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    July 27, 2008


    Jen Neumann

    Wow. How true, how true. I went from VP of Mktg for non-profits to owning my own ad agency - a "boutique ad agency" if you will, and these are things I struggle with every day. And the creative partner monologue about the sensuality of the font? Um, I'm not even going to show that to my biz partner because she will laugh and point her finger at me.

    I am going to take this all to heart and make sure that as our little agency grows we manage to teach these things to staff. It's not too late. I'm going to forward this to those on board now and we're going to start with ourselves.

    Thanks for putting in writing something I've never quite put my finger on - at least not in an articulate way. And that first commenter was sooo condescending.


    Great post!

    Bryan Jones

    Over the last month or so, Advergirl has become part of my required reading list. I really dig your perspective, and i really appreciate the insights that you pass along.

    I'd add a course to your degree plan detailed above:

    6. Crossing Over. Moving from a corporate Marketing Communications role to an Agency job.


    Apologies in advance for the length of this comment. Also, excuse all typos.

    This post is both positive and disturbing. Positive because it’s nice to see people honestly seeking to improve and enhance their skills. Disturbing because some of the statements indicate you may be at a shitty agency. (Note to Todd: all big agencies don’t suck at management, and all digital agencies don’t excel at it.) Professional development has always been—and will continue to be—a two-way street in our industry. You have to actively seek guidance and mentors. Conversely, agency management must show real commitment to the professional development of its staff. Being super busy never has been a good excuse, although it’s often used. If your agency is using it as an excuse, take a close look. Is it really true, or are they simply neglecting the responsibilities because they can’t teach? If it’s true, work with management to find ways to find the time—again, they should be committed to development, so your proactive nature shouldn’t be viewed with negativity. If they can’t teach, get the hell out asap.

    Not too sure about the feasibility of creating an AgencyU. But only because all agencies are so different (and agencies within different disciplines operate via different business models). It should be the responsibility of your agency leaders to create an AgencyU for the staff.

    Additionally, all good agencies have budgetary allocations for professional development. You should have asked about it during the interview process. But it’s not too late to inquire now. Most local universities have courses and seminars to help. Additionally, there are seminars through organizations like 4As and AAF (and your local ad clubs and organizations). You should proactively try to find some and present them to your leaders.

    First, I’m not going to directly address the “Taking Notes” query, but only because I’m super busy right now. Plus, it really demands a full post, if not a full AgencyU course.

    Regarding “Tracking Time,” I must say again that this inquiry is disturbing. I’ve been insisting lately that the next big idea in our industry will come from the accounting department. I don’t mean account management, but rather, the money folks. Someone has to find a way to make everything we do profitable (and do it legally, versus cooking the books). Anyway, I find your inquiry disturbing because it’s the responsibility—perhaps among the top five responsibilities—of your agency leaders to clearly define this for you. If you’re unclear about it, your leaders are failing you—and they’re potentially getting the entire shop in financial trouble. Things will ultimately vary from agency to agency—and even by account and role—based on your shop’s compensation structure (e.g., fee versus retainer, etc.). It gets tricky, especially for creatives. For example, if you’re in the shower coming up with ideas for a project, in my shop, that’s billable. If you’re seeing a movie for creative inspiration or reading the latest book on planning, well, it varies based on the agency’s financial agreements with each client. Again, this really must be specifically defined for you by your boss, and probably the CFO of the shop. If you do not have at least a casual relationship with accounting people in your shop, and you’re in a managerial role (regardless of your department), you and your shop are probably in trouble. If you’re moving up the corporate ladder, make it a goal to ask your supervisors to explain how your shop makes money—and start developing relationships with the accounting people with the same end goal in mind. This directive is for creatives too!

    Now, in regards to the specifics of filling out timesheets, I have a few comments.

    From the leadership side, every effort should be made to create timesheet processes that are clear, simple and efficient for the workers. Don’t expect people to regularly and correctly submit timesheets if the process is complicated and stupid. If you have to ask if your current system is complicated and stupid, it probably is. Additionally, it helps if the leaders are open with the workers about the agency’s finances. If people understand how the place makes money, and they see how the agency is doing financially (by quarter even), they will be more inclined to deal with their timesheets correctly. Leaders should also be very clear about when timesheets must be submitted. If certain workers are consistently negligent despite all your explanations and directions, and it’s adversely affecting the agency profits, those certain workers should be dealt with fast and professionally (fired, if necessary). Of course, leaders should lead by example and deal with their own timesheets properly too.

    From the worker side, you must submit timesheets promptly and accurately per your agency’s guidelines. If you don’t or can’t, you really need to find another career. Timesheets are not yet going away, and it’s part of being a professional. You should get in the habit of filling them out daily. If you do it daily, it will never take more than 3-5 minutes, and it will be accurate. If you wait until the end of the week, it will take much longer, and you’ll likely fuck things up. I can’t remember what I did yesterday, and I don’t expect you to be able to remember either. Show professional discipline. When confronted by a consistently neglectful worker, here’s what I tell them: “Think of yourself as a freelancer. As a freelancer, it’s imperative that you promptly submit an accurate invoice in order to get paid. If you can’t figure out how to promptly and accurately submit your timesheet at our agency, you will ultimately find yourself becoming a freelancer.” I’ve only had to make such a statement a few times over the years, incidentally.

    As previously mentioned, professional development is a two-way street. There are easy things you can do to develop yourself. I noticed this blog’s sidebar features lots of books. None of them are management related. Why is that? Books are a great source of insights—plus, you can get them on tapes, CDs, digitally, etc., so you can “read” while commuting, eating lunch, exercising, etc.

    HighJive’s DIY AgencyU: Open to all and totally FREE—except like most colleges, there are books and materials fees (but maybe your shop will foot the bills, so ask). Some books are out-of-print, but are still relevant and available via online booksellers or abebooks.com. Also, consider this the freshman-level course—visitors can probably supplement with more titles and ideas.


    First, Break All The Rules
    By Marcus Buckingham

    How to Become a Great Boss
    By Jeffrey Fox

    All I Really Needed To Know In Business I Learned At Microsoft
    By Julie Bick

    Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge
    By Geoffrey Bellman

    Difficult Conversations
    By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher

    By Tom Peters

    The First 90 Days
    By Michael Watkins
    (For leaders moving into new agencies)


    Creative Management
    By Wm. A. Marsteller

    The Simple Art of Greatness
    By James X. Mullen

    The Art of Client Service
    By Robert Solomon

    Advertising Agency Management
    By Jay McNamara

    Creative People at Work
    By Edward Buxton

    Advertising’s Benevolent Dictators
    By Bart Cummings


    Beyond Race and Gender
    By R. Roosevelt Thomas

    By Lawrence Otis Graham

    Managing Generation X
    By Bruce Tulgan

    Managing Generation Y
    By Carolyn A. Martin and Bruce Tulgan

    Beyond Generation X
    By Claire Raines

    The Xers & The Boomers
    By Claire Raines and Jim Hunt

    In a Different Voice
    By Carol Gilligan


    Working at Warp Speed
    By Barry Flicker

    Getting Things Done
    By Edwin C. Bliss


    Enroll in a Toni Louw Seminar

    Never let ‘em see you sweat
    By Phil Slott

    Life’s A Pitch
    By Don Peppers

    How to Not Come Second
    By David Kean

    How to Become a Rainmaker
    By Jeffrey Fox

    I Can See You Naked
    By Ron Hoff

    Again, I apologize for the length of this comment. Hope some of this was helpful.

    michelle marts

    It's called Second Wind - a network of small to mid-sized agencies and they teach you how to be an ad agency ;) http://www.secondwindonline.com/


    The first point is the most important, I think.

    I grew up in the Agency biz only to go to the Internet world later on. Suddenly I'm being managed by people who actually know how to manage people. It was so cute how they wanted to help me grow in my career and have weekly one-on-ones and discuss my "areas of opportunity." Then I went to another Internet company and worked for a guy who grew up in the agency world too. The sudden return to non-management management bullshit was very jarring - but at least I understood where it came from.

    Honestly, if anyone from a big agency is listening...YOU GUYS SUCK AT MANAGEMENT!!! It could save you soooo much time, improve productivity, retention, etc. It's not a big investment...really.

    Liz McFadden

    I laughed so hard when I read this post. As a former big-agency person, now the owner and president of a boutique ad agency, all this is SO true. Hey, why not an AgencyU? Schools exist for our friends the Creatives.

    Kevin Amter

    Great post. I found it very true and something that even the most seasoned Vet needs help with.

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