Train Yourself, Train Your People and Train Your Clients

Continued Education Is the Only Way to Stay Relevant

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Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland
"Stripes" is a great movie, but it is a bad example of how to properly train someone to do a job. The scene in which Bill Murray leads his buddies to the boot camp graduation and demonstrates how they completed their training themselves underscores my point. You shouldn't put your employees in the position of training themselves. They'll end up behind enemy lines crying for their mamas.

A commitment to training is a commitment of time, resources and, yes, profits. But it's an investment just like buying cellphones for your account managers. If it better serves your clients, do it.

A lack of commitment to training nurtures out-of-date thinking and executing. Look at the state of agencies today in the digital realm. So many Small Agency Diary contributors have written about this I've lost count. It's challenging the existence of agencies. It's the equivalent of when the Macintosh arrived and type houses refused to wake up and smell the coffee. Some did and survived. Most went away within a couple of years.

But it's not just revolutions that kill off those with their heads in the sand. More likely, you'll die from staleness. Like the two-decade tenured art director who really likes the way ads looked in the late '80s and doesn't want to think differently, agencies shackle themselves to their comfort zone. Perhaps the most prevalent way is by not training and nurturing employees.

Here are some of things we do:

My partner, Steve McKee, holds AMU classes once a week. AMU is short for Account Management University. In reality it encompasses evolving our planning, account management and anything else Steve can think of that will improve our capabilities and work. I've seen the fruit of this investment. Nurture the soil and you reap bigger harvests.

The creative department has a weekly creative-therapy session. This is an exploration of new work in our industry, training in concepting, design, writing and other topics that help us improve and inspire us to innovate and be citizens of the world, not just our neighborhood. Currently we have been focusing on digital and the process of maximizing the potential of creative ideas by understanding the technical process more thoroughly. If you've ever taken art classes you understand the principle of mastering one medium in order to move on to the next -- pencil to charcoal, charcoal to crayon, crayon to paint. Our digital partners are huge advocates of this education. For example, we work with Nerdery Interactive Labs in Minneapolis. They do free training seminars for their customers–a huge investment of time to improve efficiency and more importantly, quality.

We've done similar training sessions for many of our clients to help them better interface with the agency and get better work more efficiently.

My best advice to any small-agency executives is to train yourself, train your people and train your clients. Then, do it all over again. Yes, it costs time, which is money. But investigate any company that's lasted more than a decade and you'll always find a commitment to training.

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