I play in a fantasy football league with 9 other members of my family. We enjoy the trash talking. We enjoy the competition. And we enjoy winning. I recently gave my wife some advice about setting her line-up, and I realized it’s the same process I use to staff our office in advertising. So here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
Pick the best players. I know this is simplistic, but just as the best football players score the most points; the best creatives do the best work. And this is true no matter what level you’re hiring. Best junior books out of college are your long-term investments. They’ll pay quick dividends some times and long term dividends most of the time. Senior level creatives who have done great work in the past will some times do great work again in the future. They may be more consistent. But they may not be as spectacular.
Have a deep bench. Football players have bye weeks. Creatives have vacations, holidays, sick leave and creative dry spells. Having a deep bench will allow you to bring in reinforcements when you need them. And the interesting thing about advertising is you never know when you’re going to need them. You can’t look at a calendar and say, ‘oh, this week I’ll need to swap out my best player for someone else.’ You need as many really good people as possible. (As I’m writing this – I got an email that an incredibly talented ACD is leaving for another agency. Having a deep bench makes this a little less painful)
Pick your best line-up and let ’em play. Once you’ve brought in your talented people, you have to let them play. You can coach them, you can put them in the best position to succeed, but you have to let them play. You can’t bench them if they have a few bad presentations or new business pitches or weeks. You brought them into your company because you thought they were talented. Let them do their thing.
Always look for value players. Just because someone didn’t succeed at a competitor, doesn’t mean they won’t succeed under your system. I always tell a story about my first day on the job at another agency. The current CD’s told me that this art director needed to be terminated. I refused. And after 6 months in the new system he was winning awards and being promoted. I can point to 10 different stories like this one. Where someone flourished under a new system or a new team or a new partner. These team members can be the most valuable and loyal on your team. Because your need each other to succeed.
Don’t be afraid to cut big name players. Some times you just have to admit you made a mistake. You spent a lot of money on someone and it’s just not working. They’re just not performing, as you would have hoped. And sometimes its just time. We all know people who stayed in jobs way too long. And we also know people who are on our staff who would probably be doing better some place else. But we’re afraid to make the big move, have the tough conversation or rock the boat. You have to rock the boat. Believe me, its better for everyone.
If you’ve done your homework, if you’ve hired correctly, you should have a winning year. But remember – your team is a reflection of you. How well you hire is how well they’ll perform. Good luck. And may the best team win.