Stanton Communications president Lori Russo says that "the number one benefit" for independent agencies "is that we only answer to our clients and ourselves. We don't have shareholders who are kind of breathing down our necks about revenue and profit. So, we put our people first and our clients first, and we take care of them in a way that makes sense to us."

Another big plus: "access to leadership." Russo tells Simon that "I have a colleague who worked at another agency for several years who never even met the CEO of the agency. Our CEO is accessible to every single person on the team every single day."

In addition to being an independent firm, Stanton Communications is a big believer in global partnerships. Making those partnerships work requires learning about, and being sensitive to, various business environments and the cultures. "There's a lot of differences in how meetings are run and decisions are made in different countries," Russo says, "I think as Americans we have a bit of a reputation and I think some of it is earned for just coming in and doing things our way and not bothering to understand how other cultures approach different aspects of business."

Another key thing that Russo says she has learned in her seven years as president of Stanton Communications is the importance of "being intentional about what kind of team member you are."

She also says that "people should be learning about leadership and how to lead." That includes people both inside and outside the PR world—as well as people whose ideas might not initially match up with our own. "I think we tend to assume that our way of thinking is the right way and that we have all the answers. Opening your mind a little bit to other perspectives and really listening, it's hard to do. But it's really important to at least listen and try to understand."

Stanton Communications' global approach has also led to launching new firms with partners in other countries. "We have a new agency called Joe that is based in Stuttgart in Germany, and we support clients in Germany, in the US and other parts of Europe. And we haven't really talked about this publicly, but we just signed papers in Buenos Aires to start another agency called Melius, which is the Latin word for better."

The secret of success in such initiatives, Russo says, is "finding the right partner. I think we've been really lucky with Joe and Melius."

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