Q: As a marketing manager in charge of a youth brand I have spent
considerable time and effort - not to mention money - over the past 18
months working with a new-media company to research and develop web
marketing techniques suitable for my product. Progress had been slow but
I persevered in the belief that I was building the foundations of my
future communications strategy. Now the new-media company has gone bust
and I have little to show for the investment. What do I say to my
A: You say: "Hey, boss, when do I get that raise?"
It's quite apparent to me that you're not a great consumer of business
books by management gurus. Not that I blame you for that: most of them
are great, wallowing, bloated works, wrapped around one very small idea
which might have supported a 1,500-word article. The trouble with a
1,500-word article, however, is that you can't sell half-a-million
copies of it for $39.99 a pop.
So what you obviously haven't observed is that, for the past five years,
the new all-purpose magic ingredient for success is failure. Management
gurus are unanimous in their admiration for error. All the books preach
its value. Every management hero, alive or dead, is trotted out in
"If you want to succeed, double your failure rate." - Thomas Watson
"To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and
introspection." - Soichiro Honda. "Failure is the opportunity to begin
again more intelligently." - Henry Ford.
So get your retaliation in first. Don't wait to be carpeted: apprise
your boss of these authoritative views and claim immediate promotion and
a five-figure salary increase. I don't suppose for a second you'll get
them - but I bet you're not fired, either.
Q: I am at a loss as to what to do. I'm always being asked to join
committees, go to dinners, presentations, etc and I've never found a
sure-fire way of letting the host down without being offensive. Any
A: To what do you attribute your astonishing popularity? Is it personal
charm, do you suppose? Or the incisive quality of your intellect? Or
your widely rumoured influence with No.10? (Not, of course, that these
are mutually exclusive.)
While I wait for your answers, let me advance my own hypothesis.
There is only one reason why people such as you are invited to sit on
committees, attend presentations or go to significant dinners: you are
known to have access to a corporate budget and to be susceptible to
It never occurs to you that, were you to be stripped of title and
position, the flow of deep-etched invitation cards (sometimes
unfortunately known as stiffies) would instantly evaporate.
You may not find this explanation very palatable but it contains the
seeds of a solution to your problem. With immediate effect, you should
appoint your least personable colleague to the newly created position of
Keeper of Corporate Funds. Accord this person widespread publicity.
Reply to all future invitations with a copy of the press release
announcing the appointment. Make it absolutely clear that, as a matter
of principle, and in accordance with the highest modern standards of
corporate governance, you have renounced for all time any influence,
however indirect, on the disposition of company monies.
You will be so distressed by the success of this ruse that you will
bitterly regret ever having written to me.
Q: As usual we entered most of our work into the awards (and what a
cost!). The organisers of one particular award have told us we're in
with a chance for a possible gong at the same time as sending us the
booking form for a table of ten. Isn't this just a ruse to get us to
book a table and actually we never made it past round one of the
Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and WPP. He also writes a monthly column for
Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day
at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address
your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com, or Campaign, 174
Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.