Philip Mordecai: how you must innovate to stay relevant

Philip Mordecai: how you must innovate to stay relevant

We caught up with one of our 2017 Faces, Philip Mordecai, about his year as a Face, how Curzon has grown and how it is working hard to make film accessible to all. We also picked his brain on leading through innovation and change.

How has your organisation developed over the last year?

Curzon has continued to follow our vision; in the last year we have been very busy and continued to build our Curzon branded platform. We successfully released exciting new award winning films, such as Cold War and The Square into the UK and Ireland. We also opened new destination cinemas in Oxford and Colchester, and in parallel we stepped up our refurbishment programme across our existing cinema estate.

As a mid-market business we are embracing digital within the venues themselves and via our unique virtual Curzon Home Cinema. Our activities are modest in the grand scheme of things compared with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Sky, but we believe that we have a clear differential. Our digital offer helps to make films accessible to all and provides many films online in the virtual Curzon cinema on the same day as they are released into cinemas.

The model is working and we are helping to create positive change. For example, we now have customers watching brand new films in our virtual cinemas in their homes in the Shetlands and the Republic of Ireland.

What has your biggest challenge to growth been?

There are many challenges but the digital pace of change and consumer expectations are some of the biggest. Our new digital products require an internet connection to work. We have challenged ourselves to make sure that they work in a quality way on par with that of our larger competitors and that expected of the Curzon brand. Since launching our new digital offer our competitor landscape has grown. Companies such as Netflix and Amazon continue to set the technical bar high and people expect our platform to work in the same way.

The biggest competition we have is for people’s time. We now live in a world with infinite entertainment and lifestyle options, and this is coupled with shortened attention spans. Therefore, marketing is a challenge. So for us, this is where brand trust and relevance comes in. Look at Facebook and what happened just this year with Cambridge Analytica – customers need to trust and connect with brands.

Where do you see Curzon in five years’ time?

That really is an old-fashioned way of looking at planning. We have an overarching long-term multi-year vision but living in an age of disruption with the current market volatility, you need to be far more nimble with your strategic planning approach. Nowadays, we try and plan in one to two-year cycles. Next year Curzon is planning to launch three new cinemas, continuing to invest in our digital growth and launching our product internationally. When we look internationally, Brexit has thrown a real curve ball and added a level of risk and uncertainty in the decision-making process. However, we do remain very confident in the exhibition and film industry.

What have you got out of being part of the Faces of a Vibrant Economy community?

I have taken a few things away so far as one of the Faces. First and foremost I have learned much about the UK’s vibrant economy. Overall it has changed my perspective of society and shown me that there is appetite to create positive change. I wouldn’t have had this depth and insight without the programme. Because of this, I have become more aware of the wider economy and in part, it has helped my decision-making effectiveness.

I really like the way that Grant Thornton is convening a community to help to turn the conversation around to the positive and to inspire action. Let’s focus on what we are really good at and work hard on the things we do less well.

A highlight for me has been the chance to tell our story to other like-minded business leaders who want to listen. People from the North, South, East and West of the UK from both my own industry and others. The podcast was not only good fun but it was a great opportunity for me to talk about Curzon and our digital journey.

What are some of the challenges you have faced while leading change initiatives at Curzon?

Success really does breed success. The biggest challenge is maintaining the pace of innovation given all of the external factors in the market. And of course as a mid-market business we do not have an endless amount of investment capital.

How do you think that innovation has helped to set Curzon apart from its competitors?

Simply, if you don’t innovate you soon become irrelevant. So we’re innovating.

How do you attract and retain the right talent for your business?

That’s a really good question. We are looking for people who know our three worlds – cinema, content and digital. This means we often need to hire people who understand more than one of these areas. Because our strategy is so innovative it hard to find the right talent that can support the business needs, so an important part of our role as an employer is to educate and develop our human capital. We recognise that we get the best out of people by investing in them over time.

We really prioritise sharing knowledge and expertise across our teams. I spend a lot of time with my team making sure they have access to the right learning to help them excel in their roles and let them get involved in projects when they are interested.

What we are finding is that big streaming players are becoming interested in Curzon’s talent.

What advice would you give other Faces or business leaders looking to drive change in their organisations?

Be clear on your vision and purpose. Clarity is important. Your staff and customers need to understand and embrace the vision or it won’t work. So make sure the messages that filter across the business are consistent and, importantly, always transparent. Spend the time to engage and inspire your team and help them to keep the momentum going.

Vibrant Voices podcast

Discover more about Curzon’s digital journey in Vibrant Voices.