I always look at everything as rungs on a ladder.
You’re never going to jump straight to the top of the ladder.
If you try you keep failing, and eventually give up.
So personally, I believe in going up the ladder one rung at a time.
When I got my job as a junior copywriter at BMP, I knew I eventually wanted to be a creative director.
One rung down from that was deputy creative director.
One rung down from that was group head.
One rung down from that was copywriter, which was me.
So my next step up must be group head.
But John Webster didn’t see it that way.
He said that was the structure of old-fashioned uncreative agencies.
And he didn’t want that at BMP.
He wanted a flat structure of copywriter and art director teams.
And one creative director: him.
Well that definitely made sense creatively.
Problem was it didn’t fit my agenda.
So how to go about changing it?
All I wanted, to start, was a little junior team working under me.
Then at least I’d have the beginnings of a group.
But arguing about it was not going to get him to change his mind.
So I thought, let’s help John to have the idea himself.
And so I started taking on a lot of work.
I mean a lot of work.
And I started getting in student placement teams to help me do it.
And pretty soon I had a little group.
And we were getting lots of work out.
And eventually John spotted it,
And he said to me, “You can’t carry on doing all this work on your own. Why don’t you hire a junior team to help you?”
And, effectively, I was a group head.
See, how most people think the world works is HAVE-DO-BE.
What most people would have done is say they can’t BE a group head until they HAVE the title.
If they HAVE the title group head, they’ll DO the work involved, and they’ll eventually BE performing as a group head.
They operate the HAVE-DO-BE principle.
So they try to get someone to give them the title.
And sometimes they wait their whole life and never get it.
I didn’t have the time or the inclination to do it that way.
So I took the other route.
I decided I would BE a group head, and I would do DO all the work of a group head, and eventually I would HAVE the job title.
For me, doing the job comes first, the title comes second.
So that’s the sort of people I’ve always promoted.
People who are already doing the job rather than just waiting for someone to give them the title.
People who just get on with it, instead of waiting for permission.
For me it’s the advertising equivalent of a bunch of men digging up the road.
There will always be one man down the hole digging, and 2 or 3 men standing around the top watching.
The person you promote is the one down the hole digging.
Not the ones up the top watching.
I used to notice that a lot of secretaries were grumpy, and didn’t enjoy their job.
I used to ask them why they were doing the job if they hated it.
They usually said they were only doing it because they wanted to get into the TV department and become a producer.
This is the HAVE-DO-BE principal at work.
She’s not going to do a good job until someone gives her the title she wants.
Well let’s see how that works.
Is it possible that the Head of TV is thinking, “What we really need is grumpy secretary who hates her job and does it badly. So we can train her up to be a TV producer.”
I doubt it.
What happened to us at GGT, was that we had a creative secretary called Diane Croll.
She was a brilliant secretary.
So we asked her to liaise with the freelance producers and production companies we were using.
And she did that job brilliantly as well.
So we asked her to be our TV producer.
And she did that brilliantly, too.
Whatever job you gave her, however small, she did it brilliantly.
And she became head of TV and in charge of six other producers.
And, eventually, a member of the board.
She wasn’t HAVE-DO-BE.
She was definitely BE-DO-HAVE.
Ask yourself, what sort of person you’d prefer to be.
And what sort of person you’d prefer to have working for you.