By the time you read this, it will be a few weeks since I was sitting in a grand room on Carlton House Terrace, a stone's throw from the Institute of Directors and the Reform Club.
A guest of Sandra Macleod, the Group CEO of Echo Research, I was attending the 2019 Echo Summit. I was struck by how well Sandra managed the room, how well placed she is within our business and how consistent she has been over all the years I have known her.
So here are a few life lessons for us all with thanks to Sandra for providing the inspirational evidence.
1. Be in it for the long term. I first met Sandra in the late 80s. She was research, I was PR but our businesses could benefit each other and although no work flowed for either of us together initially, we began a cordial professional relationship. Thirty years on, I can ask her anything – and do. She can do the same – and does.
2. Expand your horizons to build a career not just a job. Although busy growing her own firm, Sandra never just focusses on her own goals. She takes personal responsibility for the welfare of her profession as a whole. She instigated the development of the International Association of Measurement and Evaluation Companies (AMEC), which now has 160 members in 86 countries.
That work, and Echo's success in many different countries, has resulted in industry recognition for Sandra on both sides of the Atlantic: she is visiting professor on Reputation at NYU; a member of the McKinsey Women as Leaders' Forum and, among other titles and awards, last year received the Page Distinguished Services Award for her work on reputation research internationally.
3. Be nice and help people. Being always nice to people has not diminished Sandra's brain power nor interrupted her considerable success. The audience at the Echo Summit this year consisted of clients, former clients, industry contacts, professional partners, consultants of all shapes and sizes – and a number of VIP names from some of the UK's largest corporates. And it was clear that the relationship with Echo's CEO has a personal touch for most of the attendees. I chatted to the global head of corporate communications for our largest law firms who told me they tried to come every year "to support Sandra". Then, glancing round the room, added "but it doesn't look as though I really need to!".
4. Do it simply. Do it well. The culture of Echo seems pretty straightforward to me. It's a quality operation. It's reliable and efficient, not flashy or superficial. Quite obviously, it appreciates the importance of a good reputation but it doesn't thrust its own point of view onto its business partners. There is a strong service ethos. That comes from the top and was plain to see in Sandra's thoughtful leadership throughout the day in Westminster.
As I was arriving, the IOD's full complement of membership and guests was spilling out onto the roads and pavements around Pall Mall: a fire alert! The fire engine arrived but I strolled on – confident that nothing like that would ever upset the smooth running of Sandra's Echo Summit.
Written by Jackie Elliot, CEO of communications firm Cathcart Consulting
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