CEO in the City - Saxum


CEO in the City

In August, I took a sabbatical of sorts from Saxum, the agency I founded 13 years ago, and moved to New York with my wife and two young boys. We rented an apartment and I set out to explore the city.

Twenty-four meetings later, eight of which were with New York agency heads, I noticed some common themes about our industry and what’s on the horizon.

Don’t be the Hero
The job of an agency CEO is to lead. It is a pretty straightforward proposition. So why do so many agency leaders, particularly in smaller firms, spend their time playing the role of hero for their teams and clients? You cannot grow a team if you are constantly saving the day. The less experienced me didn’t understand this and if things had not changed a number of years ago, my New York experience would never have happened.

The Formula to Success/Failure
I found that Smart People + Intentional Team Collaboration + Strategy + New Ideas + Videos/Pictures and Stories = A Guaranteed Formula for Agency Growth.

On the flip side, Too Many Words + Poor Listening Skills + Lack of Understanding of Platforms + Hero Client Management + Tolerance for Mediocre Contributions = A Guaranteed Formula for Agency Failure. 

The Power of Mobile
It only takes one trip on the New York City Subway or a glance around the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel to see the power of mobile is where engagement now livesEngagement is happening through social platforms and brands are working very hard to add value to people’s lives without pitching products or services. The sale happens when decision-makers enter a zone of trust and engagement. One-off transactions will continue to decline.

Working Spaces
Saxum is about to move into a new space in Oklahoma City so it was important to me to observe how work is getting done in the offices of agencies and clients alike. Not surprising, co-working spaces embody the millennial ideals for getting work done – open collaboration, curated amenities and a mixture of formal and informal, social and isolated spaces. The walls of yesterday’s agency are quickly falling as we usher in an era of teamwork to drive results.

CEO Insights
Each agency CEO I met with talks about the business differently, but there were some common themes that I took note:

  1. As a general statement, the CMO seems to be gaining more control and influence –certainly at the expense of CCOs. Maybe it is time for everyone just to get on-board with this?
  2. Procurement presents an opportunity for smaller agencies with lower cost structures. See, procurement isn’t all bad.
  3. Ideas win every time. Especially ideas built around engagement and away from impressions. Clients pay us for our ideas!

My time in New York was invigorating. I observed the latest trends, asked a ton of questions and reflected on my own leadership style. As I take these lessons back to Saxum, one final lesson seems tantamount; keep training and building up the team.


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