The calm of a balmy evening is shattered by a glass crashing on the floor. As I look up sharply at Lucia Digby, he begins to bellow out foul words loudly. The cocktail party on the yacht nearby comes to a halt and people turn towards us. I chuckle and this angers him more.
“You did it again you f****** idiot, you did it again! How do you manage to do it all the time? All the damn time … it’s just like Cannes all over again!” He snatches the bottle of champagne and flings it out of the boat, narrowly missing a passing speedboat. He kicks a deck chair and this causes my crew to look at me anxiously. Should they be calling the mental asylum is the look on their faces.
Lucia Digby was a very good corporate chieftain. But a lousy jet ski driver. And an even worse loser. And he could swear for 5 minutes without repeating himself. And because he had lost to me three times in a row, his face had turned beetroot red.
But what’s that got to do with being in Cannes and Monaco you may ask. I’m afraid I’ll have to go back in time to answer that. I’ll have to take you through what’s called a ‘flashback’ in the movies.
We were shooting the breeze at Cannes, watching the stars and starlets doing the tango with the paparazzi … almost like a Walt Disney cartoon unfolding with Tom and Jerry at each other again. And it was after watching the premier of the latest Indiana Jones adventure that inspiration struck.
So I suggested that we jet ski to Monaco for the Formula 1 race instead of taking my boat and jet ski back, in keeping with the spirit of things. And as is always the case with Lucia Digby, what was intended to be a pleasurable joy ride turned out to be a race. And yet another Tom and Jerry drama was about to unfold.
Thrills and near spills marked the first leg to Monaco. And some deft handling by me ensured a clean victory. A sulking Lucia didn’t enjoy it much. But the high pitched whine of the Formula 1 cars sent his pulse racing again. With adrenaline pushing us beyond the boundaries of common sense, the second leg back was a demonstration of pure speed. Throwing caution to the wind, we hit full throttle.
As I stepped onto my boat, first as usual, I casually asked him whether he was going to ‘consult’ someone again on this loss. As I avoided his fist, I left laughter ringing in his ears.
“Consult someone”, you ask? I think this demands another flashback for an adequate explanation.
A while ago, Lucia and I decided to have a boat race. I won by a mile. Lucia became very discouraged by the loss and his morale sagged. He decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found and a project team was set up to investigate the problem and recommend appropriate action.
Their conclusion: My team had eight people rowing and one person steering. His team had one person rowing and eight people steering.
So he immediately hired a consultancy company to do a study of his team’s structure. Millions of pounds and several months later they concluded that: Too many people were steering and not enough rowing.
To prevent losing to me next year, the team structure was changed to four ‘Steering Managers’, three ‘Senior Steering Managers’, and one ‘Executive Steering Manager’. A performance and appraisal system was set up to give the person rowing the boat more incentive to work harder.
The next year, my team won by two miles.
He laid off the rower for poor performance, sold off all the oars, cancelled all capital investment for new equipment and halted development of a new boat. The money saved was distributed among the steering managers and the consultants given high performance awards.
Which brings us back to the present and my beetroot red friend at Cannes. Lucia was still fuming. I pointed out the difference between committees taking decisions vs. individuals taking decisions. Which is why, I told him, I would always win. “Do you find statues of committees in parks?” I asked him again, hoping he would get the point.
I guess that was the last straw for him. He stormed out, even angrier. And as I saw him slamming the door of his cabin shut, I made a quiet note to myself – Thank god I’m an entrepreneur and not a corporate suit. And then I continued laughing.