Scepticism is an attitude alien to the world of dot.coms, but the finance director at Capital Radio’s internet division, Keith Greenhalgh, admits to harbouring a fair dose when he started 18 months ago.
‘I was a bit of a cynic at first about claims for the internet,’ Greenhalgh admits. ‘I was never sure how you could make money out of the internet, especially with a five per cent market penetration compared to almost 100% for TV and radio.’
Now, a year and a half later, the 34-year-old reformed cynic has found himself at the head of Capital Interactive, which is forging ahead of its competitors to provide online music.
‘The pace of change is astounding and the speed of uptake is far faster than was expected,’ he says. ‘It means that a five-year plan for a company like Capital Interactive has to take into account that assumptions could rapidly change.’
Greenhalgh joined Capital plc in 1998, first as head of finance of group radio – integrating new radio station acquisitions Red Dragon and Xfm followed by a stint as finance director of Capital Advertising.
As head of finance at Capital Interactive since July, he has overseen the launch of a £5.5m internet business plan, which is based around bringing existing Capital FM, Gold and Xfm radio sites together under a new brand, kikido.
Three niche ‘narrowcast’ stations that will tailor music and advertising to listener profiles are due this year.
He explains the drive online is based on the first internet partnership in the UK with major record labels including BMG, Universal, EMI-Chrysalis-Virgin and Jive, which gives Capital a 65% online slice of the £1.2bn industry.
‘There has been a lot of suspicion among the major labels towards the internet business’, he explains. ‘But, Capital has a long history working with artists, labels and advertisers which they can trust.’
Capital saw the potential of the internet early on, and in 1994 set up a team of 12 to develop its potential for the group as a promotional instrument for the radio.
‘Last summer we began to ask whether this was the area where we could get most benefit,’ he says. ‘We needed a business that could stand on its own two feet – and to do that the business had to have multiple revenue streams.’
He adds: ‘We are a long way from dot.com companies who operate without anyone in financial control. We are not just another dot.com doomed to disappear under a mountain of debt and disaster.’
Staff have expanded from 12 to 63 in nine months, but Greenhalgh remains the lone accountant in the operation, although a management accountant is to join the company.
Greenhalgh’s first leap into the world of business came straight after qualifying with Solomon Hare, when he took up the role as FD of an ailing pallet manufacturer, Hambrook Pallets Ltd. He implemented a new finance system in two years and saw a threefold growth of income from £1.5m.
He looks back on the period as invaluable experience, where he learned hands on negotiation skills. But the travel bug bit and he left the world of accounting to travel the States – only to find he ran out of money after four months.
A New Zealand local government audit scheme had the globetrotter taking his finance abilities to Palmerston, which was lead to his first exposure in radio with a two year stint on Radio New Zealand
‘I was involved in the sale and privatisation of the group by the NZ government. A working holiday extended to two years, with Greenhalgh staying on to rise from regional finance director to director responsible for 22 stations.
‘Work involved visiting the stations and I found myself regularly moonlighting as a voice with my British accent.’
Greenhalgh on the role of the finance director
‘The days of the finance director taking a back seat in business have long gone. FDs now have to be far more commercial and understand how different parts of the business work together and how to maximise profit or shareholder value.’
Greenhalgh on accountancy training
‘Chartered accountancy training is invaluable and exposes you to a wide range of industries; while audit work gives you exposure to a broad level of decision makers from managing directors to chief executive officers and finance directors.’
Greenhalgh on working in radio ‘It’s a dynamic and fun sector to work in, and there is a lot of opportunity across the media industry.’
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