Small Agency Conference and Awards

If I knew then what I know now ... I'd have had a clear vision and stuck to it

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Credit: Huseyin Bostanci/iStock

In this occasional series, Ad Age asked small agency chiefs what they would do differently if starting their shops today.

Sandwiched between stints at Saatchi & Saatchi and RAPP, I naively started my own shop at the age of 28. It was London. It was Y2K. Tensions were high. We were on edge, waiting to see if the post-apocalyptic movie "28 Days" would become reality. The future seemed either non-existent or very, very bleak, littered with zombies, food shortages, you name it.

Nick Platt
Nick Platt Credit: LO:LA

Surprise! The world didn't end. So, I decided not to wait until I scaled the peak of someone else's mountain; it was bloody time to build my own. I thought, "My career is 10 years old. I'm smart and have a network of resources, I can do this."

Alphabet Advertising, LTD was born.

As Executive Creative Director, I hand-picked my team mostly because I enjoyed having a pint with them, not for their expertise or skill. We had absolutely no direction or vision.

We lasted a whopping two years.

Humbled, back into the big agencies I went. Vowing not to repeat past mistakes, I became a keen and covert observer, keeping a notebook that I carried everywhere for 14 years. Jotting down what worked, what didn't, where innovation and risk-taking were ignored, focusing on how, if given another chance, I'd do things differently. Maybe even better.

Inadvertently, I made the blueprint for my ideal company. What I learned then, I apply now.

Flipping through pages of the notebook, trying to decipher my own scribbled thoughts from yesteryear, recurring themes emerged that I couldn't ignore:

Have a clear vision of what you want your company to be and represent

Once you have a true North Star, follow it. Anything that deviates from that, let it go. Walk away. It's not for you.

Surround yourself with people that passionately share the same vision

Make sure that these are folks you actually give a shit about. Not just employees or leadership, but your clients, talent, vendors and agency partners, everyone. The impact of true camaraderie is positive and work can actually be fun every day. Can you imagine?!

Trust your gut and know that you're good enough

To be the change you want to see, let your intuition guide you. Passion always trumps money (even if the fees are mouth-watering). If you're not excited about the work, it's difficult to create something you love.

Stay in the weeds and relish it

When I had a fancy title, I was the farthest away from work I loved to do. Remember why you went into the business in the first place – to create and inspire and wonderful things.

Make everything with love

Without sincerity and compassion, everyone can see right through your work.

I've been lucky enough to learn from past mistakes to create a clear roadmap for LO:LA. We're a year in and growing fast, winning client after client, and awards to boot, because we're following a clear vision. We have our North Star.

What's yours?

Nick Platt is CEO and Chief Creative Officer, LO:LA.

Want to hear more advice about how your small agency can not just survive but thrive? Be sure to sign up for our Small Agency Conference July 17 and 18 in Marina del Rey, California. Tickets and information are available here.

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