Big agency new business experience and your career, part one

Today, yours truly wanted to offer up some perspective on the value of big agency experience as it relates to your new business career. The advice comes from a practitioner – someone who’s worked in full-time new business at agencies large and small. And as a recruiter. Every so often, yours truly is retained by a shop to find said staffer. Great projects, by the way, as people with these proven, demonstrable skill sets are very hard to find. And I happen to know a few…!

So, big agency new business experience. The advice?

Get some. But maybe not too much.
It never hurts to have ANY big, alphabet soup agency experience on your resume. It looks great, suggests competence and professionalism, and commands more money.

Agencies are like other professional service firms. The bigger places have bigger, better-known client rosters. But to get on the roster, there’s a pitch. These kinds of agencies have much more active transoms than smaller firms. Their phone rings due to the existing awareness, networks and relationships that come with a larger agency. (This is just one of the advantages of working in new business at a place like this.)

But an active transom is the rub.

The phone rings without them having to do much of anything. As a recruiter or agency president, I’m far more interested in new business professionals who have increased the pitch rate of an agency with little awareness. Or have helped their teams win more of what they currently earn. These folks have had to market their agency. Not just sit by the phone.

“Go to a smaller agency and make it bigger,” has been some of the best career advice given to yours truly. This was after, of course, I’d had the chance to work in new business for a big agency. (You can find out more here.)

Naturally, this is just one perspective. One could argue the changes taking place in our business suggest this isn’t nearly as important as it used to be. Related, crazy talk: some digital experience might not be a bad thing to have, either. But I digress.

There are plenty of very successful and happy new business folks who never work at a big agency. And there are some professionals who have spent their careers only working at big shops.

What say you? What has been your experience?


Interested in more career talk? Here’s a nice post that discusses why new business should be a part of any professional’s career.