Decisions: David Evans - Grass roots group, Founder and CEO of the performance-improvement firm


Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

... was to call my business Grass Roots. This was in 1979. I'd decided to start my own business and I'd made my first attempt at a five-year plan, but I was struggling with a name and I didn't want to give it mine. If you're going to be a creative company, you need to give it a creative name. It was in the summer, I was at Knebworth, it was a balmy day and I was lying on a grassy knoll, and I realised I had to call it Grass Roots.

When I was first hawking my plan around, trying to raise money, the banks kept asking: why Grass Roots? I said it's because that's what I'm dealing with - with issues of the grass roots of a business. If you listen to the radio, watch the TV or read the newspapers, people use the words 'grass roots' almost endlessly, thereby giving my brand free advertising. Every time people heard that expression, it would get into their synaptic connections, and they would think that they had heard of me.

So the name had lots of relevance and I got lots of free advertising. That was a great decision.


In 1985, I met Martin Sorrell just before he bought his stock in WPP. He talked about his ambitions for his company and said: 'I need someone like you to be a partner.'

We decided to go after a publicly listed US company called Promotions House that was operating in my space. If we got it, we would combine it with my embryonic business. No-one had ever gone into the market on a contested bid for a public company in the media services before.

He launched the bid, and Promotions House's directors said in print that if Sorrell got hold of it they would all leave. We thought they were bullshitting. On 10 April 1986, my daughter was born, and the day after, we learned that we had won. Martin and I went for a tour to their two offices and there was a third of the staff left.

So here I was, now in charge of the company he bought - and I had nobody. The company had been badly run, and I had to spend two years sorting it out. The lesson was: if you don't know enough about a business, don't do the deal.

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