“Cultivate a belief that you are an expensive guy”
I remember the day I was promoted to consulting manager - one of the partners I worked closely with pulled me aside and gave me this piece of advice:
“OK Ed - now that you’re a manager, you get to have an expense account. So here’s what you got to do - just start charging in all kinds of expenses. Not anything against policy of course, but just start charging in a lot of lunches and dinners and team building activities - all kinds of stuff. Also, let it be widely known that you like nice things - fine wines, nice clothing, luxury vehicles, that kind of thing. What you want to do is cultivate a belief that you are an expensive guy. Do you want to know why? So that time when you charge in a $500 team dinner for 4 people to celebrate a big deliverable, the expense compliance folks are going to go - well what can you say? That’s just Ed being Ed - he’s an expensive guy.
Now if you have a reputation of being a frugal guy and you try to charge in a $150 lunch for 6 people, the expense compliance folks are going to - hey what’s going on here? Ed’s a cheap guy and now he’s trying to expense a $150 lunch. We need to take a closer look at this. Trust me - you don’t want that type of headache.”
As folks who knew me as a traveling consultant, I wound up taking this advice to heart and hosted many epic soirees over the years. My personal way of expressing my “expensive guy” ways was to be known as a wine connoisseur during my consulting days. Whenever we had a happy hour, I was always going for a glass of wine instead of a beer. And I was always volunteering to lend my expertise in selecting a nice wine from the voluminous wine lists at team dinners.
During our regular staff meetings in the office, I even held a wine education series that was a big hit. I taught all kinds of things about the history of winemaking, different varietals, the decanting process, corks vs. screw caps, vineyards to visit, recommended wines at different price points, etc.
Through it all, I cultivated a strong belief amongst everyone that I was a person who liked the finer things in life and if I was on your project I was going to be an expensive guy.
Did all these shenanigans pay off? I still fondly remember a team celebration dinner where we dropped well over $6000 for 17 people at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Dallas. The two most memorable things from that evening:
- Before that night, I had always thought that there was no way Cristal Rosé champagne could be worth over $600 a bottle (I’m glad to report that it very much is)
- The following quote - “This is the most fun I’ve ever had with my pants still on” (which may or may not have been said by me)
When I talked to the expense compliance folks the following week about getting that expense approved, they simply told me - “Well Ed, you and your team had a great year. And besides - we all know that you’re an expensive guy.”