I’ve met many agency CEOs and founders in my time. And if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that none of them know what they’re doing. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s simply that every agency is different and its principals always bring different skills the mix. There’s no blueprint that guarantees success. But Rick Webb comes very close to putting all the pieces together in Agency: Starting a Creative Firm In the Age of Digital Marketing.
Webb was a co-founder of The Barbarian Group and served as its Chief Operating Officer, so Agency isn’t written from a “creative work comes first” or “we set out to change the advertising world” point of view you might get from more well-known creative leaders. It’s a more thorough, nuanced look at how to plan the right agency structure, develop a vision and culture, land new business, partner with other agencies, handle hirings and firings, proper billing, and many other topics.
Those nitty-gritty details are what makes Agency such a wonderful reference. While it’s easier than ever to start an agency from a spare bedroom and do business all over the world, staying in business and growing into a sizable entity isn’t simple. The demands of day-to-day management can overwhelm even the most experienced executives.
Every new agency has its own set of goals and values. And the principals who run the agency will set the tone for how successful it will ultimately be. But I think Rick Webb’s Agency does a valuable service here. It gives anyone starting out a peek at what they’ll eventually have to deal with no matter what type of work they do or how they structure the agency. I’d particularly recommend the book to creative people thinking of opening their own shop. If you’re one of those folks, it gives you a needed reality check before you dive in, and serves as an amazing resource to have on the shelf once you’ve jumped.
Special thanks to Palgrave Macmillan for providing me with a review copy.