Interview with Nancy Campbell

Nancy Campbell is the founder of The Campbell Agency, a premiere model and talent Nancy-Campbell-3-editagency in Dallas, TX.

Q: When you decided that you wanted to pursue the entrepreneurship path, was their something like a calling that caused you to do so?


A:  I’d always been in this business. I was an actor for 8 years and I worked in production as well.  What actually started it was I got married and 6 months later my husband suggested it. He actually gave me the idea and I thought, “oh what the heck”, I was 28 and you have no challenges at 28, you can do anything.  So I started with a wing and a prayer and 10,000 dollars, a 5,000 loan from my dad and a 5,000 loan from my husband and I started the business. I was always in this field that I always loved so this tied it all together.



Q: So your husband was the bump that pushed you to act?



A:  Absolutely. 



Q: Did you have any mentor or advisor that helped you get started?



A:  My dad and my husband on the business end because I’m the creative and I had almost no idea what I was doing.  I did work hard though, 50-60 hours a week plus.  With my dad and my husband being businessmen, I could go to them for good advice.



Q: Were there any trials and tribulations that led you down a challenging path?



A:  Yea.  Building a business I was fortunate because the first couple years I had just gotten married so I didn’t have to worry so much about making the rent or the house payment as much as I would have if I was single.  For the first year or two I didn’t make any money.  Once I first started getting a check it was only like $800 a month.  The building process is probably the toughest part though because in the beginning, which was almost 25 years ago, we were up against agencies like the Kim Dawson Agency that had already been in business for 15 years before we came around.



Q: How did you go about matching yourself with them and competing?



A:  I really didn’t.  I did my own thing, worked hard, and had no fear. I think that is the main thing, I had no fear or worry about “wow, what are people going to say” because I didn’t really care.  If you have the motivation to succeed and you have no fear as far as you just move forward and you don’t think about it and you work hard, you can succeed.  This old adage always stuck with me, ‘if you put your mind to it, you can do it’, I firmly believe that.  I did have a partner for one year; be careful with a partnership because having two split visions can lead down a bad path.  Over the years I also hired really good employees. My first employee was actually Nancy Johnson, who used to be my agent, which was really cool.  It worked out because Nancy was more on the acting side and I was more on the print side.  She came in about a year into the business and has been with us since. 



Q: Was there any point where you thought of giving up?


A:  No, there actually wasn’t any time that I thought about giving up. No one’s ever asked me that and I never thought about it.  Obviously there are rough days and work can be hard but honestly I can say, “I love coming into work”.  Obviously there are days that I would rather have been doing something else, but for the most part I think passion drove me.  If you have passion about something and you want to see it grow and you want to see it in other people, you can inspire them by that passion.  Nobody can say that they built a company on their own because it’s the people that do it with you. I would be nothing without us as a team. 



Q: So a good team is important to success?



A:  Oh yes.  And there is always a year that we get one bad apple.  As the saying goes ‘one bad apple can rot a tree’.  It really is true.  It can ruin a business, it can ruin morale and it can ruin attitudes.



Q: How do you deal with the bad apples?



A:  I get rid of them but sometimes not as soon as necessary.  That is one of my attributes but it also plays against me. Sometimes I am a little slow to remove them because I give the benefit of the doubt.  When I am hiring people I like to think I hire adults and that I do not have to micromanage them.  Which usually is the case, but there are some cases when you don’t have that watchful eye, people start doing things and causing problems.  As the boss, you can be one of the last people to find out because people don’t like to tattle. 



Q: Now that you have established yourself as a top agency in Dallas, have you/the agency gone through any struggles and rebirth?



A:  Back in 2008 when everything crashed and there were a lot of businesses suffering, Dallas was fortunate because a lot of businesses withstood the storm.  We did fine that year, our numbers went slightly down as far as overall sales but we still weathered the storm.  During that time as a business you can look at that as gloom and doom or you can re-motivate yourself.  We took the motivation route and we decided we were going to rebrand and rethink all of this.  We rebranded, we got new business cards, letterheads, and new website.  We essentially came out with the new improved trendy but not too trendy Campbell.  This changed the way we thought as far as motivating ourselves.  The rebranding put a fire under the team. 



I think you have to have that.  For example, with actors or models at the end of the year we look at the wall of comp cards.  This year we did it quite a bit.  In December, we pulled a lot of people off the wall and we released a lot of them from the agency.  The reason why wasn’t to be mean or hateful, but it is a product.  Talent or actors are a product and if the product is not up to par or the product doesn’t fit in, if we are not getting the material that we need to sell, it’s not fair to the models or the talent that are doing their part.  So in a sense, we are trying to get rid of the riff raff that is holding us back.  Of course we bring in new models because clients like to see new faces but the ones that are established and good you want to keep them working and you want to keep them getting new clients.  A lot of times if you have 30 people up on the board not doing anything, then they are wasting your time and dragging you down from what you should be focusing on.


 Interview conducted by Kevin Brodzinski, engineering student at SMU.

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