Napoleon said, “Generals don’t win wars. Sergeants win wars.”
At GGT we had three great sergeants running the place.
All female, all from London: one north, one south, one east.
Two of them started as secretaries.
All of them ended up on the board.
Kerry Millet was from Bermondsey, the same council estate as Gordon Smith.
She started as an art buyer and became head of creative services.
One night at a party one of our art directors had a row with his girlfriend, who was also Kerry’s secretary.
He was a bit drunk and he slapped her.
Kerry walked over and knocked him out.
As two other creatives dragged his lifeless body off, Kerry, rubbing her knuckles, said, “I don’t like men hitting women.”
All the creatives, and the agency suppliers, knew you didn’t mess with Kerry.
Mind you, Kerry wasn’t all work.
She used to sing on stage in the pubs around south London.
At one GGT party Kerry got on stage dressed in stiletto heels, stockings, a mortarboard and gown.
And carrying a cane.
I couldn’t hear what she was singing for the noise.
But half way through she opened the gown and she was wearing a black Basque and a suspender belt.
If there’d been any MPs there, they’d have fainted from sensory overload.
Unlike Kerry, Di Croll was from east London.
She was born and brought up next door to the Krays, in Valance Road.
But you’d never know it.
Unless she got angry.
Otherwise she was efficient, and stylish.
She started as our secretary.
Anything we gave her was typed before the paper had landed on her desk.
We used to use freelance TV producers.
But Di was actually more efficient at booking anything we needed.
Recording studios, directors, editors, actors.
So we stopped using freelancers, and made Di our TV producer.
On the understanding that she trained her replacement.
So she trained another girl to be our secretary.
But she trained her too well, so she soon became a TV producer too.
So we made Di our head of TV.
Eventually Di was running a department of 6 producers.
And every single job the agency ever did came in on time and under budget.
What summed her up best for me was when we built new offices for the TV department.
We built a big area for all the producers, and a separate office for Di as head of TV.
When we’d finished Di came to see me.
She asked if we could knock the wall down separating her from the other producers.
She didn’t want a separate office.
She wanted to be able to hear all the phone calls and conversations.
In case anything was going wrong she wanted to know immediately.
How many heads of TV do you know who’d give up having their own office so they could run the department better?
Another girl who wouldn’t stay a secretary was Nicole Yershon.
She developed and ran the first real Traffic system anyone had.
What everyone calls Traffic nowadays started there.
Nicole was north London, Jewish and unstoppable.
She wouldn’t even let Mike Greenlees, who owned the agency, take the ads if they hadn’t been signed off.
We had a department full of stroppy northerners.
They wouldn’t do anything anyone told them, except Nic.
It was like watching that TV programme about how sheep dogs herd sheep.
For the first time anywhere, the entire agency workload was run by Traffic.
Not just the creative department.
Everyone was part of the traffic-system: account men, planners, creatives, right through to production.
Every timing plan, every briefing, every debrief, every piece of work on every client was reviewed on time, every week.
Small problems were highlighted and solved before they became big problems.
A lot of people confuse inefficiency with creativity.
It isn’t.
It just looks like creativity.
Real creativity is taking all the organisational problems away so that people don’t have to think about anything but having great ideas.
Between these three women we were getting a quantity of work that you should only really expect from a much larger department.
And a quality of work you should only expect from much larger budgets.
Now I’m biased, and so I could be drawing the wrong conclusion.
But these three all had one thing in common.
I think Chas and Dave said it best.