Posts Tagged ‘small business’

September 3, 2017

Blog Image 12 years

“I’ve got 12 years on you … and I always will!!”

These words were emphatically spoken to a loud, mouthy, young radio salesgirl by her much wiser manager.

The mouthy sales girl was me. The manager was reminding me that she had more experience and I needed to listen. That woman has been my mentor ever since.

She found me tending bar and offered me a job in radio sales. I initially turned her down, but thankfully, she persisted. Six months later I was selling airtime and my career began. Her blunt observations, guidance, and belief in the abilities that I couldn’t see in myself made all the difference in my professional life.

No matter if you’re fresh out of school or you’ve been working for years, find someone with more experience, with a different perspective and a different approach, to be your mentor. This person doesn’t even have to be in your chosen field. They need to be someone you admire and can cultivate a relationship with.

Take them to coffee or lunch. Ask them for their insight. What did they do in their career that worked for them? What were their failures? Believe me, everyone wants to share what they know. They’ll be flattered as hell you asked and you’ll learn far more than you would have ever learned in a classroom or a book.

After selling radio, I went out on my own, started a little ad agency and spent 32 plus years doing what I loved. Through it all, my mentor has never been out of reach and I owe her more than I can ever repay. I’m still loud and mouthy, but at least I know I’m not the smartest person in the room … and my life is richer for it.

Thanks, Pam.

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Chief Cook and Copy Writer

February 4, 2010

Ah….it feels good to be back. Or does it?

My sweetheart had a serious car accident. In a second, priorities shifted. But now that he’s better, reality  has shown its large ass and I’m reminded what the entrepreneurial experience is all about. After 27 years on my own, why am I still surprised how intense a day can be? It’s like the bus pulled up and everyone got off at the same stop. Clients need copy changes. Media needs to be planned.  Staff need a paycheck. In order to give them one, bills must go out. And surely, there’s a Yellow Pages Sales Rep who needs to be cursed.

In a small agency, you don’t have time to bask in gossip, awards, or winning new business. You learn to spin plates, buy time, reason quickly, stash snacks in your desk, keep beer in the fridge, teach clients to work on your time table, not theirs, and do it all with a certain amount of grace. That last part I have yet to master.

Today, I made a dent in the pile, engaged a potentially awesome new client, and planned tomorrow. I left my desk after 12 1/2 hours, numb and brain dead, but thankful that tomorrow I won’t have to answer to some ego crazed Art Director, put up with some annoying intern (no, not YOU Mags!) or a too-familiar office girl. It’s my nest and along with the stress comes the right to surround yourself with cool people who love makin’ the work. No Assholes Allowed.  It’s good to be  back!

Please…take a number!

Today…

January 15, 2010

…I watched a 60+ clients eyes glaze over as I showed him TweetDeck and explained Twitter.

…I was polite to a guy named Brad from India who called about Internet Advertising.

…I did not feel sorry for telling a deadbeat client that if he can do his own web updates, then by all means, please do.  But if he wants me to teach him how, there would be a charge.

…I did not toss the postage meter out the window when it said “inspection due”.

…I out-shocked the client who calls me and attempts to shock me with excessive swearing and vulgar, sexual overtones. I actually rather enjoyed it.

…I was patient with the client who, instead of reading what I sent to her BEFORE she called me, she read it to herself while I was on the phone with her.

…I realized I will NEVER be able to write down every thing that’s in my head.

…I counted the minutes until it’s time to load the car and go skiing for a week.

See ya’ January 25th!  I’M ON VACATION!!

Can’t ride the Harley in this weather!

Makin’ creative

January 11, 2010

We were a company of 12 at one time, and now we’re down to three, along with a team of brilliant freelancers who are at the ready. This is by my design. But every Monday morning, I look around and wonder …where’d I put that creative, anyway?

Big agencies have big teams to develop big ideas for big clients. But it’s all relative. Our small clients have much at stake: keep the doors open, sell stuff, make payroll, stay in business…just like “big” clients.  And, they expect us to deliver a solid message that brings warm bodies through the door. Maybe our role is even more vital since these small companies depend on repeat, long term customers. They battle Super-WalMart and other Big Box Stores daily. Small businesses look for their niche and a way to survive. They look to us to make their message meaningful and effective.

Example: I have a mom and pop furniture store who is open only one night a week, closed on Wednesday and Sunday, (yeah, I said closed Wednesday) and open only 8am-5pm the other days.  Yet, in spite of the way they force customers to conform to the way they do business, and with all the Big Box competition they have, they’ re still the ones to beat.  I must be a genius.

When you’re as small as we are, time is the valuable commodity. There’s not a lot of time to bounce ideas, experiment a little, write, re-write and re-write again…not a lot of time to savor the process of making the work. While I get bored and frustrated with that one (long-time) client who wants the same “show and tell”  TV, it works.

I got into the business over 27 years ago because of the creative process. I love being a real part of video projects, touching the many different aspects of making the work. But the “give and take”, “lets try this and if it doesn’t work lets try something else” days are long gone. In order to survive, we must churn out “new and different” as best we can because even in a small town, clients expect your best effort.

We’re open, but not on Wednesday or Sunday.

Only in Hooterville.

Starting the New Year Right

January 6, 2010

You can’t tell me that big agencies don’t deal with the same idiocy we deal with here. (We just wipe Pork Rind crumbs off the conference table.)Welcome to Day Three of the New Year at a little agency in the middle of nowhere but at the center of everything.

Email: How’s the web site coming? Well, we haven’t heard from you since mid-November. We need your product information and most importantly, APPROVAL on the revised proposal we sent.

We need to reshoot the open. My wife thinks my shirt makes me look like a porn star. (It doesn’t) but what’s wrong with that?

I know you handle our advertising but we let a company who specializes in web design do our new site. Uh, OK.  But they’re using the wrong logo.

We suggested adding a campaign oriented domain name to further drive their message… a natural move. Their marketing director said: Oh, No. We cant change the domain name. I’ve already placed all the yellow pages. What part of this does she not understand?

Acct Rep: They paid one of the invoices but not the other. OK, you’re mailing it to the wrong department. Send it here-we’ve told you this before. Can I fax it? No. Mail it. Can I email it? It would be quicker. No, they want a mailed invoice. Can I call him? NO, BITCH. MAIL THE BILL OR I’LL DRIVE UP AND CUT YOU.

There.  I feel better now.

Don, where are you when I need you?

End of Year Bitch Chores

December 31, 2009

You big agency guys have it made. You have “people”. Here in Hooterville, the end of every month is chaos, but the end of the year is nerve-wracking. We do our own bitch chores. Aside from the client billing that must go out (or no one gets paid), there’s the mind-numbing data to assemble for the bookkeeper  and the accountant so they can determine if we’ve made $5.67 more than we did last year. My eyes glaze over  in this endeavor and I struggle to focus.

Then there’s the paperwork from ’09 to file away and keep safe in a bunker somewhere,  in case a client might have a question like, “I thought we bought drive time in April last year”.  I open notices from the landlord and insurance assholes who explain why they are raising our rates. Decisions need to be made about a new copier and a new video camera (yes, we’re going high def here in Hooterville.)  To add to it all, my compulsive nature takes cleaning and purging to a whole new level. Offices are scoured, trips to the dumpster are made, and our office refrigerator is looking pretty nasty. Ditto the toaster oven. (Who put left over pizza in there and forgot about it???)

But, the phone’s been ringing and the January calendar is filling up. The new year looks promising for this small town agency. And for this, we are truly grateful.

Happy New Year… to you and your “people”.

Careful there, you’re not the client

November 6, 2009

He called, wanted a meeting immediately, then bulldozed his way into our office.  He insisted something needed to be done and right away. He was losing money.  No, he wasn’t the final decision maker, but  he was a damned important strategic partner and they would listen to him. He liked a spot we did for the sister company. He hated the current marketing director of the company.  She was slow, unresponsive to his requests and should be be put back into the secretarial pool or fired. He’ll put his own money in to straighten things up, by God. He’d get us a meeting with the powers that be. And on the way out he said, you might “wear a low cut top” next time we meet.

We were certainly intrigued by this prospect. What if “this” and what if “that” began to float around. It could be a nice piece of business, but I resisted the urge to do any spec work-it didn’t feel right. (It wasn’t the low cut top comment, trust me.)

Anyway, good thing we didn’t spend a lot of time prepping a pitch. After raising every kind of hell, this important “strategic partner” was told flat out by the real decision makers this was none of his concern. Yes, they loved what adchicks team did for their sister company, but they are quite satisfied with their current mediocrity.

The moral of this story:  Never count your chickens before they’re hatched.

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That’s one…

Ah, youth

September 16, 2009

I had a farewell drink with my summer intern and her friend the other night. I listened to these two 22-year old beauties chatter away when I realize just how much I really do know…and how much they still have yet to learn.

They both talked…a lot. Coming from wealthier families, they haven’t had to earn anything…yet.  And astoundingly, they admitted that.  Check Jake’s Take and his post about the Sense of Entitlement young ones have. As parents we don’t do our kids any favors by  helping them too much. 

My intern, a tall, funny, goofy, wonderful girl reminded me so much of me at that age. Insecure and enthusiastic.  The attention span of a gnat. I gave her a few good “pep talks”.  “You talk too much-SHUT UP and LISTEN! Take notes. Be on time. In the real world, you’ll get fired for that. Don’t rush through the project. Let people come to you.” You get the idea.

I have a daughter-an only child-and we’re not close. (If I say left, she’ll go right. Other moms of daughters tell me how common this is, yet it still breaks my heart.) But this intern of mine, we developed a special bond over the summer.  She respected me, listened to me (when she wasn’t talking!) and I loved having her, even if I did want to pull my hair out a couple of times. She left my office knowing more than when she started. What she does with it now is up to her.

They say advertising is a business for the young.  Fresh ideas, new perspective and all that. Maybe. But I take solace in my years of mistakes they have yet to make, mistakes that give you the wisdom and confidence to make a better choice and to trust your instincts.

That’s called experience.

images-4Baby, the stuff you’ll learn!

Small might just be the new big

June 3, 2009

It must be nice at those big agencies, I think.  To have teams of writers, planners,  executives, designers, divisions, groups, juniors, seniors, vice-presidents, CFO’s, CEO’s, COO’s, principals and the like.  But I think smaller shops have become increasingly popular in the era of the Big Dumb Agencies, as dear George Parker describes them. I have a few suspicions why:

1.  Nimble.  Because we don’t have a lot of people to get in the way of progress, we can turn on a dime for a client. They like that.

2. Loyal. Genuinely and to a fault. We need our precious clients to be successful, or else we’ll cease to exist. So we tend to act like we’re their partner.  And really, we are.

3. Honest. Maybe too much at times. The rest of my team jokes about how “blunt” I can be with a client. Hey, if their hours suck, their staff is surly, the inventory dated, or the prices too high, someone needs to tell them…might as well be a “partner”.  I care.  (See Number 2.)

4. Efficient. Time is money.  We’re small and don’t have the luxury of waxing poetic about a piece of creative for months.  We study the issues and then work hard to sell something. Isn’t that what advertising is supposed to do, after all?

5. Hungry.  We don’t eat till someone sells something. And we all know it, so we take nothing for granted.

6. Cost-conscious. Small agencies “feel the pain” of our small clients.  We have to make money, but we don’t nickle and dime a client for every breath we take on their behalf.

7. Ego-less. Well, somewhat. If you think you’re the smartest one in the group, then you can’t work in a small shop.  Arrogance just doesn’t work.  Collaboration does.

There is no corner on creativity and problem solving. The layoffs are many in big agencies, and sadly, some iconic firms are closing their doors. All the while, here in Hooterville, we are busy, enjoying the creative process, raising our families in a sweet small town, designing, writing, producing and living.  Sure, we endure the same client crap, just on a smaller scale. And true, we’re not creating the image for a big national brand where there is so much at stake, but I do believe we could have developed a better Pepsi Logo…and for a lot less money.

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Small Town Tweeting

May 13, 2009
images-4Twitter has finally made it to Hooterville
and the content is scintillating!   Just listen!
…I really wish I hated Rod Stewart more.

…man, I just got a huge craving for Chicken McNuggets…where’d that come from?

….Why hello there weekend…we meet again…and I see you are wearing your stretchy pants…well played.

…me thinks its sleepy time.

…can’t tell if my dog just farted or burped…we’ll all know in moments.

…Yard is mowed and I’m ready to chill.

….Dude! Your grilling is the shit.

Even our noon Rotary is all Twittery about Twitter.  Hey, it’s a new toy to play with when you likely should be WORKING!   I’ll play along, when I can tear myself away from PAYING WORK, because I want to understand it.  Josh Klein had some interesting thoughts on Twitter  and I was flattered that The Ad Contrarian would not only follow my Tweets, but send me an email to thank me for following him.  Hell, I’d pick up his dry cleaning.

But so far, Tweeting here in Tiny Town is mostly  used for bullshit, as you can see. It’s hard to see a bigger picture when a keyboard gives you the power to be a legend in your own mind.  Using it as email is incredibly stupid, as no one CARES if your dog farted or you hate Rod Stewart.  These people must be lonely.  There have been some worthy tweets that took me to an interesting article or video. Maybe if users were offering more viable and noteworthy information, I could find some redeeming value in it all.  I believe Adscam feels the same way…not to mention there is no way (yet) it’s gonna make any money.  Jane Sample has found a way for advertisers to use it….hmmm.  But I agree…this could fast turn into spam/telemarketing.

Follow me at adchick22 and I’ll try to be worthy of your attention. (someone else took adchick…squatter)