Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Just one volcano; and how to get a job.

It's been a busy week, you might think, from the lack of postings.

Well, you'd be wrong. But it's certainly been an odd one. I've spent most of it stuck in Bangkok, between a volcano and a pile of protesters, in a hotel which 'ran out' of internet connection. Such was the price for having gone to the Asian Racing Conference, and not having got out in time. I took off from Sydney on the afternoon of 15th April to the news that a volcano had erupted, and by the time we'd got to Bangkok, it was clear that our one-hour transit might last rather longer. But the sun was out in Thailand, at least, so it could have been worse.

Hats off to British Airways, who proceeded to put us up and feed us. (Passengers with Thai Airways weren't so lucky after the first day: they were apparently told to get their things together, and were taken back to the airport in expectation of getting on a plane. Only when they arrived did they discover that they were just being dumped...) But even bigger hats off to my parents, who held the fort at home with four kids while we awaited news on a 24-hour basis.

When we eventually took off, five days late, it was without knowing where we would be landing. The captain welcomed us aboard 'this flight to as close to London as we can get you', and, as we ticked off city after city on the moving map, updated us with an hour to go: "UK airspace is still closed. It may open up in half an hour, but if it doesn't, we have enough fuel on board to go round in circles for some time until things change." Thankfully, half an hour later, it did. We were one of the first planes to land, late on Tuesday night.

Betfair people were caught all over the globe by the eruption. Our two founders remain stranded - Ed Wray in South Africa, and Andrew Black in Montego Bay - both, at least, with their families. A number of my colleagues on the Executive Board had plans disrupted: Mathias Entenmann, who runs product, is still in California; Tony McAllister, our CTO, had to drive back - albeit only from the South of France; and our Commercial Director, Niall Wass, was (ironically) stuck in London (he lives in Malta). With another non-Exec, Josh Hannah, unable to get across from his home on the Pacific coast, yesterday's Board meeting was rather less crowded than usual. Meanwhile, one of my team, Susannah Gill, had to endure 32 hours by train back from Stockholm, via Hamburg and Brussels (among, presumably, many other places). What fun.

It's fortunate, then, that there doesn't seem to have been a great deal going on this week (just as was apparently true 80 years ago when BBC radio reported that there was 'no news' on 18th April). But in any case, if the ARC finished with a different kind of bang than we might have expected, it was still a well-organised event, and well worth even the extended trip.

I caught up with a number of people including our Australia CEO, Andrew Twaits; breakfasted, lunched, and dined with someone every day, including television presenter Bruce Clarke (whose girlfriend's expecting a baby), Government Relations Australia director Robin Harris (ditto), and former BHB head (and now solid Betfair man) Greg Nichols and his wife Victoria (who I should think have had quite enough of babies, thank you very much).

And on Wednesday night, I grabbed a couple of beers with one of my former hires, Hugh Taggart, who is now based in Sydney with Betfair.

Hugh holds the record for the cockiest approach I've ever had for a job, which I suspect will never be beaten. It remains one of my favourite Betfair stories.

I was sitting minding my own business at my desk in the summer of 2003 when my phone rang. The first words I heard when I picked it up were, "Hi... Mark Davies? My name's Hugh Taggart. I've just arrived from Australia, and I want to work for you."

"I'm sorry?"

"My name's Hugh Taggart. I've just landed from Australia, and I want to work for you. I've been following your story, and I love your business, and I'm hoping you'll give me a job."

You can imagine, I was somewhat taken aback. "What are you going to do if I don't have a job to give you?" I asked.

"Well," he said. "I've got enough money to last me a month. I'll look for another job and if I don't get one, I'll go back home."

It was the July Cup the following day, so I was spending my Saturday heading to Newmarket, by car, and having lunch with a table of interested stakeholders which happened to be a man short. I suggested to Tags that if he could make it to mine by 9am, could manage two hours there and two hours back telling me his story, and hold his own on a table of people he knew nothing about, I'd think about it.

He turned up at 8.55.

I offered him a job on the Monday!

1 comment:

  1. That's a great story - I see he's still earning his money: