Rupert Howell: If I had to start again ..

I'd love to have been a journalist, but I wasn't creative enough. I was always able to write a good letter - I just couldn't stare at a blank sheet of paper and come up with a story. But I went into advertising after university and immediately fell in love with it.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I always had the gift of the gab. I was schooled at the dinner table. My father used to start arguments, saying we needed to learn how to make our case. It could get pretty heated. At school I ended up being captain of lots of things, not because I was the best player but because I could get people to do things. I learnt that you don't have to be the most academically bright, or even the most original thinker - communication is a big chunk of the battle. No wonder I felt at home in advertising.

I was very deliberate about building my CV. People tended to stay in one company almost for life; I was always looking for the next piece of learning. I got into the advertising industry at Ogilvy, then went to Grey to get experience on the Procter & Gamble account, and to Y&R to get creative experience. It made me new-business director - I pulled in more than £100m-worth of business in two and a half years. I'd found my forte. At 27, I was made a partner and bought my first Ferrari. I gave that up two years later for a number 94 bus when I started my own business, HHCL, which was an amazing success and named Agency of the Decade for the 1990s by Campaign.

If I had one regret it would be not getting international experience sooner. That was the one thing my CV lacked. So I moved to McCann four years ago to run its EMEA, and it has been wonderful. My next move will be to employ all my skills in something entrepreneurial. I've got tons of energy left. Fortunately, you're not old at 50 these days. And by the time I'm 60, you won't be old at 60 either.

Rupert Howell stepped down from EMEA president at McCann Erickson last month.

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