Part XXX – And Taking It All the Way to the Bank :-)
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
~ Albert Schweitzer
Before I give you the answer to the question I previously posed, I thought I would share the sequence of events that Jean and I created for the legal clients.
Jean entrusted the Citibank Private Bank events to me from that year on. In 1997, we held the Eighth Annual Los Angeles Lawyers’ Dinner at the Petersen Automotive Museum during a Ferrari exhibit. The setting was spectacular. We always gave special gifts to the guests and that year we bought collector edition model cars from the museum and I contracted a laminating company to attach the cars to plaques that served as bases.This time it was cars instead of riverboats that were artistically attached to the floral arrangements. Scott from Silver Spoons, my favorite and trusted off premise caterer, was in charge of food and beverage.
The following year, 1998, we had another Theatre Dinner and took the lawyers to see the production of Chicago at the Music Center. Later that year it was the Ninth Annual Los Angeles Lawyers’ Dinner. Jean and I disregarded the New York home office policy and moved these events further west from downtown, which had never been done in years past. So the first move west was the Petersen Museum, and then in ’98 I booked LACMA – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with our dinner scheduled right in the midst of the Picasso Exhibit. After a reception and tour of the exhibit, there was an outdoor dinner in the museum courtyard. The gifts for the guests were beautiful museum coffee table books relating to the exhibit.
These annual dinners were attracting more guests each year and even the top Citibank Private Bank brass, who flew in from New York for the dinners, started to congratulate me on the success of these events. I was told they had never had this kind of turnout in the past, meaning the number of lawyers who RSVP'd to the invitations. And Jean told me that the New York executives never congratulated anyone, so I figured I could take that praise all the way to the bank - so to speak. :-) If you are not familiar with the slang phrase “…all the way to the bank,” I’m using it here to mean it was a sure thing, in other words, I could “bank on it” and count on profits from it.
In 1999, it was the Amadeus Dinner and Performance, followed months later by the Tenth Annual Los Angeles Lawyers’ Dinner, this time at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. The existing corporate building set on Paramount's New York Street just "happened" to be a replica of the Citicorp Center in New York. We had the building dressed with signage and canopied and transformed to really be identifiable as the Citicorp Center in New York, which was the parent company of the Citibank Private Bank. Even the subway station set had the appropriate signage for that route. We had signage made for the older commerical "streets and shops" on the set to look like the buildings were Citibank earlier in the Century.
It was the largest RSVP turnout yet and the dinner under the stars with the guest speaker was very dramatic, to say the least. Each guest received upon leaving, the complete gift set of Paramount’s latest Star Trek release.
For that mid-week three-hour dinner that brought the attorneys from their offices at the end of the business day, I billed Citibank Private Bank about $125,000. Let’s just say that Jean Tardy-Vallernaud and Marilyn Jenett knew how to wine and dine clients in style. The New York office balked at the budget and we weren't concerned (although we did make a few adjustments as described below). Jean and I didn’t consider client entertaining a business, we considered it an art. :-)
An Officer and a Gentleman
Jean and I were a good team and we had a good run with these events, but he was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the corporate politics of his job and eventually left to go out on his own and became a financial consultant and wealth management specialist. To this day, we stay in touch. Citibank stopped doing client entertaining after that and it was a sign of the times. There seemed to be a shift in consciousness in general with regard to corporate spending in the entertaining area.
I will never forgot the client relationship I had with Jean Tardy – I was always impressed by his decency and kindness. I recall that final year with the Paramount event when the New York home office was on his back to bring down the budget. Hey, $125,000 was a heck of a lot of money for a dinner for a couple of hundred guests, even for a billion dollar corporation. Jean told me to pare down some of the expenses – for instance, hire one photographer instead of two or three. Get rid of some extras here and there. I offered to make less profit in order to accommodate New York’s request. And I will never forget what Jean said. He said, "Don’t you touch your profit. I won’t have you do that."
I was particularly honored when I was included in a select list of guests to be invited to Jean's wedding to Patricia (I was strictly a guest, having nothing to do with the coordination).
That’s the kind of client Jean Tardy Vallernaud was – an officer and a gentleman – that is, a bank officer and a gentleman. :-)
To be continued…
Private Reply to Marilyn Jenett (new win)