Small Agencies

How to Start a Great Small Agency - With Grit

By Ad Age Staff Published on .

When it comes to launching, new agencies face a lot of challenges. To deal with the many opportunities and obstacles confronting small shops starting out, then-Publicis New York Chairman Linda Kaplan Thaler, opening the 2015 Ad Age Small Agency Conference, suggested the main thing agencies need to be able to do is "bend like bamboo."

"Don't waste your time having a five-year plan or maybe even a three-year plan, because the world is spinning too quickly," said Ms. Kaplan Thaler, who founded Kaplan Thaler Group in 1997. She also cowrote a book with Robin Koval, "Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Can Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary."

Ms. Kaplan Thaler grew up as a middle-class girl from the Bronx. She began her career in advertising when she was 28. And then she started her own agency and grew it over 17 years until she sold it to Publicis New York. She calls her life a kind of a rags-to-riches story.

In her book, she debunks the common perception that you have to be incredibly talented or brilliant to succeed, citing research showing that virtually all successful people were "normal" growing up. They didn't have the "it" factor, but they did have the grit factor, she says. "Many make the assumption that you have to have brilliant creative juices. It helps, but it's not everything. Very few make it to the top. The ones who do have sweat equity."

Looking for a partner willing to sweat for you? Turn to LookBook to find the next great small agency.

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