SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – The most exciting places in the agency world have less than 50 employees.
That was my strong takeaway from BOLO 2011, held here on Monday and Tuesday.
BOLO, a conference for the principals of small and midsize agencies, featured Scott Stratten (UnMarketing), Ron Baker (Pricing on Purpose), and Jay Baer (The NOW Revolution). It's run by Agencyside, a consultancy that helps nimble agencies stay competitive.
Here are some of my observations from BOLO:
Small is beautiful. While large agencies struggle with structure and duck their overhead, this group gets down to business pretty quickly. Yes, it's a challenge to make payroll and keep clients happy, but necessity is the mother of invention. There’s less time and effort wasted. Plus, learning travels faster when it can be shared across a tight team.
Technology is part of the culture. BOLO is focused on tech-driven media, so the attendees came ready to learn. But they also had lots to say. I was blown away by the work being done, and the willingness to experiment with technology. There was only a little bit of theory – and lots of practice. More than a few have contributed to TED.
Community is real. "Social Media" starts with the word "social" and that's clear to this group. The way they use SoMe to build business relationships rivals how they use it on behalf of their clients. This week I made a ton of new friends (look for some great #FF recommendations in my Twitter feed tomorrow). In addition, they contribute to their communities. One example was The League of Innovators, a “creative club” allowing local brains to bring ideas to life.
Talent is diverse. Big agencies have a (deserved) reputation for hiring the types of people they already have. The people I met this week included tech entrepreneurs, TV producers, and of course statisticians. Entering the agency world did not kill anyone’s curiosity; everyone was hungry to learn more. (“BOLO” stands for “Be On the Look Out.” I love that.)
I’m hoping to be there next year and recommend the same to you.