Taan – my worldwide board of directors

— by John McCallum, Levy McCallum, Glasgow, Scotland
As boardrooms go ours is actually quite small, it has an oval, glass table that can seat 6 comfortably, maybe 8 at a squeeze, that’s not a problem for us as our board only has three people on it.  A three person board could be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve got 50 non-executive ‘directors’ who I meet with twice a year and speak with regularly in between times. Even better none of them or on my payroll or claim a penny in expenses from me.
My 50 ‘non-execs’ aren’t literally directors of my agency, they are in fact directors of their own. They have first hand experience of running an agency, of the challenges, the pitfalls and the opportunities that brings. As none of them are in my market we don’t compete for clients or talent, so they offer advice and experience without fear of harming their agencies by helping mine. The real value for me though, is that they bring an international perspective to my local challenges. That international perspective is, I believe, something that money simply can’t buy.
One of the surprising things you learn through membership of Taan Worldwide is just how much we all have in common. The issues I face running an agency in Glasgow are surprisingly similar to those faced by a similar sized agency in Barcelona, Singapore or Montreal. As we all come from different cultures and operate in different economies, so how we address the challenges we face differs too. With the commonality of our industry our cultural differences are in fact our greatest strengths.
I took copious notes as my Brazilian ‘non-exec’ explained how he’d successfully reorganised the various departments in his agency. He further explained the inspiration for this change, and the blueprint he followed, came from an Australian member agency several years before. I’ve learned how agencies are embracing Neuromarketing to shape brand behaviour in Romania and how virtual reality helps sell beer in Holland. Solving each other’s problems and answering our questions takes up a good percentage of our meetings, often these conversations continue over dinner and well into the evening. Ironically it’s failures that you learn most from. The mistakes agencies made, the things that, with hindsight, they’d do differently. Whether that’s managing staff, helping clients, finding suppliers or planning for the future, one of my ‘non-execs’ has experienced it.
Without the international element to Taan I’d be less effective. It’s the pooling of knowledge from across the world that provides the most valuable insights. We’re an agency working with clients almost all of who are headquartered locally, most are only working in the UK market. There’s not always an obvious demand from clients for international reach. Yet, time and again, it’s a colleague from Atlanta, or New York or Belgium that’s provided the solution to whatever business challenge we face this month.
Want to read more about “Why Taan?” – click here