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James Hunt: enjoy life while you can

Twice in the last week, I have watched Rush the new film about Niki Lauda and James Hunt.

James was the first ‘celebrity’ I ever met. As a schoolboy in the 1970s, not only did I meet him – but he drove me in his car!

Well, not his car but, thankfully, a hire car.

In the passenger seat was another Grand Prix driver called Jody Scheckter. I was in the back with one of James’s younger brothers, a close friend of mine at school.

This was after a Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in Germany when, after the race, we needed to get to a train station. James said he was going our way and would give us a lift.

And, boy, what a lift it was!

Work. Partner. Home. Three decisions in life you have to get right.

In life there comes a time when, like me, you’ve had more than you’ve got left.

When this happens, you can look back at decisions you – and your contemporaries – have got right (and, I’m afraid, wrong).

In my experience, you have only three decisions that are really important:

Ability. Application. Attitude. Three ‘A’s for a successful career.

Good luck to students who receive their A Level results today. If you have achieved your aims, good on you. If not, please do not despair. The longer you live, the less important they will be.

Take it from me, the exam results you achieve at school are no criteria for a successful career.

When I achieved a level of management where people began to ask me for careers advice or – far harder – to review or appraise my colleagues’ performance, I wanted to recommend books to help them improve themselves and their prospects. After all, what is the point of criticising anyone without offering guidance on how to progress? And what better guidance than a book?

This was when I became aware of how little my A Levels, had prepared me for management or, for that matter, a life in business at all.

Marketing = consumers = customers = cash

And so, as we enjoy our short, hot summer, a new generation of university graduates return their rented gowns and mortar boards and head off into the big, wide world.

The lucky ones know what they want to do and are taking the first steps to fulfilling their dream of becoming a doctor or a lawyer or, God forbid, a banker.

Some will seek to monetise their talent in the arts by maximising the life-changing royalties their talent can bring. Others will have a sporting ambitions and dreams of glory, perhaps, in the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Some won’t have a clue what they want to do.

Security: erosion of the rule of law (2)

Recently, I was invited to meet a television production company at well-known studios just outside London. Having supplied its colour, make and registration number in advance, I was directed to park my car just outside the studios.

After the meeting, I began to take my leave and was asked to wait for ‘security’.

Wondering what this meant, I shut down my tablet and packed my bag. Then, much to my surprise, a big burly man in a black uniform entered the room and, holding it open, stood by the door.

CRM: erosion of the rule of law (1)

More and more companies are spending more and more time and money on Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

This is based on the theory that happy customers will buy more products more often (repeat purchasers) and, because they are happy customers, they will advocate these products to other people (word of mouth).

Thus it seems strange that they are willing to sacrifice their CRM investment in their after sales methods.

I have a little domestic experience of my own to share

Strategic thinking: be decisive but keep an open mind

In life, there are only three decisions you need to get right – and one of them is where you live.

In a TV programme called Escape to the Country, couples are helped to move house from an urban to rural location. The format of the programme is simple:

Strategic thinking: some people don’t get it, do they?

Watching the BBC’s The Apprentice, I am reminded of a show in last year’s series when one of the contestants endlessly repeated ‘What’s the strategy? What’s the strategy?’ to a team leader who had no answer. Quite clearly, he didn’t know what a strategy was (or is).

This meant that not only was the team very badly led but, as happens when no one knows what is going on, anarchy ensued.

Gagging clauses: what every business must learn from the BBC

Last week Stuart Hall, a BBC broadcaster, ‘admitted 14 charges of indecently assaulting girls, one aged nine’.

It emerged in what the BBC call a ‘Respect At Work‘ review, that ‘some behaviour appeared to go unchallenged by senior managers, with certain individuals seen as being ‘untouchable‘ due to their perceived value to the BBC’.

Appallingly, especially if you are or have been a parent to a nine year old child, ‘the BBC turned a blind eye to Hall’.

I suspected as much in my post ‘The Perverse Cult of Celebrity‘ last October.

Branding: understanding the importance of trust

When I joined the advertising business, there was a new buzzword called ‘marketing’. Few knew what it meant. At Ogilvy & Mather, where my career was born, we had a guy – yes, one person in the whole agency – whose job was to explain this new concept to our clients.

Now, some people argue, everything is marketing.

In his wonderful, intelligent lecture on screenwriting, Charlie Kaufman said:

‘They’re selling you something. And the world is built on this now. Politics and government are built on this. Corporations are built on this. Interpersonal relationships are built on this…. it has all become marketing.’

In this sense, within the space of my career, marketing has gone from nothing to everything.

That’s some journey.