In an ad for the job-seekers' portal Workthing, a woman peers into
the camera. 'You lot today,' she says. 'It's all work, work, work. You
don't have time for lunch. You don't even have time for friends. You're
not happy.' As the camera pulls back to reveal a group of men and women
playing bowls, a man interrupts. 'But what do we care,' he chortles.
One of the long-cherished maxims of the ad industry was: make your money
and then get out by the time you're 50 and still have your health.
Better that than the alternative, which is to hang around in a sort of
professional limbo, of the industry but not in it, lamenting the good
In the go-go years of the 80s there was a certain twisted logic to
If you weren't burned out by the time you were in your late 40s and
early 50s, you weren't a serious player anyway. And what good were the
fluffy skills of advertising and marketing when it came to dealing with
real business issues?
But there's a growing group of senior industry executives discovering
that there is indeed working life after advertising. They're coining a
new maxim: make your money, get out, and make a second career. But
there's a difference. It's called portfolio working, a post-industrial
term coined to describe people who choose to give their time to several
employers on a part-time basis.
This group, however, comprises alpha individuals, members of a top-notch
portfolio club whose experience and contacts allow them to put together
a clutch of part-time, non-executive roles at director level or
They juggle meetings, lunches, board sessions and papers. But they also
find time for the golf, the racing, the family and travel - and plenty
of the latter.
Far from disqualifying them from future employment, their advertising
and marketing skills are much in demand from small companies - many of
them on the fringes or in low-profile corners of the advertising and
marketing world - who want an old hand with all-round business and
'If ever there was a business that equipped people to be non-executives,
it's advertising,' says John Bartle, founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, 15
months into his new portfolio career. He adds: 'At the top level you get
exposed to all kinds of business issues and obviously, because of your
clients, you get huge variety. With some of my portfolio jobs, I know
nothing about the sector that they're in. What they want is my
experience in building a business.'
None of these people are ready to give up work. Sure, like the stars of
the Workthing ad, they want to rebalance their lives, find time for
friends, family and interests. Not all are like Winston Fletcher, who
candidly admits: 'I want to work full time, for ever.' But they all have
too much energy to stop altogether.
Peter Warren, a director of Abbott Mead Vickers when it was listed,
says: 'I do it because I like it. I like the variety and I like the
stimulus of thinking about new and different things.'
The question, of course, is how to enter the hallowed portals of the
Portfolio Club. The answer, broadly, is by concerted effort and
planning, after which a certain momentum takes over. Bartle claims that
he first envisaged the idea a decade ago, and then planned it during his
last two years at BBH with the full support of John Hegarty and Nigel
Bogle. 'When Campaign announced I was retiring from BBH, I got a lot of
approaches. I didn't jump at the first thing and I turned down things
that would take up too much time or wouldn't also provide me with an
opportunity to learn.'
Former Guinness director Peter Mitchell also took a deliberate
With his leaving date contractually fixed and therefore well-known in
advance, the approaches started. A headhunter took him to Capital, while
ad industry contacts took him to the ASA and introductions through a
business acquaintance to Mountain View. 'As I got started the news
sparked other enquiries and I found I had more choice than
Martin Boase's first contact with the portfolio world started as a
non-executive with Emap, whose board he has just come off after ten
years, while still at BMP DDB. 'Others started as I wound down with
Omnicom,' he says. 'People approached me, and their approaches fell into
two categories: either they were people I knew, or they were things of
real interest.' Boase's experience as chairman of a public company, BMP,
and of fighting off a hostile takeover in 1989, gave his portfolio
career a real momentum, he believes. 'Public company experience such as
I had at BMP means I get a lot of approaches from other public companies
or those about to float.'
To join the Portfolio Club, it seems, is to enter a land of perpetual
opportunity. All those interviewed here said they had recently
considered or were in the process of adding to their portfolios. Without
exception, members of the portfolio club don't believe in comfort or
experience zones they should stick to. 'The fundamentals of any business
are pretty universal and that's where non-execs have to focus,' Mitchell
Douglas McArthur embarked on his portfolio career with the knowledge and
encouragement of the RAB. He emphasises the two-way nature of the
compact. 'It's valuable to me, because it gives me a broadening
experience of other industries,' he says. Warren believes an automatic
cross-fertilisation process is at work. 'The deal is that I give them
something, but I want to learn.'
They offer experience and common sense in return. 'You're employed to be
blunt, and to criticise,' Fletcher says.
For Bartle, part of his role is as coach and mentor. 'Half the time
you're advising people on what to do, the other half it's reassuring
them that what they think is right. I've done a lot of the things
they're doing now, and I know the mistakes I made. If I can stop them,
that's fine. But I also get to ask the stupid questions. If I look
stupid, so what?' he says.
'Am I having fun?' Bartle asks rhetorically. 'I'll tell you what: the
Portfolio Club is everything it's cracked up to be.'
Previous job Delaney Fletcher Bozell, chairman and founder
Portfolio Club member since mid-90s
Portfolio Club status Hyperactive
Motivation To keep busy
Working portfolio Advertising Standards Board of Finance (chairman);
Royal Institute (chairman); Brooke Lapping Productions (chairman);
Hemscott.net (non-executive director); Delaney Lund Knox Warren
(non-executive director); Bray Leino (non-executive director);
Barnardo's (trustee); Open College of the Arts (trustee); Barbican
Centre (advisory council); Portman Group (complaints panel); Lancaster
Management School (visiting professor)
Money About half the jobs are paid, half unpaid. 'I don't need the
money, but I wouldn't do it without.'
Working week 'Hard to say. My jobs are a patchwork quilt so in some
months there are big gaps - but I can always infill with writing and
Problem area 'Every game is an away game. Nobody can cover for you. You
are employed for yourself. It can be solitary.'
Advice ' Remember, you're employed to be blunt.'
Previous job AMV plc, director
Portfolio Club member since 1996
Portfolio Club status Heavyweight
Motivation 'I'm no good at cutting the privet.'
Working portfolio Swapitshop (children's website, chairman); Hammond
Communication (PR, chairman); Radio Advertising Bureau (until March
2001, chairman); Idea-UK.com (real estate software, non-executive
director); The Sanctuary (women's spa club, non-executive director);
Farm on the Roseland Peninsula (partner)
Money All paid. 'I'll take equity or options. I like an upside.'
Working week Five days a week, but lots of short holidays 'and I sneak
off early on Fridays'.
Problem area None
Advice 'Only work for people or ideas you believe in.'
Previous job Founder, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Portfolio Club member since January 2000
Portfolio Club status Strategically planned
Motivation 'After one career on the client side, a second in agency
life, I wanted a third.'
Working portfolio Edcomms (teaching aids provider, non-executive
chairman); i-Level (new-media agency, non-executive chairman); Dare
Digital (non-executive chairman); COI (non-executive director);
Constellation (headhunter, non-executive director); Barnardo's
(advisor); English Cricket Board (marketing committee)
Money Paid for all except Barnardo's. 'If they don't pay you there's a
danger they don't value you.'
Working week Approximately two days a week, plus lots of phone calls
Problem area Diary management
Advice 'Do it for people you like.'
Current job Radio Advertising Bureau, chief executive
Portfolio Club member since 2000
Portfolio Club status Wannabe
Motivation 'Wanted to learn new stuff. RAB allows me to take on some
Working portfolio Sanctuary (music group which owns, inter alia, Iron
Maiden, non-executive director); IMD (music distribution, non-executive
director); Yahoo! (consultant); Workthing (consultant)
Money All paid
Working week Fits portfolio career in around RAB working week
Problem area None
Advice After a bad experience as non-exec of a software company, he
says: 'Do due diligence.'
Previous job Guinness, strategic affairs director
Portfolio Club member since 1997
Portfolio Club status Professional
Motivation 'When a man is tired of business, he's tired of life.'
Working portfolio Capital Radio (non-executive director); Capital Radio
Advertising (non-executive chairman); Mountain View (ad agency/strategy
consulting, chairman); Advertising Standards Authority (council member);
Voluntary Service Overseas (marketing advisor); PBM Associates (trading
vehicle for personal consulting, partner)
Money All paid bar VSO. Suggested rate: 'Whatever the traffic will
Working week About four days a week
Problem area Balancing time and commitment across a lot of different
Advice 'As soon as you start to doubt your contribution - and you should
know first - get out.'
Previous job Founder, BMP
Portfolio Club members since 1990
Portfolio Club status The Godfather
Motivation 'To keep myself in Bentleys.'
Working portfolio Maiden Outdoor (non-executive chairman); Heals
(non-executive chairman); New Media Industries (non-executive chairman);
Herald Investment Trust (non-executive chairman); Investment Trust of
Investment Trusts (chairman); Jupiter Dividend and Growth Trust
(chairman); BTVA (director); Advertising Standards Board of Finance
(director); Omnicom (consultant); New Star Investment Trust (director);
various property-linked Business Expansion Schemes (director)
Money As non-executive director or chairman of quoted companies, nearly
all Boase's portfolio jobs are paid (Maiden Outdoor pays pounds 35,000
Working week 'Apart from board meetings, which are once a month, most of
my work is done on the phone.'
Problem area 'Your life can get very dotted about.'
Advice 'Start taking on one or two non-executive roles when you get to
50. If you're not financially literate, get yourself up to speed.'