Ian Robertson

Chairman and chief executive, Rolls Royce, Goodwood, 54...

I joined the Rover Group when I was 21 and while I have always been ambitious I could not have foreseen that I would be the youngest Chairman of Rolls Royce at the age of 47. As a young graduate I could have gone to the Middle East as a mud engineer working on the drilling rigs. I had grown up by the sea in Llandudno, did a degree in maritime studies, but opted to join the car industry.Lots of things make me happy - my family in particular. The kids were nine and six when we first went to South Africa in 1999. I was part of the team which wrote 'South Africa, the Good News'. Producing one of the world's premium cars and exporting it to the USA were significant achievements.Nelson Mandela is an outstanding guy. As long as I live I shall remember my meetings with him. He is engaging, down to earth, compassionate, a visionary. To sit with him having a cup of coffee, you feel incredibly blessed. There are few people in the world like him. To spend 25 years in jail and not come out seeking retribution is humbling. We also looked at the issue of HIV/Aids. I was very aware that if the top person in an organisation is seen to put weight behind an issue, it is far more likely to be taken seriously. Freshly cut grass has a clean smell, which I like, but the smell of the South African Bush is distinctive. All the natural elements with nothing added. We are at an exciting stage with Rolls Royce. When the BMW Group took on the Rolls Royce marque in 1998, it inherited a history. Our headquarters, Goodwood, not only has all the qualities needed for a production facility, but also historic connections: one of the founding fathers of the company, Sir Henry Royce, lived nearby for much of his life.His influence played an important part in the development of the Phantom. Sir Henry once famously said: "Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it." Goodwood was opened in January 2003, with the launch of the Phantom and it has proved a great sales success. In 2005 almost 800 Phantoms were sold worldwide, which was the highest number of Rolls Royces sold for 15 years.I tend to get up about six in the morning. While they were growing up, my two kids were early risers. Now they are teenagers, my son would happily stay in bed all day! I enjoy exercise and regularly run around the peninsula at Chidham where we live.My first car was a Hillman Imp which had done 89,000 miles. I am passionate about cars. I drive a BMW X5 and still get a thrill when I open up the throttle on my motorbike. I like to drive the Phantom.There isn't really a typical Rolls Royce customer, although they fall under the general umbrella of being successful whether in business, entertainment or sport. They range from 20 somethings to 80 year olds. The car delivers an experience, it certainly doesn't represent a sterotype! Being a CEO is primarily about leadership, getting the best out of people. This organisation is sufficiently small to put your arms around it, so a big part of my job is getting the guys engaged to deliver.

Interview by Brigit Cunningham Picture by Kate Eastman

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