Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The sunken ship of The Buccaneers

In advertising sometimes you meet the right people and sometimes you meet the wrong ones. In this post you'll read an example of a wrong one. Keep in mind that this is only my side of the story. It's a story about a man that, in my opinion, chose the wrong path and -against his will- drags other people with him in his misery and failure.

As some Dutch readers might know, right before I went to the Miami Ad School, I worked at a starting advertising agency called The Buccaneers. The owner of that company was Herbert van Hoogdalem, a man whom I respected a lot for the international prizewinning work that he's made. He decided to give me and my teammate Wouter a chance to work in his agency and I was very happy about it. In the meantime I already applied for the Miami Ad School. I even visited the school for an interview (afterwards I'm really glad I did that). I hoped that I could make really creative work at The Buccaneers and stay there. So I postponed going to Hamburg.

When Wouter and I worked for the fresh agency we brainstormed at fancy restaurants because the office wasn't open yet. Herbert paid for all the drinks. He said the office would be opened soon. There was office space already, it was located in a chique building where renters could also use a pool and a fitness centre. Unfortunately the Buccaneers office in the corner stayed empty. After a couple of weeks he said he couldn't afford it anymore to pay our drinks so I worked with Wouter in the small room where he lived. In the meantime I negociated with him to finally give us contracts, because we were running out of money. He agreed on giving us contracts, but we never got them. And whenever we tried to reach Herbert, he was gone.

Suddenly, from a very reliable source I heard that Herbert lost all of his clients, that he was in panic and a couple of days later I heard from that same source that I was fired. I said: "I can't be fired, because I didn't even get a contract". Anyway, I wanted to hear it from Herbert himself. When I finally reached him, he agreed to meet me. Then he explained that he's got no money and no clients anymore. He looked like a soldier who fought, but just lost the battle. A beaten man. In other words: he had nothing to offer me. That's when I knew I had to leave the sunken ship of the Buccaneers and that my destiny is in the Miami Ad School. In those ten minutes I made a decision that would turn my life upside down.

Herbert also promised me to give the salary he owed me for the two months. I never got it. At first I was still hopeful about the money, then I was angry because I haven't got it yet, but recently I found out he really isn't able to pay me. On the following link you can read his status so far (it's in Dutch): http://www.sproutstart.nl/the_buccaneers/index.html. He seems to have lost another battle. It's kind of sad that a man like that has a dream and drags a lot of people with him to fulfill his dream. Because when he fails, everybody else fails too. On his site he says that there's going to be a reorganisation and that some 'heads will roll', so that says enough for me.

Some people reacted very fierce on his post. They called van Hoogdalem (anonymously) a conman, a failure and all other sorts of bad things. I can imagine these reactions, but I think those fierce judgements do him short. I've put an honest reaction on his blog to tell him that he might not be such a good enterpreneur after all, and that it's probably better for him to work at an agency again. Don't get me wrong: I believe in people who, despite failure after failure, keep on fighting to fulfill their dreams. I'm that person myself too. But if you have to dissapoint other people after every failure, it might be a good idea to do things differently.

By now, he's erased all the negative reactions on his post (including mine). He can erase the negative reactions, but with that the long list of people he once dissapointed aren't erased. I hope he understands that. And I truly hope that whatever he does in the future, he will be happy with what he's doing. As long as it's not on the expense of others.


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