There’s No Business Like Agency Business

by Andrew Eklund, Founder & CEO  — Ciceron

I’m not one to read business books. In fact, I kind of loathe them. Perhaps that’s because I’ve spent my entire career in the digital marketing and advertising business, and there’s a whole cottage industry of business books on topics like “Social Media for Business” or “Digital Transformation” written by charleton authors who themselves are barely employable tools. Suffice it to say, I’m skeptical.

Perhaps another reason for my side-eye reaction to the punditry of the industry is that there’s just no business like the advertising business. We are a strange ecosystem. In my side of the house — the digital one — we’re mashing up hardcore data nerds with media sophisticates and delightfully off-their-rockers creatives. Oh, we’re supposed to make money doing this too.

A semi-employed digital transformation or social media guru can’t write the book I want to read unless you’ve been in my saddle for more than the lifetime of an Instagram post.

So, where does a guy like me — who runs an agency, falls asleep to dancing financial spreadsheets overhead, exhausted from a day’s work of armchair psychologist, part-time rehab counselor, and pitching ideas to clients who, let’s face it, rarely really understand the problem I’m trying to solve in the first place — go?

I go to my peers — other agency owners. They’re the only ones who understand the insane life balance we’re trying to achieve. Four years ago, my business partner and I joined TAAN, one of the world’s oldest network of independent agencies, and that right there is what transformation is all about. To have the opportunity to spend countless hours a couple of times a year with other agency owners who are non-competitive is priceless.

Where else can you go to ask the following questions:

* I’m tired of writing rent checks. Should I buy my own building for the agency?

* Do you know any good HR consultants who can ensure that we are doing everything right in the age of #metoo?

* I’m worried I’m not charging properly for our services. How do you determine pricing? How do you communicate pricing changes to clients? Have you tried a performance pricing model?

* Can someone help us pitch a client in Singapore?

* Are you going to sell your agency? What do I need to do now to ensure I’m getting maximum value in the future?

* My agency culture just took a hit from a highly toxic individual. What can I do to mend relationships?

If you run an agency, you’re not going to get answers to these questions from a book or a conference or even a CEO network. There’s just something weird enough about agency business that makes our rules different. You need other agency heads to hear you out.

If you run an independent agency, you should consider joining TAAN. We’re not for everyone. If you want to join a network to see how much business you can get from the members, then we’re not for you. But if you’re interested in being the best agency head you can be, then consider joining us, sharing with us, crying with us, drinking with us (although I think I’m the only sober agency owner in the world), and put your agency on track to becoming a better agency.

Want to read more about “Why Taan?” – click here