Martin Roach

martin roach

Martin is an outstanding and inspirational leader and it was a real honour interviewing him. He is the Father of 4 lovely individuals — they are his compass. His mission is to inspire meaningful conversations using both logic and empathy. He provides the analysis that helps leaders inspire their people and facilitate the conversation so colleagues can take their leaders somewhere better. He believes it’s about creating a space so that we can discuss what truly matters, our values. As the Founder of Brands with Values he works to connect people and purpose. He is also a Director of the wonderful Association of Sustainability Practitioners.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

NO LOGO by Naomi Klein. I give it to entrepreneurs to think about the complete cycle of marketing to supply chain. It highlights how corporate companies put structures before people. It had a huge effect on me when I first read it.


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?)

Music is a big part of my life. In my spare time I’m a techno music producer. I recently bought a utility module for about £40. It was a small price but it had a huge impact on the quality of sound the system can output.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

Clients always move on to new roles or new suppliers — I’ve learned that this is a natural cycle of business. One can only nurture clients for as long as you can. When drowning at work I used to absorb the pressure. But over the last few years I’ve been listening to myself more and asking for help — this has enhanced my well-being.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

Stop, rest and think.

For example: The creation plastic which has now become micro-plastic. This demonstrates that we, as a whole, we’re not thinking about how society might cope If there was an avalanche of plastic. No one took the time to really understand the lasting impact. History will look back and say why our approach is fundamentally flawed — we believe the market will solve the problems. But the market is short-term focused. That is an inherent problem.


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

My modular system. It’s robust and will stand the test of time.


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

I’ve spent more time visiting art galleries. I need that creative stimulus. It gives me that childlike wonder. It inspires me to be around creative people.

You can also bring these ideas into the workplace. A design process should be fun and stimulating, encouraging. Discovery and clear strategy.


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

I would say: try and understand the link between geopolitics and your chosen field. How does the world move around your area of expertise?

Companies will take one to two years to make any money from you, focus on where you can add value, and be grateful for people taking you on when you don’t have any experience.


What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Any recommendations about working better or harder or leaner or whatever the new fad is.

This has always been sold as the only way to succeed but it’s very masculine and it’s disingenuous. If you’re always working ‘harder’ then what exactly does that mean? How do you celebrate success, how do you stop and reflect?

Enjoy working smarter. Don’t burn out.


What frustrates you the most about your industry and the way companies are run in it?

I’m quite new to this industry. So I don’t think I have enough data to make a good assessment.

However, my native industry, the design industry has grown up very well. I think it’s sad that most design agencies are small and aren’t necessarily given the chance to shine.


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

Things that drain my energy.

I seek out interesting conversations and activities now, but I do also need alone time to process things. I will question why you’re asking me that question and I’m a great believer in giving time and space to things.

My youngest is nearly 12. I want to spend time with my children before they get older. Work used to be my life, now I value all of my life. I used to live for design and I built my identity around it. But it was toxic and I couldn’t switch off.


What does a balanced life look like to you? Has a work or a project you have been focused on caused you to neglect other areas of your life?

Remove work / life balance from your vocabulary. It’s just life. Make it a priority.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

I just consciously stop and slow everything down. If I’m rested and thinking properly that is a benefit to the business and a benefit to myself.


What does leadership mean to you?

Keeping hold of the overarching vision that people can gravitate towards. Being the custodian of the values and being the best example of it that you can be.


Which people have most inspired you in your life and why?

I have been inspired more by movements than people. Futurism, Avant-gardism and Modernism. People coming together to create something and build manifestos that translate into movements.


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

Principles are guides and frameworks in which you can develop behaviours. Behaviours allow you to live day by day, in tune with your values. However, we must remember that Values can change. Not all values hold the same importance, you can group them into clusters, you can reprogram yourself. It’s the most incredible facet of human existence.


If you had a forum to speak to 50 leaders, what question would you pose to them, to get them thinking about and being better leaders?

Why are you doing what you’re doing?


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

In my personal life — more music. Creating music is work, you require the same discipline and it requires the same energy as running a business.

In business probably more writing. I can do it and I enjoy it — I just need to make the decision to do it.


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

I’ve hired a personal trainer in the past. It was very valuable — understanding how to do something properly at the start sets you up for success in the future.


Discover more about Martin’s company brands with values.

Topic: 50 in 50