Because when the starting-an-agency dust settles, you will turn
to every single person you've ever met -- even if it's just in the
Rolodex in your head. For new business. For new hires. For a
friend. For a mentor. And when you need those people, you will hope
you weren't an asshole. Here's how to avoid that.
Start much earlier
The first step to not being an asshole is to start long before
you ever had the idea to open an agency.
Like in your early 20's. Surely then you're not expecting to
ever start your own agency. You're too concerned with not screwing
up on the accounts and the briefs you're hustling on at the moment.
But those people are the people you'll need later.
If I had known how much I'd end up relying on that network of
people, I would have maxed out every single second with the clients
and the colleagues in those early days. Ask questions. Be present.
Make eye contact. Show up clean and clear. You're planting seeds
for your future.
Your agency started the day you entered the business whether you
know it or not.
Keep up with everybody
People know when you're only hitting them up because you need
The next step to not being an asshole is to stay in touch. Say
hi. Comment on their Instagram posts. Ask them how they're doing at
their new gig. Get coffee.
The worst feeling is hitting someone up knowing you didn't keep
up and now you need them. It's like a smell lingering over the
email or the text; an unspoken vibe of phoniness that you both know
Although it's not fashionable at the moment to quote Kanye West,
I refer you to this pre-MAGA hat lyric: "Real friends, how many of
Listen and ask questions
So what does it mean to not be an asshole?
It means to think about every single person you meet as someone
with a valuable, interesting and unique story of their own to tell
The anti-asshole knows other people are more important than
You should go into every conversation as if you're "Fresh Air"
host Terry Gross: listen more than you talk. Take more time
crafting the questions you ask than focusing on the statements you
make in a meeting or conversation. You'll make a much better
impression on the people you meet, and if you keep up with them
over the years they may even start to like and trust you. Which is
good, because you need people.
Matthew Gardner is co-founder of Highfield, a creative
agency located in New York
Are you a small agency leader with a tale to tell in
hindsight about your founding? Contact Judy Pollack at
[email protected]. To sign up for the Ad Age tenth annual Small
Agency Conference & Awards, to be held in July in New Orleans,