In the beginning of 2013 we saw a frenzy of acquisition activity in the communications industry. A number of smaller, independent agencies were sold to some of the world’s largest holding companies. I’d like to congratulate Elise Mitchell (a close friend) and the other agency leads, whose hard work and dedication to their business has made them attractive to others looking to expand.
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE) has been around for nearly 30 years as an independent agency (second largest in the world I’m happy to say), so you can imagine I receive frequent requests or knocks on my door with offers to buy us or merge with us. My business partner, Pam Edstrom, and I are always honored by these requests; we listen to every one as an opportunity to learn.
And there are a few upsides to consider. Acquisitions bring an influx of capital and a wealth of new talent and ideas into your organization, and often times dramatically expand a network around the world.
Despite all that, I remain FIERCELY committed to independence.
Why am I so committed to a path that can be so hard? After all, you need to fund all your own growth and build your own networks. The answer is because, as an independent company we get to chart our own course.
When I founded this agency, I knew we would create many opportunities for employees to grow and do great work for clients. But what makes us different is that was not enough. I wanted a company that held itself accountable to making an impact in the world. And the only way you can do that is if you have full control and make the hard decisions that sometimes prioritize doing the right thing (for our people and for the world) versus just maximizing your profit.
In conjunction with this, we have always placed our people at the center of everything we do. Our success is built on them, and our “secret sauce” has been to provide experiences they can’t get anywhere else. This includes programs such as global exchanges that give them a chance to live and work in another part of the world, incredible flexibility in balancing their work and life, or working with clients that let them take risks to evolve our very craft.
And finally, by staying independent, we have complete flexibility in forging partnerships for clients. As we build integrated campaigns, we approach partnerships (even with competitors sometimes) with creativity to make sure we only bring forth best-in-class (rather than just best-in-network) solutions.
There have been very few agencies that have remained independent and reached our size. We are in rarified air. While during some late nights the challenges to continue our success can be daunting, I am excited by the future because we are doing what my dad had always pushed me to do — think beyond the bottom line and focus on “To What End.” To create the impact we want for our clients, our people and the world, we will remain joyfully independent.