Often these restless episodes end with Partington buying or selling another business, such is the way of the entrepreneurial and somewhat mercurial businessman.
Today however the unease is caused by the soundcheck that he’s running late for. In a few hours, the 62-year-old adman and keyboardist will take the stage with his agency’s in-house band, ‘I’m still Stanley’ in the annual industry ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. It’s an event that has Partington more than a little nervous.
“I just want it to be over,” he admits. It’s not the performance that scares him; it’s the crowd. Not helping is the fact that Partington is actually incredibly shy. Who knew?
All of which begs the question, why on earth would you put yourself through it? He plans to use tonight’s musical performance to make a point about confronting fear.
“We’ve only just finished buying the business back, and that’s going to make a huge difference. You do your best stuff when you run your own race - but we’ll only do that by stepping outside our comfort zone, so this is me. Way outside my comfort zone.” he says with nervous laughter.
He’s used to running his own race though, no two ways. When others in the industry are selling out, he’s buying up. When competitors are splitting up their offering, Partington is focussed on integrating; splicing it all together. A visit to Stanley St World Headquarters confirms this: it probably has the most integrated and complete communications offering in the country under one roof. Bar none.
Not that his plans always work out. There was that time he thought building a shopping channel was a good idea. “And it was,” says Partington quickly. “My ego got in the way of that one though, I wanted us to have a live broadcast capability from day one, which just sucked up the cash. So yeah, that was pretty humbling.”
Out of that though, came a renewed and massive investment in a shopper marketing capability.
So silver linings and all that. “If you don’t fail, you can’t grow.” He says pointedly, almost in reference to his impending performance, in itself a fitting metaphor for his stellar career.
“Look, we make our money by having a point of view and giving advice. My point of view is there’s no shame in falling down - just in not getting back up again.”
But the real self-awareness is this: “You know, a couple of years ago I would’ve found a way to pull the pin and back out of an event like this, but now I just think what a selfish thing that would be to do.”
It’s an astute observation from a man who’s known as a hard marker - and mainly on himself - but succinctly illustrates the relationship between failure and growth.
Meanwhile, Olwen, an agency producer and the band’s lithe and inked vocalist is limbering up, and next thing they’re on stage.
The band is good and loud. Without a trace of irony Greg leads the band into a version of Elton John’s ‘I’m still Standing.’
The crowd is generous with their praise. Listen carefully though, because through the applause you’ll hear restlessness, and that - is the sound of a plan coming together.
Greg is one of the 150 new owners of Stanley St.
Stanley St. Open, for business.
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