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Donny Deutsch ed his father's small ad agency in , around the time the elder Deutsch was starting to think about selling. Donny talked him out of that, then went about remaking the company in his own rebellious and energetic image.
Deutsch Inc. Here Deutsch, who is 47, shares some of what he's learned over two decades in the business world -- including some of the insights he is gathering for a book of advice to be published next fall: Often Wrong, Never in Doubt. I went to Wharton as an undergrad. When I was there, I knew I wasn't into finance. I knew I wanted to do something in the creative world. I went to work for Ogilvy. I was an executive.
I wasn't into it. I was still a kid, not taking it seriously -- and partying at night. They should have fired me. I was born into the lucky sperm club: My father had an ad agency. My father wanted to sell the company, and I told him not to. I'm still not sure why; I just knew. Instead of being an guy, I wanted to work on new business. I said, "Put me in a corner," and started off getting s for myself. Instead of trying to take over a business, I was building an agency within an agency. My philosophy is to always find the smartest people you can.
Hire people smarter than you. From the beginning, I was able to attract bright young people. I always looked for a fire in somebody's eyes. I was always looking for the arc in somebody's career. I want them to do their greatest hits here. When I see talented people, I always look for potential greatness. I want someone who wants to be a great CEO here. That's why we've always gone from within. I have yet to meet a genius in my business. Actually, I've yet to meet a genius in anything. Once you realize there are no geniuses out there, you can think, "I can do that. When I sold the company a few years ago, I couldn't figure out why I was doing it.
The reason is that I wanted to create a new mountain for myself. I thought I had won the ad game. I had done TV -- whenever they wanted "the ad guy" they came to me -- and I always felt I was really good at it. You could line up thousands of other people with the same skills, but it's that extra bit of "Screw it, I should be doing that.
But without saying it, almost axiomatically it can't happen. The show? It's what people talk about: You're talking about politics, and then you're talking about pop culture. The ultimate compliment I've received is people who know me say, "You're being yourself.
If you lined up my skills -- my drive and taste level -- they're perfect for advertising. More than anything, I have both a business and a creative head. I don't think you can be a brilliant CEO without that balance of business and creativity. When you work on a political campaign, you don't set the strategy. That's done by the consultants. For Clinton, we executed production.
There's an old idea that certain s pay the rent and others are a creative showcase. Four or five years ago, at the bottom of the food chain were pharmaceutical s. We had Pfizer, Novartis -- those are huge pieces of business. I thought, This is the next thing: You're helping people to be healthy, saving lives. Shouldn't that be a source of the best creative?
There are all these stories about "the pitch. If you show clients good business solutions, they will sell themselves. I've never pushed something down a client's throat. A lot of agencies are constructed as different profit centers -- sales promotion, PR, database management -- that work as standalone units. Ours are all under one roof, not siloed; we were one of the first to do it this way.
We have always been one profit center, so you don't have the different profit centers competing. As you get larger, it's easier to maintain your culture. You have a bigger toolbox. Walk through this space -- I think it's the most interesting workspace in Manhattan. I couldn't afford to put people in here 20 years ago.
I think the larger you get, the more ability you have to hold that culture -- as long as you have the same set of values. Top Stories. Top Videos. As told to Sasha Issenberg. Sponsored Business Content.Donny deutsch gay
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