by Phil Factor
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Published on Mon, 07 Jun 2010 11:12:00 GMT Indexed on 2010/06/07 11:23 UTC
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I was once the director of a start-up IT Company, and had the task of recruiting a proportion of the management team. As my background was in IT management, I was rather more familiar with recruiting Geeks for technology jobs, but here, one of my early tasks was interviewing a Marketing Director. The small group of financiers had suggested a rather strange Irishman called Halleran. From my background in City of London dealing-rooms, I was slightly unprepared for the experience of interviewing anyone wearing a pink suit. Many of my older City colleagues would have required resuscitation after seeing his white leather shoes. However, nobody will accuse me of prejudging an interviewee. After all, many Linux experts who I’ve come to rely on have appeared for interview dressed as hobbits. In fact, the interview went well, and we had even settled his salary. I was somewhat unprepared for the coda.
‘And I will need to be provided with a Ferrari by the company.’
‘Hmm. That seems reasonable.’
Initially, he looked startled, and then a slow smile of victory spread across his face.
‘What colour would you like?’ I asked genially.
‘It has to be red.’ He looked very earnest on this point.
‘Fine. I have to go past Hamleys on the way home this evening, so I’ll pick one up then for you.’
‘Er.. Hamley’s is a toyshop, not a Ferrari Dealership.’
I stared at him in bafflement for a few seconds. ‘You’re not seriously asking for a real Ferrari are you?’
‘Well, yes. Not for my own sake, you understand. I’d much prefer a simple run-about, but my position demands it. How could I maintain the necessary status in the office without one? How could I do my job in marketing when my grey Datsun was all too visible in the car Park? It is a tool of the job.’
‘Excuse me a moment, but I must confer with the MD’
I popped out to see Chris, the MD. ‘Chris, I’m interviewing a lunatic in a pink suit who is trying to demand that a Ferrari is a precondition of his employment. I tried the ‘misunderstanding trick’ but it didn’t faze him.’
‘Sorry, Phil, but we’ve got to hire him. The VCs insist on it. You’ve got to think of something that doesn’t involve committing to the purchase of a Ferrari. Current funding barely covers the rent for the building.’
‘OK boss. Leave it to me.’
On return, I slapped O’Halleran’s file on the table with a genial, paternalistic smile. ‘Of course you should have a Ferrari. The only trouble is that it will require a justification document that can be presented to the board. I’m sure you’ll have no problem in preparing this document in the required format.’ The initial look of despair was quickly followed by a bland look of acquiescence. He had, earlier in the interview, argued with great eloquence his skill in preparing the tiresome documents that underpin the essential corporate and government deals that were vital to the success of this new enterprise. The justification of a Ferrari should be a doddle.
After the interview, Chris nervously asked how I’d fared.
‘I think it is all solved.’
‘… without promising a Ferrari, I hope.’
‘Well, I did actually; on condition he justified it in writing.’
Chris issued a stream of invective. The strain of juggling the resources in an underfunded startup was beginning to show.
‘Don’t worry. In the unlikely event of him coming back with the required document, I’ll give him mine.’
‘Yours?’ He strode over to the window to stare down at the car park.
He needn’t have worried: I knew that his breed of marketing man could more easily lay an ostrich egg than to prepare a decent justification document. My Ferrari is still there at the back of my garage. Few know of the Ferrari cultivator, a simple inexpensive motorized device designed for the subsistence farmers of southern Italy. It is the very devil to start, but it creates a perfect tilth for the seedbed.
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