Human Resources

CMO Files: Simon Carter, Executive Director of Marketing, Fujitsu

Get inside the mind of the world's top marketing professionals. In 20 questions we find out what they love most about their job, what their biggest achievements are... and what keeps them awake at night. Read 'The CMO Files'.

Name: Simon Carter

Organisation: Fujitsu

Job title: Executive Director of Marketing, UK & Ireland

 Location: Baker Street, London


(1) Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Buxton, Derbyshire, but grew up in Monmouth, South Wales, at a time when Wales were very good at rugby – being an Englishman in Wales when they were playing was at times tricky!

(2) What was your first job?  

My very first job was setting up a showground for the largest one-day agricultural show in the country (it took six weeks for that single day!) Then when at University, I spent a year as a Civil Servant, at the Institute of Hydrology, which involved drilling boreholes across the country during the day and drinking copious amounts of alcohol with several other Interns most evenings!  My first real job was as a Graduate Trainee for NatWest Bank – lending money to students!

(3) What was the first product you got really excited about?   

I tend to get very passionate about every brand I market but three particular stories from my time as Marketing Director of the Post Office. I convinced the Board to launch a great new product – “Post Office Flowers” – encouraging customers who were posting greetings cards, to also make a mail order flower delivery. Alas it bombed. I then tried to convince my team to launch something that I called “Travel In A Box” (a holiday, spending money and insurance in a gift box), but my team called a mutiny and refused to let me launch it (its time will come!) But perhaps my most exciting product launch was for Post Office HomePhone, which I put huge amounts of passion and personal energy into – making myself very annoying with anyone who did not share my vision, which I am pleased to say continues to be a huge success.

(4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

I have been very fortunate to work for some incredibly inspirational people in my time.  David McLean at NatWest – a guy who worked himself up from school entrant to the very top, and fought for what he believed in, at a time when the bank was all about status and conformity.  Gordon Steele at both London Electricity and Post Office, who was also somewhat a radical, falling out with his paymasters in most jobs he has done, by arguing for what he felt was right (and he usually was).  And Manny Fontela-Novoa at Thomas Cook – without a doubt, the most characteristic CEO I have ever worked for, who asked employees to vote for a pay cut after 9/11, and some 94% volunteered.

(5) What has been your greatest achievement?

As I look back on my career, I am very proud of just about everything I have done (OK, apart from kicking that photocopier that refused to copy and throwing that stapler across the office, narrowing missing a colleague, when it refused to staple!)  Most recently, I am probably most proud of getting Marketing represented at Board level at Fujitsu in the UK & Ireland – this is not that common in B2B brands, but is as important in this market as it is in Retail or FMCG businesses.

(6) What has been your biggest mistake?

All mistakes are learning opportunities in my book.  Printing my brand’s logo in black, on a black background in a brand enhancement campaign was a big lesson.  As was failing to spot that we had spelt the company’s name wrong in a mailer to two million households, convincing them that we were a trusted brand they could rely upon.  However they were both years ago, and I have never made either mistake since.

(7) What is your greatest strength?

Having done a straw-poll in the office, I am not sure whether the ability to eat cake at any time of the day or night counts as a strength?  What I would say is that I have always relished leading teams – in being a strong and passionate communicator, in being open and loyal with my team, and in always striving for demonstrable success.  Success that is celebrated with cake, of course!

(8) What is your biggest weakness?

Marketers are passionate people.  Sometimes wearing your heart on your sleeve is not always the best approach in business.  Whilst it goes a long way to motivate your team (think Mel Gibson in Braveheart) sometimes a different approach is necessary – especially when dealing with very senior people, many who come from different backgrounds and cultures.

(9) What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers?   

I get most frustrated with the need to constantly re-sell “Marketing” to peers.  The absence of a real qualification for our Sector, coupled with the failure of a strong Trade Body to build the credibility in what we do, means that everyone feels they can “do” Marketing.

(10) Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm?

I love the quote from the late Maya Angelou – “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – which for me sums up the role of Marketing perfectly.  I am not sure about making me squirm – everyone has a right to talk total bollocks at any time, and they often do!

(11) What makes you stressed?

Only one thing, if I am honest – being out of control with my email inbox.  Stepping away from my desk for a meeting for a few hours and coming back to 100 new emails. Then wading through them, as yet more arrive.  I can no longer go away on holiday without my blackberry – I would spend the whole time worrying about the size of my in-box when I get back.

(12) What do you do to relax?

I have recently remarried, and there is nothing my wife and I enjoy more on a Friday night, than to go on a pub crawl around London.  Our only rule is that we can never go to a pub we have been to before – it is a great way to explore London!  Alas, as we are now approaching middle age, we cannot visit quite so many pubs as we could in our heyday!

(13) What is your favourite song?

The late 1970s were an iconic period for music  and the great thing is that most of the bands who were big then have all run out of money and are back on the circuit again!  Top songs would have to be “New Rose” by The Damned, “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys, “No More Heroes” by The Stranglers, and “Where’s Captain Kirk” by Spizz Energi – all of whom I have seen live in the last 6 months!

(14) Which book taught you most?

How sad is it to admit that I have learnt little from books – it is mainly life experiences that stick with me.  If I had to name something, I would have to say “Who Stole My Cheese” from years ago.

(15) Do you have a team or sport that you follow?

For my sins, I follow the somewhat under-performing football team, Aston Villa, who I started to follow when I was about 6 years of age, and my Dad filled up with petrol at an Esso filling station, and they were giving away football club badge tokens with every tank of fuel (whatever happened to those sort of loyalty schemes?!).  We got “Aston Villa”, which I thought was a pretty cool name.  40-odd years later, and I am lumbered with them – it would be sacrilege to change your football team, despite them going out of their way to frustrate and infuriate their long-suffering fans!                                

(16) Which country would you like to work in?

I love the UK, and currently work as part of the Global Marketing Team for Fujitsu… based in Central London.  In today’s technological age, you can do an awful lot from one base.

(17) Which company do you think has the best marketing?

Given our limited budgets, I am very proud of the work that Fujitsu does with our money (as I was with Thomas Cook, Post Office, EdF Energy, Virgin Energy, London Electricity and NatWest when I worked there!)

(18) What do you love most about your job?

It sounds crass, but I love making a difference. I adore seeing a random idea that I may have in the bath one night, become a fantastic campaign, that resonates with customers, resulting in us winning a new contract that manifests itself in a financial return for our business.  Secondly, I enjoy seeing my people grow up into fantastic marketers.  Finally, I love to see outside people commenting favourably on what my team have sweated over – whether that be a journalist, a customer, a competitor, or a judge at an Awards Event.

(19) What is your favourite book?

Alas, I rarely get time to read books these days.  Checking what my friends are doing on Facebook, catching the news headlines on my BBC News app, and reading those eternal emails, is my usual ritual before going to bed – sad though it is to admit it.

(20) What keeps you awake at night?

Very little – I am blessed that I sleep well – when that light goes out, the next thing I know is the alarm going off the following morning… and it starts all over again.



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