Don't Get Too Caught Up in Your Agency's Future

Recognize What You Have Right in Front of You

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If you're anything like me, the envisioning of your agency's future is never-ending. I'm in a nearly constant state of looking ahead, planning for who we will be, what we will do and where we will go. How could I not? When you're in the business of ideas, there's always another light bulb around the corner, and you need to have at least one eye on the future in order to see it coming.

But having tunnel vision on "what's next" poses some substantial risks for the present -- specifically, missed opportunities and stunted growth for your agency. This is something I've struggled with lately. Some days, I would love nothing more than to rush the process of becoming the agency we want to be. I'm tempted to set aggressive agency-branding objectives, new-biz goals and talent-recruitment targets, and then push the team to deliver on them. But these goals would likely be unrealistic, burn out our amazing talent pool, cause stress-induced mistakes and missteps, and ultimately work to counteract the initial point -- to get where we want to go, but faster.

So at the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, I invite us all to pause and acknowledge who we are today as a very important moment in our individual journeys. This is harder than it sounds, trust me. Because right now, your brand -- like mine -- could likely be more focused. Perhaps you could have more clients, better efficiency, better margins and increased recognition within the industry. But please note -- this may always be true. There will always be "more" and "better" out there. Even the biggest shops have their eyes set on something. But it's imperative to embrace this current version of your agency -- a version you've likely worked hard to achieve and can learn a lot from -- for a number of reasons.

The team at your agency -- those ambassadors who ultimately play a huge role in helping you become the agency of your dreams -- need to feel their daily efforts are recognized and appreciated. To be a champion for you, they want to know they're valued for what they're doing right now. Otherwise, they're bound to feel like nothing more than workhorses rather than taking pride and ownership in their part of the journey. It's a philosophy of mine that it's much easier to bring people along than it is to force them, and embracing -- even celebrating -- who you are as an agency now is the best springboard to becoming that next version of you.

Ann Landers once said, "Know yourself. Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful." This is another reason for -- and benefit of -- accepting who you are now. How you are viewed by outsiders -- from current and potential clients to your competitors to the media -- has an impact on if and when you become your dream agency. Take the time to know how you're perceived in the present, and factor that in to how you move forward.

And as a leader, you need to take the occasional recess from the incessant wanting to be something you're not yet. It's a self-destructive state of mind, and will make each day harder than the last until you lose sight of why you got into this industry to begin with. A very wise man once wrote, "Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting." Well said and point taken, Mr. Shakespeare.

Meredith Vaughan is president of Vladimir Jones, Colorado Springs, Colo.
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