Twice a year, CEOs from independent agencies in the IPREX network get together to spot trends, compare client stories, share agency management advice, learn from outside speakers, and eat ice cream. Ice cream? Huh?
At the fall Americas meeting last week in Columbus, IPREX welcomed 35 of 77 global network partners from the US and Canada, and we began a Friday morning eating ice cream. We were treated to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, a burgeoning Ohio-based homemade ice cream company described by Time as "America's best ice cream." Jeni Britton Bauer joined us to share her entrepreneurial success story.
Bauer delivered six different scoops of her unbelievable ice cream accompanied by passion-filled remarks describing her humble beginnings as an aspiring artist and foodie living in Columbus, until she decided to rub cayenne oil into a batch of her homemade chocolate ice cream. It was good, and it was different than anything she had ever tasted. She became obsessed and began making ice cream day after day. The flavors were splendid, and people started buying it. The press started covering her. Bauer's explanation of her success was simple. Making great ice cream is a formula of finding great ingredients and mixing them together by hiring great people. The results are rock star employees and splendid ice cream.
The independent agency owner is not very different than Bauer, save eating ice cream every day. Most agency owners I know have a passion and expectation for great work and demand a team of smart, driven people. We are all entrepreneurs, striving to build something that makes a difference in the world by providing jobs, helping clients, and having fun.
This sentiment is not a slight to the multi-nationals who undoubtedly have talented and passionate people among their ranks, as well. But the independent agency owner is different. When we get hired by a client, the owner of the agency knows about it and likely was involved in putting the strategy together to win the business. We understand the world is flat, and brands do business globally, evidenced by more than a few of us joining together to form super-networks of like-minded agencies.
My agency, Saxum, is a part of IPREX, where I'm the current president of the Americas. We have partners in 33 countries and combined revenue of $200 million together. IPREX revenue doubled in size in the past four years during the worst economy any of us can remember. We are independently owned, have our own P&L and stock, and we can deliver programs for clients anywhere.
When asked what her biggest fear is, Bauer responded, "That it all falls apart," before adding, "I think you have to have that kind of fear to propel you forward."
Not that multinational agency heads don't have fear, but the independent agency owner always has a nervous eye on current client growth, new client projections, talent recruiting and retention, and how much money is in the bank account. Notice I said nothing about earnings.
Eating ice cream for breakfast may not improve your figure, but it did expand my outlook. As an independent agency owner, I control my own future, and I could eat ice cream every day if I wanted. Of course, the fear of getting fat keeps me focused on my agency's bottom line.
Renzi Stone is chairman and CEO of Saxum.