OMD boss Peter Horgan: I pushed my staff too hard

The CEO of media agency OMD has described the aftermath of losing the media account for Westpac in 2011, conceding that he made a mistake in the year that followded by pushing staff “very hard” to try to win new business to replace the $70m account.

In an interview with the Australian Education Times, which uses children as its interviewers, Peter Horgan speaks openly and honestly about the impact the account loss had on the business.

“The failures I look back on are where I let people down,” Horgan says in the video. “You become too focused on a new business target or a client demand and you push your team too hard and you forget the human side of the teams that are working for you and are doing their best.

“I think I could look back to a time in 2012 and we had lost a piece of business and we were pitching very hard to try and replace that big piece of business. And I would say we lost sight of looking after the humans at OMD, and things like culture, people and their work life is a very important thing to the make up of this company.”

Horgan told his interviewer, Maya, that he was forced to revise his approach after the business’s culture scores took a major dive the next year.

“It reflected on how the company felt and we measure every year how people feel about working at OMD, and the scores took a big dive,” said Horgan. “You could sense people were unhappy. People were working incredibly long hours and it had a big impact on the business.

“I look back on it as a failure and the learning was to be more mindful of looking after the people, nurturing culture within the business… and that fundamentally we are a people business.”

The CEO of OMD also spoke openly about his relationship with group Omnicom head Leigh Terry and how the two of them were joint managing directors for two years.

“When we went to talk to the people who own this business and suggested that it might be a good idea for me and Leigh to jointly run the business they said: ‘that’s crazy, all across the world we’ve three joint managing directors and it has been a disaster every time – they end up fighting and no one knows who is in charge’,” said Horgan.

“But we were lucky that the time we spent as joint MD was seen as a positive time for the people and for the business and I would say the fundamental difference that we brought was that we worked together for a long time and we trusted each other.”

The Australian Education Times is a new education magazine which launched earlier this year and interviews business CEOs as part of a monthly video.

Nic Christensen


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