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Roots and Wings

I am about to start a new job for a seventh different company.


My previous business cards had the logos of Leo Burnett, Giant Step, Starcom IP, SMG Next, Publicis Groupe Media and Denuo. I have never stayed at any of these places except the first for more than four years.

I have worked in traditional advertising, direct marketing, interactive, digital marketing, media, innovations, consulting and futures.

Clearly I seem to take wing often and fly to some new opportunity. Appears I like change.


I have worked for the same company for 27 years. All my companies sprung from or were majority owned by the Leo Burnett Company or its buyer the Publicis Groupe. I have been working for the same boss for now eleven years. My latest resume is dated 1982.

It appears that I am rooted to the same place and have issues with venturing into new things.


It is the importance of having roots and wings.

In order to have wings and venture into new truly risky things (like convincing Leo Burnett to take their name off the door and instead use the brand Giant Step which had been started by two young brothers, when Leo launched their digital operations),somebody, somewhere has to bet on you. And people bet on a combination of track record (facts) and they bet on people they trust (relationship and history). Its never really one but both.

And track records and trust take time to build.

In this world of real time, all a twitter, continuously iterating and always flexible models, this has not really changed. In fact, as the need for speed increases the importance of trust increases more since by the time the power points are done, the committees meet, the lawyers put pen to paper, the opportunity may pass. Often the paperwork follows the act of a bet or approval some one has already given.

I believe I get to take risks and do new things because I have stayed at the same place. I believe I have stayed at the same place because I get to take risks and do new things.

If you don’t have roots you will have trouble finding your wings.

First, because people may not back you. Second, when you stumble –which is absolutely guaranteed– there will be no store of goodwill to tap.

When I advise people including Clients I sound very conservative. My bias is to suggest staying where they are versus jumping. Then it becomes clear that I am actually recommending that they go to their bosses with their new passion or idea or concern and ask if they can pursue or solve for it where they currently work. Often, if they are well regarded and the company is flexible, they find they end up doing what they wanted without all the drama and upheaval of leaving.

And if they are not allowed to, it may confirm one of two things. Their firm has outgrown them or they have outgrown their firm.

So next time when you want to switch, evaluate if you can do it close to your roots. And if you have been tending to your roots too much and have not stretched yourself, take wing.
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4 comments on “Roots and Wings

  1. Nick says:


    Congrats on the new move.

    Look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.


  2. @jeffmarshall says:

    As always, great advice and guidance.

  3. Laura says:

    Congrats on the new role…always inspired where your wings take us all, and greatly respect and thankful for your roots!

  4. pat says:

    Congratulations on your move.
    Profound truth, best wishes.

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