Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

There was a wonderfully funny television play broadcast when I was young (and strong and full of promise) about a marketing manager who was stripped of all his perks and status and much of his pay. He was only allowed to keep a company car if he handed in his big fat Jag and took instead a rep's car which carried the company symbol (a large, roof-sized banana). He felt it keenly, the way his neighbours looked at him.

Would one do it oneself? Oh, I think so. In the circumstances. Your life binds you into its own logic. We should be very careful what we do, because it keeps making us do it.

You might be able to guess I'm now considering making sales calls. Me! "Sales calls"! With an eye-catching banana attached to a green bowler hat? Just to rub it in as I stroll across the mirrored lobbies of de Zoete and Lazard and James Capel? Singing my jingle? Or will it be the lobbies of HSBC, and Freshfields and Schroders?

I've done all this backwards, not knowing really how to do it forwards. But that's what happens when you refuse to learn from experience.

We all laughed at our friend who wanted to get into publishing after university. He had to go off to Australia and work as a sales rep for Penguin. Selling books to the trade. A sales rep; in Australia; in the 1970s! That wasn't what was meant by publishing. His career developed quite rapidly and he ended up buying one of the biggest London publishers and owning half of WH Smith. I never liked that knowing-what-you're-doing approach.

However, here we are 35 years later, and a little knowledge might have been a precaution. My first small ads have appeared in the clever publications I have selected. The rates, interestingly, are the same in cash terms as they were when I first used them to such good effect in the early 1980s. So in real terms the rates are much lower. Very much lower. So it's possibly quite reasonable to see that the response rate is somewhat below expectations as well. I mean, I did think someone would reply. One sale would have been nice. Perhaps I have under- estimated the thundering busy-ness of the world outside my little niche. The number of magazines on shelves in Smiths. How does one get to people any more? Without a bowler hat and a banana?

It may not be possible. And so, if for no other reason than sheer morbid curiosity, it's time to look up the list of FTSE500 companies, compile the phone numbers of human resource managers, and start the process of telephoning them one by one. It's a punishing schedule, but then folly must be punished, and this is a fitting retribution for the absurdity that has been committed. The bowler hat is bad enough in itself.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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