How I found my way back into advertising — in Georgia.
Yes, I admit — not too long ago I said that I have spent enough time in advertising agencies and that it was time to move on to something different. It was one of the better decisions in my professional life. And yet… here I am, back in an agency. In Tbilisi, of all places. And that might just be an even better decision.
It was time to do something different. Definitely. More than 20 years in advertising agencies seemed more than enough. It just didn’t feel good anymore. I was yearning for an environment that would make me at least a little bit happy. A place where I can learn new stuff, keep evolving.
It sure didn’t look like I would find such a place in advertising. So, I decided to get deeper into consulting. Both with my own little company, and as an advisor for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. As much as I had the feeling that the advertising industry didn’t think it needed any consulting on anything — I knew that there are quite a few companies in the creative industries that knew they had to transform. So, I started to help them.
Soon enough, I found myself flying to Tbilisi. I had met the CCO of the company that more or less won all of the awards at a show in Ukraine, and I basically had to persuade him into accepting the Grand Prix as well. Levan is a very modest guy, and a genuinely friendly person. Needless to say that we got along really well.
He heard that I was on my way out of the agency I was working for, and that I was getting deeper into consulting — and he simply asked me if I wanted to come to Georgia and help them cope with the fast growth of their company, Leavingstone.
You don’t need any algebra to kind of guess that what you earn in Tbilisi is not exactly the same as what you earn in Zurich. But it seemed like the perfect thing to do after getting out of advertising — and I simply wanted to do it. And I did. Six weeks in Georgia, getting deeply into corporate structure, work processes, tools and templates, culture and khachapuri.
Other projects popped up, and more countries to work in, and for the first time in a lot of years I was happy at work. Tbilisi stayed closest to the heart though, for various reasons. The work, my new friends, the food, the vibe, the perspective, and the distinct feeling that there is real purpose in what I am doing.
So, when the guys asked me to switch sides and turn from advisor to CEO, I just simply said yes. This is my chance to finally do what I always felt that I could and should do. Be the CEO that I never had, lead a company the way I always thought it should be led. Yes, I could probably be better off financially if I worked as a copywriter in Zurich, or a CD in Hamburg. But would that make me happy? Probably not.
Now I am sitting at my cluttered little desk on Kazbegi Avenue, walking to work every morning, three blocks down the road from my flat. The guy at the coffee shop at the corner already knows me and starts to prepare my latte when he sees me, no sugar, thank you, and I start feeling a bit like local.
But even more importantly, I feel like I am doing what I should be doing. Sure, I could have found out years ago that I don’t really belong in network agencies. But that’s really not the point. Sometimes it takes a decade and a half to find the thing you were cut out to do, and sometimes you need to accumulate decades of learning before you can really do it. No problem. As long as you keep evolving, growing, learning, listening, helping and connecting.
It all takes a lot of time, effort and patience to get there. But anyone can do this.