Peter Spencer died this morning. He suffered a heart attack on Monday. It’s a spectacular understatement to say that he’ll be missed.
I first met Peter at a time when the role of Assistant Account Executive still existed. I was a newly-minted one, fresh from University, positively drenched behind the ears. I had joined O&M in Wellington, while Peter was the National MD.
I’d been there about a week when Peter came to town. He was set-up in a meeting room, and I was taken in to meet him. He had his diary sitting in front of him. It was about the size of a One Show annual and covered in a burgundy velvet. His name was embossed on the front. In gold. At that point his mobile phone rang. He answered it with a confident ‘Spencer’. I decided then and there that Peter was one of the coolest men in the world. He was what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Some years later he’d moved into recruitment and I had moved into a job I wasn’t enjoying. I rang Peter to ask if he knew of anything going. He asked me to come and see him. He indulged me as I outlined my grievances with my current role. He took a sip of water and said, in his wonderfully measured way, ‘It’s always better to make something of the job you’ve got than to hope a new one will be different’. Self-interest entirely ignored, he spent the next half hour highlighting the merits of my current role, what I needed to do to make more of it, and, most importantly, the need for me to understand my obligations to an employer who had shown faith in me. I left chastened, wiser and determined to do better.
Another few years on and I had asked for Peter’s help in recruiting for a role. It was a big role, and the first big appointment I would make as MD of an agency. Peter called me about a candidate. He was very positive about her, even though her experience wasn’t quite what we’d discussed. Not quite the right clients, not quite the right categories and, as I highlighted in a ridiculously pretentious fashion, not quite the right pedigree of agencies. “Philip’, he said, ‘it’s good to remember that where someone’s come from isn’t necessarily the best indication of what they’re capable of”. And he was right. I employed her and she was terrific, in exactly the ways he had predicted she would be.
I saw Peter a few weeks ago. He told me of his excitement that Michele was returning home from a holiday the next day. He told me of his recent trip to Europe to see his boys. He told me of his life on the farm, in particular the unique pleasure to be derived from quality time spent on a ride-on lawnmower.
He is still what I want to be when I grow up.
Peter’s funeral will be held on Monday August 3rd, 11am, St Mary’s Church, Parnell.