March Madness is here! For those of you who may be unfamiliar, along with my career as an Account Executive here at RDW I have a side gig. I’m a college basketball analyst for the Atlantic 10 Conference. I’ve done work – whether written or on-camera – for Cox Sports, ESPN.com, FoxSports.com and the Atlantic 10 itself, hosting the live component of its annual Media Day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

With the brackets announced (seriously, how did St. Bonaventure get left out??) and the NCAA Tournament tipping this week, it’s only appropriate to identify similarities between a great point guard and a great account executive. So, here we go.

  1. Responsibility – As the player with the ball in their hands, a point guard must run the offense effectively. That requires involving teammates and being a caretaker of the “rock”. A poor decision or costly turnover can lead to points on the board for an opponent and downward-spiraling momentum. Life is similar for an AE. Leading an account requires organization and an intimate knowledge of the roles of the players on one’s team – including acceptance of their own. There are industry tales about AEs and those in Creative operating in a transactional way on almost parallel paths. Not for us. As an AE it’s our job to understand how our teammates throughout the agency (whether Art Directors, Developers, Copywriters, etc.) perform best, how to arm them with information to position us to succeed collectively on a project, and how to responsibly guide us in that effort. At some agencies people cluster by role, but for us, our team isn’t fellow AEs. Our team is the agency.
  2. Selflessness – The point guard’s job is to set the tone on both ends of the floor and, offensively, to set up teammates to score the ball and record an “assist”. What matters most to a point guard (a misnomer of sorts) isn’t their own point tally, but that assist total. You’re the ignition switch to your team’s offense. You may be overlooked at times… until that day when you turn an ankle, miss a game, and the offense sputters in your absence. So an AE must be selfless. Not only in terms of internal credit but in terms of interfacing with clients, always embracing the assist rather than hunting for the headline. It’s a critical component – empowering others internally at your agency and externally on the client side so that each feels invested as a producer while you orchestrate the show to less individual fanfare.
  3. Vision – A point guard must possess outstanding vision. They must be able to “game out” in their mind how the play will evolve and anticipate the actions of others. The point guard must be an extension of the coach, taking the X’s & O’s from playbook to on-court execution and staying the course. There’s a particular style of play or game-plan that must be adhered to for a team to succeed. The AE must do the same, strategizing and executing a campaign with the client’s needs in mind and the brand as a centering anchor; always looking for ways to extend the brand.
  4. Steadiness – Above all else, terrific point guards are unflappable. Opponents will disrupt flow, score 10 unanswered points, and put pressure on you individually and as a unit. It’s the point guard’s duty to absorb that pressure and diffuse it. It’s not a job for everyone. An AE needs this same skill. Clients, vendors, co-workers, and others will ask tough questions, make missteps, and levy unreasonable demands and more up the agency and team. Great AEs understand how to buffer that, listen, prioritize, communicate, and navigate the pressure to solve problems, better the relationship, and achieve client and agency success.

All that said, here’s hoping you all navigate your NCAA Tournament brackets successfully!