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My first boss: Jo Fairley, Green & Black's co-founder

Green & Black’s was founded in London in 1991, by husband and wife Craig Sams and Jo Fairley. Photo: Getty Images
Green & Black’s was founded in London in 1991, by husband and wife Craig Sams and Jo Fairley. Photo: Getty

In 1991, Jo Fairley co-founded Green & Black’s with her husband, where she remains a chocolate ambassador for the multi-million-pound global company.

In the 1980s, she had become the UK’s youngest magazine editor. Her love for journalism later saw her co-found the Beauty Bible and she still runs the newsletter for Perfume Society, a business she previously sold. Public speaking — for those, she says, on an entrepreneurial or business journey and need to plug their batteries in and be fired up — takes up much of her time today.

Terry Hornett was a magazine and editor-in-chief supremo with a nice line in beige safari suits. After a spell working for two crusty old professors in geography, I had been working as a secretary with a real passion for magazines and saw an ad for a new magazine called Woman’s World. Terry was my first boss in media and changed my life.

I had applied for a role in the fashion department but Terry, who ran Carlton Publishing, spotted something in me that I didn’t know was there and gave me a job as a secretary in the features department. After a few months, I was handed a press release and told to rewrite it.

Read more: My first boss: Charlie Bigham, ready-to-cook food empire founder

Terry was the driving force behind everything and had this amazing ability to spot talent. It has certainly shaped how I found and chose people over the subsequent years, as well as throwing people in at the deep end, which I am also a great believer in.

Terry’s business philosophy was that ‘if you build it, they will come’. If you create a product, that’s what you should focus on and the finances flowed from there.

Green & Black’s was born in a recession. ‘It made us lean, agile, quick-thinking, creative,' says Jo Fairley. Photo: Green & Black’s
Green & Black’s was born in a recession. ‘It made us lean, agile, quick-thinking, creative,' says Jo Fairley. Photo: Green & Black’s

I worked my way up to senior feature writer — under editor Bridget Rowe, who later became the first female editor of a British national newspaper — and interviewed anyone from Charlton Heston to INXS. After four years, Terry called me into his office. He said he had a problem as he was looking for a new editor of Look Now, the younger sister title to Woman’s World.

Terry reeled off a list of attributes needed for the editorship role and I jokingly said he was really looking for someone like me. He said, ‘Yes, and I’d like you to start tomorrow’. Aged 23, I was in charge of a staff of 26 and spent the first month thinking I would be fired as I had no idea how to run a magazine, but I was soon able to be free and creative.

Read more: My first boss: Chris Sheldrick, what3words co-founder and CEO

Terry was a master of creating team spirit, too. Every year on the first day of spring we would get a bunch of flowers on our desk, while on the company’s anniversary we would get a couple of Waterford crystal glasses.

It was a lovely way to treat people who worked for you and friendships endure to this day. We also knew they were the good old days and that they may not be like this again.

I later went to work for IPC Media, and it was all about budget, strategy and targets rather than creative freedom. After skipping out of bed, Terry’s brilliance as a standout boss was brought into sharp focus when I dragged my heels working for IPC after he had sold Carlton.

The success of Green & Black's has enabled Jo Fairley to become a serial entrepreneur. Photo: Jo Fairley
The success of Green & Black's has enabled Jo Fairley to become a serial entrepreneur. Photo: Jo Fairley

The best place to start with anything is putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and Terry believed that I was the best person to do it as editor. If I'm interested in or want something and it’s not out there, the chances are that many other people feel the same way.

At the end of the day I am just a typical customer. I never needed a focus group; I’ve always taken an absolute responsibility for the success or failure of something, as it’s based on my gut feel.

Read more: My first boss: Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank

I started Green & Blacks with two single mothers in marketing. We kind of invented flexible working at the company because of it. They never let me down and nobody has ever done with a project — they truly appreciated my understanding of the tugs on their time and it was repaid as a dividend on loyalty ten times over.

I believe there is a simple equation with work, which is 80% work and 20% fun. Leadership should be having a clear vision, allowing people to have freedom to work and grow, not micromanaging, setting targets and deadlines and being there as a safety net.

www.josephinefairley.com

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?