No Is Negative

Erase It From Your Agency's Vocabulary

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I like pro football. Even when my team doesn't go to the playoffs, I choose another team and root for them to win. It's very interesting to watch playoff games. There is a moment in most games when one team says to themselves "we can't win" and the result is set. They lose.

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It's really not any different for a business that succeeds or fails. The equivalent for an ad agency is someone saying, "We can't." There is no doubt in my mind that the reason for success at agencies like Fallon, Crispin Porter Bogusky and Goodby Silverstein is that the term "no" is not in their vocabulary. If "no" or its equivalent is a common statement at your agency don't expect to become anything special.

I worked with a media person years ago who went to an agency that was on a meteoric rise. I asked her to stay in touch and share what she could with me about why her new agency was realizing so much success. After a month or so she emailed me a very profound story. She was given an assignment that was extremely challenging and after a week of hard work she had hit a wall. She decided that the idea could not be accomplished. She decided it had never been done because it couldn't be done. So she told her boss the bad news. In essence she said "no" to the idea. That's when she learned what was truly special about her new employer. Her boss took her into an office and explained that when anyone there is given an assignment, it is accomplished. The word "no" is not in their vocabulary. My young friend went back to work. Within another week she had solved the problem. She had done what a week earlier she believed was impossible.

I think you understand my point. I personally don't want my agency to be good or even great. I want us to be the best. Thus, my expectation is that every person in our agency will have one less word in his or her vocabulary. It is so easy to give up when you hit an obstacle, or two, or a dozen. You can talk yourself in believing a goal is impossible. Don't ever expect to do something special if your own mind is working against you.

On the other hand, let's say this story has opened your eyes to what has been keeping you from achieving your goals. If you, like my ex co-worker, decide to not be denied, you are going to do something very special. You have dreams. You have goals. But do you have the resolve to never say "no?"

A small agency that grows into one of our industry leaders doesn't know the meaning of the word "no." I plan on making sure it is one word our agency forgets.
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