Who Ya Know

Last I saw Jaime, she was working as a designer at Coyne Communications in Morristown, New Jersey. She was loving working on the promotional materials for the BMW Group's new MINI, which had just been completely redesigned by the renowned automotive designer Frank Stephenson, who had graduated in the same class as me from ArtCenter. When I called, the receptionist put me right through to her, and although it had been a couple years since we spoke, she certainly remembered who I was. “What’re you up to Jaime? What’s your current situation?,” I asked her. She went on to tell me that she was engaged, getting married in May, and then moving to Yardley, Pennsylvania, which conveniently enough, just so happened to be twenty-minutes southwest of Firmenich. Not that she knew that. “So what are you going to do about Coyne?,” I probed. Begrudgingly, she told me, “Unfortunately, I’m going to have to leave and find something down there. Maybe near Philly or something, but I’m not going to worry about it until I’m back from my honeymoon.” “Well, I have a wedding present for you, Jaime. When you get back, you’ll come work with me, here at Firmenich. You’ll have complete creative freedom. You’ll love it!,” I promised her. A week or so after she returned from her honeymoon, Jaime began working with me as THE designer in what was now the Creative Marketing Studio for Body & Home Care. She never showed her portfolio, never gave her resume to HR, there was no creative session-type audition, and no other interviews. She was in. Today, Jaime has been with the company, and we’ve been working together in one capacity or another, for more than twenty years, and we both still, more or less, have our creative freedom in-tact, and our MINIs.

During my initial orientation, a month into the position, HR told the three of us being welcomed to the company that day, the average length of stay for employees at Firmenich was sixteen years. Alice had been hired seventeen years earlier by Gary Ragone, who by this time had been with Firmenich – since the good ‘ol days – and had stories he refused to tell me. Gary was now running the Beverage Category for the Flavors Division, the “other side” of the business, which had a blue collar rap and second child syndrome, for no other reason than the belief in Perfumery that their shit didn’t stink. And if it did, you would never know it. Gary reminded me of that mustached, penultimate high school football coach type who had turned quintessential salesman for a chemical company, and he was enamored by the prospective and creative marketing I was doing for Alice. With the three of us in Alice’s office, Gary told us, quite frankly, “I need a Mikel.”

The other two segments, Sweet Goods and Savory, didn’t see the need for creative marketing, so the proposal was that I would find one, and that person would work for and be employed by Gary, but would actually report to me, in Perfumery. In one phone call I reached Michael at the small ad agency he was working for, about thirty minutes from Firmenich, where he was reporting to Barry Bryant, a super designer with a great sense of humor that I had brought in for a freelance assignment back in the Douglas Samuel days. Alice and I met Michael for lunch, explained the situation and the opportunity, and all but hired him on the spot. He gave his notice, but never gave his resume to HR, never showed his portfolio, there was no creative session-type audition, and no other interviews. We’d found Gary another Michael all right, and one-third of the Flavor Division now had its own Creative Marketing Studio.


1 comment


  • Michael Katz

    Building a team goes a long way towards creativity and synergy!


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