No Business Like New Business

No Business Like New Business

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An inside perspective on new business and why it deserves applause.

Twenty years ago, I couldn’t say the word ad agency without someone sprightly telling me they’d love to be a creative. As businesses and brands have evolved, so have people’s understanding of, excitement and interest in the diverse talents and positions that exist at agencies; therefore, it’s nice to see a healthy medley of roles being sought after today.

For the inventive imaginaries and composers, there’s still creative. For those who find artistry in execution, there’s production and development. For those fixated on figures, there’s analytics. For the curious and behavioral adventurists, there’s planning. For the content connectors, there’s media and social. And for the business bonders and logistical engines, there’s client service and project management.

So, what about new business? While most of us have supported New business (or will) at some point in our career, I find it can be the ultimate team-bonding and rewarding experience. However, when I tell people that I work on new business, the phrase can sometimes be a boomerang for wrinkled up noses, expressions of sympathy, and my favorite of all, an over-exaggerated, UGGGH! I have yet to meet anyone who started off their ad career by begging to be part of the new business department, but why the lackluster?

In conversations with my admired network of new business fellowship, here are some of the universal challenges I’ve heard:

  • You spend countless hours in the field hunting, knowing you may not come home with dinner.
  • The pitch cycle can be long, especially when there are a lot of layers to the review. And making it to the final presentation after six months of hard work only to be told you finished just inches behind the selected agency is a buzz kill.
  • Being social is fun, but networking solo can be intimidating and a bit of a yawn fest.
  • Tends to be high turnover in a new business role due to burnout and job security can feel wobbly.

It would be silly and downright untrue for me to claim I haven’t experienced these thoughts before.

On the flip side, the dogmatist in me also believes:

  • Find new ways to hunt for your dinner. Change up your equipment or try a new path, test out different gear and stay out past dawn if you have to. You may end up finding something unexpectedly better along the way.
  • A longer pitch cycle for you and your agency usually means you keep advancing to the next phase. It means you’re doing something right or at least different. And yes, coming in second (or not first) after six months of hard work stings. But think of all the great content you have to conquer the world and pitch against your last prospect’s main competitors.
  • We’ve all been to events where people go in groups and don’t like breaking out of their comfort circles. LAME. This is your opportunity to meet someone new, swap experiences, learnings and interests. Plan ahead and set 1-2 networking goals for yourself before each event.
  • As a new business director, you aren’t traditionally considered a “billable” employee. You have to find opportunity and bring in revenue. But isn’t that part of what fuels your competitive spirit?
new business black coffee cup hello my name is sticker

“Let’s chat.” There’s a world of wonder that lives in Business Development.

Reframing the way we look at new business

If we take a step back and really think about the role of new business, it’s the most critical component to advancing an agency. Revenue and profitability are number one. But without being able to invest in your current talent, new talent, new technologies, education and resources, revenue and profitability aren’t guaranteed. New business allows agencies to make these types of investments to advance their bench strength—and in return—seed organic growth.

Within agency walls, we need to stop thinking about new business as a task versus a goal. And perhaps we should get into the habit of referring to new business as we present it externally: business development. It sounds active, progressive and has purpose.

No matter what I call it, I’ve always found new business a conjuring blend of irksome and arduous, exhilarating and rewarding; instinct and addiction. This weird sport of tug-of-war that brings out the fighter in you because you can’t help but keep playing until you win.

In my opinion, there’s no business like new business.

As the infamous Ethel Merman sang about show business here, I’ve created my own tribute to new business.

Feel free to sing along if you’d like.


There’s no business, like new business, like no business I know

Who says RFPs are not appealing, they let you show off everything you are

Your work, your clients, and your kick-ass employees, all of whom are superstars!


There’s no people, like new biz people, they smile when they are low

Even with a loss of focus and sleep, it’s hard to see the benefits to reap

Still you hold onto the experience you’ll keep, to the next new pitch – here we go!


The prospects, all their info, gathered into a list

Your team members that argue up and down

So many questions, information – what did we miss?

The relief of getting to the final round

The presentation where your nerves race like the wind

You forgot that to bring that damn MAC adaptor again.


There’s no business, like new business, like no business I know

Your content is due the same day you have to present a new client campaign

Top of that, half of your team is out sick, but still you have to make it rain


There’s no people, like new biz people, they smile when they are low

One day no one will open up your mail, then the next you almost close the sale

Look, we’ve finally landed that big whale, new business baby, let’s go!


For more info on Hunt Adkins, business and brand development, or musical theatre recommendations, contact Holli Maines.