Duke Group

CEO’s Covid Diary: House rules

by Wayne Naidoo. A day in the life of an advertising CEO: Transform the industry; keep your business afloat; motivate staff; and sanitise, sanitise, sanitise.

Week 16:  29 June

Industry: “Congratulations for being re-elected as ACA Chair. So, first up Wayne, tell us what are you going to do about the delayed setting up of the much-needed MAC Charter Council – wasn’t it your responsibility to do so in your first term already? And what about tightening up the ongoing onerous pitch process guidelines; repairing and promoting our wounded profession; and what’s the plan when it comes to onboarding new members, especially the independent black agencies who believe that the association is run by white folk?”

Me: (Where to start?)

Week 18:  13 July

It started to finally look like our financial dip into the abyss started to plateau with clients coming back online and new job bags optimistically being opened. New briefs meant more money, which meant renewed energy, which meant we could all start to breathe lightly again. Our financial dashboard dropped from DEFCON 1 to 2 and we could finally see green shoots ahead. Then one by one, client budgets got adjusted – downward – but not so much the scope of work. They also came along with tighter deadlines and, in some cases, harsher and newly made up KPI’s. We were now entering a new era of “WTF”. Our people now started taking leave in lockdown. WTF? Our payment terms were now being extended. WTF? And the workload creep started to look like Trumps never-ending upward Covid curve. WTF?

Week 20:  Present day – 31 July

OMG. Can you believe that it’s the DUKE Group’s first birthday at the end of the month?

Staff: “Gee Wayne, what are we gonna do then?”

Me: “The same thing we do every day, try to take over the world… and celebrate of course!”

This pandemic has devasted much and yet has also uncovered many hidden gems. For me, it has sadly, revealed some folks’ true identity; but on the other hand it has also thankfully shone a light on the silent heroes that have always held us up, but who have never been acknowledged. One thing’s for sure as we overcome this crisis – things will be different. People will be different, stronger willed and they’ll change the rules. We will all realise the importance of now, more than ever, and we will firmly choose who we want to be around.

In the movie Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams famously said, “We are food for worms, lads.” When we remember we’re going to die, the inane squabbles of daily life tend to fall away, revealing a sudden clarity of purpose. “Carpe Diem!” These principles below have guided us through our darkest moments during this insanely challenging first year. They’ve stood firm so far and, until the day comes when new leadership takes over and redoes them, they will stand as is, as they’ve done yesterday, today, and perhaps even forever (thanks for the quote Greyhound).

Duke Group: House Rules

  1. No sh*theads
  2. Always make eye contact.
  3. Learn again.
  4. Be you. Speak your damn mind.
  5. Imagine its yours.
  6. Always show up, get sh*t done and over-deliver.
  7. Make everyone famous.
  8. Be the very, very best at something.
  9. Always follow the green lights.
  10. You will be flogged publicly with a wet snoek, if you’re caught backwashing into the tequila bottle.

Lockdown Lesson #3: Seize the day