My Biggest Mistake: A name that became confused in the translation

Mark Dixon is the founder of Regus, the world's largest provider of ready-to-use offices

WE'VE MADE lots of small mistakes, but the biggest was in the early stages of the business. It was our first significant marketing campaign, basically organised by myself and our new American sales director, whom I'd brought on board.

We had decided to do a large mailshot, sending 80,000 pieces in Germany, which was our slowest market. Of course, we thought we were experienced marketeers and experienced Europeans, because we were operating from Brussels.

The mailshot was a little folded sheet and on the front it said: "Who in the world uses Regus?" We got it translated into German, but we didn't check the translation.

After it had been sent out we started to get calls from people. To our horror, the message had translated as: "Who the hell uses Regus?" It was more or less: "What idiot would use Regus?" To cap that, we also found the mail merger had been very badly managed.

We have used this mistake ever since as an example of the fact you have got to think European. We spent almost all our available money doing it. It was not only unsuccessful - it was a complete flop, and we got absolutely nothing from it. One call I will never forget: the guy rang up saying he would like to order some furniture.

Germans get very, very unhappy if you don't get things right. Like the Japanese, they plan things properly. What they like least of all is the fact that people have wasted money and resources.

That's why they are fantastic engineers. The mailshot was a disaster, and we had to work 10 times as hard with half as much money. Then, we had done little things in the local market, but it was seat-of-the-pants stuff. We had 14 or 15 centres: now, we are opening three or four a week. We spend about pounds 25m a year on marketing, and we learnt the lesson of planning your campaign.

We learnt that we couldn't do everything ourselves, and we realised at that stage we had to build up a management team.

One of the reasons we made a muck-up was that we hadn't spent the proper time on it and didn't know enough about marketing. The business had grown, and we hadn't developed a management team to go along with it. The first thing was to hire a marketing director, so at least we would have someone to blame.

Our company is one of the fastest-growing - it has more or less doubled in staff every year for 10 years - and it started to grow after we had put the management structure in place. Now, we develop the management team almost every six months.

What we learnt was: get some specialist people in - don't try to do everything yourself; and plan everything. When you have planned it, plan it again.

Spending half our year's budget at the time would be like risking pounds 12.5m on a campaign now. The first mailshot was a crazy thing to do without testing and planning.

But learning from it has stood us in good stead.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral