How to Make a Small Agency Bigger

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MARC BROWNSTEIN: Recently, thanks to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, I was fortunate to be among eight agency CEOs invited for a behind-the-scenes visit to one of the hottest shops in the country. It's a shop known for wonderful creative over the years, along with the ability to grow an agency outside of a major city that attracts powerhouse brands. I’ll let the agency remain nameless, but share the insights, as that is what’s relevant here.

All eight CEOs own agencies from a few employees to over 60. All qualify as small -- especially compared to the nearly 450 that the agency we visited has on its payroll.

Our hosts were remarkably forthcoming with their insights and went open-book with us. And what I came away with was inspiring: Small agencies CAN get to the proverbial next level by doing a few things particularly well. I also learned that Brownstein Group has a lot more in common with this much larger shop than I ever imagined.

The agency’s executive managers were smart, hard working, visionary and focused. Attributes that each of our agencies need to grow out of the “small” category.

I started my career at Ogilvy & Mather, and when I moved back to Philly, I consistently told my staff we create advertising the same way that O&M does. Only they put a few more dollars behind the ideas. I was reminded of that on my visit to this off-the-beaten-path agency. Big or small, we all create advertising the same way. The difference between them and us are the few things outlined below.

If we want to grow our agencies, we need to the following:

> Create a formal, structured marketing process that works for all of the agency’s clients. > Foster a creative culture that insists on innovation. > Be relentless, disciplined, and smart about new business.

Sounds easy, but this is how our hosts grew their agency from $4.5 million to $500 million today. I know we all do some of what they recommend in our agencies. The trick is to apply it consistently.

I, for one, am refreshed and inspired, and intend to reinvigorate my agency with what I learned. Stay tuned to "Small Agency Diary" for more about how it works...
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