Thursday, October 23, 2008

OnlineSpin: Talking About Talent At Stream 08

Last week Dave wrote "Don't Bite Your Tail, Especially When Entering a Severe Recession."

Antonio Montero wrote in response, "Ad agencies are in my opinion one of the biggest roadblocks that prevent Mexican advertisers from embracing the Internet.

When you think think about it, it makes perfect sense. For years, ad agencies have not been totally accountable for their cllientsÂ' results mostly because their campaigns in traditional media were hard to measure in general. So, ad agencies could spend lots of money on mediocre campaigns without being held fully responsible at the end.

However, we all know the Internet is highly measurable and this scares the hell out of ad agencies, because for the first time in decades clients can clearly measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and calculate their ROI with extreme precision, thus making ad agencies fully accountable.

Furthermore, online media requires a different set of skills and capabilities commonly not found in the traditional ad agency.

Building this set of skills is not easy and requires agencies to start thinking differently and viewing their business in a very different way.

In short, they need to CHANGE and they refuse to do it and will continue to do so until there is no way out...."

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Talking About Talent At Stream 08
By Dave Morgan

I recently attended "Stream 08," an "un-conference" in Greece co-hosted by Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP and Yossi Vardi. Yossi, one of the world's best and most prominent technology investors and entrepreneurs, is famous for his un-conferences, which are basically open-source events where all of the participants are expected not only to listen and engage with speakers, but to be presenters as well. The focus of the events is to establish original dialogue among a diverse group of entrepreneurs, executives and, in this case, marketers and advertising agency folks. It was a pretty extraordinary couple of days and I can certainly say that I came away enriched -- whether it was learning about the surprising opportunities for mobile Internet in East Africa, hearing Sir Martin's extremely well-thought-out perspective on the current financial crisis and its global ramifications, or meeting some great entrepreneurs working on some really cool ideas.

Since you can't just be a sponge at one of these events, but must contribute as well, I led a small session on recruiting and retaining talent in start-up companies. It was a lot of fun. And, in the true spirit of an "un-conference," I found a co-leader in one of the other participants ten minutes into the session, when Jason Calacanis, the CEO of Mahalo, walked up and joined our group. As those of you who have followed Jason's career and writings know, Jason has been a real leader in the Internet industry in building talented teams and in managing them through both good times and bad. Plus, he's never been afraid to share either his experiences or his opinions. A lot of our discussion centered on the challenges of finding the right people to work in your organizations and then how to evaluate, motivate and compensate them.

The group came up with some great insights through the course of the session. Here are some that really stuck with me:

  • When hiring, focus on the mission, not the money. We talked a lot about the role of compensation in finding talent. We found that while offering competitive compensation was important, it was never the primary motivator for great talent -- great missions and the chance to grow and make a difference are.

  • Hire slow, fire fast. We all agreed that the vast majority of our personnel disasters over the years resulted from hiring too quickly and bringing in someone that we knew was a risk, rather than patiently waiting for exactly the right candidate. Other big mistakes included keeping folks around that aren't cutting it, are disruptive, or in a role that they are not suited for.

  • Hire excellent, fire good. I know that this sounds draconian, but in the hyper-competitive markets that most of us are competing in these days, being good is not good enough. You need to be excellent to survive and thrive, and you need excellent people to do that.

  • Find your hiring "template." Enterprise Rent-A-Car is famous for its early strategy of hiring recent college graduates who were presidents of fraternities or sororities to help establish its remote rental locations. They want self-starters and great organizers, comfortable working to establish themselves and the company in communities where they launch. It makes sense. Since much of my career has been focused on relatively complex advertising technologies understandable and accessible to media companies, brand advertisers, and agencies, I have always liked to hire as many tech-savvy liberal arts graduates as possible.

  • Hire less than you need. We all agreed that it was generally better to be a bit understaffed than overstaffed. Not only does it keep folks busy, but it also gives them room to stand out and grow. When you have too many people and too little work, that's when the grumbling starts and the work satisfaction goes down.

    These were some of our thoughts on recruiting, retaining and motivating talent in our organizations. What do you think of them? Any lessons of your own to add?

    Dave Morgan, founder of TACODA and Real Media, is Chairman of -- and a partner in -- The Tennis Company, which owns, and TENNIS and SMASH Magazines.

    Online Spin for Thursday, October 23, 2008:

  • You are receiving this newsletter at as part of your free membership with MediaPost. If this issue was forwarded to you and you would like to begin receiving a copy of your own, please visit our site - - and click on [subscribe] in the e-newsletter box.
    For advertising opportunities see our online media kit.

    If you'd rather not receive this newsletter in the future click here.
    email powered by eROIWe welcome and appreciate forwarding of our newsletters in their entirety or in part with proper attribution.
    (c) 2008 MediaPost Communications, 1140 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10001

    No comments:

    Blog Archive