What Can I Say?

by Arnie Malham | January 14, 2010

I am challenged with the task of writing a “Letter from Arnie” for each edition of the printed One Shot. Writing it is never easy, but none thus far has been as hard as this one. No matter what topic comes to mind, the big ugly one that I can’t seem to get out of my head is the complete “botch” of the presentation of the categories included in this year’s first “Partner of the Year” criteria. Without intention, we (rather, I) proceeded to greatly offend many and embarrass others in the process of presenting the 10 original categories—later minimized to four—of which one will live in infamy as cj’s “worst” conference moment.

 The category that will be forever known as “likability” was intended to be lighthearted humor. Unfortunately, the damage caused by this out-of-context category may never fully be known or easily corrected. Thus, I wanted to address the issue head-on with two points:

One – Assigning Responsibility
This was 100% my fault. I rushed to put this presentation together. I grouped the categories and submitted the information for the slides to be built. I was too arrogant to run through the normal proofing/approval channels and thus no one on the leadership team or the management team was aware of how this would unfold. I screwed up. The screwup reflected on everyone at the agency who has worked so hard to earn our clients’ trust, confidence, and respect. It potentially damaged relationships with a multitude of clients for no good reason. And it potentially tarnished what we consider a serious and important award of “Partner of the Year.”

Two – Apologizing
I want to offer an outright, fully vested, and heartfelt apology—especially to the clients, but also to the cj team. As one client advised, “cj had done a fairly good job over the years making every client feel special and, more importantly, liked and appreciated.” Unfortunately, this exercise did damage to that goodwill. I have done many things right and many things wrong. This is a big-time, potentially unparalleled “wrong.” I am sorry.

While there is always give and take in every good partnership, the truth is we absolutely love our clients. We love that we are challenged, trusted, driven, and, most importantly, empowered by them. We love that every client has a unique personality that, as in any great family, fits right in to the group’s overall makeup.

Since the dreaded incident, I have had some laughs with a few clients. Carter calls and says,
“Hey, this is client number 37.” Bob Sexton insists that he is one step above Carter at 36, and
the debate rages on. I hope we come to laugh more about this than we are currently fretting about it. I hope we (as an agency) can overcome my bumble with continued excellent work,
focus, and commitment. And I hope you (our clients) will allow us to find a way to turn this
into an eventual win for the agency and our family of clients.


Pull Quote: The category formerly known as “likability.”