It Takes More Than Creativity to Start an Agency

Why Someone Like Me Needs Help From the Business-Minded

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
When Xhang Creative started in 2007, it was pretty easy to navigate the waters: Grab a few clients and see what the hell we could do. Our business model was very easy to digest and I thought that it would work. It was all about radio and audio creative. Then a funny thing happened: Advertising Week. That week in September was the biggest eye-opener I could have imagined. Being in that energy and wonderful chaos showed me that there were so many dimensions that we were missing. That week, the business model changed.

I am a creative-type. I like generating ideas and figuring out how they can make an impact. I actually really like the strategic part now. I used to hate it, but with all of the new platforms out there, it has become really fun to ask a bunch of "what ifs" while going through a project. There is one piece, though, that still somewhat escapes me: the "business end" of it all. Phil Johnson and I were talking about our new internet radio/podcasting project and at the end of the conversation, he said, "Know what, Zanger? You're great at creative, but you really need a business person." He's dead on.

I do enjoy the spirit of business development but I am not what one would call a very good closer. Kelly O'Keefe, of O'Keefe Brands, and the chief architect of Radio Heard Here, once told me that, for someone like me, having a group of people, or agents, selling the product is the best thing I could do. We became familiar with Mark Lesselroth of Brenner Business Development in Syracuse, New York. In our conversations, it became pretty clear that he is fearless and clearly grasped what we were trying to achieve. We started working together mid-January and, to date, we have had four very good calls with prospects and there are plenty more on the horizon.

We're looking at expanding this roster of solid "business minds" because, for a creative person like me, it's about creating and delivering a product that can transform a brand or advertiser. The best news in having good business people is that I am continuing to learn more about this side of it all. It can't do anything but help move the needle in the right direction and build a skill set that is still emerging. It's also extremely reassuring to know that we can continue to create and focus our efforts in areas where we know we can excel for clients.

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