Richard Johnson has led the transformation of Bonnier Publishing for the last seven years, growing revenue from £45m to £128m. He joined the company with a background in finance and in 2010 and was asked by its owners, Bonnier AB in Sweden, to "hold the fort" as c.e.o. while they found somebody "who knew something about books".
Originally dubbed "Richard Who?" by industry stalwarts, he went to university for a day and can't tell his Dickens from his Dostoevsky. He doesn't fit the publishing mould, but then Bonnier Publishing isn't a traditional publisher. Under Johnson's leadership, the group has built a reputation for challenging the status quo and for thinking differently. You will either love him or you will hate him and he is quite happy with that.
Johnson will be giving the opening keynote at the FutureBook 2017 conference on Friday. In the meantime, he shares five things inspiring him to think and work differently right now.
Hardware: I often wish it wasn’t, but it has to be my mobile phone. I genuinely have a phobia of being without it. It’s called ‘Nomophobia’. I’ve smashed four in the last three months because I really struggle to put it down. The IT team have given me a permanent back-up phone on standby.
Software: Workplace by Facebook. We signed up to pilot the platform when it was first launched late last year and it’s been a game changer for the business. I don’t use Facebook or any social media personally, so I was sceptical of its value at first but now I’m totally converted. As anybody that’s part of a multi-site business knows that brings challenges, so it’s great to have an online space where everybody can come together, share ideas, celebrate success and generally digitally hang out as if they are by the coffee machine.
Book: The Tattooist of Auschwitz. It’s based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, who was forced to tattoo numbers on the arms of his fellow prisoners at Auschwitz. Nothing I write here will do it justice, so you’ll have to read it yourself when it’s published by Zaffre on January 11th. When I first heard about it at the beginning of this year I was simply humbled, and if you read it you will be too.
Idea: Natalie Jerome (Bonnier Publishing UK) recently negotiated a fabulous deal with Amazon. One of our key values is “think differently” and I think this brilliantly reflects that. A year in advance of Gary Barlow’s memoir being released by Blink, fans who pre-ordered the book were given a special access code to get priority access to tickets for his tour next year. The book reached number two on Amazon’s bestseller list as a result.
Person: Everybody I work with here at Bonnier Publishing inspires me. Its why I’m still here. In meetings I really enjoy sitting back and listening to people who know far more about publishing than I will ever do and I learn something every day. If I had to name one person though it would be Perminder (Mann, c.e.o., Bonnier Publishing UK) who was recently included in The Guardian’s list of 36 most powerful BAME leaders in the UK. She was the only representative from book publishing and one of only seven women on the list.