Lunch with… Chris Rumfitt
PRCA director general Francis Ingham dines with Field Consulting boss Chris Rumfitt at Shepherd’s restaurant.
Chris and I sat down to lunch as division tortured the Tory Party; claim and counter-claim tortured the Labour Party; and much to their chagrin, nobody appeared fussed enough to torture the Lib Dems. Which dates this interview as any time since 2015 really….
We started with the name of Chris’s agency, Field Consulting. Why? He laughs and responds:
“There is a pretentious answer, which is that a field is a place where you can go to think and be visionary -an open space for contemplation and then action. I found naming an organisation one of the hardest things to do. There are two sorts of company names: the ones that are ones that are OK, and the ones that are terrible.”
Which is unquestionably true. I look around Shepherd’s, and lament that there’s never an old Consignia employee to tease when you need one.
“Rather than Field Public Affairs or Field Communications, I wanted to say something about how we work with clients -we are not just there to do the washing up!”
I ask how Field Consulting stands out in a crowded market? other than by refusing to don the marigolds, this is,
“The market has changed quite a lot in the last decade. The demand for general advice is less, and clients demand much more specialised expertise. So what we have tried to do is to focus on a relatively small number of industry sectors -property, housing, transport, energy. Broadly infrastructure. The business model will be to add sectors as we go along.”
I ask Chris what he sees as the biggest challenge facing the market at the moment?
“Some of people say talent. Some people say Brexit. It’s boring, but it’s talent, not Brexit. Finding the right people is really hard. There are no barriers to entry. You need a laptop and a wi-fi connection. Well, you can get that in Starbucks. So there is a huge number of agencies, many of which are great in their own ways.
"Recruiting and identifying talent is really difficult. I love it when we can bring someone in at entry level and bring them up through the company. That’s one of the reasons I’m happy with my company at the moment. We are really strong at the junior levels -which will filter through to a strong team of managers, and then a strong team of directors.”
Having discussed Field Consulting, we move onto the political scene. Chris is a Labour man -so what does he make of things at the moment?
“I’m on the record as being in favour of a new centre party. I left the Labour Party last year after twenty years of membership. Painful but inevitable. I could not support Labour in a General Election tomorrow, so it’s hypocritical to be a member. I’d go back under different leadership, so I’m not someone who’s gone forever.
“The political scene is incredibly unpredictable. It’s not good for business, and it’s not good for the country. The Conservative Party never started negotiating with the European Union, because it’s never stopped negotiating with itself on Brexit. The Labour Party is run by people who have no history or tradition in its mainstream. The Lib Dems are irrelevant, though history will deem their contribution to the Coalition more kindly than we do today. “
I ask Chris what has become one my standard questions. Will Brexit happen?
“I think it will. For a while after the referendum, people put their heads in the sand and thought it would never happen. But I think we’ve passed the point of no return. And I think that in a second referendum, there’s every chance we could lose again. The British reaction to a lot of things is “I didn’t like, but that was the decision, so let’s get on with it.”
Finally, I ask Chris to reveal something our readers might not know about him. And he offers this gem:
“There’s not a lot I have in common with Jeremy Corbyn, but I did once share a lift with Yasser Arafat. It was in Downing Street. Have you ever been in the lifts in 10 Downing Street? They are absolutely tiny. Arafat’s bodyguard was an enormous man, and Arafat was a tiny man. I raced to get to the lift, got in and thought ‘Oh God’. So I have shared personal space with Yasser Arafat.”
Duck heart and shepherd’s pie
Ham and melon and dover sole
Water; orange juice and lemonade (yes, you read that correctly.)