Anyone will tell you the agency business is hard. Most agency staffers can add a couple of hard things to the list, most days.

McKinney Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Cude shared a couple of hard things in a piece for Ad Age called Tough Love: The Advertising Business Is Hard.

He writes that the high “strike-out rate” in marketing and advertising can make “immense and staggering blows…an unfortunate but completely common experience.”

Campaigns are cancelled at the 11th hour. Contracts are lost, or not won to begin with. Someone drops the ball. You drop the ball.

You’re going to have plenty of chances to keep making the decision to be resilient.

Leaders don’t have time to think these decisions over (Cude included). Every immense and staggering blow must be shaken off before it shows on your face. Feeling every blow that lands anywhere in your business, often as keenly, makes this harder still.

Resilience isn’t part of the job, it’s a way of life

With the benefit of hindsight, the inordinate amount of value we place on making advertising can seem pretty silly. I don’t care how good it is. It’s not a spouse, a child or a mom.

The single hardest thing about running an agency is being relentlessly positive. 

Being positive about campaigns for your clients. Positive about your clients for your team. Positive about your team for their colleagues. Positive about your results for your investors. Positive when your clients’ business goes into administration. Or merges. Or they consolidate agencies. Take it in house. Or you just don’t do the best job.

But most of all, being positive about your job for your family.

My wife suffers from anxiety and, like the agency, relies on me to be relentlessly positive.

When asked what qualities an agency leader needs, Ebiquity’s Nick Manning replied: “a sense of proportion is probably the most important personal attribute right now, but in short supply”.

I work with a great team, doing great work, for great brands – and I go home to a wonderful wife – so it isn’t hard to be positive.

But it is relentless.

9 things that have helped me stay positive

    • If you drink at home, don’t drink beer. You’ll feel much worse after 500 or 1,000 extra calories every night
    • Exercise regularly. Endorphins make you feel great, still fitting into your clothes feels better
    • Make a list of 100 things that motivate you. 50 is easy – the good stuff comes between 90-100. (“£5m annual profit” isn’t a bad goal, but you’ll feel bad every day you’re not making it and the feeling of achieving it will disappear quickly. Microsoft To-Do lets you pull things from your bucket list and your to-do list into your schedule for the day)
    • Know your strengths and weaknesses. I’ve used assessments like DISC (more on that here) on a recent 2Bobs podcast Blair Enns and David C. Baker explain why you should too
    • Each day, write down something you’re grateful for (also via David C. Baker – discussion here). While I don’t keep a journal, I do make an effort to think of fortunate things that happened during the day as I’m going to sleep. It helps
    • Have all your difficult discussions over lunch. You have time to consider your words when your mouth is full and you don’t dread the conversation when you know steak is involved
    • Everyone does uncomfortable things quickly so delegate all fun tasks – you can look back on your day knowing you got a lot done and some awful things are off your plate
  • “Plan regular FBTs (Fake Business Trips). Get away from your life for a few days to relax, and, if need be, let some bad out. It’ll make you a better partner and parent.” – I stole this one from John LeFevre and, depending on who’s reading, I’ve never done it
  • Above all else, get a dog.


If you can see yourself in this post, my DMs are open. Otherwise you should check out: