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February 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 77 BIG INTERVIEWfailure, I was bright and young and the job paid 10 times what I was on at University."He moved once, but got to a point where, Evans says, "I wasn't achieving enough emotionally".Cue a sharp departure up North, where he went to run a cosmetic packaging factory in Bradford, while studying simultaneously for an MBA.Then came marriage, a move back south and a job at the Maritz agency. Entrepreneurial desires soon fl ared and when he put his ideas to his boss was told to wait.Waiting is clearly not Evans' game and he started up in business with a partner. He says the then Maritz MD predicted he would last just 18 months."I mortgaged my house to buy my fi rst IBM for £48k and within nine months we went from two to 20 staff."Agent of changeEvans claims to have gone on to create a whole sector dealing with people changing their work practices."I went round like an evangelist saying people needed to change and asking the question of whether managers really understood where the real assets of their businesses were," he said.In 1984, the components of the Grass Roots business were spread from London to Leeds. At that point Evans borrowed a large sum of money and brought everything together at a country house in Hertfordshire."At the time, the conventional wisdom was that staying out of London for a services business such as ours was akin to staying out of touch." He remains headquartered in the area, however, having grown the business from a turnover of £11m to almost £300m.Evans claims the churn rate is almost zero at his company, which now employs some 1,200 staff worldwide.There are seven businesses in the UK, spread over three sites in Tring (400 staff), and at offi ces in Fleet, Worcester, Putney and Staffordshire."If you lose intimacy you lose business," says Evans, who reckons that teams of 50 are the optimum work collective. The agency has not been immune to departures, however.Evans recently went back onto the front line at the Marlow offi ce to put things back on track following the departure of longstanding Divisional Director Nick Bender, whose successor Amanda Litzow also resigned abruptly just weeks after taking over from Bender. Director of Client Relationships Simon Maier had also left and Evans described the Litzow episode to CN at the time as "the most bizarre event in my entire lifetime". A leader who didn't care would probably not give it a second thought, but it is clear that Evans adheres to the old Quaker principles of 'trust and verifi cation' from the way he constantly talks about his company as a 'family'."Bender got carried away with the idea of 'let's create an events company'. He forgot about the gardening," says Evans."An event is part of whole. There has to be a business premise," he adds."People tend to get above themselves. But an event is just another form of communicating. Yes, it's glamorous, but for a short period. Work, however, is grinding. This industry too often can be a 'beck and call' girl."It turns out there was a lot of unbilled time being spent on clients and a culture more akin, says Evans, to Oh what a lovely war!' where there was a feeling of 'if in doubt, put more people in the trenches'.Were there perhaps too many generals?"Oh yes," Evans agrees and tells how 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 campaign be done at Castle Ashby."The Ford model in question did not sell Below: Grass Roots was the organisational brains behind the opening of he huge World Skills Congress at The O2 in London last year ; one of the biggest events of 2011