My Mentor: Ian Priest On Lord Bell

'His words of congratulation still buzz round my head when self-doubt strikes'
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The Independent Online

Only a handful of people really influence your life, and I never thought one would be a peer of the realm. But perhaps I am more exalted than my background and demeanour suggests, for my mentor is Lord Bell - the gentleman responsible for creating Chime Communications, but perhaps more famous for being Margaret Thatcher's PR guru during her heyday.

Before founding the advertising agency Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest (VCCP), I worked for Lord Bell, or Tim to his colleagues, when I was at one of his agencies, HHCL. Most employers register shock, disbelief and dismay on hearing that a trusted lieutenant is leaving to set up a potentially rival agency - Tim's reaction was the exact opposite.

His words of congratulation still buzz around my head whenever occasional self-doubt arises as to the sanity of setting up a company. He encourages those around him to be entrepreneurial, and is genuinely excited for them. Indeed, so impressed was he with my new joint venture that he recently bought VCCP. But then, he did inherit some very prestigious, sought-after accounts.

Learning to communicate with all strata of society is a gift, and a natural precursor to running a successful communications business. Tim is incredibly down-to-earth and has this enviable ability to interact easily with both "yobs and snobs" - a description he uses, incidentally, to describe the founding partners of VCCP. I'm one of the "yobs", apparently, along with the creative director Rooney Carruthers. The other two, Charles Vallance and Adrian Coleman, both products of public schools and lovers of all things tweedy, are the "snobs".

It's fascinating to see that Tim, now 65, is as clued-up on the latest technology as most 25-year-olds I know. I hope that I'm as young in spirit in 20 years time.

Ian Priest is a founding partner of VCCP