Why two suits are better than one when you’re picking the dream team to start your ad agency

This is the second extract adapted from Paul Simons’ book Day 1 to Day 2555 (or 7 years in the life of an advertising agency). Here Paul explains how he went about choosing the right team to start successful London agency Simons Palmer Denton Clenmow and Johnson which merged with TBWA seven years later.

I’ve used the rock band analogy many times to explain this point. It’s hopeless if each member of a band doesn’t know what their job is and each member should complement the others. It’s the same with a creative business; it requires talented people who produce ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ reality. In our case we started with five partners, each with a defined role. I think we had a pretty good balance between the team.

One of Simon Clemmow’s inspired views on the team at Simons Palmer was to approach Carl Johnson (pictured, now CEO of Anomaly), a young account director at GGT, to join as a partner to be the day to day suit. His reasoning was I wouldn’t want to be the day to day bloke and I should focus on other things such as how we grow, get profile, new business,money, etc. Some years later I was having lunch with Rupert Howell of HHCL fame, and he said he admired our line-up because he was doing both my job and Carl’s at his place. It was a genuine piece of inspiration on Simon’s part.

Our final team decision was the creative role and I spent many hours talking to our top ten list; I have numerous amusing stories about the conversations that took place, mostly based on the complete lack of commercial nous on the part of many creatives. However, we had a very lucky break by meeting Chris Palmer and Mark Denton. They saw the opportunity for themselves and for us collectively.

Chris had spent some time at BBH so I rang (Sir) John Hegarty for his view and he said: “If you have the chance of doing anything with Chris Palmer don’t hesitate as he is one of the most talented creatives in the UK.” Well that sealed the team.

Don’t take my word for all this. Here’s what HHCL founder Rupert Howell says:

“The most important thing in any enterprise is securing the right partners and ensuring you share the same values and goals. So invest the time up front before starting your own agency as it will pay huge dividends later on. The founders of HHCL spent nearly a year plotting and planning before we actually launched.”

Day One to Day 2555 (7 years in the life of an advertising agency) is available here, price £19.95.

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