Thursday, 16 December 2010

Corporate entertaining 1 - A few painful lessons learned

Now the whole thing about entertaining or being entertained is one networks, enjoys oneself, meets people and forms relationships beyond pure negotiation. If you are lucky you get all these things each and every time. If you are gaffe prone like me you can get into all sorts of trouble as I will explain by way of a few examples.

Hosting Golf:
My company used to invite its key clients to a golf day at one of the main prestigious courses every year. I got to front them as nobody else on the board played. The last one I hosted was at Moore Park in Hertfordshire and we spared no expense in making sure it went well. The trouble was that everything seemed to conspire to go wrong.

It was just one of those days. It started when the Chief Exec of one of our top clients got locked in the ancient toilet cubicles in the old manor house. It turns out he suffered horribly from claustrophobia and he went berserk in the tiny cubicle unable to climb out (he was large) and was finally rescued when we kicked in the door. He went straight home.

We had arranged for a chap to do our clubhouse scoring for us. He had a lot of kit including computers and TV monitors that he somehow managed to jamb into a small hatchback. We did not want him to disturb our guest so we told him to go behind the manor and reverse up to the sweeping outside staircase so that we could discretely unload through the French windows of our allocated room. I idly watched as he arrived and started reversing, and reversing, and reversing.

He must stop I thought otherwise he would back into the huge old and rare urn planter that was standing on a tall concrete plinth at the side of the staircase. But no. It all seemed to happen in slow motion as first the crunch and second the sight of the ancient urn fragmenting as it went through his back window and then his monitors. Horrendous and very expensive to put right.

Finally the guests all arrived and a good day’s golf was enjoyed by all. Well perhaps not everybody. One team of guests fell out badly with each other because of alleged cheating and another got bitten by the only venomous snake in the British Isles. Oh and one broke his buggy and another fell down a small ravine. Not bad really considering everything.

After the golf we all sat down to dinner. My board colleagues turned up including my own chief executive. He had never played golf and clearly was not a fan. He was most put out when he saw the table plan and wanted to know why he did not have all the most senior people at his table. I tried to explain that after golf guests always sit with the team members they played with but to no avail. He clearly felt slighted especially as the only subject talked about at his table was golf.

At the end of the dinner it was his turn to take centre stage and address the guests. I had been announcing the winners and prizes and it was all very relaxed and jolly. My final task was to introduce a more and more impatient CEO. Let’s keep it relaxed and fun I thought so I said “I would like to introduce my CEO who some people describe as like a lighthouse in the desert. Brilliant, but absolutely useless”. Much chuckling took place and the great man spoke

The event finished and goodbyes were spoken. Everybody said they had a good time (including the wounded) and two chaps told me that one of the reasons they use us is the approachability of our directors and the way we could ‘have fun’ together.

I was pretty pleased with things and thought quite fondly of the last remark until my mobile phone rang as I drove home. It was my CEO. He said that if I ever humiliated him like that again my days in the company were numbered!

What did I learn? Apart from checking toilets, avoiding urns and maybe having a medic around I guess the main thing was never to expect your boss to automatically have a sense of humour similar to yours!

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