My Way: 'Was I conning the world and getting away with it?'

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The Independent Online

David Kershaw is a founding director of the international advertising agency M&C Saatchi. He sits on the board of Creative & Cultural Skills, the Sector Skills Council for the creative industries.

What did you want to be as a child?

I wanted to play for Arsenal.

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

At secondary school, I was going to become a clarinettist, but again I didn't have enough talent. So I studied politics at Durham University.

Was it worth it?

It really improved my brain. I went to the careers office and said I'd like to go into business, but nothing that was too serious. The adviser said: "Ah, that would be advertising, then." So I applied to all the graduate schemes and got a position with Wasey Campbell-Ewald.

What was the best and worst part about it?

The best was being involved in new business pitches; the worst was preparing for a pitch at 5am.

You did an MBA at London Business School; why?

Three years into the job, I wasn't learning to use my head well enough. In the late Seventies, training meant you were just thrown at a photocopier. I really enjoyed the MBA and learnt about business. In the second year I went to New York and was headhunted by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Why you?

I had a reasonable reputation. Advertising is a small world; if you get good work out for clients and have their trust, people get to know you.

Do you consider yourself successful?

Yeah, I guess so, within the advertising world. It's an achievement just to have survived to my ripe old age.

When did you first realise you were a success?

The day I was made managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi London. But I was afraid of being found out. In my late twenties, I told my father I was worried I was conning the world. He said: "Well, everyone's doing that."

What's the best decision you've made?

To leave Saatchi & Saatchi and set up M&C Saatchi. I had to give up the comfortable corporate life, and I thought long and hard about it.

What are your interview tips?

I'm impressed by people who do their homework, who are bright and engaging. I'm also swayed by how I feel after spending five minutes in a room with them. Creative people can have three heads and it doesn't matter, but with people on the business side you have to think: would I like this person in my office?

And your CV tips?

It should be bullet-pointed, simple, with a lot of spaces.

What motivates you?

Fear of failure. It's a dominant motivation among a lot of my business friends. It's sad, really.

Who are your heroes?

Arsène Wenger.

How do I get to be where you are?

On the business side you need to be a graduate, although you don't need to have specialised in media or advertising.

What's the best perk of your job?

Being paid to lunch with really interesting people. How good is that?