Profile: Tom Lewis, Text 100 Group - Out of the shadows, blinking in the light/Text 100’s Tom Lewis has come into his own since the agency’s LSE listing

Text 100 was founded in 1981 by two very different people. For 18 years Mark Adams has been the group’s public face, while Tom Lewis has remained in the shadows. Adams is the one with that indefinable PR touch, the outgoing, charismatic half of the partnership, whose job it has been to woo and counsel the clients. Lewis gave up consulting two years after the agency was founded, and has concentrated ever since on managing its growth.

Text 100 was founded in 1981 by two very different people. For 18

years Mark Adams has been the group’s public face, while Tom Lewis has

remained in the shadows. Adams is the one with that indefinable PR

touch, the outgoing, charismatic half of the partnership, whose job it

has been to woo and counsel the clients. Lewis gave up consulting two

years after the agency was founded, and has concentrated ever since on

managing its growth.



In the run-up to Text 100 Group’s flotation last month, the long

established dynamic between its founders was reversed. This summer

Adams, who did not want to be a plc director, stepped down from the

board. Meanwhile, Lewis, as chairman, has taken Text from Ofex on to the

London Stock Exchange and presided over one of the market’s most

successful PR business listings.



Text’s shares were valued at 30p when it joined Ofex in March 1997; they

reached pounds 5.40 last month.



’I’ve suddenly sort of popped out of the woodwork, if you like, because

Text 100 is now the size where I can start to make some exciting things

happen,’ says Lewis. He seems to be blinking a little in the

limelight.



Despite his unashamedly eccentric get-up - he has for years paired his

suits with a collection of 25 matching bow-ties and braces - he is

reserved and camera shy (hence the more sober image above). Despite a

passion for politics which led him to campaign actively for the

Conservatives, he claims to have few interests outside work. One

colleague describes him as focused and intelligent, but aloof.



Lewis studied German and French at Southampton University before joining

Associated Newspapers in 1979 to sell advertising. In 1980 he joined

Interco Business Consultants, an agency run by Chris Codrington, whom

Lewis describes as the father of technology PR.



He met Adams at Interco - when he interviewed him for a job. With a few

important things in common - German mothers and the desire to build a

Europe-wide technology PR business - the two decided to join forces and

strike out on their own. They pooled what remained of their last month’s

salaries, about pounds 450, and got going.



Lewis recalls: ’Text was as humble a start-up as they come. We had

nothing.



We had a round table in the front room of a house in Raleigh Road,

Richmond, we had no business on day one, we had no money, we didn’t even

have a typewriter.’



Adams’ father was a salesman for IBM, which at the time was

manufacturing electronic typewriters. He would deliver a machine to

Raleigh Road late in the evening, leaving it for the two entrepreneurs

to type away at furiously until the next morning, when it would be

carted off to show to a client.



Lewis is keen to emphasise the agency’s humble beginnings, because he

has grown Text to its current pounds 23 million turnover organically.

Apart from its initial pounds 450 cash injection, the agency has never

had more than a bank overdraft to fund its expansion. Lewis has always

shied away from acquisitions, seeing them as too risky.



He prefers to use his money to motivate staff. About 13 per cent of

Text’s shares belong to its employees. He is particularly keen on what

he calls the concept of dignity for senior staff. ’Young people want

parties and cars, and people in their thirties and forties want

financial security for children, roofs over their heads; a lot of our

industry still doesn’t provide that.’



Text staff also play a big part in its growth. Susan Grant, who left

eight years ago to co-found technology agency Grant Butler Coomber

(GBC), says Text gave her the experience she needed to run her own

business.



’Both Mark and Tom are great at being hands-off managers,’ she says.

Lewis encourages consultants to launch their own businesses under the

group’s umbrella. August.One Communications, Bite, Joe Public Relations,

Evus, Extra PR in Germany and Brand X, a web marketing business, have

all been launched since 1995.



Lewis is unusual in that most of the great agencies have been founded or

are headed by star practitioners. His interest has been in creating a

high-worth business. Text began its international expansion in 1989, and

is now one of the world’s three largest technology agencies. A mark of

his success is that Hill Samuel, Schroder’s and Gartmore were among 28

institutional investors queuing to buy its shares when it launched on

the LSE.



Today there are only three genuinely international PR networks

originating in the UK - Shandwick, Citigate and Text. Perhaps this is

because PR is still regarded as a lifestyle, rather than a money making

industry in the UK. But as Lewis the businessman takes over from Adams

the PR man as the public face of Text, the group’s success may convince

other agency founders to aim a little higher.



HIGHLIGHTS

1981

Co-founded Text 100

1997

Text 100 Group lists on Ofex

1999

Text 100 Group lists on London Stock Exchange



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