A New Business Option: Hire an Assistant

A New Biz Option

Recently, a number of agency principals have told me that they have not had success hiring new business people, or “developers” as I like to call them.

“Not successful at all,” one principal said recently. “The guy never even got close to making back his draw, and the only new business we got was the stuff I brought into the agency myself.”

I would love to strenuously disagree. I have seen many agencies do the new business procedure correctly and have their new business people succeed in a big way. The trouble with most failures in the new business arena is poor hiring decisions by agency principals, followed closely by lax supervision of the new business person by the agency principal or account manager.

But that's another story.

Never Fly Solo

The issue I want to discuss is one that I learned about from a principal who had worked at larger agencies, and now owns a smaller agency. At this smaller agency, new business is the responsibility of one of the agency’s partners. This partner had been a successful account supervisor in a previous agency. When he left that agency to form a new one with several of his associates, he personally took on the responsibility of gaining new business for the fledgling agency rather than doing account service. The main reason was there were very few accounts to supervise at that time. This principal also felt strongly about having an agency owner directly involved in the new business process. Finally, he knew that he would be pulled in many different directions, so the first thing he did was hire a new business assistant.

That’s the difference in a nutshell.

The New Business Assistant

In the past, I have recommended that you hire a new business developer. The developer spends most of his or her time calling prospects on the phone and soliciting meetings. When a meeting is confirmed, this new business person invites the agency principal to accompany him to the meeting, where the principal begins to take control of the budding relationship, and the new business developer shifts to move on to the next lead.

In this case, the agency principal, rather than leaving the telephone solicitation to a developer, felt he could do a better job himself.

“After twenty-five years in the business, not many people know as much about the advertising business as I do,” he said. “I feel having me actually make the calls to prospects to discuss issues and potential partnerships is the only way to maximize the new business process." This agency's decision to hire not a developer, but rather a good assistant who would work every day to support the agency’s new business effort, paid off in spades.

Following are some of the duties a new business assistant would fulfill:

  • List building and maintenance
  • Prospect and industry research
  • Letter writing
  • Portfolio maintenance
  • Email response
  • Mailings

This is a switch from our original suggestions on new business, but may work for agencies with more than one partner, where one of those partners has a predilection for new business pursuit. I do agree that there is a powerful advantage when calls to prospects are made by someone whose “name is on the door.”

You may feel this new business option works better for you. One thing is certain: however you decide to structure your agency’s new business effort, make sure you dedicate yourself and your agency a proactive new business process each and every day. It’s the only way you can succeed at what has become a very tough job indeed.


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