He then sold his business and joined Granada Group where he was Chief Executive of the Leisure Division and then Chief Executive of the Technology Division.
While at Granada, he handled the communications for Granada’s successful takeover bid for Forte, still the largest hostile takeover in British commercial history.
After eleven years, he left Granada to become Chairman of Citigate, a leading financial PR agency. In 2006 he moved, to become Chief Executive of the Conran Group. In 2013 he resigned from Conran, to concentrate on writing and photography
He is co-author of Life’s a Pitch, a best-selling guide to presentation skills. His second book, The Rule-Breaker’s Book of Business, followed in 2013. A new edition of Life’s a Pitch will be published in 2017 and a book about creativity will be published by Penguin next year. He is a trustee of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, has a Masters degree in photography from the University of Westminster, and his photographs have been exhibited in London, Paris, Ghent, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Hello Roger, thank you for stopping by Activia’s Expert Insights section. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers?
At the age of 18 I failed to get into no less than 9 different universities: so I had to get a job. I ended up as a lowly clerk in a mediocre ad agency in a dull part of London – and I was incredibly excited. Suddenly I was doing something. I worked my way up, and when I was in my thirties I started my own advertising agency. We won the advertising for Honda cars, for Burberry, for Minolta, and lots more. I ran the business for ten years, and then sold it. I’d been taking the same bucket to the same well for a long time, and I wanted a complete change. I found a new life at Granada Group where I was CEO of the leisure and technology divisions for ten years. I then went to chair Citigate, the PR group, until Terence Conran asked me to be CEO of his group of businesses. I did that until four years ago, when I decided to spend more time writing and having fun: not necessarily in that order.
Who is this book aimed at and how will it help them?
Everybody needs to pitch themselves and their ideas well, so in a sense it’s aimed at everyone – but it’s most relevant to young people, at the start of their working lives. That’s when you have to interview for your first job, when you have to make your first big impression on the people around you, when you have to build a reputation and a career.
Books on how to sell yourself and your ideas is a popular subject for books – what is unique about Life’s A Pitch: How to sell yourself and your brilliant ideas?
Life’s a Pitch is different from other books about presentations in two ways. First, it’s written by people who’ve actually done it, done it successfully, and done it at the highest level. So we do know what we’re talking about. Second, it’s incredibly practical: it really will help you in a clear, simple way with that interview or that PowerPoint.
Your book Life’s a Pitch is written as if it was two books. What was the reasoning behind this?
It was really an inspired accident. When Stephen and I were asked to write the book, I spontaneously buried myself in a book which was very straightforward, very practical, very ‘how to do it’. Meanwhile Stephen felt inspired to write a book about how we present ourselves which was much more philosophical. We looked at them both: they were both good, but they were different. So we said, “let’s give the customer two books for the price of one”. It was an eccentric idea at the time, but 70,000 copies later it seems like quite a good idea.
What inspired you to create a book about pitching yourself?
I was, immodestly, good at it. It had been a big part of my working life, especially when I was building my ad agency. And I noticed that people around me often struggled with how to handle a job application, how to write a CV, how to sell an idea. So there was a need for a book, and I had the experience and the insight.
When you were writing this book did you learn anything new about pitching yourself? And are you going to start incorporating in your own life?
What writing the book made me do was to analyse how a good pitch works. I already knew that instinctively, but I needed to de-construct it, to codify it, to explain it for others. In my own life, every day I’m thinking about how to pitch an idea better, because every day you need to. Everything we do which can change our life involves some kind of a pitch. That’s why the book is called Life’s a Pitch.
What is the most frightening pitch you’ve ever had to do yourself?
When I was CEO of Granada’s leisure division, I was asked to handle all the pitching for Granada’s hostile takeover bid for Forte Group. It was massive; a deal worth billions of pounds. It’s still the largest hostile takeover in British commercial history. It doesn’t come much more scary than that. But we won, so it had a happy ending.
Life’s a Pitch is currently being launched in a new edition: how does it differ from the original version?
The original material is all there: the book has been a hit, so we didn’t want to interfere with it. But we’ve added some very interesting new material. There is an analysis of how Donald Trump’s skill as a presenter, whatever you think of him as a person, has got this maverick outsider into the most powerful job in the world. And there is an analysis of how David Cameron’s failure as a presenter lost him the Brexit referendum, cost him his job, and changed the course of British history
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
So much can ride on a pitch. The Trump and Cameron examples make that point: two pitches, one a failure and one a success, but both have changed the world we live in. They demonstrate how much pitches matter, and therefore why it’s worth learning how to do it better.
Roger’s book, Life’s A Pitch, is available on Amazon.