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Agency Owners: Does Size Really Matter?

David and GoliathI have been blessed in my career. I cut my teeth at an uber agency — second largest in the world, as a matter of fact. Working and growing there provided me with priceless experience. During that time, life changed and I became a daddy.

Okay, so I’m a big sap and that changed everything. I determined that 85 to 90 percent travel was not going to be a welcomed addition for fatherhood so I was honored to become part of a team a boutique agency, where I have been for the last five years. Needless to say, it was a good choice.

That said, size did matter.

Does it for clients, employees and the media as well? Here are a few things to consider when working with or hiring one sized agency over the other:

1. Access – Typically, if you are a big client at a big agency, you will have access to the big man on campus. Be a small client at the same agency and you will meet the managing director, principal or whatever appellation he or she has plastered on the business card during the pitch and possibly during billing questions. For some clients, that executive access matters because the person in that corner office got there for a reason. It creates trust and leadership. For other clients, the C-suite’s endorsement of the team is all that is needed. “Trust me and you will trust them.” Whatever you fancy, it’s the team dynamic and leadership you are buying. Trust how it feels around the table during the pitch. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Some times, it just means more expensive.

2. Culture – Corporate culture is important for any organization but it seems the larger a company is, the more difficult it is to create a culture that is worth embracing. Odd how the larger agencies seem more full of backstabbers and an extra dose of politics. I don’t know why that happens, but it does. Also, junior staffers are given “their place” and forced to stick in it. Smaller agencies allow more chances for vocational knowledge and learning. Lastly, they offer free food or drinks…and that’s always nice.

3. Work – Don’t get me wrong. The larger agencies have borderline geniuses working there. I’ve seen it. Creative, interactive and PR are all slick, professional and amazing at larger agencies because more experiences create more proficient eyeballs. However, don’t sleep on the smaller agencies. Genius can grow anywhere, and I’ve seen it there too. Hiding in a cube and then *POOF* an advertising campaign that the client never expected. Maybe that has something to do with the culture as well, but risk taking is welcomed at the smaller shops, which is always nice too.

I’m a fan of both kinds of agencies for various reasons, but a MEMO to smaller agencies in big pitches: You can do this. When it comes to thinking outside the box, performing beyond expectation and winning the contract, there are no bounds to creativity expect for the cube you find yourself sitting.

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