John: Paul, can I start by asking you tell us a little about yourself?
Paul: My Profile is on my Facebook page but in summary; I was born in 1943. My parents having moved in the mid 1930’s from London’s depressed west end to the green fields of Middlesex. Heathrow airport was to play a major part in my life.
I became a junior management trainee with British Airways which sent me all over the airline and to business school where I gained professional qualifications in Transport and Marketing and became the youngest senior manager in the whole airline. I also co-authored a book on Air Cargo Distribution and then left at 28 to join one of our biggest clients (an air freight forwarder like a travel Agent) as managing director of 400 staff in a highly competitive and innovative environment.
After 5 years and a massive amount of global travel I joined Unilever. After 6/7 years Unilever decided to disinvest worldwide in the many transport companies it had built up and after a failed management buyout I found myself redundant.
Nervous of working again for a large corporation I converted some job offers into consultancy and formed my own business advising many transport companies on marketing and strategic development. My company grew (30+ employees) to become a leader in a niche market which started with air/road and sea advice to eventually, after 30 years, become the global leader for research and conferences/exhibitions to the mail and express industries.
My Rotary CV includes starting a new club, being a member of the RIBI Membership Committee and recently Chairman of a RIBI Task Force on the future of the national conference which WAS RECENTLY REVIEWED BY will soon be discussed by the General Council. I look forward now to helping eRotary which I believe in 10 years’ time will dominate Rotary worldwide.
Paul: Having my own business since 1984 I had for a long time felt guilty that I was not “putting enough back”. It was only when I started to retire and gradually handover my business to one of my sons that I started to think that I needed to fill the emerging gaps in my life. I looked around and Rotary seemed to be a way of doing just that. I was the right age and a man so I might meet new people etc. When I suggested to my Sunday drinking chums in the local pub they all fell about laughing, which I have to admit now. I thought OK you guys I am going to do it to prove you all wrong! They were right. The club I joined had no women; they were living in the 19th century and I rebelled, which made me very popular, so they made me Membership Chairman which resulted in 14 new members including women for the first time. BUT after a year most of the new recruits were leaving and as I was on the District Membership Committee and later the national RIBI Membership group where I got exposed to new ideas and the opening of new and more informal clubs. To cut a long story short several of us set up 5/6 years ago a fortnightly club that was very different and very successful, until recently when personality clashes led to the secretary, treasurer and even the Senior Vice President resigning with replacements yet to be found.
John: You mentioned that you were on the RIBI Membership Committee and I’m sure we should be interested in how you feel Rotary is placed to move forward?
How long have we got? Firstly it is clear that Rotary is the world’s best kept secret. As a Marketing Professional I find it very frustrating and regularly wonder whether it is worth it, especially when I see what is going on at the centre. The root cause is that we do not have a mentality to fight for our market share, we act as though we are the only humanitarian organisation in the world which was probably right when we started. We are rightly proud of what we do but we don’t tell many people. I always say that we do not have a marketing budget, “every penny you give us goes to charity” unlike “our competitors”. To me Foundation should provide marketing funds that are at the going rate so we can compete in the media etc. and rebrand to a better, younger and more informative image.
John: One of the most difficult issues is Publicity and not just what we say but where we say it. The BBC and other media seem loathe to mention Rotary; especially Shelter Box.
Paul: I think Shelterbox is a classic example and a missed opportunity. We should insist that there is a gigantic Rotary Logo on each side of the tent. I think “New” Rotary Clubs should have the word; “New” in their Title for say 5 years. We should also ensure that we only put under 50’s in the public eye. People see us as an “aged” organisation of business people dressed in suits and ties.
Don’t miss part two of Paul’s story – Thursday 16th April