How far are you willing to go to be successful or achieve your aspirations? If you were in a position where you currently didn’t have a job and really wanted to get into a specific industry, would you be willing to offer your services at no cost for a while; in other words walk into the office of some decision maker in the business and offer to work at no salary for a couple of months?
If your desire is to start your own business, are you willing to work for several months before drawing your first salary? Are you willing to work from the boot of your car at the beginning stages? Are you willing to partner with someone, allowing the mutual dream to always trump personal ego and desires?
Reg Lascaris and John Hunt did this and more to achieve their dreams! I will not mention the accolades they have collected over the years, neither will I list the accolades of TBWA / Hunt Lascaris save to say that they and the organisation are legends in the advertising industry!
Some time ago I attended the launch of Reg Lascaris’ book – “Lessons from the boot of a car” – and while listening to a conversation between himself and Prof Nick Binedell, was reminded of conversations I had with him and his partner John Hunt a while back. I was also reminded of the power of good partnership in successful leadership.
Lascaris wanted to get into advertising because it sounded interesting. But, he was told he did not have any experience. He removed the barrier by offering to work for free. After about three months the organisation decided to start paying him a salary.
When he and John Hunt started their business they did not draw a salary for six months and famously worked from the boot of their cars. They decided, over a drink in a pub that their vision should be grand and exciting, so they set their sights on becoming a global force to be reckoned with. Well, they achieved it!
Allow me to describe Lascaris the best way I can. He is warm and easy to like – you sense this very soon after meeting him; he is authentic – he speaks from the heart as someone that has nothing to prove because he has done it; he likes people – he is interested in them and makes them feel special; he is accessible – very easy to approach and even contactable.
His kind of personality usually struggles to confront and he admitted to me that it has been a skill that he has had to consciously work at improving. His partner John Hunt explained to me that Lascaris learned to chip away at solving a potential contentious issue. He described his approach as wanting to persuade someone to do something rather than telling them to do it. In my view such an approach is an effective and mature one, most of the time.
One cannot but be impressed and even intrigued by the quality and strength of the partnership between Lascaris and Hunt that stood the test of time and challenges. How and why did they stay together over the years? So many great businesses or opportunities come to a ‘grudging’ or ‘sad’ halt because of unsuccessful partnerships.
How did they do this? They are very different and thus complemented one another very effectively. They followed a policy of confronting the issue rather than one another. They never created a culture where the ‘creative’s’ were separated from other divisions.
When they started the business Lascaris and Hunt sat in the same office and in this way gave birth to a culture of integration between themselves and future divisions. They are honest with one another and have a great mutual respect. In conversations with both of them it was clear that they understood one another very well.
During a recent interview of Gareth Cliff on CliffCentral Leadership Platform, we also explored the principle of partnerships. For years now he and Rina Broomberg have been partners, and this partnership has now successfully launched a pioneering venture in the form of CliffCentral. What they have managed to achieve in just over a month is miraculous and takes broadcasting to another level. Cliff and Broomberg, together with some of the 5FM morning team took a risk when they took the leap, where, by the way several individuals at the station have done what Lascaris did to start his career – they sacrifice and work for free! Why can Cliff and Broomberg do all this and more? Their partnership is sound. Cliff comments on this: “In a partnership you need to be honest. There can be no room for ego. I learnt that long before many people in this business did, because I realised most of the stuff they are going to say about you is flattery or nasty – none of it is true or a very small percentage of it is. And if you believe in your own publicity you are in huge trouble. I knew right from the start it was not about me. This was about the audience, this was about their experience. I don’t seek to be popular but if they like what I am doing I am enormously grateful.”
To top it all, they partnered with Lascaris to launch the innovative “uncensored, unscripted, unradio” campaign together with WeChat.
Of the partnership between Broomburg and Cliff he adds: “We’re both quite different and that’s part of the strength of it. It’s an alpha and omega or ying and yang type of thing. Rina is sensitive and thoughtful, careful and methodical and she prefers to stay out of the limelight. Yet she’s very smart when it comes to radio – communication – forget about radio. She’s solid, she’s rock solid. Then I’m loud and brash and unafraid and not scared to take the risks and say what I think. I do the on air stuff and I don’t mind though I don’t relish the attention. So we fit well. We can be very honest with each other.”
Success in business, marriage, life and leadership without a healthy, mature attitude towards the principle of partnership is simply near impossible in today’s complex, dynamic world. There must be: an understanding of and buy-in to the grand vision; an understanding of one another; differences that are complementary; listening; give and take; openness; honesty; confrontation of issues; mutual respect and perhaps a realisation by one that the other is more equipped to hog the limelight and that this is important to overall success.
Lascaris persevered! He and his partner pushed boundaries all through their lives. They applied and perhaps mastered the art of “impossibility thinking and achieving”. Their dream of becoming a global force to be reckoned with was for all intents of purposes an impossibility at the time, yet they achieved it. The vision Cliff and Broomberg are building is also an “impossibility” that is fast changing the South African landscape on several fronts. And in both these instances, a mature partnership happens to be a common denominator, together with a passionate purpose that creates motivation, an accurate plan for direction and of course the relevant resources that must eventually follow – in short great leadership that results in successful movement.
[divider]Q&A with Lascaris:
BRLP: The greatest lessons you have learned in life?
Life is too short to be mediocre and the three things that make life really worth it are:
having someone to love
having something to do
having something to look forward to
BRLP: Your greatest leadership learning?
I think I’ve learned that you have to be persistent to the point of being “terrier-like” and that optimism is one of the greatest drivers of people.
The other thing that I’ve learned is that you have certain strengths and weaknesses – try and recognise the strengths and make sure that you find complementary people to do the “other stuff” that you are not as capable of doing.
Also you have to be honest, understanding and learn to listen to people. It’s amazing how much you can learn.
BRLP: The greatest accomplishment in your life?
Firstly, is having been part of bringing up 4 great kids, who to my astonishment have turned out to be very well balanced and grounded human beings and with whom I have a wonderful relationship.
Secondly, I’ve been part of a creative and exciting journey – building a successful company that has achieved world recognition in its field and that continues to do so.
Also, in being an integral part of the South African transition to democracy, by working on the Peace campaign and thereafter with the ANC on the 1st democratic election. I was fortunate enough to have worked with Nelson Mandela, Cyril Ramaphosa, Pallo Jordan, Gill Marcus, Trevor Manuel etc.
BRLP: Your challenge to readers?
One of the greatest challenges for leaders in South Africa is to keep the country on the “high road”. This is to ensure opportunities exist for everyone. This is one place where you can’t divorce business from politics. So the concerns of the nation have to be the concerns of every corporation. The future of the country is inextricably linked to leadership. Keeping and nurturing talent is key to the future and creating companies that expand beyond our borders is fundamental to a winning nation.
ON THE SHELF THIS MONTH: Lascaris latest book “Lessons From the Boot of a Car”…
Filled with personal insights, experiences, and lessons for the budding entrepreneur, it is also an essential read for men and women who want to get the most out of not only their business, but life as well. Lascaris literally started out from the boot of an old car. The road leading from the one point to the other has been long, uneven and often difficult, but in one respect it never failed: there was always a lesson to be learnt. Lascaris, together with his partner John Hunt, sparked not only some of the most iconic ad campaigns in the world, but the transformation of the South African advertising industry into a 21st century powerhouse. This is where the famous Nando’s campaign was born; these were the men the ANC turned to for their first election campaign. They were the first to inject human emotion into financial services for South Africa’s best loved bank, Standard Bank … and who can forget the BMW mouse? Lessons from the Boot of a Car traces an extraordinary journey by an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur, reciting at each point the lessons learnt – career and business lessons as much as they are lessons for life.
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