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Now you see them, now you don’t

21 May 2013

A good friend of mine was the Chief Executive of an FT 100 company, eventually he went the way of all CEOs and was un-ceremoniously axed after a profit warning too-far. While basking in his massive pay-off and an annual pension which is still higher than I ever earned as a successful company owner, he explained to me with some pride that he had been in post nearly five years, far longer than most FT 100 CEOs survive.

 I was reminded as I read in the marketing press this week of two high-profile marketing directors who were now as the media euphemistically like to state, ‘were going to pursue other interests’ after a little over a year in the job and one case, less than 12 months. The average life expectancy of a marketing director in a major company is estimated to be around 18 months. Goodness knows what this must cost the brands they have been hired to nurture and the organisations who hired these individuals? The massive fees (35%+ of 1st year’s salary) of the head-hunting firm who tempted them away from some other lucrative position, the time spent interviewing them and the accompanying disruption and severance packages that result from getting it wrong. What can you realistically achieve after such a short period of time in post? The hapless individual will have at best worked out the company’s movers and shakers, where the water coolers are located and start to understand where his/her best efforts should be directed let alone had time to take much action. How long does it take to develop, research and bring a new fmcg product or service to market and see the results – under a year is going some?

 In contrast Steven Sharp, the ‘long serving’ Executive Director of Marketing at M&S announced his retirement this week. He joined the firm in 2004. Well at least in nine years he had the chance to make his mark with the much admired ‘Your M&S’ line that identified the place M&S has in the hearts of many UK consumers. The extravagant and stylish TV commercials that dared to bring back ‘60s icon Twiggy to show that being old doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable and have fun! Sharp’s appointment while Sir Stuart Rose was at the helm of M&S, demonstrates that sound and careful recruitment of talent can reap incalculable dividends.

 Getting it wrong and the damage can be equally incalculable.     



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