Will an old business model work in a digital world? The co-operative!

Date: 11/01/2018
By: Russell Taylor, Director @ DDN

For a long time, I’ve dream of an agency that doesn’t follow the hierarchical format of some of the agencies I’ve worked for in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I love those agencies and enjoyed working for them. Having said that, I’ve noticed a common theme that I consider to be a weakness among them. I call it the All-Stars issue.

The All-Stars are the talented players the folks who bring in the big clients, the people who develop the best applications, the artists that knock it out of the park with satisfying consistency. The people the agency and their clients rely on and just like when the best players take a transfer, the sponsors can go with them. What’s that got do with hierarchy? Well, is quite often built on a structure of privileged information and responsibility. There is no shared resource of information and when your star player on a project is a freelancer you could be left short.

That’s not to say there’s a problem with hiring freelancers, as I once incorrectly argued to my regret when I worked for an agency in the naughtiest. The problem lies more in the floating pontoons of information and the lack of cohesion that exists between them.

Consider the art director with complete knowledge of a brands style guides and the location of  important assets. The developer who’s unique mash up of packages and libraries work perfectly in only an environment he’s aware of. The Account Director who knows his clients favorite local hang out, flavor of whisky or holiday plans (okay don’t shoot me down for this one! I know how much you folks do). In reality, how well are we serving the client and ourselves by holding these cards so closely to our chest. I say the best employees are often the ones I don’t need, the ones who have made themselves redundant. Those are the team players, the future leaders, the often unsung folk.

Personally, I want to work for an agency that exists on the strength of its structure, not an agency that is ready to tumble like a stack of jenga blocks, when the piece that holds the top layers up is cautiously removed. That’s why I work with Design Develop Now, because it’s a co-operative of professionals, every one of us is as important and unimportant as the other. We share in the revenue, we share in the toil and we put the client before ourselves.

Is this the model for a brave new world or a recipe for disaster? Let me know.