Ask the Doctor
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Dear Sir, My boss resigned last week. He is moving to head a small ad agency. Last evening he took me out for drinks, and offered me a job at his new assignment. I was a bit taken aback. I have worked for him for three years now and like him immensely. But I also have loyalties to my current organisation. I have been here for five years. I love the environment and the learning atmosphere.
My boss’ new agency is actually tiny. He has literally doubled my salary and jumped me two levels in designations. But I am not sure if I want to work at a hole-in-the-wall agency also whether I will learn anything at the new agency. The salary is surely a temptation and the designation is attractive but the new agency is too small and unknown. Please advise.
Bosses trying to poach ex-colleagues to build their team in their new assignment is an old story.
For starters I would recommend you to read a book called ‘Horse Sense’ by Al Ries & Jack Trout. Read the chapter on the Boss Horse. It will largely address your doubts and questions. I won’t pre-empt your reading of the book but in essence what Ries & Trout will tell you is that your boss is a horse you can ride to success. If you hitch your future to him, every step up the ladder will be a step up for you too. If he continues to do well, he will ensure you do well too. But this will mean loyalty to him, and faith in him. Most importantly the belief that he is a long term bet, that he will go places, and take you there too.
In the case of your boss, I cannot judge if he is a long term bet to whom you can hitch your career and future. You are the better judge of that.
With regards to working for a small agency, it is not always a bad idea to be in a workplace that is not large or as reputed. Way back in my own career, many many years ago, I started with HTA (now JWT), and then spent some time with Trikaya (now Grey). Both large, reputed agencies where I had handled the likes of Nestle, GSK, ITC Hotels and more. Then, through a combination of circumstances, I ended up at what you describe as a hole-in-the-wall agency called Interact, a small sub-set of Mudra.
But Interact changed my life. From largely running around chasing artworks and estimates at the large agencies, I suddenly ‘matured’ as an ad advertising professional. At that small agency, because of the lack of hierarchy, the buck now stopped at me. I was now interacting with owner-clients who depended on me to make a difference to the trajectory of their brands. I first worked on an air-cooler brand called Symphony. It went onto to become a category-buster and market leader by far. I immensely enjoyed contributing to its phenomenal success. It boosted my self-confidence.
I then got to work on a new pain-reliever, Moov from Paras Pharma. It’s a small brand with big ambitions. Again, Moov went onto become a huge marketing success and I too got to bask in the glory. At Interact I worked on many such small but entrepreneurial brands like Bhutan Board, Meena Bazaar, Handloom House, Andrew Yule, Libra carpets, Top basmati, Luxaflex ... interesting categories, emerging brands, great clients. I learnt a lot and gained exposure and experience. More importantly, I grew up as a professional. I learnt to lead a team. I learnt to lead clients. I learnt to champion ideas and help build brands. So, working at a small agency was no negative.
The exposure and experience at Interact was invaluable. I would never have got to do at HTA or Trikaya what I did at Interact : build brands from a scratch to national eminence and prominence. I can, without doubt, tell you that my Interact years were my best learning years in advertising. I also built life-long relationships with clients, who are today even after many years great friends of mine. So banish from your mind any misgivings that smaller agencies cannot be fun to work at, yet give your career a boost.
The rider however is that the small agency must have the talent, the energy and the leadership. At Interact we were young, we were hungry and we were incredibly bright as a team. That made us winners all the way. Make sure you choose right on those parameters about the new agency you have been invited to join.
On salary and a better designation: always good to have. Doesn’t hurt any which way!
In sum, I will ask you a few questions: 1. is your boss really bright and aggressive? A future leader of Indian advertising? If your answers are ‘Yes’, follow him. 2. Do you want the secure-safe existence of a large agency? Or do you think you could thrive in a bit of uncertainty and chaos? A little less of predictability and orderliness? If your answer is ‘No’ stay back where you are. 3. Are you risk-orientated or risk-averse? Shifting jobs always has an element of risk. You need to gauge your risk-appetite. And decide accordingly.
Think. Pause. Evaluate. Choose. Choose with your head, and your heart. Both are important.
A friend of mine and I have developed a very interesting cross-media monetization model. We have been thinking of engaging some tech help to write the code. The problem is that my friend and I work in two different agencies and both of us have borrowed some protocols from our respective agencies in the development of the model and fear that we may be accused of stealing IP. Honestly, the strategic thinking is entirely ours. But we don’t know how to steer clear of any issues relating to global research and modeling. Please help us.Kanan P.
You are treading sensitive ground. Agencies can be very sensitive to misuse of proprietary information and global research. Any attempts to copy or cheat could lead to serious consequences. I would be extremely careful with anything to do with intellectual property.
On the other hand, I wonder why you have not considered following the proper channel on this. You could (and in parallel your friend) could approach respective employers and ask to demo your model with proper attributions. You could ask for permission to develop your line of thought and work out a proper working arrangement with the company. Chances are this formal approval approach will get the nod. Most organizations today are flexible enough to allow entrepreneurial initiatives to employees, especially those that would eventually enrich the parent institution. Of course, it could all backfire depending on organization cultures. More tech-oriented organizations are more open. Ad agencies/media agencies are still not as open-minded perhaps.
Whatever you do, do not attempt to cheat or steal. It could be very very damaging to your career and future.
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