My Way: Craig Sams on how to become a success at work

'Always lean backward in an interview'
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The Independent Online

Craig Sams opened Seed, the UK's first macrobiotic restaurant, in 1967, later expanding into retail, wholesaling and manufacturing under the Whole Earth brand. He is also co-founder of Green & Black's organic chocolate, and chair of the trustees of the Soil Association

What did you want to be as a child?

A market researcher. I'd read The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard and wanted to peep behind the curtain of advertising and media to see how they worked.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

My father worked for the military and I thought I'd probably join the Peace Corps and then the Navy.

You did a BSc in economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Was it worth it?

Very little of what I learnt at university had any real value. Five months before I graduated, I discovered the macrobiotic diet and visited the first macrobiotic restaurant in the US. That's when I made the decision to open a macrobiotic café in London, where my mother was living.

But didn't an economics degree help with that?

I understood what a bank was and I could read the financial pages, but you don't need four years at university to figure that out.

How did you go from café to major brand?

I was driven by two things, the first being macrobiotics. I'd been ill when I discovered the diet and it worked like a miracle so I was like a born-again Christian spreading the word. I also wanted to make money and I could see that it was the next big thing, although potential investors would ask, "How long do you think this organic fad will last?".

Do you consider yourself successful?

Now I do, but 10 years ago I remember sitting in the back of a minicab and being short of cash and thinking that it could be me driving that cab. But by 1998, we had two strong brands, Whole Earth and Green & Black's, and I realised that whichever way we went in terms of investors, it would turn out all right.

What's the best decision you ever made?

Writing to the Peace Corps and saying I won't be joining after all, I'm going to open a café in London.

Have you ever been fired from a job?

No, and I've never been turned down for a job, except three years ago when I applied to join the board of the Food Standards Agency and I didn't get it. They didn't say why.

Any interview tips?

Lean back, don't lean forward. Be relaxed and try to smile, practice this in front of the mirror. Anxiety creates tension and then you're not the person you would be if you had the job, so try to believe that you have the job already.

What are your CV tips?

The big question is always why you moved from one job to another, so you need to be able to explain that.

Who are your heroes?

In the food world, it is William Kellogg – he really got what was wrong with people's diet. And then Anita Roddick, who kept a lot of social entrepreneurs sane in the 1990s.