David Kershaw and friends discuss how to be a successful parasite

At this week’s bonfire night special Tuesday Club Talk, the audience was treated to a fantastic line-up as well as some surprise indoor fireworks. Ad luminary David Kershaw, CEO of M&C Saatchi was joined by M&C Head of TV, Bruce McKelvie and M&C Saatchi managing director, Tom Firth – who in turn ran us through how we can all be successful parasites.


As a new recruit, from day one you will find yourself surrounded by exceptionally talented people. David explained how he had basked in the glory of his first boss David Gould as well as other inspiring colleagues and built his career, he felt, feeding off their greatness.  This naturally provoked a sense of insecurity in the young adman, but he explained how over time he’d learnt the value of being this kind of parasite, indeed to embrace it.

David named some well-known parasite/host combinations that were successful because they feed synergistically off each other. These included Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the Beetles and Brian Epstein, and Dr Johnson and James Boswell among others. In fact he argued that the better known of the pair would never have reached such celebrity without the foil of the other less well-known party. In other words, being a parasite can be a great way to career success.

But back to those insecurities that being a parasite can arouse. Especially at the start of one’s career, it’s not uncommon to feel inferior and scared of being found out; that well know ‘imposter syndrome’ which many even carry with them throughout their career. At NABS we support many talented people like this so it’s a condition that we are very aware of, along with the stresses and strains that this can put on one’s working life.

David too admitted that he’d been a victim of imposter syndrome and had worried that he was only succeeding through the merit of others. So worried in fact, that he’d almost suffered a breakdown, until he realised that many successful people share such insecurities.  Helping more talented people to succeed is nothing to feel bad about. Quite the opposite. At NABS we see it as part of the team mentality that sits at the heart of every organisation in our industry and we wholeheartedly agree with David that true skill lies in finding those who are more talented than yourself and nurturing them.

Ultimately being successful lies in surrounding yourself by people who are better than you. Everyone has their weaknesses, but as David pointed out, using his career as an example – it’s about finding people who complement your skills.  With mutual trust you can thrive off each and build an award-winning partnership and watch your careers blossom together.

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