A number of years ago, I met an agency owner that I had admired my entire career. We were both attending an industry conference. I had seen him at a number of events over previous years, and I finally worked up the nerve to introduce myself. After his very gracious greeting to me, I had a question for him.
“Why do you go to so many of these kinds of meetings? I see you as the expert, not the student.” He laughed and gave me a response that I have embraced ever since that day.
“My most important role for my agency is to be a scout. To lead our people into new thinking and ideas. To be in front of what is new. Running the agency is my job, but leading the agency is my mission.”
As an agency owner, you must perform many functions. Management, finance, account service, creative — even delivery person at times. But your most important job is discovering. Learning new stuff and determining what could be valuable to bring into your agency. You must be a scout. Experimenting with ideas that may benefit the agency, your people and your clients. This takes an investment of time and money. It should be a line-item on your P&L – Learning and Development.
To scout, you have to get out of the office. Often. The more you are at trade shows and conferences, meetings and seminars, the more you will interact with other thinkers that could give you the nuggets that may fundamentally change your opinions for the future.
You need to constantly being working at hunting and gathering new nuggets of ideas. Often, it‘s not just one that will affect your perspective. It’s the combination of many slivers that are mixed with your own experiences that bring you to new ground. “Aha” moments don’t come from the vacuum of meditation. They come from mental juggling of many tidbits that are streamed into your brain. So, fill up with more ideas than you can handle. Get out there.
Then, you must share with your team. It may be a few small thoughts for change. It may be a whiteboard filled with ideas. Or, you may bring a singular directional plan that everyone will embrace. It doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing as much as possible. This is what a great scout will do.
Guy Kawasaki’s book, Rules For Revolutionaries, has a perfect chapter that sums up this process – “Eat like a bird, poop like an elephant.” Gather as much as you can, then share as much as possible.
Get out there and discover all you can. The Internet is a wonderful tool for discovery. But it can’t replace walking up to someone that is doing something fascinating, introducing yourself and having a conversation that may change your own perspective.