We Start Out Hopeful Then Everything Turns To Sh*t. Or The Endurance Of The Human Spirit.

It never ceases to amaze me how people endure the most difficult, nebulous or desperate situations – and just go on. They get up. Go to work. Eat a meal. Do laundry.


My neighbor moved out yesterday. Just a guy, a small U-Haul and a day of schlepping back-and-forth. Out of a 2600-square-foot house with a pool, dying yard and eerie quiet.

When he moved there, about four years ago, it was him, his wife, his teenage sons every-other week, and eventually – his new baby. Then grandma was there every day to take care of the baby while everyone was a work and school.

Then the guy lost his job. He was out of work for more than a year. This is Las Vegas.

He quit paying the mortgage because the house was now worth less than he owed. He and his wife split – she moved out months ago. Then the house was sold on a short-sale.

Glad he was able to sell. A small victory when banks still work to make the process impossible.

That’s all behind him and he can move on.

That’s reality.

Working in an ad agency is just working in an ad agency. We act – and feel – like it’s our life. And actually, it is for most of us who love advertising. The agency becomes our family. We spend a lot of time with them, and they’re the ones who are there with you when you turn 30, 50 or 65; or when you get the call from school that your kid was spotted leaving with the red-headed-kid at 10am and you have to leave to track him down only to find they’re smoking pot in the basement; or when you find out you dad died.

Then we go on.

It’s the camaraderie, or perhaps the simple need to survive, that we stick together and show up for work every day.

We show up even when the boss does insanely stupid shit and requires endless re-works because he’s just not seeing it, only to revert back to original the work. Or doesn’t show up for days, weeks or months on end – only to finally make an appearance to tell you that now Everything is gonna change. Or despite everything you know to be true, tells you to do things in his new and improved way – because he’s just come from either an inspirational Management Summit full of gurus who bloviate on the merits of Failure, or he just got ripped a new-one because he’s just-not-doing-his-job-and-he-better-get-with-the-program-or-he-is . . . gone.

We show up and do our jobs, turn out great work – or as great as we can given the circumstances – and eventually, we short-sell, get the hell out, and start a new life.

The ability of individuals to endure, work like dogs, and still find enjoyment in a few things here and there, is truly remarkable.

You have each-other. And trust me on this: nothing lasts forever, so just carve-out what you can now and move on as soon as a good opportunity presents itself.

You are the ones making the business run. Think about it. You are remarkable. 

Absentee Management

This is about how your employees, staff, workers, come in every day, do their jobs, and save your business because you rarely, or don’t show up for work – or if you do, you only hang out in your office and drift in/drift out without so much as a hello or goodbye. (Not to mention you’re barely taking the pulse of your business).

You, business owner, are a complete jerk. Thankfully, you have people around who care more than you.

You. Do. Not. Deserve. Them.

Last night I watched an episode of The Profit, Amazing Grapes, about turning around a wine store/bar.

I could say, well I’m traveling and I watch reality TV when I have nothing else to do in the evening. Actually this reality show is worth watching. This guy looks at the bottom line and listens to the staff. I like that.

Absentee management abounds not only in this episode, but in others I’ve watched. Sad commentary on the state of small business.

But it happens in big companies too. Managers not showing up for work, much less meeting with their direct-reports on a regular basis creates stress (employees need decision-makers sometimes), creates animosity/fear, and is just plain is heinous.

But back to Amazing Grapes. Awesome, experienced and caring staff kept that place going. Marcus Limonis (aka The Profit), came in at the request of the [absentee] owner. He talked to the staff and got an earful. They care, and are treated like crap. Yet they keep working…for the owner.

For an exchange of $300-grand and 51% ownership, Limonis not only put hard cash into the business in the form of a major remodel, but made the staff owners. Twenty-five percent.

The other thing Limonis did was (in exchange for cash), was reduce the absentee owners’ shares to 24 percent. The people doing the work had the leverage to make decisions that made sense – because they understood the business.

In my line of business – working with agencies and marketing departments to work better, smarter – I see it every day. Creatives, Account, Production, Planning, name your department – are the ones making sure work gets done every day.

And every day, there is a CEO, Partner, VP, Director, Manager – who is absent. Then miraculously, one day they show up and f*ck things up.

Why? Because they don’t know what’s going on in their business.

So, when I enter an agency or marketing department, the first thing I do is talk to the people doing the work. If they’re not fearful (that’s for another post), they’ll not only tell me what they do every day, and they'll show pride in their work; but they’ll tell me about all the roadblocks along the way, how they work around them, and about all the wasted time spent (ALL NON-BILLABLE) because their manager is absent.

Not every employee gets the opportunity to own 25 percent of the business. I always tell everyone that they all own the business.

Too bad management doesn’t get that.

Now, Mr./Ms. owner, VP, CEO, Partner, go and thank your employees for keeping you in a Beamer.

And just show up for work regularly and talk to your team. They're awesome.