Two Points for Don Draper

Don Draper, on AMC's series Mad Men, is one of the most trouble and flawed characters on television.  He drinks too much, smokes too much, cheats on wife, and basically does whatever he wants at his ad agency whether his partners like it or not.  However, in this past week's episode, he made two decisions that are worthy of applause.

Early in the episode, Draper, played by Jon Hamm, was having dinner with one of the decision makers from his biggest client, Jaguar.  This decision maker had proved in the past to be sleazy, even going so far to insist on a date with one of Draper's female colleagues to deliver the business.  Once they started working together, he continued to push the limits, knowing the ad agency needed his business.  While at dinner, he pushed Draper over the edge, and Draper fired the client on the spot, leaving dinner before the food was served.

In this case, Draper's character showed that he couldn't be pushed around in the interest of money.  He knew this client would never be happy, even with results beyond expectation. We all have them.  However, this client pushed moral boundaries.  While it's difficult to walk away from business, I would hope that faced with a similar situation, I would make the same decision.

Later in the episode, Draper traveled to Detroit to pitch Chevrolet and their new car, presumably the Corvette.  The night before the pitch, he runs in to one of his competitors in the hotel bar.  They chat about the challenges of being a mid-sized firm and that it's likely that neither of them will win the business, even if they have the best ideas, because of the size of the firm.  And then, Don has an epiphany.  He suggests they pitch the business together and merge the two firms.  Needless to say, they win the business.

Draper's realization that having half of something amazing was better than having all of something mediocre is one that many never come to.  Giving up something to gain something larger takes a leap of faith.  Realizing your strengths and weaknesses and seeking out those with complimentary skills has the potential for huge returns, but it takes courage to say that you could do better with a little help.

There were still flaws in Draper's decision-making.  He didn't check with his partners before firing Jaguar, causing them to feel he betrayed them.  When he said he would fix it, they felt disenfranchised and on the sidelines while he attempted to save the day.  He also didn't check with them when he suggested a merger to his competitor, rather sold them on the idea after the fact.  He's not perfect.

All of that said, it was nice to see the character acting in a way worthy of applause, shortcomings notwithstanding.  The two good decisions were a great reminder on how I want to run my business and his lack of regard for his partners a reminder of how not to act in a partnership. All in all, it will keep me tuning in on Sunday nights.  You should too.