26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs: Chuck Porter

From: Inc. Magazine, April 2005 | By: null



Chuck Porter Crispin, Porter + Bogusky

for verging on reckless

In 1987, chuck porter joined the Miami-based ad agency that is now known as Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. Since then, the firm has blossomed. Annual billings have increased tenfold, to the $500 million range. And in 2004, Crispin, Porter was named agency of the year by the trade journals Advertising Age, which cited its $300 million campaign for Burger King, and Creativity, which called the agency "perhaps the leading creative force in advertising right now." How did Porter and his three managing partners pull this off? By not managing much at all. "We always assumed that the people who came to work here were just as smart as we were," Porter, 59, explains. "And we never really tried -- in any traditional way -- to manage people. Because I think that really good people are unmanageable to begin with."

As a guiding philosophy, this sounds close to reckless, and Porter acknowledges that with almost 300 employees, a certain amount of hierarchy is inevitable. Still, he offers examples, large and small, of how this aversion to managing is balanced against the realities of growth. The agency's newish home, a renovated movie theater in Coconut Grove, is a case in point. Porter's instructions for the designer: "Do not design this thing for efficiency. Don't put the printers next to the studio. Don't put the broadcast department right next to the creative department. Put them in all different corners so everyone's got to walk all through the joint every day."

Porter credits that freewheeling spirit with keeping the agency together as it added Burger King to a client list that includes the Mini Cooper and the antismoking organization Truth. Plenty of onlookers seemed to think (or even to wish) that Crispin, Porter's offbeat sensibility wouldn't work for a mass-market brand. As it turned out, the agency mixed memorable TV ads with nontraditional concepts like Subservient Chicken, a website featuring a guy in a chicken suit whom visitors could order to dance. It became a cult phenomenon. If Porter's team were as subservient as that chicken, it's hard to imagine they'd be as successful as they have been.

Rob Walker

26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs

  1. Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Omnimedia
    because she took one for the team
  2. Richard Branson, Virgin Group
    because he's game for anything. In fact, everything.
  3. Michael Dell, Dell Computer
    for being brilliantly straightforward
  4. Jim Sinegal, Costco
    because who knew a big-box chain could have a generous soul?
  5. Diane von Furstenberg, Diane von Furstenberg Studio
    for staging an elegant comeback
  6. Julie Azuma, Different Roads to Learning
    for offering hope and help to the parents of autistic children
  7. Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing
    for setting limits
  8. Ray Kurzweil, Kurzweil Technologies and other companies
    because he is Edison's rightful heir
  9. Craig Newmark, Craigslist
    for putting the free in free markets
  10. Jack Mitchell, Mitchells/Richards
    because his family business makes an art of customer service
  11. Frank Robinson, Robinson Helicopter
    for whipping an entire industry into shape
  12. Mark Melton, Melton Franchise Systems
    for giving immigrants their shot at the American Dream
  13. Michelle Cardinal & Tim O'Leary, Cmedia and Respond2
    for rewriting the rules for husband-and-wife teams
  14. Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion
    because someone had to stand up for all those frustrated engineers
  15. Trip Hawkins, Electronics Arts and Digital Chocolate
    for still scrapping
  16. Warren Brown, Cake Love and Love Cafe
    because only in America will someone quit a secure job as a lawyer to start a bakery
  17. Muriel Siebert, Muriel Siebert & Co.
    for being a notable first with a worthy second act
  18. Chuck Porter, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky
    for verging on reckless
  19. Katrina Markoff, Vosges Haut
    for setting a completely unreasonable goal for her business
  20. Barry Steinberg & Craig Sumerel, Direct Tire and Auto Service
    for showing the power of the peer group
  21. Victoria Parham, Virtual Support Services
    for serving as a mentor to military spouses
  22. Tom LaTour, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
    for staying at fleabag hotels so that we don't have to
  23. Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Mitchell Gold
    for creating a true comfort zone
  24. Izzy & Coco Tihanyi, Surf Diva
    for kicking sand in the face of conventional wisdom
  25. Tony Lee, Ring Masters
    for saving 16 jobs, including his own
  26. Rueben Martinez, Libreria Martinez Books and Art Galleries
    for simultaneously building a business and nurturing Latino culture

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