We’ve all seen this movie before: Small agency has seasonal lag in revenues, and guts staff with press-reported layoffs.
Morale nosedives. And it has to climb its way back bit by bit over many months or years. The agency balance sheet is not just affected by revenue loss, but by the curse of ‘bad karma’, which in our business, can be even harder to overcome than depleted cash reserves.
That’s why it’s all the more impressive that Barrie D’Rozario Murphy was able to turn just such a traumatic event around, and perhaps create the best ‘ad’ for an agency ever done.
Having just received major budget cuts, BDM, instead of cutting the 25% of staff attached to that revenue, gave its entire staff 25% time off (500 hours), to do whatever they had always wanted to do. All paid. For good measure, they even included their regular list of freelancers.
So, what are the BDM staffers doing with their sabbaticals?
Agency co-founder Stuart D’Rozario, who had hatched the “500 hours” idea, has taken the time to write a book entitled “3 bits of advice.” Mary Pastika, a project manager is designing and building her own furniture. Kim Schmitt, the financial director did not commit hari kari, and instead is volunteering at a shelter that harbors neglected horses.
And so it goes. The rules were that you had to do something constructive with the time -- unlike our friends in most of Europe who just take the month of august off and go on holiday.
Maybe the agency business isn’t dead yet. Every once in a while, the spirit that made this industry special rises up and reminds us all why we got into this business in the first place.
I applaud Stuart and his partner Bob for taking the personal financial hit to do something like this. I predict it will be the best financial decision they’ve ever made, and that the ‘good karma’ created will eventually transform itself (via new clients and top talent attracted to the shop) into hard cash on their balance sheet.
Maybe it will even start a new trend: taking care of people. There was a saying in the agency business that the assets go up and down the elevator every day. I’d forgotten it because I hadn’t heard it for so long. Thanks BDM for reminding us.