The Best Damn AE . . .

I have been thinking of writing this post for a long time. Gotta give the AEs a little love because I tend to beat them up a lot.

There's a line I love from an episode of Melrose Place (the oh-so-accurate-TV-show-about-advertising) where Amanda (Heather Locklear) declared, “I’m the best damn AE at D&D!”

I tried to find the exact clip on YouTube to accompany this post, but alas, after a couple minutes of viewing cheesy acting and an improbable script, I gave up. I did find the one below where Amanda addresses The Board of D&D – who are appropriately dressed in high-fashion – and declares herself (at about 1:34) as “one of the best AEs in this business” even though she failed a mandatory drug test (in an agency?)!

Of course I watched Melrose Place! My colleagues and I howled with delight, learning how to create an entire ad campaign complete with storyboards – overnight no less – with only the efforts of an AE and a copy intern.

Organize your agency? Pfft. All you need is a power-hungry, bitchy blonde to get things done.

But I digress. This is about a real AE.

I actually have experienced working with The Best Damn AE (or whatever title you prefer). The one who has the often thankless job of client facing.

She isn’t bitchy Amanda Woodward. Her name is Lena.

Lena is awesome. Diligent. Clear.

She cares about her client, their product and her colleagues. And the big bonus . . . She’s super nice.

She is the one person I measure all account-types by.

What’s even more amazing is that I’ve had the pleasure of working with two others who were awesome. Same diligence and values. They had all gotten their start at the same agency.

I don’t know what management is doing at that agency, but they are training their staff very, very well.

I’m sure it comes down to hiring well and training well because three out of three awesome AEs, in this business, is rare.

And each one of them had nothing but great things to say about their past agency experience.

I’m blown away.

Oh, yeah. No last names or agency name. I can’t be responsible for poaching.

Why You Need Training on New Systems

Whether you’re implementing a new process, workflow, or a new software system, you MUST train your staff. And…they must attend without distraction.

Attentive engagement conveys clear expectations and provides a valuable forum for addressing concerns, complaints and for making improvements.

Without training, and active participation, your lovely, funny and highly talented team turns into whiners, tormentors, or escape artists.

Addressing issues and making adjustments shows you have a system that is built for the agency – meaning your colleagues – rather than one individual’s desire to exert control or torture colleagues.

There will be haters. They exist everywhere and usually feel they are being subjected to something they don’t deserve. Nobody is special. Sometimes it just comes down to: Do the work because I said so.

The reality is that your workplace is just not a democracy. Employees have to do certain boring (and seemingly irrelevant) administrative stuff so management can tell how much money they’re making. That’s so they can shower everyone with the extra oodles of cash coming in from increased productivity.

Something else about training: I have been a trainer, and I have held positions from production artist to designer to project manager. Training on software is one thing – where to click, what to fill-in.

But training that is tailored to your structure, culture, and specific processes, is essential for the software to make sense to your organization.

Software training within your unique context is simply more effective. It has traces of familiarity – because it was customized to your needs; solves the issues that have been the root of chaos; and is relevant to your agency.

Changes can turn an agency or in-house department upside-down. But it doesn’t have to.

Make the solution your own – and ensure training to get your people on board.

Trust me, it won’t feel like torture. And they may even love you for making life just a little easier.

organization - adjustments during implementation

So in my last post I stated it takes 40 days to create a habit. With respect to organizing your agency, you’re dealing with a lot of people in diverse roles. When you introduce process with structure and new tools (e.g. software) into the mix there’s a lot to evaluate and learn prior to rolling out the systems, not to mention gaining compliance.

Do your homework, get help (a staffer from each discipline is good) and get complete commitment from management.

Once you have trained – yes you must train and it can be painless – then roll-out and the 40 days begin. Be available to help. Few remember the details during training sessions, so prepare a simple step-by-step guide (specific to role) for people to reference later. When I say simple, I mean simple. Step 1 click here, Step 2 enter data here (pictures, lines and arrows do work).

Follow up continuously during roll-out. Be available to hold hands, stem the tears, deflect anger…and make adjustments.

The best laid plans get derailed if you’re inflexible during roll-out. However, this requires an objective review of issues before flexing. Keep in mind that when you’re implementing change in an agency or marketing department, you’re managing three distinct areas: process, tools (software / hardware), and people. The last is often the most difficult.

So, by day 20, invite an in-depth review of the issues, develop a plan to mitigate them, and review revisions with the entire team affected to assure a change is necessary. This will pave the path to a solid system for everyone by including the team in the process.  

Try not to make changes too early. Some people adapt easily and quickly and others do not. Determining whether it’s the learning curve, a procedure or a format (I had forms that just didn’t work for some – made an adjustment and everyone was happy) helps determine how soon you need to make those adjustments.

Something to watch out for: workarounds. Never accept them. Workarounds are the evil un-doing of a good process that consist of: still using old systems or forms – because everyone is used to them; deciding the new system ‘takes too long, is too hard’ and not entering essential data such as estimates, schedules or client updates; or just walking-over-and-begging-a-colleague-to-make-this-one-little-change-because-I-need-it-done-for-the-client, skipping every process in between.

I will never tell you that the process of organizing your agency is easy. You’re working with people who are busy, stressed, and may just put up a little attitude. But with good planning, engagement, training, review and adjustments, you can successfully organize your agency or marketing department.

In 40 days you should see improvement. If not, email me. I want to hear what's going on because that time was a real investment and I want you to succeed.