In this occasional series, Ad Age asked small agency chiefs what they would do differently if starting their shops today.
I didn't set out to found my own agency. I was doing freelance for clients after leaving Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer in San Francisco and relocating to Austin, Texas. I pulled in talented people to work with me, and it just evolved from there. Even though the route was unconventional, I have some advice that I think is universal.
Hog the spotlight
I was always more concerned with putting my head down and doing the work, grinding away, and less interested in promoting myself. If I'd known that I would be opening an agency one day, I would've devoted more time and energy to the latter, taking credit where it was due and making sure clients knew the impact I was having on their campaigns. It's worked out anyway, but I wish I'd been even 10 percent more aware back then of how important it was to cultivate those relationships and stop sitting in the back seat. Caveat: Don't piss off your co-workers.
I have an unusual name – it's Armenian, short for Dikran – and that was a battle for me growing up. When it came time to name my agency, I was sheepish about using it. So many of the great agencies are stamped with the founders' last names, but it felt weird to use my first name, even though I'd been operating under Diko Creative as a freelancer.
I thought about rebranding and narrowed it to one choice, but I wasn't 100 percent into it. Then I decided to embrace DIKO as the official name because it's unique. There are only a few other Dikos out there, and they're always trying to steal my Instagram handle.
Take the leap
I thought there would be so many huge startup hurdles, like hiring all the bodies, getting an office, finding the right clients. So that delayed me, and I wish I'd just jumped in sooner and accelerated the whole process. Now I understand that your people don't even have to be in the same place. Your talent pool is the whole country. And your clients won't necessarily be in your backyard. We're in Austin and our first client, Reebok, was in Boston. Another caveat: Get organized because the lack of infrastructure can trip you up and complicate things. The administrative duties aren't my favorite and they take me away from the creative work, but they have to be done.
Diko Daghlian is creative director at Austin based DIKO
Want to hear more advice about how your small agency can not just survive but thrive? Be sure to sign up for our Small Agency Conference July 17 and 18 in Marina del Rey, California. Tickets and information are available here.