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The role of every business is ‘to attract and retain clients’. Yes, every business. As Creative Directors, the part you play in helping the companies you work for achieve this objective is critical to its success. After all, it’s the work of your department that helps your agency win business; and it’s largely (although not exclusively) your work that dazzles your existing clients to guarantee that they will keep being existing clients.

So why does it feel like most Creative Directors treat the feeding and maintenance of that department as something that only gets attention when there is a problem?If you don’t know the answers to all of these questions, you’re simply putting yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to helping your employer/partner/boss achieve their primary task. And if you’re not helping your boss achieve their primary task, you’re putting yourself and your career at risk.

The answers to each of these questions should be in your RAM – your guiding principles as you make the 1,000,000 decisions you make daily. (For what it’s worth, they are in the RAM of the world’s best Creative Directors. (‘Best’ being defined as what most of you would regard as ‘best’.)

1. What is the total revenue of the company you work for? What was the revenue in the last fiscal, what is projected this fiscal, and are you on, ahead of, or behind track? What percentage of total revenue is attributed to staffing the creative department?

Okay, that’s five but who’s counting? The answers to these questions are what your boss uses to make decisions related to the requests you make, and knowing the answers are germane to running your business within a business – the Creative Department.

2. What is your total annual talent budget?

Once you have the answer to question one, this is the next question. With this information you will start to understand the money you have available relative to the big picture to achieve the goals set out before you in the next year. If you don’t know, you’re making decisions in a vacuum about the most important resource you have in achieving your goals as a Creative Director – the talent of those around you.

3. What percentage of the total creative department’ s talent budget is your salary?

If it’s high, it means that as a percentage of the total, a huge burden is placed on your shoulders to achieve objectives without resources to rely on. No matter how much you make, there are still only 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. So, be very efficient with your time.

4. Who has the ultimate hiring and firing authority of your department members?

It’s time for a sports analogy. On a professional sports team, the Manager doesn’t decide whom the team keeps and who gets traded. The Coach does. Now, the Manager does tell the Coach how much money he has to field a team, but as for the team selection, that solely rests on the Coach’s shoulders.

5. Do your clients require fewer senior hands on their business, many junior hands their business, or a combination of both?

And just as important, what did your company promise your clients when you pitched them? If you know the answer to this question, is your department currently constructed that way, or is there a plan in place to set up that infrastructure?

6. Who will be the next 3 people to resign from your department?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, you will be continually broadsided, and each time it happens you will be ill equipped to handle the disorienting effect it has on client relationships, department and agency morale.

7. What are your plans to keep the keepers?

There are MANY other ways to make an employee continue to feel inspired than money. In fact, money is often the easy way out, and more often than not – a short-term solution.

I’ve seen many people stay at positions well beneath the industry salary standard for many reasons. They include flexibility in work hours that allow them the opportunity to better manage their lives outside of work; an opportunity to learn about an aspect of creativity; easy access to a Creative Director who inspires, trains and mentors them; a client in an industry sector that really turns them on. It takes time to find out what each employee’s hot buttons are. Ask the questions, and spend the time and when you make a promise – deliver.

8. Who is the weakest link on your team?

Superstars don’t create DRAFT for under-performers. It’s the other way around. Under-performers create DRAG for the superstars. Superstars often get frustrated having to wait for the under-performers to catch up, and ultimately leave. Superstars want to be inspired by other superstars. Superstars want to move at the speed that Superstars like to move at.

Stop hiring Superstars thinking they’ll motivate the underperformers. Strive to improve your weakest links, so that over time your Superstars will be able to move at the speed they are most comfortable moving at.

9. When someone unexpected resigns despite your best efforts, what plan is currently in place to quickly replace this employee, ensure a seamless transition and keep clients happy?

I see this happen all the time. Key client and company lose a very important employee. Creative Director goes about the task (from a zero start) to find a replacement. Client is disoriented, agency scrambles to find a solution, Creative Director puts expensive freelance patch in place, and usually takes about 3 months to find a replacement. (I’ll bet the freelancers cost more than the headhunter would have.)

Add to that, the time required to have the new employee be as productive as the departed employee, and you’re talking about a minimum five-month transition. (That’s the average after tracking this for 60 months.)

10. What is the agency’s policy on using headhunters?

If the answer is it’s your job to know who everyone is out there, let me ask, is it? I thought your job was to help your partner (the agency’s President) attract and retain clients. Which means, focusing on the work, keeping the department running smoothly, mentoring and inspiring the department, understanding your client’s business so that you can present intelligent solutions that ‘retain’ clients.

You can’t possibly be recruiting which, when done thoroughly, adds 10 hours a day to the list of tasks you already have.

Why not leave that part to the experts?

~ heidi