Tony Langham on coping with disappointment and holding out for the long-term gains
Role: Chief Executive Organisation: Lansons Twitter: @TonyLangham Tony Langham was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Katie Simpson, Managing Consultant at Hanson Search, interviewed Tony to find out how he made it in the industry.
Why did you get into communications?
Initially, I wanted to work in marketing, but when I left university I couldn’t get a job in the industry so I went into market research instead. I worked for Mori, now Ipsos Mori, on financial, political and social market research. Around 1982, I worked on the project to privatise BT shares and as a result of that I ended up getting head-hunted by a one-stop-shop type of PR firm called Dewe Rogerson. Once there, I instantly knew I wanted to work in reputation management and PR from then on.
What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?
I can cope with rejection and disappointment. I just keep going. My level of performance, whether I’m happy or sad, dejected or not dejected, doesn’t alter much. It’s constant.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?
It’s hard, because I don’t look back much. It’s probably the fact that consultancy firms actually become different kinds of businesses every time they go through a growth phase. A 20-person business is totally different from a 50-person business, and a 100-person business is different from a 50-person business. When you’re in the 50 shifting to 100, it’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced.
Who has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
That’s an easy one. It’s Clare Parsons, who launched Lansons with me. I was co-head of the research and planning function and Clare was leading financial services at the time as a PR person. Her ability to inspire people, group people together and make things happen is easily the most inspiring thing I’ve seen. Plenty of clients have been inspiring as well.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
I’ll always remember one thing from my father, which was ‘always leave some growth for somebody else’. It means that in every opportunity you should never take the maximum you can take out of the situation. I think that builds good will and means that you don’t try and flog everything for pounds today when potentially there’s something even better to be gained from the longer term relationship.
In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry?
There are so many things… The biggest challenge is to change faster than the world around us changes, and the world around us is changing really quickly. Becoming an agile organisation is probably another. That might mean moving from a model where 95% of the work is done by full-time employees to one where we work with a lot more partners, freelancers and other solutions providers. The other thing is maximising flexibility. Consultancy isn’t about providing everybody with the same service. Instead, you have to think about the particular needs of every single client – and we’ve probably up to 200 in a year. Every one of those clients buys a different service, with a different mix, and a different solution. Everyone needs innovation, everyone needs creativity and everything needs to be bespoke. If you can’t think like that, then you’re probably in the wrong business.
What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator?
I should probably ask other people that question! I think my strength is that I’m analytical, and I think longer-term so I’m strategic. And I must have been persuasive over the years to have made it here.
Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications?
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a bank where the organisation was clearly in crisis. Now, it’s an organisation that is clearly in recovery, with a fantastic senior team. That has pretty much been a dream project for me. I’d like to undertake more projects like that… I love to make a difference.
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