The Business Forum

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Letter from the President



John Hathaway-Bates
President & Executive Director

Please Note: The "Letter from the President" evolved in 2001 from the "Tomorrow's News" that we had published in The Business Forum Calendar & Update since 1984.  It started out as a simple way for me to convey the benefits from conversations I have with leaders in Government, Academia and Business and the potential problems that I learn about during my occupation as the Moderator of Think Groups for The Business Forum.  However, since we began publishing on-line it has over the years become a personal "Bantering" from someone (me) surrounded day by day in the endeavor of Change. Usually it is whimsical in nature, and nothing more than my viewpoints on what I see happening around me, or to me, on a daily basis.  The "Letter from the President" therefore, has little or nothing to do anymore with The Business Forum, it is just me sharing my thoughts, concerns and ideas with anyone who cares to read them.  Please feel free to publish it or pass it on.

The problem with growing old I find is that you begin to see as the very human stupidity of the lowest common denominator of interest of many people (read "employees", or "vested program participants", for that is the politically correct term to use these days I believe} that can take over a really great concept and reduce it to being merely an occupation of filling out forms and making excuses; all for a very mediocre nine to five performance and small economic benefit.  A long time ago I was told that "there is no good idea that bureaucratic incompetence and the Peter Principle cannot eventually suffocate into being a complete failure".  There are times when you just have to believe it - take Marketing for instance . . . .

Marketing - despite what many colleges that sell degrees for it will tell you, if you are willing to pay them a hefty sum every year for four years or so - is not only a profession.  Marketing is also an art, or worse yet maybe, it might be an addiction - it is a wanderlust of adventurous proportions that demands you do things that any sane person would avoid, or more likely would never even think of doing, just so that you can run at the front of the pack; lead the charge; or try to change the world.  Just like an artist or a musician, the ability to succeed in marketing is something that you were either born with, or you were not.  In my opinion, there is no professor that can teach you how to be it, if you were not born with the latent talent and drive to do so.

And - for those who still insist in living in mundane worlds of stereotypes - Marketing is Not, Never has been, Nor ever will be, Sales - In fact Marketing is as different from Sales as boisterous young boys are from little old ladies, or as a group of impatient thoroughbred race horses waiting for the race to begin are different from a herd of dairy cows munching on the cud at the end of the day, or vice versa, of course.

To my mind an organization only has a Marketing Director to plan and develop the future direction of the markets the organization will be able to exploit next month, next year, etc., whereas the Sales Director is ultimately responsible for increasing sales every month with what the Marketing Director provides and is thereby able to increase the financial stability of the organization, while the Marketing Director is planning the conquests of the future.

A Sales Director is the hero who leads the troops into battle, a Marketing Director is one of the generals who plans the strategy and rarely leaves headquarters, except to meet with counterparts in his or her very carefully built alliances.  The phrase that “he (she) is the greatest marketing person we have - always closing sales!” is an oxymoron, not much above the old “new and improved” - (if it is really new how on Earth can it already be improved?) 

A Marketing Director is to salespeople what a conductor is to an orchestra.  Whereas a Sales Director is the leader who creates situations that will result in closing sales, like the soloist in the orchestra under an intense spotlight all the time he or she is performing - leading by expertise and pure virtuosity - but only when given the opportunity to do so by a very supportive, understanding and virtuoso Marketing Director (read Conductor)!  You need both to win, or you are doomed to a very mediocre performance from the well publicized beginning to the dismal and inevitable very embarrassing end.

A Marketing Director and a Sales Director are a complimentary pair, much like a man and a woman who have married each other and wish to produce and nurture a family - which is which, in the business setting however, I have never been able to figure out, but if both of them are not committed to being just and only what they are - the marriage will always fail and the children (read shareholders) will suffer the most.

Marketing is a new “profession” - invented in its present form in the early 1970’s, making it not that much older than the Information Technology industry (early 1980's) that has also changed the world.  However, the real “Marketers” of History like Henry Ford, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, etc. and the “uneducated” marketers like Einstein, Whittle, Edison, Von Braun, Bell, Marconi, Talbot, etc., were usually “Marketers” without even knowing it, and would probably not even be qualified to take a college “Marketing Degree” in this day and age; and their individual eccentricities would have them red flagged out of the running for any position of Marketing Director by the Recruiting Manager in most of today’s leading corporations.

You would not believe the “keep away from me, because you will make my life complicated” excuses I hear from some of these (so called) Marketing Directors and Managers these days.  If the truth were told “Sales Promotion Administrative Clerk” would be a better title for many of them in my view.  

The problem is that unless you truly understand what you are marketing you will never be able to get it accepted by others.  And what you know is of absolutely no importance whatsoever, unless those who are going to pay you for it understand it also.  Edison knew about electricity, Gates knew about software, Von Braun knew about rockets, etc., etc.; and they would talk about it for as long as anyone would listen, or so I have heard.  Or you need to believe in a dream, like Jefferson, Napoleon and Columbus did.  More important for a Marketing Director however, is that unless you can discover the real needs of those who you wish to support you, also known as cash inflow, and get them to not only understand you, but to also believe you, and more importantly, believe in you, you might as well forget it and get a job where someone will pay you for just showing up every day.

A Marketing Director must always be able to "think sideways", (suffer from the mental condition of lateral thinking - is the way a friend of mine once put it).  For example: when you throw the bent stick away considering it valueless and it comes back and hits you on the head, do not throw whichever of your wives that made it for you out of your hut, instead you should thank her, for if you are able to "think sideways" you will realize that you have just invented the boomerang and (providing that you can find sufficient venture capital to manufacture lots of them) then you are well on your way to owning the whole village!

A common tale of woe from Marketing Directors these days is:  “We just do not have the budget at this time.”  Is that not what the Italians told Christopher Columbus? - and then they spent all of their money building things that have since fallen down and that is why no countries in the New World speak Italian as their national language today!  (Does anyone remember the names of who turned Columbus down today?)

Marketers should also expect to fail almost as often as they win and their employers should accept this fact as simply just another business cost - something accountants and investors will of course hate to hear - Ford and Edison went bankrupt when necessary, and Columbus and many others risked everything to the point of mortgaging their personal possessions just to pay their way in the world while waiting for the success that they just “knew” would come to them.  They changed the world.  What we tend to forget is that every winner in Marketing was probably also a loser many other times that we never hear about .

Another common variant of the excuses from some of today's Marketing Directors is like the one I got from a chap who was "let go" from the company three months after he wrote it:

“I've been through what you did for (XX) of our company a few weeks ago, and we haven't been able to see a guaranteed translation into sales results at this time (which as you know is the name of the game).  Right now we have so much going on (as you've probably seen from my tardiness in getting back to you), that we don't have time to look at your proposal in the timescale you're talking about.”

A perfect example of “keep away from me, because I think you will make my life complicated".  The fact was that (XX) was the top producer of sales for the company at the time we were working with him on his ideas, and he states even today that he never had a better lead generation starter - and it was his idea to approach the "Marketing Director" to book the extra forums the excerpt from his email above denied.  The problem is that when you are building a network for business development, more often than not it is the third or fourth link in the chain that is the one that buys, not the first.  Marketing Directors who have not and do not have to make the actual sales call, rarely recognize that fact however.  (XX) went on to be the top producer in the company and I am still working with him today - three companies later!  Never came across that Marketing Director again though.

Imagine what would have happened if the Twelve Apostles had shared the same "Oh, I am so busy learning right now I really do not have the time to teach others as well" attitude.  They would have most probably pointed out to Jesus that they saw no real reason for proceeding, as he himself had only managed to convert the twelve of them out of the whole population of Judea in several years of preaching.

When I wrote “How to Manage your Marketing” back in 1982 the Journal of the American Marketing Association wrote a review of it that stated “(he) describes the difference between Sales and Marketing” and from what I am told many Universities still use that description even today, more than two decades later.  It goes like this:  “SALES exploits existing markets, whereas MARKETING creates new markets and methods to increase business activity”.

If my theory of what Marketing "is", is still correct, (and I am usually right, almost as often as I can claim to be the most modest man I have ever met) many of the younger, college educated Marketing Directors I am introduced to today could only be called "Sales Promotion Administrators", if their title had been designed to truly describe the work they do.  Thank the powers that be that there are also Marketing Directors out there who are still addicted to their profession and are all but evangelistic in explaining to anyone who will listen to them all about their new concepts, technologies or products.

Every child who has completed fourth grade in the United States, knows who Benjamin Franklin was; but what they are not taught is that he actually established a debating club that met regularly at his home, from whence he gained the understanding to build his business and promote his ideas.  That is Marketing!

Leaders need to be fully informed and have to be able to implement Change - and I hold that second only to the Chief Executive Officer, the Marketing Director also has to be able to lead and implement Change. For that he, or she, needs a great amount of input from others - and not just hard and fast, set in concrete, procedures.  How many organizations have I seen fail that had a beautifully bound copy of a "Marketing Plan" and never allowed the Marketing Director to "gamble", I would hate to guess?  As the old saying goes, "it is much easier to sell someone something that they want, than it is to sell them something they need - for example, few people actually look forward to visiting a dentist - unless they have a toothache!"

A Marketing Director is not just someone who decides the typeface for an invitation to a golf tournament his, or her, firm is sponsoring to “get the name out”.  A Marketing Director "is" someone who searches within the ranks of his, or her, organization for the “next” technology, product, service or expertise, and then finds a way for its inventor, or expert on it, to meet with potential clients and explain it to them.  A Marketing Director is the person who wants to introduce something from Europe into America, or from America into Africa, where it has never had a market before - and it is not enough just to be someone who tries to get a better rate for an advertisement in a Trade Magazine, or someone who spends the morning checking the spelling in a proposal!

A good Marketing Director is a "SNOB" - That is someone who is always "Seeking New Or Better"

Back in 1976 when I was elected to the membership of the British Institute of Marketing (the year after the Royal College of Arms authorized the Institute's use of the motto 'The world is our market') most people involved in marketing were almost wholly engaged in looking for “NEW” markets.  Today it seems that many of the younger college educated Marketing people I meet seem to spend all of their time trying to develop what they refer to as "vertical markets”, which, no matter how you look at it, means they have actually abandoned Marketing and moved into Sales Administration - which can only be bad news for the Sales Directors and the Representatives working with them who are looking for an ever increasing number of potential customers to talk to.

More real Marketing, to my little mind, is done almost by accident and in chance meetings, on airplanes, in hotel bars and at Trade Fairs with total strangers, or by a personal introduction to someone you would never otherwise get to meet, than is ever done by sending out bulk mail, by advertising in magazines, or by email "reminders".  The only thing “bulk” or “mass” anything does is just plain old fashioned “Sales Promotion” and it is not "Marketing" in the professional meaning of the word and of course, eventually all such activities will suffer the erosion of diminishing returns. 

Do not get me wrong, these and many other well known methods of enticing people to consider your services or products, are a necessary part of the mix - and I spent a lot of time explaining many of them in my book "Fast Track Marketing in a Global Economy" - but I believe that the most important part of a Marketing Directors responsibility is in finding new routes to economic success and extra growth for the organization that employs him or her.  Back in the 1920's someone at De Beers invented the concept of the diamond engagement ring and today every woman wants one.  That is Marketing!

Imagine my problem if you will then, in trying to explain to some of today's college conditioned and usually relatively inexperienced, “Marketing Directors” in small or new organizations, the concept of allowing their Operations Director, or one of their top product or service experts, or a chief scientist, top designer, an engineer, architect or programmer to go out and talk to their potential clients, in a non-aggressive, non-sales situation.  Of course there are many people who understand the concept intuitively immediately, otherwise we would not be here twenty five years after we first started preaching this relatively simple idea.  Of course it helps to have a third party orchestrate it for you within an unbiased program, which is where we come in, otherwise it is just another "sales seminar" no matter how you look at it.  Those organizations with a Marketing Director who knows that what I am proposing is a simple and very productive concept, (evidence provided) are the ones that I want to buy shares in. 

However, I can give you three examples of the negative answers I can expect to get from those who do not know this very simple fact of business life, and I might add that I am grateful I did not buy shares in their companies - for they no longer exist; (and these are real examples):

1:      “I have delegated all of our promotional activities to a designated Marketing Manager, so why don’t you send her a proposal?  But I doubt we would want to trust business development to someone in our company not actually within our sales organization.”

This trait is called "Giving someone else with your own lack of experience, intelligence or concern for the long term success of your organization the chance to shoulder the responsibly if you fail".

2.      “All of our budget has already been allocated - and what you are proposing is outside of our core capabilities to support at this time.” 

My (silent) answer to such stupidity is that I will call back after the company is taken over by an entity that recognizes the potential, and talk to the next Director.  Or, if I can, I find someone who can introduce me to whoever is responsible for profit and loss in that organization - or, of course, to one of their competitors.

If a great opportunity, or a new market, appears out of nowhere (i.e. when a major event happens, or new legislation is introduced for example, and can change the perspective of potential buyers to the importance of your product or service), or if one of your engineers has just created a breakthrough product or service, pray that your organization does not employ such a Marketing Director!

3.      “What you are proposing is outside of my particular “vertical” area of interest at this time.”

Translate the last into “I am keeping my head down and not rocking the boat - I need my wage check and I am already in up to my neck and we are not doing very well right now”.

A while back I got a call from a young chap who explained what he wanted me to do to the letter and when I explained to him that in my opinion it would not work and, more importantly, that it was not something we did, he got somewhat excited and explained in detail that unless I worked with his ideas and within the parameters his company used as a basis of doing business, then they would never work with us again.  I explained that I understood and the conversation ended.  The fact is that we have been working with his organization for years, probably started working with them when he was still in Elementary School, and a few days later I got a call from an old friend asking me why we would not work with them anymore - I explained what had transpired and we finished up doing five meetings for them.  Just goes to show that a Marketing Director should make sure his (or her) managers are actually doing what they are told to do. 

Put another way: when you are out there exploring the frontier it is a good idea to make sure some idiot does not insult any of the friendly natives or, worse yet, one of your guides.

Perhaps the most amazing change that has affected the way organizations develop new business growth and new product development that has happened in the last twenty five years is the “two tails wagging the dog” syndrome prevalent in many of the larger organizations today.

The first amazing change is the “Quarterly Results” over-rider on everything these days, which tends to push New Marketing Opportunities way down the importance list as managers try to make more, spend less and increase numbers - right up until their organization is taken over and they are laid off - or the competition steals most of their market share.  (The US or UK automobile industry would serve as a good examples of this system).

What happened to Three Year Strategic Marketing Plans?  I believe that what this management mistake seems to have done is push new product and service development into the hands of small organization entrepreneurs - who are more often than not under financed.  It also opens the way for small, nimbler and intelligent off-shore organizations to get in and steal your Market Share. The Economy suffers when it becomes true that most new ideas and products are developed by Small Business or foreign competitors - for it tells you that many large organizations have lost the enthusiasm  and the adventurous optimistic spirit they had when they were smaller businesses.  Whole economies change when new technology has to be developed in someone's garage - and it means that many of the blue chip company research laboratories are often working on "New & Improved" versions of out-dated products and technology!

Worse, I have seen multi-national organizations that have had to buy small entrepreneurial companies to gain new technology and then they laid off the very people who engineered the success story.

I remember the Marketing Director of a very large organization explaining to me how he did not have the time to waste working with Research & Development "boffins".   His company was taken over a short time later by another one of my clients - where the Marketing Director was also the co-chairman of the Research & Development Board!

The second amazing change is "Regional Budgets" for Marketing, especially in the Service and Consulting Sectors.  Under this philosophy it would seem to make more sense to spend your quarterly budget trying to sell more widgets than your competing Regional associates within your own organization, or come in "under budget" - than it would be to try to develop a super-widget, or gamble on finding a completely new market for your existing widget.  Give it a while and I am sure Marketing will be moved out of the Regional Arena and brought back into the Corporate Headquarters - something my History Teacher once told me about "an army being divided and spread too thin only leads to it getting conquered?"

Yet, in a way, I should be grateful, for the success of The Business Forum over the last two decades may be somewhat due to those changes, and they may be the reason why we have one of the best client lists in the world and the reason why so many top decision makers in business, government and academia want to be involved in our programs - as long as we maintain our "no cost, and no obligation whatsoever luncheon program where we ban sales pitches, slide shows and abundant stacks of sales literature".

The fact is, and perhaps it is the most important fact of all to our success, is that most “sales” pitches and “marketing” events out there, no longer appeal to the level of potential clients our clients need to get in front of.  They have had too many “I need to get back to my manager on that” answers from sales people, and they have sat through too many power point presentations (read self praise or blatant sales pitches). 

That I believe is what makes the Business Forum Concept so attractive to senior executives.  At our Forums they can sit down with their peers in an open conversation and question the validity of a new product, concept or technology with accredited and "real" experts, rather than salespeople, without hearing any of those annoying "closer questions" every few minutes.  And of course listening to what your peers are interested in, or concerned about, is probably going to help you do your own job a lot better in the future.

Thanks to the powers that be, there will always be this years new crop of as yet unknowns that will grow into becoming a Cisco, Intel or an IBM.  So, as ever, I do not think I will be taking the time to get a Marketing Degree yet again this year.


I do love my job.  Hope to see you at lunch soon,

President & Executive Director

You can email me at
You can telephone me at        310-550-1984 
or Fax me at                                    310-550-6121

Previous Letters from the President

April 2001
May 2001
June 2001
July  2001
August 2001
September 2001
October 2001
November 2001
 December 2001   
The Etiquette of Formal & Business Dining

January 2002
February 2002
April 2002
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002

Click HereClick HereDecember 2002
The Viking Effect upon World Freedom

 A tongue-in-cheek treatise on the many benefits that a country gains simply by being founded by the descendants of populations who were most often raped, pillaged and looted by the Vikings.

January 2003
February 2003

March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003

September 2003
    National Identity Cards  

October 2003
November 2003
December 2003

January 2004
March 2004
May 2004

September 2004
November 2004
December 2004
I am Expecting another Multi-Ethnic & Multi-Religious Christmas

February 2005
September 2005

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