Magazine article Management Today

Transports of Delight

Magazine article Management Today

Transports of Delight

Article excerpt

People read a lot into your choice of car. My MT colleague Stephen Bauhaus Bayley once famously said that he couldn't take the Turner Prize seriously after he saw the Tate Gallery's director Sir Nicholas Serota driving a Volvo 340.1 don't have the faintest idea what a Volvo 340's like, let alone what might be wrong with it. But your choice of car can be a career-enhancing -- or career-threatening -- act.

The difference between, say, a Mercedes and a Lexus can reveal a lot about you. But what exactly it says depends on the audience. A large new Mercedes is international success language, like Gucci or Versace; everyone knows what it's supposed to mean. But people react differently. In some milieux it's commended as successful, solid, mainstream; in others, it is seen as either a) flash git, flaunting it; b) vulgar and Noove; c) aesthetically banal; or d) old-fashioned and uncool, pre-cyber-style.

The Lexus, on the other hand, works in a completely different way. In Britain, it's a mystery car, an unbranded or even reverse-branded car. People will look at its big solidity and think it's a big brand at first. Then they'll be mystified. Then, they'll either think you're a cheapskate, passing-off as Merc Man, or that you're rather clever and secure buying a car that doesn't appear to shout anything. Some may think you're sophisticated about your personal brand (Lord Stevenson has a Lexus and a non-uniformed chauffeur who calls him Dennis, which says a lot).

But your personal transport policy goes a long way beyond cars. Every transport decision has career and social implications. If you are interested in the world, in social trends, in what people wear, read and talk about, then shooting down a motorway is pretty slim pickings. But trains are gorgeous for that.

In first-class, you can see corporate Britain: its current trade-off between the Austin Reed look and the Hugo Boss tendency, its planning reports, its toys (how many Palm Pilots today?), and you can overhear its topics and its language on mobile conversations.

I'm not saying you'll exchange cards, let alone sell a turnkey meat-packaging plant on the back of a GNER moaning session, but it's always worth trying. But going second-class sends thrifty no-nonsense messages to some employers and clients. …

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