An interview with Charles Vallance

Conference Q&A: Charles Vallance

Ahead of his appearance at our Annual Conference, Elen Lewis interviews Charles Vallance, founder & chairman, VCCP about snooker, Woody Allen's golden rule and passive aggressive words.

What does bold marketing leadership look like?
The best ideas tend to evoke the response 'I wish I’d thought of that'. Bold leadership, therefore, should create the conditions where these ideas have the best chance of happening most frequently. I often find that the boldest thing is to let common sense prevail. As Emerson said, it’s as rare as genius. Too often we complicate and over-embellish. In many ways, leadership shouldn’t look like anything, ideally it’s something you bring out in someone else – namely your brand and people.

What advice would you give to brands looking to reinvent, redefine and reimagine?
Be brutally honest about all your anxieties for your brand. Within one of them is the seed for a new direction. If you don’t have any anxieties, then use your imagination.

What is the most valuable lesson you've learnt about leadership?
The weak can drive out the strong. Mediocrity and risk aversion are surprisingly powerful forces that get their way more often than not.

What advice would you offer to brands looking to reset the agenda for the future?
Set yourself a destination, and then work out the roadmap in reverse. Then get on with it, only this time going forward. You’ll be surprised how close to your destination you get if you do the exercise with conviction.

What is the most effective way to cope with discontinuity?
Embrace it, and make it something that your competitors fear. The most self-actualised people are the ones who are most open to change. The same is true for brands.

What are the best examples of businesses today that are reshaping the value exchange?
Lots of predictable answers here including Airbnb, Uber, easyJet, O2, Netflix, HBO, Spotify, Line, Yoo.

What is your most hated business expression?
Passive aggressive use of the word 'and' when people mean 'but'. Say what you think and have done with it.

You believe in luck - how can businesses build serendipity into their organisations?
Encourage off the ball incidents and never codify success.

What is your golden rule?
Get on with it. As Woody Allen memorably said: '80% of success is turning up'.

What has been the tensest moment of your career?
I’m tense the whole time.

What would you say to your 17-year-old self?
Get on with it.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Televised snooker.

What are you reading?
Whilst pretending to read The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, I’m quietly enjoying Much Obliged Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (for the umpteenth time).

Tell us a secret.
I am incapable of oxymoronic behaviour.


Charles Vallance is speaking at our Annual Conference 2014 this 26 November, themed around Resetting the Agenda. To find out more visit our Events Gallery.