For Strong Ad Agency CEOs: How to Survive, Thrive, Dominate in the Recession

Take a page from Jack Welch's playbook
by Todd Knutson

Ad agencies must drive new business to grow. But then there's growth through acquisition. Or, perhaps "stealing" your way to growth. If you missed this from today's Vanity Fair/Bloomberg Panel, read on...

HUNT: Okay. The next question is directed - is from India, and it’s directed to Jack and Joe. And it says, “How does your perspective differ as a businessman versus an economist on the way any organization or firm should try to be proactive in an environment with as many uncertainties as we have today?”

WELCH: Well, Al, we have 11 companies in our private equity company. We meet with them every 30 days. Our objectives with them and our challenge to them were three things. One, cash is king. Get every drop of cash you can get and hold onto it. That is number one.

Number two is communicate like you’ve never communicated before to your people. They’re scared. They don’t know what’s happening. Every action you take must be understood by every employee in the place. If used to think you communicated a lot, communicate tenfold more now in every morning at businesses.

Get in the skin of every employee so they know everything that’s happening and they aren’t kept sitting out, wondering. They understand what the situation is.

And finally, the third one is if you’ve got the cash, you’ve communicated with everybody, you’ve taken care of your best, you’ve differentiated with your people, go out and buy or bury your competition.

And the idea is buy them because they might not have done what you did. Bury because they’re sitting around scared. Steal their employees. Steal their R&D people. Steal their salespeople. Bury them. Now is the time.

Now that's advice straight from the gut.

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