On a recent Adweek webinar, I heard an agency consultant refer to small agencies as “2 guys and a bong.” If it wasn’t offensive enough to the smalls on the call, the actual critical points he mentioned all go to our favor. While it’s true that a Fortune 500 company might not pluck you for their critical up-front work, there are many reasons why they should extend a contract to smaller shops and senior-level owners.

The seminar focused on the many issues that plague larger agencies. But here was the biggest truth of the day: Once a client is “sold” and a plan is to be delivered, the process can follow with chaos and dissatisfaction.

I’ve lived the larger agency life – and the solo life. These things I know:
• Relationships last longer when you have face time (real face time) and actually deliver on your promises.
• Clients expect understanding, but realize the learning curve comes with asking the right questions – not lobbing ideas verbatim.
• Execution is the serious business of providing not only success, but good ROI. You cannot disconnect the two.
• Small agencies and solos, that are nimble and creative, are often born out of large agencies that place more emphasis on billable hours rather than the best results.

These observations were shared by the agency consultant:
• Bad projects result in worker fatigue – or wearing people out and getting kicked to the curb.
• Intermediaries (re: account managers) often create accidental deception – usually without intent, but intent to cover up mistakes with lies can certainly follow.
• If you take your clients along on the journey, they will be forever grateful.
• Don’t distort or reduce your relationship to a commodity.

When we followed up post webinar about the pejorative reference, this is what the consultant said: “My comment, which is one that an agency exec gave to me, “Two guys and a bong,” was a reference to the new face of competition in the agency space. Facility costs are lower than ever (computers and other software tools are relatively cheap) and talent is ubiquitous, which makes starting your own agency even easier than ever.”

True enough. You are what you make of your work – and your relationships. Most of us likely without the bong.

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