Life At A Small Agency

A few years ago I was reading an article in Ad Age about why I work for a small agency. I printed it out and it has been on the wall behind my desk ever since. It is a daily reminder of what I love about this industry but also what I love about EXIT. Our job is time consuming, stressful and amazing. Each day I come to work and come up with creative solutions for our clients. Each day I get to be a part of their business success. It’s a great feeling. And I get to work with wonderful people who I truly care about. Life at a small agency is challenging, rewarding and fun.

I apologize that I don’t have the original article for you to read, but here is a copy of the one that is on my wall. Enjoy!

Why Do You Want to Work at a Small Agency
Five Reasons Why I Keep Fighting

“I’ve not yet begun to fight.”

During the America Revolutionary War, John Paul Jones supposedly uttered these words in the midst of a fierce battle against a far superior British fleet. He actually yelled them — otherwise the Brits wouldn’t have heard. With the seemingly overwhelming odds that a small agency will succeed, I identify with Jones’ attitude. It’s so easy to get discouraged by all of the negative things that can happen in this business. Like today, the air conditioner isn’t working on my side of our offices.

When bad things happen I think it’s good to make a list of all of the reasons I want to work at a small agency. So here’s my list:

1. Freedom: Even if you are working on the lowest rung of the small-agency ladder you are enjoying more freedom than someone with years of experience in a larger agency. You are given more responsibility because there are fewer people to do things. Sure, you have to do a lot of grunt work. That’s the price of freedom and it is quite reasonable. Besides, it can be therapeutic to lick stamps and find your own mailing labels.

2. Family: I mentioned to an employee candidate the other day that our group is really just a big family. That’s an easy situation to have when you have less than three-dozen people. I know there may come a day where we’re big enough that it’s hard to know everyone. The agency might be stronger at what it does and our opportunities might be better, but we’ll refer to the days when we were few as the good ol’ days. I intend to enjoy the ride.

3. Dreams: I know why my agency is here. We want to build a reputation for excellence that will be the envy of the industry from the ground up. We know the odds are against us, and that’s another reason we want do it. There is danger in trying to make a dream come true. But short of a comet hitting the earth, nothing will stop our trying. I’m not giving up because I lose a client or a great employee, not even if I’m the last one here.

4. Hope: There are many of you out there who are working in the worst of agencies. You dream of doing better work and your agency just wants to crank it out. My first agency was run by a very nice man whose favorite statement was, “The client signs the check on the front and I sign them on the back.” That hardly encouraged me, as I know that one of Bill Bernbach’s favorite statements was “A principal isn’t a principal until it costs you something.” I get a lot of encouragement from others who cheer us on for trying to stand for something. I know there are fewer agencies like us than there are the check-back signers. Don’t worry. We’re not changing the way we feel.

5. Courage: When I graduated from college my heroes were those who had just begun making their agencies models of excellence. Pat Fallon, Mike Hughes, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow, Jeff Goodby were all young men who were just trying to do great work. I doubt they were thinking about becoming icons. I admire their work of course, but what I really want to emulate is their ability to build a company of people that stands for something in an industry that sells out more than anyone will admit. They are still doing it today. I’ll never stop trying to do the same. For, like John Paul Jones, I know it’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog that matters most.

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