MT business lifeforms: The fast-tracker

Paul Morris, junior marketing executive, Beckett & Bramble In all the world of Beckett & Bramble, can there be anyone less loved than Paul Morris? He slinks in early, latest-model laptop under his arm, nasty suit rustling with an eagerness that suggests origins underground rather than the back of a sheep. Oozing into the department head's office with a sycophantic greeting, Morris ignores his boss's PA, who with a fluid, practised motion, offers the bird to his back as he closes the door.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Twenty minutes later, he emerges triumphant, sporting a grin of scarcely credible smugness and scuttles off to another 'high-level strategy meeting', trailing self-satisfaction like a fart in his wake. En route, he asks Sarah, his colleague (and equal) if she'd mind taking his calls, an apparently benign request that, tripping off his tongue, drips with condescension.

She agrees, smiling daggers, and, like the boss's PA, makes the gesture that Morris's back must see an awful lot of.

But while Morris attracts near-universal loathing from equals and underlings, his superiors have little but praise for him. He is lucky that B&B - for all the noise it makes about flatness and de-layering - remains a rather traditional, hierarchical place. So Morris sucks up to those who matter. Why waste valuable toadying time being nice to colleagues?

Morris joined the firms (still smelling of the packaging he came in, they say) four years ago as part of 2000's 'accelerated graduate intake', bearing a shiny new degree in economics from UCL. His psychometric results (some of B&B's most promising ever) augured great things. Well, either that or the problems that are bound to occur when you rely too heavily on psychometric testing.

Interestingly, B&B was Morris's second choice: McKinsey rejected him, and it still hurts. One of the easiest ways to rile him is to mention the firm he doesn't work for. A more sophisticated ruse, though, is to point out that while the Masters of the Universe rejected him, he rejected Yahoo! and had he not done so, he would now be sitting on a million pounds in share options.

Still, once at B&B, Morris wasted no time building his power base. He made himself the department head's right-hand man. 'Here's the research you asked for - all cross-referenced ... Don't worry, I can stay an extra couple of hours to tidy up that presentation ... I'm going out for lunch - need anything?' It has worked wonders and its usual object (executive marketing manager David Prince) often describes Morris as 'indispensable'.

It hardly needs saying that the second Morris passes Prince on his climb up the greasy pole, he'll find that on Morris's career map, indispensability is a one-way street.

From this brown-starred start, Morris moved swiftly to consolidate matters.

Within the year, the board knew that his name was being bandied about as future leadership material. The origin of all this bandying was, of course, Morris himself.

If there's a special project with a high profile and exposure to power, he's there; if it involves something as pointless as value-creation, he's nowhere to be seen. Morris also makes himself available for any committee that lets him spout the specious platitudes he knows serve him so well.

Even his detractors concede that Morris is a corporate player par excellence.

The unstoppable boy wonder has an Achilles heel, however.

To see this, one need only attend a B&B Christmas or summer party. He knows he has to do these things, but by God he feels like he needs a shower afterwards. For one thing, he's not much of a drinker; for another, he despises feigning interest in the quotidian personal lives of his colleagues.

But the main problem is that he's quite, quite useless with women, and the flirting that goes on at such events reduces marketing's would-be Machiavelli to the village idiot.

Indeed, when the younger female staff play that old office pastime 'Shag, marry or die', Morris almost always ends up in the third category, even when smelly old Bill from the postroom is thrown into the mix. Still, Morris is biding his time and he knows that as his package at B&B improves, so will his prospects with the fairer sex. He comforts himself with the question Mrs Merton once put to Debbie McGee: 'So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?'

Funnily enough, Morris's fellow fast-trackers are nothing like him. Tim is a lovable (and endearingly dopey) public schoolboy, who has women of a certain age coming over all maternal. Sarah is attractive, professional and eminently likeable. Neither displays a whiff of the odiousness Morris exudes, yet his is the fast track that goes all the way to the top, whereas theirs will terminate in a quiet layby called middle management.

That's the problem with Morris. Everyone hates his guts, but no-one has the guts to stop him. He'll be CEO before he's 40.

MORRIS IN A MOMENT

1977: Born 6 March in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Educated: local grammar

school

1995-96: Gap year spent annoying people in Central and South America

1997-2000: University College London: 2:1 in Economics

2000: Interview with McKinsey & Co - rejected

2000: Interview with Yahoo! - offered place, declines

2000: Interview with Beckett & Bramble - offered place, accepts. Starts

as graduate fast-tracker in the marketing department

2015: CEO, B&B (assuming someone doesn't knife him in the lift first)

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