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Valuable lessons in strategy

Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Group

25 October 2012

An enthusiastic audience attended Lancaster’s Professor Sir Roland Smith CEO Lecture on the 23rd of October to hear Sir Martin Sorrell – one of the leading figures in the global advertising and marketing services industry. 

Over 100 Lancaster University alumni benefited from his wisdom and experience during the insightful and revealing lecture. Held for the fourth time at the RSA, this annual event is a highlight of the Lancaster University year. It is a fantastic opportunity for alumni to meet and network with one another in London.

Sir Martin described in relaxed conversational style the mixed but ultimately positive fortunes of his company WPP. He was extraordinarily generous with his time, delivered his well-evidenced points with eloquence and ease. He is a great example of a very capable and knowledgeable, astute business leader. Throughout, he clearly demonstrated his ability to balance the strategic overview with an intimate understanding of the fine detail.

The lecture entitled ‘Building a brand of brand builders’ covered three main areas: establishing the business, his strategy and a number of key areas which affect the strategy.

The WPP strategy itself has four strands, which Sir Martin went on to explain in detail
1. Fast growth markets
2. New media
3. Consumer insights
4. Horizontality

‘Build a reputation in a company first – not celebrity but real credibility’, his father’s advice, which stood Sir Martin Sorrell well in his career. His personal motto of persistence and speed has also been a key contributor to his success. He stressed the importance of internal communications for a company to truly thrive.

Reactions from the audience were very positive, with comments alluding to the quality of the presentation, the level of detail that was shared and the sheer scale of operations that Sir Martin orchestrates.

As a Chief Executive of an organisation which comprises more than 150 companies and 162,000 employees, Sir Martin sees his role as one of orchestrating talent, and has an appreciation that people change and all things are cyclical. Adaptability is crucial.

Everyone had plenty to talk about in the networking reception afterwards. It was an extremely successful event.

Sir Martin Sorrell’s reading list
1. Jim O’Neill  - The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity in the BRICs and Beyond 
2. Andrew Ross Sorkin - Too big to fail 
3. James Webb Young - A Technique for Producing Ideas

Link to photos