I learnt to be honest and upfront

Jerry Perkins, 35, founded his own lifestyle and clubbing magazine, Buzz, before joining the magazine publishing company Emap. He has headed its Metro division and is now managing director of Emap Digital Music
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The Independent Online

My mistake was to let a client believe I had more resources at my disposal than I did, rather than being upfront and honest.

My mistake was to let a client believe I had more resources at my disposal than I did, rather than being upfront and honest.

When I was 22, I founded this magazine called Buzz with a few others. While it was independent, we weren't doing it to make money. It was like running a youth club, and I was the only one that got in before 11am. You couldn't shout at anyone because we weren't really paying them.

We sold some advertising for our Christmas issue but by that stage we owed the printers so much money that, when we sent down the film, they locked it up as soon as they received it and said they wouldn't print it until we paid our bills. All of our future revenues were locked up in there.

The only way out was for us to pretend that this hadn't happened. We approached all of our sponsors and, rather than explain that we hadn't paid our bills, we pretended we had this great creative idea of getting together all the bands featured in the magazine to do a "live" magazine event instead. One agency account manager, looking after a beer client, agreed to support the whole thing for 10 times more money than we thought we would get.

We thought we had saved Buzz, and that the sponsor money would cover all of our costs, because we could release the film and get the magazine out for Christmas. The only problem was that we had led this account manager to believe that we were a Richard Branson type of outfit with plenty of resources. Of course, we weren't. To make a living, I worked on a flower stall outside the Brompton Hospital, and three hours after we'd had this meeting, I heard a voice saying "Six red roses, please". It was the account manager who had just committed a lot of money to sponsor the event. He was shocked; he saw my face and his jaw hit the pavement. I just apologised - there was nothing else I could do.

I got a call from him the next morning, and explained what was going on. Eventually he saw the funny side, but there were a couple of days when he tried desperately to cancel the contract but couldn't because the client had already planned to come over to the party.

In the end it was a successful night and the sponsor got full value, but we had miscalculated so it was a financial disaster for us and we had to close the magazine.

What I learnt from the experience was that if you're able to sell creatively, and convince sponsors to come along with you, the world is your oyster. The second thing I learnt was to be honest when entering into an agreement, because eventually you're going to get discovered.