My Two Cents: Success-Stalking Executives

By Dom Serafini

I finally realized that I don't have the stamina, energy or willpower necessary to spend the majority of my life chit-chatting on the phone or being a party schmoozer, even though evolutionary biologists would argue that gossip is a survival food.

There are entertainment industry executives who are successful at being successful. These people have developed a sophisticated working schedule in which they know exactly who should be called daily, weekly, biweekly (every other week), semi-monthly (twice a month), bimonthly (every other month), annually, biannually (twice a year) and biennially (every two years). As if this weren't enough to give one a headache, they also keep an elaborate calendar of anniversaries, birthdays and various celebrations that provide an opportunity to make a call.

As soon as they reach their offices, these SS executives (success stalkers) receive from their secretaries (actually it is left on their desks the evening before) a printout of the daily telephone calls to be made and, after a cup of coffee, they hit the phone, emerging only to take a meeting or "do" lunch.

Naturally, it's important to be seen as the first to reach the office and the last to leave, a strategy that has merit because it avoids the long delays during rush-hour commuters' traffic. Plus, there is time to catch up with the press - a source of additional inspiration to call those featured as long as they're worth the time.

Evenings and nights are spent attending weddings, birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs and other celebrations. Being at the A-list parties is very important. Weekend mornings are spent participating in seminars and/or giving speeches, while afternoons are used for playing golf or tennis with people 'in the know.' Other activities include board meetings of trade and other not-for-profit associations (as long as they provide visibility), gala events and awards ceremonies.

Trade shows are important but not essential. Average visits last a single day. Nevertheless, their arrangements take up many days for the staff, considering that hotel selection, pre-shipping luggage via FedEx, room preferences and car or helicopter rides must be coordinated, as well as evening amusements (usually being taken to hot spots by underlings who are derailed from the business at hand).

As far as business is concerned, SS execs surround themselves with executors - other SS execs (those who enter into their radar screens) - who are also good on the phone circuit.

Usually, SS execs are of the fast-moving type, spending, at most, four years at each company, then moving up (naturally) at another company with signing bonuses (luxury apartments) and safety nets. Indeed, the first task of any new job is to prepare for the next.

At every stop, SS execs generate ideas that are routinely labeled "innovative" in the press and fully backed by high-profile consultants and independent advisors (aka: insurance-givers). Before the innovative plan is revealed for what it is, the SS exec is well into another job and far removed from any blame. The executor is also safe, having been hired with the consent of top management, which cannot admit to being asleep at the wheel. Plus, a merger is quickly envisioned to buy more time.

Family is important, as long as spouses live in a different town; kids are well provided for by nannies and babysitters, but ready for a family portrait for a magazine cover at a moment's notice.

For my part, after a 14-hour day of work, I sadistically enjoy my wife's complaints, my daughter's torture and my son's jokes: a clear recipe for failure.

Dom Serafini