What a Small Shop Should Expect After Being Named Agency of the Year

Rockfish CEO: Agency Experienced (Positive) Growing Pains

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Kenny Tomlin
Kenny Tomlin
"Will Ad Age notice a 3-year-old interactive agency based in Arkansas?"

That was the question that crossed my mind last spring as the application for Small Agency of the Year sat on my desk, mixed in a stack of RFPs, resumes and reports. We were confident of our mettle, but if I'm honest, I wondered if it was worth my time.

Since September, when the award was announced, our organization has undergone significant growth, and we've learned a ton about what it means to be recognized for our creativity and innovation.

So, to the next winner, here's a quick run-through of what to expect.

Small Agency Awards
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First, you will be proud. It's incredibly satisfying to be recognized for your hard work, and the team will feel energized and motivated to be part of your workplace.

Second, people with exceptional talent want to work for exceptional companies, and simply put, recognition by Ad Age creates awareness that you have such a company. In the last few months, we've added over 30 people to our team. That may sound like a drop in the hat for some of the big shops in the industry, but for a smaller shop like us, with just a few more than 80 employees in total, that's a huge increase in headcount.

And it's not just about the number of heads -- it's about what's in them. The power of recognition can influence the very best talent to relocate, in our case, from Arizona, Washington, New York, Minneapolis and many other places to what otherwise is often a tough sell: Arkansas. (If you've never been, despite the perceptions, it really is a beautifully scenic and active place to live.)

Recognition also makes the phone ring.

No, money does not begin to fall from the sky when the award is announced; you still have to earn the business. But you can bet that you will be contacted by marketers who otherwise would not have bothered.

The next Small Agency of the Year will quickly have to figure out how to manage a significant increase of RFPs without taking too much time away from current client work. You might find yourself turning business away. You'll have a very busy HR executive, you will be constantly reevaluating your floor plan to figure out how to get another body into your space, and you will be taking calls from the press and asked to speak at industry events.

Naturally these are the types of growing pains that any agency would love to have because they represent opportunity.

In addition to new clients and new staff, Rockfish also had the recent honor of being ranked third on the Ad Age Agency A-List, another fortunate accolade that we feel recognizes our continued hard work in 2009.

The Small Agency Award accelerated our growth, pushed us to excel and provided further motivation for our diligent ideal to be a leading and innovative full-service digital agency. And to think I almost skipped filling out the application!

Kenny Tomlin is CEO of Rockfish Interactive, Rogers, Ark.
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