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Evening Meeting With Amanda Mckean, Director Canterbury Festival

30th April 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground

Evening meeting with Amanda McKean, Director, Canterbury Festival.
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Lunchtime Meeting Agm & May Business Meeting

7th May 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground
Lunchtime meeting 12.30pm for 1pm meal Annual General Meeting to be followed by the May Business Meeting.
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Job talk: Roger Hickman; My crazy journey

The members of most Rotary clubs represent a range of careers – but when new member Roger Hickman gave his job talk the other day we realised one member alone can also have a range of careers!

“I want to take you on a journey through my rather unconventional life and career path,” said Roger, as he started his talk. “Fasten your seatbelts” he added with a smile as he commenced his slideshow.

Roger’s career began when he left grammar school at the “ripe old age of 15” when he got a job as a trainee hotel manager at a hotel in Cambridge – he told us this was also where he’d first encountered Rotarians, while serving them lunches! “Little did I know then that this would be just the beginning of my adventurous career,” he said.

He went on to work at some of the UK’s finest hotels – and bought his first restaurant in Malvern when only 19! Interestingly, he borrowed the purchase money from the vendor! “You could say this is where my entrepreneurship adventure began,” said Roger, adding “that deal was my ticket to entrepreneurship”.

After selling the restaurant Roger went into sales and marketing, starting as a door-to-door insurance salesman. He then joined S & H Pink stamps, an American company, where he was able to quickly climb the career ladder. He met with success and awards until, suddenly, the Suez petrol crisis hit and trading stamps vanished from garage forecourts. It left him jobless with a family to feed and a hefty mortgage to pay.

Roger went on to work with books and records – George McCrae’s 70s hit “Rock Your Baby” was one of the records he worked with. But Roger felt that working for someone else was too limiting for his earning capacity – he joked how “JOB” stands for “just over broke”. So he started importing records and eventually even started his own record label, Fern, specialising in Scottish country music.

His next career move was to be the UK distributor for a Dutch biscuit importer – “That’s when Ronor Foods was born,” he said. His success led him to being headhunted by an old competitor from Green Shield stamps – leading him to join Wallace International on a commission only basis. “My sales career seemed unstoppable,” he told us, with him often jet setting off to other countries. However things crashed to a halt when his boss got fired; he clashed with his new boss when his commission only contract got switched to a basic salary – meaning a whopping 70% drop in earnings! Luckily his former boss had secured a share deal with an American competitor, The International Marketing Corporation, so Roger followed suit. He received a a small share of the company, and “life got interesting again”! He even joked that the lure of Palm Beach became too much for him – leading him to buying a house there. “Life was grand,” he said.

But then came another setback. His company was running in-store game and product promotions for international supermarket giants like Tesco, but “one memorable day” he faced a “comical calamity” during a “dish of the week” promotion. In an unexpected turn of events, a container filled with the dishes “took a nosedive” into the ocean! The “dinnerware debacle” as he termed it served as a reminder that even the most unexpected mishaps can lead to some of the most amusing stories!

Three years later his company sold the business and he was asked to stay on as MD for the new plc. This proved “a whole new ball game”, with meetings galore. In time the company’s share price crashed, giving Roger the chance to buy it back – for just 1% of the price he’d sold it for.

Shortly after, he sold his share and looked forward to retirement – “but life had other plans”. His property portfolio took a hit – so, ever the entrepreneur, he started to write motivational books under the pseudonym “Ralph Hunter”. Apparently the books were titled “Believe in The Magic” and “Let the Magic Begin”. “Why Magic?” he asked rhetorically: turns out it was a hobby that “often helps in business”. And with that comment Roger took a little side step as he played a magical numbers game with us based around the number 17 (the date of his talk).

Life moved on and Roger recovered from a major illness and started to buy old properties again. Curiously, a share in a manor house in Upton got him the title of “Lord of the Manor”.

Then, – ten years ago – Roger met fellow Rotarian Irina. Together they set up “Simply Carers” – a home care agency which they also sold eventually. His focus now was property development and business consultancy. Interestingly, in 2015, he raffled off his Knightsbridge apartment, so raising money for homeless charities.

Roger ended his talk about his “winding, crazy, and sometimes downright unbelievable journey” by telling us that “life is full of surprises” and that “the most unexpected paths lead to the most incredible destinations”. Where life will lead him now is “anyone’s guess”!

President Rosemary thanked Roger for his interesting talk and everyone offered a warm round of applause.

Picture: Roger pictured just before starting his talk. Picture credit: The Rotary Club of Canterbury. 



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The Rotary Club of Canterbury
St Lawrence Cricket Ground
Old Dover Road,
Canterbury, Kent,
CT1 3NZ,
United Kingdom

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