The five biggest mistakes I’ve made in 21 years of owning an agency

Michael Abdel has guided his agency Sphere through years of successes and mistakes, to its 21st birthday. Here, he reveals the five biggest mistakes he's made in that time.

I started Sphere over 21 years ago. Somehow, we’ve survived the terrible twos, the growing pains of our teenage years and made it to adulthood. Despite the great feeling of accomplishment, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made any blunders along the way. Let me share five of the biggest errors I’ve made, so you can learn from my mistakes.

1. Not hiring based on our values

Almost every day, I’m preaching the importance of brand values to clients. It’s critical that brands live and breathe their values. After all, it’s the values they share in common with their audience that builds a meaningful relationship between brand and consumer.

Despite this, occasionally when hiring new employees, I would focus more on their skills and qualifications and not on whether they shared Sphere’s values. This has always ended in disaster and weakened company culture.

Today, when I’m hiring, I always try to make sure the potential employee shares our values of being passionate, honest, hardworking, entrepreneurial, informal and a team player.

2. Overestimating my importance

I love getting involved in every aspect of our clients’ businesses. Creative, strategy, media, you name it, I’m keen to be across it all. However, I’ve learned that the problem with being so actively involved with every single aspect is that it can occasionally stop staff from taking complete ownership of their work.

These days, I’ve made sure I’m surrounded by the right people so, while I’m still across all aspects of our clients’ businesses, I don’t need to be involved in all the finer details. Instead, I can take care of the top-level stuff and be there as a guiding influence and helping hand on the day-to-day work when required.

It ensures staff don’t feel like they’re being micromanaged, and I don’t feel like I’m burning out.

3. Underestimating my importance

Sometimes when you’re the boss, you can forget what influence your mood can have over staff. If you’re tense or upset, it can spread like a virus around the agency. Maybe you simply had a terrible morning commute, but if you come into the office angry it can put staff on edge.

After all, they don’t know the cause of your bad mood and could understandably worry that maybe it’s something to do with the business or their performance.

Likewise, I’ve found that a happy mood and positive attitude can do wonders for the office environment.

4. Losing my cool

I’m a very passionate guy. I care deeply about my agency and the work that we do, but sometimes that passion can manifest in a negative way.

One example, from when I first started the agency, is that I once resigned an account because of my frustration at a $3,000 unpaid bill. Today, that company is worth $900m. Now that’s an expensive mistake.

5. Creating this ad


Michael Abdel is the founder of, and executive creative director at, Sphere


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