Peter completed his foundation year in 1967 and after a degree in graphics, he entered the fast developing world of branding, where he worked on such iconic brands as Domestos, Carling, Heinz and Tia Maria. A passionate advocate of British design, his consultancy, Holmes & Marchant, opened the doors for other UK consultancies across Europe and beyond. He is now Managing Director of First Mentor, which transforms senior executive board members and high profile figures into outstanding public performers.
Peter, who was born in Skipton, first attended the Regional College of Art as an apprentice printer studying a City & Guilds course where his ability was quickly apparent. Peter recalls “My tutor, Geoff Dowling, thought I was capable of more and encouraged me to apply for the Art Foundation course. I owe him a huge debt.” Peter looks back fondly at his two time at College, maintaining, “I was enjoying myself so much, I managed to string it out for two years!” Along with the company of gifted students Keith Brown, Pamela Rodgers, Maggie Parbus, Neil Andrews, Diane Porchta and Hilary Silver, Peter delighted in the teaching of the legendary Albert Hunt and the distractions of the Manville Arms. Peter also remembered “John Carter, who was one of our course tutors, was a lovely man who gave me enormous encouragement. I soon realised there were more talented ‘fine artists’ than me on the course, but not many who were better at more graphic techniques like print making. I also enjoyed Michael Werner’s sculpture classes, particularly when we got to take over the entire studio to build ‘environments’, which made me think differently about ‘art’ per se. There was also a very glamorous, dark haired lady tutor who added to the attractions of printmaking, but that’s another story!”
Following the Foundation course Peter progressed to a graphic design degree at the London College of Printing & Graphic Arts in London. Peter jokes that he chose graphics as “I was never one to suffer for my art! Plus, my inclination to printmaking took me in the direction of graphics, so it seemed the obvious specialisation. That and wanting to escape to the bright lights of London! The 60’s were a great time to be there - the Marquee Club, the Grosvenor Square riot, seeing Cream/Jimmy Hendrix/Johnny Winter/Chicken Shack (who became Fleetwood Mac) and many more at the LSE and the Marque Club, the Hornsey sit-in, et al. A bit clichéd now, but all very new and exciting at the time.”
Following graduation Peter initially worked at Vogue and Good Housekeeping magazine, before he set up a design agency with two former students from the LCP. He notes, “We did good creative work and even won a DADA award, but we were naïve business wise. Lack of commercial training was a failing in art education at the time therefore we only lasted about two to three years. When I then married a lady who was earning big money in TV, because her work was high risk, we decided I should go salaried. So, I went to work at Leo Burnett and Y&R, two US advertising agencies, where I fast tracked my commercial education, especially when I was sent on the three month Y&R Leaders of Tomorrow course in New York – a fantastic experience.
At Y&R I handled a lot of international design projects that the agency got as part of its mainstream advertising work. So I decided to specialise in this area and went to work for a new corporate/packaging consultancy called DIA. It was very different to the ‘art’ culture that prevailed in design at that time. We were loud, aggressive and very commercial. Think the Hill Street Blues squad room and you’ll get a feel for the atmosphere that prevailed! However, we got results and in just four years we grew to 100 plus people and a turnover of £10M. I was then head hunted to run Holmes & Marchant, where I was given free rein to go into Europe – something that was relatively unheard of a the time. After a lot of success and ten years later, I needed a new challenge and started getting involved in the formulation of the defining ‘point of difference’ of brands and the culture and communications strategy that flowed from it. It was very exciting to be in at the real centre of things, talking to senior managers and company boards. Unlike many creative people, I was able to talk about what creativity can achieve in a business context.
All the above led naturally into my being asked more and more to get involved with mentoring. Then, in summer 2011, having watched the CEO of BP ‘die’ in front of a Senate Hearing in the US and being impressed by the ‘long-game’ approach of the mentor character in the King’s Speech, the two ‘events’ inspired a BBC presenter, David Eades, a cameraman/editor, Bo Lindstrom and me to set up First Mentor to deliver a new style of media training.” Peter has applied his branding expertise to leadership to set senior figures apart from competitors and strengthen their organisations’ vision and reputation.