel industry needs great stories. Global tourism is under existential threat. We have already experienced, first-hand, the impact this crisis has had on some of our longest-serving clients and airline partners. But stories can help us to heal. In the short term, they transport us to far-off climes at a time when we’re unable to leave our homes. And when the recovery begins – as it will – people all over the world will be hungry for inspiration. Many millions will be excitedly asking, “Where shall we go first?”

When that happens, our industry needs to be ready. Time was when all a destination needed to market itself was a shot of sparkling blue waters, powdery sands or snow-capped mountains under a dreamy slogan, and you’d have visitors queueing up. 

Today, with cheaper flights and more destinations than ever before, not to mention the vast range of media through which people can be targeted, everyone is going to have to work very much harder to get their stories across.

When we started Ink in 1994, somewhere in the region of 1.2 billion people used air travel. Last year, that figure was nearly four times as many. In Europe alone there are around eight times as many routes as there were in the early 1990s. The choice today is mind boggling, and when travel comes back, every destination will be trying its level best to bring visitors in. 

Part of how they’re going to do this is by lowering prices – mark my words, there is going to be an epic price war – but it’s the destinations that cut through the noise by telling the best, most compelling stories that will be the most successful. 

I think there’s huge opportunity here, especially if you’re smart. It’s never been cheaper, for example, for Americans to visit Europe or anywhere else in the world, so now is the time to market to those millions of US tourists. Likewise, places that we’ve all taken for granted – the Londons and the New Yorks – will need to work just as hard as those under-the-radar gems to rebuild confidence and remind everyone why they’re so amazing. And this is where we can help.

For travellers it’s going to be an extremely exciting time, so I’m already looking forward with optimism. Back in 2008 during the last global recession, I was in Palawan in the Philippines. That was a similar period of global upheaval, and for an island so heavily reliant on tourism, you’d expect there to be a feeling of doom and gloom – but not in the slightest. We were there visiting as guests of the mayor, and during one lunch together, he turned to me and said he wanted to thank us. 

I said, “What are you doing, thanking me? We’re the ones who are enjoying this amazing food in a tropical paradise.” 

And he said: “If you didn’t bring travellers here, we wouldn’t have the lights on the street, the clean roads or the schools for our children. You don’t realise how important tourism is to our economy.”

It was a humbling moment, but one that really resonated with me at the time, and the message has an even more powerful meaning today. Now, as then, it’s storytelling that can help us to rebuild, it’s storytelling that can get the world moving again. 

So please, give us a call, send us an email. And let’s talk about how we can tell your story.


What do we need to change?

We didn’t choose these circumstances; we are choosing how we respond to them. It’s my second week working from my new office, the kids are screaming at the wife, exercise is giving me neck pains. Zoom after zoom call, catching up with people who I don’t normally have time to chat with. I want to bring inspiration to my teams and I get to inspire myself.

The message from around the world is confusing, different and totally inconsistent instructions. No one seems to know the right thing to do. The virus is real and there is no point debating how many would have, could have or comparing it to other diseases or car crashes. Its vicious and acts quickly. This is a much bigger problem than just Ink or the travel industry.

All I know is when this passes, myself and my team will be ready to take on the world, to embrace whatever the new normal looks like. And to be honest every day it becomes un-clearer what that could be. All I know is I have the best sales team on the planet, and they will sell the best products, whatever they are.

I get my energy from my people, I get my energy from doing stuff. So, this energy is different and unnatural. Yet I believe its helping to shape me to think differently and helping my teams to reset and rebalance themselves. 

Whenever we emerge, we wont just fall back into the old way of doing and thinking, I do hope that the world thinks more about this type of existence. Simple and caring. Our business has been built on caring for our people, on showing them how to grow and develop and I will not stop in my purpose in making every single one of them better.

I’m not sure if this is helpful to you reading, but it’s been cathartic for me to put this down.

It’s a perfect time for us all to work out what we want to do together. Who we want to work with, and what we can do in unity without battling each other to win?

Anyone want to join us, any companies want to join forces? This is the time.


It’s all about TRAVEL

Trust is built on telling the truth, not just telling people what they want to hear

 Right now, people are worried by panic driven headlines. As CEO of a global travel media company the situation has actually given me clarity and opportunity.  What this situation and the headlines have proved to me, and to the world, is just how damn important the travel industry is to people globally.  You, me, your neighbours, families, friends, businesspeople, politicians, celebrities – just about everyone on the planet is interested in travel.  My customers.  Your customers.  Every headline is about a route cancellation, an outbreak in a market/destination, an inability to get fresh foods to market and way too many profit warnings.  Everyone, wants or needs to travel and now when there is a question mark over something that, is taken for granted, the world is having the brakes applied and we don’t like it one bit.     

Travel is so vitally important to the world, this tells me my media and my channels are being grossly undervalued by brands. And when the foot on the world’s accelerator pedal is applied again, I am going to do everything in my power to get this message out to businesses. I think I need to put my prices up.

Today while many lose focus, business owners like me are sitting down with colleagues having power breakfasts, and flying to meet clients around the world. To many of us life goes on, we don’t have a choice. We can all blame circumstance for our failings. But it’s not true. Business’s fail because they were not good enough, someone did it better, cheaper with a wider smile and a bigger why.  

The very best brands will be visible during this uncertainty. To ensure they come on top of people’s mind when they start thinking about booking again. 

I talk a lot about the 78% rule in my book, There is No F In Sales, it’s a fact if 78% of businesses went bust this weekend, no one would really care. This current uncertainty gives us all an opportunity to look at our business and work out where we can do better, where we can add more value to others and where we need to cut fat. You are wasting huge amounts of money on marketing that doesn’t even get seen by the people, you intended it to.

I am seeing companies blame the situation for performance, for challenging supply chains and weaker profits. These are problems caused by focusing on cheaper ways to operate businesses and marketing the emperor’s new clothes.

Now they are gone, what do you do? You do what you should have been doing all along, looking at the markets you have ignored. China was once the solution. China is now the problem. I was reluctant to bet on China, I believe there are so many more markets which offer brands much better and safer returns. 

Today, I am chasing engagement, as I have always done for 26 years. I insist we have people’s attention, and concentrating on how we can help brands get their message in front of them. My empathy lies with my fellow CEOs, especially those watching their share price plummet in the airline space, and as one heavily invested in airline brands and stocks, I am feeling the pain personally also. I believe wholeheartedly in my industry and I invest heavily into it and will continue to do so. 

Business needs travellers to keep the world moving, we all need to see, smell and experience the wonders of this planet – the headlines prove that. We all need to think about the environment too, and we as a business have committed to being 100% carbon neutral this year.  

Ink are doing everything as a business to inspire a generation about where and what to see in the world.   Today we need more leadership from our governments. We need the media to give real facts and stop the hysterical headlines.  And this too shall pass.

Simon Leslie, is author of There is NO F In Sales, and joint Chief Executive of Ink – a company dedicated to shaping the travel media industry.


A day in the life of a busy executive

It dawned on me this morning, that my day yesterday is how a business executive consumes media. I started the day at The World Trade Center, took four Uber’s during the day, had no time to really consume the vast amount noise from advertisers all over the city. On cabs, billboards, in lifts in the hundred of magazines sat in piles on reception tables. They all want my attention and sadly I missed them all. As I rushed to the airport I was looking forward to my glass of wine and sushi, where I sat for two hours in front of the amazing TV channel where the people around me were equally fixated by the content and advertisers. These are hard to reach, affluent, fast moving consumers with money to spend and I spent nearly $100 entertaining myself. As I boarded the flight to Miami I had three hours to relax, unwind and reflect on my day and I did it with my trusted companion the inflight magazine. I so want to go to Delhi now, I want to be able to do the NY times crossword (thanks to person who started it off for me). I also saw the Untuckit shirts I bought in Fifth Avenue just a few days earlier. The brands and I resonate, the Masterclass product which I was given for Christmas, the R M Williams shoes that I own two pairs. On the TV the charities we support are important to my own growth and giving in our business.

I learnt that Rio Grande in Texas could be an interesting place to set up business. And the Holiday Inn hotels want you to feel at home. There is no place like the travel journey to infiltrate your memory banks. If you are not using travel media in your campaigns you are missing out on people like me. Who travel hundreds of times a year, spend in hotels, restaurants and entertaining. I also like to have the latest gadgets, nice things that remind me of places I have visited.

Think about it yourself, it works!


An open letter to Bo Sacks

Dear Bo Sacks

I love reading your daily emails. Why the hell are they so depressing right now. Why is everyone talking things down. Why don’t we talk the market up, it’s really a great time to be in business. My print is up high single digit in January, and that is a really disappointing start to the year. We can do so much better. More companies are open to spending on great ideas – in whatever medium makes sense. Let’s stop the negative narrative, if people don’t believe in their business with all their heart they should find a company or product that brings out the hunger and desire to make a difference.

Enjoy what you do, be proud of our industry and stop telling yourself it’s hard, it’s not hard.

If you want to know the ingredients for our success buy my book There is No F IN Sales (, yes this is a blatant plug. I want nothing more than a media sector that is booming. All the profits are going to charity so as well as giving you a blueprint for a positive future you are giving back at the same time.

If your employer is not giving you great products and has a real cause to believe in, come to talk to us. We are going to have another bumper year in 2020. Joinus in London, Miami and Singapore.

And we are going to travel the world, having fun doing it.

Simon Leslie


A New Global Economy

The Sky has no limits…

We very much enjoy working with the “world’s local bank” HSBC, but we love them a whole lot more right now because they have just shone a very big, bright light onto the value of our huge global audience of real passengers and consumers in the sky with a new piece of independent research.

They tell us that 11.9 million people are flying around the world each day and they are a soaring economy worth $400.5 billion annually with more than $1.26 billion being added every day! Every single day – just think of that: it’s a proper snapshot of today’s modern, global citizens.

In GDP terms, that makes the sky the 25th biggest “country” in the world, and I think they are undercooking it. It’s really obvious from the report’s findings that airline passengers are also a very desirable customer base for any brand today. They have money, education and spend like no others. So, as we enter the big travel season, isn’t it time to make sure you are targeting this highly affluent bunch of real people, and to get your brand into their hands? These coming months will see more people taking to the skies than ever before. That’s millions of real spenders travelling to airports very close to the shops selling your products, visiting your cities and hotels or people needing your services online. A chance to get high-volume visibility before your competitors do.

Consumer spending in Q4 is always the highest, the market is currently booming, retailers are saying this is best they have seen in years. Well, we have those real consumers on board. This year has seen amazing results for our customers, across multiple categories – so, come and talk to us about getting your brand is front of them. Or, as HSBC says: “Together we thrive”.

Connect your brand with a new global economy – talk to us:

Europe, Africa & Middle East –  | t: +44 20 7625 0911 

North & South America –  |  t: +1 (786) 292-0464

Asia –  | t: +65 06 302 2377



Trust the media?

As the 45th president of the United States throws the news media in to its daily tail and head spin, it has been interesting to see his regular attacks on some of the world’s most powerful media outlets and its journalists develop, intensify and push to ever new boundaries. I generally find that those “Fake News” peddlers (as Trump calls them) generally work tirelessly to find the “truth” or, at worst, their own truth. So, from this corner of the media – we tend to read, digest and keep a distant but supportive arm around the pillar that is a functioning free press. But it’s got my mind running to try to understand and to try to predict what this means for travel media. If anything at all.

We create monthly print and regular video media for the world’s largest travel companies including: American Airlines, United Airlines, Amtrak, and Singapore Airlines (to name just a few) and I think they are starting to see a powerful trend in media consumption onboard their trains and planes. A fact that new independent data is backing up. Maybe I’m conflating two things, but we are really seeing more and more people reading our media and engaging with us than ever before – at exactly the same time as news, radio and TV media are in a downward spiral. But we have to dig down a bit and ask why?

Cut to a conversation I had with a good friend here in the USA, who said that she has now stopped watching the TV news, hasn’t read a newspaper in years and recently deleted Facebook. She has had enough. She is a respected professional in the medical world in Houston, and 2 weeks ago she took an American Airlines flight to Miami and said that she really enjoyed the inflight magazine. She wanted to consume, read in peace and be stimulated whilst traveling at 28,000ft, but she like the fact that the editorial avoided anything political, controversial or indeed negative. i.e. It was an all-round positive read for her.

So, does this go some of the way to help explain that our publication American Way magazine for American Airlines has seen a 25% increase in the last 2 years according to industry analysts and gurus GfK MRI? And a +117% audience increase in the last 5 years? Sure, we all know that more and more people are flying each year (around an industry average of +3 – 5% year on year growth) and we do expect passenger numbers to DOUBLE by 2036 according to IATA; BUT I think this phenomenal growth is very interesting.    

We already know that the “captive” nature of a plane or train is a very powerful engagement tool for media and brands today, but this becomes a much more potent ingredient when they are seeing their precious advertising money fail in the digital advertising space. With our magazines, not only do we have growing numbers of readers, we also know how affluent those flyers are and how much they like to consume. But the big point here is also the simplest. The people who fly are actual people. You know. Living breathing, consuming humans. And NOT bot farms or part of the fake news nonsense that we are being bombarded with.

So, what the conclusion here? And more importantly: What’s the prediction? Well here goes: I think in the next few years, and the ever-growing number of accusations of fake news and people’s reaction to it, consumers are going to look to its trusted brands for information. Think about it. American Airlines and United (and all of our clients, for that matter) consistently get you from A to B, day in day out, and have been doing so for year and years. They keep you safe, they get you to your loved ones. They open your eyes to world. So, we already trust them and can authentically trust their information. Imagine this. Would you trust the Editor of American Way Magazine (first launched 1966) writing and saying that a hotel is the best in the world? Or reading a silly review that is most likely created by a friend of the owners on Trip advisor?

To advertise with one of our trusted airlines contact Steve Rowbotham: or +44 20 7625 0911 or +447968 141 196 


Magazine Power – Facebook ‘Grow’

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery (Oscar Wilde), then we have just received the biggest uplifting windy blow of positive smoke the world has ever known.

Wait for it: the globe’s largest digital (social) media company, Facebook, has just launched a paper magazine, and to top this off, they have chosen to distribute it in the powerful travel media space – specifically, airport lounges – to ensure that they get into the hands of the world’s “business leaders”.

Heard this travel media story before somewhere? Cough, cough, cough.

Let’s add some more scoops of delicious icing onto this spectacularly magazine-shaped cake, shall we? They have (in all seriousness) named their publication Grow. Now, just in case there are any doubters out there, Grow most probably isn’t referring to the 583 million fake profiles that Facebook recently took down, it’s more likely to be a reflection of how they see this “high-end” magazine market going. But who knows? I’m just guessing.

When all of that positive smoke clears, it’s pretty obvious to see that Facebook has gone out of its way to deliberately choose print in the travel space to get the maximum impact that it needs. And trust me, it will work well from them in practical terms – if not PR.

 We salute you for doing this and thank you for proving, once and for all, that travel media reigns supreme and stands out head and shoulders above all other media platforms today. Ironically inflight media is expected to DOUBLE in size in the next two decades** as more (real) people take to the skies. That is what we call “Growing”. What do you make of that, Facebook bot farms?

Facebook has chosen the successful free-to-consumer strategy that all inflight magazines follow, but they say they are not a magazine…? How odd.

“Grow by Facebook is a business marketing program that shares thought leadership content directly with our clients through an annual event as well as print and online marketing channels,” Leila Woodington, Facebook’s head of business marketing for Northern Europe, said in a statement. “We do not sell any advertising or charge for any of the events or content as this is purely intended for marketing communications purposes.”

It’s a mag, one that is available in British Airways lounges. Your own tagline on the cover reads: “A quarterly magazine for business leaders.” You are publishing a magazine. You are a publisher. Get over yourselves. And while I am on the soap box, you are a media company too – just because you put the word “social” in front of it, doesn’t mean that you are not a media company and should be fully regulated as such and take responsibility for what you “publish”. Or maybe Vice “magazine” put this rather better:

 For keen viewers of the media market, Facebook is merely following fellow “digital companies” Airbnb and Net-a-Porter in launching a paper magazine, but we should remember that we live in a world where Amazon recently moved into bricks and mortar retail space – go figure “digital companies”.

So, let me recap with three simple points. According to Facebook:

1. Travel media is their chosen place to reach “business leaders”

2. Print is a strong way to “Grow your business. Grow your network. Grow your mind”

3. Travel media is the key place for large brands to feel comfortable and succeed

Thank you, Facebook. I LIKE that.

Come talk to us at INK where we have YOUR business leaders at our fingertips. Contact Steve Rowbotham: or on +44 20 7625 0911 or +447968 141 196 

** Airline passenger numbers will double in size by 2035 (2016: 3.8bn air passengers 2035: 7.2bn IATA)


Glassdoor news: is it fair play in the job market?

It was recently announced in the news that a Japanese firm is about to buy the job search site Glassdoor. It raises the legitimate question, do they know what they are letting themselves in for?

On April 29 2018, I wrote a review on Glassdoor of my ficticious time working for Glassdoor (I have never set foot in their offices). This was to prove that the website, far from shining a light on how companies truly operate, has a weak system for checking for the accuracy of reviews and could be seen as an anonymous forum for disgruntled ex-employees. They published it…

There was no check to see if I had ever been employed at Glassdoor and certainly no filter for accuracy – otherwise they may have noticed something Ink-teresting in the wording! By the time you are reading this, my guess is that the post will have been removed but let’s see…how fast they can react to their very own ‘fake news’?!  

Tyrant or genius? 

Now, let’s think…for 35 years Sir Alex Ferguson (Aberdeen FC, 1978 – 1984 and Manchester United 1986 – 2013) was arguably the most prolific and consistent leader of a football team anywhere in the world. People see him as a visionary, a motivator, an inspiring figurehead to his team. Would that have come across fairly on Glassdoor during his reign? Let’s imagine what those Glassdoor reviews could have been like for a moment:

“Shamble of a business”

Ex Player – Central Midfielder

Doesn’t recommend  Negative outlook  Disapproves of manager

I have been working at Manchester United full time (More than a year)


Won lots of medals and trophies


Terrible drinking and gambling culture, sexist environment, pay equality was non-existent. Poor leadership and always criticising and shouting at his team mates. Appalling management team who just kissed his arse. 

Advice to management

Don’t overlook the youth in the company

“Passive aggressive environment”

Ex Player – Defender

Doesn’t recommend  Negative outlook  Disapproves of manager

I was working at Manchester United full time (more than ten years)




Leaders throwing football boots and hairdryers. Totally inconsistent management. Bloody narcissist.

Advice to management

Try being nice for a change

“Too much favouritism”

Ex Player – Goalkeeper

Doesn’t recommend  Negative outlook  Disapproves of manager

I have been working at Manchester United full time (more than a year)


Eric is a great poet


This business has its favourites and no matter how many karate kicks they throw at the crowd, the leadership will protect and support them. Always expects us to do overtime for no extra money. No matter how well we do. He always expects more. Lots of new expensive foreign players being signed meaning no jobs for us English lads.

Advice to management

You’ll win more with kids

“No one is safe in this business”

Ex Player – Central Midfielder

Doesn’t recommend  Negative outlook  Disapproves of manager

I have been working at Manchester United full time (more than a year)


Job for a captain now


Watched the main man get fired today, no notice – just thrown out the business. The leader has no patience for anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

Advice to management

Take your tartan cheeks back to Scotland 

Ok, so I said it was imaginary, but you get my drift? 

What we know is that Sir Alex led his players to local, national and international success by driving his players to work harder than they believed was even possible when they were on a losing streak. And when they were winning, he made them go that bit further to maintain their premier position with a gruelling mind and body training schedule. And it worked. For so many years he was the best manager in the business and subsequently on the global lecturing circuit, talking to business students at Harvard and other leading universities about leadership. Was/is he a perfect leader? It depends on who you ask.  

The Ink work ethic

I run a global travel business, where fifty percent of my team are in sales, mainly millennials and those starting their first full time job. They’re not professional footballers but we treat them like a high achieving sports team: they meet with full time performance coach staff, they get treatment from professional physios and health and wellness advice to help them work at their optimum level. 

We offer many incentivised travel trips to the most amazing places on the globe – weekends in New York and Paris, holidays in The Maldives, skiing in Vale – we are proud that our staff have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. As I write this we have just confirmed that an employee, who’s been with the company for less than a month, has earned a trip to Hong Kong.

Alongside these unprecedented incentives comes sheer hard work and determination. We have managers who bring the best out of people and will not be satisfied with poor performance and failure.  We run a true meritocracy where those who want to challenge themselves can taste the success others only dream of. My job is not to get my people to believe in me, but to get them to believe more in themselves.

While we strive to recruit the most capable and hungry staff that want to live and breathe the dream, our business is subjected to inaccurate and insulting posts on Glassdoor – an unregulated forum for the anonymous to blame others for a perceived lack of success. Or for a companies to undermine their competitors. 

While it is true to say that we want to attract employees who have the intelligence to disseminate this information for what it is, we also don’t appreciate this smoke and mirror forum.  Impressionable, digital-savvy young people, eager to make sure their next career decision is sound, use Glassdoor for research, rightly expecting truth, reason and a balanced opinion. And instead what they find is a kind of wild west.  

We are not perfect, no company is. We have a developing, young leadership team (we grow our own) and in our business I have found that everybody, including the senior leadership teams (myself included), are committed to learning. Sometimes we get things wrong – and we listen to feedback and then we commit to striving to do better.  We listen to our staff and work hard constantly to improve – which is why our business has survived recession, global disasters in our industry like 9/11, ash clouds and SARS which brought others to their knees.

Improving the game

Glassdoor could be called the ‘paparazzi’ of the internet forum world – publishing snap reviews that are purported to represent the whole truth, regardless of context. Does one picture or story about Sir Alex supposedly giving Wayne Rooney the ‘hairdryer’ treatment represent the whole truth of his management style and ability to lead his team to success? On Glassdoor, anonymous reviews, whether overly positive or negative, are available for all to see, but the backstory, and often the truth, is not. 

The criticism itself isn’t the problem – we welcome constructive criticism as it’s what has helped us grow into the company to where we are now and it has made us stronger. As my fake review has shown, it’s the lack of checks in place that needs addressing.

My long-standing intention is to leave this business as one of the finest examples of a well-run global media sales and content business. We will continue to develop and grow our own teams. I will continue to make no apologies for demanding the very best from our colleagues and giving them the platform to be more successful than they could ever have known or believed possible. I want them to have whatever it is they dream about. And I am humbled and proud to say that we have hundreds of success stories to reaffirm that our formula works. 

So, in short, we need Glassdoor to improve their game. We want them to stop hiding behind a one-way mirror and instead offer growing and successful companies the transparency that a truly ‘glass’ forum should provide. Come on Robert Hohman, let’s support the employment community you want to shine a light on with balance and fairness.

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I say, go ahead, throw them. It won’t make any difference because at Ink our glass is reinforced with the ethics of hard work and transparency. Can Glassdoor say the same?

By Simon Leslie. Aka guru, mentor, entrepreneur, developer, people person, leader by example. Or, narcissist, slave driver, clueless leader. Depending on who you believe.