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Are We There Yet?

Posted on February 13, 2012 and read 2,338 times

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pierno Are We There Yet?Adam Pierno
Creative Director
Partners + Napier, Atlanta

Here’s where we are as an industry: 85% of agencies have no idea how to predict where their income will come from in two years. The leadership at most agencies wouldn’t put money on which current clients might leave, or why. They are even hazy on which services will be bringing in revenue, at what margin, or even if some of those services will still be in demand in the not-too-distant future.

Think I’m being too aggressive here?

Take notes on what you are doing on the first of any month, then compare that to your timesheets at the end of the month. Of course I made up the percentage, but 85% may actually be conservative. And the challenge is that the agency wants to put together plans for growth and retention of employees, and forecasting new business and organic revenue growth.

Now I ask you, where do you want to be in two years? Yes, it’s an annoying interview question. But think about it. Do you have a plan for your career, for the type of work you want to be doing, at the type of shop, for a certain kind of client? I’m guessing not. Stop what you’re doing and put some thought into it now. Write it down. It doesn’t have to be a formal write up, just some bullets. Sounds basic, but you don’t know five people who actually do this. I’m writing this post because it occurred to me this week during our agency planning period that I don’t do it.

Look at it every time you add something to your book. Did that work move you closer to your goal? Did it move you further away? Do the goals still make sense? If not, get in there and update them. You may have started your list wanting to do tons of broadcast for fashion and retail brands, but 18 months later you’ve been working on tablet experiences and your original goals don’t mean anything. Writing it down and re-reading the list will force you to think it over. Is this really what I wanted? Is it still what I want?

Putting together a personal list of priorities doesn’t only apply to your own contributions. Your career isn’t defined strictly by your own output (for better or worse). It is shaped by lots of factors, some out of your control. So, look at your list when your agency wins a new client. Or loses one. Or reorganizes. Or makes an acquisition. Are these things lined up with your goals? Do you see a way that this action by your leadership will get you closer to the kind of work you want to be doing?

Sometimes, we forget that we have choices. You definitely know an Art Director who complains about their job, but has been there forever. I’m not advocating jumping jobs every six months. That’s not going to get you any closer to your goals. But people should certainly be aware of their options. If you don’t like the decisions your boss makes, or your boss’ boss, or on up through the food chain, you don’t have to stay there. But don’t just disagree on reflex. Think about the decision, ask yourself questions about it, and try to figure out how it applies to the goals and direction you’ve put in writing.

One of your first thoughts to this idea if you’re opposed, is – how can I try to predict the unpredictable? Why write down goals for things like target clients that are far outside my control? Sure, I want to do lots of things in the mobile space, but I can’t make clients do that stuff. But here’s the thing: ask to see your agency plan. If you are allowed to, look specifically at how the people you deem as in control of these decisions are making them. Try not to get discouraged when you get to slide 64 of vague bullets. If you can hang in there, and if you still believe that this agency will even be in business in five years, try to find your personal line item. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

Not charting this course for myself, and not scrutinizing the planning of the agencies that employed me, has cost me time and income. I am willing to bet you have suffered the same losses.

I’m pretty lucky to work for an agency that not only does a thorough job of planning toward a specific set of goals, but communicating them to the staff very openly. They alert us when these goals have been met, when they’ve changed or even when we’ve missed something. We’re encouraged to ask tough questions. As part of the planning, we’re required to put together our own goals that relate to the plans for our team, our clients and the overall agency; as well as our own growth. The very list I’ve been talking about.

I only wish I would have started doing it ten years sooner.

  • Alexander Patterson

    This is a lightning bolt to me. Incredibly obvious but absolutely true. Brace yourself, but remain focused.




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