What It Takes for an Agency to Thrive for Generations


 Marc Brownstein

How Long Can a Small Agency Last?

Our agency had an event last week for our staff, clients and friends in the community. The reason: to celebrate our agency’s 45th anniversary. In a year like this, we are fortunate to be celebrating such a milestone. And it gave me a pause in my hectic schedule to consider how we got here, from the time my father, Berny, opened up shop in 1964 in a rented room in a lawyer’s office.

Any owner of a small agency knows there is no easy path to succeeding over time. The best laid plans can be pushed aside by any number of significant changes, such as the departure of a senior executive, losing a big client, cash flow constraints, lack of strategic focus, etc.

There are so many highs and lows when steering an agency through the decades. Below are some of the things that we believe have been most responsible for our success:

Stand for something. From the day that Dad opened our agency, we stood for two things: creativity and integrity. Sounds obvious, but we’ve stuck to our creative roots and have made that our rudder. And we always tell it like it is by speaking the truth, doing the right thing, so we never have to look over our shoulders. And we hire people who share our values.

Treat the people who work for you with respect. We have a wonderful team of smart, talented people who work tirelessly for our agency and our clients. That deserves respect. And if you show respect, you will get it back in spades.

Have a competitive DNA. We never, ever rest on our laurels. Not after a big client win. Not after a financially successful year. Not after winning tons of awards for our work.

Give back. We believe it is our duty to give back to worthy organizations in our community. My father and I find it very hard to say no to non-profits, and it always feels good to make a positive impact in the area you do business in. And you know what happens when you help others? Yeah, you know.

Create a strong culture. People always tell us that they feel our culture when they step off of the elevator. We live our values, and that has enabled us to create an environment where ideas and people flourish. Our culture also helps us weed out the wrong people when we make the occasional bad hire.

Evolve. We began as a retail ad agency — TV, print, radio, outdoor. As we grew, we added other marketing disciplines that were ahead of their time. For example, we got into digital marketing in 1998 — long before most shops, but early enough to help clients who were ready to grow their business in new ways. Evolving your agency before you have to can assure your long-term success, as clients will stay with you longer.

Well, now it’s time for me to get back to serving our clients, so we can ensure we’ll get to celebrate our 50th in 2014.

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