What Makes a Master?

Next week, IHAF is holding its eighth annual conference entitled, In-House Agency Masters. Now, I’ve heard of master carpenters, master musicians, even sushi masters—but this is the first time I’ve heard the designation used to describe an in-house agency. And you know what? I like it.

Mastery is one of those things we read about, but don’t discuss much. That’s why I was enthusiastic when I got the opportunity to speak with each of the featured presenters in advance of them stepping up to the microphone next week. Without giving too much away, here’s what “the masters” have in common.

Vision. Each organization has a vision that extends beyond structure and process—a vision that drives the in-house agency’s reason for being. Each team put a stake in the ground regarding what their in-house agency is, and what it is not. And that vision is recognized within their respective companies, with support from the top down.

Leadership. In order to realize a vision, teams needs effectual leadership that can influence and encourage action. Some lead from the front; some lead from behind. What’s common among next week’s presenters is that each of them fosters an environment that enables individuals to do their best work, acting on behalf of the whole.

Expertise. In-house agency masters are always learning—equal parts advertising/marketing student and student of the business/brand. They never stop seeking insight and testing new methods of engagement. They think strategically, execute creatively and manage superbly on behalf of their clients while maintaining laser-like focus on their goals as a team.

Passion. These folks are passionate about the work they do and about working as a well-oiled machine. They rise to meet challenges and unflinchingly face failures. And while masters enjoy a pat on the back just as much as the next guy, the majority of their motivation comes from within—stoked by capable leadership and committed employees.

Partnership. None of them did it alone. The success of each of the in-house agencies that we will be hearing from at next week’s conference is the result of their willingness to learn from and partner with others. These teams collaborate effectively with clients, colleagues, vendors and suppliers—integrating their experiences and applying their expertise to achieve peak performance.

Want to hear more about what makes a master? Join us on Thursday, October 17th for In-House Agency Masters—a full-day conference featuring four of the most accomplished internal agencies in the country. To learn more about IHAF, go to ihaforum.org.

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