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Martin Sorrell: "Advice? Start your own business"

WPP Group's CEO on his father, business challenges and tunnels under Korea.

1. Sum up your leadership style in three words.

Am I allowed four? If so, “Get on with it!” If not, “Persistence and speed” – my knighthood shield motto.

2. What was your first paid job?

At 16, I was a credit clerk in my father's hire-purchase company.

3. How would you define the role of the CEO?

Choosing the best people and defining and implementing the best strategy.

4. What's the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Start your own business.

5. What has been your biggest achievement?

Agreeing to do this interview.

6. Who is your business hero and why?

My father. He always gave me the best, unbiased and unvarnished advice and fought my corner.

7. Do you have a favourite business/management book?

Theory of Managerial Capitalism by Robin Marris.

8. What should the government do to improve the UK business outlook?

Develop a strategic plan for growth and jobs and implement it.

9. How healthy is the relationship between the government and UK business at present?

It's difficult, because politicians want to be re-elected and cater to populist agendas of the UK electorate and they have short-term time horizons. Businesses, on the other hand, have more than one nation state to deal with and have longer-term agendas that go beyond UK borders and electorates.

10. What is your biggest business challenge right now?

There's two: dealing with geographical and technological changes.

11. What's your favourite restaurant?

In and Out.

12. What possession could you not do without?

My iPad or cricket bat.

13. Where is the most interesting place you have visited?

The penetration tunnels from North Korea to South Korea beneath the DMZ near Seoul.

14. How do you manage to balance work and home life?

With difficulty. It's virtually impossible but essential.

15. When was the last time you were truly relaxed?

Very rarely – if ever – but I had a wonderful Christmas and New Year with my wife, Cristiana, in Uruguay.

Sir Martin Sorrell is the chief executive officer of WPP, the world's largest advertising agency with 2,400 offices in over 100 countries. He invested in the company in 1985, having previously been a group finance director at Saatchi & Saatchi. Sorrell was knighted in the 2000 New Year honours for services to the communications industry.


Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.