The Voice of the Underdog®
Ten years ago, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith wrote a now seminal bestseller called “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” that explained why smart, educated, accomplished people often hit the wall when trying to move ahead. Each of us has our formula for success. And if we’ve reached a position of leadership in our companies, odds are, that formula has worked. Still, we all reach a point where whatever was working for us, just isn’t anymore.
Advertising agencies work like that too. Same goes for marketing agencies, media agencies, design firms, Fortune 500 companies, restaurants – you name it. At some point, what was new, vibrant and exciting becomes old, tired and uninspiring. Not bad. Just nothing that lights anybody up.
Looking back over years of New Year’s resolutions and January goals lists, I realize now that in many cases, the lists look very similar. Sometimes because I was trying to replicate prior success. Sometimes because the goals I set the previous year were never met. Some were overly ambitious. Some unrealistic. But more often, the goals I failed to meet were things I wasn’t as committed to as I’d thought.
With that in mind, this year, my first New Year’s Resolution was to be thoughtful and intentional about the 2018 goals I set for the agency knowing different, better results will only come with different, smarter thinking. These resolutions require attitudinal changes, financial changes and in the case of our agency workspace, massive architectural changes. But they are all changes rich with reward. If that sounds like something your company could benefit from, I invite you to join us for a year of thinking differently.
TAKE AN HONEST LOOK AT YOUR WEAKNESSES AND ADDRESS THEM
Every company has strengths and weaknesses. But too often we focus on what gets us ahead rather than what’s holding us back. This is the year to get out the magnifying glass and really look at where you’re coming up short. Do you need to add staff? Change out someone who’s not really working? Is it time to update work systems? Improve communication inside the company and out? How’s your infrastructure? With new cuts to the corporate tax rate in place for 2018, companies should have better operating capital than they did in recent years which makes this the perfect time to address any cracks in the foundation.
LOOK FOR GREATNESS IN UNEXPECTED PLACES
Some would say this is a poor goal because it’s difficult, if not impossible to measure. While that may be true, it doesn’t make this one any less important. Looking for greatness in unexpected places offers incredible potential for growth. But it requires leaders to do something many aren’t very good at – be a learner, not a knower. You’re paid a lot of money to be the smartest voice in the room. But that doesn’t mean you should be the only voice in the room. Listen to what your team has to say even when you disagree. Even when it sounds crazy. Ask questions and be genuinely open to the answers you get. Make “what if?” and “why not?” part of your vernacular. In the most authentic way possible, question everything – and see what happens.
GIVE JUNIORS A CHALLENGE THAT LETS THEM RISE TO THE OCCASION
It’s easy to complain about Millennials. In many ways, they’ve gotten a bad rap and been overgeneralized at every turn for being self-centered, unaware, lazy and a dozen more descriptions that are equally wrong. The Millennials I’ve met do think differently, but that’s something we should embrace, not be afraid of. This generation has a big heart. And rather than criticizing them for voicing an immediate want to change the world, perhaps we’d be better served as leaders by giving them the framework and support to make a run at it. Young people clearly need to understand the value of learning their craft, what we called “paying our dues.” But as leaders, we need to understand their distillation of the craft may also solve problems and open doors in ways we never imagined.
FIND UNIQUE WAYS TO MAKE SURE EVERY CLIENT KNOWS YOU VALUE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM
Note, I said relationship, not business. Years ago, the President of a successful, billion-dollar agency told me, “accounts are never really won, or lost on creative, or media plans, or even strategy. They’re won and lost on relationships.” For the most part, I believe that. The things that hold together our closest bonds – focused attention, trust, honesty, thoughtfulness, selflessness – are the same things that connect us to our clients. But how often do we really focus on those things regarding our business relationships? When was the last time you did something thoughtful for your clients just because? Whatever the answer, we could certainly do it more.
BUILD A SPACE THAT FOSTERS COLLABORATION
This year, we are gutting the agency and rebuilding to create an open office concept meant to encourage interaction, foster organic collaboration and create better, deeper relationships both with our clients and with each other. Our goal is to literally and figuratively break down the walls to make LOOMIS a comfortable, engaging place to work, think and create. Even if you can’t completely recreate your space, what can you do to accomplish the same thing?
LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES THAT LET PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO BEST
If you want to know where you are as a company, ask your staff what percentage of the day they get to do what they do best? We asked that question several years ago and were shocked at how low the number was. It wasn’t that people were miserable, or unproductive. They just weren’t spending as much time as they would have liked doing what lit them up. As Jim Collins famously pointed out in his book “Good to Great,” the first objective to building a great company is getting all the right people on the bus. The second, is getting them all in the right seats. There are 100 reasons why companies can’t custom fit every job to the person doing it. But what if we did? What would it look like to give every person in your company 2-3 more hours a day to do what they do best?
LEAVE THE WORLD BETTER THAN WE FOUND IT
We are the problem solvers. Or, as TBWA\Chiat\Day put it so beautifully in their “Think Different” spot for Apple, the ones crazy enough to think we can change the world. There’s no question in my mind that if I put any marketing or advertising problem in front of your team or mine and gave them a month to come up with smart, effective solutions, they could. So imagine what they could do if we framed a real problem like poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, racial inequality, or human trafficking and turned them loose for a year? Is there any part of you that believes we couldn’t make a difference? We don’t have to change the whole world. But there’s no reason we can’t leave our corner of it dramatically better than we found it.
Here’s to a productive, happy, transformative year!
MIKE SULLIVAN is the President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. For more about challenger branding, subscribe to our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog
We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.