10 life apprenticeships: from slave to executive and from there to shoe cleaner

Javier Millán and Fernando Robles, Beyond the personal brand
Javier Millán and Fernando Robles

This week I have had the honor of being interviewed by the Beyond the Personal Brand. And I say honor because the two cracks that manage this project have interviewed some of my great references, between them, Monica Mendoza, Arancha Ruiz, Emilio Marquez, Inés Torremocha, Ovidio Peñalver, Elena Gómez del Pozuelo, Pedro G. watery, (visit her site Andrea Vilallonga), Elia Guardiola, Miriam Diaz-Aroca...

The two responsible for this interview, its initiator, Fernando Robles, and its closeer, Javier Millán, focus more on career learning than career itself.

In the interview, they made me relive my professional history from the very beginning.

If you're short on time, I invite you to watch a one-minute video summary: 

Learning 1: Discipline and business protocols

To the 14 And 15 years I started taking out the first money helping in minor tasks to a relative's advertising agency in the mornings. Errands, auxiliary work...

BBDO weather 1980
BBDO weather, 1979 (let's see if you can find me)

To the 16 and even 18 I had my first payroll at an agency, where he worked in the mornings in the creative department and kept studying in the afternoons. He also made personal errands, I was going to get the breakfasts, to buy graphic material... whatever it took. Kidding, I used to call myself "slave."

That's where I learned discipline and certain business protocols. Punctuality, Respect, Efficiency, Honesty. You might think they taught that at school.. But here you knew what it was useful for.

Learning 2: The need to negotiate constantly

To the 18 I joined my second official agency, this time changing department (a commercial, as an account executive) and with one of the best bosses you can dream of. That's where I kept self-demining "slave.", and my boss was called "bwana."

Guillem Recolons, 1981
Gdd & Yesterday, 1981

At that stage, among the 18 and 20 Years, I learned to negotiate to make small strides. Especially, to negotiate with the creative department to deliver the arts on time, with means, with management, with everyone… 

Learning 3: Customers are held by trust

Among the 20 And 23 I continued with "bwana", but already evolving and managing more customers. With new bosses, new experiences.

One of the learnings of this era was about trust. A customer is not kept alone for giving good or excellent service, also because you achieve extraordinary sales with your work. What maintains and strengthens a relationship is trust.

Learning 4: The fuel of trust is empathy

To my 23 there was a small cataclysm. What was my second official agency was acquired by the world's multinational N1. Major changes, for good. The level of customers was another, basically international accounts. New bosses, greater responsibility.

Among the 23 and 25 I learned that the fuel of trust is empathy. Understanding what's right for a client and putting that ahead of the agency's own interests is a complex and risky step, but it had to be given.

Learning 5: Customers support the business

To the 25 I was promoted to "account supervisor.. That meant having equipment under my responsibility and also starting to worry about the agency's survival as a set of people.

Advertising agencies are not supported by creative awards, for hiring superstars or having nice offices. They are supported by customers. That was my learning is that stage: customers support the business, and without them, there is no agency.

Learning 6: The value is in the strategy

To the 27 I moved on to "account manager" and managing a portfolio of 12 Customers, most international. Things were serious.. Now I didn't just care about my business anymore., I cared more about the customer's. Analysis and research were necessary to continue.

Learning at the time was in the value of strategy as an engine of creativity and as a great response to the needs and problems of customers.

Learning 7: Vocation and passion or death (Research)

Guillem Recolons Bassat Ogilvy 1992
Bassat Ogilvy 1992

To the 29 I ended a long period at the agency that welcomed me with 18 years as an account executive and from which I came out as account manager. I decided to switch to another agency, I was convinced by the management team and the extraordinary human quality of the professionals and clients I had to deal with. It was years of gold for that agency., Between 1991 And 1993, with a strong prominence in the JJ. Barcelona OO.

That's where I learned that communication, advertising, are vocational or not. And for that, it was important to understand the full cycle.

Learning 8: Feedback is progress, and without it there's just chaos

Guillem Recolons, 1993
Saatchi & Saatchi, 1993

To the 31 I got a tempting call. One of the most important agencies in the world - at the time- had problems in Spain. There had been a leak of talent and important customers. They needed someone to prevent further leaks and bring in new customers.

That's where I promoted "Customer Service Director" to a euphemism that equates to you being responsible for all the agency's clients and also for the new business. Learning was the value of Feedback constant to maintain what was already done well and to improve. I spent five complex but wonderful years, and the best gift, when I decided to leave, was the feedback the president gave me.

Learning 9: Hire people better than you

The previous stage left me crazy (for friends, Bald). Five very intense years. I was playing an interesting change: Directorate-General, with the possibility of acquiring shares of the company and with an interesting multinational alliance in looming.

Among my 36 and my 38 everything flowed beautifully. The growth of the agency was exemplary. There it was a great help for me to understand that to grow you don't need to hire without more, you need people with better ideas than yours.

Learning 10: The general management does not accept loopholes

To the 38 I got terrible personal news related to my wife's illness. I continued to spend as much time as possible, but the disease, on the one hand, and the arrival of my daughter, on the other hand, I was screaming to reduce my dedication.

As if that weren't enough, the promise of alliance with the multinational reference vanished, and my motivation was getting smaller every day.

I chose to delegate what robbed me the most at the time: Administration, Finance, people management, and above all, strategic planning. Serious error.

That was my apprenticeship in that period of more than 6 Years: If you run a company, you have to run it whole. I got fired.. I came out on 31 December 2004, With 42 Years. The 2 January 2005 I set up my own company. From that moment on I would become shoe cleaner 21st century version, I would work to make others shine. That's where I've drawn a lot of other apprenticeships, I'll tell you another day.

By the way, Here's the interview: I'm warning you, it's a little long., almost two and a half hours, but if you insist, here it is ;-)

Stock Photos from Olexander Zahozhyy / Shutterstock

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6 thoughts on "10 life apprenticeships: from slave to executive and from there to shoe cleaner”

  1. Joer Guillem what a beautiful story. I'm the articles I like the most, personal stories, and know the development and experiences of other professionals…congratulations on taking the step of telling it (few do)…

    I just missed a little bit. (for adding something I would have liked to read) those less good things about each stage (that that tb helps to understand many things and see the ability to fit and exceed a professional staff)…but I know that talking about less good things isn't so nice and sometimes not even politically correct ?…

    I was ground by your 10 Learning. Good reading for a Sunday morning. And by the way, you had a stubborn peel ? has shocked me!!!!

    Congratulations on the post…and I'm waiting for the apprenticeships and not the next stage of your agency ?

  2. Thank you Cláudio! Lately I've lost the shame of telling the things that make up my personal and professional DNA. First of all, we are people with a past that has a lot of influence on the present. In the video interview I did explain the less good things I would never do again (and there are many, jjajaja). When I see you I give you a good hug, Uncle!

  3. A beautiful story and a magnificent interview, of those that impact on their humanity and the number of teachings that come from it. Thanks @Guillem , thank @Javier thank you @Fernando.


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