Creative agencies need to attract more young people into business development

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Alex Sibille, managing director at The Future Factory

As the UK economy is getting up from a prone position to a slightly healthier kneel, the need for agencies to have a strong new business and business development plan has increased significantly. Now is the time to shift the focus from survival to growth.

There is one problem though, how many graduates or young people aspire to work in business development? We have enough astronauts, F1 drivers, and Premiership footballers, but not enough intelligent, creative minds dedicating their enthusiasm to helping the UK creative industry grow.

One significant barrier is that few young people even know or understand the term ‘business development’ and what a role within 'new business' entails.

So why choose a career in agency business development?

Getting into the creative industry is competitive for a reason. Many want to utilise their creative thinking, appreciate the pace of innovation, and enjoy the less corporate approach to a working week. A business development role is the perfect way-in, providing a fun, challenging, and rewarding foot in the door.

Business development managers gain a broad understanding of the industry in a relatively short period of time and acquire skills, which will provide a strong career foundation, due to the fact that from day one you'll be exposed to board level decision making and both the commercial and creative sides of the agency world.

Ever thought about starting your own business? This role will provide you with the staples needed to make that dream a reality. If (in any industry) you're able to identify and engage with your key prospects, demonstrate value and build long term relationships with them, not much else can hold you back. Many of the famous ad agencies have been founded by people with killer business development skills, knowing that as long as they can attract the clients, the skills needed to deliver the work can be hired.

The business development team are the life-blood of an agency, providing the work, which pays for everyone’s Pret a Manger at lunch and post-work pints, the buzz of an agency that is 'winning' and the stories that get the trade press excited.

Working in new business can be both damning (the measures of success / failure are pretty black and white) but also incredibly rewarding. You become responsible for shaping how an agency is perceived by its future clients and the industry it operates in. You can be responsible for identifying the market opportunities for an agency and the clients which will allow the agency to create award winning work. You should be a font of knowledge as to what marketing directors really want and need from their agencies and influence how your agency is structured to deliver upon that.

Your role on a day-to-day basis should involve engaging with key decision makers within the brands your agency would love to work with and working with the wider agency teams to develop content, events, marketing, insights and opinions that showcase the agency's stance and relevance within the brand's world.

Not many have the skills to write a stand-out email to a marketing director who receives 50 agency introductions per week, shine like a star in a chemistry meeting, draw out the insights from the strategy team that will ignite conversation in an overcrowded sector and scour The FT for the nuggets that could signal a change in a brand's strategy – all in one day. For the few who do, and who look beyond the generic entry role into the agency world of account manager, the pay off, both personally and career-wise, can be huge.

Alex Sibille is managing director at The Future Factory – a new business agency working with 40+ creative, communications and digital agencies.

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