November 12, 2012

Thinking Around Corners

Filed under: Career Advice,Creativity,Leadership — Joe Grant @ 11:50 am

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Been to any meetings lately where people yak about problems but don’t solve them? Plenty, I’ll bet. Here’s why it happens: bosses train their employees not to solve problems.

You think I’m kidding? At the next opportunity, audit one of your internal meetings. Tell the folks you’re there merely to observe the process then keep your mouth shut. If they swirl around an issue without resolution, if they look at you for cues, or ask you what they should do, you’ll know you’ve got a group that can’t think for themselves and that you’re just a well-paid bottleneck.

How did these people become such sheep? Well, owners with their names on the door often enjoy a sort of unhealthy validation when they gift their subjects with “the answer.” They’ll complain they can’t delegate to the staff because “. . . they never have any good ideas.” And that’s true — because they’ve been schooled to come to Papa for answers, not generate their own.

Take heart. You can do something about it.

Don’t let people dump their problems in your office like the family pet dropping a trophy mouse at the master’s feet. Break the habit by demanding that anyone who brings you a problem also recommends solutions. And not just a stab-in-the-dark idea, but a handful of possible options, A, B, C, D & E, with a concluding reasoned recommendation on the best course of action. The formula is, What’s the issue, What will happen if it remains unsolved, What are several possible solutions with pros and cons, and — this is how leaders are developed — how they themselves will fix it. Make it a practice to turn away anybody approaching your desk without a solution. Even if it’s not a good one.

In fact, now and then let them prosecute their recommendations even when you know they’ll fail. There’s a legend at IBM that a junior VP once made a bad call costing the company about a million bucks and spent a sleepless weekend sure he’d be fired come Monday morning. Sure enough, even as he was putting his office doodads in boxes early Monday, the boss called. But he said, “Hold on. You’ve learned the lesson of a lifetime. You don’t think I’m going to fire someone we just spent $1 million educating, do you?”

Remember that no matter how smart you think you are you don’t hold the sole franchise on good ideas. Henry Kissinger, clearly one of our brighter public servants with no dearth of experience in world issues, taught his juniors never to plop a policy brief on his desk unless accompanied by suggested resolutions.

Thus he mined a trove of ideas while training a legion of colts to think around corners.

Problems are simply puzzles. They’re satisfying to solve and doing so builds confidence. You’ve probably gotten good at it over the years but if you’re the self-appointed protector-of-right-answers your folks will keep having meetings where all they do is rant about problems without fixing ’em. Why should they when they can visit the All Powerful Oz for answers?

And that’s the big lesson from the Emerald City, isn’t it. Dorothy and her buddies already had the keys to their issues inside themselves — all they needed was a little boost to their self-confidence from the guy behind the curtain.

Not a bad job for a Wizard, huh?

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May 8, 2012

The Answer to Agency Training

Filed under: Career Advice,Leadership,Operations,Staying Fresh — Joe Grant @ 3:55 pm

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Brian Tracy, the well known sales trainer and author, wrote a piece a while ago, and he’s so right about this: “No matter what your job you’ve gone as far as you can with what you now know. Any progress you make from this moment onward will require that you learn and practice something new.”

But how?

Earl Nightingale hosted a popular syndicated radio program many years ago and founded the training company Nightingale-Conant. One of his aphorisms was just one hour a day of study is all it takes to get to the top.

Are you kidding me? Who has that kind of time!

But it gets worse. Nightingale actually claimed that 1 hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years, in 5 years you’ll be a national authority, and in 7 years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.

If he’s only half right, that’s pretty astounding.

I believe the heart of his message is valid. To get beyond what you already know,you’ve got to learn all you can about our business, particularly the “softer” skills like personal relationships, persuasion, and thinking-around-corners. Those kinds of skills which you probably didn’t study in school are what make people in the advertising and marketing arena successful, right?

The fact is you’re just not going to get much schooling of any kind in most agencies today. And with the speed of change, you can’t afford to wait for the company you work for to invest in you. To get ahead you’ve got to go get smart on your own.

Think about it: you don’t actually work for anybody anyway – you’re self-employed. No matter what level you’re at, you’re working for your own advancement, to better your life and your family’s.

So let’s get crazy for a moment. What would happen to your career if you made a decision today to invest, let’s say, 2% of your annual income back into yourself, for your own personal and professional development? It makes no sense to be cheap about your education — you’re investing in yourself!

Look at your clients. They’re constantly evolving new and improved products to be more competitive and grab more market share. Why not do the same? Nightingale claims if you do you’ll probably never have to worry about money again.

And here’s something that may strike you as over the top, but it’s worth considering. Brian Tracy says that if you read only one skill-improvement book a month, that will put you into the top 1% of income earners. If you read one hour per day in your field, that will translate into about one book per week. One book per week is 50 books a year and that’s 500 books over ten years.

If you did that I have no doubt you’ll be one of the best educated, smartest, most capable and highest paid people in our business. Regular reading will transform your life completely; it has for many others, including me. And it could’t be easier these days with Kindle and iPads.

Here’s a way to put this idea into practice.

Ask the successful people around you for their best book recommendations.Whatever advice they give you, immediately go out and buy or download those books and commit to reading for one half-hour every morning before you start work (that way you’ll eliminate the excuse of being too tired to read in the evening).

Sounds impossible, right? Yet many people spend hours in a health club “working out” and do nothing to improve their biggest asset, their heads.

I guess that’s OK if you don’t mind being stuck right where you are for a long, long time.

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January 17, 2012

Make Time for a Challenge

Filed under: Career Advice,Creativity,Leadership — Joe Grant @ 2:46 pm

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You know the line about give the busy man the work and he’ll get it done? It’s true. The more you do the more you can do, but here’s a twist you may find helpful especially if you’re trying to balance all the exigencies of running a company.

You’ll do more and be more satisfied with your job, too, if you take on something challenging and stimulating in your “off” time.

There are people – you probably know some – who run high-demand businesses yet still have enough time and energy to indulge in things they enjoy and grow from. They take on “parallel challenges” in addition to their demanding professional responsibilities. Effective people know that extra challenges make them better in all dimensions.

The magic in all this, especially if you tackle some long-buried desire to do something you’ve always wanted to do, is you’ll get more done at your regular job while you make a dream come true. Take on a “Gee-it-would-be-great-to…” project and daily work chores become easier and your confidence and enthusiasm improve. Along the way your neurotransmitter connections get polished up and all those mood-plussing chemicals we keep reading about start circulating more freely.

Like a sleeping acorn harboring the potential of an oak, dormant aspirations never really go away. They just need to be dusted off and fired up. Maybe you always wanted to play the piano, learn to fly, speed read, master French cuisine, ride a motorcycle…I don’t know. What’s important is it’s a blood-pumping challenge and when you take a step in its direction other issues in your life immediately become easier.

So what’s holding you back? Money? Doubt it, probably not at this point in your life. Not enough time?

Ahh. . .time! Let’s talk about time management for a moment. It’s so often misunderstood. The key is to remember that time management is not about time at all: it’s about priorities.

Think about the following.

1) We get done what we want to get done, what matters most to us.

2) Decisions about using our time, i.e. what we do next, are based on what’s important at the moment – if you see your wastebasket burning, getting that client brief written will not be as big a priority as dousing the fire.

3) Forget about how many hours are available or how many items you check off a to-do list. Processing more minutiae will just make the wheel in your personal hamster cage spin faster. Getting the important things done – the priorities – is what makes the difference.

At the heart of all this is deciding what those priorities are and then committing to them. And if you look inside and begin to actualize a long-unfulfilled desire you’ll be making a decision which will not only make you happier, it will sharpen your judgment and heighten productivity.

I mention all this because we frequently work with senior agency executives who don’t understand after attaining considerable material success why they’re so damn disenchanted. The answer is they’ve checked off the “run my own agency” box and now need additional challenges.

If your DNA programs you for measurable accomplishment, now’s the time to stretch for something else – true happiness and satisfaction don’t come from status quo. As the artist Paul Klee said, “Becoming is superior to being.”

A great resource on this subject of time and getting the important stuff done is First Things First by Stephen Covey.

Reading it would be a good priority, huh?

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December 29, 2011

Make it Happen in ’12

Filed under: Career Advice,Leadership — Joe Grant @ 10:55 am

Ask a group what it takes to succeed in advertising and you’ll get dozens of different answers. Here’s my take … based on many years working with successful ad people in growing agencies around the country.

Read – If you don’t continually feast on new ideas, you’ll produce only flat and predictable solutions, especially now as we’re nearly overrun with new technology and media options. Suggestions: The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Inc., Wired, and the many blogs, feeds, and tweets on every subject. It wouldn’t hurt to consult some of the classic leadership ideas of Peter Drucker or Jim Collins, either. It’s never been easier to stay au courant these days with Kindles and iPads. Every top ad guy I know reads voraciously.

Write – It’s a must for senior positions, and like tennis or golf, you can always learn to do it better. Get a coach, a teacher, a friend to critique your work – memos, plans, letters – and push yourself to improve. Don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “She’d be great for that job but can’t write a memo or plan to save her life. Let’s get someone else.” Clear compelling writing is imperative for success.

Present – Can you command a room? Just like writing, if you don’t present well you won’t make it up the ladder. Slay the butterflies by plunging into a local improv troupe to build your confidence and technique. Toastmasters is still around, it’s free, and it works, too.

Think – Strategically, that is. Everyone believes they can write a strategic plan but few even know what it is. Google “strategic planning” and you’ll drown in definitions and templates. Learn to think and write strategically or you’ll be stuck doing the little stuff for a long time.

Ask – Be curious, learn, and you’ll grow. Be inquisitive about everything and you’ll never be bored. Or boring.

Proactivate – Ours is a talent business – you need to stand out. But it takes extra work and often longer hours to separate yourself from the pack, so get used to it. Showing up just 9 to 5 and thinking “they owe me a better job” will keep you a back-marker.

Create – Progress is the product of innovation and innovation doesn’t happen unless you try new things – that’s creativity. An agency should be a Petri dish of

creative experimentation in all areas. If you’re the person who comes up with new ideas you’ll achieve more success than people who wait for things to happen to them.

Invest – When making decisions about your career, having money gives you freedom. Don’t kid yourself thinking that you’ll start saving or investing when you make bigger bucks. That’s stupid. It’s not how much you make but how diligent you are putting some of it where it will grow. And though you may be decades from even thinking about retirement, this is exactly the time to max 401k contributions and get smart about stocks. There are no pensions in advertising anymore.

Relax – A few pops after work or a quick puff on something may momentarily loosen those knots in your gut but over time that will quicksand you. Find someone who carries a lot of responsibility with ease and ask them how they deal with the pressure. Stress is a killer, but believe me there are keys you can discover to prevent your nerves from eating you alive.

The Main Thing -The real key to success is getting the important things done, not just minutiae. Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant, author Stephen Covey says, and doing more things faster won’t replace doing the right things well. So figure out what will have the most impact for improving your work, your life, and your happiness and concentrate on that. You get what you focus on.

OK, enough proselytizing. Try some of the above and see if it helps provide more meaning and challenge – and success – in your career this new year.


May 3, 2011

The Senior Issue

Filed under: Career Advice,Leadership — Joe Grant @ 6:00 pm

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There’s a serious and potentially heart-wrenching problem in many agencies that bubbles just below audible conversation: senior executives no longer justifying their keep. It affects everyone. And it’s time to talk about it.

Here’s the problem.  People work awfully hard in our business and use up a lot of themselves in the process. That may be why in their 50s some conclude they’re not going to get a whole lot further than where they already are, so why push so hard? Maybe I can coast a little and still be well paid. I’ll retire soon enough, in a few years. But just not right now.

We call these people the “soon retiring” or SRs.

To some an SR who’s contributing less and less to the bottom line can appear to be selfishly harvesting profits and bleeding off a 6-figure salary. Toss in perqs (bonus, car, self-approving expense accounts, club memberships, etc.) and there’s a pretty big hole in the bucket.

Would the money spent on an SR yield a better return increasing new business efforts, developing new services, buying out a competitor, delivering serious training, or rewarding or hiring stronger talent? That’s the heart of the dilemma because those kind of business opportunities can be seriously thwarted by supporting an SR. More than once we’ve seen an agency starve itself from growth because it was carrying this sort of burden.

Yet it wouldn’t be fair to push that good ole’ SR out to pasture, you say. He or she was there at the beginning, risked so much, spent all those nights and weekends away from home (maybe a divorce along the way?). This is where it gets really torturous. You feel a moral obligation to be fair to folks who’ve given so much.

Alright. Let’s talk about “fair.”

Some say it’s not fair to allow the company to be held hostage by a highly paid but no-longer-as-productive SR. It’s not fair to those at full song trying to move the company forward. Ambitious younger people may seek opportunity elsewhere…and suddenly your competition has all the good talent.

OK, but what about “loyalty” and “reward”? Doesn’t the SR deserve a cushy last few years at the end of the work rainbow? Maybe, but some argue there shouldn’t be an unspecified “obligation” to keep anybody aboard indefinitely.

Reading this far you’re probably disappointed we haven’t revealed some bromide to fix this issue. Believe me, having guided several agencies through these treacherous waters there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a tight complex knot of human compassion, economics, emotional baggage and unspoken expectations.

But there are a few guidelines we use when helping agencies unravel these sensitive problems:

1. Eliminate denial. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening or will fix itself. You, the senior team, and the SR must acknowledge that something’s out of whack. Face up to it because it’s the kind of thing you get paid to face up to. A Chinese proverb we’re fond of instructs that the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right name.

2. See the whole picture. Decisions about SRs rest on the leadership team’s responsibility to do the best forallemployees. These difficult resolutions have to be right for the company and its health, not just the convenience of a few.

3. Dignity is fundamental. That’s dignity for all. Resolve to honor everyone’s ego and emotional needs as well as your own sanity and good conscience. I’m here to tell you that you can craft solutions which can sustain self-esteem and not make people feel like dirt.

4. Be fair. But don’t confuse fairness with generosity. Sometimes those of us with soft hearts make really dumb business decisions because our emotions overpower common sense. Your actions must be consistent with the firm’s core purpose and values. Remember that treating one person with a heavy dose of “fairness” at the expense of others is wrong too. Principles by definition are ecumenical.

5. Get outside perspective. It’s a sure bet that you’re too close to the situation to see it objectively because, ironically, you know too much. Seek off-site counsel – all parties deserve it.

6. Be safe. Wearing a life jacket doesn’t mean you hope to end up in the water. Get legal guidance before any precipitous decisions.

One more thing. We better figure this out or the well-meaning baby-boomer SRs will unconsciously throttle down a lot of otherwise healthy agencies. Remember, the clock ticks for all of us. YOU’LL be an SR some day.

We all will.

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March 7, 2011

Defrag Your Personal Hard Drive

Filed under: Career Advice,Creativity,Staying Fresh — Joe Grant @ 6:32 pm


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So…deep in your heart you’re a little concerned you’re working too hard, that your outlook and style is coarsening, and achieving meaning from your work gets more elusive every year.

You’re not alone. When we coach executive talent avoiding burnout comes up a lot, with both emerging leaders and 50+-somethings pushing for legacy and worth.

After many years as a business therapist, I’m convinced what keeps people creative and helps them prevent getting stale is scheduling plenty of personal time to focus on “un-business” and recharge. Yes, it can – it must – be done, even in our crazy business.

Let’s go for a low-hanging analogy. We’re bipedal computers getting sticky and slow trying to handle too many open programs. Our hard drives sluggishly strain to jump from sector to sector, churning away valiantly but always behind the curve.

Or how about high performance athletes? They know that to be competitive they must rest between heats and meets. But us, well, we treat ourselves like machines revving our engines at high speed for weeks, months, and sometimes years with little down time. Until something breaks.

Perhaps you know someone who brags about not having been on a vacation for several years. Well. . . that’s just dumb. It’s not that you “deserve” it, it’s that you need time away. Otherwise you’ll soon resent your work, your company, and what it’s all slowly doing to your health and your family relationships. Not to mention your sanity.

The truth is the longer you’re in our business with its unrelenting deadlines and sudden zigs and zags, the more you’ve got to make time to catch your breath.

Creative people know this. The reason so many good ideas come while singing in the shower or commuting in is that those are “down times” when your brain is not racing quite so fast to process multiple inputs. Good ideas bubbling to the top are easier to see when the surface is not roiled.

If you examine the lives of people who made great contributions, especially in their later years, you’ll see they understood that full speed ahead was not when they had breakthrough moments. It was when they lay quietly at anchor – remember Archimedes in his bath?

And here’s an irony. You know the line about give the busy man the work and he’ll get it done? It’s true. The more you do the more you can do, but there’s a twist you may not realize.

You’ll get more satisfaction out of your job if you tackle something challenging and stimulating outside your job. Something meaty. Especially if it’s a long-buried desire to realize a wish you first had in childhood.

Some examples: maybe you always wanted to play the piano, learn to fly, make outstanding pasta sauces, speed read, paint, restore an old car, build something out of wood that wouldn’t fall down when you leaned against it…I don’t know. What’s important is that it’s something you’ve always wanted to do and it challenges you.

You know people like this, right? Folks who run demanding companies but still make time to indulge themselves in things they enjoy and grow from. Effective people know that parallel challenges make them better in all dimensions and they’re not afraid to stretch for things which may at first appear slightly beyond their reach.

We take ourselves and “success” entirely too seriously. To stay engaged and vigorous, learn to take a breather and challenge yourself with something that has deeper personal meaning than just speeding up your personal assembly line to get more widgets out the door.

Remember, you have more than just “high” and “off” on that switch of yours. Try some different settings.


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September 23, 2010

Cork the Whine

Filed under: Career Advice,Client/Agency Relations,Leadership,Staying Fresh — Joe Grant @ 12:01 pm


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It’s 1:30 and you breeze out the agency door bellowing, “I’m off to see those dumbass s.o.b.s again.”

Ah, the much anticipated client meeting! When you arrive a half hour later to do business with them, what do you think happens to all that bad karma?

Our business is simple: agencies have relationships with clients to help them sell stuff. If you have a bad attitude about your clients, things just aren’t going to go smoothly.

But they’re jerks, you say? Well, OK. Here’s some straight-ahead advice.

First of all, clients are your customers, for crisakes! Didn’t you once beg these guys to become a client, promising them your first-born and swearing you’d practically live at their place? Just think about that for a moment. It’s really all you need to know. Clients are your customers.

But if you harbor dark thoughts about what scoundrels these clients be you’ll not only infect your colleagues and extinguish their passion for working on this account, you’ll also plant an adverse message in your own subconscious mind, telling it you just don’t care. When you don’t care – even though you swear you’re a pro – you dam the ability to generate good ideas, deplete your energy, and imperceptibly arrest your skyward career. Not good.

Now if you’re an agency principal you have bigger issues. I’ve seen presidents bad mouth clients, post ridiculing emails and cartoons, and get up in front of Monday morning status meetings to publicly (but of course behind their backs) insult and drag down the very people they’d present a multimillion dollar campaign to that afternoon. Does this make sense? It certainly isn’t what anyone would call professional.

Look, clients are rarely bad people. They’re just ordinary folks much like you who find themselves having to work for a living and probably doing all they can to survive capricious management and pay their bills. They’re your clients, your customers. Don’t let your attitude cripple your ability to do business with them.

When you’ve got challenging clients, here’s a simple trick for getting beyond yourself by doing something for yourself. Yes, that’s a tortuous sentence but stick with me here.

Give them a gift, if you will, of a little something extra – something they weren’t expecting or didn’t ask for. But do it without any expectation of being appreciated. Maybe they will thank you; then again maybe they won’t. Thanks is beside the point here. You don’t give a gift to get thanks – you do it because it’s a good unselfish thing to do.

You might ask, why do something nice for someone who won’t appreciate it? Simple answer (and herein lies the magic): because it’s YOUR opportunity to behave one notch up on the scale of human beingness. You do it because it’s a small act of polishing your own self. In a way, I suppose, that makes it selfish but a good kind of selfish.

Clients have good and bad days; some clients are more difficult to deal with than others. Your job is to maintain yourself on a personal high road, not to get drawn to their level. The really successful account people we know seamlessly maintain their professional mien.

In the end it’s about the choices you make. You can choose to snarl and moan about what a lousy client they are, come home at night and kick the dog, take comfort in an extra scotch or two…

Or you can simply say it is what it is. And then concentrate on bringing your best game no matter the circumstances.


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July 29, 2010

Leading Leaders

Filed under: Career Advice,Leadership — Joe Grant @ 4:03 pm


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Delegation. It sounds so simple – you just tell people what to do, right? – but it can trip you up and freeze promising careers.

What’s so tough about it? Well for one thing, your own success makes it difficult to delegate.

You got where you are because you’re the one who makes things happen and keeps clients and bosses happy. So when it’s time to delegate, you naturally expect things to be done your way – the way you know works – and rationalize that’s how everyone on your team will avoid disaster.

See the problem between the lines?

Your way becomes the gold standard because it’s always worked and besides, it’s unconscionable to allow screw ups. And though you claim your approach guarantees everyone has opportunity to learn and grow, how would you explain to a client that a project tanked because you WANTED your people to make mistakes so they’d learn?

Let’s go a little deeper. At the heart of misguided delegation is a very real fear of failure. Yup, many high achievers are bad delegators because they can’t stomach something going wrong. In coaching senior agency executives over many years it’s obvious that delegation is directly related to risk tolerance and personal (job) security. As one agency CEO told us, “Of course I delegate and they can do it however they want. But there’s their way and the right way.” Translated, that means “the way least likely to embarrass me and screw up my career.”

Another reason delegation is problematic is that a lot of times it’s not delegation at all. It’s passing the buck. A friend who counsels agency owners for a living recently explained.

Too often, he writes, senior agency managers relegate the implementation of a good idea to juniors without the necessary resources, knowledge or authority to make it sing. It could be the execution of an advertising idea or some new internal procedure. The difference between “delegating” and “passing the buck” is the degree to which the delegator understands and envisions the implementation process. If he understands it and what it requires, it’s delegating. If he cannot envision the basic tactics that will be undertaken to get the thing done, he’s just passing the buck.

Just saying “Do this” is not delegating.

You’ve got to be explicit about what you want the outcome to be; unexpressed expectations are planned resentments. You’ve got to accompany assigned responsibilities with appropriate authority. You’ve got to make sure they know HOW to do it. You’ve got to restrain yourself while you watch learning take place in its rawest form, i.e. with occasional near misses and sometimes breathtaking foul-ups. Can you sit there calmly anticipating that your folks will create startling new solutions and better than anticipated results when things don’t go “your way”?

Sure, you can avoid all this heartburn if you do the important things yourself. When the big stuff comes along and you say “there isn’t time to delegate,” what it really means is there’s no one you trust to do it your way. If you have to do everything yourself because your folks can’t, well, it signals you’re making bad hiring decisions and then compounding things by failing to guide and grow your staff. Not a good way to operate if you’re in charge. That kind of thinking is frankly both short-sighted and an injustice.

Shortsighted since you’ll limit your own growth and wind up marching in place because you haven’t taught your people to think for themselves. Unjust because you’ll subtly stunt the growth of potential successors whom you should be preparing for greater authority. How are you going to move up or out otherwise? Capping off talented people before they achieve their potential is not only a dumb thing to do, it’s unfair to the people in your thrall.

You know, there’s a word that describes good delegators: leaders. You can’t be a leader if you’re not leading the next batch of leaders by delegating well.


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April 5, 2010

How to Keep Accounts Fresh

Filed under: Career Advice,Client/Agency Relations,New Business,Staying Fresh — Joe Grant @ 1:53 pm


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ImagePretty exciting when you begin to pursue a new client, isn’t it. The thrill of the chase! You lie awake rhapsodizing about how great it will be, you woo them with dinners and surprises, no effort is too much to show your commitment. Ah, romance!

But as in any romance, things can easily get boring. The agency morphs into “account waiters” dozing by the phone for the client to call in an order. This year’s media plan is a duplicate of last year’s; the creative is tired. Your best people somehow migrate to the more exciting businesses which only compounds the problem. What happened to all those stimulating initial meetings? Not to mention the promises made in the pitch.

It’s not unusual. Every account of every size at every agency goes through similar troughs. But smart agencies do all they can to rejuvenate waning accounts. Such as:

Capabilities Presentations – A lot has probably changed since you started working together. So at least once a year invite the client over to remind them of your abilities and competence. Include a summary of the work you’ve done and critique it. Perhaps you have new people, or they do, or new services to offer. Ask the client for a little song and dance about themselves, too – including market trends, new products in the pipeline, and organizational changes. Just getting ready for this meeting will be energizing and everyone will be pumped in the afterglow.

Freshening Exercises – Get some different points of view by asking staffers who don’t work on the account to review it. Have them each write a 1-page suggestion plan to improve things. Or hold a brainstorm session, again with people not normally assigned to the business, to solve problems and look for opportunities. Ours is a creative business and good ideas about a client’s business aren’t just the province of the daily team. Open it up so you generate contributions from everyone.

Switch Teams – Why not? Nowhere is it written that you can’t occasionally change personnel on an account, though you’ve got to make sure there’s continuity and the client doesn’t feel like s/he’s starting from scratch. Big agencies do this all the time to keep things fresh. After all, for the client it’s like getting a new agency without the added aggravation and cost. And you get to keep the client.

Sound Retreat – Go offsite with your client and refocus on the important things. Maybe you host a strategic planning session for the coming year or just take time away from the office to take stock; you can make this part of your review protocol. Craft a collaborative mission statement for you and the client, tackle issues there never seems to be time for during the daily crunch, and perhaps make time to just relax and bond – an occasion to have fun again. And that’s why you got into this business in the first place, right? To have fun, damnit.

Put your head to it and you’ll think of lots of way to bring the romance back to your accounts. Do the unexpected, the little things, the pleasant surprises (good ones, of course).

In our work helping agencies reach their potential, time and again the same handful of issues holds agencies back from what they might become, or worse, sinks them all together.

Here’s a powerful question to ask: What would you want if you were the client?


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February 23, 2010

Building Wings

Filed under: Career Advice,Staying Fresh — Joe Grant @ 12:39 pm


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1192218Maybe you’ve read Linchpin by Seth Godin. I haven’t yet, but a friend tells me it’s about having passion in your job. And that’s the real secret to success, as we’ve all heard before.

But with a nuance. It’s not having passion on your job – it’s having a job you’re passionate about.

That means being crazy nuts about what you do, waking up eager to get to work quickly, wishing your vacation were over sooner so you can return to something you love doing.

The problem is obvious. You might be working at something you have no passion about whatsoever. You might hate it. I knew a guy once who got physically ill every day before going to work because it bothered him so much. He was doing violence to his soul.

The answer – and I’m talking here about THE answer to a lot of things about happiness, and fulfillment, and satisfaction – is to find something you’re passionate about.

Yes, I know – you’ve got a sort of OK job, you’re paid what you don’t think any one else will pay you, it’s the worst possible time to go looking. . . the whole idea scares you.

But you owe it to yourself. To your soul. Deep down you probably know it.

Author Ray Bradbury said this, and maybe it will resonate: First you jump off the cliff and you build wings on the way down.

Believe it or not it works every time.


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