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14 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 67Big InterviewEvans adds there was a lot of unbilled time being spent on clients and a culture of 'if in doubt, put more people in the trenches'. Were there perhaps too many generals in Evans' parish?"Yes," he agrees, explaining he shut the executive wing at Marlow. All men are equal at the Grass Roots after all.Va-va voomAsked his greatest achievement, Evans turns to the automotive sector."When we were young, we pitched for the launch of the Ford Sierra. We lost by half a point, but recommended the UK campaign be done at Castle Ashby." The Ford model in question did not sell too well and Evans insists his campaign would have "made the car a hero".He got his chance to rev up his ideas two years later, when he was asked to do a VW launch. "We made a big splash at branch level," he explains. "The results came in an uplift of sales in the car within six months."Evans is proud of his green credentials and, indeed, was awarded an MBE by the British Government for social responsibility. He knocked back one client choice for a car launch event because the location which would have resulted in five million travelling miles for delegates. "Not appropriate," was Evans' verdict. His agency is very much still on the autobahn, running the European launch of Opel's electric car last year and a Ford Focus launch in France. "In Bordeaux we needed to teach the dealers to sell features the French weren't used to."As distinct from some competitors' approaches for attacking foreign markets by employing native speakers in the UK offices, the Grass Roots preferred modus operandi is to employ foreign nationals out in the field. The company recently spread its wings Stateside and in Singapore."Let the locals get on with it is my approach," says Evans. He certainly got on with it after he bought out Maritz in the UK in 2006. There were aspects of that business crying out for change; but then change has always been the name of Evans' game. "You have to be willing to see when change needs to occur," he says. "That's the visionary in me." He seems to like the description of himself as being 'constructively discontented'.Forward chargeGoing into spring 2012, Evans is confident that the first loss in 25 years made in the financial year 2010, would not be repeated and predicted profits when the 2011 accounts come in. With a new office in Putney and an expanding venue procurement team led by Des McLaughlin ("the best operator in the space" - Evans), and a team in Fleet "being mothered incredibly by Giselle Ripken," Evans' faith is being restored.The future is all about IT, he believes, and he has equipped the Fleet business which he acquired from the administrators (the old 'MICE' agency) with new software."We have software guys all over the planet (Florida, Brazil, Ireland, Bangalore, and 120 in Tring alone)," says Evans.Meetings management software specialist StarCite changed hands in a deal valued at over $51m recently. Did Evans perhaps not regret buying the company when he had the chance?"I described the product then to Steve Maritz as 'the fox in his hen coop'. However, as far as the technology goes, we have capacity to produce stuff quicker.""The fact that StarCite needs to be sold so hard, says a lot. I'm not sure if there's a real number in there," he adds.The current Grass Roots client portfolio is spread between banking companies, telecoms, major retailers and government, a structure, Evans believes, that offers good protection for his people. Evans is also focused on the prospects offered by the new markets, in particular China and India, where he has offices. He explains his global philosophy thus: "Like the old British empire, I send a Jesuit out then either buy something and build upon it, or build something and buy for it". In the future Evans sees Grass Roots Group having a 50/50 Overseas/UK split. At the moment the business is 75 per cent UK centred.The Grass Roots can always be greener; certainly if his eight-year-old daughter and her inspiration for his Port Talbot factory has anything to do with it.Main image: grass roots' opel event with Katie Melua. inset images, above: scenes from various incentives setsGrass Roots global business turnover$479m

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