By Jack Cashill
Courtesy of www.ingramsonline.com
For nearly six years now Ingram's has been staging what may be the most informative look at Midwest business culture ever to see print, publisher Joe Sweeney’s brainchild, the Industry Outlook series. During that time, I have helped moderate no fewer than 65 such sessions spanning roughly more than 20 different industries. As you might imagine, I have developed a good sense of the relative talents of the movers and shakers in each industry. After many requests to do so, I have finally decided to reveal how these skills sets stack up against one another.
This one really isn’t close. The Gold goes to the men and women of commercial real estate (CRE). Other industry groups dress well, to be sure, but some, like bankers and lawyers, insist on a little “frump” in their wardrobes lest the clients fret that their fees are buying swimming pools for tailors. For the CRE folks, their business is “show.” And so they also win Golds for best hair and best tans. I could name the MVP for all those categories, and they would all come from commercial real estate.
Ditto, commercial real estate and add lawyers as well. When they park in our lot, I move my Ford Taurus discreetly around the corner. These folks have an excuse though. They actually have to drive people around.
From what I can tell the Gold goes to Insurance and Banking, schmooze being a key part of either business. On the other end of the spectrum, we typically meet with the attorney group in July, and they are pale even then. I guess it’s hard to explain a single digit handicap to a client when you are billing him 60 hours a week.
No group uses language more economically than the folks in Information Technology. Does not “IT” say it all? They do use a fair share of jargon, but they use it as shorthand, a way to compress language, not to bloat it. Lawyers claim a solid second in this category.
Again, there is no close second in this category. The Gold goes by unanimous agreement to government. When elected officials use jargon, which they do a lot, they do so either to sound informed or to confuse the citizenry. Can you imagine what it is like in those cities that conduct business in both English and Spanish? I wonder, for instance, what is the Spanish phrase for “Notice of Application Tendered for Filing With the Commission, Soliciting Additional Study Requests, and Establishing Procedural Schedule for Relicensing and a Deadline for Submission of Final Amendments.”
Maybe it is because we meet with them just before Christmas, but the people in our Philanthropy Industry Outlook seem like the nicest folks in the world and the ones happiest to see us. KC is also reputedly the most giving city in the nation per capita, and that could have something to do with it too.
Although we only met with them once, the diverse leaders fighting for control of the Kansas City School District sure as Hades didn’t call a cease fire during the two hours we had with them. The meeting resembled nothing so much as a WWF Smackdown.
As you might expect, the Gold here goes to IT as well. The seriously efficient do not suffer the inefficient gladly. You don’t hear phrases like “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” in many of the other industry groups.
Best Facial Hair
The good folks in higher education win the Gold easily. This remains the one field of endeavor in which even a serious aspirant can sport muttonchops, a goatee, handlebars or a Fu Man Chu. And you should see the guys!
Other than the Kansas City Chiefs—and God help them if they did—all industry groups today are somehow supposed to reflect the precise ethnic and gender and even sexual orientation profile of the metro. If they don’t, we at Ingram’s get in trouble for not pretending that they do. Government leaders make the group photo session easy on us. Although I can’t vouch for the sexual orientation part, their impressive ethnic and gender balance nets them the Gold.
Easy gold here for the men and women of advertising. As to the men, no group comes close in the tielessness department, a good indicator. As to the women, unlike so many of their peers in other industries, they are not expected to dress like men. In the old days, given their environment, ad execs are the industry leaders least likely to remember where they had just been as they pulled away from the Ingram’s parking lot. They are also the only group to have ever used the word “dude” in a meeting.
Bio Tech gets an uncontested Gold, there being few whimsical ways to talk about anthrax scares.
No industry group is more interested in talking about—and participating in—the civic arena than our friendly attorneys. See this month’s Industry Outlook for verification. Skeptics may see this involvement as self-serving, but let’s face it, much of the good deed doing that business people do is at least a little self-serving, and that’s part of the reason so much good gets done.
The Gold here goes to healthcare. Each year we meet with its leaders, some different coalition of politicos is threatening to put them out of business, and we scarcely exaggerate. They come to our meetings to get it all off their respective chests, and we do our best to accommodate them. Sobering too is the notion that when they “lose” a client, they really lose him.
I am impressed by people who can do things that I cannot. So when I see a guy at the Cirque de Soleil balancing a whole family of midgets on his head, I am impressed. I can’t do that, and I can’t imagine ever being able to do that. I do not have that same feeling, however, about most industries. I could be a mayor. Hell, if I thought I could carry my block I might even run. I could be a lawyer, and in moments of weakness in my youth, I even contemplated the same. I could be a banker. I could sell insurance. I could deal commercial real estate. I have done advertising and still do a little.
But when I turn on my computer I can only marvel at the people smart enough to make this all happen. I feel equally overwhelmed when I buy a fully cooked chicken for less than what a minimum wage worker makes in an hour. Golds to both agribusiness and IT!