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


A: Yes.

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@, or Campaign, 174

Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.