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Selling enthusiasm Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2007

Marcie Brogan still wants to be a copywriter. Years removed from her first copywriting job in the advertising business, the CEO of Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing still loves the daily grind of deadlines and fresh ideas. So Brogan takes that excitement to work with her every day at the $72 million public relations and marketing agency and tries to get that same spark out of her 60 employees.

And as the agency has expanded to include nine partners, Brogan thinks she might be able to make some time to get back to the copy desk — even if that end of her work has to be pro bono.

“I think you shouldn’t be leading a business if you don’t have that passion,” Brogan says. “You should just retire or find another business or demote yourself.”

Smart Business spoke with Brogan about how to build passion among your employees and why diversity has made her business better.

Q: How do you build passion with your employees?

One important thing is to show confidence that we are doing well, and we are able to beat out anybody and anything and any competition with smarts and savvy. A lot of times, we work long hours, and if we can’t get a client to go our way, it’s frustrating — so I have to show that passion for what we do.

We have lots of pressures, but advertising is not like being cardiologists or sending rockets to the moon, so we are permitted to have fun. And I believe in leading that fun, which leads to high morale.

That is the distinguishing and attractive characteristic of our agency — that we always say, ‘We don’t take ourselves very seriously, but we do take our work very seriously.’

Q: What is your philosophy on hiring?

After I figured out that I could never run a business as long as I thought that I was the smartest person in the room and the only one capable of doing every task, I decided I should be a leader rather than a doer.

I look for people that I’m positive are smarter and more talented than I am and who bring new skills to the business.

Q: How does diversity play into your staffing ideas?

I’ve spent many years trying to break down the white-bread-male feeling to this business. Not as a social adventure but because I think that advertising and marketing have to reflect the environment in which we live. It’s not a white-bread world, so we have to be able to understand the customers of our clients, and sometimes, it’s easier to understand them if the membership of your agency reflects those customers.

It’s not always ethnic diversity; it can be age, gender, religion, everything. We’re in a high-tech market in our North Carolina office, so we bring in younger, more technical people. I just think diversity is only a positive because it gives us better understanding and a head start on our clients and customers.

Q: What do you do to build teamwork?

One of the best ways of doing that is by sharing the profits of the agency in a way that makes people aware of how we make money and how their work causes us to make money or lose money.

We reward people on a monthly basis when we meet our income goals, and we reward them on an annual basis when we meet our annual profits. Sharing the money quickly creates teamwork. If their monthly extra money in their pocket and their annual compensation depends on it, then they’ll take better care of it.

Q: How do you deal with the staffing challenges that come in hard times?

Last year, we had to face downsizing, and in the Michigan economy, the ability to replace that instantly was hampered. So having to downsize was a very painful task for me and a leadership challenge in a way to do it humanely and a way to do it where we didn’t permanently hamper morale. The human aspect was my first concern, and then the business aspect of it came second.

One of the things we did, rather than letting a lot of people go, was we solved a lot of problems by asking people to take pay cuts. We did that for probably five months, then were able to restore not only the salary, but we were able to bring back three of the five people we let go.

One of the things about leadership is constant communication, so everybody was aware of what was going on because we do monthly updates on where we are, and people were aware of what the issue was. Also, I have nine partners, so they led the way by example, and I think that doing that makes others feel comfortable and confident that partners are willing to do this, are willing to take a risk, so they should be, too.

HOW TO REACH: Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing, (313) 874-8555 or www.brogan.com