Whether you’re an experienced salesperson or not, chances are one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of your sales process is “the pitch,” when you present your offer to a potential client.
But what if your pitch didn’t have to be a dry, run-of-the-mill list of why someone should buy from or hire you?
What if, instead, it was a chance for you to build an emotional connection and establish a relationship that fuels one if not many purchases?
Find out in this episode, featuring lifetime entrepreneur, businessman, and artist Roger Mavity.
Prior to his current work as a writer and photographer, Roger owned an advertising agency, Mavity Gilmore Jaume, which he then sold to become the Chief Executive of Granada Group’s leisure division. There, he led the pitch for Granada Group’s acquisition of Forte Group – “the biggest hostile takeover bid in British commercial history.”
In the years since, Roger has served as the Chairman of Citigate and the Chief Executive of the Conran Group. He’s also the author of “Life’s a Pitch,” “The Rule-Breakers Book of Business,” and “Terence, the man who invented design.”
His argument is that a pitch is really like a drama, and that “A pitch isn’t about transferring information. It’s about transferring power.”
We learned a lot in this episode and hope you do, too. Let’s dive in!
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Get Roger’s book, “Life’s a Pitch,” here: https://rogermavity.com/writing/books/lifes-a-pitch/
📷 Watch the video version of this episode and subscribe for updates on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYAr3nGy6lbXrhbezMxoHTSCS40liusyU
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🚀 And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources at https://speakerflow.com/resources/
Read the Transcription 🤓
Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business. Maybe it’s standing on stage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed and time just seems to slip by? This is called the flow state. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Taylorr: We did it. We are here. Roger, it is so great to have you on the show. Thank you for joining us today.
Roger: Good to see you both.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.
Austin: Yeah, it’s an honor. We’ve been really excited about this episode. We just love your whole ethos. We’re also, Taylorr and I have spent the last, I don’t know, 10 minutes pontificating about how much we love your ceiling and how badly I want to have something similar to that. So, thank you for the design inspiration as well.
Roger: Well, I think the main thing you learn from Zoom is that most people present themselves to the wider world in the dullest room, in their house, in front of a very untidy bookcase.
Austin: This is true. But not you, Roger.
Taylorr: You have that good ceiling. Yeah, go check out the video guys if you haven’t yet. So, Roger, you have an incredible background, was it the eighties, you started your advertising agency and then you sold that? Yeah. You sold that to the Granada Group and then what fascinated me about that backstory is that, at some point, I think the leisure division in the Granada Group, you said you led the pitch to acquire the Forte Group in a hostile takeover, I think was the verbiage I read. Can you break that brief history down for us? And, of course, what do you mean by hostile takeover? What was that like?
Roger: Well, I don’t know if Wall Street operates the same way as takeovers in the UK, but in the UK, if a big company which has its shares on the stock market, takes over another one, it either does it by mutual agreement, which doesn’t happen very often, because normally the taken over chief executive loses his pretty secretary and his chauffeur-driven car and his pension screening the stock options.
So, usually, they resist being taken over and then the attacking company, if that’s the right term, makes the bid hostile. In other words, it says, I want to do this anyway, whether you want me to take you over or not. And there’s a very prescribed system that you have to follow legally as to how that is done, there’s a three month period in which it has to happen, the rules you have to comply with about publishing information to the other side and so on and so forth.
Granada, which was a, kind of, upstart company, really, it had been a very big UK company. It had got into a mess, it lost a lot of money, had to borrow a lot of money from the city to keep going. They brought in a new chief executive called Jerry Robinson, who turned it around amazingly quickly. But Jerry and his team were seen as, kind of, outsiders really, we weren’t welcome figures in the city, whereas Forte Group was a very, kind of, Charles Forte, who was the founder of it, was Lord Forte by this time; they were very well-in with the English establishment et cetera, et cetera.
So, it was a culture clash as well as a commercial clash, and it got very angry. And at the beginning of it, I said to Jerry, I’m about the only person in this large company who isn’t an accountant; because I was a marketing guy by background, you should let me run the communications. And he said, no, no, this is easy. There are only about five shareholders who will decide this, I know who they are, I’m going to talk to them. That’s fine. Go back and run your part of the business. And about two months since the three month program, he rang me and said, actually, that conversation, I made a terrible mistake, because clearly these guys are running rings around us in PR terms.
Because Forte was, basically, a hotel group and they were positioning themselves as the expert and Granada as the kind of, jack of all trades that did lots of things but did them badly. So, my job was to, kind of, try and turn that around very quickly. And, actually, it was an amazingly exciting thing to have to do, because the fact of it is that, although, Granada covered lots of different things; we’d been surprisingly successful at all of them. Whereas Forte, I think were a bit sloppy, and I had to find a way of saying that which convinced shareholders without me ending up in jail.
Austin: Wow. The stakes were high, it sounds like.
Roger: They were. One of the results was that the editor of The Times, which is a, kind of, bible in the UK, I guess the New York Times or the Washington Post might be equivalent, I’m not quite sure.
Roger: Your media’s much more fragmented, but in the UK the Times is the establishment bible of what’s going on, and the editor of the Times was a guy called William Rees-Mogg, who was very close to Lord Forte. And when I published the, kind of, final submission that Granada made to the city to justify its takeover bid, as I said, they’d, kind of, positioned themselves as specialists. My argument was you can have strength and breadths, the fact that we did lots of different things didn’t mean that we did them all badly.
In fact, if you looked at the figures, on the whole, we did them rather well. And my argument was that strength in depth didn’t necessarily contradict strength and breadth, you could have both. And he, actually, wrote the main leader in the Times refuting this on the grounds of logic. And I really felt that was a feather in my cap that I’d, actually, been insulted by the editor of the times in public. I felt we’d achieved something at that point.
Austin: Wow. Man, that’s a wild story. And so, this got you to the point where now you’re communicating like, I don’t know, counter aggressively, I guess, I don’t know how to phrase that right. But now you’re.
Roger: It was quite a weird experience.
Austin: Going up against the Times.
Roger: Jerry, actually, pulled me in, I said in the third month, but it was virtually the end of the third month. He rang me one Friday afternoon and said, look, I want you to do this stuff. And I said, what’s the timetable? And he said, well, we have to make our final presentation at a conference to the city investors next Tuesday and we have to have a book which spells out our story and that has to be verified by lawyers and so forth and printed by Tuesday morning.
Roger: So, my advice is to ring your wife and tell her that she’s not going to see you for four days. And it was, kind of, quite a strange moment, and we were working out of the bank, which we were working with, Lazard’s. I went to their offices and the first thing I noticed, because these guys had been working on this thing for three months, because bankers are all obsessed by ego. There was a, kind of, alpha male competition to see who could brag most about, I didn’t go to bed until three last night. Oh, I didn’t go to bed until five. Oh, I stayed up all night. And I saw these tired people and I thought, no wonder they’re not communicating very well. It’s not because they’re not smart, it’s because they’re half asleep.
So, I made myself a promise that whatever I was doing for the next four days, at 12 o’clock, I get in a cab to go home and I’d be in bed by half past 12.
Roger: And I, kind of, listened on the Friday night. So, on the Saturday I, kind of, worked out what our pitch should be and I drafted it and on the Sunday I went around to Jerry’s house and talked to him about how he was going to do the presentation because he had to deliver it. While I was doing that, the lawyers were checking it. And on Monday we tweaked it a bit and I had an early night and on Tuesday it happened. So, it’s, kind of, funny; if you concentrate on something but you don’t let it take you over, you could do it quite well.
Taylorr: Yeah. What a good lesson. Looking at my younger self, I believe that now, but I would not have believed that a number of years ago. But, yeah, being tired and having to accomplish all of that is certainly not going to help the case. So, honestly, there’s a message about balance in there too. But I’m curious how this, kind of, ties back to like, because, obviously, this was a big pitch; you had sold a business in the past too, and, obviously, grown an advertising company. So, you hadn’t been, let’s say unfamiliar with pitching throughout this time, but from what we’ve heard is that you, kind of, stumbled into being an author, that wasn’t necessarily intentional with your first book about Life’s a Pitch, is that right or?
Roger: It was a total mistake. What happened was that I’d worked in advertising for a long time and about the only thing you learn in advertising apart from where the good restaurants are, is how to pitch. Because you’re doing that the whole time, that’s where your next meal comes from.
Roger: And I got to be reasonably good at it. And a friend of mine had set up a business which put on presentations for companies. And to promote his business, he did a book and he interviewed me for the book and he sent me a copy of the book as a thank you and I read it. And I really wanted to bring up my breakfast because I thought he had, it was so glib and shallow, because pitching is interesting, it’s about the psychology of how humans react to each other. And I felt that this book was completely without depth and he portrayed my ideas in a very shallow way and it put me in a complete rage.
So, I went downstairs to the kitchen where my wife was cooking dinner and I said, how did you let me do this book with Richard? It’s terrible. I’m embarrassed to have my name on it. And she said, Jesus, Roger, you’re always grumbling about something, aren’t you, if you want a decent book about pitching, just get upstairs and write it yourself. And I thought, actually, that’s not a bad idea, how long’s dinner going to be? She said it’ll be at least another half hour. So, I went upstairs and I started making notes and that’s how Life’s a Pitch got written, really.
Austin: Are you serious? It was like, I don’t know if spite’s the right word, but you were just trying to turn around what you thought wasn’t a good representation of what you feel like pitching is all about. Is that what I just heard?
Roger: I’ve done a lot of work on where ideas come from and I think very often they come from dissatisfaction. Which is logical when you think about it.
Roger: Nobody’s going to produce a new idea if they think the existing ones are okay. The only time you’re going to produce a new idea is if you’re unhappy with the existing ones. And I think dissatisfaction and anger can be quite a powerful prompt to creativity, actually.
Austin: One of the things that we’ve heard that Taylorr and I have latched-on to over time is that if you want to get really good at messaging the products or services that you have, you define what you’re going to war against. The thing that you disagree with or that you feel like is not being done well in the world because that lets you attack something from a unique angle that maybe others aren’t. Does that resonate with you?
Roger: That’s a very interesting view. It gives you a, kind of, point of focus, doesn’t it?
Taylorr: That’s right. Wow.
Austin: Wow, man, that is fascinating. And so, why? I can understand for you personally feeling like the ideas that you had weren’t being adequately represented, that would bother me too. But you also must have had some, sort of, deep-rooted sense of feeling like you needed to be able to communicate these ideas with the world, right? So, why did you even care to do it?
Roger: I suppose it was, probably, an egocentric thing. I thought I was good at pitching and I thought my ideas hadn’t been portrayed in a way that gave them any depth. And I thought, well, if he can’t do it properly, I’d better.
Austin: Huh, that’s good a reason as any.
Roger: But, as I said, I, kind of, stumbled into it. It was almost an accident, really.
Austin: Yeah. Well, a good one.
Austin: It’s the message that people need to hear.
Taylorr: What a good woman to have in life. Get upstairs and write the thing. It’s motivation.
Roger: She’s not right about everything, but she’s right about most things it seems.
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure. The data suggests that, for sure.
Austin: Well, case in point. Yeah, exactly.
Taylorr: So, I know, Roger, you, obviously, have a tremendous depth in pitching and especially maybe sales professionals listening or people who stem from a marketing background, they’re not going to be unfamiliar with this idea. But what we find, especially in our world of thought leaders, coaches, speakers, consultants, especially personal brands, particularly, when you can’t back yourself up with a product necessarily, they can find pitching to be uncomfortable for them. Why do you think that is? And were there moments in your life where you found pitching to be uncomfortable and that was something you just simply worked through? Why do you think just the nature of pitching is uncomfortable for people?
Roger: It’s not uncomfortable for me and at the risk of being very overly serious about it. I think temperamentally, I’m quite a shy person. You put me in a party, my first thought will be, I remember somebody saying, who I interviewed for the book about Bill Clinton, who he said was the most mesmerizing personality he’d ever met and was just instinctively drawn to people. And he said, by contrast, Hillary is the exact opposite. Take them both to a party; Hillary wants to hide in a corner.
Well, I’m like Hillary; I’m not a naturally social animal at all. And I find dinner parties and drink parties and stuff like that, kind of uncomfortable. I feel like a fish out of water. But I think there’s a side of you which needs to communicate and the advantage of a pitch is that you’re in control. And I guess the kind of, energy which is frustrated that I don’t communicate easily with people in a social setting, put me in a structured setting, then all that energy, kind of, can be used in a good way. Does that make sense?
Taylorr: Yeah. It’s a good analogy.
Austin: I never thought about it that way. I actually resonate with that, though. I would consider myself an introvert but I also don’t feel like I have a hard time having a sales conversation and it’s for that reason, the context.
Roger: Yeah, absolutely.
Austin: Puts me in control. Huh. Wow. I’m curious, so I know that, at least for you and me, it sounds like, and I think Taylorr would, probably, put himself in that same boat as well, that feeling of you’re in control of the flow of conversation can be empowering and you can just be your best self to some degree. But I know a lot of people don’t feel that way. Do you think it’s just because they’re not looking at it from that perspective? Or do you think that there’s some, sort of, mental block that people run into as it relates to pitching?
Roger: Well, I think people have a, kind of, fundamental contradiction. They know in their heart that pitching is important. Everything that you do in life that matters hinges on a pitch. For me, proposing to my wife, especially the second time. That one so far has lasted a lot better. But a marriage is life changing and that begins with a pitch. Starting my own business, borrowing the money to do it, I had to pitch for that. But when you start, you have to pitch for customers, you have to pitch for people to be your working partners, it isn’t just about getting customers. You actually need people who want to work with you and why should they, when there are a hundred other much bigger advertising agencies out there.
So, everything really hinges around pitching. All of the other stuff you do is, kind of, it needs to be done, but it’s routine, really. Pitching is the time when you can change direction in a good way. So, I think people know that it’s very important, but you’re never trained to do it. And I think doing anything which you’re untrained for is very intimidating. And I’ve observed it in business that if you become a doctor or a bus driver, you’re taught how to drive a bus or how to do surgery on somebody’s brain, but if you go into business, nobody tells you how to do anything.
You, kind of, have to learn it as you go along, and I think most people find it hard because standing up in front of a hundred other people and telling them why your idea is better than the last one they saw is really difficult.
Taylorr: Yeah. Makes sense.
Roger: So, you want somebody to do something which is hard, which is important, and where they’re isolated and exposed, are we surprised that they feel a bit nervous? No, not in the least.
Taylorr: Yeah. Is that something that can change with practice you feel like?
Roger: I think it’s partly practice, but I think it’s also technique. I think if you’re doing it wrong, practicing doing it wrong isn’t going to solve the problem. I think instinctively people think that pitching is about giving people information and they think it’s about telling them stuff, qnd I think they’re entirely wrong on both points. Pitching isn’t about giving people information, it’s about giving them an idea. And that’s quite different. And secondly, it’s not about what you’re doing; it’s about making them feel that they, kind of, own the dialogue and they share it with you.
When I was writing the book, I interviewed a guy called Tim Bell, who was a very brilliant English ad man, who was the chief executive of the Saatchi and Saatchi agency for a very long time. And he was also the communications advisor to Margaret Thatcher when she was the last successful conservative Prime Minister, only 434 prime ministers ago. And Tim told me the story, he was notorious at Saatchi’s, that when a team were working on a pitch, he’d called them into his office about six o’clock the night before, have a look at it and then half past six he’d say this isn’t right at all. And he’d tell them how to redo it and he’d keep them up until three or four in the morning rewriting it.
And the next day they deliver the pitch. And this happened on one occasion, they went to the client’s office and the team had been up until the early hours rewriting it on his instruction. And Tim switched on the PowerPoint, put up the first slide. A chief executive from the client company said, actually, Mr. Bell, I have a question about that slide if I may, can I just? So, he and Tim got involved in this debate, which went on for about 35 minutes and the first slide is still on the screen.
And, at which point, the guy looks at his wristwatch and says, Jesus, my next meeting is starting in a second, I have to go. Just want to thank you; it’s been a fantastic presentation. And out they went. When they got out onto the pavement, the guys from the Saatchi team were absolutely furious with Tim and said, you never gave the pitch, we stayed up until the early hours and we didn’t speak, none of our stuff was shown. It’s a terrible way to treat us. And Tim said, actually, I figure if he wants to talk to me for half an hour, it’s his business, I’m going to let him do that.
And the next day the phone rings and the guy said, Mr. Bell, I’ve very much enjoyed your presentation. Which was a wonderful irony because he’d never actually given it, and we’d like you to take on the business. And, of course, what you learned from that is he’s not really interested in the presentation, he’s interested in the guy. And after half an hour talking to Tim Bell, who was a very charismatic and charming personality, he thought I could do business with this fellow. So, that’s why he got it. So, it’s not about what you tell them, it’s about whether they trust you and want to share their business life with you.
Austin: Wow. Man, that is a powerful lesson. I felt that in my core. It’s so easy to miss it too. This, actually, ties into something that Taylorr and I latched-on to while we were reading the synopsis for Life’s a Pitch. You mentioned that pitching isn’t just a meeting, it’s a drama, I think you said. Is that kind of, going along the lines of what you’re talking about here, that it’s?
Roger: Yeah, it is. It’s theater. At one time in my career, after I left Granada Group, I went to chair a PR company, a financial PR company called Citygate, which in the London market, they’re very respected for what they do and they have a very good client-list and very good revenue and a very good reputation. And they don’t make any money, and my job was to try and sort that out. And I looked at the pictures that they were doing. It’s amazing. And you see this pattern again and again.
There was always a slide in the PowerPoint, at the beginning, which showed the worldwide spread of offices. There was a graph showing how the company’s profits were going up. And there was a thing with lots of logos on their clients showing how lots of important companies wanted to work with them. And, actually, if you look at lots of other companies, the way they pitch; those three themes, global coverage, fantastic clients, success, are very often repeated. And I said to these guys, look, please don’t say that; don’t put it anywhere in the presentation.
They don’t want you to come and boast and say how bloody wonderful you are. They want you to come and solve their problem. When you’re ill, you go to the doctor. He doesn’t say, Roger, before we start, let me reassure you, I have a degree in microbiology at the University of Minnesota.
Taylorr: That would make me skeptical.
Roger: When I did a master’s degree in surgery in New York and then I trained in a hospital in Chicago for three years. They don’t talk about themselves, they say, what are your symptoms? How long have you had it? Can you describe it in detail? Is there any family history? They’re entirely there for you. They’re not boasting about how wonderful they are. That’s the mindset you need to be in a pitch.
Taylorr: Wow. Yeah.
Roger: Don’t talk about your stuff. If they want to know, they’ll ask you. And it’s, actually, much more compelling. If they need an office in Hawaii and they ask you and you have one, that’s fine. It’s reassuring to know that, but it’s not why you’re going to win it.
Roger: You’re going to win it because they feel an emotional bond.
Taylorr: Yeah. Right. Yeah. In your doctor’s example, I’d be skeptical of a doctor all of a sudden was telling me about all of their accolades and stuff. I’d be like, I’m here for a reason, I don’t need to know this information. So, I can totally see how that would be, just not helpful in a presentation.
Roger: You take it on trust when you go to the doctor that he’s qualified or she’s qualified, what they’re there to do is to solve your problem.
Roger: But in business meetings very often people forget that.
Taylorr: Yeah. It’s really easy to go down that path. In fact, Austin and I have some depth around sales training and we’ve been pitching forever and some marketing and so on. And one of the things we always talk about, or we’ll train our sales team on is this idea that most of your conversation should be discovery with the person. And you need to talk about features and benefits as little as possible.
If they want to hear about that, definitely go down that path with them because you’re meeting them where they’re at, but to your point about going to the doctor, you’re asking a bunch of questions to understand what their symptoms are and what things they’ve tried in the past and what their history is like. And you’re meeting that person on a much more emotional level, as you said, and that creates a bond so they actually want to work with you and not the features and benefits of the thing that are being pitched. And I think, and I don’t know from your experience, Roger, but it sounds like that’s one of the biggest gaps in people’s ability to pitch successfully.
Roger: I think it is. I think most good pitches are a, kind of, narrative arc, from defining the problem to evolving the solution. And, actually, the more lavish and elaborate you are in spelling out the problem on how difficult it is for the guy that you’re talking to, far from putting them off, I think they will feel, thank God I’m talking to somebody that understands what I have to put up with. Because if you’re talking to somebody senior, one forgets that one of the loneliest jobs in the world is being chief executive of a large company, because the shareholders above you are constantly breathing far down the back of your neck to see the share price go up. And the people underneath you are constantly being very nice to you in public, but in private they’re scheming to replace you.
So, it’s a very isolated job, and, actually, somebody that understands your problem and can talk about it with some sense of depth and sincerity is very compelling. You think, I want this guy to be my friend. If at the end of the story you haven’t, necessarily, got the solution quite right, that may not matter as much as you think, because the guy will feel, if he understands my problem, we can work out the answer together.
Taylorr: Yeah. It’s relatable
Roger: And it’s very interesting, if you look at the track record of advertising agencies pitching for new projects, it’s very rare that the agency which wins, actually, runs the ads, which they showed in the winning pitch. And I could never quite understand that, and then one day it occurred to me, a glimpse of the blindingly obvious, that actually they’re not really there judging the advertisements, they’re judging you. If they think Taylorr and Austin are the two right guys, the fact that the ads aren’t quite right yet doesn’t matter; we can produce some more ads anytime. But you can’t change the people once you’ve employed the company, that’s really what you’re investing in.
Taylorr: It’s a powerful lesson.
Austin: Man. This, actually, ties into a question that Taylorr and I had just about this whole concept while we were preparing for the show, which is that one of the things we hear most frequently from our clients is, I hate pitching. I’m not good at pitching. I’m not comfortable while I’m pitching. So, I’m just going to hire it out and find somebody else to do that for me. Do you think that’s an actual solution to this problem? Or do you think that we’re running the risk of not having the right person?
Roger: I think hiring somebody else to do it for you is a bit like having a huge argument with your wife. And so, let’s make it up over dinner, but I feel a bit uncomfortable with you at the moment, so I’m going to hire somebody else to have the dinner for me. I really can’t.
Taylorr: I’m going to try that next time. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Roger: I think hiring things out to, I’m totally opposed to management consultants and if there are any management consultants in the audience, I’m terribly sorry to be rude about you and, obviously, in your personal case you’re excellent. But there is a tendency for business people to pay somebody else to solve their problems. And, actually, the person who’s being paid to solve the problem is you. So, you have to find a way of dealing with it. And, actually, if you work at pitching and you study the psychology of it and think about what needs to be done and read about it a bit; it’s actually not that hard a thing to do. So, I think don’t delegate it, work at it yourself.
Austin: I think that’s a snippet that everybody needs to hear because I totally agree. We have the power to develop it ourselves. And can you, maybe, try to demystify this for us a little bit, what makes a good pitch? If somebody’s listening to this and thinking, okay, I’m going to make myself better at pitching. Is there a simple frame of reference that they can be keeping in mind as they’re trying to improve their skillset that might give them a leg up on the process?
Roger: I think there are two absolutely key things that are both very simple. The first is the pitch is about them, not you. And we’ve talked about that already. I think the second is that people have a tendency to supply reams of data and information, which, probably, the person receiving it has got already. And at any rate, data’s fine up to a point, but no wars were won because somebody had better spreadsheets. It’s a big idea which clinch is it. And I’ll give you a very interesting example.
I talked about Jerry Robinson earlier, who was my boss at Granada, who was an extraordinarily brilliant guy. He left school in Ireland at the age of 15. The 11th of 12 children of the poverty stricken Irish carpenter, came to England to seek his fortune, made a huge amount of money in business and went back to Ireland and trained to be a carpenter in his retirement just like his father. But when he was at the height of his power, he’d had enormous business success. And he was known as somebody who was very tough on cost.
And the UK prime minister at the time was Tony Blair. And Blair was trying to find ways of saving money. And in England there’s a thing called the Arts Council, which, basically, is a government body which distributes taxpayers’ money to opera and stuff like that. And Blair and his finance guy, Gordon Brown, thought the arts council, probably, had a lot of money, which was wasted and was, probably, run by somebody who’s more interested in the ballet than the budget. And they thought if we get a tough, hard-nosed businessman here, we can take a lot of cost out of this. So, they hired Jerry to do it, who was a ruthless cost cutter and he took it on very enthusiastically.
And I had a coffee with him when he’d been there for about two months and I said, how’s it going? And he said, well, I’m, kind of, going native. I’ve been here for two months. And, actually, I’ve learned two things. One is that, although, the arts cost a lot of money, they produce a lot of money. If you imagine how much money is made in London every day on taxis and airport landing fees and restaurant bills and shopping and people going to the theater, all of that stuff that comes out of tourism, would we have the same amount of tourism if we didn’t have good theater and good opera and so forth? And good art galleries? Probably not.
So, it’s hard to quantify, but, actually, investment in the arts makes money. He said he also, though, kind of, the country can’t only be balancing the budget, that, actually, the arts are uplifting and that they contribute to people’s lives. So, he said, I’ve decided to go back to Blair and Brown and tell them that having hired me to cut the budget, I want them to increase it. I said, good luck with that one, Jerry. Because if you were going to write a book about a hard pitch, that would be about the hardest pitch of all. When an advertising agency is pitching for accounts, it’s easy; it’s four agencies in it, one of them is going to get it. There’s a 25% chance of winning. But I felt in Jerry’s case was a hundred percent chance of being shown the door very quickly.
So, I said, I’d love to talk to you again after you’ve had your meeting to find out how it went. So, we got together about a month later and I said, how did it go? And he said it was all right. And I said, well, what did you do? And he said, well, I figured that Blair is a very brilliant politician, but like lots of brilliant politicians, he’s quite a vain guy. He’s fought very hard to be leader of his party. He’s then fought very hard to be leader of the country. He now wants his country to be one of the countries that matter.
When he sits down with the President of America and the president of Russia and the Prime Minister of France and so forth, he wants to be seen as their equal. So, what I said to him was I said, look, Prime Minister, let’s be simple about this. Every civilized country funds its arts properly. When you think about it, it’s the most genius remark, because what it’s really saying is, if you want to be an uncivilized country, I suggest you carry on with this budget cut plan.
Roger: It’s, kind of, like being a member of a country club. You have to pay, but it’s an important group to be part of, if you want to be in the club of civilized countries, you fund your arts properly. And he said, I then turned to Brown, who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which in our speak, is the guy running the budget, who I knew would be worried about the cost. And I said, look, chancellor, we’re talking about very little money, it’s only $300 million. That’s barely the cost of one F11 jet.
Well, of course, only $300 million, it’s not a thing that most of us say; we say as much as $300 million. But putting it that way, it made it seem like small change, which had fallen out of your pocket down the back of the sofa. And by saying it’s just the cost of one Air Force jet, I’m sure Brown would’ve had no idea how many jets the Air Force had, maybe a hundred, maybe 500, who knows, but they wouldn’t notice one missing, would they? And I thought it was the most brilliant piece of salesmanship, that what he’d done. H
e never talked about what the Arts Council did or showed any figures about its achievement or any of that. He just said to Blair, if you want to be the boss of the country, which is internationally respected, you make sure your opera and your theater and your cultural life is funded properly. And to Brown, he said, you can find 200, $300 million, it’s just one airplane. And it made a huge amount of money seem unimportant. And I thought that was brilliant salesmanship, and at the core of it, if you analyze it; is, firstly, he thought about it entirely in their perspective, what mattered to them.
And what mattered to Blair was to be seen to be the boss of a good nation and what mattered to be Brown was seen to be on top of the money. And he nailed that perfectly. But also, he had a very simple proposition for each of them that was not lots of statistics or logic, it was a, kind of, emotional idea.