Explore the Polls: What Will Replace Ad Agencies?

Yesterday’s “Ad Industry Leaders Storm the Exits & Start Innovative Marketing Communications Companies.” triggered lots of comments, emails and calls. Clearly very topical so let’s explore further.

What do you think will replace the Ad Agency? Several forms of organization are being experimented with. Take the poll. Even suggest your own vision.

Ad Industry Leaders Storm the Exits and Start Innovative Marketing Communications Companies.

Thermal Image LED lamp. ©NatGeo/Tyrone Taylor/WWF

Escape To Entrepreneurship

Increasing numbers of senior people are quitting their ad industry jobs. Some out of sheer frustration or exhaustion, but others are starting innovative new marketing communications firms. This is a critical time for an industry in desperate need of reinvention. By joining & supporting these start-ups we can help build a better industry of Marketing Communications Professional Services.

Nine months ago in “Leadership, Management & The Rising Tide”  I wrote of the 150% jump in already employed people looking for jobs. There were 3 main reasons for the surge:

1. my company is going nowhere and our management is clueless at the helm;

2. our bosses keep beating us up because their bosses keep beating them up;

3. my company retrenched so many colleagues I can’t stand working here.

Most wanted a new job because their managers were too useless, too awful, or had damaged companies too badly for quality people to want to work near them any longer. What had been a growing problem before was magnified by the pressures of the Great Recession. Poor managers had been shown up and quality people wanted out!

Now that the economies of many countries are improving and marketers are increasing their communications budgets, people are on the move as predicted. However, there is now a further and more vital driver of their movement – the Escape To Entrepreneurship.

Talented Leaders Are Quitting, but not Leaving.

In June 2009, Omnicom announced Michael Birkin’s resignation as Vice-Chairman of Omnicom Group Inc and CEO of Omnicom Asia-Pacific. Birkin is no holding company leech. He was global CEO of Interbrand for 8 years, during which he invented their Brand Valuation model. He sold Interbrand to Omnicom, who were so impressed they made him head of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services division – half the revenues of the entire holding company, then later, CEO of Omnicom Asia-Pacific.

Last month Birkin launched The Red Peak Group. Brand Strategy & Design, Experiential, CRM, Sponsorship… Their clients? Anheuser-Busch, Intel, McDonald’s, Sony Ericsson… Birkin isn’t just the CEO. He’s hands-on as their Chief Strategist and leader of the Intel relationship. How many other CEOs, Presidents and similarly rewarded heavies can you say that about? Most clock few if any billable hours against paying clients. Ask any agency group CFO.

Last week the two top leaders of JWT North America quit to start their own company. Colleagues in JWT and seniors in WPP expressed surprise; even shock. There was probably envy and shame too.

Recently, self-styled “working class heroes” Iris Nation relocated their founder CEO and several top leaders to Asia. They have made it clear they’re not your average UK- or US-centric network. They know where their future revenues, and retirement funds, will come from and have the independence and wisdom to act on it.

Ad agency leaders feel like they’ve been tossed in a river with their arms and legs bound. They get no respite from holding company strictures, so the best they can hope to achieve is to keep their heads above water and be carried down-stream. It’s soul-destroying and prevents them delivering the service improvements marketers need. Rumours are now circulating of breakaway talks among top mar-comms industry leaders, and those talks are including marketers who are equally frustrated with the situation.

Entrepreneurship To The Rescue

There has always been a healthy trend of entrepreneurship in the marketing communications industry. A steady flow of visionaries, and of the frustrated, leaving to do their own thing. It used to keep the industry fresh, creative and adapted to the changing world, but in recent years too much of that innovative energy has been siphoned off into holding company acquisitions and management service fees.

Many of the best brains in the business work in the holding companies which acquired their businesses. From there they can do little, despite all their talent and skill, to reinvent the industry that made them rich and famous. These are the people who have done it before, know how to succeed, have the money to break away again and are a powerful force for good in starting or helping new ventures in marketing communications.

Rumours are that more of these, like Birkin, are starting to move en masse. If so, that’s great news. It couldn’t come at a better time to save the marketing communications industry.

Critically, marketing communications entrepreneurs must address the 7 pressing issues of:

1. Delivering consulting grade recommendations with fully integrated planning, technology, content management and business building ideas;

2. Getting paid fairly for all that despite the rise of qualitatively illiterate Procurement departments;

3. Tracking and proving the value they add, instead of just winging it old-school style, which will help keep Procurement at bay;

4. Recruiting, training and retaining top quality people including industry outsiders with the new skills needed – content strategy, mobile technology, data analytics and visualization & neuroscientific research included;

5. Rewarding all their people honestly and properly for their efforts;

6. Staffing to the right levels instead of driving their people to exhaustion, stress, despair and depression, none of which produces great thinking, unique ideas or added value and;

7. Resisting the temptation to sell to one of the holding companies as the exit strategy. A good-sized block of stock in a thriving independent will make a much better retirement annuity.

It takes the right people in the right environment with time to think and work things through to deliver a professional service. Pressure, fear and panic give bad advice.

Treat them any other way and quality, professional people simply storm the exits.

How Job Insecurity & Professional Cowardice Made Bud Light Stumble For The First Time Ever.

Ads blamed for Bud Lite sales fall.

A  US Budweiser campaign, “Drinkability”, is being blamed for the first full year sales decline in Bud Lite history. This in a recession when beer sales are often one of few things that go up. A firm of consultants  was  involved. Apparently their recommendations became ad briefs which DDB and Euro anwered by coming up with the “Drinkability” campaign.

Lots of voices are now being heard from all quarters about why this happened and who is at fault.

A Wide Range Of Differing Opinions.

A number of points have been made including:

“Were the spots entertaining? No. Were they loaded with brief-filling, focus group-tested, chest-puffing talking points? Yes.” – Adman blog posting

“Consulting doesn’t boast creative expertise nor does it have any interest in “starting a turf war” with creative agencies.” – A consultancy spokesperson

“…some clients will pay consultants millions to rehash research and refine positioning, but then they pressure agencies to lower costs on the thinking/ideas that positions and builds awareness of a brand and ultimately sell products.” – online comment posting

“Unfortunately, too many people are willing to blindly accept whatever “dictate” trickles down and don’t bother to question the validity of the premise or invest themselves in its integrity. This is a cause for shame in our industry. It opens the door for spectators to broadly crucify agencies and consultants, wastes money, damages brands, and demoralizes everyone involved.” – online comment posting

“Agency creative directors tend to do more damage to brands if left unchecked. They too often develop high concept ads that win awards but do very little to motivate consumers in any way. The examples are endless.” – online comment posting

Others attribute the Bud Lite decline to Anheuser-Busch being bought by InBev.

Then of course there’s the question of whether one can or can’t directly correlate advertising and sales. Well, one can’t have it both ways.

All these points have merit to a greater or lesser degree. However, I think there’s a simpler, deeper issue behind all this.

When you’re scared you tend to make bad decisions.

Let’s face it, those ads are weak. The consultant-driven briefs that Budweiser Marketing pushed on DDB and Euro should have been declined immediately for what they clearly were: weak, lacking compelling beer consumer insights and likely to generate poor advertising harmful to Bud Lite in the competitive context.

Next, the agencies should have proposed better briefs, drawing on what was useful from the consultant reports, avoiding what wasn’t or was clearly going to harm the brand. At that point the Bud clients needed to listen carefully, debate it skillfully and collaborate on agreeing powerful briefs.

The Great Recession is partly to blame, as is unchecked Procurement thinking.

Budget cutbacks and the retrenchment of expensive but experienced ad talent have taken a toll. We seem to be left with scared ad agency people lacking the experience and the faith in their craft, and thus also the confidence in it, to do their jobs bravely and professionally. To say a professional “No” instead of an easy, but ultimately ruinous “Yes”.

Advertising is an industry with a high proportion of people eager to please and who are in fundamentally weak positions relative to their clients. As a result they are thus very vulnerable to being bullied by equally scared, inexperienced or under-qualified marketing staff.

The result of all of this seems to be increasing levels of professional cowardice. Among advertising people, and among Marketers too.

That old Young & Rubicam house ad nails it. The one that shows a spinal column from the neck to the coccyx with the headline, as I recall it:

“This is a backbone. You can’t run a good ad agency without one.”

Actually, you can’t run any good business without one.

(PS, if anyone has a copy or a link to that Y&R ad please link it in the comments below or email me. Tx.)

How Punk Capitalism and the Brand Experience Mashup will Change the Ad Industry Forever.

Ads & Mashups.

©Yahoo 2006

Researching my previous post a word from the 4As Transformations 2010 website blurb stood out.

“Mash-up” (sic).

For many in the ad field, “mashup” probably brings to mind dance mixes of vocals, instrumentals and samples from different styles and cultures. Or maybe Google Earth.

Here’s the current entry in Wikipedia: “The term mashup originated in web development. It is a web page or application that uses or combines data or functionality from two or many more external sources to create a new service.”

Please study that and remember it.

Marketers & Ad Agencies Stimied by Silos.

Territorial silos, top management ignorance and a lack of leadership pulling it together made the ad agency business fall apart. Here’s a recent comment from Bob Jeffrey, Chairman and Worldwide CEO of JWT, first having a “go” at marketers for their silos:

“My hope is that the recession will have been a huge wake-up call to clients with regard to that siloed mentality. It’s not only inefficient from a cost-savings perspective, but the more you collapse the silos, the more integration you drive, ultimately leading to a more effective environment in which to deliver better ideas and stronger creative output.”

Then Jeffrey hammered ad agencies too:

“[Agencies] need to know when to compete and when to collaborate. Agencies are inherently territorial, tribal and competitive, but it’s critical to take an agnostic, less ego-centric approach to collaboration, and to have a bigger view of the world and the direction in which the world is heading if agencies are to achieve the ultimate goal of making their clients successful.” (Campaign, #worldview blog).

Punk Capitalism & Breaking Down The Barriers.

In his brilliant “The Pirate’s Dilemma – how youth culture is invigorating capitalism” Matt Mason wrote “Our world today is starting to look a lot more like a punk gig (okay, maybe with slightly less spitting). The barriers to entry are being kicked down, and this new breed of fans-turned-performers, including you, is rushing the world stage. Technology is cheap; information is everywhere; the roadies are gone (who takes advice from roadies anyway?). The only thing left to do is to stop defining ourselves by the old hierarchy and run up onstage.” This is the world of search, social media and street art; of YouTube , Twitter and Mark Ecko “tagging Airforce One“.

Frans Johansson, innovation author of The Medici Effect saw how the Medicis catalyzed the Renaissance by breaking down barriers between different fields and cultures, allowing art, architecture and humanism to thrive. Think Michaelangelo and Da Vinci.

Johansson’s thesis is that knowledge about a specific field leads us to put up “associative barriers” around that knowledge. “They inhibit our ability to think broadly. We do not question assumptions as readily, we jump to conclusions faster and create barriers to alternate ways of thinking about a particular situation.” The silos develop and we lose our way.

Professor Andy Miah, editor of “Human Futures: Art In An Age Of Uncertainty” puts it like this: “We no longer need [just] specialist knowledge but trans-disciplinary creative solutions”.

The Brand Experience Mashup.

So, how does the Brand Experience Mashup become the future of the ad business? That a mashup “combines data or functionality from two or many more external sources to create a new service” is the key.

The brand communications industry isn’t working well for marketers or its own staff and shareholders. Partly because the bits don’t like working together and largely because the old-school mentality can’t unleash and re-combine the power of their disciplines, in the holding companies that control them, to change that.

Each holding company has the parts needed. They remain siloed in agency brands, with their own P&Ls and little vision beyond their omphalos. WPP tried to combine those bits and produced the ill-fated Enfatico of 2009 and the earlier Team Samsung of 2004 – an unwieldy 6 company clash of egos and territoriality which lost Samsung in under a year to Leo Burnett. A single agency.

Credit to WPP that they keep trying. The lesson is it’ll take radical restructuring, not just a Newco and corporate duct-tape, to create what’s needed.

Remixing the past won’t deliver the changes needed for brands and their communications to create real value. What is needed is a sustainable, continuous cycle of creating, hearing and responding to feedback about, and creating further brand experiences. That means, as Sean Boyle said in the video I linked to last week, “Instead of taking 8 months to do one thing, we need to do 8 things in one month!”

Full Service Agency Redux Is Not The Answer.

The Brand Experience Mashup is a new kind of service through a different organization probably bearing little resemblance to an ad agency and perhaps looking more like a professional services firm with long tails of content creators.

Corporate Mashups & Why Holding Companies Can’t.

Real progress in building value through communications for any brand will require those organizations to be corporate mashups; designed to bring all the fields together on one client-centered P&L for brand centered results. Design, media, retail, PR, digital, data analytics, promotions, sponsorship, WOM… the lot!

The focus to make this work is simply The Brand User.

Everything about brand experience must be built around real insights and true understanding from deep knowledge and ongoing interaction with brand users.

We are starting to see suggestions of how to build brand experience businesses this way. With crowdsourcing and expertsourcing, innovation and leadership and learning from  professional services firms, from hackers, hip-hop and pirates.

A superior brand support industry will develop because brands need it and because free-thinking innovators, driven to find new and better ways unconstrained by current structures, will create it.

The holding companies may seem to have all the pieces but they also seem to be stuck in all the wrong configurations. It will be interesting to see if those legacy investments can be pulled apart and recombined to survive and continue to serve their shareholders.

“You have 5 mins To Fix The Ad Agency Business Starting… NOW!”

Maybe they didn't notice 'cos it didn't tick...

Last week while I was posting  that ad agencies should innovate – perhaps even embrace crowdsourcing – something strange was happening at the Hilton Union Square, San Francisco. I wish I’d been there. Here’s what I’ve found out.

The AAAA (American Association Of Advertising Agencies) combined for the very first time their Leadership Conference (ad agency types) and their Media Conference (yep, media agency types) into one conference: “Transformations 2010”. Flailing to be seen as up to date, they called this “the mash-up (sic) of the association’s Media and Leadership Conferences”.

Are you struck by some puzzling questions? I was.

Why wasn’t this always one event? Isn’t there just one purpose for all those people – to help build their clients’ business through marketing communications? Isn’t this symptomatic of why marketing communications, and the ad agency business in particular, are in turmoil?

To the A’s credit, they did invite some “digital” speakers. Carol Bartz and Arianna Huffington. Google, the giant of online advertising wasn’t there. Nor was Facebook, the next online ad giant. The mightiest of the search and social media players. Either of them is more important to the ad business now and for the future than Yahoo and Huffington Post combined. Maybe they couldn’t make it.

The 4As also didn’t invite BootB or IdeaBounty which I linked to in last week’s post. No surprise.

“The goal of the conference is gathering the entire media and marketing ecosystem into one room and onto the same page,” said 4A’s President and CEO Nancy Hill. “In a world where everything is digital and global, the conversations about the transformation of the business needs (sic) to be held together, so that we can cooperatively find solutions to the challenges ahead.”

For those of you without a Babel Fish in your ear that’s Adfolkian for “The ad agency business is screwed. Fine, we admit we don’t “get it” and that we really are all in the same business. Now, will you please explain where the life rafts are”.

The 4As also boasted of “18 women speakers, roughly one out of three, [which] marks the highest percentage and number of women in the history of 4A’s events”. Wow! In an industry where the proportion of women is closer to double that and those 18 speakers included outsiders Ms. Bartz and Ms. Huffington.

It sounds like the real highlights of the conference were the “seven guest, five-minute sessions from the winners of the 4A’s Transformers Contest, which asked users to submit their own ideas and concepts for revolutionizing the advertising industry”. That’s right: “You have 5 minutes to explain how to fix the massively screwed up Ad Industry. Starting…. NOW!”

Here’s the best I’ve seen or heard. Sean Boyle, Global Planning Director of JWT taking 2 deserved minutes longer than the 5 allowed for his witty, wise presentation: “The Stop/Start 10 Commandments”. It’s a hand-held wobbly vid, but worth it.

There’s a .pdf of Sean’s presentation here.

The 4As also included in the seven winners, to their credit, the uber-cranky George Parker of AdScam – think gonzo without Hunter T -who described last year’s 4As Leadership Conference as a “Giant Wank Fest!” Google him. That’s a  comment well to the “G” end of the Parker ranting-scale.

Here’s my own short rant:

I’ve built and run some ad agencies and I’ve co-founded and run a digital heavy hitter. I’ve run some media agencies, a network of CRM companies and two networks of “activation” companies. My conclusion from those nearly 360 degrees of experience is the only thing more mindless and unprofessional than scam ads is the silo-ed, paranoid, “We’re better than you are. Nyah nyah nyah nyaaah nyah” way those 5 disciplines have failed to pull together to build their clients’ business. Now, get on with it!

There is light, though.

Here’s how the 4As recognizes the mess when promoting their “highly successful and in-demand 4A’s workshop “Agency 2.5: How Agencies Are Transforming for the Future” [which] looks at the traditional agency model and discusses what to relinquish, what to rework, and what to reinvent”.

“It’s time for marketing communications firms to address the realities facing our industry:

  • There’s less demand for what agencies traditionally have to sell.

  • Clients need more help in online marketing, particularly social media, but agencies aren’t set up to provide it.

  • Agencies are spending their energies above-the-line while clients are spending their budgets below-the-line.
  • Agencies are stuck in a structure that churns out “advertising” ideas instead of “business-building” ideas.
  • Clients are hammering agencies on price and speed for work they perceive as a commodity.

  • There’s a strong movement toward accountability that agencies aren’t prepared to address”.

Now if only there was hint of this recognition, and of this commitment to doing something about it, among the ad industry in Asia.

How Ad Agencies Could Learn To Stop Worrying And Love Crowdsourcing

Is crowdsourcing a riot that'll wreck ad agencies or an innovation that'll save them?

Mention crowdsourcing over a meal with ad agency pals you’re likely to put them off their food, and you, for some time.

For a creative, liberal, experimental, edgy, fashion-aware, up-to-date industry, it seems advertising is very conservative and defensive about crowdsourcing ideas for their clients.

The most common reaction is “But ideas are OUR business”.  Perhaps. Even if you aren’t getting paid for your ideas because much of the industry is half-way between the old commission model and being hung on the FTE cross by Procurement (see earlier posts on this blog).

Last year Unilever used it, for Peperami in the UK, causing lots of dark muttering in the trade press. They used IdeaBounty (Slogan: “The best ideas get paid“) as lead agency and dumped Lowe from the brand altogether. Another key crowdsourcing player, BootB call themselves “The Borderless Creative Engine”. Their web-site runs in 14 languages including Arabic and Simplified Chinese, proving their point. Check out the clients listed on both web-sites. Big names.

For Peperami it was discovered, once the feathers had been swept away, that the winning ideas were thought up by a copywriter in London and a Creative Director in Munich, both of whom had recently been made redundant. The selected ideas were produced through a specialist agency called Smart Works.

In the USA, Frito-Lay brand Doritos has made a Super Bowl Special out of crowdsourcing. This is the fourth year that they’ve put crowdsourced ideas to work. 4,064 videos were submitted this season and they’re all available on the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl Contest” site. The landing page features the four winners and two runners-up. The rest are in a 362 page gallery. The Herbert Brothers (two then-unemployed guys from Batesville, Indiana) who created the Doritos big winner for Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, are also featured.

The top 20 commercials aired at Super Bowl XLIV this year include Doritos in 2nd, 11th, 14th and 17th places as ranked by the USA Today AdMeter poll. They also topped the Visible Measures most watched viral videos listing week commencing 1st March 2010.

Marketers turning to crowd-sourcing seems to reflect a combination of 4 things:

1. Frustration with the speed and calibre of ideas from their agencies;

2. Giving their less adventurous ad agencies a firm shove in a new direction;

3. Exploring ways to get more for their money, including better results;

4. Getting their feet wet for educational and publicity reasons. It certainly did the latter for Unilever with Peperami and seems to work well for Doritos where the crowdsourcing idea has become a key brand attribute.

Instead of panicking, perhaps the ad industry should take another look at crowdsourcing but with their innovation hats on. There’s a whole new model for the ad business here and when it takes off …

For those who still don’t want to look too closely, think of it as bringing in free-lances. From the whole world. And you only pay for the ideas you use. The best ones.

There will still need to be a strong ad team at the core representing all disciplines and collaborating closely with clients. Their responsibility, finally, will be the Brand itself. The core idea of the Brand will remain the preserve of that marketer/ad agency team, as will the management of the communication platform. It’s expressions of that core idea that will get “free-lanced”.

I wonder which ad agency will crack first.

Oh, hold on. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners managed the entire “Crash the Super Bowl 2010” process.

OK, then I wonder which holding company will crack first and buy BootB. Anyone care to bet?

5 Ways The Ad Industry Stumbled & 5 Ways To Rebuild It, Only Better.

Yes, you got burned. Now come back stronger!

Reading the trade press one would think the ad industry has suddenly and unexpectedly fallen on hard times.

It hasn’t. The current shake-out has been a long time coming.

Here are 5 industry features which combined to cause the collapse:

1. Miguided creativity. Many Creative Directors and their ad agencies shifted their focus and that of their staff, away from their real purpose.

They used to produce marketing communications to engage consumers, build brands and help drive sales for their clients. Now one would be forgiven for thinking that they prefer making ads for each other. Scam ads and festivals of self-congratulation have put this into sharp focus, making marketers question the professionalism and value of the industry.

Why did it happen? Ego, bad HR practices, poor leadership and forgetting the essential role advertising is supposed to fill in the marketing mix.

2. Laziness, Fear, Maybe Arrogance. Continuing to use Transmission Model thinking. ‘Brand advertising’, like 30 second TVCs. The industry failed to embrace the digital media era and become truly consumer/user centric; listening to them and letting them search for and find marketers doing the right things in the right places. Failing to be idea-focused and media-agnostic. Too many ad types tried to stick to what they were comfy with. Digital, direct, sponsorship, PR and events remained 2nd class colleagues in silos; afterthoughts to be briefed only once the Big (all too often TV) idea had been “cracked”, or were left out of the picture altogether;

3. Failing to add & track value. Trying to perpetuate an archaic revenue and overall business model with little or no value-based or performance-linked component in their remuneration. An approach where the value added is not tracked, recognized and as a result often not rewarded either.

4. Failure to invest. Take a good look at the holding company model. While there have been some benefits of size, have they improved what the ad agencies within them actually do? Not really. In fact, the holding companies have become distractions for agency management and hindrances to progressing the craft. This simply because they siphon profits from front-line companies which need the money to retain and train the best people, conduct research and pilot new techniques to add value to clients’ business (see 3. above);

5. Strategic blindness. Earlier, ad agency groups un-bundled media planning and buying from the development and creation of advertising which everyone seemed to believe was their main business. That divorced media strategy from brand communication strategy and handed over the data & analytics too.

More recently the industry failed to recognize the impact of online advertising and social media. Ad industry leaders are now under immense pressure.  Digital is for them a poorly understood rod with which they are now being beaten. Added to that, marketers made major budget cuts during the downturn, reviewed their approach to marketing and are demanding real results (see Value) whilst Procurement has also become a permanent stakeholder at the table (see earlier post Creative Services & The Vicious Cycle of Procurement). All rather challenging for the old school mentality.

Here’s hope for a brighter future.

Now marketer budgets are slowly rising again. The more sophisticated ones pulled back very little anyway, knowing one cannot cost-cut one’s way to market leadership. The problem for most ad companies now will be how to gain, retain and make money on a share of that re-instated spending because the business has changed substantially.

Here are 5 ways the ad industry can make real changes to evolve into a better professional services sector.

1. Focus on adding, and invest in tracking, the value you create. Ask “how will this improve our client’s business results and how will we track how well it does that?” If you can’t prove a clear connection to improved desirability, higher perceived value or better service perceptions, or to lower costs of achieving the same or better sales and branding scores for your client, think again.

2. Return to deeply understanding the target prospects. If you know them deeply – especially their motivations, communication profiles and online behaviour – and better than your clients, you will be able to lead your clients professionally producing work which truly adds value and justifies a decent margin.

3. Charge, and get paid, for Ideas. Marketers need to pay you on the basis of the ideas you create and implement and the impact of those on their marketing KPIs. Paying you on the basis of the media spend behind your ideas is lazy and unprofessional on both sides. Yes, it has been a long standing tradition that clients get free ideas, but as both sides must finally have noticed by now, the world has changed and the old commission model is broken.

4. Embrace Procurement. Procurement is here to stay in contract negotiations, in getting paid each month and in annual or semi-annual performance reviews. Learn from it and make the most of it. Clients want results, so negotiate with them a data-based way to track your performance on appropriate KPIs and make sure they commit to providing the data needed from their side to do this. Learn, and run your own company with the same degree of attention to supplier costs, results, transparency and fat trimming or frankly, you are doomed.

5. Have fewer, better people who are better paid, better equipped and better led. Yes, there is such a thing as critical mass, but you need to be pragmatic and deal with the realities of your business. Size is not everything. Clients want leadership and service from experienced, quality people and will pay for the value they add. If you don’t have sufficiently skilled, motivated, talented people to deliver on that, you will not succeed, let alone prosper.

Get it right and you will keep the business you have, earn bonuses and better payment terms on it, win yet more business and have future clients and talented potential staff banging on your door.

OK, you may be feeling like you’re sitting in a pile of ashes. Rise from them as something a whole lot better. Good luck.