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To develop strategic thinking skills, I have been fortunate to get practical hands-on experience managing and leading diverse groups of people across 27 countries in four continents.

Complex Organisations

The starting point for my career was in the communications unit of the British Government. This provided real insight into how people behave in complex structures, predominantly bureaucratic in nature.

New Markets

After a career move to publishing, I relocated to Vietnam in 1995, to set up Oxford University Press. We then expanded operations into Laos, and Cambodia, as well as developing the existing markets of India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Into Africa

In 2003, I was appointed Managing Director of Longman Africa … controlling 11 specialist education publishing businesses in 11 sub-Saharan African countries in 2003.

This was not a typical MD role … the education publishing business in Africa means meeting Government and Education officials on their turf and negotiating deals in different languages, with contractual terms and shipping and logistics challenges that are often unimaginable.

This is where my real passion for facilitating strategic thinking grew, and the need to find practical tools that could harness the participation of of diverse groups of people.

No career would be complete without the opportunity to do a spot of truck driving!

Early in my career I took time out to do an overland trip from the UK to South Africa. This turned into a 3-year stint as the driver of a 15 ton truck for an Africa Overland Safari Adventure company.

A truly unforgettable period of my life (a nightmare for my parents), which resulted in acquiring what I guess could be called a rare cross-section of additional business and life-skills!

It’s not everyday you get to manage the challenges of guest demands, truck breakdowns, malaria, bureaucratic border controls and a host of other every day bumps in the road, that only Africa can throw at you!


Mary-Clare Tomes

the strategic side

Paul Tomes

the creative side

In 1983, I was approached by New York based Advertising Agency BBDO, to help set up Ideadata ... the first computer generated graphics bureau in South Africa.

We produced 35mm presentation slides, video and overhead transparencies (remember those?).

It was an extraordinary period in my life … creating a business with what was considered then to be cutting edge technology (our first computers had just 64K of memory and 16 colours!)  However this was my first real taste of creating presentations, operating a 24 hour  service, with a group of exceptionally talented people, ready to convert a client’s hand-written notes into slides … literally overnight.

A gap evolved

With technology, presentation slides had become world-class, however presenters were still stuck in an ‘old school’ presentation paradigm (some still are).  Nervous, long-winded and delivered too slowly for a world that had been flung into the fast-lane.  At the time, presentation skills training wasn’t considered an essential business skill. This was soon to change.

In 1986, we founded Business Presentation Skills, the first training company of it’s kind in South Africa.  It’s still going strong today.

A large part of our success was the development of a Presentation Thought Model.  This is a tool that makes it easier to strategise and sequence content … presenting information the way an audience would prefer to hear it, instead of how a person would intuitively want to present it.

Adding more spark

In 2008, I made a decision to get even closer to the presentation coal-face, determined to add more spark and creativity to business pitches, roadshows, conferences, and corporate videos.

Whilst Pitch is essentially just two full-time people, we are surrounded by a group of exceptionally talented people. Each person works independently and joins us, when his or her specialist skills are needed.

The only way out is up!

We live in Hout Bay, Cape Town. If you have been there, you’ll know there are only three roads that come over the mountains and down into our village. This means anytime you get on a bicycle for exercise,  every route starts with a long uphill!  Consequently, I tend to cycle in on days when we have a tail wind!

I play drums in a ‘big band’ jazz band (we only do gigs for charity), and go sailing on the days there isn’t a tail wind!


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