Cotton Candy @ The Amusement Park –
I accepted a position as Principal Partner/ECD of an agency that needed a complete overhaul philosophically, creatively and culturally. I saw it as an opportunity to implement my point of view and to help grow the agency’s billings by delivering an exciting creative product.
In the advertising and marketing world the creative is the product you’re selling. Without it, you’re just another room full of consultants.
The owners reached out to me through a consultant/recruiter who evaluated the problem and surmised that the only way to fix the agency’s bottom line and the agency’s future was to rebuild it with a stronger creative point of view.
They were a small 25 million-dollar B2B shop that were adding the kind of clients that could not grow the agency’s visibility or deliver the respect their brand needed.
When I arrived at the agency there was a small group of young talented art directors and writers that had lost confidence in their ability because no one was there to lead or mentor them. They had been without a Creative Director for about a year and the owners of he agency were taking turns playing creative director.
So the first thing I had to do was to take charge of the agency and rebuild it’s talent base with creative people who were more knowledgeable, tireless, accountable, tolerant, ambitious, would be loyal to the mission and have a strong point of view.
Three years later, the agency we had earned a reputation as a creative shop that was on the rise in the advertising community. The creative staff went from 7 to 20+ people and we were now billing close to 70 million and growing. The growth came by adding on more B2C clients that gave us the visibility and creative we needed to promote our brand.
During this period we were doing very well and then the ownership started chasing Ecommerce clients. I was not fan of that decision, but by the following year we had grown our billings to 85+ million and the owners were becoming even more seduced by the false profit potential of Ecommerce.
As we were succeeding in growing the business we were not succeeding in keeping up our agency’s morale. The creative push had put a lot of strain on all departments of the agency and that was beginning to show in our employee performance as well as their attitude.
I had been doing some research on the subject and this gave me the opportunity to exercise a concept that I believed would have a positive impact on the long-term personality of the agency brand and it’s employees.
I set up a meeting with the owners and convinced them to let me try something that I was certain would work. They hated the idea for fear that they would not get their monies worth of work out of the talent. I promised them they were wrong and then they gave me the rope to hang myself if it failed. We needed something to keep the agency fresh and alive and I was sure this was it.
My plan was to give every agency employee one Friday off every two weeks for the entire year. This was not designed to replace any vacation time, holidays, or sick days. It was adding 26 more paid days off to their yearly calendar to promote as long weekend opportunities.
The rules were simple but enforced; they could only take that day off if they made sure they were not dropping the ball for any of our clients. It had to never become an issue in our day-to-day business. It made them more prepared, more respectful of timing, more responsive to delivering better information to the other departments and more willing to accept accountability. A win for them and a big win for the agency.
If they were not able to use that Friday they could not carry it over and would have to wait for their next assigned Friday on the calendar. We had to stagger them carefully between employees and departments so everyone could take full advantage the program.
I was offering our employees something that was unique to our agency that no other competing agency could. It was another branding opportunity that we would use for recruiting new talent.
The results were staggering, less time off, less sick days, more loyal to our mission and employees were more excited about coming to work. They now embraced the agency’s management for giving them the opportunity to spend more time away from the agency. Needless to say, the entire agency’s morale reached an all time high.
So high, we were getting job inquiries from talent at other agencies, which showed us they were willing to work for less if given more time off with pay.
A good insight on what really motivates people. In essence we were giving them back their lives and showing that we respected their need for more personal time. In return they became the agency’s biggest ally promoting our brand throughout the advertising community by word of mouth.
The agency was the biggest winner here, besides the employees loyalty, the quality of our work kept rising giving us the edge we needed to win new business.
So now we were back on track and our agency was energized and flowing with fresh creative ideas. But after about a year and a half my fears were being realized, the Ecommerce clients had caused too much damage to the agency and it was becoming obvious, to me, that we may not be able to survive it’s impact.
When I left I took with me the pride of knowing I had created a culture that respected the working environment and made the agency a better and more productive place to be.
I tip my hat to those talented creative people who dared to share a seat with me on that amazing ride.
You will always have my respect.