Getting To Know You: Kevin Allen, founder of re:kap

What do you currently do?
After 30 years of being a global mad-man of McCann and Interpublic, winning the pitch for Mastercard’s priceless campaign and advisor to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, I have founded re:kap, a business transformation company in London and New York.

Who do you admire?
I admire Angela Ahren, CEO of Burberry who; like me, came from humble beginnings and has created magic with a company and a brand through an abiding belief in an emotionally intelligent leadership, the rocket fuel of corporate culture, and a demonstration of what human energy can do…and she’s a really nice lady too!

Who is your inspiration in business?
My Mum. A single mother who raised four crazy kids, barely on a shoe-string, I saw upfront that any great leader has what she has in spades: courage; generosity of spirit;authority;strength and conviction….and a mammoth sense of humour.

Looking back, would you have done things differently?
If you asked me this question when I was in my early, aspiring years; slightly red-faced about my patchwork beginnings and my less-than pedigree descendancy, I would have said yes.

With the passing of years however, having to scrap for every inch, getting in the business through the back door, fighting against organisational odds but finally realising that the person you are, as you are, it’s what makes for winners. I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

What defines your way of doing business?
At the end of the day, no matter what we do, or what position we hold, we are all salesman. For me, salesmanship is not arm-twisting, it is an act of human empathy and generosity of spirit. When people see that you understand their desire and you connect yourself to it, you win whatever it is you seek. People follow you whether you are a customer or floor after floor of employees because they believe you are deserving of it. Martin Luther King used to say, ‘Keep your eye on the prize’ and for me, it is the wonderful people who comprise your community.

What advice would you give to somebody starting out?
Because I began my career a ‘mutt’, I somehow had it in my head that I had to become a ‘perfect man’ in order that I might be ‘taken seriously’.

The best advice I ever got was to step out from behind the pinstripe and be myself – the true self-craziness, eccentricities and all! The more you are yourself, the greater your ability to connect with people, and make you buoyant.