When I was first an account executive, I worked on an account for a wonderful senior account guy named Jim Peck. I was twenty-two or three and he must have been forty. I thought he was very old.
After a month or so, I was given the Canadian division of my client to handle, all on my own. Jim accompanied me on my first trip to Toronto. My client was the advertising and marketing director of the company and had worked there for many years. He really seemed old and was close to retirement. I was concerned that he was too old to relate to me. I had a presentation to make of some new creative work. I told Jim of my apprehension and he reassured me. He rehearsed me and I made the presentation all by myself. I was scared to death of both Jim and my client. They were adults and I was merely a year or two out of school.
We stayed overnight and had dinner with the client. Jim ordered wine. I bonded with my client. I had never done a client dinner before. It was cool. Jim paid for dinner. I felt adult.
But I thought to myself, what does Jim really do? He didn’t present. He didn’t say much. And naively, I didn’t think he added much value. I was happy he paid for dinner, though.
I remember Jim liked to play golf and was always doing that with clients. He participated in meetings, offered suggestions, but I rarely saw him doing actual work. Those were different days then. That’s what senior executives did. He did a lot of golf and lunch.
It took me many years to realize that Jim worked really hard. He managed. He directed. And I learned that on that first trip to Toronto, he had pre-sold me to my client, more important, he pre-sold the work I was presenting, which allowed me to establish my authority and expertise. Ultimately, what he did enabled me to become friends with my client. I went to Toronto about once every six weeks, but Jim never went back to Canada with me again (except for one major presentation, and even then I did the presenting). I had a great relationship with my client and, seven years later, when I was well into another job, I was invited back to Toronto for his retirement party. Jim had enabled that. And it was actually the last time I saw either Jim or my client.
Today senior executives have been sucked into the day-to-day of the business. But the smart ones still figure out how to spend social time with their clients and manage their people for growth and success.
So the next time you think that the senior person on your business is not doing anything, remember, if he or she is any good, they are enabling your agency to keep the account.
And maybe, just maybe, they are enabling your growth.
Do any of you have a Jim Peck in your life?
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