Not For Sale. Now Or Ever

Today, somewhere in America, an agency is being born. Whether you’re an enterprising individual or a group of complementary talents opening your doors for the first time, I’d like to share with you one hope I have for your future.

I hope you remain, as you are today, fiercely independent.

If you’re fiercely independent, you will build an agency that stays true to the reason you started your own shop in the first place—which is, hopefully, to do better work for your clients. Fiercely independent, you will always be free from shareholders, Wall Street and other distractions that put clients and the work second. (Have you ever seen an agency’s work get better after they’ve sold to a holding company?)

With your clients as your primary focus, you’ll approach the relationship from a different perspective. You’ll be free to make decisions based on what’s right for your client, not on what impact those decisions will ultimately have on your quarterly numbers.

If you’re fiercely independent, you won’t constantly be trimming staff to maintain an arbitrary percentage to overall SG&A that your parent has established. You won’t find yourself eliminating bonuses or freezing salaries. You won’t constantly be subject to consolidation within a network or to a takeover by an even bigger network—or, worse, dissolved into another agency altogether, like D’Arcy or Bates.

Knowing that your ownership today is your ownership tomorrow creates a stable environment. And a stable environment breeds loyal employees and lower turnover, resulting in continuity and consistency in agency service and creative output. With an average (yes, I said average) tenure of more than 12 years for our 34 brand management and creative leaders, our clients live the benefits of that stability every day.

If you’re fiercely independent, you have the freedom to grow because you choose to, not because someone says you have to. Inherent in that freedom is the ability to grow in the manner you choose as well. Our goal has never been about size. It’s been about potential—the potential to make a difference in our client’s business, the opportunity to explore and nurture creative ideas. With a client list that comprises billings as small as $500,000 and as large as $350 million, we are free to accept any assignment that our people have a passion for. Striving to be the best agency in America, not the biggest, is a goal that has served us well, and one you’re welcome to embrace as your own.

If you’re fiercely independent, you can choose to politely decline to participate when one of your clients, for whatever reason, decides to put its business in review. As a non-independent, you don’t often have that choice. (Remember those numbers you have to deliver?) Out of respect for our people and the work our people have done, we never participate in a non-mandated review. Are we unusual? Yes. Quirky? Perhaps. Is it culturally ingrained? Absolutely. But one thing it definitely is not is capricious. It is a well-thought-through, all-consequences-considered, non-negotiable tenet that has served this agency and everyone who works here well for more than 28 years. Focus your energy and your enthusiasm on your ongoing client relationships and future prospects. It’s time better spent.

If you’re fiercely independent, you will always know who you are and what you stand for. You will build a strong culture that will endure over time. You will never wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You will know.

Starting today, you are an independent. I hope you remain fiercely that way.