Bye, bye Maxus: Lessons learnt from riding an agency rocket ship

As Maxus closes shop after nine years and merges with MEC to form Wavemaker, the media agency's global creative director, Jen Smith, says there is plenty to celebrate.

We are saying goodbye to the wonderful agency I have called home – Maxus.

As they say life goes on, but before we do, for anyone who doubts the value of agencies in the modern world – here are a few things I have learnt along the way:

Teams are felt not just built

All the leadership books in the world will tell you that you need to "build" your team. That it will be the most strategic decision you will make for success.

Which is true – yes.

But more than that, teams are felt. In your gut, in your funny bone and in a passionate argument.

If you don’t have that "feeling"; if it’s only your head that you are listening to – you will make a mistake.  Maxus was a massive bunch of misfits, but it worked because you could "feel" it.

Moan but battle

An agency is like a dysfunctional, TV mini-series family.

The amount of, moaning, niggling, piss-taking and provoking, could lead to an outsider thinking we were minutes away from divorce.

But the reality is, like a family you can only really do these things with passion, you can only yell at each other with the safety of underlying respect.

I can go to battle because I know it’s just another war, it’s not Armageddon, we will get to; and want to, fight another day.

Celebrate your successes

Sometimes this industry can be hard. You can work flat out, put your head down and plug in.  

So, when you need to reach into the depths, make sure you have packed some fun in your supplies.  Because those stories, celebrations, joy and silliness will fuel the late-night pitch dinners of Gin-in-a-Tin and Walkers crisps. They will be the reserves you pull on.

Everyone is doing their best

It doesn’t mean to say that we all can’t do better. But I have never met anyone, in agency, creative or client, that woke up in the morning and said: "Today I would really like to do some distinctly average work."

Criticism, and condescension of anyone else says more about you than them.

We can all do better, but we need to do it together. You will catch more flies with honey – so shut up and put up, and help make each other and the industry better together.

Jump on a rocket ship

If you get the chance, jump on a rocket ship.

I used to describe Maxus as a rocket ship.  It was going at a million miles an hour, and you hoped to God someone had pointed it in the right direction before they had lit the fuse.

But growing from 35 people to 350 people, to pitching, planning, plotting and panicking, to saying "I’ve got an idea"… and then realizing that no one else was going to do it for you, or give your permission to do it – means that you learn to just have a go, take charge where you can, and do your best to hold on as it hurtles along.

For everyone who works at Maxus, has worked at Maxus, worked with us as clients or partners, thank you very much.

We reached for the moon, and yes, we fell, but we fell into the stars.


Jen Smith worked at Maxus from 2013 until 2017


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