Like all businesses, Resolution Media and Publishing is facing its greatest ever challenge. But its two directors have learned enough about themselves and the Tees Valley over the last five years to know that both they and the business community they serve have what it takes to come through…
When Dave Allan and Martin Walker decided to launch Tees Business, they were met with more than a few quizzical looks.
“You want to launch a print product? In this day and age?” and “Nobody wants that kind of thing anymore, it’s all online these days,” were just some of the comments thrown at them.
But they pressed ahead, confident they had identified a gap in the market and a business model to fill it.
And the fact that you are reading this feature – either in print or online – in the fifth anniversary edition of Tees Business magazine right now is proof that their conviction and commitment was justified.
Five years on, the publication has steadily grown into one that has the ear of some of the Tees Valley’s most influential business people.
It sits on the coffee tables and in the boardrooms and business hubs of everybody who is anybody everywhere across the region – and it’s the same story for Wear Business, their newly launched title designed for the Sunderland area.
The networking events associated with the brand are in the diaries of business leaders and industry champions and the awards ceremonies devised, hosted and promoted through the likes of Tees Business were sell-outs before the Covid-19 outbreak – replaced now, of course, by regular online features.
A high-end glossy sister title, Tees Life, champions all that is great about the life and style of the Tees Valley too.
Getting this far hasn’t been without its challenges but looking back on the past five years evokes a great deal of pride for both men.
“The issue that kept coming up was that our part of the North-East, the Tees Valley area, was often overlooked in favour of the bigger commercial centres of Tyneside, for example. That’s what businesses were telling us,” said Dave.
“We could see there was a gap in the market and we could see there was a positive appetite out there for a publication.
“The driving force was the market research we did before launching the publication, we went out and spoke to companies and asked for their views and the responses we got back were overwhelmingly positive. Of course, it’s one thing for someone to say they like the idea and another for them to actually put their hand in their pocket and back it.”
The pair already knew each other before they set out on the Resolution Media journey, having worked together in the media department at Middlesbrough Football Club and collaborated on the writing of several books. They went on to run their own successful PR businesses – and still do.
Martin developed a magazine in the Aycliffe area concentrating on positive news, with most of the content supported by advertisers.
He approached Dave with the idea of launching a similar model in Middlesbrough.
“We eventually settled on the whole of the Tees Valley area,” said Martin.
“The model for Tees Business was based on the same model at Aycliffe, concentrating on business news with most of the content sponsored by advertisers, which by nature is going to be positive.
“We already had our own separate PR businesses and could see the gap but we didn’t know what the real potential would be.
“It took a little bit of time to gain that credibility but we believed we could make a success of it – at the start we took all of the pictures and wrote all of the features ourselves, we even had to teach ourselves sales.”
A website was launched alongside the print product so all bases were covered – people who preferred the look and feel of a magazine had it to hand, others could read it online.
E-news shots, social media and networking events when each new edition is launched quickly followed.
Tees Life also soon followed – again from a recognition there was a gap in the market where other high-end glossy publications overlooked the Tees Valley area.
The successful Tees Businesswomen Awards were launched in 2018 and have sold out two years in a row. A new venture, the Tees Tech Awards, was due to be held in April to celebrate the burgeoning creative and digital sector in the Tees Valley and although is now due to be held virtually online, it will still provide another opportunity to showcase some of our great companies.
The business and brand creation is made all the more remarkable given that Resolution is staffed by just four full-timers – co-directors Dave and Martin, events manager and Tees Life editor Julie Burniston, who joined the team last summer, and recent recruit, sales manager Chris Garbutt.
The company takes pride in supporting a network of freelance designers, writers and photographers as well as print and distribution companies.
But just why has it been such a success?
“Tees Valley has a really strong business community and we have been able to tap into that. There are some really intuitive companies that go under the radar and we have ended up being a conduit to allow them to shout about themselves,” said Dave.
“As a region, we have a tendency to hide our light under a bushel and we talk ourselves down, which is why we launched a campaign to ‘Talk Up the Tees Valley.’
“I’d say it took around two years to build up a reputation and respect.
Now, when people think, ‘How am I going to promote my business?’, they automatically think of Tees Business.
“We are a key part of the business community and we’ve built that up through the publication, our networking events, the awards events we have launched and e-news, social and our website.”
One of the proudest moments for Martin came with the launch of the “Talking Up” campaign, which quickly attracted a buzz.
For Dave, it is the positive feedback that comes in. Standout moments for both have been the Tees Businesswomen Awards.
“We’ve started to see the positive impact on the region of initiatives such as the Tees Businesswomen Awards,” says Dave.
“We must be the one of the most well-known businesses on Teesside as far as brand names go and that’s not bad with a team of four full-time employees.
“The combined authority was formed around the time we launched Tees Business and to have that first devolved authority in the North-East is a big bonus,” added Martin.
“The mayor, Ben Houchen, can see what we are trying to do and he can see the potential for this region.
“We have ambitions, we’ve recently launched Wear Business and we believe there are markets in other areas, but we remain passionate about our home area.
“In the past five years Tees Business has become a part of us and we feel proud of what it has become, what it represents and the strong brand message it offers about our region.”
And there’s more to come. Once the coronavirus crisis is over, Tees Valley businesses are going to need strong champions for the goods and services they can offer the world more than they ever have before.
Resolution’s directors are determined to be there when they are needed and play and vital role in the recovery.
“We are looking to host even more awards events in 2021. We also plan to extend the magazine publication reach into other regions and areas of the country,” said Martin.
“And we’re now launching a wide range of digital packages to support businesses in communicating and marketing through the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve always had a strong online and digital presence and now that is likely to come to the fore.”
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