From 1931 until 1948, Ogilvy travelled the world, practicing some of the toughest professions. He was a chef at the Hotel Majestic in Paris, a door to door salesman in England, a social worker in the slums of Edinburgh and an assistant to George Gallup in America, where he had also been a farmer.
That year, in New York, he made the move that would eventually lead him to glory: he founded the advertising agency Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, which was destined to become one of the most illustrious names in the industry, worldwide.
The agency took its foundations from his experience at the Hotel Majestic in Paris, where Ogilvy belonged to a team of 37 chefs, a working group with a team spirit that could make even the Marines envious. The head chef, Monsieur Pitard, exercised the kind of leadership capable of keeping up the spirits of the men and women working a 63 hour week. That was the same type of leadership that Ogilvy applied to his agency, and was, in his words, the first ingredient of his success.
Cooking, just like creating advertising copy, puts you under immense pressure, which you must learn to manage in the most profitable way. Pitard spent most of his time in his office, writing menus and checking accounts, but once a week he would go into the kitchen and show off his skills at the stove. In the same way, Ogilvy wrote several ads himself, to show his copywriters that he had not lost his creative touch.
Pitard was his example in everything: the chef rarely handed out praise, but when he did, the recipient really felt it, and Ogilvy would do the same with his team, when deserved, leaving them feeling like they were ‘on cloud nine’. Pitard could not stand incompetence because he knew how mortified people felt if they had to work with someone incompetent. In fact, Ogilvy did not grant second chances to anyone who proved themselves incapable. Pitard did not tolerate a dish on the menu not being available, to the point where he used to send members of staff to other restaurants to pick up the necessary ingredients to satisfy a customer’s request. So at Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, telling a customer that you were not ready to deliver on the agreed day was strictly forbidden. Never let a customer down and always respect your commitment to them, whatever the cost. Pitard had the kitchen thoroughly cleaned twice a day. Ogilvy was very strict about clutter in the office because he felt that an untidy workplace created a sloppy atmosphere and in turn, jeopardized the proper handling of confidential papers.