How the Open Talent Model Saved my Agency: Living on the Edge

In the midst of the Great Recession, when I was still an active owner at Cult, my partner and I woke up one day to find out that our biggest client was gone. Acquired by a larger company, our 23-year relationship vanished overnight, as did two-thirds of our revenue.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, we were overexposed. And we were. But it happened slowly over years of great work, which led to incremental growth. The sudden loss and the recession put us in an impossible position– replace the work immediately or close.

Like so many agencies, we had deferred solving a vital structural problem too long, and that mistake forced us into this situation. But in stepping back, we realized there might be another way where we didn’t have to replace that whale client. Doing so, however, required us to make a terrifying decision. We could either push on with the status quo, or completely shift our operational model to open talent.

Open talent is a very simple model to grasp. The core idea is to maintain a core full-time employee team, in our case strategy, creative and account management, while hiring best-in-class freelance talent to solve one-off

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