Lessons to be learnt from Rodney returning to Fitch

Sir Martin Sorrell has effected a masterstroke in bringing Rodney Fitch back into Fitch Worldwide – or, as one-time Fitch chief executive Ian Cochrane puts it, in reuniting ‘man and brand’ (see Vox Pop, page 11). Fitch’s experience and enthusiasm alone are enough to give WPP Group’s retail star consultancy a boost after all the changes it has been through.

Judging by our Vox Pop respondents, the news has also given new vigour to some of the key players on the London design scene. And Fitch’s words as he is poised to sign the deal with WPP could also be a boost for design in its widest sense, if others in the business choose to heed them.

Most telling is his observation that ‘Fitch Worldwide has had no shortage of management, but a dearth of leadership’ (see News Analysis, page 8). How many groups does that apply to? How many clients, however design-friendly, would do better with a bit of vision and what about design’s own ‘management’ as an industry?

The last, we hope, is under control with all the top jobs in new hands, though we still await manifestoes from Design Council chief executive David Kester, his successor at British Design & Art Direction Michael Hockney and incoming Design Business Association president John Mathers. Mathers is new to his honorary job, but Kester and Hockney have surely been in post long enough for their plans to be broadcast.

But leadership remains an issue for many design groups and their clients, and they would do well to listen to one of the founders of the industry as we know it. The industry would also benefit from a bit of fun – Fitch’s second aim for Fitch Worldwide – not necessarily a round of parties, but through renewed delight in doing great work and a greater sense of camaraderie within creative teams through social and professional ventures. Rod Petrie had it right when he called last month for love of the business to become more firmly entrenched in design (Private View, DW 23 October).

Then there is the belief in people and taking responsibility for motivating them. In our News Analysis Fitch honours those who have kept Fitch Worldwide going through difficult times. Separately, he has said he wants the very best people working in the group and that he will root out any cynicism that exists within it.

Having spent the past 12 months in a hands-on role at London group Portland Design, a small consultancy run as a tight ship by managing director Ibrahim Ibrahim, Fitch has rekindled his joy in getting his hands dirty in the day to day of business. He intends to maintain that enjoyment for himself in his new role. Others might do well to follow his lead.

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