Fake it til’ you make it… as an ad agency receptionist

Susie-Henry---Leo-Burnett-SydneySFWFrom dressing the part to playing the gatekeeper, Leo Burnett Sydney’s Susie Henry tells us how to make it as the face of adland in a piece that first appeared in Encore.

What does a receptionist in an ad agency actually do?

Well, there’s the frantic every-day, all-day stuff of deliveries, courier bookings, doing expenses for directors – always challenging – plus arranging all the travel. But one of my main jobs is counselling the account service people. I also keep up with all sports information to discuss with our sports-loving clients – because who wants to be bored while they’re waiting? And I know how they like their coffee. You need to know everyone – from accounting to HR. I’m also the go-to for all catering and sending flowers.

Who do you need to know in order to do the job?

I need to know a lot of people in the Publicis Groupe network around the world. I’m lucky, having been here for 28.3 years, that I have developed those relationships.

Is there any lingo you need to know to do the job?

You need to stay on top of what’s happening in advertising − in all media − and what the media is saying about the media and advertising, not just your agency but about the competitors because visitors and your colleagues ask questions all the time.

What is the dress code?

I do have fun here: frocks, shoes and major jewellery.

What is a typical day like?

Making it happen: greeting clients, making sure their meetings are booked and everyone is prepared. Mostly I try to make coming into this agency a pleasure for all who do – and that includes staff, clients and delivery boys.

What’s the secret to getting the most out of your job?

My happiness is greeting people, making them feel welcome and relaxed. If there is a secret, it’s being genuine. I enjoy what I do, and I think that shows.

Often you are called upon to be the ‘gatekeeper’. How do you do so tactfully?

I am very diplomatic, yet firm. I don’t like to disillusion people or be disrespectful, as you never know when you might cross paths again.

What’s the secret to making this a fulfilling career and not just a stepping stone to another position in the business? 

Again, I think you have to have a genuine interest in what you’re doing right now. This is a fulfilling career. I’ve held bigger jobs in advertising – but not necessarily more enjoyable. I’m doing my job as long as I make it enjoyable for anyone and everyone who comes into our agency.

What’s the greatest challenge? 

Greatest challenge is to make sure everything in reception flows smoothly for everyone. Working with these young kids is a daily excitement that I love and I couldn’t imagine life without working with them.

What’s the most fun part of the job?

We have hot actors, voice over guys and young people wanting to get into advertising and they are all enthusiastic and excited about advertising. The fun part of the job is that every second there is something new happening.

Encore Issue 14

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


  1. Katie Harris
    21 May 13
    9:10 am

  2. I’ve been a recipient of Susie’s wonderful, friendly manner a few times. She never fails to brighten my day!

    : )

  3. Ricki
    21 May 13
    10:08 am

  4. Have to say…as someone who visits a lot of agencies and corporate offices…Susie is a stand out. You can tell she loves her job. Her warmth, fun attitude and organised front of house is something many receptionists should seek to emulate.

  5. Harley Slatter
    21 May 13
    12:05 pm

  6. Nice interview Suze. I shot the link through to mum. Expect an email.


  7. Joy
    21 May 13
    1:24 pm

  8. Susie Henry is a star and anyone in the industry who has worked with her, or had the pleasure of meeting her, knows that. Her memory is faultless, her ability to interact with clients is outstanding, she has a great sense of humour and is fun to be around – always.

  9. Suz Magill
    21 May 13
    1:31 pm

  10. Ah Susie, you’re irrepressible :-) You need to write a book – you know more about the goings on in this industry over the past 28 years than anyone I reckon!

  11. Peter McDonald
    21 May 13
    1:44 pm

  12. I was incredibly fortunate that the masterful Susie was ‘in my corner’ when dealing with a certain MD at Lintas (now Lowe, etc). She has incredible tact, warmth, a great sense of the right time, what’s a fair outcome for all, and created the ideal climate when you had to sell a tough proposal to Rolf’s brother. It would be great if Susie was given the opportunity to share her sensitivity, wisdom and way-to-welcome with others navigating their way through this ever-changing industry.

  13. glamwhitetrash
    21 May 13
    3:33 pm

  14. One of the hardest jobs in an agency to do well, and one that requires more smarts and skills than most people would credit. Susie Henry = legend.

  15. nick williams
    21 May 13
    3:39 pm

  16. Susie is way more than a receptionist at that agency. She has been the glue that holds the culture together for a very long time.

    she is a wonderful lady, a true character and somebody that has been a seminal part of one of Australia’s great agencies for more than a quarter of a century)

    (please though….no books. she knows more secrets than Heidi Fleiss)

  17. Kathryn
    21 May 13
    4:36 pm

  18. I’ve spoken to Susie many times, she is always a delightful pleasure. And meeting her in person is a fashionable high five – Susie is on trend with the big jewellery! Super glad to keep sending her the “hot voice over” and “actors” she loves :)

  19. Morwenna Buckley
    21 May 13
    4:56 pm

  20. I love this article Susie. You look fabulous as always. Jason and I both miss you. Mo

  21. Sensai
    21 May 13
    5:00 pm

  22. Interesting that this article shows the value of experience and a shame that IP like this isn’t respected in say, account service – or by our cousins in recruitment…

    Indeed, it seems to echo Tony Simms’ comment in another post here today on Savage Counsel

    Good comment tho Pete, especially as you could interchange “Suzie” with “Tony” or “Toni” or “Paul” or “Helena” or…. viz:

    “It would be great if Susie was given the opportunity to share her sensitivity, wisdom and way-to-welcome with others navigating their way through this ever-changing industry.”

  23. Anonymous
    22 May 13
    11:06 am

  24. What a hottie!

  25. Melissa Hill
    22 May 13
    11:33 am

  26. Miss ya Susie x

  27. Sue Trodd
    22 May 13
    12:40 pm

  28. Susie Henry is an absolute legend, star and all around truly kind and genuine human being. We started as colleagues @ Lintas many moons ago and I am proud to say have remained friends ever since.

  29. Rich, GPY&R Brissy
    22 May 13
    7:18 pm

  30. Susie sounds great.
    We have our own version up here and she is called Lisa. She’s wonderful too.

  31. Richard Slatter
    23 May 13
    8:13 am

  32. Suze, you may be an advertising expert, but what I appreciate is your rugby expertise and experiences.

  33. Susan Slatter
    23 May 13
    8:16 am

  34. Soooze, you are my brush with fame. Congratulations.

  35. Louise McAulay
    23 May 13
    10:18 am

  36. Everybody should have a friend like Susie, she’s amazing in every way and most of all she makes me laugh like no-one else can.

  37. guess who
    23 May 13
    2:29 pm

  38. Love you Susie, You are really one of a kind. I remember the first time you walked past my desk on my first day at Leo’s in 2004 in full animal print regalia and enough jewellery to sink a pirate ship. No one to this day carries that look like you! One of the good people of the world.

  39. Satts
    24 May 13
    10:05 am

  40. Susie
    Good to see you recognized.

  41. AdGrunt
    24 May 13
    3:24 pm

  42. A lady of class and distinction.

  43. Kathryn too
    28 May 13
    12:58 pm

  44. Hi Susie, a fabulous tribute to a fabulous lady.

    I was interested to see this story appear on the same day that Adam Spencer’s retirement was announced. I ADORE Adam Spencer, but your story attracted so many more comments. That’s quite a loyal fan base you have there !

    Well deserved too.

  45. Cags
    28 May 13
    5:58 pm

  46. Susie, who ever would have thought when we were 5 year olds that you would be up there in bright lights as Receptionist of the Year!