By Karen Axelton
Photo by Carin Baer; Courtesy AMCtv.com
For business owners who—like three of the four partners in our business—are raving fans of the AMC series “Mad Men,” Sunday’s season finale most likely left you bereft in more ways than one.
The episode was great—but left me wailing “NOOOO!” as I realized what a long wait there will be until next season when we get to see what happens to the new business of Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
I have several entrepreneur friends who watch the show, and as more than one had predicted, in this episode ad exec Don Draper struck out on his own to start his own agency when his employer Sterling Cooper was sold to a bigger agency he scornfully referred to as a “sausage factory.”
Don has never wanted to work for anyone—he was reluctant to even sign a standard employment contract—so his making this move to start a business isn’t a surprise. What was less expected is that company founder Bert Cooper decided to join him after Don berated him for being an old man in a “golden coffin.” Roger Sterling, who we discovered only this season was not a company co-founder, but only the son of the founder, threw his hat in with the three of them as well. Last, but not least, the three persuaded Lane Price, the Brit who was their sworn enemy until pretty much this episode, to join them in buying back the business.
I won’t recap the episode as there are many places online you can get that information (check out the AMC official site, or my personal favorite Mad Men blog, Tom & Lorenzo, for the rundown). What fascinated me about this episode were the varying motivations each of the four partners had.
Don, what you’d call the classic entrepreneur, wants to start his own business because he wants to build something of his own and doesn’t want to work for anyone else. Bert, who I’m pretty sure sees a lot of himself in Don, was probably the classic entrepreneur when he started out, and Don’s needling has spurred him to rediscover that aspect of himself rather than go quietly into the “coffin.” Roger rises to the challenge, but admits he never started anything before, and the viewer can’t help wondering how well he will hold up when the going gets tough. Finally, Lane is sick of being jerked around by the big bosses back in London, and excited by the prospect of being in control. How these four personalities—who all clashed continuously when they were employees together—will work as partners will be fascinating to watch.
It was also interesting to see how the four partners selected the employees they wanted to take with them—based partly on how big their accounts were, but also on what each person could bring to the company—and how they had to “massage” each person’s ego a bit to get them on board. Similarly, each of the partners brought a different skill to the business—be it creativity, business sense or being good with people—and in order to work together, each of them had to acknowledge what they never had before: that the other person actually had something of value to give.
Personalities are so big a part of any business’s success or failure. I thought this episode was a fascinating look at all the challenges any startup faces in dealing with all the personalities working together. Now, if I can just wait until the next season (August 2010 can’t come soon enough) to see how it all plays out!