Outstanding Contribution to Business in KentBack to Winners
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Clive Stevens has come a long way in his 61 years. At the tender age of 17, his first paid job was putting out deckchairs for tourists on the golden sands at Margate seafront – a short stroll from his childhood home in Westgate.
Some 45 year later, in addition to a hugely successful career at the helm of one of the county’s top
accountancy firms, Kreston Reeves, he is chairman of the gleaming white Turner Contemporary gallery
which stands so proudly at the base of the harbour arm; living proof of the powers of art-led regeneration
on his home town.
Involved since its inception, he’s intensely proud of what it has achieved. “It wasn’t the most popular project when it was first mooted,” he reflects, “however it has worked. I’m really proud the town of Margate has benefited from it. We had 376,000 visitors last year and the team has done a great job.
“I’m delighted the Turner Prize show will be held there in 2019 – it again puts the spotlight on Kent in that
world. “Whatever you think about modern art, people do come in their droves. I really want people to capitalise on that opportunity.”
Add to that a host of other key county roles – he’s a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent and deputy chair of inward
investment body Locate in Kent – and it’s little wonder he’s a worthy winner of this year’s Outstanding
Contribution to Business in Kent Award.
“I’m thrilled to bits to win,” he says, “I was rather gobsmacked to tell the truth. I really didn’t expect it.”
After taking his A-levels he applied to what was then Reeves and Neylan, while still a teen, and worked
his way up the ranks, becoming a partner at 31 and managing partner before he was 40.
He takes particular pride in the fact that, at 58, succession plans were put in place and two other staff
who worked their way up from trainees at the firm, will lead it going forward – Andrew Griggs and Nigel
Under his leadership over the decades, he has overseen considerable growth in the firm from
employing less than 100 staff when he joined and being based in east Kent, to 500 today and a footprint
which extends from Canterbury to Chatham, London to Sussex; billing some £35 million.
The expansion he puts down to an equal combination of organic growth, mergers and the bolt on of services
clients have wanted. “I’ve been fortunate enough to do lots of things with the firm,” he explains, “but they have all been connected to bringing business and wealth and opportunity back to Kent.
“With the firm’s hat on that’s what we do, we serve 5,000 businesses and 20,000 people’s tax returns in
Kent and across the South East.” More recently he has chaired Kreston’s international network, a role which has seen him travel the world – including jaunts to Beijing, Cambodia, Sydney, Athens, Buenos Aires, Rio and a number of trips to the States. “I don’t work 9-5 hours,” he adds, “and every day is different. “I’m surrounded by talented people at Kreston who allow me the space to get involved in other things now. I hope that’s good for them, good for me and good for the organisations I get involved in. “But I love it, I have a real passion for it. As the firm has grown I’ve done better from accounting than I ever thought possible. And I want to give something back.”
Clive credits wife Brigitte for being the source of his inspiration – the two met at a school dance when
he attended Dover College and the pair have been together ever since. They have two grown up sons
and continue to live in Margate.
So what advice does he have for those still finding their way in the business world? “I didn’t go to university and I think of myself as a bit lazy and a bit thick,” he smiles. “I always look to employ people brighter than I am. “The trick is you have to have passion for what you do as it would be dreadful to do a job you didn’t enjoy. “Find a good mentor too. I’ve been so fortunate to find people at different times to help me.”