Back in 2015, Rich Loxam teamed up with Mat Hart to launch Steamforged Games in Stockport.
The tabletop game publishing company now has around 40 staff based at offices in MediaCity.
As a former design and technology teacher and once named as Business Insider’s 42 under 42, Loxam shares his career journey, tips and advice.
How did you first get into your industry?
I first started my career as a teacher, which I did for around eight years. Me and my co-founder, Mat, were avid gamers playing in tournaments, mainly for miniature games. One day, we sat down together and realised we could have a go ourselves at designing a game. After two long years of drafting and designing, long nights till 2am, the first game was released! It blew up extremely quickly and we realised that this is more than just a passion project.
What do you love about your job?
I’m a lifelong tabletop fan so genuinely enjoying the focus of your job is a huge benefit. Beyond that, I have also developed my skills more on the business side over the years. The idea of seeing opportunities in the market and being able to capitalise on that space is very exciting. The general growth period from idea to product is where I find the most interest. Having the chance to see the full story from creative to business marketing, production to consumers and ultimately seeing that plan become a success is brilliant.
Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?
Mat has been a mentor and inspiration for me, his knowledge has been wonderful to absorb. In the more recent SFG years, our executive chairman Simon Spalding has shown me the business journey and helped with my progression as a CEO. I always also feel inspired by competitors. They help to drive our creative passions and it’s healthy as a business, and business owner, to be able to rise to these challenges.
What are the biggest challenges about your job?
This may be the case for a lot of people, but there’s just not enough hours in the day. One thing we’re truly passionate about is building a strong work culture. We’ve worked heavily on this, it’s a big focus, and as the business develops and grows, it becomes bigger, and it gets harder to implement. We have an open culture, there’s a lot of opportunities for colleagues to provide feedback and we focus on celebrating staff. When you have a good culture, and a big workload, the staff are willing to push forward and in turn it makes us want to work hard too.
What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?
For me, the best skill in business is having good people skills. As a business owner, it’s important that I know how to talk to people and understand how to talk from several viewpoints and backgrounds. As a teacher, this is something I did often but bringing it to a business setting is quite different.
What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?
I suppose this is a little different in terms of my career path but as an NQT I started on £20,000. When we first started out in gaming, Mat and I tried to match our salaries to begin with so that we could focus on growth. We focused on keeping the profit being made to go directly back into the business and scale at a sensible rate. Gaming is somewhat of a strange industry for entry salaries as there’s not really a set amount and certain pay rises, like there is in teaching. There are, however, lots of opportunities to prove yourself. A lot of our hires come from varying backgrounds with a plethora of experiences.
What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?
Looking back, I would have liked a more robust business awareness. I have since completed courses that have helped grow that understanding, for example understanding the key financial metrics to identify issues is important. Languages are also great in gaming; gaming is a universal experience, and we often work with people across the globe, so this is a great skill to have!
What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?
Listen, connect, understand. During our time in business, we have truly learned the good, the bad, and the ugly side of business. We’ve grown massively as a company and as a young CEO I’m constantly growing. So, I would advise others to listen and learn as much as they can from people around them, as well as your staff! Having a good team is crucial to our business success.