For Lauren Tucker, founder and CEO of strategic management consulting firm Do What Matters, an analogy to using GPS to find the way forward for an agency is apt.
“You don’t use GPS to find out how you got lost,” she says.
Tucker, an honorary fellow at the University of Wisconsin, where she earned her doctorate in mass communications, knows all about keeping the momentum in the right direction. In the past, his consultancy has helped Martin Agency and Periscope scour the critical points in their history, digging in to find the core issues that prevent agencies from addressing inclusion gaps.
The next project for Tucker and his team: The Richards Group. Last October, the agency was embroiled in controversy after founder Stan Richards pointed out that a The Motel 6 campaign was “too dark”. The flashback was quick, with several clients –including Motel 6, Home Depot and others– leave the store resolutely independent.
Shortly after the incident, Richards resigned from the agency he founded and Glenn Dady, who joined the Dallas agency in 1980, became CEO. After a little time and thought, Dady focuses not only on healing the agency, but also on becoming a beacon of what is possible.
“This is by far the biggest challenge I have ever experienced at the agency,” said Dady. “And now we have a chance to reinvent ourselves. Everything changed when Stan stepped down and with that I hope that in a year our industry can look at us as a case study for doing it right. And I am delighted to work with Lauren and her team.
Tucker criticizes the industry’s efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion, noting that not much has changed since she started at the company at Leo Burnett in 1987. The problem, she says , focuses on managing diversity, which is largely linked to data. Tucker’s claim is that success comes from managing inclusion: building and integrating DCI’s efforts into each agency’s organizational strategy.
“This is the only way we’re going to make it sustainable,” she said, stressing that the agency-by-agency approach is more effective instead of being a holding company mandate. “Diversity officers are lovely people, don’t get me wrong, but that can’t be guaranteed. Everyone in the agency needs to engage and connect inclusion to drive the growth of the agency and its clients.
Talent above all
At its core, the agency’s most crucial asset is talent. Dady said Tucker’s claim that talent is “at the center of everything in our business” has energized the leadership of the Richards Group.
“I was 100% sold at the time,” recalls Dady.
According to Tucker – who spent more than 11 years at the Martin agency and stepped down as the store’s director of decision science – mismanagement and lack of investment are fundamental problems. Additionally, the accumulation of opportunity, which comes in the form of cronyism and nepotism, restrains agencies and can create a culture that looks inward rather than outward at possibility.
“Managing inclusion is about [getting] the right people in the right jobs, continuously leveraging those relevant differences to provide clients with work that appeals to an increasingly multicultural audience, ”said Tucker.
Indeed, culture at The Richards Group started and ended with Stan Richards. Long known as a powerful creative store, Dady emphasizes what he called “stan-isms,” referring to certain policies or behaviors of the founder.
“He had reasons why he put them in place, but all of them are to be reviewed now,” he said. “We look at all aspects of the agency’s operations and culture. Nothing is outside the table, up to and including a name change [for the agency]. “