Procuring important business lessons from Mad Men is not always an easy thing. You can learn as much about business conduct and best practices from watching the mistakes made by the characters. Some of the most prescient business points can be taken through the characters’ personal conduct in relationships. Last night’s episode for me was all about persistence. In business, persistence is action and action is, with few exceptions, better than inaction when you are driving success in your business.
Chevy is putting SCDP through the ringer. Draper and Co have pitched seven ideas in six weeks at Chevy only to have Chevy demand another angle and in short order. The agency debates whether they should continue fishing or cut bait. Every business can identify with this dilemma. When you have a prospective client whose business can fundamentally change your revenue goals, status and size, it is hard not to do anything and everything to win the client. The risk is the distraction of the additional work and bandwidth required of your company to win business that may not be winnable. Often times, it is the things you say no to that helps companies stay focused and aligned with goals. At the end of the episode, and despite a drug-fueled, brainstorming weekend at the office, Don decides to take the proverbial foot off the gas on the Chevy account. This is a dramatic about face for a man obsessed with winning the business.
The psychology of Don Draper has always been the sub-text of Mad Men. Through flashbacks of his depression-era childhood and his erratic behavior with family, co-workers and lovers, Don’s persona of the bullet-proof executive with nary a hair out of place is a paradox. This is why people tune into the show. It seems that when he is at his lowest personal moment, he achieves some kind of triumph in the office. Last night we saw a man on the verge of a breakdown. His mistress Sylvia has had it with him and a complete role reversal in the power structure of their relationships shows Don to be powerless and confused. His absence at home and disconnectedness with his family was on display as well after robbery where his children were left in his apartment unsupervised. Perhaps Don’s decision to put Chevy off is the beginning of a major re-prioritization. When he chases the thing he wants, it runs away from him. When he shows cool indifference, things fall onto his lap so to speak.
Is saying no a strategy? Will Chevy chase SCDP when they have one less suitor jumping through the hoops of their ad approval process? Will Sylvia come back to Don once he gets his game face back? Don was searching for the perfect pitch for Chevy. He was doing this in the context of winning back Sylvia. He is getting closer to something and his persistence will pay off.
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