Throughout my career I have been fortunate to work with, and for, some inspirational people who have had a huge influence on me and who have played a massive role in my development, both personally and professionally and at my weekly heads of department meeting this morning at MiddletonMurray, I was reminded – for reasons I’ll explain later – of one of the most important of those figures, my former General Manager at Charlton Athletic, Arnie Warren.
Arnie gave me my start in professional football and he taught me some extremely valuable lessons which I have never ever forgotten. Arnie recruited me as Charlton Athletic FC’s Commercial Manager in 1988 from my position as Regional Sales Training Officer at the Midland Bank and I freely admit that the cosseted world of banking was not exactly the best preparation for a career in professional football and I’ll own up to being somewhat ‘wet between the ears’ when I first turned up for work in that old portakabin at Selhurst Park, the ground we shared at that time with Crystal Palace FC.
Arnie recognised this and took me under his wing. In fact, he taught me something in my first week that has stayed with me to this day and which my former staff and colleagues at The Football League, Swindon Town FC., Charlton Athletic – in my second spell at the Club – and now everyone at MiddletonMurray, will instantly recognise.
Towards the end of that first week as Commercial Manager in January 1988, I managed to ‘sell’ an Executive Box for Charlton ‘home matches’ – something that was extremely difficult to do at Selhurst Park as our fans did not want to be there.
As you can imagine, I was elated and I couldn’t wait to tell Arnie my good news. When Arnie arrived in our portakabin base at Selhurst Park – announcing himself with his usual, loud refrain, ‘afternoon all’ – I rushed to tell him the news. ‘Arnie, I’ve sold an Executive Box today’.
His reply was not the enthusiastic response that I was expecting – ‘is the money in the tin?’ he said, without looking at me and continuing to turn the key to unlock his office.
Taken aback somewhat I said ‘well, I only shook hands with the guy this afternoon, I’m sending him an invoice tonight,’ to which Arnie then said, this time looking at me full in the face, ‘what a shock’ – (a favourite put down phrase of his) –”if the money ain’t in the tin then you ain’t sold it, ‘ave you’.
He then he went into his office and shut his door to ‘make a private call’.
My immediate reaction was of deflation and disillusionment but I quickly realised that, of course, Arnie was absolutely right – nothing is ‘sold’ until money changes hands – until ‘the money is in the tin’ – and it’s a mantra that I have adhered to and passed on ever since and which has now been adopted widely wherever I’ve worked.
Which brings me back to this morning’s meeting at MiddletonMurray, one of the UK’s largest and most successful Apprenticeship Training Providers. When making his report, one of my colleagues referred to ‘money being in the tin’ when discussing a particular project. I immediately smiled to myself and thought of Arnie and what he’d say if he knew that the lesson he taught me all those years ago had become part of the language everywhere I’ve been since.
Sadly Arnie Warren died in 2010 but I owe a huge debt to him as without his guidance, encouragement and the invaluable lessons he taught me so early in my time in football, I strongly doubt whether I would have had the career I’m very fortunate to have subsequently had.
As Arnie would have said, ‘what a shock’..!