I had lunch the other day with a former big-agency CEO who went off and did a start-up a couple of years ago.
Despite still getting a buzz from not having a big boss on the other side of a big ocean pulling his strings, he has recently had a few talks with big bosses on the other side of big oceans about selling his funky new agency and rejoining the corporate machine.
To bail out of your own start-up after three years to take on a corporate beast such as McCann is an intriguing move
In truth, I reckon these conversations were probably more about reassuring the former CEO and his partners that, even though they’re small and rather on the fringes of adland now, they haven’t been forgotten by the big dicks with lacklustre UK offices (there are quite a few of those) looking for a reboot. Egos duly polished, so far this particular start-up has said no, thank you to these approaches. In fact, each conversation has reminded them why they bailed out of their network life in the first place: confused and complicated reporting structures determined by internal politics, minimal budget control, ball-busting growth targets, crippling internal cross-charges. Mind you, they do admit that one day the money might just make the compromises worth it.
Anyway, a few days later, I got a call from Now’s John Townshend and Mark Lund to tell me that Lund was quitting the agency he co-founded in 2011 to join McCann Worldgroup in the UK group CEO role. And he’s not even selling his agency to do it.
No doubt Lund is being offered a very handsome package to take up this complex role. But to bail out of your own start-up agency after three years to take on a massive corporate beast such as McCann is an intriguing move. Lund says that the challenging bit of the start-up process is over at Now and that the agency is established enough to be on a steady trajectory. Perhaps, but the shop was still making many demands on Lund’s time and energies; owning a small company with big ambitions absolutely should dominate your life and, if you’re not comfortable with that, then it’s only fair to your partners to move on.
But if Lund was ever looking for a comfortable pre-retirement job, he won’t find it at McCann. The group requires an awful lot of hard graft to make it mean something in the UK. An awful lot. It’s a fractured collection of companies at a time when integration is top of clients’ agendas. It will demand all Lund’s consummate diplomacy to manage the egos and self-interest, and it will require a significant well of determination, drive and inspiring leadership to shape the disparate parts into something coherent.
It’s an interesting challenge, no doubt about it. Is it worth giving up your own company and control of your own destiny for? That’s for Lund to prove.
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