Q&A: John Ellis Managing director, The Mailshop 

Monday, August 23, 2021

John has just become the managing director of The Mailshop following a buy-in management buyout at the Nottinghamshire business. He started in print as an apprentice compositor at the age of 16 and has been in print and direct mail in one way or another for 33 years. He will reach the milestone age of 50 next year.

"The loudest and greatest shirts in the industry"
"The loudest and greatest shirts in the industry"

What is your nickname? 

I don’t really have a nickname unfortunately, but most people simply call me 'Johnny Boy' if it is not John – it’s hard to shorten a very short name

Why did you get into printing? 

I asked my father what I should do when I left school and he had no idea, he just didn’t want me to follow him as a painter and decorator and said: “Get into print they earn a lot of money!”

What would be your dream job? 

That would have to be a professional golfer but I would also need to have a golf swing to go with it

Who would play you in a movie about your life? 

Jason Statham, he already models his hairstyle and looks on me

What is your favourite film? 

Heat, a great Pacino and De Niro film with some great scenes together

What is your favourite TV programme? 

Dexter, I love the dry, dark sense of humour around a very serious subject but you can’t help being on his side

Sweet or savoury?

Most definitely sweet, I love chocolate

Have you taken up any new hobbies during the various lockdowns?

Rather than a new hobby we had the “amazing” experience of moving home twice during lockdown as we moved between our main home and a rented property and to our new family home. Everything was restricted and we couldn’t get anyone to help

Who or what do you hate the most?

Everyone who knows me is aware that I don’t suffer fools very well at all, I really don’t like it when people close their minds and don’t like to learn new things

What is your favourite phrase or saying? 

It’s a little cheesy this one, but “there is no ‘I’ in team”. I really do enjoy winning as a team in a close-knit production environment. It’s a great feeling when your backs are to the wall and you all pull together

What is your favourite album? 

U2’s Rattle and Hum, I remember queueing to buy it when it was released and played it over and over on a proper record player

What is your favourite book?

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, I love his explanations around hunches, instinct and instant understandings and why they are so important

Cat or dog, or…?

Unfortunately, I am allergic to cats and dogs although I did use to have a Chipmunk when I left school called “Kevin”

What is your greatest ambition? 

To get my golf handicap down to scratch

What’s your greatest fear? 

At the moment retirement! Lockdown gave me a view of what can happen spending loads of time sat at home – I never want to stop doing what I am doing

Who or what makes you laugh? 

Bert Kreischer is one of my funniest comedians that I like to watch at present, his stories are incredible. If you haven’t seen him watch “The Machine”

What’s your worst fashion disaster? 

Come on, I never have them – my shirts are what legends are made of!

Who would be your favourite party guests?

My dream would have been to have had a “proper night out” with Oliver Reed, Richard Burton and Richard Harris. I can just imagine the stories they would be able to tell and to have an “absolute session” over three or four days

Where would you go if you could time-travel? 

I would love to go back to July 1979 to watch Seve win his first ever open at the age of 22, he is an absolute idol of mine and I loved his passion and commitment for something that he so clearly loved doing

What was the best business deal that you’ve pulled off? 

Years ago, I came across a company that was hand enclosing three items into an envelope and hand sticking on stamps and sending out around 30k per week all as unsorted mail (that was the most they could do in a week!). They didn’t know anything about volume production and print and mail. I was able to help their business grow tenfold in a matter of a few years just by introducing them to large volume methods. I am still close, personal friends with the (now a multi-millionaire) owner.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Everything happens for a reason, don’t rush through life, take a look around and enjoy today instead of constantly chasing tomorrow

How would you like to be remembered? 

For the loudest and greatest shirts in the industry

Life is…? 

“Getting the right people on the bus in the right seats.” Obviously not mine originally but something that really resonated with me when I was doing my MBA and I find a really great analogy to help explain things. When everyone around you in life is travelling in the same direction it makes for great times both personally and in business


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