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Everyone Quit My Agency, and It Was the Greatest Thing for My Career

3 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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It's kind of like that scene in Batman Begins.

Bruce Wayne's childhood home had burned down. He wanted to rebuild it, brick by brick, exactly the way it was. Except for one not-so-little-difference.

The Batcave.

Everything was the same. (As far as anyone knew.) But at its foundation, there was an essential change. One that defined what he built from that point on.

And that's what I needed to remember. Because over the course of a few months, five creatives on my team left. It had been years. They simply wanted to move on.

At the same time. Shit.

So do I freak out? Or rebuild?

Starting Over When It All Blows Up

From a manager's perspective, sometimes a fresh start is what you need. In our case, that meant rebuilding a team. Luckily, that didn't require a clean slate. Because we didn't have one. But we did have fifteen out of blackjack intact. With a half-dozen people gone, my ECD saw an opportunity to rethink the type of creative we hired.

Lemons to lemonade, right? You make the opportunities. They aren't given to you.

They couldn't only be creative. They needed a specialty. With data-driven creative as the future of the industry, we looked for the untraditional. Creatives with different backgrounds. Like media. Or search. Or analytics. Young creatives that want to learn.

We saw these vacancies as a silver lining, filling them with this different type of creative. And suddenly my armageddon became a blessing.

What You Should Do For Yourself

When everyone leaves, your managers have a lot of decisions to make. But what about you?

You have a choice when everyone starts to leave. Stick it out or run for the hills.

Well, every team has its own dynamics. Its own culture. Its purpose.

But that doesn't always stay the same. Teams evolve with the people that make it up. Hell, it's one of the reasons you'll quit your agency every few years. Nobody would blame you if it didn't feel right anymore. But consider sticking around after a mass exodus. If you like the place, that is…

Redefine the Culture

You can earn a deep respect if you've decided to stand strong, while others have not. I did. I found myself as the sole remaining creative after an exodus that would make Moses blush.

My team, my creative director, my partner. All of them left. And then new people showed up. Looking to me to define the culture. Because I was all that was left of it.

You decide what's important to you.

I liked the place, so to me, redefining the creative culture of the agency was important. But it's a heavy responsibility. I was barely a Senior Art Director at the time. But I was the veteran, and you can be, if you step into that role.

The Risks To Being Rewarded

But this is all the bright side of the conversation. Like the Force, there's also a Dark Side. It's the risk you take.

Ask questions. Why did everyone leave? Why did they decide this wasn't the place for them anymore?

It may have just been time. They got that three-year-itch. Or they may have problems with the agency. Or with your boss. Or you. The point is, you need to make sure that if you do decide to stick it out, you know what you're getting into. You need to know who holds the group together.

Is that person leaving? Or are they sticking around, as well? Who's going to keep you company in the journey? The choice is yours, but with risk can come reward.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

The Clash posed that question a long time ago.

Stay? Or go?

Well, as a manager, you have the opportunity to rebuild. As part of the team, you can help define the culture. But when it really comes down to it, you need to choose if you're willing to miss out on new opportunities to fix the current one.

Is the risk is worth the reward?

Thanks for reading!

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