My old friend MR called last night to wish us all a happy Xmas. It’s a tradition we’ve had for years, ever since M and I worked together at Cellnet, back in the Middle Ages. We’ve always got on well and it was good to chat, especially as we haven’t been in touch for a while. M is also a late convert to cooking and I was pleased to learn that he’d been sweating over a hot stove and cold beer or two, most of the day.
After we’d said our good-byes etc my mind wandered off to all those great times we’ve had over the years – holidays with M, J and the kids, the 5 a-side footie nights, watching Man U, and all those parties and BBQ’s with our friends. But mostly I was smiling at the memories of some of our moments at work.
M handled a load of activity for me including web-site development, direct mail, sales promotions, channel management and dealer incentive programmes. It was a heavy workload (I was very good at delegating huge swathes of activity) but it was always my aim to have a bit of fun amongst the graft, and M was a willing accomplice. He never flinched when I sent him off alone with a pile of kit to Atlanta prior to the 1996 Olympics to do one of the very first live web-chats with Sally Gunnell (I think) for Cellnet’s fledgling web-site. It was not the most comfortable of trips but M pulled off a real technical coup for the company. We caught up the night before the opening ceremony (where we would later be entertaining some dealers) and had one of the best meals we’ve ever had served by the sassiest waitress in a great downtown restaurant and had just a great night.
I’ve talked about some of our escapades in Cannes in earlier postings but some of the best fun we had was out on the road at the many dealer conferences we organised and at which we presented. One year we had to split the schedule to present to the whole of the BT Mobile team in the conference centre at Huddersfield Town’s McAlpine stadium. The format and content from the dealer roadshow was largely unchanged but just before the event SL who was my no 2 asked if he could lead the show instead of me, just for the experience. I suspect he thought he wasn’t getting enough profile and this was an important platform so… I actually hadn’t a problem with this and agreed that I would cover off his part of the presentation duet-style alongside M and his incentive bit.
A rehearsal of the new format was set for the morning of the event, at the ground. The night before we checked into our hotel, had a late dinner and a few drinks. Most of the guys went off to bed though a few of us stayed up for a couple of nightcaps or four. Next morning I overslept. M had to virtually break in to wake me up. We set off for Huddersfield knowing that not only had we missed the run through but we would only just get there in time for the main event. I hadn’t a clue about the script and although M was prepared, it was intended to intersperse his talk with my bits now. We basically worked out just an outline routine – M doing all the leads with me just ad libbing bits on 5 or 6 areas of thought that covered S’s responsibilities. We’d let the timing take care of itself. M would pick up on the ad libs and develop them if he felt comfortable going off script. We agreed on an idea to close on if it all went tits up and we needed to prevent a drama turning into a disaster.
It was desperately loose and highly unprofessional on my part. I was supposed to be the boss of this team and I was letting them down and probably taking a good guy down with me. And I was still pretty hung over if truth be told. I wasn’t totally sure M was up for doing it two-handed either – it was an important event with a huge audience and some very senior BT people there and the last thing M needed was to be made to look foolish by me dicking up his presentation. But then an odd thing happened. When we walked in everyone was cool with us for having missed the rehearsals. S came over, took M to one side and gave him a right bollocking for not ensuring that I’d turn up on time. As if I was M’s responsibility. Nobody said a word to me which just made me feel even more like a chump. M just came over to me told me he’d been chewed off but now he was determined to show S what he was capable of.
So within 5 minutes we were on the stage and despite feeling like death the adrenalin kicked in and off we went. M kicked it off with a brilliant opener and he gave an astonishing performance covering all the key bases, giving me easy cues, coming up with some great witty comments and pushing me to be adventurous. We junked the autocue right from the start, doing the whole presentation off the cuff and ended up in the midst of the audience doing a virtual cabaret routine.
The trick was that realising this was BTM’s end of year event we resisted going through the rather complex detail of the prepared stuff and simply told them what they wanted to hear – that they were our stormtroopers in the mobile sales war and that because they were the best, they were going to get the best support that we, the network, could provide (it was all b****x of course). To demonstrate we got the senior BT head to agree publicly to award their top performing staff of the year with a brilliant incentive trip – he planned on splashing out on a weekend break at the 3 star Hodson hotel in Harrogate (or something similar); we talked him up to a week at the cool Hudson hotel in New York, with expenses!. He couldn’t say no and much as he hated us doing it to him he was later treated like a demi-god by his staff who thought it was all his plan, all along. You should have seen his smile later.
I have to say that the audience simply lapped it up. I’ve never experienced such a positive reaction from a crowd – I’m sure M felt the same thing. Quite unintentionally S’s lead role was completely overshadowed in the process and at the bash later that evening M and, to a lesser extent, I were pretty much the centre of things with dozens of people coming up to say how much they’d enjoyed the presentation and asking how long we’d prepared it as it was so ‘slick and polished’. Ha! Isn’t life ironic eh? I seem to remember S leaving the night’s event fairly early. I felt a bit sorry for him but I suspect he really didn’t like me one bit that day and I left him to his thoughts.
I often felt subsequently that M and I could have developed that two-handed format into a public-speaking routine but of course we never pursued it. That was a shame. But hey some good memories. Ever felt like you’d let every one down but things turned out ok?
ps Did you know that……… in a field near ‘uddersfield, there is a cow that doesn’t yield. I know why it doesn’t yield – it doesn’t like its ‘uddersfield. Boom boom