Sunday, June 10, 2007

What kind of car should an interim Manager drive?

Following on from last weeks blog on the naming of your business, I thought this week it might be a good idea to take a look at the other aspect that fills our mind when we move away from being an employee and take the plunge into a self employed interim management world. Suddenly the restrictive company car list has disappeared and every car you may have ever wanted to own is suddenly an option – or is it?

Many years ago I was working for a marketing department in central London, when a freelance photographer drove up to the office in his brand new Range Rover. He didn’t park it in the car park, or even at a parking meter, he simply parked it half on the pavement, right outside the main entrance.

He was making a deliberate statement, ‘see what kind of car I drive.’ and ‘I don’t care if I break the law, after all it’s only a fine.’ What he may not have reckoned on is the amount of jealousy he stirred up. The marketing manager, who actually commissioned him, drove a 2 liter company Opel. The photographers’ Range Rover was the last straw. So when it happened that the photographs turned out to be not so spectacular, the photographer was dumped immediately.

It was an important lesson for me (I was still a junior marketing assistant), I never forgot how quickly my boss’ opinion of the man turned when he saw the photographers car. The fact that they had been laughing and joking together, only a few weeks earlier, you could be excused for thinking that they were the best of friends.

So the rule is, always drive a car to your client that is not going to upset anyone. And certainly not one that says this guy is a show off. Choose one that says ‘this person is careful with their money yet they obviously appreciate quality.’ For an interim manager there is only one car in the world that suits this purpose, an Audi A6, anything else just won’t do! Make sure you go for the 2.0L version. If you want a bigger engine, then pay more and ask the garage to put a 2.0L badge on the back. You’ll get the car you want and your clients won’t get upset.

A BMW is too brash and a Jaguar too flash. A Mercedes might be ok, but somehow they have gone off the boil and there is always the risk (especially in the UK) that they might be seen as more expensive than they really are. For the family man a five door Audi A6 brake (estate car), is acceptable. But no people transporters, they need to be reserved for young family managers, perhaps for project managers and engineers, but an interim manager does not want to radiate the fact that there is anything in the world that is important, apart from the needs of their clients. So no baby seats or any other signs of domesticity!

I once knew a guy who, when he left home in the morning, parked his car around the corner and took out the child seats and hid them under a blanket in the boot, just because he didn’t want his client knowing he had children! Now this maybe going way too far, but I hope you get the gist of what I am talking about?

If you fancy an Audi A8 or even a TT, keep it in the garage at home and only take it out when your client is not looking.

This may seem silly but cars and clothes say much about a person and clients pick up on them. On an ending note, never ever have a more expensive, flashier car than the Chairman, otherwise you are doomed. After all, life is tough enough as it is, why make it harder for yourself?


Yves Hanoulle said...

I don't get the part about hiding the children seats.
One thing I find important is being open an honest with my clients. I will not hide part of my life.
I understand about not having a bigger car then your client. What about the opposite?
I don't care about cars. I just want a reliable car that get's me to work without problems.
I rather spend my money on trainigs, hardware, books, then on a big(ger) car. I don't drive an Audi, does this mean I won't get any big contracts?

Chaos Theory said...

Hi Yves & Harley,

I understand and share most of Harely's point of view. I'm sure even that sometime he does it on purpose to be manicheist just to get people react...

For my part, I truly share the fact not to have a nicer car than the customer. However, as external, usually we don't have access to the parking... Personnaly I'm always parked at least five minutes away from the office, it's better to keep fit...

I personnally don't have an Audi, I consciously choose a quite powerfull car, full equiped but... very discrete. Kind of car you won't get carjacked at the next stop. No signs of motorisation or engine power.

I've got twins, so don't even think I'm going to hide their carseats every morning... I think even that this makes us more human, shows that besides the fact we're working hard, we also have a real life oustide there... and this is important. I choose what I'm telling about my privacy to the customer. When we're going for lunch, I assume we won't keep talking only about cars and work.

Up to me, it's important to share some "private" info... be human, and you'll be able to enter your customer's private sphare, share some thoughts about passions or hobbies.

My advice.. never never talk about politics or religion... this would be the biggest mistake to ever do...

Peter Vantieghem said...

Agree about being careful about which car to drive. Not sure whether the image of an Audi is that different from the one of a BMW or Merc. I usually never speak about my own car but rather about "theirs".

Although in my experience many CEO's have bigger and fancier cars than myself only... their wife is driving it because they are tied with both hands to the company's car policy.

And if you do bump into somebody on the parking lot who sees you popping out of your Jag or Lexus, you can do two things. You wave, say good morning and get inside. Or if a comment is given, just say "well I need to do something to avoid paying half my income to the taxman". Always works in Belgium :-)