How Success Happened for Adam Bold
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A3 Artists Agency chairman and self-made entrepreneur Adam Bold, along with his business partners CEO Robert Attermann and president Brian Cho, have transformed the culture of a traditional old-school talent agency into a disruptor. Unbeknownst to Bold, this path, which he didn’t anticipate taking, was in the making since his childhood.
Bold was first introduced to the work life at just five years old when he began going to work with his father. Early on he started learning philosophies that would later on in life and in his career prove to be timelessly valuable. “You’re either a gentleman or you’re not. You can’t go back and forth,” said Bold of the lesson his father, who doubled as his mentor, taught him. Bold understood from an early age that being a gentleman encompassed the maturity to shake someone’s hand you didn’t want to shake.
The business-savvy Bold first disrupted the finance industry when he founded The Mutual Fund Store in 1996. His company focused on helping the mass-affluent (people with $50-$500,000 to invest) for clients, a largely underserved market by major investment firms. The company was eventually sold to Financial Engines Inc. in 2016 and, in September 2018, Bold purchased A3 Artists Agency (formally, Abrams Artists Agency) with Attermann and Cho. Bold had seen an opportunity for necessary change in the entertainment industry, especially within the culture of talent agencies, and had a vision to foster an inclusive, diverse and dynamic work environment, where the client always comes first.
At the Mutual Fund Store, Bold had a guiding philosophy which he carried with him to A3: “If what we do is good for the client, it’ll end up being the right thing for us.” For Bold, that included hiring the best people, giving them autonomy and authority to do their job, paying them well, and rewarding them for superior outcome. Diversity also continues to play a huge part and is at the forefront when it comes to hiring. “We have become the go-to agency for diverse emerging talent and it’s because people want to do business with people wo are like them and people who understand the trials and tribulations and the challenges that they face,” says Bold. “Because I haven’t walked in their shoes, I need those people to help make those things better and having people like that as an integral part of our company.”
His secret weapon throughout the hiring and growth of the agency has been the unwritten “no a-hole policy,” or NAP, as Bold refers to it. It’s his way of making sure that his team is made up of kind people, regardless of the revenue they bring in. “They call it work. If they called it fun, everyone would do it,” says Bold of the rule. “It makes it easier to go to work.”
It's one thing to have a stellar team, but the agency doesn’t get paid if the clients don’t get paid, so the priority is to keep their clients working despite an everchanging media landscape. “As we sit here in 2021, we’re in the golden age of content. But it’s not television and it’s not films and it’s not digital. The worlds have blurred. My concept was that as agents, our job is to keep our clients working as much as possible and to make them as much money doing that work as possible.” To help attain this goal, A3 takes a 360-approach where agents from all divisions come together for each client. While each client has a point agent or team of point agents, every client is a client of the agency as a whole. Additionally, each client is treated as a brand, a strategy Bold says they use to build wealth for the client rather than just bring in income.
An important thing to point out is that Bold recognizes the impact and power of media, and notes that they represent diverse clients they are proud of. “In the entertainment busines, we have the power to affect society. People are affected by what they see on television, movies, YouTube, and Instagram. By giving a voice and putting incredibly wonderful talented people out there who are different, yet special and incredible artists, I think we’re making a difference.”
All was going well until the COVID-19 pandemic brought the entertainment industry to a screeching halt, one that shuttered businesses but one that A3 was able to manage thanks to the agency’s situation. “We’re in a unique position where I am the investor and we don’t have a loan committee. It’s given us the opportunity and ability to be very nimble.”
What Bold didn’t know is that 2020 would bring not only a global pandemic, but also an impasse between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agencies, to which A3 Artists Agency belongs. The latter saw a majority of screenwriters firing their agents until, one by one, agencies agreed to the WGA’s new code of conduct. Bold and his partners saw these as an opportunity. It allowed them to take a step back and look strategically at the business. They looked carefully where improvements could be made and turned their focus to new innovative verticals. In addition to avoiding pay cuts and layoffs due to financial restrictions, Bold and his partners were able to grow the size of their staff, partly due to competitors forced to lay off their agents. “When opportunities presented themselves, we were able to take advantage of being able to add to our team in a way we wouldn’t have been able to.”
As for the future of the agency, Bold says they never set out to be the largest agency in the world, but rather to continue doing the right thing and keeping their clients working. “If we keep doing what’s right for the client and we do it with a really good group of caring people, it’s going to end up working just fine,” says Bold of his approach. “Every time I hear, ‘that’s not the way it’s done,’ I know I’m on the right track.”