Small Agency Conference and Awards

If I knew then what I know now ... I'd find the forest through the trees

By Published on .

Credit: iStock

If I knew then what I know now is a series of bylines from small agency executives about the lessons they learned in building their shops.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have considered the opposite of everything I knew to be true.

Running a company is a humbling experience and there have been many lessons learned since starting Frank Collective. The most surprising are the ones that turned out to be counter-intuitive, proving the adage "you don't know what you don't know." But learning them and living them has been crucial to our success. Here's my best advice based on my experience

Give away your job sooner and more often

When you're starting your own company, you're focused on every detail. Everything is important. You also know the way things need to be done and how to do them. However, as we grew, I found it hard to delegate and kept too much on my own plate. That minimized my ability to do the one thing I couldn't delegate—lead and grow the company. Once we invested in key hires and creating clear paths for the advancement of our existing staff, I had the headspace to think about the universal success of the company rather than just any one project. You become a more effective leader when you free up intellectual capital to see the forest for the trees. As a founder, you have to protect your bandwidth to ensure the company's success.

Don't fear the reaper

It's not a fun topic, but not every hire turns out to be the right fit. At some point you will have to let someone go. No one relishes it, but if you have to do it, it's best to handle it systematically. You may say to yourself, "But maybe it will get better?" I've made this mistake. If all the guidance and reminders aren't sticking, it's not going to get better. You should be able to evaluate that in 30 days. Giving endless opportunities or overlooking someone's failings is not only a hit to the bottom line, but it's also a hit to the client relationship and the team dynamic. If the weakest link doesn't have a shot at strengthening, cut the link. Your team will thank you and you can invest in better talent.

Take more vacation days

I would have cut myself a break by taking more breaks. As a founder, it feels impossible at times to take time off. But if you don't, you're only giving a fraction of yourself. Taking a lunch break is not going to sink the company. Working remotely and taking a half day on Friday can help you lean into your weekend time more easily. Decide ahead of time what the reasons would be for canceling a scheduled vacation. Consider a planned sabbatical for at least a month sometime during your tenure. You need to step away in order to get perspective. We are a very team oriented group so at the time it felt somewhat selfish for me to take that break. But being a little selfish allowed me to be a stronger leader, empower my team and keep my sanity.

Jiffy Iuen is founder and CEO of Frank Collective

To sign up for the Ad Age tenth annual Small Agency Conference & Awards, to be held in July in New Orleans, go here.

Most Popular