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October 10, 2007
Dressing for Success Means Wearing The Tattoo
CEO, Marketing Magic Advertising

As any savvy business owner will tell you, the way to get employees to perform their best is to get them to rally behind a cause. In advertising, that means building your client’s business. When an agency accomplishes this, it’s successful. It’s a company employees love to work for, and one they’re proud to be a part of.

At Marketing Magic, I want employees not only to be proud of the agency, but also to show off that pride wherever they go. But wearing your company pride on your sleeve is not enough. No, it’s got to go deeper than that. When they start at our agency, we ask employees – metaphorically, that is – to put a tattoo of the MM logo on their arm. Then I ask, “Are you going to wear a tank top, or a long-sleeve shirt?”

If you’re wearing a tank top, that means you’re proud of your company, you love your work, and you want everyone to know about it. But if you’re wearing long-sleeve shirts, you’re covering it up, which means you’re not as proud of this company as you should be.

So now for the tough part: how do you get employees to want to wear that tank top on a daily basis?

Be smart: emphasize education

Basically, the longer you have an employee with you, the better they understand your company and the more effective they’re going to be. For new employees at MM, getting through the learning curve is a process that’s the same for everyone, no matter what their position, level or previous experience.

Whether employees are part of the Creative, Account Service, Media or Interactive departments, they’re trained in our processes and procedures by their department head. They learn about our culture, including work ethic and accountability, by the example set by their peers. They’ll also receive technical training to get them up to speed on our custom software system. So no one can rightfully say, “Well, I didn’t know that – nobody told me.”

Time to do your homework

Being educated in the culture and processes of the company is the first step. The next is doing your homework. Our employees are expected to develop an awareness of what goes on both inside and outside the agency. We encourage them to circulate relevant articles and generate ideas based on their findings. Keeping up with industry trends, reading the trades – they’re all part of understanding our clients’ businesses, maintaining credibility and staying ahead of the competition.

We also require every employee to read Harvey Mackay’s “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,” one of the most effective sales books ever written. Putting Mackay’s principles into practice, like developing relationships with your clients and getting to know them like you know your best friends, has been invaluable to our team’s success. Just ask any one of them.

Companies only grow when employees do

When you foster a culture in which education and growth are encouraged, the company benefits. For example, we give every new employee a review after the first ninety days. Sure, a good review means the employee will likely get a raise or bonus. But just as important, it’s an opportunity to provide their own review of the company. We ask them what they’ve learned about the company, what they think works and what doesn’t. We give them complete immunity, so they can be very candid. The result? Employees appreciate the opportunity to contribute, and will often learn as much about themselves as they do about the company.

When an employee can make a difference, he or she has a chance to grow personally and professionally – and that’s what keeps them loyal. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been in business for over twenty-five years. And while some employees think it’s great we’re a stable company that’s not going to close its doors anytime soon, others might think it’s a company that’s set in its ways, with no opportunity for development. You have to set that kind of thinking straight, right from the start. Because when they grow, so do you. It’s that simple.

Putting it into practice


As in every job, the big, bad bogeyman – boredom – will inevitably stifle growth. That’s why you have to continuously create a stimulating work environment. How? By delegating decision-making to your team.

As a business owner, you can’t do it all, nor would you want to. At MM, most of the strategic decisions are handled at the top, but decisions that are closer to our clients are made by department heads and team members. When it comes to how we can give better creative direction, improve our presentations, incorporate technology or improve training, employees on the front lines are the best source for information, advice and decision-making.

As a result, our employees get to take on exciting new challenges and try on some new hats. They share responsibility, which creates a sense of teamwork and pride.

Oops, my bad

Sure, with any learning process, mistakes will be made. But you must be ready to respond to them the best way you know how. That means accepting mistakes as part of the deal. The mistakes are made, accounted for, rectified and filed away as lessons in the business.

Of course, some mistakes, especially those that are made repeatedly, are unacceptable. These are most often addressed by the removal of decision-making autonomy, and in extreme cases, termination. After all, opportunities are considered privileges – not entitlements.

But because they know they’re allowed to make honest mistakes, our employees don’t give up and leave the agency. They work harder, perform better, and stay with us for the long term. Which makes our clients stay with us as well.

So what’s your dress code?

Are your employees wearing long-sleeve button down shirts, or are they wearing the tank top that proudly shows off your company tattoo? If it’s the latter, congratulations. You know they’re dressed for success – and that makes your company look sharp as well.

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A graduate of the University of Florida, Bob Rose hold a Master’s degree in Advertising from the University of California at Berkeley. Bob co-founded Marketing Magic in 1983. Now its sole owner, he has grown it into the second-largest privately held full-service advertising agency in Florida. Bob is also a firm believer in providing that important extra spark -- added value. It's part of everything the agency does. Clients always get more than they bargained for, and they profit from the results.

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