Tom Peters And Your Search For Excellence

Listen To Tom Peters

Way back in 1982, I read Tom Peters and Robert Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies.” While this may sound a bit over-the-top silly – it changed my perspective on business.

From the Book’s Amazon blurb:

The “Greatest Business Book of All Time” (Bloomsbury UK), In Search of Excellence, has long been a must-have for the boardroom, business school, and bedside table.Based on a study of forty-three of America’s best-run companies from a diverse array of business sectors, In Search of Excellence describes eight basic principles of management — action-stimulating, people-oriented, profit-maximizing practices — that made these organizations successful.


This book has formed the backbone of my business goals for over 30 years. I view the never-ending search for excellence plus the power of studying smart successful business leaders, a critical element of my personal success. I recommend that you take the 6.3 hours per week you spend on useless Trump news and read this seminal book. But wait… there’s more…

Much More Tom Peters

Peters has written 17 books. (17!) His latest book, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last” was published this month. It is now on my iPad. Perfect airplane reading during my next flight.

I was made aware of the book via Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels Of Separation podcast (his 312th podcast!) “Tom Peter’s Is Back and Demands Excellence.” Listen to it. Peters is thoughtful; totally relates to today’s business environment, issues and opportunities (including ones that impact your agency); and entertains like crazy. Go for the information but stay for the energy. You’ll leave totally stoked.

By the way, how cool is your agency’s bathroom? Listen to the podcast and you’ll know what I mean.

What About Your Agency’s Excellence?

One of the points that Peters points out is that it is often the small (ish) things that create excellence, brand excellence, distinction excellence, customer love excellence. He points us to Vernon Hill, the founder of Commerce Bank and now CEO of the U.K.’s Metro Bank. Both are highly competitive and growing “small” banks at a time when most banks are trying to shed staff and branches. Hill’s banks have bathrooms in the lobby (sounds crazy, huh); very long 7-day hours and they love dogs. Compare that to your last visit to Bank of America or HSBC. Peters’ point is that customer service breeds love and incremental sales. I know you know this. But, do you practice it? From Metro’s website (as in, their promise):

Changing the way Britain banks — “We’ve built a different kind of high street bank. A bank with stores that are open when it suits you, 7 days a week. A bank where you can walk in without an appointment and walk out with a working account, debit card and all. A bank that tells you exactly what you’re getting, in language that actually makes sense. A bank that puts you first.”

So, agency people, what is excellent about your agency? LOL – I already know that you work 7 days a week.

Every large and small agency says they are service oriented. Every. So, how do you deliver service that is different / better? Some very general thoughts…

  • Do you have a standard, scheduled client/agency status review? In a simple format? It should be scheduled. Get the issues out front early. And, promote all the good you’ve done. Client’s have very short attention spans (except for past shit-storms).
  • Do you have a clearly stated client – agency – work process? A process that explains everyone’s roles. A process you share? If so, reshare it.
  • Does your CEO or President call the client? Ever?
  • Ever rebate the client for something? I know this may sound absurd. But.
  • Do you send your client highly relevant/useful insights? Here’s a good, easy to implement and surprising idea: do a flash, overnight online survey about something that’s on the client’s mind using Google’s inexpensive Google Surveys.
  • You probably have an agency newsletter. Is it smart/great? Opinionated? Um, different? Impossible to ignore? I am going to admit something. I need to redo my email newsletter. My 2,000+ subscribers are not seeing my best look. But, I am 1 busy guy. I can get away with this because my content is wonderful. You are an agency, you can’t get away with anything in 2018.
  • Do you train your agency staff, especially account managers? If so (a good old 1980’s idea right?), then let your clients know that you are proactive. Ever done a seminar for your clients? Example: “The Good, Bad and Ugly of Online Influencers”. Just sayin.
  • Have you found a way to make your case histories “interesting”?
  • If you are a small agency, do the right things to get and keep the larger accounts. Don’t take my word for it: “How Small Advertising Agencies Can Win Big Clients.”
  • How does your agency answer the phone? Especially when your automated answering system accepts the call? Go get Kat Cressida.
  • Ask yourself what you do in a pitch meeting that is actually stand-out? An interview with Tony Mikes in my book on pitching points out how an agency stood out from the pack by using 1970-like foam core boards – not PPT. Read the book, win more pitches. A link to it is on top of my homepage.
  • Do you have a cool/memorable bathroom? Believe me, this would be more interesting than most overblown agency reception areas.


Now for a crazy bit. Peters has one of the most engaging presentation styles I’ve seen. Yes, he gives good presentation (watch some on his website). But, it’s his PowerPoint slide design that has blown my mind. An overstatement? Well, maybe. But, it sure is nutso compared to the 100’s of boring advertising agency presentation slides I’ve seen over the years.

Go here to see what I’m talking about. I’ve put one below. It breaks all of our PPT rules. He even LOVES what we all know are the bad habits.

But, when a guy this good presents, these in-your-face slides help to get attention and deliver the info.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.