Visionary Leaders Create Great Companies, Relentless Founders Keep The Greatness Going

Last week, Rob Campbell, head of planning at Weiden + Kennedy/Shanghai, wrote a piece about how W+K and Bartle Bogle Hegarty are what they are–firms at the forefront of commercial creativity–thanks to the hands-on, day-to-day concern shown by the now very rich founders.

One thing I really like about W+K is that while the senior guys are ridiculously talented and smart and experienced … they welcome opinion, debate and challenge. From everyone. Literally everyone.

Campbell’s post is partly about keeping your head, heart and soul in the business. For that, you need a mission greater than financial reward.

I can’t say for sure what Dan Wieden’s mission is, but it’s safe to say that he figured out how to create not just great ads, but the right environment where the work flourishes and replenishes. He’s a copywriter who grew into a manager (and supreme salesman). Not an easy thing to do, I might add.

Another CEO who is deeply engaged in his day-to-day operations is fifth-generation brewer, Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company. Shawn Parr of Bulldog Drummond interviews Koch for Fast Company and asked him about the values that guide his company.

…to this day, I taste a sample from every batch of Boston Lager and meet every Sam Adams employee. You’ll never see me on Undercover Boss, because at some point during the year, I work directly with just about everyone in the company. From the people to the product, I am as involved in the company’s day-to-day operations as I was when Samuel Adams started.

Samuel Adams is now a public company, and the dedication to creating a high-quality, flavorful American beer is still the same–I make decisions based on the beer, not the bottom line. I have instilled operations and practices throughout every step of our business to ensure that Samuel Adams has stayed true to my philosophy of changing people’s perceptions of beer.

Koch lays it all out there. His mission is clear and he knows well how to achieve it. Practice, practice and more practice.

Speaking of practiced craftsmen, Campaign Brief is running a piece by Rob Campbell (see above), where he rails against specialization. Generalists of the ad world unite!

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.