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But First: The Best Show On TV Is Back
Being comfortable as yourself is an attractive thing, in business and elsewhere.
On that theme, a business lesson I learned involving English football, a topic I know nothing at all about.
But English football’s on my mind with the return of my favourite TV show in years, Ted Lasso. I can’t think of another show that gives you an all-over sense of happiness after each episode.
It makes you want to be a better, kinder person. To achieve that without being sappy is a stellar TV achievement.
All workplaces could use more Teds. Miss the show and your life will be the poorer.
Anyway, a football-themed yarn from my branding years.
The Big Pitch
We were pitching for the biggest rebrand project we’d ever been involved in.
Three major professional services partnerships from across the world were merging to form a colossus that could compete at the Accenture, IBM or Deloitte level.
They wanted a snappy brand and identity that would open global boardroom doors.
We had a track record in their specific field. But it was our plucky little Australian outfit versus major-league UK and US branding agencies.
The client arranged the pitch presentations in Hong Kong, at their global partners meeting.
Andrew, design guy, and I, words guy, flew over early to give ourselves time to rehearse the pitch we’d spent three weeks developing.
Andrew is from Liverpool, the UK one. You can tell he’s a Scouser because he puts a hard ‘g’ at the end of ‘-ing’ words.
We checked into the plush JW Marriott hotel. We were standing near the front desk, both in our regulation creative-man glasses, when an excited guest rushed over.
She asked us if we were The Proclaimers.
To be fair, we had rolled well over a thoosand miles to get there.
Also we were better dressed than that video.
Andrew and I rehearsed our presentation late into the night, firing the curliest questions we could think of at each other. The next day, we were ready for anything.
Let’s Play Pitch Roulette
Meeting time. We step up in front of the six people on the committee, with two English guys running the proceedings. Andrew gets about three words out, then the English guys say, in the same accent as him:
“Are you red, or are you blue?”
Time froze. I had no clue what they were talking about. So much effort getting to this point, so much at stake. Yet clearly we stood at a Dirty Harry are-you-feeling-lucky fork in the road.
Choose wrong and we were cooked.
Andrew looked at them like it was the stupidest question in the world.
Longer pause and a slight narrowing of the eyes.
“Good answer lad.”
We do the pitch. As we walk out I ask him: mate what the fuck was that?
So ‘red’ is the Liverpool team. ‘Blue’ is Everton, also in Liverpool. They’re separated only by a small area of parkland.
They hate each other with the built-up intensity you only get between two groups of people who are exactly the same.
Red Till Death
The thing I loved about it was that Andrew didn’t give a damn about pleasing these people at this point. He would rather have lost the project than say he was blue, because he was red down to his individual DNA strands.
We won the contract, and not totally due to tribal football allegiances.
The great thing about it was that Andrew came across as real. He wasn’t thinking “what would you like me to be?” That shows strength, and people respond to that.
So many people doing pitches and presentations come across as absolute corporate drones. Because they’re trying to suppress their own instincts and second-guess the audience.
It’s the business version of saying you love both cats and dogs. No you don’t.
Sure, in sales you need to adapt for the fact that clients are all different. That’s being professional. What I’m talking about here is your personality, your values.
Almost all the people I know who have done really well in their fields have thought: I’m going to be me, and everyone can just deal with it.
That approach will bother some people.
It means other people will like you more.
It’s so much better than nobody caring much either way. Be something. Your business will do better and your life will be so much more more rewarding.
Read the sequel: here’s what happened at the other end of that project. Oh my God what a clown show and all my own work.
Undisruptable has been getting some lovely reviews. Read why you need it here:
Or just buy it here. Thank you!