Today’s Thoughts From A Small Ad Agency President

One of the most difficult roles for an agency president to do and do well in a small ad agency is “people management”. Many agency heads come from either a high-level creative or account services position and the transition to critic and inspirational leader can be a difficult one. No longer are we just worried about our own department, the people underneath us, and the work, but rather we have to manage everyone…and most everything. Women and men. Young and old. Creatives and Account Executives. Vendors. Clients. Landlords. Service providers. And the list goes on.

At BLÜ most of my attention is focused on our clients and our team. I am very fortunate to have a team that understands my personality and desire to “create great”. And when I say “understands” I don’t just mean they know how I am, but rather they know that when I get upset about sub-par work, lack of accountability, and/or typos in a conference report that I do not mean any harm in my remarks and it’s never personal. We just do it different here. We do it better than they do.

And saying it’s not personal is not a good idea…especially to the creative team because it’s very personal to them. I thank them daily for being patient and committed to our vision as a company and for them as individuals and professionals.

Speaking of being patient, I have found this is to be one of the more difficult attributes that is required at this level of management. Maybe not for all, but it is for me and many others. I am constantly reminded through books and articles that some of the most gifted athletes struggle in a managerial or coaching role because they cannot understand why everyone else can’t perform at a high level or what they consider to be a high level. They fail to truly understand that just because it was easy for them or that the game seemed to slow down for them, that it does not happen this way for everyone else. They were born with specific gifts and through hard work and dedication to becoming great, they were able to perform extremely well more often than not.

Now I am not Jordan, Tiger, Sampras, or Brady and I definitely am nowhere close to reaching the pinnacle of the advertising world, but some things do seem to come very easy to me these days and I can see things that others cannot. Throughout my adult life I have dedicate myself to advertising and marketing, but I have been blessed and I am very grateful for the gifts I have been given and I understand the need to be more patient and share my knowledge with those I work with internally and externally. If only it didn’t take so long!

There are many occasions where this low level of patience bites me in the ass when it comes to clients. My business and life philosophy is based on seeking first to understand then to be understood and it has served me well. Having said that I find it very difficult to work with clients that do not have the same desire to be great as we do or believe cutting corners or doing things “the way they have always been done” is an effective business strategy. It is not uncommon for us to attend meetings that seem to have no purpose, go days without getting a follow-up call from our client contact, or wait weeks for a client to send us a logo or copy revisions to one or two paragraphs. This delay probably should not matter, but time is money and momentum killing client reps have cost us more money than I can care to calculate. Did I mention I need to be more patient?!

On the journey to being great, there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road, but as long as you have the right people with you and you know where you’re headed (even if you’re not sure how you’re going to get there), the bumps are nothing more than occasional risers that lift you and your team to a higher level as a group. Do your best to enjoy the ride. After all the joy usually comes in the journey, not the destination.