MEDIA HEADLINER: Plain-talking Boy Wonder falls into Carat management role. Colin Mills happily admits to Karen Yates that luck as well as hard work swung it

They’ve been shuffling the deckchairs around on the Good Ship Carat.

They’ve been shuffling the deckchairs around on the Good Ship

Carat.



Or rather, a period of unprecedented growth has provoked a series of

internal promotions at Carat. Either way, Mark Craze has finally been

rewarded for his years of toil with a shiny new title - chief executive

- and his place as managing director is to be taken by the relatively

unknown Colin Mills.



Millsy, as he prefers to be called, cheerfully admits (he’s an outgoing

soul) he hasn’t got a big name around town. He doesn’t socialise much in

the media village, and is more renowned for his honest hard work than

swinging from the chandeliers with a masterplan tucked under each

arm.



So how did he get to be playing with one of the biggest train sets in

town? And will he ever be allowed to get on and manage it? Craze, who

remains chief executive, has carved out the top spot at Carat in his own

image over the years. It will take a special kind of person to help him

let go. Is Millsy the man for the job?



When we met last week, he was still sitting in his same old client

services director’s office, with only a salary increase and a new set of

business cards to show for his promotion. But the irrepressible Millsy

was still confident that the ’gradual handover’ hatched with Craze would

see him take over as fast as he felt able.



So, the cheeky questions first. He’s only 33 years old, he’s not a big

name, and the deputy managing director, Simon Rees, left last year:

could it be that he was just in the right place at the right time?

Millsy doesn’t like being interviewed. You can tell this because his six

foot three inch frame is squished up in the far corner of the plush

black Carat sofa.



His arms are folded in the manner of a small boy visiting the headmaster

for the first time, but he doesn’t take offence at the question. ’Yep,’

he grins, ’Simon probably would have got the job if he’d been here.’



It’s as though he’s a small kid admitting to belching in assembly -

truthful, but with a hint of sheepish pride. In fact, Millsy’s open,

friendly honesty is legendary among his friends and colleagues, and is

wielded without discrimination in his dealings with clients too.



’Millsy will always tell you what he thinks,’ says friend and former

boss, Jo Hoare. ’Sometimes you don’t want to know, but he’ll tell you

anyway.’ Charley Varley, who was Millsy’s boss at Eurospace, feels the

same way, but puts it in a historical context: ’Every time he opens his

mouth he invades Poland.’ Varley goes on to say that he’s the

hardest-working, most conscientious individual you’d ever meet ’- if

he’s motivated. If he’s not, then he’s a nightmare.’



Millsy looks for all the world like the boy next door. Not the one you

wanted to go behind the bike sheds with - he gives the impression he

might have had sticky-out ears and knobbly knees back then - but the one

who was always yelling and throwing stones. The one who ran about with

so much energy that you knew he would grow up to be unbelievably

normal.



In fact, he took his time. Millsy didn’t really get on with education,

which cut too much into his time playing sports, so he flunked out of

polytechnic. Nevertheless, he managed to talk the young Mark Craze into

hiring him as a media trainee at TMD when it was still a small media

independent, a good three years before it was acquired by Carat. A year

later he quit to double his salary at BMP Business.



There followed a series of mergers and acquisitions that finally put

Millsy, who had not actually changed employer, back in the Carat empire

as media director of Eurospace. By the time this joint venture had

disbanded, he was ensconced as client services director for Carat, and

was back in harness with the high-achieving, high-profile, but

hard-to-work-with Craze.



So how does Millsy actually get along with Craze and what kind of team

will they make? If you ask the question directly, Millsy becomes

uncharacteristically tactful and there’s a lot of chat about ’different

strengths and weaknesses’ and ’working towards a common goal’. One

former colleague, though, has the finger on the pulse when he says:

’When Mark (Craze) shouts at him, Millsy probably shouts back even

louder. He’ll let him win most of the battles but will dig his heels in

to win the ones he really wants.’



So, it looks as though Carat will be run by a kind of Batman and Robin

team. Is Millsy there, I ask, just to mind the shop while Craze dabbles

in other interests, such as Carat Direct, Carat Business and Carat

Interactive?



’Yep,’ he concedes, ’that’s a good way of describing it.’



THE MILLS FILE



1986: TMD, media trainee



1987: BMP Business, media manager



1991: Hoare Wilkins, media manager



1992: Hoare Wilkins, media director



1994: Eurospace, media director



1998: Carat, client services director



1999: Carat, managing director.



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