IT’S SIMPLE, BUT IT’S NOT EASY
A couple of weeks back, Paul Bainsfair arranged for Adam Crozier to talk at the IPA,
Adam Crozier worked at Saatchi & Saatchi for ten years.
He went from being the media director to joint CEO.
Then, in a move that surprised everyone, he left Saatchi to become Chief Executive of the Football Association.
In short order he lowered the average age of the staff from 55 to 32.
He cut the FA’s ruling body from 91 members to just 12.
And he appointed the first ever non-English manager: Sven Goren Erickson.
Naturally, he put a lot of noses out of joint.
Then he left the FA to become Chief Executive of Royal Mail.
His time there was pretty controversial, too.
On the one hand he closed lots of Post Office branches and made lots of people redundant.
He also cut the twice-daily post to just one.
But on the other hand, Royal Mail was losing £1.5 million a day when he went there.
They were making £2 million a day profit when he left.
He left Royal Mail to take over as Chief Executive at ITV plc.
Fifty years ago, ITV had been the first UK television network to carry ads.
Nowadays it was a creaky old collection of 12 different regional broadcasters.
He had to force them all together into acting like one channel.
When he went there, ITV was £1billion in debt and was losing £2.7 billion a year.
Three years later ITV is debt-free, it’s sitting on £800m in cash, and it’s making £350 million a year profit.
So this is clearly a man who understands business: cut costs, maximise income.
Fair enough, most of us know that.
The difference is he actually does it: over and over again.
Even when it’s really uncomfortable.
In fact because it’s uncomfortable, he gets the jobs no one else wants to do.
That’s what fascinated me.
Why did he keep going into failing organisations and reorganising them so ruthlessly and thoroughly?
I couldn’t begin to see how to sort out a mess like any of those.
And even if I could, I don’t think I’d have the nerve to do it.
Adam Crozier said Saatchi’s had been a great training ground.
He said he learned what the good people in advertising learn.
Take really complicated situations and simplify them.
Turn a mass of messy, unworkable details into a few key problems.
I said “But where do you get the tenacity to carry it out?”
Then I noticed he had quite a strong accent.
I said “Is it to do with being Scottish? The way the best football managers are Scottish: Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Alex Ferguson. They cut through the crap.
Get to a really simple, powerful point and then, by force of will, make an unruly group of players toe the line.”
Adam said Alex Ferguson had summed it up best.
When Adam was running the FA, he asked Ferguson about some of the difficult, unpopular decisions he’d had to make.
Because under Ferguson no one was irreplaceable.
He would get rid of anyone if he thought they weren’t performing: David Beckham, Jap Staam, Wayne Rooney.
Whatever all the critics and pundits said.
Adam said Ferguson said something very simple and empowering.
Something, I think, we can all learn from.
He said “If I’m going to get shot I want to get shot for a decision I’ve made.
Not for something I did through listening to anyone else.”