A Blog Post about Citizen Robert

by ROBERT PHILLIPS on Nov 29, 2012 • 3:53 pm1 Comment
Today, we announced my resignation from Edelman and from my dual role as President & CEO of Edelman EMEA and Global Chair of Public Engagement & Future Strategies.

I have enjoyed eight and a half amazing years at the firm. It was not a decision I took lightly. It is twenty five years since my lifelong friend and business partner Jackie Cooper and I co-founded JCPR and twenty seven years, almost to the day, since I launched my first company while still at University. I think it is time to step off the merry-go-round for a while.

I am doing this for several reasons: first, to spend some quality time among the academic community, further researching and exploring the dynamic landscape of communications; second, to dive deeper into understanding the data-driven society that has grown to fascinate me; third, to complete my second book; and, finally, to get some sleep. I may even get more time at home with my family (if they don’t mind).

Back in October 2003, Jackie and I made what was, for us, the momentous decision to sell our consultancy to Edelman. Since then, both Edelman and we, as individuals, have grown considerably. Looking back, I am exceptionally proud of having led the transformation of the Edelman UK business into the global powerhouse and visible leader that it is today: the London office will this year top the £40 million revenue mark as a multiple award-winner and industry leader. It is properly shaped to face the future; has a truly digital DNA; and boasts some of the best-in-class consultants and business leaders in the marketplace. It enjoys both vision and values and a reputation to die for.

Likewise, I firmly believe that I leave the EMEA region in great shape, having served exactly two years as Regional President & CEO. We have achieved the successful integration of The Centre, an acquisition, in Brussels; initiated hugely important operational changes in Russia and France; opened for business in Switzerland and Turkey; recruited some truly exceptional talent, from east to west, and thus have an emerging cadre of Next Generation leaders; above all, we have refused to be bullied by the economy in growing by approximately 30% over what will be a 30 month period, set against the backdrop of possibly the toughest trading conditions of the past three decades. Across the region, we have chalked up some truly remarkable achievements, from the UK and Germany to the UAE, but especially in Italy, Spain and Ireland, against the odds.

Finally, in Public Engagement, I am proud to have helped engineer the shift towards a radical new philosophy, organising principle and operating framework that, if properly embedded within Edelman, will undoubtedly consolidate the firm’s leading position within both the PR and wider communications industries. I am confident that ‘PE’ is the system that will help future-proof Edelman and maintain its industry thought-leadership and one that many – including those from beyond PR – will now need to follow. The principles and behaviours that we codified – bottom-up; social; open; values-led; and action-driven – are as important to me personally, as they are an accurate reflection of today’s direction of global travel. Change is never going to be this slow again.

But, as the footballing cliché goes, no-one person is ever bigger than the team. While I hope I will be a loss to Edelman (why would I have been doing my job, if it had no impact otherwise?!?!), the business will no doubt flourish further, driven by that bench strength of remarkable talent. More than anything else, I will miss those people – co-conspirators in catalysing such remarkable and positive change. I will especially miss my leadership teams in the UK and EMEA; the deep thinkers and co-engineers of Public Engagement; Matt Harrington, our global COO and one of the nicest colleagues I have ever worked with; and the vision, inspiration and coaching of Richard Edelman, an unique man in so many ways and always a privilege to work alongside. I know we will remain good friends.

Words will simply never be able to adequately describe the debt of gratitude I owe to Jackie Cooper, with whom, over a quarter-of-a-century, I have scaled the most incredible of heights and fought through the most despairing of lows. I have always been inspired and amazed in equal measure, if occasionally a little tetchy. No-one will ever really know how exceptionally lucky I have been to share such deep friendship alongside such peerless business brilliance. I defy anyone in business to have a sharper instinct or higher levels of pure emotional intelligence. Jackie’s partnership will continue to mean the world to me – and more.

I have never been particularly motivated by money, but rather by great work, led by rigorous thinking and an obsessional excellence in execution; by a determination to always win; by principled and ethical behaviour in business, as in life; and, fundamentally, by an unshakeable belief in citizen democracy and the collective good. This is as important in the workplace as it is in the outside world. I have learned so much since starting out in business in 1985. My only leadership mantras, such as they are, are: ‘Be Fair’; ‘Do Good’; ‘No Mediocrity’; ‘No Fear’; and ‘No Assholes’ – matched with an unswerving, competitive spirit and an(other) obsession to always be World Class. Business, for me, like capitalism itself should be, has always been about Profit with Purpose – as a force for transformative good, where everyone has a real voice in shaping the future. This belief in a better way of being of course formed the bedrock of Citizen Renaissance and, within this, values, personal and professional, always provided the central platform for – and vital lifeblood of – CR thinking and of any organisation that I have been charged with leading. Such values must not only energise, but inspire. They must stare back at us in the mirror every morning – individually and collectively – helping us understand what it is we seek and how it is we want to be. Wherever my next career move takes me, I know, in all good conscience, that I will always be guided by my intrinsic values; by a sense of natural justice and optimism; and, if I am honest, by a good streak of competitive spirit also. These are the principles that my late father, always a liberal with a small ‘l’, gifted me – and the ones that I will forever champion and cherish.

Meanwhile, the work on Citizen Renaissance, together with Jules Peck, will continue.

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