Experimenting with chemicals

26 Sep

What causes companies to implode?Implosion-Explosion-Climax2

I remember watching Vancouver hotshop BBDO die an agonizing death a dozen years ago. They tried everything to save it. Brought in the big money suits, the superstar creatives, the American creative directors. The place was a pit of poison. It went from being one of the top 3 agencies in town, to no longer existing within 3 years. Corpses everywhere.

In 2001, Go Direct Marketing was Vancouver’s premier DM agency when Virginia Greene sold it to JWT. There were 40 employees at its peak around 2003 and I don’t know anyone who worked there – back me up ex-Go Directors! – who didn’t feel it was the best advertising environment they had ever worked in.Virginia Greene_2007

By 2008, Virginia long gone, there were 6 employees.

How does this happen? Everyone has a theory, from financial pressures, to inability to adapt to a changing environment, to salty leadership. Here’s mine: chemistry.

A great leader like Virginia Greene can’t create something special like Go Direct unless she tinkers with getting the chemistry right. It’s a tricky game. Every new hire has the potential to be the catalyst that sets off a negative chain reaction. Loss of business, loss of key staff, shifts in culture.

We’ve brought in 4 new people to Copeland over the past 6 weeks. It took me 4 months to hire a Production Manager; I interviewed 16 Account Co-ordinators for one position. I took forever to pull the trigger on these, being mindful of the points just mentioned.

Finding the right fit requires you be a bit of a mad scientist, experimenting in your mind with future interactions between new staff and clients, new staff and existing staff, new staff and management. I subscribe to the practice of hire slow, sack fast.

I used to think hiring the most qualified person was all it was about. Now I know that’s only half the equation. The parts have got to bind together.


6 Responses to “Experimenting with chemicals”

  1. amy September 26, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Pit of poison… salty leadership… hire slow sack fast… Doug you were born to be a writer! Love this piece.

  2. Tamara Clarke September 26, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Hallelujah! Amen.

  3. dougbrowncreative September 26, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

    Amy, I’m suddenly at a loss for words. THANK YOU.

  4. splee September 28, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    spot on, doug.
    i used to place competence over character.
    age has taught me otherwise.

  5. jasonfinnerty September 28, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Hire attitude, train aptitude.

    you can show someone HOW to do a job – they have to WANT to do it all on their own.

  6. Clare September 29, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    Doug – such simple sentiments but so often forgotten – especially in our world of advertising.
    Loving the blog!

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