Peter Gerritsen | [Top Agency Series] Innovating and Leading a 100-Year-Old Agency Peer Group
Smart Business Revolution

Peter Gerritsen is the President of Taan Worldwide, a network of different member advertising agencies operating in 30 countries and 60 cities worldwide with over 50 member companies. He’s also a 30-year veteran working inside agencies, and he’s a speaker and thought leader for agencies. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran features the President of Taan Worldwide, Peter Gerritsen, to discuss the top challenges agencies face today. They talk about how Peter began leading a 100-year-old agency peer group, what the future holds for agency owners around the world, and lots more.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Peter Gerritsen went from running an agency to leading a community of agency owners 
  • What was it like for Peter to take on the leadership of Taan Worldwide during the global financial crisis?
  • Top challenges agencies are facing now 
  • How to foster the spirit of connectedness that makes people open up and share
  • The challenges of running an international organization
  • What Peter has planned for Taan going to the second century 
  • Peter talks about the business owners he admires

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we asked today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran. Here. I’m the host of this show. And every week I get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies, check out some of the archives because we got some great episodes with founders or CEOs of Netflix and Kinkos and YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, lending tree, Open Table, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder, Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this is part of our top agency leader series, where we have been interviewing some of the leaders in the agency space, which is a critical area of our economy that has really been helping with other companies to transition into the more digital world that we live in these days. And my guest today, his name is Peter Gerritsen. And he is the President at Taan Worldwide, which is an organization a collective of sorts of different member agency companies, there’s 50, plus member companies all over the world advertising agencies primarily operating in 30 countries, 60 cities worldwide. He’s also a 30 year veteran of working inside of agencies, and he’s the speaker and thought leader for agencies. So we’re going to talk a little bit about how that area of the economy has been affected over recent years and some of the things that are on the horizon. Of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. And if you’re listening to this and ever thought, Oh, should I start a podcast? I’ve been doing it for 12 years. I tell everyone, absolutely, yes, go to, and there’s lots of resources there, you can learn about how to do it or feel free to contact us. Alright, Peter, pleasure to talk to you. And funny story Peters from part of Massachusetts that I lived in previously. And you know, Peter, you had spent many, many years working in agencies, and you had a hard pivot in in your career, back in 2007, going from running agencies, and on the creative side, you weren’t on the on the account side, you’re more on the creative side, to then running a community of agency owners, which gets into all kinds of different challenges around running a community. And so what inspired that? Were you burnt out on the creative side of working within agencies? Are you looking for a new challenge? Or did the opportunity percentage present itself? How’d you get into

Peter Gerritsen 3:00

maybe all the above? And maybe none? I don’t know. It’s, yeah, I played, I started and built an agency with my partner, and then a group of partners. And we built a very successful b2b shop in Boston. And I, and I came to the point where was after 911, which changes a lot of people’s perspective on things there. And you know, and I was like, I’m not sure how much more I can do with this. And it was a good 17 years of probably 100 plus hours a week. And raising two kids. And now that they’re old, they were older at that starting at older at the time, and now we’ll get to college ages and they’re moving out. And, you know, I don’t know how I managed to do it. But I still coach sports and all that stuff, while the kids were, you know, running an agency. And I had some very good partners, that you were taking the agency in either direction. And I found no guess I’m a creative person. But I found what I really enjoyed about the agency was in the work I did wasn’t so much that yes, the creative product to solve problems. I guess that was that’s a whole part of it. But what really got me going was the chemistry of the people and the problem and how do you put the right people together? So allow them to get to the best solution for clients. And at the same time, my organization Mike, we were members of this organization Taan which we did for international exposure. That’s ways we joined it but why I learned was there’s a whole bunch of mentors in the business that I can learn a lot about the about the business, what do what not to do, how to change things, how to evaluate who you are, and they changed the scope of our business. And so that when I left the agency I called the realtor Hiring from the agency at the time, you know, I’m in my 40s. It’s not really retiring. But that’s the way it kind of felt like it. At the same time Taan came to me and asked me if I’d be interested in taking on the role president. I said, Be careful what you wish for. Because I am a creative, I’m not I suck at administration stuff. And here, I now I’m in a job that I have to do the accounting books, and I have to write agendas, and I have to do all a lot of organization. admin stuff. Yeah. And then I wasn’t good at it, when I had my agency, let alone know how I have to do it. And I’m leading it. And but I said, what I am good at is diving down the rabbit hole, and getting off on tangents to hunt down things that are interesting, new and, and helpful, or at least, to challenge the way you think. So they took, they took it off, they took me on, and I took them on and said, Okay, what I’m going to do first off, it’s this traditional agency network, i The it needs to be an eclectic mix of experts across the world. Which means take communications, and then divided into all the different kinds of pieces of communications. There’s public relations, judicial advertising, and research and media buying ad design. All those things encompass and make up what is communications and the agency space. It doesn’t have to be traditional creative work. It just, it’s problem solving, using communication tools. That’s really what I looked at. So my job, and my mission was to find people around the world, they’re doing interesting things in that space, that may want to belong to an organization that’s willing to share the good, bad and ugly in detail, and create a trust network. That, you know, it’s it’s yes, its peers. And there’s lots of networks like Taan but Taan really belongs in a category of trusted peers that are willing to tell you the good, the good shit in the basket. Yeah,

John Corcoran 7:11

and you know, I want to ask because Taan have been around since I believe the 1930s. The What was it like taking over an organization that had been around that long? You know, whenever you hear about that, right there, there has to be some housekeeping house cleaning, that needs to be done.

Peter Gerritsen 7:30

I Yeah. It is definitely was, you know, as the old adage is the old boys network, for many decades, that’s what it was and, and change. When I, when I was a member, it started to change. And you know, the whole idea of getting together and have boondoggles and all that kind of thing. And I think that’s still an opinion of what networks can be like. And it wasn’t a matter so much as eliminating things were there. But putting more into the pot and sell and there’s a bit of self selecting that happened out of that too. For the organization, the one of the things about 10 is also you have to be voted in. So you have to basically sell yourself to the rest of the group and the value of being there. You know, then they vote for you in in one that one foot no vote, you don’t get to be a member. You know, it’s not those organizations, you know, have to pay and pay your money, you can show up for the stroke the tour

John Corcoran 8:38

is that hard for you, as you know, the head of this organization that, you know, moving from being a member to then, you know, being the head of this organization, depending on it for your livelihood, and maybe having expansion potential, wanting it to be bigger, but you’re dealing with that tension. Like, it’s not like when you run an agency like you want to take on more clients, you can, but now it’s like you have 50 Other members that you have to please.

Peter Gerritsen 9:04

Yeah, um, it there are times when I rail against the concept because yeah, I mean, it’s a dues based network, which means the number of people who are here pay X amount per month, every year. And that’s the budget, and that we spend to go do things as a nonprofit organization, and truly nonprofit. And there are times when you look at agencies out there that you consider and say, well, we could use it for the budget next year, you know, especially in COVID hit, it’s like okay, what’s going to happen, you know, what, where, how do we maintain this thing? But, thankfully, there’s also a board that helps me make decisions about things and know that stand back but they they lead to my recommendations and I think I’ve stayed pretty true to making sure They may not be the most profitable businesses brought in. Or they may not be the biggest ones, but they’re doing something unique and different that we can learn from. And that has been maintained pretty much all years. Yeah. Now you, as a blogger, I’ve been President longest step anybody in the history of Taan So,

John Corcoran 10:21

and you joined in 2007? Not that much later, the financial crisis hits 2008 2009. What was that, like?

Peter Gerritsen 10:29

Scary for everybody. It was, it was scary for everybody. Scared for the business? Scary for any business at the time? I think scary personally, too. You know, I know what I’m doing. Am

John Corcoran 10:41

I done? No, my gosh, I embarked on a new career. And all of a sudden,

Peter Gerritsen 10:45

yeah. And now it’s like, Okay, I’ve got kids in college. And you know, and I got a big house to be mortgage. And what the hell is this? What the hell was I thinking? But I maintained, and I guess I had thoughts of, you know, do I go find something else to do, you know, but said, I’m good. I believe I was, I’m good at what I do. I believe that I believe Taan is a worthwhile organization, for those who belong to it and understand it and embrace the concept. And I believe I’m really good at being in the middle of the pie. You know, I, you know, for those of your listeners that are old enough to remember this, I feel I’m a little bit like Lily Tomlin at the switchboard. And, you know, back in her day of plugging in people around the world to give them opportunities that help their business. And I’m really good at remembering who does what around the world. And I’m really also really good at going out and hunting down somebody that we don’t know yet. What I’m not really good as a cold calling thing. That I know that I’m just not.