CLOSE-UP: On The Campaign Couch ... with JB

I am an agency chief executive and I wish to hire a brilliant PA to replace my long-time assistant who is leaving to travel. What qualities should I go for?

You sound like a male person, so what qualities do you appreciate? High intelligence, deep interest in your business, doting loyalty, an ability to anticipate your needs before you've articulated them yourself ... and an immensely attractive appearance that nonetheless excites no domestic anxieties?

I rather thought so. Hire a man.

As the chief executive of a large London agency I'm concerned my creative department is carrying too much weight. Creative productivity is hard to quantify and I know my creative director will fight tooth and nail to keep all his people. How do I convince him that we have to slim down?

As recently as 1950, Housemasters of some of the better-known English public schools received no salaries. They were allocated an annual budget on which to run their Houses - staff costs, laundry, food, utilities, soap and so on - and were entitled to keep anything left over for themselves.

Even if their boys did not, some of these Housemasters lived extremely well.

I have often wondered why the more progressive agency chief executives don't require their departmental heads to accept the same conditions.

If your creative director wants to keep his Lamborghini, he may suddenly recognise that three of his creative teams are surplus to requirements.

I realise this scheme will not in itself reduce the overall salary cost of the department, but support costs - national insurance, entertainment, travel, company cars and write-offs - will plummet; and your creative director will be so rich he will never be able to leave.

(Of course, if you would quite like your creative director to leave, this is not such an attractive plan.)

You say that creative productivity is hard to quantify. Try adding up the number of minutes of transmitted advertising each creative team produces.

Most other professional filmmakers would be of the view that two people earning £150,000 between them while producing less than three minutes of usable film a year presented appetising opportunities for productivity gains.

I've been appointed to run a key region for a major agency network.

Trouble is, I'm regarded as a special favourite of the boss of the network's holding company. How do I convince my people that I'm no stooge?

Please don't fret. This problem will solve itself. No regional president has ever remained a special favourite of a network's boss for longer than 23 months.

It will, however, be replaced by another problem. As soon as your people realise that you've fallen out of favour with their network's boss, they will question your ability to represent them at the highest level. That's the trouble with people: they're never satisfied. Management would be a great deal simpler without them.

I'm the director of a London hotshop with an outstanding creative reputation as well as a young and energetic workforce. Now I learn that new legislation could land me in an expensive lawsuit if I discriminate against old farts when I hire. What can I do?

I am, as you may know, an old fart myself - and have been for some considerable time. So my sympathies are not immediately with you. While noting the irony that you should turn to me for advice on this subject, I shall nonetheless resist the temptation to advise you catastrophically.

Let the following established facts guide your recruitment policy and the lawyers won't trouble you.

Young people get older. People without talent never acquire it. Talented people stay talented.

And the value of natural talent can be doubled by inspired leadership.

Which is your job, I think? At least for the time being ...

Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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