The Purvis Society was delighted to welcome Mr Joff Sharpe, ex-SAS, businessman and Cranleigh parent, to speak at the third of this term’s Sixth Form Purvis Society meetings.

Introducing Mr Sharpe, JCEM quoted from the Huffington Post (for whom Mr Sharpe writes regularly): Most people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions for more than a couple of days. I know how they feel. Twenty-eight years ago my New Year’s resolution was to join the SAS and I had my doubts when I disappeared up to my armpits in a snowdrift at three in the morning in some prehistoric corner of Wales. These days, I still love to run in the Surrey Hills in summer but when it’s cold, wet and miserable I head for the gym. So here’s a more realistic suggestion (as you bail the flood water out of your living room or look dejectedly out of the office windowthis was written in January); how about running your organization like the SAS this year?

The next hour passed in a flash as Mr Sharpe expanded on his suggestion, using anecdotes from his extraordinarilyjoff-sharpe varied life and examples culled from a range of heroes (Colonel David Stirling – founder of the SAS); Anders Lassen (Victoria Cross, MC and Two Bars); Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Paddy” Mayne (DSO and Three Bars); Sir Christopher Gent (Vodaphone); Sir Richard Branson (Virgin); Sir James Dyson (5.127 prototypes…) and many others.

Defending his suggestion that there were many parallels between the military and business (an idea not risible if you focus on the “how” rather than the “what”), he used ten main themes, some of which were: “The Man is the Regiment”; “Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way” ;“Standing still makes you a target”; “If you’re not learning you’re becoming a liability” and he ended with “If you dare, you will occasionally take a beating.”

A large audience responded well to this theme (several pupils had also taken the trouble to follow the various links he had sent in advance of the event) and there was a significant number of contributions from the floor. The presentation ended with a dignified scramble for copies of his book, which he very kindly donated to his listeners on the understanding that they read it, tell their parents and pass on the good news.

Dr Christopher Mann