Back in the early days of my agency career, I worked for a shop that would not allow employees from other agencies into our building. So if you were hosting an Ad Club meeting or some other event that involved agencies from the area — you had to take it off site. When I asked why the rule exists I was told, “what if they walked by and saw some of our work for a client. They could go after our clients.”
I thought it was a bit paranoid back then, even though I was professionally wet behind the ears. Now, 30 years later, I think it was ridiculous. If your relationship with your client is so tenuous that you’re at that sort of risk — then you’re going to lose that client in a hurry no matter who knows you’re working together. While that agency’s policy was an extreme, it was very representative of the attitude most agencies have about their competition — other agencies. They are the enemy. We must keep them at arm’s length.
I’ve always had the opposite attitude. If our work is good and our relationship rock solid — no one can steal that client away. Which means we should be free to enjoy the benefits of connecting and collaborating with the talented and smart people who are drawn to agency work – even if they work for our biggest competition.
That’s probably what drew me to AMR and the agency networks from the beginning. The idea that I could sit around a table with 11 other agency owners and learn from them, share my own discoveries of what was working, collaborate on projects and just have a group of people who knew exactly what my life was like was intoxicating.
Having been an active member of a personal development network for over a decade, I can tell you — it was one of the best decisions of my professional career. My AMR network made my agency so much stronger. I was able to increase our bottom line and dramatically increase how much money went into my pocket. Unlike many agencies — we’ve weathered a couple recessions and come out ahead. I credit my network with helping me create systems and procedures that kept us afloat and successful, even when the waters were a little rough.
Now — as the head of AMR, I see these networks from a completely different perspective. When they work together — they all win. Let me give you three examples.
Example #1: Agency Alpha has a strong digital department. They are routinely following and bringing the hottest digital trends to their clients. Agency Beta lost their in-house SEO expert and was in a jam. Because they know/trust each other — Beta was able to ask Alpha for an assist and Alpha managed the SEO for two months, while Beta took their time to find and hire the right employee.
Example #2: Agency Zeta was doing a branding project for a city in their home state. They’d run into a snag or two and were looking for another agency with city branding experience to do some brainstorming together. I was able to introduce them to an agency in a different AMR network who had extensive city branding experience. They spent a few hours on the phone and in email and Zeta was able to use those new insights and stories to get their client back on an even keel.
Example #3: 34 AMR agencies came together and each contributed a chapter for a book titled Secrets of Ad Agency Owners: Our Best Advice. Several of the agencies are using the book as a new business door opener and even though it’s been published for less than a month — one of the agencies has already scored a new account with it. None of the owners/authors had time to write an entire book and get it published. But together — they all did a little and now are published authors.
There’s no doubt in my mind that every agency owner should find a peer group, be it AMR’s networks or something likeVistage in 2013. Your business will benefit greatly. And honestly — one of the best perks of belonging to a network is what you get from it personally.
The professional development, personal insights and leadership growth you’ll see will astound you. Sometimes being the boss sucks. Having someone who understands that and will commiserate with you is invaluable. Having someone you can call when you score a big new account and you know they’ll genuinely be excited for you is equally valuable. Your personal network knows both sides of the equation because they walk it out every day too.
But best of all — agency owners are funny, smart and irreverent. The friendships you will forge will be genuine, deep and come to mean a great deal to you over the decades. Of that — I can testify.
If you’d like more information on AMR personal development networks — give me a shout or shoot me an email. But somehow, somewhere — find yourself a network of peers this year.