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Friday, November 1, 2013

Redundancy - know who your friends are! 1st November 2013

I was advised by my Employer Grass Roots a few weeks ago that I am being made redundant and my employment will cease at the end of the year.  This didn't come as a shock in the sense that the new management are clearing out all the established players; but it did in the sense that I had to come to terms with the end of my 28 year career working in the same place with some amazing people and clients.   It has been particularly hard to understand as I have huge support across the organisation and nobody seems to understand why I am leaving and how my work will be done in the future.  I will remain a shareholder of the business and in that regard I am concerned about the new direction of the business.  I have just attended my last Grass Roots International Conference and took the opportunity to make my farewell speech to the 28 leaders of our businesses across the world, some of whom I will maybe not see again.

Here is my speech:

This is my 10th and final Grass Roots International Conference; the first few I organised myself, first in Tring, then Oxford and Cambridge and then I handed over to Volker and his expert events team. Each of us has been asked to speak on what we are most passionate about, what we are most proud of, what we most fear in the world, and who we most admire and why.

Well, my passion is the internationalisation of our business. Back in the 90s, I remember when the Board got beaten up by the Finance Director because our tiny Irish operation was delivering more profit that our large UK agency; this made me think that there was life outside the UK - although a tax change devastated our Irish profits almost overnight a short time later.  The other event at around the same time was a brief we got from Rolls Royce to run an international sales incentive programme for their dealer network across the world.  I so wanted to win that business but we declined as we had no idea how to do it.  Shortly after I was instrumental in the development of our business overseas; I rushed to Madrid to meet Mar Garcia and her colleagues who were leaving a competitor and decided they wanted to set-up Grass Roots Spain.  They had persuaded a client to let them use their huge Board Room so I stepped into an intimidating environment to start the discussions!  Mar and her team of 50 in Madrid are now one of Group’s star European performers.  On another occasion I dragged David Evans to Singapore to meet Steve Hibberd of Accumulate and Eugene Lee of Surfgold.  We chose to back Steve and the result today some 6 years later is a rapidly growing series of businesses in India, China, Australia and Singapore led by Charoo, Steve and Matt.  Before I move to my second question I would just like to go back to Rolls Royce.  Well we had that brief in again recently and it gives me much pleasure to say that thanks to Ian Horsham’s team, we won it and are now running a sales incentive for Rolls Royce in 35 countries and 5 different languages including simplified Chinese.

Some of my proudest achievements have been the development of products that have changed our business for the better.  I won’t mention the failures today but there are three I would like to talk about.  In the mid 90s, with a colleague Richard Daw, we pioneered the use of Interactive Voice Response in our industry.  It allowed us to automate data inputs via a telephone in a way that had not been possible before.  We charged 25 pence per minute and used it for incentives, learning programmes and to automate other services.  At that time, our most profitable day of the year was Christmas Day when we were not at work; large numbers of people were opening their new O2 mobile phones and activating them using our IVRs!  Making money while you sleep. The second was when I took our Chairman to a dotcom start-up and persuaded him to allow me to launch our first online reward catalogue against the advice of our technical community.  We launched it on the 29th February 2000, and of course the rest of our catalogues followed and paper was phased out.  My final product will be my legacy as I will not see it launched when I leave at the end of the year.  I am referring to the Virtual Mall which will transform reward redemption and make it exciting again!  It will also enhance our reward margins significantly.

What I most fear in this wonderful world of ours is Intolerance, Indifference and Injustice.  One of my favorite quotes is from Edmund Burke who said “For evil to happen, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing.”  Burke lived in the 18th century and unfortunately he has been proved correct in this regard over and over again, particularly in the 20th century.  He was an Irishman, born in Dublin, and moved to England where he became a politician and well known campaigner for Democracy. Interestingly he became MP for Wendover where Grass Roots’ largest office is based.

Lastly, who do I most admire and why?  Well there is quite a list of people I admire greatly including Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, the Frenchmen Xavier Niel (sometimes called the French Steve Jobs) and Marcel Duchamp (the inventor of modern art), Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Wilberforce (abolition of slavery) and others.  Interestingly all of these great men also had a dark side and did some bad things and were by no means perfect; but still great and we need more like them. Today of course my man is David Evans because he created Grass Roots - 1,000 of us in 15 countries - and without him none of us would be here today.

Finally I would now like to say goodbye and thanks to those of you I have worked with for so many years. We have had fun, done great work and made good money together. It has been remarkable.  You know who you are; I will not forget you and I hope that whatever I do next will allow us to remain in touch. Thank You So Much.

Adam Sidbury Tuesday October 22nd 2013

If you lose intimacy you lose business” David Evans
David Evans

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