Lessons from the C-suite: Roger Proctor

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Roger is my MD. The article has made my heart soar! He doesn’t get the chance to express all these feelings often, so it’s really inspiring and wonderful to hear them ‘off record’!


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Family is important, so is flexibility for all

I started out…

My father was a renowned boat designer, working for himself, so it seemed a natural step to also start out on my own. I never envisaged anyone employing me, so as a student with nothing, a bit more of ‘nothing’ seemed a reasonable risk.

I knew this was the right career path for me when…

School was challenging. I never really fitted in and engaged. I liked looking out of the window and dreaming. I always enjoyed art and so when I found out about art college it was a lifeline. The first day made a big impact, as did winning my first paid project.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way…

I wasn’t trained to manage and run a multinational creative company with 75 staff, so every day has been a voyage of discovery. I love the camaraderie of working with great colleagues, but my family is absolutely central to my life. So ensuring the right balance is vital.

My proudest achievement…

The answer has to be my family, then being awarded my MBE and honorary degree. And of course I am very proud of Proctor + Stevenson and the people here. I am also proud of managing to stay flexible and imaginative.

My biggest mistake…

There have been so many over 40 years. Realising that you can’t do everything, the wrong hires, trusting too much, not trusting enough... When you’re busy it’s easier to disengage and just ‘keep your head down’ rather than really talking, which has sometimes led to losing people.

My biggest inspiration…

My father was great fun, imaginative, supportive, a wise counsellor, a design genius and kept faith in me. Everywhere I go in the world where there is a stretch of water I can see something my father designed, created or invented. That is very special.

Keeping me awake at night right now…

I take the welfare and careers of my colleagues very seriously. So knowing we have enough projects on the go or in the pipeline often keeps me awake. Also conflicts do occasionally arise both externally and internally, and thinking about how best to resolve those so that everyone walks away feeling heard is important.

The biggest challenge for organisations over the next five years will be…

I suppose the topical answer would be Brexit, but that will pass – I hope! For me the biggest challenge is attracting the right talent and keeping it. There is a massive digital and language skills shortage in this country and, as a major digital exporter, we employ many people from abroad and have begun to outsource.

I need my HR director to…

Be working hard with us on talent. A great deal hinges on career paths, appraisals, support during crises, benefits… But it’s also being clear about our direction, vision and values – in essence our brand. As part of this we’ve recently introduced flexible working alongside Flexoloxy. They took us through a valuable process of research, staff engagement and analysis, so that our team decided what they thought was practical and reasonable, rather than the management team.

It annoys me when HR…

Is unable to flex with demand and so is unable to cover all issues immediately but with the degree of depth we need. This is inevitable as there will always be peaks and troughs in recruitment and other issues. HR is vital to us and a key part of our evolving brand.

More HRDs would become CEO if…

They had wider experience across a business. I would advocate job swaps and sideways moves so that everyone gets broad experience not just HRDs.

What I’m reading right now…

The Edge of the World by Michael Pye. It is all about the North Sea and how its peoples and trading routes have driven the development of Western civilisation.

My top leadership tip…

Have really clear personal and business values that you communicate to everyone, repeatedly. A business should be a living thing with a heart and soul. That cannot just be about profit and process.

Roger Proctor is founder and managing director of Proctor + Stevenson

This piece appeared in the July – August 2019 issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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Roger is my MD. The article has made my heart soar! He doesn’t get the chance to express all these feelings often, so it’s really inspiring and wonderful to hear them ‘off record’!


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