'I'm like a whirling dervish'I Work For...

Alison Hughes works for Stuart Scott, chairman and ceo, and Chris Peacock, president and deputy ceo, of property consultants Jones Lang LaSalle
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The Independent Online

I'm like a whirling dervish most of the time, dashing between the two guys. But then it was my idea to take them both on, so I have only myself to blame. Two years ago, I came to work for Chris at Jones Lang Wootton, knowing a move was on the cards. When we merged with the US public company LaSalle in March 1999, Stuart came from Chicago, and I suggested I work for him too. I knew Chris and Stuart would be working closely together so it seemed to make sense.

I'm like a whirling dervish most of the time, dashing between the two guys. But then it was my idea to take them both on, so I have only myself to blame. Two years ago, I came to work for Chris at Jones Lang Wootton, knowing a move was on the cards. When we merged with the US public company LaSalle in March 1999, Stuart came from Chicago, and I suggested I work for him too. I knew Chris and Stuart would be working closely together so it seemed to make sense.

The merger took up a lot of last year. As you'd expect, it brought big changes and the company was renamed Jones Lang LaSalle. We went from being a partnership, to a company quoted on the New York Stock Exchange with shareholders to answer to, which is a cultural shift.

But the merger hasn't created negative feelings among the staff. Having a guy from each company at the top definitely helps - that way, both firms feel represented. And Chris and Stuart have always been aware of the effect on staff. They call it "a one-firm firm", and want everyone to think of it that way.

Chris joined Jones Lang Wootton in 1972 and Stuart was with LaSalle for more than 25 years, and both of them wanted to create the world's leading real-estate company. The merger has brought them that - and a combined staff of more than 7,000 people around the world - so it's an exciting time to be here. Chris and Stuart not only like each other, but they have a strong mutual respect, and I'm sure this helped to make the merger more successful. They get on very well together although they have different personalities. Chris is fast-talking, wants everything done now, and is always throwing jobs at you. (That's not a problem, because women can do three things at once.) Stuart is more organised and methodical. I'll sit and do dictation with him, and when I leave his office I know we've finished. With Chris, I'll just have got back to my desk and he'll appear in his office doorway with another thing he wants doing.

Neither of them can see from their offices whether I'm at my desk or on the phone, but it doesn't stop them shouting out to me. I have to be in two places at once. They never shout at me, or lose their cool. It's just that there's so much to do and they're under a huge amount of pressure. I try to be a calming presence because if I get wound up we're all sunk. Sometimes I get bossy and have to nag them for things, and I know it annoys them. You have to, in my job, but I'm not sure they always see it that way.

Fortunately, both Chris and Stuart share a good sense of humour. They have this friendly rivalry going and they use me to score points off each other. I have to be diplomatic and try not to take sides. I couldn't possibly say, for example, that one had made a better speech than the other - life wouldn't be worth living.

The other day they were having one of their many fun bets, this time over the spelling of a surname. There was £20 on the table, and Stuart won. Chris didn't know Stuart had checked the spelling with me first. So I guess the £20 will be going back to Chris. They bet on golf, too, on their own games and on professional ones.

They're golf addicts and terribly competitive on the odd occasion they play each other. They both shoot and they know I hate that. Stuart keeps threatening to bring a pheasant into the office for me to pluck.

My most challenging task was getting Stuart's two guns into the UK. I had to speak to the police, get a licence, clear it with the airline, make sure the ammunition was packed separately - it took me ages. So much work for the phrase, "Just get my guns over, could you?"

But I don't mind - they're great fun, really. And I enjoy working for a company in the public eye. When I go abroad and see billboards with the company name, I feel proud.

Mind you, I don't think I'm going to be allowed more holidays. Last time, they had two temps. They "didn't work out" and when I got back Chris and Stuart were not happy. "Thank God you're back," was Stuart's greeting. Chris said: "That's it. You're never going away again." Nice to feel appreciated.

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