What constitutes success?

Posted in Employee on 25 April 2018 By Steve Kemp, CEO and Founder

The recent change at the top of WPP has provided me with some food for thought on what constitutes success as an agency.

What Sir Martin Sorrell has achieved over the past two decades can only be described as phenomenal. Over 200,000 staff, 400 companies acquired, 43 in the last year alone. A huge global presence, 3,000 offices in 112 countries and the creation of many wealthy creative business owners. Having played cricket against Sir Martin a couple of times, I found him to be both highly engaging and charismatic.

As a founder and major shareholder of a 21 year old, owner managed, creative business the question on whether to sell to a big media services group or anyone else for that matter, has been raised several times. The temptation of taking some cash, taxed at 10%, mortgage paid off and financial security in return for an aggressive three to four year earn out has never really appealed though.

I’ve always wondered what would happen once the earn out expires, assuming we last that long. Negotiate another deal or take the opportunity to step down? Chances are we would have become disengaged and struggled with the concept that the business isn’t ours anymore. Frustrated that we can no longer be fleet of foot, unable to make longer-term decisions without worrying about margins, allowed to take a calculated entrepreneurial punt or retain the integrity of the creative engine and the culture we’ve worked so hard to build.

I have the honour and privilege of working with 191 individuals, collectively responsible for our continued growth and success.

Monetary value of a business is an important indicator of success. However, I believe that there are far more important ones. Building a strong community where people are respected, supported, cared for and recognised. Creating a meaningful impact and doing some good along the way. Giving people careers at all levels where they can keep learning and developing - these things are far more important.

I have the honour and privilege of working with 191 individuals, collectively responsible for our continued growth and success. When I eventually hang up my creative boots, wouldn’t it be nice to be remembered for creating a legacy where hundreds of people have grown, developed and established enduring friendships in a special culture where there is a real sense of purpose and great work produced rather than how much money the business was sold for.


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