‘Just do work that feels good’: Calling bullshit on bad agency advice
Agency founders love to give advice. The creative trades are awash in wisdom from successful CEOs and CDs who launched businesses, seemingly on a wing and prayer, and found success by “staying true to themselves” or “listening to their hearts.” A lot of of this advice is doled out to aspiring agency leaders as if launching an all-star career is roughly as hard as winning a participation trophy at a middle school science fair.
The truth is, building an agency is hard work. You need to believe in the work you’re doing, but you also need to know exactly how that work is going to put money in your pocket and a roof over your team’s heads.
I combed the trades for a few examples of this kind of advice and found a lot of smart people, giving out some pretty soft wisdom. I’m going to give you my unvarnished opinion of how they could do better.
“Do the kind of work that feels good and right and fulfilling to you. Chasing extrinsic validation will only lead to random outbursts of profanity directed at the press, award-show judges and commenters on YouTube.” – Paul Venables, founder & chairman, Venables Bell & Partners
George Swisher: VB & P had a huge year, and Paul obviously knows the business inside and out, but this sounds like bullshit to me. Advertising is an emotional business and creatives are emotional people, but that doesn’t mean you focus all of your energy on making yourself feel good. Agencies are businesses that need to constantly adapt to new client needs and new opportunities. It’s good to feel good about your work but it’s also good to know that your invoices are getting paid.
Creativity is king, but if we let ourselves get caught up in those lofty ideals we’re going to be in big trouble when it’s time to pay the rent. Strike a balance between making good work and building good client partnerships. Do work that you’re proud of but keep the focus on happy clients and remember that awards can have an impact on your bottom line.
“As an agency grows, it is easy to meet the short-term needs by hiring people to fill an empty seat. But taking a strategic approach to hiring and growth is where your agency can find success. Deciding what you want the outcome of various roles within the organization to be long-term helps to develop your business and maximize your team’s effectiveness.” – Angela Lawrence Managing Director of AcrobatAnt
GS: Strategic planning is critical, especially when it comes to staffing. Angela isn’t wrong about that. But when you’re launching an agency you can’t let yourself get hung up on exactly what everyone’s role should be. People often surprise you with what they’re able to take on and the kind of skills they’ll absorb when needed. That’s why I encourage every creative to develop their business skills along with their creative chops.
If you lock everyone into a role that’s part of your five …read more