Monday, June 13, 2011

Agency - A Concept

I dealt with a Japanese advertising agency recently in which all of the above excuses were true - "It's not my job, my boss won't let me, we're prohibited, that's our policy, etc". And I dealt with a man who was arguably the #2 in command, but he couldn't make a $2000 decision. He couldn't sign a contract.

With my small company in Korea I had only three employees, and all of them had agency to an assigned degree. They had the ability to act and to spend money in their appropriate assignments. After two years of running our company, I felt the need for a long vacation. We had won the big account, were financially on good footing and I felt I had earned the holiday. In making plans for the trip, I told my #2 in command that there were only three reasons to call me while I was away, "Death, famine, nuclear warfare" - somewhat in jest, but basically true to make the point, "Don't call me".

I went to my lakehouse in Michigan, listened to the ducks, read and just enjoyed the hell out of myself. I was in the middle of a divorce and knew that I might never enjoy that house again.

Upon my return to Korea I was informed that a 'client emergency' had cropped up and my staff had taken appropriate steps to make the client happy and solve the problem - and they had committed $5000 to various suppliers to get the work done. This was not the thing to do without a signed agreement from the client. But my staff had acted in good faith, and to serve client needs - a good thing. I suddenly realized that the number $5000 should have come directly after 'nuclear warfare' in my instructions of when to call me. But the failure, if any, was mine for not explaining fully and maybe giving a little too much agency to my #2 in the situation.

So I quickly set about to repair the damage - calling suppliers, cancelling jobs, stopping printing presses. The client in this case, a marketing assistant, had no authority to have been ordering the work. But my staff didn't know that. In the end, it cost us $2500 but I was very careful to not put the blame on my staff and let everyone know that I stood behind the person who made the decision to do the work. Over time that stood as a pillar of our company's trust in our employees and let them know that we would stand behind them when they made decisions, even some wrong ones, for the greater good.

The poor Japanese man I met with last week. No power to make decisions. No power to even sign for work he was ordering. No agency at all - and he worked for an agency. Go figure.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Read my previous blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies.