Knockout punch

Most business leaders would love to have employees who wear
their love for their company on their shirtsleeves. As the president
and CEO of Marketing Magic Inc., Bob Rose prefers his team take
it one step further and show their pride by wearing no sleeves at
all — metaphorically, anyway.

“When you come into our company, we ask you to put a tattoo
on your arm of our logo. The question is whether you’re going to
wear a tank top or a long-sleeved shirt,” Rose says. “If you’re wearing a tank top, that means you’re proud. Most people who have tattoos really want other people to see them. If you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt and you’re covering it up, you’re probably not really
proud to be a part of our company.”

And while no one is actually being branded with a company logo,
it does show what kind of attitude Rose expects from his employees.

“You’ve got to love our company,” he says. “If you don’t love our
company, I don’t want you to be a part of our company.”

Getting that level of employee devotion is obviously easier said
than done, but Rose says without a team that enjoys and takes
pride in its work, his business would fail. Loving what you do leads
naturally to better job performance, which translates to better service for clients and better and more plentiful opportunities for your
business.

Keeping Marketing Magic free of malcontents has been key in
helping Rose grow the company to nearly $250 million in annual
revenue, making it the largest independent advertising agency in
the southeastern United States.

“The death knell for every company is when the people start
gathering around the watercooler talking about what’s wrong with
the company,” Rose says. “That’s the beginning of the end. What
you want is people gathering around the watercooler talking about
what’s great about the company. That’s a tough thing to get.”

In an effort to encourage his employees to make a commitment in
Marketing Magic, Rose makes a commitment to his employees by
fostering a culture that emphasizes employee education and creating
opportunities for their personal growth. Not wanting his organization
to be a bus stop for advertising professionals, Rose makes sure he
gives them ample reason to stick around.

“We have incentivized our people with everything from education to the ability to move up the ladder to stay with us for the long
term,” Rose says. “Turnover is the worst thing in any business. The
longer you have an employee with you, the more they understand
your company, the more they understand you and the more effective they’re going to be.”

Orientation

At Marketing Magic, learning and utilizing new information and
getting buy-in starts with getting everyone in the organization in
the same mindset. For new hires, Rose says acclimating oneself to
the company and its culture is a process that is identical for anyone who joins his team, regardless of talent or previous experience.

“There is an educational process in understanding who we are
and what is going to help you fit in to the company,” Rose says.
“You could come from another ad agency or you could come from
school, it wouldn’t matter. You need to understand our company in
order to be effective.”

Rose says failing to allow new employees to become accustomed to the customs and culture of an organization will, without
exception, negatively affect those employees’ performance.

“It’s like selling the same suit in a different store,” Rose says. “It
would be the difference between how you would train your sales-people at the Men’s Wearhouse as opposed to a boutique shop. It
might be the same exact suit from the same exact place, but the
results would be different based on how it’s approached.”

At Marketing Magic, the intricacies of the company’s processes
and procedures are learned through sessions with department
heads. Peers lead by example to demonstrate work ethic and
accountability. There is technical training to make new hires comfortable with the company’s custom software system.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the orientation is the
review Rose gives after 90 days of employment, the amount of
time he says it takes for someone to get up to speed at Marketing
Magic. Though Rose says a favorable review means financial benefits for the employee, its purpose has at least as much to do with
allowing him a chance to encourage feedback from his staff.

“When the people come in for their 90-day review, the first thing
I ask them before I give my opinion is for them to give me a review
of the company,” Rose says. “‘Tell me what you have learned about
the company. Tell me what you like and what you don’t like.’ I give
them an immunity bubble so they can say whatever they want, and
I have found people to be very open about it and very appreciative
that they actually have a chance to be heard.”

In addition to ensuring that his recent hires have all the information they need to function as a member of the company team, Rose
says that asking for feedback demonstrates to employees that
their opinions are valued and they have the opportunity to contribute and make a difference.

“When you’ve been in business for 25 years, the good part is that
people can say, ‘I’m with a company that’s very stable, they’re not
going to close down and I’m not going to lose my job,” Rose says.
“I get that, but the downside is that they say, ‘I’m with a company
that is set in their ways and they already know how they’re doing
things, so there is no opportunity for growth for me.’ We need to
address that, because that’s not the case.”

Homework

If being schooled in the Marketing Magic philosophy is the first
stage in Rose’s educational process, the next step is developing an
awareness of what is happening in the world outside the company
walls. His investment in his employee’s ongoing education
includes required and recommended readings that he says have
been critical in building and maintaining credibility and providing
clients the highest possible level of service.

“The question is, what might affect the thinking of our clients and
how can we help them do their jobs better? At the end of the day,
we just want to be a good ad agency for them,” Rose says.
“Therefore, if our people are not well-informed, if they don’t really
understand our business, what we’re doing, what our clients are
looking for and so forth, they’re either going to say the wrong
thing, get caught off guard or lose credibility with the client. From
a very practical business point of view, you need to know what’s
happening.”

To Rose, knowing what’s happening is synonymous with staying
well-versed on the current happenings of the market. As such, he
encourages his department heads to distribute articles and other
readings that are not only relevant to the marketing and advertising industry but those of their clients. For example, because
Marketing Magic has several clients in the finance industry, Rose
says it’s important that his team be aware of news concerning
interest rates and related topics.

Rose assigns every person who joins the company to read
Harvey Mackay’s “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten
Alive,” which he considers the best sales book ever written.

The criteria for deciding what materials to ask your staff to read
are simple.

“When you offer books to read, it should be something that helps
somebody think, helps them grow or is applicable to your industry,” Rose says. “It has to be something that you yourself learned
something from. If you read something and it seemed familiar or
remedial, why would you recommend that to somebody else?”

Rose says his emphasis on education plays a role in developing his
employees’ pride in what they do. Additionally, staying abreast of relevant current events contributes to a company’s collective ability to
execute.

“Education is knowledge,” Rose says. “It’s the key. The more you
read, the more you know about what’s going on as an employee or
even as an owner of the company, the better you can handle business, the better you are as a part of your team.”

Putting it to the test

What one might consider the culmination of Marketing Magic
101 is creating a stimulating environment that allows employees to
further their development by actually putting what they know to
use.

“You have to offer people opportunity to learn,” Rose says.
“People can get bored in their jobs really easily. You don’t have to
just be packing meat to get bored.”

Through a process of delegating decision-making and management duties to his vice presidents, department heads and those
below them, Rose creates those learning opportunities. His
employees get the chance to take on new challenges and advance
themselves professionally.

Most of the strategic decisions are still handled by Rose, but decisions that are closer to the clients are often handled by employees.

“If we’re going to move our offices or make a major change like
that, or buy somebody out, I probably would not ask for a lot of
advice on that,” says Rose. “I might get some preliminary information, but that’s a decision that I’m going to make on my own. When
it comes to how we can go about doing better creative briefs, presentations, incorporating state-of-the-art equipment, what we need
in terms of equipment and training, and things like that, I rely on
my people a lot.”

From a leader’s perspective, the benefits of sharing responsibility are numerous.

“It benefits me as a leader because I don’t have to do all the
work,” Rose says. “It benefits them as employees because it allows
them to utilize more of their skills, it allows them to make more
money and it gives them a reason to stay with the company, which
benefits me as an employer, also.”

Though making the decision to give up any amount of control of
day-to-day operations can be difficult, Rose says that it is simply
impossible to run a company without doing so. Having been
burned in the past by former employees — including a controller
who embezzled more than a half a million dollars — it would be
understandable if he were even more hesitant than most to trust
those around him. However, Rose compares the process to dating:
Just because someone has been through a relationship that ended
badly, it doesn’t mean they should never date again.

“I’ve been disappointed by people on more than one occasion,
but it’s not going to stop me from continuing to do it,” Rose says.
“If somebody earns a position, if they earn the right to be promoted, you do it.”

Of course, as with any learning process, mistakes will be made,
and Rose says you must be ready to respond to those mistakes
appropriately.

“You do expect that there will be mistakes, but there are mistakes that are acceptable and mistakes that are unacceptable,”
Rose says. “You have to be prepared to reward someone for doing
a good job and that could be as much of a reward as equity in the
company, or punish someone for doing a bad job, which could be
firing them, and everything in between.”

Though Rose says there are limits to the amount of authority a
leader can surrender, if you are not willing to allow your employees space to operate, any benefits you might have gained in building a positive culture will be lost.

“There are certain decisions that you have to make yourself, but
if one of my VPs wants to go in a certain direction and we have
three people who all look at it and voice an opinion, at some point
I’m going to let him break the tie,” Rose says. “You have to let the
people you empower make a certain amount of decisions or otherwise they’re just paper puppets.”

HOW TO REACH: Marketing Magic Inc., (954) 923-7700 or www.marketingmagicadvertising.com

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