CAA HAD FOUR COMMANDMENTS: (1) NEVER LIE TO YOUR clients or colleagues. (2) Return every call by end of day (or at least have your assistant buy you a day's grace). (3) Follow up and don't leave people guessing. Every desk phone at CAA bore the message COMMUNICATE. After our Fred Specktor heard me use that word in every speech I gave, he stuck the plaques on Ron's phone and mine—and when we admired them, he stuck them on everyone's phone. It was our version of IBM's famous imperative to THINK.
The last commandment, and the hardest one to follow, was (4) Never bad-mouth the competition. Gossip was a tool of the trade. Other agencies routinely disparaged soon-to-be-released films by directors they hoped to sign. The performances stink. The studio's pulling back on publicity. It won't make a dime. The worse the buzz and the weaker the box office, the more open a director might be to changing representation. But if you were confident about your own work, why snipe? Why tear down someone you're hoping to be in business with? We built our company around positive thinking. We had no hierarchy, no titles, no reporting lines, no nameplates. We killed ourselves to take everyone's point of view in meetings, to make everyone feel empowered.