To build a great business you need to collect great people. But what makes people great, and thus collectable, is certainly a topic of debate. I am sure you have your own trait that you think makes you a valuable addition to an employer. You’re organized. Or energetic. Or creative. Or not easily bored.
I spend a lot of time interviewing candidates for our ad agency. And there’s one label I have heard more than all others. In fact I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard people proudly state, ‘I am a perfectionist.’ This proclamation makes me want to throw up. Because I believe that in an idea business like advertising perfection works against you.
That’s why I proudly consider myself an Imperfectionist. So what does that mean? It means I value progress in any form. I am quite comfortable dreaming up and then sharing half-baked ideas. Or writing a first draft and passing it around for a reaction. Why? Because unbaked and half-baked ideas are available faster than fully-baked. And often times a team simply needs a ‘for-instance’ to get moving in the right direction.
I enjoy sharing ideas that are still in a moldable state. They enable others to help form, modify and improve the ideas before they’re finished. As an Imperfectionist I embrace the process of creating, testing, learning and improving. I love working in an environment that recognizes the great value in being aggressive.
Today, speed is king. In the agency business we need to act quickly to help our clients take advantage of short-lived opportunities and to thwart threats. This puts a premium on quick thinking and swift action. We no longer live in an era that rewards you for sitting alone in your office making sure your ideas or your presentations are bulletproof.
Now don’t get me wrong. Once our team has determined a direction and we move into the execution phase, every detail matters. I will question the kerning, analyze the delivery of a line, and poke at a transition until I’m absolutely convinced we have it right. There is a time and place for this type of scrutiny. And I believe it’s at the end of the process.
So find yourself more Imperfectionists. Explore more. Fail fast. And improve faster. It is the difference between doing and dreaming. Action and inaction. Talking and walking. It may not be the perfect approach for everyone. But it works perfectly for me.
Advertising agencies talk a lot about change. And with good reason. Over the past 19 years I have seen the flavor of the moment hop from Full Service to Media to Interactive to Digital to CRM to Experiential to Social to Mobile to Data to Omnichannel to Dynamic Messaging. I’m probably missing something. Wasn’t there a Nano-Wow moment?
So how does the perfect advertising agency avoid getting caught flat-footed? In Ken Blanchard’s book, Customer Mania he shares a story that provides a potential blueprint. Ken visited the DMV in San Diego, and to his surprise, the experience was quick, efficient and pleasant. Which prompted Ken to approach the director and ask how he had transformed this typically unpleasant environment into one that offered outstanding customer service.
The director replied, ‘My job is to reorganize the department on a moment to moment basis depending on citizen need.’ To accomplish this he cross trained the staff so that everyone was flexible enough to absorb customer demand at any given moment.
I love this thinking. Because it puts the client need-of-the-moment in the spotlight. No one is focused on what they used to do. Or what they would like to do. Rather, they are focused on a very dynamic reality.
With the DMV example in mind the perfect agency must do three things to handle the constant shifts on the marketing landscape.
- Train employees to have a wide variety of skills. This means teaching brand-focused team members digital skills. Teaching digitally focused team members CRM skills. And teaching content-focused team members design skills. That way we can swarm to the demand, whether it lasts for the day or the decade.
- Morph daily. Stay flexible, pliable and stretchy. Move people around. Explore new technologies. Encourage team members to work on a wide variety of clients. Experiment. Don’t create ruts. The stretching stimulates the brain. Which leads to creativity and innovation. In short, create motion to keep the agency in motion.
- Poll your clients. Ask them what kind of expertise they expect to add to the mix next. Find out what current efforts they expect to swell. This gives you a weather forecast. And if you can get in front of it the wind will fill your sails.
So let’s be like the San Diego DMV. Let’s stay on our toes. Keep our ears, eyes and minds open. And let’s be the resource our clients want us to be.
I am an advertising enthusiast. Well, technically I’m an advertising professional since advertising has been my primary source of income for almost two decades. But I call myself an enthusiast because I’m enthusiastic about the industry and energized by its ever-increasing potential to help businesses grow.
I’ve had a pretty decent career so far. I started as a copywriter. And at 37 years old I became the Chief Creative Officer of a 275 person ad agency with four offices. Recently I was asked what challenge I want to take on next. The answer is simple. I want to spend the rest of my advertising career creating the perfect agency. No big deal, right? Just perfection.
To be successful I’ll need two things. First, a vision of what the perfect agency looks like. And second, the drive and determination to narrow the gap between the idealized vision and where we stand at the end of each business day. I believe that the ideal can be achieved at any agency, as long as the team is committed to continuously absorbing and implementing the best ideas. I expect this to be a stimulating journey. And I’m sure feathers will be ruffled. On this quest, I also expect to have a lot of fun, to create a lot of interesting work, to develop deep relationships with my clients and coworkers, and to make a lot of money for the agency and our clients.
I’ll share my learnings, experiences, challenges, conversations and successes along the way. And I want to hear from you. So I am calling on the experts, the newbies, the peanut gallery, and even the clients’ wives, and husbands. I want to hear as many perspectives as possible. Because if I’m to help create the perfect agency it’s going to have to work for everyone, employees and clients alike. Oh, and by the way, in the perfect agency we might not call people employees or clients. Oh snap! That’s called foreshadowing.