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Piers Read: Wimbledon TV Studios aims to vertically integrate the business into content producing

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Name: 

Piers Read

Role and company:

Managing Director (founder) Wimbledon TV and Film Studios

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):

£2m turnover

Employee numbers:

20 staff

Growth forecast for the next three years:

We forecast 100 per cent growth by 2016. We’ve already established ourselves as London’s leading independent studio and as such now have a tremendous platform to really drive the business forward.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We’re truly unique because of the wide range of facilities we offer, and the service we provide is boutique. No other studio in the UK has permanent standing sets, like police stations, hospitals and street scenes, alongside large sound stages, ideal for feature films, and TV studios for light entertainment shows. This is a totally unique blend, which makes us a one stop shop for production companies and broadcasters alike.

What’s the big vision for your business?

The business is highly scalable. We have plans to increase capacity onsite, by building more studios and other facilities that we know are in demand.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

An increasing amount of business comes from abroad. Sean Penn’s just shot his latest movie here called the “Gunman”, a StudioCanal production and Matt Le Blanc’s series “Episodes” always shoots with us, which is produced by Show Time the U.S network. In terms of future aspirations, the plan is to vertically integrate the business into content producing. So we won’t just facilitate producing of content. We’ll be making it too, which is the logical progression and will take me back to my roots.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

When I was a freelance producer I got sacked by a top production company for no reason. This harmed my reputation at the time. Promises were made, but not kept and I was the fall guy. The lesson learnt is there are always two sides to every story. Plus of course that you have to bounce back.

What makes you mad in business today?

When people don’t see an obvious angle to win or secure new business. That is borderline criminal. This is second only to people who don’t see margins.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

Matching the demand for studio space, this is so badly lacking in London. The BBC selling its West London base earlier this year triggered it. Suddenly there’s a vacuum in the market now, but vacuums don’t last forever. So, providing more space with better facilities is needed to grow in the market.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Access to finance, in terms of the banks seems non-existent to me. They are all risk averse, even the ones who claim to understand media. The banking system seems so centralised these days, that no one can actually authorise support. Wimbledon Studios is in a transitional period, of needing to realise its potential and capitalise on the opportunity, which I believe, is most likely to come from private debt equity.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Probably slight unorthodox, but highly focused across all aspects of the business. I never shout, but people know my expectations and what they need to deliver. I think the key thing is trust. I was once described by a business leader, as someone who had “excellent emotional I.Q” because of how I read people and situations. I would like to think people working for me would say, that they feel empowered to do their jobs, they feel they can make a difference to the business and most of all that they are developing both as people and professionals by working at the company.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

My membership to The Ivy. Purely for entertaining clients, of course. It certainly does work though.

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Introduce business studies into the national curriculum for children from a young age. We need to start educating kids about some basic principals in business, which tie so heavily into life in practically every single way. This would I think help fast track the development of tomorrow’s generations, and promote business in this country into the future. As an example, I am honestly am shocked by how few people, even adults today, who fail to understand the basic principles of how to run a business, and you need to make mere than you spend. Somewhere at grass roots level, this needs to be addressed.

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