PROBLEM: A small business needing to punch above its weight.


(Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)



“ The rational component of credibility  doesn’t take long. The emotional side  (honesty) takes longer to evaluate, because it takes longer to assure oneself."

Reliability is the one component of the trust equation that has an explicit action orientation. It links words and deeds, intention and action."

“... Intimacy and self-orientation are relatively scarce, compared to credibility and reliability... The most common failure in building trust is the lack of intimacy."

“Business can be intensely personal. There are obvious human emotions around such charged issues as promotion, compensation, hiring and firing, reorganization... mergers and acquisitions, lawsuits, changing pension plans, selling off businesses, and closing down plants are all areas that go well beyond logic."

“Greater intimacy means that fewer subjects are barred from discussion."

“The most egregious form of self-orientation is, of course, simple selfishness, being 'in it for the money.' However, self-orientation is about much more than greed. It covers anything that keeps us focused on ourselves rather than on our client.”


The Trusted Advisor

Maister, Galford & Green.

Challenging the CEO


A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, news coverage and recruitment advertising were found in paper-based artifacts called ‘trade publications’.


At the time, I worked for a start-up marketing agency that served technology clients. That described the company and the business-world dichotomy: tech didn’t understand marketing, and marketing didn’t understand tech.


So the CEO found it very difficult to find people who straddled both disciplines - which was amplified by owning a small venture without much visibility.


An obvious root was to run a recruitment ad in Computing - the highest circulation IT publication in the UK - but that was way too expensive.


One morning,  I was flicking though another trade mag, and an office supplies catalogue fell out onto my desk. The reseller had too much to put into an ad, so was paying the magazine publisher a fee to insert it into the mailing.    


Which begged the question ‘Why not run a recruitment ad as an insert?’


The Advertising Manager at Computing said she didn’t know 'why not' because she’d never done it before. As she was above her revenue quota for the quarter, if we agreed a price now - while she was in a good mood -  she’d include it in next week’s run. She’d check with her boss after.


We shook hands over the phone, then had 48 hours to write the text, get it typeset, printed and dispatched. It became a 4-page leaflet, with the front cover headline:


'Are You a High-Tech Hero?'


Inside, a double-page spread listed stereotypes we wanted to avoid hiring, such as “Propeller Heads” who understood microchips but not customers.


And ended with the job description of a "High-Tech Hero".


Once in the market, it generated a mix of interest, ridicule, admiration, uncertainty and lunches. More importantly, we built a  list of candidates that served us for the next couple of years, and lead to three new accounts, including a global IT company.


Doing it differently put the CEO and his agency on the map and became the platform for its growth.


Coda: Sometime later, the CEO was trying to launch a conference, and invited a notoriously resistant FTSE 100 CIO to be the keynote speaker. At lot rested on the decision: if he agreed, others would follow.


When they met at the CIO's office, it was the easiest conversation on record:


A copy of Are You a High-Tech Hero? was framed and hanging pride of place on the wall behind his desk.

(See also Counsel-for-Many, Coach-for-One, and Create-for-One)


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