Kerry Bowden, Global Recruitment Director at Adaptive C&A, interviewed Justin Stayrook, VP of Experience Technology at Merkle about the differences between large and small digital agencies.
Kerry: You’ve worked for both small and large digital agencies but in similar roles, what do you think is the biggest difference from an employee perspective?
Justin: Bigger agencies tend to have more mature processes, reporting, and structure. Therefore, you can focus on the core part of your job and take off a couple of hats. In a small agency, you are often part of the marketing team, sales team, operations team, SME team, all at the same time. Which is great experience to learn so much but it’s much different.
As a hiring manager, what do you think is important for a new hire to be successful in as large of an agency as Merkle?
Justin: Make sure your communication skills are really solid. Because bigger agencies are distributed worldwide, you need to be able to get your point across in email and in virtual meetings. There are way more of those than people just stopping by your office.
One common complaint about “large” agencies I hear is that there is too much red tape. Since Merkle is private, do you think there is less of that?
Justin: Yes. But I don’t necessarily consider red tape a bad thing. Although the word red tape sounds terrible. If it’s process that insures quality, then it’s valuable. I think the quality of service clients get from a larger agency is better due to some of the process controls.
From a visibility and upward mobility perspective, there is usually more opportunity at larger agencies. Is mentorship emphasized at Merkle for more junior employees?
Justin: Well, it’s probably about equal but totally different. At small agencies, you get a lot more responsibility right away which is very valuable. At large agencies, you get to learn from a lot of different people who have a lot of experience. I recommend both.
How important are collaboration tools when working in large agencies?
Justin: Extremely important. It’s all about communication.
How often do you and your team interact with employees in different locations?
Justin: Every hour. Our company initiated the Merkle Mentoring Program in 2005.
Our leadership team views the program as a critical component to employee engagement, and as a result, we have mentors in the program who actual inspire their mentees to take on the challenges they face. These mentors play the role of sponsor (get that next role), coach (overcome that one thing), guide (where should I go next?), and sounding board (listener).
The program runs informally, but once a mentor and mentee are matched, it is expected that the relationship lasts at least six months and that the pair meets at least an hour a month in person or by phone.
What do you think are some benefits to clients in working with a large digital agency versus a small, niche player?
Justin: Small agencies if they are local, can often provide a strong relationship. But with a large agency, you get the benefit of top class experts and a lot more “worldly” experience.
Sometimes clients feel like big agencies are too concerned with growth and not about each client relationship. What is your opinion on that?
Justin: I actually think it’s the other way around. Small agencies are always struggling to get to the next level.
And finally is there any advice you would give to smaller agencies looking to grow?
Justin: Hire for what you want to be. Not what you are. Incentivize everyone. Give everyone lots of responsibility. Be willing to fail.
Feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn for a networking conversation.
Tel: (760) 284-3369
E-Mail: kerry.bowden (at) adaptive-ca.com
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