How does he do it all? Jeremy, a copywriter, was recently awarded a CBE for services to advertising. He is chairman of M&C Saatchi plc, a worldwide advertising company. With a keen interest in politics, he has extensive experience of election campaigns, starting with Mrs Thatcher’s in 1978. He has attended the School in London for nearly 50 years. He is chairman of the Board of Governors of St James, of the Jyoti Trust, and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and is the author of two books.
PLAY YOUR CARDS?
Jeremy Sinclair, London
My schooling passed by in a haze of ‘could do better’ reports, a sentiment my parents readily agreed with. Rather too readily. However, they appeared totally unconcerned about the eventual outcome. They seemed to assume it would turn out well. So later in life, when I was running a public company, or winning awards at Cannes or anything else happened, they exuded the same total lack of surprise. Nobody but you knows the cards you were dealt.
What was in my hand? My mother had a lifelong interest in matters spiritual. She read Steiner, Blavatsky, did Yoga before it was fashionable. My father, an engineer by training but a management consultant by practice, had little time for such matters, but he had an original, inquiring, creative mind. Merge the two and this is the result.
What drew you to advertising?
Chance. I was in Paris when two things happened. One: I bought a copy of the Times newspaper, and thinking it was time to get a job, wrote to every advertiser in the paper, just to see what reaction I got. After six weeks on holiday, I returned to a pile of polite rejections. But one – I had applied to do an adverting course at Watford Art School – asked me to come for an interview. They took only 11 students, in the belief that that was as many as would find jobs in the industry. One year later, I had a diploma in Advertising Writing (Grade C) and a portfolio of ads to show. I applied to all the best places:
I am writing for a job. I want to write for a living. Can I come and show you my work?
Some weeks later, I got a job with a very young company run by a very young Charles Saatchi. So it was chance and a love of words, pictures and ideas that drew me to advertising. We were brought up on the King James Bible. This is an excellent guide to writing English. And I urge any aspiring copywriter to absorb it. The other thing that happened in Paris was I got a letter from a good friend who had joined a class at the School of Economic Science. When the Watford course was over I went to see what Phillip had got himself mixed up with. I am still finding out.
The final stroke of luck was the arrival at the company of a tall slim illustrator who magically had also been introduced to the same meditation, although not by the School. She is now the mother of our children and the grandmother of our grandchildren.
How have you managed your time between work and family?
In the early days of the company, we worked every day we could but there was rarely a conflict. The family may have seen less of me than most fathers, but that may have been a good thing. More seriously, I felt it was important to show that if something was important, it had to be done, whatever. But we tried to keep summer holidays sacrosanct. I was blessed because my family were in School.
And work and School?
If you intend to do something, it tends to happen. Once I was in a meeting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and it was getting close to 7pm. I said, ‘I am afraid I have a duty (service in the School) to do this evening’. And off I went, the people parting like the Red Sea. Mrs Thatcher understood the concept of duty.
When under pressure, what gets you through?
The joy of pressure is that it removes any time for irrelevance, there is no time to doubt, no room for a side track, just enough time and space to be cool and quick. The pressure forces you to do only what is absolutely necessary now. I love it. Admittedly there have been times in the past, when we were building the company, when I didn’t know how I was going to get to the end of the week. I just couldn’t see how it could happen but it does. You get there, the days roll along. When I was at school as a child, we had lots of different subjects, Maths, English, French, History etc. I follow the same approach now that I am grown up. You need a variety of subjects.
What attracts you to the work in the School?
1) It is important.
2) It is a journey to an uncharted place. I love learning and I love teaching. The two are not different activities. When you teach you learn. One of the joys of my life is being involved with the senior students in London. You’ve got maybe 50 or 60 people who have spent their life working to a particular goal. It’s an honour untold.
Is meditation important to you?
It’s the best gift I know. Absolutely magic. What a ceremony! (In the School, people are introduced to meditation with a simple traditional ceremony.) It lasts, what, half an hour? yet has the power to bring you to spend an hour a day at peace for the rest of your life.
So there you have my story, one school, one wife, one job. That’s my equivalent of the old hymn: one church, one faith, one Lord.
Finally, anyone who has read this far deserves a reward, so how about some tips for success?
Do nothing but play your cards. Meditate twice a day. Don’t take life too seriously. Keep saying, ‘You never know’. Keep it short.