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David Evans: “This is the year of Darwin”

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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 his Hertfordshire-based business hit £284.3m last year – and Evans says he’s been storing up all the company’s wealth. “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: “If the business is getting out of shape, I trim it. I adapt the company constantly – there are no sudden knee-jerk reactions. And I always give my employees a longer-term perspective than the next six weeks."

But that doesn’t mean 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.”

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