I wrote about PW, one of the senior guys and our boss at Cellnet, in Blunter and the updated Blunter postscript. He was a hell of a character and made working at the place so enjoyable. Never a dull minute with PW. I don’t think he was a great marketing guy but he was in his element in sales and channel management. He taught us about doing things in style, with panache and flair. He loved to party, loved entertaining the key channel guys. No expense was ever spared when it came to functions, trips, hospitality and PW always insisted the whole team be present with partners if they wished, kids too at week-end stuff. His big love was motorsport and at Cellnet this translated itself into the big marketing concept; sponsorship of an F3 team. I actually think B my immediate boss did the ground work on the concept but PW embraced it totally. He saw it as a clothes horse that all of our marketing activity had to hang from. It wasn’t a bad idea but with hindsight I realise we spent too much on the actual team and nowhere near enough on pure marketing support activity. Then again none of us were marketing specialists – we were learning on the job. Vodafone our only competitor built a head of steam in supporting the channel which took 8 years to claw back. But at Cellnet we had the most fun, no question, led by PW.
He had many endearing qualities and more than a few character flaws, the latter proving the more interesting. He was pretty vain, impetuous and although he’d deny it, he was kind of in awe of celebrity. He loved to mix in certain company. My immediate boss B was far more cynical about the whole celebrity thing – we got to meet and know many, many pretty famous folk and B liked nothing more than pricking their pomposity, usually by extracting far more from them than we were investing. PW didn’t go for this approach – he liked to impress with the power of our budget. If we were told that some ‘star’ was beyond our reach PW would ask the price, pay 25% more and have them having cocktails with the Board the very next day. You can see how a budget and a marketing plan could get f*cked by PW.
This mix of passions and character traits presented us with some interesting challenges. He returned from a Kenya incentive trip with some of our business partners, calling me into the office first morning back. He told me how much hard work it had been (oh yeh) although there had been some high spots. I thought he was going to tell me that we’d secured a major business share pledge from one of the Service Providers but he surprised me by telling me he’d found a new and intriguing device to spice up our marketing programme and that I was the beneficiary. Alarm bells started ringing but I asked what this could possibly be. He told the tale of a visit they’d made to some poor village in the middle of one of the game reserves where the elders had embraced him and his wife as if they’d been old friends. Apparently PW’s wife had been especially touched by all this and PW had pledged to support the village as part of our corporate social responsibilty activity (uh oh). He then whipped out a little wooden carved figure, plonked it on the table and said there you go Paul a Maasai fertility symbol. Right… What am I supposed to do with it PW? I want you to use it P as symbol of our great relationship with our customers and our channel partners. Eh??? but I ploughed on and suggested that one little symbol wouldn’t secure us much business. Correctimondo said PW that’s why I’ve bought you 5000 of the little buggers; now go forth and be creative, imaginative and fertile in your ideas on how to make best use of them.
I’m not kidding. I had boxes of the things. Needless to say they weren’t very helpful in securing business from the mobile dealers. I won’t say what happened to them but I learned several things a) that was another £15k of the budget blown b) never let PW get all emotional over something c) who better to learn from about marketing? I’ve kept one of those symbols to this day – it’s in my work case just to remind me how not to do it.
That wasn’t the only time nor most expensive time this sort of thing happened. PW had a thing about Anton Mosimann’s restaurant/cooking. And AM had a thing about motor racing and fast cars. A perfect combo. PW came back from a very long lunch with AM one day, called me into the office and told me how yet again he’d found me a perfect marketing promotional tool – and just in time for Xmas. More alarm bells. Go on PW ….he whipped a Xmas pudding onto the desk. This, he proclaimed is not just any Xmas pudding; it’s an Anton Mosimann Xmas pudding. Well f*ck me our problems are over. I hardly dare ask… how many PW? Just the 10000 but they will go down a storm …I know with our customers and channel partners. Actually they were more useful than the fertility things but they cost a fortune to distribute so most were given out within the company, to schools , charities etc. They were delicious. The key things I learned here that a) even more of the budget had disappeared b) never let PW get pissed over lunch c) a relationship with AW and PW/Cellnet had been firmly established.
AW started to appear at more of our events – he was quite a star in several senses as it turned out and I had lots of time for him. His new restaurant club was becoming a great success. He and PW indulged their interest in driving around Brands Hatch at our motorsport event days. Then one day PW called me in again (I think) to show me some photos of some beautifully-prepared food by AW. Anton had wanted to do a coffee-table book of his greatest culinary creations and Cellnet would be backing it. Hmm. Actually the idea wasn’t so off-side as might appear. We’d been sponsoring the Egon Ronay Hotel and Restaurant Guide for a few years by this point and the AW coffee-table book would appeal to the same discerning high net worth individuals (who were the only people able to afford mobile phones in those days). As ideas go it was one of PW’s more considered ones. I seem to remember calling in IS who was the sponsorship expert who had brokered the ER deal to see if he could help us with AW and to get the book published etc. I met AW at the Dorchester and things started to roll thanks largely to IS who effectively facilitated all the preparatory work on the book. IS has become a good friend over the years and we remain in touch to this day.
It came to thinking about the foreward to the book and AW and PW were keen to say something nice about each other and Cellnet of course. I recall CS our PR guy (and now another close friend) came up with some words for PW but he wanted more. To cement the association PW suggested that the two of them have a photo taken in their racing gear (!) alongside one of our sponsored F3 cars to reflect their mutual interest in racing. Don’t forget this is a book about food! Of course we assumed that we’d just get the two of them down to Brands Hatch for a quick photoshoot. Oh no. I told you about that vanity thing. PW asked our motorsport consultant JW (see Blunter and B Postscript) to arrange a shoot at a studio up in Milton Keynes, used to taking shots of the F1 teams/drivers etc. Typical PW – if the food was going to be photographed professionally then so was he. Off we all toddled up to MK to check out the shoot. It must have taken a whole morning. Never can two men have had more pictures taken of themselves apart from Geroge Michael and Andrew Ridgeley maybe.
The shots and forewards were duly selected and passed to IS for handing to the publisher. It was a mutual praise fest and the book was looking stunning. Then just before final printing there was a major shake-up at Board level within Cellnet. The MD left and PW followed shortly afterwards. He was replaced by another huge character SB. Maybe some tales about SB later. But we were left with a problem – the book was going to be our major client/business partner gift that year but it was prefaced by PW who’d left the company. There was no time to re-shoot so we used a much reduced photo and deleted the words from PW which on reflection was probably no bad thing. So the resulting truncated foreward is shown below. I hope you can still see it. It’s my favourite memory of PW at his most indulgent. But what a guy.