Rob Webster is Founder of Canton Marketing Solutions. He’s worked in the adtech industry since 2001 and is NDA’s new monthly columnist.
This year for me is not only the start of a new decade but also the start of my 20th year in Digital Advertising and Ad Tech. I can safely say that whilst those years have had their ups and downs I have loved the journey and wouldn’t change it for the world and I have learnt so much in that time. 18 months ago I fulfilled a career-long dream and started my own business with a great friend I met, 20 years ago. That business has gone from strength to strength in 2019. A year ago, I wrote some resolutions that have really helped me on that journey. Updated here based on what I have learnt in the last 12 months. I hope they can be valuable for many others in this industry and beyond not only in 2020 but across the next decade.
To back Yourselves. Only you have your unique skills and experience. If you don’t back yourself then how can you expect others to do that for you? We are entering into a new era of advertising as well as a new decade that requires new ways of working. Therefore we all need to back the skills and instincts we have learnt to prosper and build a better industry. One of the key themes I have seen time and time again is that those that back themselves succeed and succeed faster than those who have similar skills but are more cautious. If you back yourself good companies and manager will support you, if that is not available you will likely have more luck elsewhere. Backing yourself can take many forms, it could mean starting your own business (there has never been a better time for startups), looking for a new role, asking for a promotion, taking on new responsibilities or simply being more confident in your work. Backing yourself does not mean pushing down others, backing yourself is not a zero-sum game. Backing yourself does also not mean being reckless. Backing yourself is about believing in your best efforts without fear of failure.
Be Positive and encourage positivity. A positive mental outlook is contagious and leads to much happier and more successful outcomes. This applies both at a personal level and a company level. There are problems in companies, the industry and the wider world but the correct response to this is to look for solutions. Being positive applies to many areas from how you treat a difficult situation to how you view other people or businesses. Positivity though does not mean celebrating mediocrity and believing it can work. True positivity comes from keeping your critical faculties close at hand but pushing the most positive course of action. The positive person on a sinking ship does not sit and pray for a miracle but looks for ways to send a signal and keep the ship afloat that much longer until rescue can arrive.
To make time for people. Having a strong contact network is like a superpower. Combined with your own skills the range of situations you can positively influence is vast. Things you don’t know its likely someone you know does with a strong network. The industry is changing fast and you will need your contact network to manage this change. This network takes nurturing and growing new contacts. Be on the lookout from time wasters and those that take and don’t give. Your time is precious and needs to be used on the right people. By the same token make sure when you meet people that you listen carefully and give value freely. Any value you give will be repaid many times.
To invest in skills, both your own and those in your teams and areas of responsibility. Have targets about what you want to achieve for yourself and others. A changing industry needs different and new skills. If you are not learning you are staying still. From learning new channels, technologies (AI, ), data techniques or areas such as creative. If you and your cohorts can learn fast things can only go well. Companies need to invest in their staff. Individuals
To be open and trusting. Worrying about competitors and people stealing your ideas is a negative distraction. If your ideas are so easily stolen they are not valuable anyway. Protect your IP of course but not to the point of paranoia and negativity. The industry is big enough for all who are good at what they do to do well so don’t worry about your competitors (though learning from them is good). In a changing world, your competitors could become partners. Unless you own the dominant company in a broad space (if so well done) there is far more to be gained from being open. Even then in a changing world, building the new is going to pay off better than protecting the old. This also applies to honesty within a company, it can be very common for companies to hide the truth from their employees particularly when bad news is involved. This is understandable and at times unavoidable however the instinct to be open and trusting must take precedence.
To invest in talent. AI may take all our jobs in the far future but for the coming years what the industry needs most right now is more talent. For those of us that have done well too, it is time to send the elevator back down. Not only is this altruistic but it helps your company navigate the changing world. Talent will not leave in a hurry if you invest and nurture it. Do so and you will find talent is loyal.
To be inclusive. From your hiring policy to the panels you appear on and the people you meet being inclusive is a must, both because it’s right and because it benefits everyone. Being inclusive will mean a stronger and deeper talent pool with more diverse skills and experiences. Change is coming to both the industry and the world. We will need the talent that emerges from being inclusive. Have a look at everything you and your organisation does and consider it actively from a point of inclusion. This doesn’t mean stopping doing anything positive but it does mean ensuring that activities balance for the benefit of all.
To have integrity. Many of the worst ills of the industry have occurred because good people did nothing. From fraud to the issues over transparency to examples of prejudice in the workplace. We all have an individual and collective responsibility to hold true to what we believe in. In the past, I have been told and told others to “Play the game” to succeed. There is some truth in this, but it must not come at the expense of integrity. When our convictions are tested most we need to change the game to move forward. I promise you that you and those around you will be happier and more successful if you do.
To ask for help when you need it. Despite the fact that it’s only marketing it can be a stressful world sometimes. Equally, we all have our insecurities and issues. Whilst we must take responsibility for ourselves, we must not be afraid to seek help at times be it formal or more social. This help can come in many forms. I have benefited hugely from coaching at different times and would recommend either a coach or a mentor to anyone (I have also vastly enjoyed mentoring). For others, it can be about speaking to a good boss, friends in the industry or out. What I do know is that individuals who seek help usually find it and are much happier and more successful for it. From a company perspective it is vital we provide the support our valuable employees need. To do it your way. This comes back to where we started really with backing yourself. In life, you will never be short of advice, like this article. It’s up to you what you take on and what you ignore as at the end of the day only you know what will make you happy.