One of the BEST episodes of Mad Men last night. We’ll just leave the Sally Draper stuff for around the water cooler, and talk about the INCREDIBLE interactions between Roger Sterling and, well, everyone else. Because of the great stuff last night I’m going to break it up into two posts, so stay tuned for Episode 5, Part 2: Mad Men, Lawyers and … Who’s That in Your Rear View Mirror? In last night’s episode, Roger was either a xenophobe suffering from post-traumatic stress from his WWII days spent in the South Pacific, or he’s a calculating, greedy SOB. Peter Campbell thinks it’s the latter. Throughout the episode, Roger is deliberately sabotaging the firm’s efforts to bring Honda Motorcycles in as a new client. A potential $3 million account (in 1965 dollars), Honda will break the lopsided importance of the firm’s #1 client, Lucky Strike. Several times this season we have heard financial partner Lane Pryce voice his concern that

Don and Bert look aghast at Roger
Lucky Strike is more than 90% of the firm’s billables. This is NOT acceptable, and Peter’s job is to alter the balance. When Roger walks into the client meeting, insulting the firm’s guests, the boys of Sterling Cooper Draper and the other guy confront Roger. He cannot decide who the firm retains as a client. The war is over. But Peter hits the target head-on:

You are wrapping yourself in the flag to keep me from bringing in an account because you know that every chip I make we become less dependent on Lucky Strike, and therefore less dependent on you.

(video beginning at 1:48):

The big question is, is Roger a racist? Or is he simply territorial? Protecting his turf? His power-base within the firm? How often does this happen within your firm? Not the racism, but a partner who “hordes” clients? A partner refusing to allow cross-selling to “his” client? How many firms out there are “out of balance” with a single client accounting for 50% of an office, or 90% of a partners billables? When we give too much power to a single partner, the balance of the business can become unstable. The partner will constantly threaten to leave the firm either directly, or not too subtly, if his demands are not met. When the client’s billables are out of balance, than there is constant fear of the client leaving for another firm. Or, attorneys working on the files become too busy (or too lazy) to bring in new clients. Either way, the toys in the sandbox need to be shared. In fact, the sandbox itself needs to be shared. By identifying the importance of balance, the firm, and the partners, will be better situated to:

  1. Grow (the majority of new business comes from existing clients);
  2. Weather economic fluctuations that impact lines of business (bankruptcy and employment are up in the recession; corporate and litigation are down. This will, of course, change once the recover is fully in swing);
  3. Provide a buffer when a partner or client leaves the firm; and,
  4. Instill a culture of new business development, and succession planning.

Oh, and are you loving Don’s new secretary as I am?? Photos courtesy of AMC’s Mad Men