Magazine article Management Today

Peter Erskine: If I Had to Start Again

Magazine article Management Today

Peter Erskine: If I Had to Start Again

Article excerpt

I would love to have played football, but I was useless. It's like saying I'd like to fly if I just flap my arms.

Opportunism got me where I am. I studied psychology, a bland degree that never led anywhere, but a friend said you got a car if you went into marketing. It wasn't much more subtle than that. I joined the company that offered the most money - DIY firm Polycell.

My father grew up in deep poverty in the East End of London and spent his life at Tate & Lyle. He was very risk-averse, my old man. At 25, I told him I was changing jobs, and there was a lot of teeth-sucking. But I had realised Polycell wasn't in the premier division and I left for Colgate Palmolive. It taught me how things should be done. At least then if I didn't do things that way I knew what I was rejecting.

I joined Mars in 1980. After 10 good years, I hit a low. A headhunter happened to call telling me about the emerging mobile telecoms market, and I joined a start-up. Back then, there were no rules and I enjoyed having to use judgment. …

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