Now Is Not the Time for You to Bail Out

Agency Owners Must Remain Calm in Midst of Panic

By Published on .

Peter Madden Peter Madden
The bailout news continues to be stuffed down our throats. Not because anyone in the news media cares but because we are drawn in a sickly way to gaze at our own car wreck. And the ratings will follow. You can no more stop the meltdown than you can the media barrage. As a small agency owner (or any business owner for that matter), positive leadership counts the most right now.

I'm not talking about whistling while you work. I'm talking about conveying a positive message to the people you work with -- people with families, people who I'm sure are growing increasingly uneasy about their job security.

In the end, it's about President You. You need to be the main, reliable source of information to your employees in bad times. As in branding, if you don't take the reins and define who and what your agency is in the midst of pretty damn serious news, you stand the risk of being defined by your employees. And you may not like the definition.

Look at your agency's financial picture. What is your Wall Street? How is your Fed?

It's also about more than words. What does your body language convey? While you're in the midst of creating concepts and preparing proposals, how do you act? Are you feeding off the bad news and pulling fire drills? Don't forget you're being watched like a hawk. Even the smallest sigh could result in a account executive scurrying for his blanky.

Your employees' brains are choking on the bad news from Wall Street, as they wonder about their own families, mortgages, fuel prices, and more. It's not the time to pile on. It's the time to do what Americans have always done -- strap on your freaking boots.

It all reminds me of a scene from one of my all-time favorite movies: "Big Night." In it, Secondo, an Italian immigrant (played expertly by Stanley Tucci) owns a restaurant that is failing despite brilliant cooking. He meets with his mentor, whose own restaurant is a complete success due much more to his ability to promote than his unauthentic Italian fare.

As Secondo whines and cries to his mentor about his own restaurant's failings and lack of business, as well as his need for cash, his mentor grabs him, makes fun of his whining, and ultimately yells at him "take a bite out of the ass of life!"

I love this scene because it boils down to that in the end. It is your will, your attitude, that creates success. Character is a result of innovative thinking. Innovative thinking stems from challenging situations.

So before you jump in the black hole with the media, how about stepping back? Re-assure your people that you, as their leader, have a plan, and encourage everyone to keep their eye on the ball -- not CNN -- while at work. Listen to their fears, and if they need it, calm them down. The madness of crowds is powerful -- don't get swept up because there's only one direction that the collective negative goes, and that's down.
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