I don’t want you to go through what I went through … and have it haunt you years later.

Years ago, I was a successful ad agency owner. And like you, I was running the show. A show that I thought I knew all about. Don’t we all? Even with my success, I made some bad decisions, wasted a lot of money – all the things other agency owners sometimes go through. Some days, I was just rolling the dice.

Despite hiring the best consultants – who ended up telling me things I already knew – there were times I felt desperately alone, with no other agency leaders to confide in. I was working in my own ‘bubble’ – in a lonely tower. I didn’t join the mega ad associations – honestly, I couldn’t justify the expense of attending their meetings overseas or at posh island resorts and then wondering if I’d ever fit in with the “big guys.”

Over the years, I worried a lot. The highs were high; the lows were depressingly low. I knew I wasn’t always at my best but couldn’t explain why. I felt I knew everything there was to know, but as the saying goes, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’

In looking back, I must admit that the effects of isolation – not having the support of a peer group for instant feedback, and realizing there was a lot more to learn, probably prevented me from getting over that growth hump – the one where you get a couple of larger clients and you go from 18 to 35 employees.

Cashing Out at 50 –

While I successfully cashed out at 50, sometimes I wonder how much more I would’ve grown if I had an advisory group of agency leaders who were going through the same issues and opportunities that I was experiencing.

How much better would my business disciplines be? How much better of a job could I have done in hiring and retaining employees? And, how much money could I have saved by not buying that dreaded expensive software program? Ugh. And, how many nights of restless sleeps could I have avoided?

If only I had some trusted advisors back then, who had “been there and done that.” where we could have shared ideas, and solved problems immediately!

The effects of isolation – even if you have a partner – are silent and invisible, until you realize that you’re not getting ahead; your clients know more than you, you’re busy chasing your tail, fighting internal fires … and the fun is gone.

Why I Started CEO Stars –

I started CEO Stars twelve years ago because I didn’t want agency leaders to go through what I went through. I wanted agency owners to reach their potential and what they were capable of doing. I wanted them to believe they were ‘unstoppable.’

I wanted agency executives to learn from each other; solve problems and share ideas in a non-competitive confidential environment – and get the attention that’s often ignored.

I wanted agency leaders, with a dream inside their gut that’s wrestling to get out, to realize that dream and get to their desired destination – before it was way too late. I wanted to put the fun back into being an agency owner.

To my fellow ad agency owners: Nobody wins alone. Loneliness slowly saps the pursuit of excellence out of your mind and the subconscious denial of it is your own silent enemy that will haunt you with taunts of ‘what if’ and ‘why didn’t I?”

The delusion is that even with stress, lack of joy and sub-par performances, it seems that all your cylinders are working at normal. But that normal equates to mediocrity.

For me, that wasn’t a good place to be. And, I don’t believe it should be for you.


In a chaotic advertising landscape, Joel Cohen’s CEO Stars is a ‘next-generation’ advisory group for select ad agency leaders who want to keep learning and take their agency to the next level, faster and with the least amount of stress. www.CeoStars.com