Every time I see them, my heart sinks.

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Guest post by Drayton Bird

The words are “human resources”.

I’ll explain why they trouble me in a moment

But first let me tell you a story you may have heard before, for which I apologise, but it is relevant.

David Ogilvy came to see me in 1985.

He wanted to tell me about a client he had found for me.

Here’s a little clip of him talking about this.

I still recall the day he came to see me about that client.

“Let’s go to your office”

“I don’t have one. Nobody has, except the financial director.”

(I didn’t like people sitting behind doors. Give them half a chance and they start feeling important. Not a good idea.)

Anyhow, after he told me about the client he asked about my job.

I wasn’t the managing director, creative director, or the chairman.

What did I actually do?

“I’m in charge of entertainment, David. I try to make everything such fun that people come in early, leave late, and enjoy the intervening period as much as possible.”

Being a Scot he then asked about money. It was lunchtime and everyone was eating at their desk. He asked who paid for the food.

I told him they did, and he patted me on the back.

This is a prelude to talking about an article I started reading the other day. It was written by someone in charge of Human Resources.

It was one of the most boring pieces of pretentious twaddle I have ever read, so I won’t inflict it on you.

In the world of marketing bores have a lot of hot competition, but the piece – full of jargon, long words and pompous glimpses of the obvious – was numbingly dreary.

But it is the words “Human Resources” that concern me here.

People are not just resources. And nobody should think so.

They are fascinating, delightful, dull, infuriating, talented, funny, brilliant, stupid, unpredictable, idle, diligent, dangerous, heroic, cowardly, pretty, ugly, fat, thin, sexy, impotent, loveable, loathsome, miserable, weird, happy, clueless – anything you can think of.

But they are not just resources.

They are your friends and allies, your enemies and threats – almost anything depending on the circumstances.

But above all, once you’ve had an idea for something and how to sell it, the people you work with will either make you a roaring success or a dismal failure.

And that depends on how well you take care of them.

You may have heard a great phrase I shared in a video recently – “Contented hens lay more eggs.”

I am still in touch with people I worked with over 40 years ago.

They were my friends then. They helped make me successful and rescued me when I flopped. I certainly couldn’t have done much without them.

My advice to you is simple. Of all the things you do besides looking for new ideas and ways to sell them, find and cosset the best people, and get rid of the duds.

When you keep people who don’t try, and don’t help, it sends a message to the good ones that you don’t care about quality and people who are no good can ponce off you.

A chief reason that companies fall to bits and collapse is that they don’t believe in the importance of people.

There is a very good U.S. store chain in the US called Nordstrom. I found out the only advice given to a their shop assistants was “Use your best judgement at all times.”

If you trust people, they will, for the most part, trust you and do a good job.

When I ran a big firm I tried to interview everyone for any significant job and promote those who tried hard and had talent, even changing my business to suit them if they were that good.

My job was to help them succeed because I couldn’t do everything on my own.

If you think you can do it alone you won’t get far.

But if you remember the importance of people you can achieve anything.

Do you think the same way as me? Maybe we should work together.

Drop us a line.


Drayton Bird

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This article has been published with the permission of the author.

Drayton Bird – brief bio

In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton Bird one of 50 living individuals who shaped modern marketing. He has worked in 55 countries, with clients including American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Virgin, Visa and Volkswagen. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK best seller on the subject every year since 1982.

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