early, and filled out their time sheets diligently. And they
Soon, The Richards Group boasted a roster of impressive
learned to revere advertising as an art form.
clients, including Time Inc., T.G.I. Friday’s, and Motel 6. The
agency never had to pitch; business came to it. But as the agency
grew (and grow it did—sixfold from 1978 to 1987, to $13.4 mil-
lion in revenue), Richards faced a new obstacle. The larger the
agency became, the less control he had—and the less control he
had, the greater the chance that the work would suffer.
Richards already insisted on approving all advertising.
Going Too Far? Last summer,
But his attentions hardly stopped there. Offices, he believed,
should be immaculate. Staff members should be at their
The Richards Group created this
campaign for Summer’s Eve
The results? Decidedly mixed.
Web videos featuring talking hands (designed to mimic
a particular part of the female anatomy) proved offensive
and were pulled after just a week.
Full Steam Ahead
But Summer’s Eve stuck with the broader
concept of “Hail to the V.”
desks early, before clients need them. They should be dressed
With the head count growing, the agency had moved into
to impress, in case that client walked in the door.
new offices on multiple floors. Richards fretted that he never
knew for sure when people arrived. He did know that some new
hires were bending an unspoken shirt-and-tie rule, coming in
dressed in ties and jeans or ties and shorts. One flippant art
director, Bryan Jessee, sported a tie that looked like a dangling
fish. Richards found the garment appalling. He exhorted the
staff in memos to take the dress code more seriously.
He felt the same way about the 8: 30 start time and the
time sheets. In July 1985, a memo announced that anyone
filing time sheets late would be fined $8.63 a day,
the cost to the agency of tracking down stragglers.
Other rules were less operational than aesthetic.
The tops of cubicle walls were to be kept clear, so
that the stations looked clean and uniform. The
blinds were adjusted to uniform angles.
Some people grew frustrated and left. But those
who remained continued to perform. And in 1986, a
campaign for Motel 6, written by 29-year-old David
Fowler and smartly placed on the radio, where high-
way travelers would hear it, launched The Richards
Group onto the national stage. That summer, as the
“We’ll Leave the Light on for You” campaign blared
from car radios nationwide, millions of weary travel-
ers began checking in—and Motel 6’s fortunes
soared. Five straight years of sales declines turned
into higher occupancy levels and record revenue.
The ads won radio spot of the year from several
industry groups. Richards’s peers at larger advertis-
ing conglomerates began to take note.
One of those admen was Marvin Sloves, the CEO
of the New York City agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves.
Known as Super Mensch for his schmoozing skills,
Sloves rolled up to The Richards Group’s offices in a
black limousine. He wanted to acquire the agency
and was prepared to offer some $10 million.
Most anyone would have considered Sloves a
godsend. By 1987, plunging oil and real estate
prices had left the Texas economy in a shambles.
A consolidation wave was sweeping the advertising
industry, meanwhile, leaving many to wonder
whether smaller agencies would survive. But when
Richards listened to Sloves, he felt the same heart-
burn he had experienced when he saw the fish tie.
If he ceded control, the agency would be ruined, he
sensed. So Richards declined Sloves’s offer. His wife
was not pleased. But his staff was impressed. “I was
proud,” says Doug Rucker. “We were the underdog,
and Stan believed we could still win.”
Over the years, as the agency matured, Richards
relaxed some of his rules. The shirt-and-tie mandate
CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM RIGHT: IMAGE SOURCE: YOUTUBE ( 4); COURTESY COMPANY
94 | INC. | NOVEMBER 2011