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86: GRASS ROOTS

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David Evans has just come back from his so-called “World Rock Tour”. Three times a year, he visits all 1,276 employees of Grassroots, the performance improvement firm he set up in 1980. He gives speeches, runs workshops, and visits clients. “I’ve spent the past month jetting around South America, Europe and Asia,” says the 61-year-old entrepreneur. “Despite my age, I have the energy of a 30-year-old. Turnover at Evans’ Hertfordshire-based business has jumped from £112m in 2005 to £284.3m in 2008, placing it 87th in this year’s Hot 100 list. But Evans reckons his company is unique among the pack: “I’ve stored all the wealth of the company. We have zero gearing. We don’t owe anybody anything. And we have tens of millions in the bank. That gives my staff confidence that we can ride over difficult times. Ironically, we’re picking up business like I’m putting on weight!” He keeps the company healthy with a “bonsai tree-approach”. He explains: “Companies tend to build up a coterie of people in the middle and you have to question whether you need them. If the business is getting out of shape, I trim it.” But that doesn’t mean that Grassroots is immune to the downturn. Evans admits that a couple of his big clients have toppled under bad debt. “There’s not much we can do about it, we can’t get the money back. We just move on – that’s life.”www.grassroots.uk.com

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87: REALLY USEFUL PRODUCTS
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