Teamwork: the essential ingredient

I met John Robideaux of Robideaux Strategic Marketing this morning. Nick Murto and Tyler Lafferty of interactive shop Seven2 said “you have to meet John” and “he knows everybody worth knowing around here — he knows where the bodies are buried.” He didn’t show me any bodies. But what a pleasure to meet him. 

John was totally generous in telling me about his business. Which leads to the point of this post: unselfishness and teamwork are damned good values for building a business, especially in the advertising/marketing world.

You undoubtedly have your own examples. Here are a few from my past.

Wieden & Kennedy. An extreme example. Partners who would bleed for their staff. Staff who give up sleep and credit for the sake of the work, the client and and the agency. Staff that supports each other regardless of who gets the credit. To know the people who lead WK is to know why they’ve met every challenge, keep up the incredible level of their work, and enjoy more success than ever. (By the way, they’re the 2007 Adweek Global Agency of the Year.)

The Martin Agency. Another extreme example. Best known for UPS “What Can Brown Do For You?” and Geico’s gecko. But now they’re helping WalMart lift its reputation as well as its sales. This may be the greatest achievement in a long history of excellence. (Check this out.)

(UPDATE, JULY 10, 2008: Check THIS out!) 

Again, if you know the people, you know why they succeed. Sure, there’s talent. But even more, there’s generosity of spirit and effort. Some of the Martin gang have worked there for more than 30 years. They share a vision for the agency and a childlike enthusiasm for the clients and the work. Martin has created an environment of selflessness and dedication that brings its own rewards. 

Hal Riney & Partners. This agency had an incredible roster of talent. But it never had the teamwork of Wieden or Martin. Mr. Riney was a transcendent talent — perhaps the greatest of his generation. But the agency (now “Publicis & Hal Riney”) will likely never again rise to its former heights. Their original success simply was built on the monumental talent of the man and his staff. That’s not enough to sustain an organization or keep loyal clients. 

Foote, Cone & Belding/SF. Another agency that rode the greatness of a few individual talents. When I was there, the late, great Mike Koelker lifted the agency’s reputation almost single-handedly. When Mike passed away, a slew of high-priced creative directors came and left, but couldn’t replicate his success. There were a lot of great people at FCB, but many fought over credit and famously failed to work together. A slew of competing personal and departmental agendas does not an agency make. 

Magner Sanborn, Quisenberry and Seven2. Let me be the first to say I don’t know all that much about the agencies here in my new hometown, Spokane. I do know great esprit de corps when I see it. These shops have talent, which is a prerequisite. More important, the people work hard for each other. In each case, the staff gives you the feeling that anything is possible. And who can doubt it? If you’re looking for an agency, try to learn how hard the staff is willing to work to do a great job. The staff at these Spokane shops will all bleed for their clients. They deserve whatever success they’re enjoying. 

* * * 

In spite of the political leanings of most people in this industry, Ronald Reagan has the best advice: “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” A Hollywood guy, but he would have made a great adman.

9 thoughts on “Teamwork: the essential ingredient

  1. Pingback: Teamwork: the essential ingredient — Auction Gadgets and electronics on Ebay

  2. Thanks Mike.

    I in no way want to disparage the people of FCB and Riney. So many of them were great folks, and extremely talented. They were leaders in all areas of creative including pioneering talent in the digital realm. And some great account planning and research, too.

    But management did not create a supportive environment. There were way too many layers of management. And little relationship between the creative teams and the clients. So it was a failure of management, not individuals, to create an environment of teamwork.

  3. Interesting posts –

    What’s your story and how did you make the decision to come to Spokane after so many years in San Franciso?


  4. Now that’s kind of personal, isn’t it? 😀

    San Francisco is a very expensive city, with a lot of big city problems. A wonderful place, but there are some tradeoffs.

    I’m a big believer in small- and medium-sized cities. They’re a lot more sophisticated than they were, say, 30 years ago. Life here is very sweet.

  5. Pervasion, thanks for visiting. This blog is about the advertising/marketing communications business. What is your primary language?

  6. Hello, Barrett. Interesting to discover your blog; I’ve been enjoying it a great deal. I share your trade; I’ve been a copywriter for many years, a few of them at WhiteRunkle in Spokane where I met much of the staff of Magner Sanborn and Seven2. I moved to Boise a few years ago; I’m the ACD/Sr CW at Publicis in the West here.

    Spokane’s a great little town, isn’t it? I miss it a great deal; I grew up there, and it’ll always be my home town. I may even try and return someday. You’re right about the talent, too. It’s often overlooked. It’s probably a good thing that it’s overlooked by the holding companies, though.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. Take care.

  7. Thanks Chris. WhiteRunkle produced quite a few talented folks, didn’t it? They still have a good crew but there seems to be a lot of uncertainty. To be fair, there’s uncertainty just about everywhere… It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that they’ve merged into Ascentium.

    Best wishes!

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