Start-Up Style: Becoming a Model Organization

By September 1, 2016Education, Strategy
start-up power

“I can’t speak to winning every time, but we want to be a model organization … the best place to work and the best fan experience.”

These inspiring words from Royals General Manager Dayton Moore stayed with me as I celebrated the 2015 World Series success with KC Royals staff, agency and sponsors.

Yes, it had been an AMAZING year. Yes, we were proud and celebrated. Yes, winning the World Series is the ultimate goal. But I think we can all agree that it’s a long road to this kind of success. And it doesn’t happen overnight.

Moore’s words continued to play in my head over the next couple of days, and I began to form my own thoughts of what a “model organization” looks like. For us at Walz Tetrick, it means making sure the inner workings of our agency are strong—that our “house is in order,” so we’re well positioned to take on whatever challenges and opportunities come our way. It means treating our organization like it’s a start-up, looking at operations, product and service mix, employees and clients with fresh eyes to stay responsive, innovative and competitive.

At WTA, we’ll be celebrating our 50th anniversary next year, so it’s been a long time since we were in true start-up mode. However, we continue to intentionally cultivate this entrepreneurial mindset in our agency practices. We believe start-up power is key to our staying power. When we treat every idea like a start-up, it changes everything—client relationships, hiring practices, financial accountability, adaptability and our work. It doesn’t matter how old or successful an organization becomes. Every company at every stage of the business cycle can benefit from the start-up model.

One practical way we keep ourselves in start-up mode is through our own internal consulting groups called Agency Development teams. Through our AD network, we proactively tackle our most critical strategic and operational issues personally and internally, giving every staff member voice along the way.

Internal AD teams provide big benefits:

  • Continuity on important internal projects
  • Companywide perspective
  • Confidentiality
  • Cost-efficiency

Most of us who seek organizational change would agree that progress can often be slower than anticipated. Individuals who are “starters” typically thrive at the beginning of a project but can languish toward the end. Here are three tips I’ve learned along the way to keep the spark alive:

1.) CULTIVATE SELF-AWARENESS & VISION. Every quarter, we assess our organization and create AD teams around topics like recruiting, training, onboarding, staff development and knowledge management. We prioritize different topics based on need and importance to our profitability and success. Anyone can make a recommendation for an AD group, but be prepared to take part in the ones you recommend!

2.) ENLIST TOTAL BUY-IN. For most small to mid-sized organizations, it makes sense for everyone to be part of an AD team. Though participation requires time commitment beyond project work, AD teams offer everyone the opportunity to shape our operations and culture, instilling an entrepreneurial mindset from the inside out.

 3.) ACCEPT A MOVING TARGET. Since we’re an entrepreneurial agency, the definition of a model organization is always changing; we’re never done. The advertising and media industries are constantly in flux, and we need to be educated, creative, agile and early adopters. We exist in a state of continual improvement, never resting on past successes or “the way we’ve always done it.”

4.) MEASURE SUCCESS. Every agency initiative needs a grade card. Here are a few questions we use to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts:

  • Are we working on projects with the highest business impact for the company?
  • How satisfied are our clients and employees with the value we provide and the way we work?
  • Is there strong demand for the projects we’re working on?
  • Is there high productivity for their implementation?

In many ways, our approach to organizational change is a reflection of the people we hire. At WTA, we value innovation, creativity and strategic thinking. Like a start-up, we’re building something of lasting value together. It matters to us that everyone is invested and on board. Sure, there are circumstances where it makes sense to bring in outside consultants for particular complexities. However, we encourage you to look within first. If your talent pool is where you think it is, you might not need to look anywhere else.