Rainmaker stories: Tony Wainwright

Hi. Just spent some time talking with a fellow new business enthusiast about past rainmakers. Nice chance to geek out on new business lore and how-to. Tony Wainwright came up in the conversation, and it reminded me of a couple of little stories you might appreciate. Oh, and there’s a tip in here, too.

But before going there, do you know Tony Wainwright? His formal name was C. Anthony Wainwright. He was many things. But for purposes of this blog, was a terrific ad agency new business rainmaker. I will do a poor job of describing this smart, genuine and nice guy. He’s worked in new business at agencies like Arnold, McKinney, Saatchi and Bloom. A relationship-builder of the highest degree, he helped win Clios, Cannes Lions, and a host of other awards. He also wrote several books and was a columnist for brands like Ad Age, Adweek, and Variety. When he passed away in 2003, he was on four boards. You can find an obituary here.

Yours truly had the chance to meet him once. Man, was it cool. I’ve heard all sorts of lore about this guy. But he himself told me two little things about himself that I find interesting:

He flew one airline as much as he could in his career. I think it was American. Anywho, he had flown so much for them they gave him a card he could present at any gate in any airport and walk on any flight. Like, super platinum or something. He showed me the card, telling me they no longer gave them out and a handful of them were made. This little perk – probably earned from DECADES of paid travel – gave him the chance to speak with a senior level marketer and say he could be in his or her offices the very next day to meet with them. (CORRECTION: I have since found out he bought this card from American Airlines. It was literally a lifetime pass for first class travel.)

He didn’t have to even pack for these trips, either. Because he had an working, active relationship with a single luxury hotel in each of the major markets he visited. He always had a place to stay when he came to town. Here in Chicago, it was The Drake. He had a suit of clothes at each of these hotels. So, again, ready at a moment’s notice. Is that not wild? While some of you may be rolling your eyes at the amount of travel here…it’s an example of terrific passion for the craft of relationship-building and business development.

Oh, and the tip? He and I only spoke a couple of times on the phone. But when we did, one of the last things in each of the conversations was, “keep me posted” on whatever we were talking about. This was a very smart little technique that kept our conversation – and the relationship – moving forward.

Should any of you have any other Tony Wainwright stories, feel free to share. I’d love to hear them. Thanks!