• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

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A job as a managing director is not for the faint-hearted. The pressure can be excruciating, the competition fierce, and the hours long. Hence most managing directors feel compelled to add to their busy diaries by joining some social clubs for businesses opportunities.

In both business and corporate worlds, business deals sustain transactions necessary for the viable existence of any kind of outfit. But where such deals are closed matters a lot because of the better bargaining advantage it gives to the party gunning for the deal.

In the advertising and public relations profession, advertisers who need such deals to survive go beyond their marketing prowess in order to sell their competence and edge over their counterparts to their clients. However, they need an enabling and convivial environment which the seriousness of the office setting lacks in order to sort out the figures, modalities and percentages necessary for a smooth deal.

Indeed, many executives are members of several clubs depending of their target. There is the Ikoyi Club, Lagos Country Club, Lagos Boat Club, Lagos Lawn Tennis Club and some exclusive bars like Swe Bar, King Size, among others. Being a member of these clubs allows for many night outings and hangouts with colleagues, friends, fellow competitors and clients for more and better business deals. By nature, these clubs are elitist and they come with some display of pomposity.

A cynical explanation is that the strict entry policies of some of the clubs like the Ikoyi Club or The Club at Sheraton trigger some kind of burning desire to make the grade. For the ambitious, the more the club, the better. They act as some kind of confirmation of status. For some managing directors of advert agencies, the fact that all the clubs have some kind of rigorous entry processes seems to add to the excitement of entry.

Advertising is also a fiercely competitive business. People want to gather club memberships simply because their peers have them. As one of the high-profile members of the Ikoyi Club puts it, “Being a member of this club is not just for the pleasure of the evening but to make more business connections and seal better deals. I have been a member of this club for 15 years and I have never regretted it. It’s been fun, work and business. You just have to be where the people that make it happen are or you will be out of business before you know what is happening.”

Tunji Abioye, former managing director, Rosabel Advertising Ltd, prefers to call the clubs cells where each practitioner is free to mingle with his own. “Advertising practitioners also find ways to let out the fuse at social gatherings or some recreational points,” he says. “Individually, they belong to many social clubs like Ikoyi Club, Lagos Country Club or the Golf Club. But besides this, they also find a way to converge at places like a restaurant cum bar where the practitioners gather in large numbers. There is somewhere called King Size at Oregun where they also mingle. Each group of practitioners forms its own cell that is not rigid or formal.”

Recently, an executive of Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) signed a business deal that runs into millions over a cocktail while on a boat cruise to the Lekki. On why he chose such an informal setting for such a deal, he simply says: “The client is a boat lover. It worked for him because the convivial setting in the boat and the nature that surrounds it wooed the client to swallow my bait.” Then he adds: “Knowing your client and his likes is halfway to securing and probably closing an advertising deal. Office is not the best place because the client might want certain percentage of the deal which he/she in normal sense will like to keep to himself for a while.”

For him, clients who prefer the office setting are oftentimes owners of the companies who may not be answerable to many people. Those who are answerable to a board of directors and who prefer to seal off such deals in the offices do that late hours when many staff are already home or on their way home to avoid eaves-droppers.

While some start and conclude business deals at clubs, others do same in highbrow restaurants. Such is the case of an anonymous advert executive who sealed one of his most outstanding deals last November at Sky Restaurant of Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. Many of these executives don’t mind how much such reception will cost them, but the eagerness to give the client a memorable day thereby sealing the business deal usually takes pre-eminence. “I discovered that he wanted exclusivity and I gave him in return for a deal and it was a big deal, the biggest in three years for me. It was a good barter,” says the unnamed executive.

There are some good Chinese restaurants on Lagos Island; they serve the purpose of good meeting points for discussing and closing deals as well. Golden Gate at Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, and Imperial Chinese Restaurant on Ahmed Onibude Street in Victoria Island are good venues because of their exclusivity and high profile clientele. Attention on the mainland is now shifting from Sheraton to Planet One, Protea Hotels at Ikeja and Maryland, Jade Place, among others. The ambiance of the outfits is inviting enough for such deals. But it is not all down to vanity for most of the advertising executives. The best use for many of the clubs is the opportunity they offer to entertain clients in an effort-free manner. It is not only that the food and drink are good but the opportunity to mingle is plentiful.

But at times, it comes as a surprise to the advert executives themselves when they realise that some big deals are closed in the places they never would think of. The experience of an Insight Communication executive tells the story. While waiting patiently at the bar of Ikoyi Golf Club for the chairman of the company he was canvassing a business deal with, the septuagenarian who happens to be an old-timer in the game of golf, according to him, called to invite him over in his Toyota land cruiser jeep parked in the lot for the deal. That day, he was surprised to have a good discussion that landed him a big deal. But he least expected that the comfort of the jeep would be enough to attract such response.

Besides that, the sprawling homes of some bank executives relax them a lot and if you can break into their homes, which oftentimes is difficult, you will get a good talk and possibly smile home with big cheques. Those homes will be the least place you can be invited over or fix business deal appointments, but the comfort in them, the family setting and the informal mood of the owner make more scrutiny or probing by the big man difficult.

While speaking on the membership of these cells, as he calls them, Abioye observes, “What you find is that a friend pulls a friend, another pulls another and the chain continues. And then convergences begin to appear. I belong to several and it depends on the need, mood and the kind of crowd I want to pull at any point in time. Where people hang out is a function of what you want to do at any point in time. When I have to host any of my clients, I could end up at the Sheraton by the pool bar. At times I could end up at Lagos Country Club; some other time it could be King Size.”

 

FUNKE OSAE-BROWN and OBINNA EMELIKE