Q: We're pitching a big account. I (I'm the account director) had a
drink with our potential client last night and she told me that she
can't stand my boss, who's leading the pitch. He knows I don't really
like him either and thinks I'm after his job. Should I tell him what she
A: I know what you're up to. You don't see this as a problem at all but
a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: keep your boss out of the
presentation, win the business on your own and become rich and famous
overnight. All you want to know is how to do it: so here goes.
Of course you don't tell your boss what your potential client said: he'd
see it as a threat - a transparent power-play on your behalf - and
insist on attending.
What you do is draft a letter for your potential client to sign and send
to your boss. It should say: "Dear Nigel: Here at Anglo-Galvanized we
are anxious that our advertising review be conducted on a level playing
field. I am therefore writing to all participating agencies laying down
certain ground-rules. Any agency failing to comply fully with these
conditions will be eliminated. First, our knowledge of the respective
senior managements is already more than adequate. Only full-time members
of the potential account group are therefore required to take part in
the final presentation."
That should do the trick, don't you think? Grateful client awards you
the business; the Financial Times declares it a personal triumph; the
international president sends congratulatory e-mail; Nigel discovers
latent affection for family; and, bingo, you've made it.
Goodness me, how naive can you get? Brilliant schemes like this
invariably backfire with humiliating consequences. In this instance,
your friend the client turns out to be far less important that she led
you to believe; PowerPoint crashes half way through your introduction;
the business stays with the incumbent agency; and your draft letter to
Nigel is discovered by his PA. Boring, I know; but keep your mouth shut
and get the business on merit.
Q: I've recently been promoted to deputy MD and currently I am lunching
for England. Clients, journos, mates, staff, prospects, the lot. My
girlfriend mentioned to me the other day I was beginning to look a bit
porky and would soon need to wear a bra. Could you suggest a plan that
allows me to continue the entertainment strategy without piling on the
pounds? (Please don't say eat lettuce or give up puds!)
A: You are a greedy person. You've been a greedy person all your life
but suddenly (or so you tell yourself) your greed has been transformed
from a matter of guilt into a professional obligation. As the deputy
managing director, you owe it to yourself, your company and your career
to eat excessively. What bliss.
All this I know from your use of the word puds. Only very greedy men
pale at the prospect of being denied jam roll and custard.
As I'm sure you've realised, your problem is not so much with your diet
as with your girlfriend: she seems to put appearance before
Furthermore, she's clearly disrespectful: no deputy managing director
with any self-respect should tolerate being called porky by his
So I'm afraid you've come to a crossroads in your life. Determined as
you secretly are to become a portly and profoundly self-satisfied member
of the communications elite, you must ditch your girlfriend (lucky her)
and seek a more appropriate accessory.
She should be blue-eyed, bubble-haired and possess limitless reserves of
Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS. He writes
a monthly column for Management Today. A more serious look at problems
in the workplace, it both inspired and complements On the Campaign
Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London
W6 7JP. Or e-mail email@example.com.