WHY TWO CEOs ARE BETTER THAN ONE – Happy Friday makes leadership a team effort

WHY TWO CEOs ARE BETTER THAN ONE – Happy Friday makes leadership a team effort
Janine Kruger and Craig Naicker

Through the line communications agency, Happy Friday (Formerly CWDi), made headlines last year for its reinvention of the traditional advertising agency model. Now, this disruptive, people-centric creative agency is reimagining its leadership structure. As of February 2022, Happy Friday has appointed a Co-CEO – former Group Managing Director, Craig Naicker. Naicker will be sharing the reins with Group CEO, Janine Kruger. And while the Co-CEO structure is considered unconventional by many, Happy Friday’s leadership team feels that it is a sound and refreshing approach.

The Co-CEO leadership approach is, at its core, based on a simple principle: No one can be in two places at once. The role of a CEO is multifaceted, and in the context of the Happy Friday model, co-leadership is the logical next step in the more collaborative, people-centric structure the agency is becoming known for.

Incoming Co-CEO Craig Naicker says, “As much as we can all be chameleons in what we do, it is also extremely important to play to our strengths; especially in our new, ever-changing landscape. Business has evolved and transformed. We need to be working in more collaborative environments, not silos. And that applies at every level of the organisation, including top management.”

As Co-CEOs, Naicker and Kruger will be playing to their strengths by focusing on their individual areas of expertise. Naicker’s focus will be primarily external while Kruger will be more internally focused.

Happy Friday’s “Two heads are better than one” philosophy is the latest amendment to its “people first” agency model. The model incorporates meeting-free Fridays; a four-and-a-half-day work week (with a view to working towards a four-day week); side hustle support; a no email or WhatsApp after 6pm rule; a Human Library (allowing staff with interesting perspectives to make themselves available for conversation or mentorship); 25 days annual leave, and the freedom to work from anywhere.

Co-CEO Janine Kruger adds, “Our business has many dimensions and as Co-CEOs, we have divided our responsibilities according to our expertise. I will be focused on managing finance, business systems and HR while Craig drives , collaborations, sales and marketing. We will, however, both build business strategy and drive culture within the business.

“We apply the same cooperative philosophy to our staff. Nobody should have to carry all the pressure on their own. Sharing the workload and ensuring that everybody’s jobs are within their areas of strength means that there is more work-life balance, better peace of mind and ultimately, a healthier environment. That translates to improved job satisfaction and better productivity.”

Happy Friday is an agency that is defined by its non-conformist culture. Traditionally, advertising and communications agencies are known for the “work hard, play hard” culture. And as many agency insiders would probably attest, there is generally more work than play – to the extent that burnout is commonplace and mental health comes a distant second to deadlines.

Says Naicker, “From a personal point of view, I am confident that two strong CEOs can drive our business forward with balanced focus on culture and strategy. We believe that CEOs should be fighting on the ground with their teams, not simply barking orders.

“Getting your hands dirty when the team is under pressure is a must-have. If you don’t have that mindset and take the ‘I’m the boss and you do as I say’ approach; collaborative, creative thinking gives way to an autocratic workspace. We are better together – in terms of output, relationships, accessibility and empathy, both internally and externally.”

Kruger concludes, “Our hope is that other agencies embrace this approach – especially independent agencies. Perhaps global agencies will stand up and notice and embrace it too. We are blazing a trail and carving out our own legacy as a team, with no room for ego or hubris.”

“At the centre of that legacy are the people within the business. We need our team members to know that it is okay to not know everything – even at the top. We are all fallible and we are all human. Leadership is about being stronger together mentally; not being selfish or focused on the hierarchy. We hope that the agencies of the future are more collaborative, honest, open and trusting.”