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Evolution of the GM’s office

I have published several marketing articles related to the “Mad Men” TV series over the past couple years and put this one together after watching an old episode during which the contents of the leading character’s office — in particular the contents of his desk and cocktail bar — grabbed my attention and reminded me how my own office setup has changed over the years since I moved into my first (F&B) manager’s office in the mid-1980s.

At that time, and over the ensuing years, my offices were usually equipped with the following essential items:

1. Comfortable sofa, two chairs and a coffee table covered in trade magazines

2. Large filing cabinets full of memo-packed box files and training manuals

3. Numerous shelves for recipe books, business books, self-development books, dictionary, thesaurus and industry magazines

4. Water cooler

5. Fax machine

6. Paper shredder

My desk contained the following items:

1. Large desktop computer

2. Electric typewriter

3. Ashtray (for my visitors)

4. Various large paperweights

5. Mont Blanc inkwell with matching fountain pen

6. Well-stacked in tray and out tray

7. Filofax diary

8. Large calculator

9. Large desk diary

10. Business-card box

11. Rolodex

12. Two telephones

13. An office intercom system

14. Pencil box

15. Pencil sharpener

16. Desk lamp

17. Desktop calendar

18. Copies of the annual budget and sales and marketing plans

Thirty years later, it’s all gone, with my current office desk bare apart from the laptop, iPad, iPhone and my essential water bottle. The comfy office sofa and tub chairs have been replaced with a conference table and ergonomic chairs, which are used to meet with my leadership team and various other associates each morning to discuss matters related to improving our guest’s satisfaction, our service quality and anything else related to the development of our people, property, products, prices and profits.

As a footnote I will add that upon reflection, amongst all the executive offices I have entered and occupied over the past three decades, the one that came closest to the one occupied by the “Mad Men” leading character did in fact belong to a legendary red-nosed veteran GM of an iconic Hong Kong hotel in the early 90s, who proudly displayed — and offered visitors to his rather splendid office — a large dram (or two) from his impressive personal collection of rare aged single-malt Scottish whiskies, no matter the time of day or night, along with a big fat cigar from his prized antique Dunhill humidor.

Needless to say, many of my colleagues at that time looked forward to a call from this gentleman’s personal assistant to “come and see the boss in his office” and always seemed to come back from those meetings looking suitably “refreshed” depending upon how much of the GM’s “refreshments” they had actually imbibed.

Let me know how your office and desk contents have changed over the years.

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