Everyone has that special Ah-ha moment. For Paul Gumbinner, founder of The Gumbinner Company, it happened in Tuscany (no, this is not the beginning of a sappy romance novel!). .
Yes, it was in the Tuscan countryside where Gumbinner had his moment –one that became a pivotal point in his life and, arguably, the New York ad scene as well.
The young Gumbinner began as an account person at his father’s firm and eventually landed at Kenyon & Eckhardt. Then in his early thirties, along with two creative colleagues, he began his own agency. The agency was eventually bought by another agency which was again bought by another.
But, alas, Gumbinner -- the head of account management at the newly combined agency- was not a happy camper, not at all.
As he searched for a job at other agencies, he was surprised that five or six of the recruiters offered him a job – as a recruiter in their own firms! (“Maybe they were trying to tell me something,” he quipped.)
Eventually, Paul found what many would call a dream job at Wells Rich Greene. “The president at the time offered me the job to run all of their Procter business. I was about to go on a trip to Tuscany the next day and, before I left, he took me aside and said, ‘The job is yours when you return, but here’s one thing to consider, being head of account management at the agency you’re at is probably a lot more fun than working on P&G’.”
Gumbinner mulled over this advice throughout his travels. Then, one afternoon as he and his wife were driving through the Tuscan countryside, the idea struck him – his ah-ha moment.
“I think I’m going to recruit,” he announced.
When he returned from Italy, he opened his office – smack in the middle of his living room. And, hence, began The Gumbinner Company.
And now, 1000 successful placements later (by his own estimation), The Gumbinner Company is one of the most successful recruiters for Account Management, Account Planners and Strategists in the business.
Gumbinner’s love for travel actually contributed to his zeal for recruiting. “As long as I have a phone, I can recruit. Whenever I went off on trip, I would hire a temp for a few weeks to manage the office and never be too far from a phone. I'd even rent one of those clunky satellite phones if I needed to.”
From his thirty year purview of the industry, Gumbinner has seen a lot and has some very strong opinions about developments in the industry (His weekly blog, View from Madison Avenue" is a popular source of insightful and entertaining information). “Agencies have become very homogenized,” he told us. “Even back in the late 1990’s there were still a lot of fairly creative agencies around, today it’s all different. “
Gumbinner used to have a little trick that helped him match the right candidate with the right agency. “I always would show up to a meeting at an agency about a half hour early,” he said. “I’d just sit in the waiting area and watch and listen. I’d be able to get a really good flavor for the type of person they would be hiring.”
High technology may have revolutionized some industries, but it has had its negative effects on the recruiting business according to Gumbinner. “First came faxes and there was less interaction with my clients. Then came email and there was even less. Before emails, the person hiring at the agency would call me and we’d discuss the assignment. I’d be able to get a real good idea of what type of person they were looking for and usually would only have to send two or three candidates to get an offer.”
And how has the actual job of account management changed over the last few decades? we asked.
“Account people have become project managers,” he replied. “Strategy is solely in the hands of planners and strategists. I constantly push really good account people not to allow themselves to be run over strategically.”
With his wealth of industry experience, both as an account person and a recruiter, Gumbinner has sage advice for those desiring a career in the business: “First, get yourself an internship. It’s not difficult. Then if you love the business and are passionate about it, you will eventually land a job. It may take forty interviews, but you’ll get a job.”
Or, if not, perhaps they can arrange a trip to Tuscany……