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Build a Better Agency Podcast

Scale and grow your agency with better clients, invested employees, and a stronger bottom line, with Drew McLellan.
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Nov 12, 2018

Often on this podcast, I share a wide-ranging conversation with my guest and we bounce around a little bit, even though we are focused on an overall theme. This episode is a little bit different. We going to deep-dive into just one subject: geofencing.

For some in our business who aren’t digital natives, reaching an audience through new technologies like geofencing may seem complicated. When I started the business while still in college, it was all about print, radio, and TV. Now, I turn around without bumping into a new delivery channel or technology, like geofencing.

On episode #162 of the Build a Better Agency podcast, my guest is Justin Croxton. He is the director of sales at Propellant Media, where they serve clients with location-specific methods like geofencing. Their clients are mostly SMBs in both B2B and B2C categories. IN our conversation, Justin compares getting fluent with geofencing as similar to becoming proficient in AdWords.

Justin didn’t start his career in the agency business, but about three or four years ago, partnered with some colleagues to form Propellant, where the main product is inbound and technology-driven solutions for clients. 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • The difference between beacon notification and geofencing notifications
  • How to build conversion zones using geofencing
  • Getting over the “minimum spend” hurdle in geofence ad buying
  • Why you should consider coupling geofencing with search retargeting
  • How to create the right digital marketing mix with geofencing as a key ingredient
  • How to target the right people within a geofence with your marketing message
  • Ways you can keep up the messaging (or not) once someone leaves a geofenced zone
  • The digital mechanics of how geofencing interacts with apps and sites on your phone
  • How geofencing works in the B2B space
  • Why it’s not complicated for agencies to enter the geofencing space

Ways to contact Justin Croxton:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Nov 5, 2018

For entrepreneurs, business decisions always are a blend of the head and heart. You need data and research in hand to make smart, informed decisions. But it also needs to feel right.

Episode #161 is about those head-and-heart decisions. It’s about making mistakes and starting over. It’s about not settling for only one side of the equation.

Some learn these lessons sooner than others. We all know college kids who started their own thing and made it work brilliantly. Back when I was in college, that didn’t even cross my mind. But today, it’s becoming more of the norm.

Today’s young adults have a different script and a different sense of what’s possible. And they are far from crazy. Exciting things are happening, big problems are getting solved, and a larger purpose is being fulfilled. And people like Jonathan Grzybowski are just jumping in and doing it.

For 29-year-old Jonathan, part of the problem was his own dissatisfaction. Running a full-service agency was not fulfilling. Money as the sole motivator was not working for him. That led him to set out to solve a business problem along with his own dissatisfaction. His agency excelled at design. Why not take that design excellence and use the platform they were developing to manage their internal projects to provide design as a on demand service? Jonathan Grzybowski is now co-founder of Penji, a subscription-based design service for agencies and other businesses.

Beyond the business problem, Grzybowski also wanted a business that made a difference in the community where he lived and worked – Camden, New Jersey. One of the things I love most about the agency owners I work with is their generosity. They have a pay it forward mentality. Jonathan is finding the ethos of Penji to be extremely fulfilling. And he’s finding that when you love Camden, Camden loves you back!

This is a great conversation about finding the right fit, starting over, serving clients and the community, and following your head and your heart – really, everything you could hope for in an episode of Build a Better Agency!

 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • The potential downside of being a full-service agency
  • How people just starting out in the world of work are viewing entrepreneurship as a viable path
  • Why the hard work of entrepreneurship should not be glossed over
  • Why offering a suite of services sometimes is not enough differentiation
  • The freedom that comes from specialization
  • How to build a business model and platform that serves both agencies, individual companies, and your community
  • How vision and purpose beats trying to be the next Tai Lopez or Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Why an agency might hire out a core function like design
  • The power of connecting with your local community
  • The importance of research in finding your niche          

Ways to contact Jonathan Grzybowski:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Oct 29, 2018

One of the challenges for all of us as agency owners and leaders is finding the balance of creating a relationship with our employees, but also being the leader and helping them recognize their blind spots, areas of growth and when they’ve messed up.

This requires the courage to have candid conversations with your team members. It’s never easy or all together comfortable, but to truly be a leader in our agency – this is not an optional skill.

I see the avoidance of these conversations when I’m on site with an agency, when I’m on a coaching or and when I’m with a group of owners, talking about their employees. We don’t address behaviors that we know are unacceptable or not up to par. We may joke about it, or hint at it, or even deal with it passive aggressively – but we don’t tackle it head on.

We hide behind silence, email exchanges, and even through text messages – all to avoid that face-to-face conversation.

I get it — you’re afraid of what your employees’ reaction will be, or what it would do to the agency if they quit. You feel as if you’re between a rock and a hard place. So you tolerate the behavior. You make your staff and clients suffer from the behavior. You risk losing employees and clients rather than addressing it.

And worst of all — you greatly diminishing your reputation as a leader because everyone around you is wondering why you’re letting it continue. And quite honestly — they’re wondering why they should follow the rules if others don’t.

The skill of having difficult conversations and course correcting your team is vital. And we as agency owners need to get good at it.

There may be a few of you who are really great at this. You give really honest, candid, specific feedback, and you’d do it early on when you first see the behavior, attitude or bad decision, not after it’s been happening for months and months.

But for the vast majority of you, this is not your gift, but if you think avoiding difficult conversations isn’t affecting your agency…you’re wrong. You’re absolutely wrong. This is a skill that you must own if you want to grow your agency in terms of profits, respect, and your people.

And that’s why talking through how to get better at having difficult conversations with your employees will be our focus during this solocast.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why employees become more engaged and committed when they receive honest feedback from you.
  • Why leaders who are rated the highest are the ones who most actively give and seek feedback from their team.
  • Why caring about your agency’s culture is about more than just “Beer Fridays”, the parties, or the fun. It’s about the level of candor you have inside your shop.
  • How not addressing bad behavior and course correcting an employee early on causes you to lose the respect of your team.
  • How to take and apply a sample script for starting off a difficult conversation with one of your employees the right way.
  • How to prepare yourself to have a difficult conversation with one of your employees.
  • How to apply the elements of having a difficult conversation — the pieces of doing this well.
  • How to focus on specific issues during the difficult conversation.
  • Why creating an action plan for correcting the behavior is not your responsibility – it’s your employee’s.
  • Why if you’re not having difficult conversations on a regular basis, or not celebrating your people by praising them, or coaching them so they get even better — that you’re not doing your job.

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Oct 22, 2018

Client relationships is a frequent topic on this podcast. In this episode, we focus on what it takes to cultivate strong and mutually beneficial relationships with clients.

Dr. Mario Vafeas is on the faculty at The University of the West of England in Bristol. His work in agency-client relationships is the result of research, study and real-world experience.

He brings a pragmatic approach, backed by the data, into the conversation.

Buckle up because it’s a deep conversation, packed with takeaways to use in your own agency. Through deepening your relationship with clients, and providing the right kinds of ideas, training and other added value, you can really set agency apart, increasing your client and employee retention. You will truly be a trusted ally and co-creator with your clients and prospects.

Prior to joining the faculty at UWE, Mario spent 20 years in branding and design consultancy and several years in brand management at HJ Heinz and Harveys of Bristol.

As well as undergraduate and masters teaching, Mario is involved in knowledge exchange projects with SMEs, and research in the field of buyer-seller relationships and value co-creation.

He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and a Fellow of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing. He is also a DMA (West) Regional Council Member, and a Certified Digital Marketing Professional (Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute). 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • How to both share ideas with and learn from the client
  • Drawing from other industries to bring depth to your work in the clients’ industry
  • Why external agencies need to focus less on producing “stuff” and more on producing insights and big ideas
  • Communication with clients does not come with a template – each client relationship is unique
  • Why you get more business opportunities when you take time to meet and check in with clients
  • How to build relationships through coaching clients in best practices
  • Adding value through offering training opportunities to clients
  • Being proactive in making clients’ lives easier
  • How to behave less transactionally so clients believe you really want a relationship
  • How coaching hits all the big C themes
  • Why great work with clients is co-creative

Ways to contact Mario Vafeas:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Oct 15, 2018

Remember when it sounded crazy to remote employees scattered all over the country?  Or even crazier, in multiple countries? The truth is today, it’s becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Many agencies are choosing a hybrid approach, with a central office and staff in a brick and mortar location, but also with remote full-time and part-time workers. Some agencies are going all-in on remote work, ditching the central office and becoming, in the words of my podcast guest for this episode, “location-agnostic.”

I am intrigued by this, to say the least. I worked for and built businesses in an era when you went where the work was, whether you loved that particular center of commerce or not. But our business is changing, and the agency owners I work with are shifting into this new normal as well.

I had some big questions about becoming totally location-agnostic. How do you develop a strong culture when you all work in different places? How do the clients feel about it? How do you do the collaborative work that agencies are known for when you are scattered all over?

My guest on this episode is Brendon Craigie, co-founder and managing partner at Tyto PR. Tyto is a pan-European company with a fully location-agnostic staff.

Is building a healthy and happy work culture possible with an all-remote team? Brendon is finding the answer to that is a resounding “yes!” But there is more to his company than a remote workforce. They are intentionally flat, hiring well-seasoned creative “black belts” rather than having junior-level staff as worker bees. They are finding this to be a business model that’s rewarding to clients as well as the firm itself.

In his role, Brendon leads the agency and is heavily involved in counseling clients on strategic and creative matters. As an experienced global CEO, he also enjoys working closely with other CEOs on broader business and communications strategies.

Prior to launching Tyto, Brendon was the global CEO of Hotwire. As part of Hotwire’s founding team, he rose through the ranks to become CEO, and during his six-year tenure in the position he doubled the company’s size and repositioned it into a top 50 global challenger brand. Brendon’s achievements were recognized through multiple awards.

Brendon has worked across Europe, Asia, and the U.S. with a host of global names including Cisco, Microsoft, and Google. During his career, Brendon has helped to devise strategies and support campaigns for high-growth companies entering Europe to grow their brands and business. These campaigns often extended several years and included several early-stage companies, such as GoPro and BlackBerry, that have become multibillion-dollar successes, while others achieved the exits they desired. 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • The virtues of being a location-agnostic company
  • The logistics and financial implications of an all-remote workforce
  • Creating a culture in a virtual agency
  • Building a flat organization with seasoned, high-level, customer-facing staff
  • When you meet with colleagues, how to meet with a purpose
  • How to bring the best ideas forward through a “creative sprint” process
  • When and how a virtual workforce can get together in the real world – preferably for a mix of work and play
  • A cost/benefit analysis of having a staff of seasoned professionals
  • How to angle for that non-contested pitch to your ideal clients
  • Baking insight and research into the way you do business and how you get new business.

Ways to contact Brendon Craigie:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Oct 8, 2018

We are hip-deep into 2018, and the new tax law is fully in effect. It’s past time to get a handle on the implications of the new law for your business because we only have a few months left to do any sort of planning before year end.

Many agency owners are not exactly “numbers” people. The default, too often, is to let other people handle the money, then go off and focus on the creative or strategic side where we can play to our strengths.

On episode #157 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with CPA and tax advisor, Craig Cody. Cody definitely wants you to partner up with a professional when it comes to number-crunching. But in our conversation, he makes no bones about it: you’ve got roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. You can’t check out of your business’ finances, no matter how much you trust your internal or external advisors.

So, this is a great and very timely conversation. Did you know you can hire your kids and enjoy some significant tax advantages? Craig serves up a ton of tax tips, deduction hacks and best practices on everything from dispelling the myths about deducting a home office to paying for medical expenses, along with the basics of keeping up with the books.

A tax advisor – not just a tax preparer – can be a huge benefit for your bottom line. I had a great time talking with Craig. I learned a lot, and I know you will too.

Craig Cody is a Certified Tax Coach. His practice is rooted in tax planning. His philosophy is to find ways to legally reduce tax liabilities and keep more of what clients earn in their own pockets. 

As a Certified Tax Coach™, Craig belongs to a select group of practitioners throughout the country who undergo extensive training and continued education on various tax planning techniques and strategies in order to become, and remain, certified. With this organization, Craig co-authored an Amazon best-seller, Secrets of a Tax-Free Life. In addition to tax planning, Craig’s practice offers traditional tax services as well as remote CFO services. 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • The big differences between a tax preparer and a tax advisor
  • Why tax planning for entrepreneurs can make a huge difference in how you manage your finances
  • Passthrough income potential in Section 199 of the new tax code
  • How long it should take to gather P and L information for the previous month
  • Aspects of the new tax laws that you might not have considered
  • How frequently to be in contact with your tax advisor
  • How to find a good match for you in a tax advisor
  • The wrong kinds of tax deductions to take
  • Tax benefits of hiring your school-age children
  • Steps to take in order to avoid fraud and theft within your business

Ways to contact Craig Cody:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Oct 1, 2018

Building genuine relationships in our industry is one of the best parts of being in the business. The point is not to build transactional relationships that will end in a big “payoff” for you. When you focus on real relationships, you wind up bringing people into your life who you actually want to work with, and when you’re really fortunate, end up being good friends.

I firmly believe in this philosophy and the value of those relationships, both professionally and personally. These days, relationship-building often starts online.

James Carbary has raised LinkedIn updates and interactions to an art form. I wanted to explore his strategy and the benefits he’d seen in this episode. James generously shared some great tips on how to create good content that gets noticed and builds both engagement and relationships online. His LinkedIn prowess grows out of his larger interest in fostering genuine relationships.

One of the more fascinating projects James has going on are the B2B Growth Dinners he has launched.  It may be coming to a city near you and if so – be sure to participate. James’ idea was to create an opportunity for six strangers who all worked in tangential fields to have dinner and get to know one another. No agenda, no 30-second elevator pitch. He owns/runs an agency, but James’ passion and gift is as a relationship builder. So, we had a lot to talk about!

James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast agency for B2B brands. He’s a contributor to the Huffington Post and Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show, a daily podcast dedicated to helping B2B marketers achieve explosive growth.

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • The power genuine relationships have to enrich your life and build your agency
  • Repurposing content to fit the platform you are presenting it on
  • How to create a community of people
  • Working with engagement groups on LinkedIn
  • How to post on LinkedIn for maximum organic views and engagement
  • Why to have conversations over a meal
  • Using LinkedIn to define your brand and attract clients you want to work with
  • How podcasts help you build a relationship first, add value, and find ideal clients

Ways to contact James Carbary:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Sep 24, 2018

It’s a bit of a milestone episode here, episode 155. It seems like an odd number to celebrate, but it means this podcast has been going strong for three years now! (52 weeks = 156 episodes) So thanks for listening, whether you’ve been around since the beginning, or this is your first time here!

As I speak with agency owners and decision-makers every day about their agencies and their business development efforts (or lack thereof!), we talk about the value of niching their agency. It’s the old brain surgeon versus general practitioner and the relative value proposition of each.

Your niches (note the plural) can be industry-specific, a certain methodology or in some limited cases – a specialty (PPC, etc.). But what do you do when you’ve narrowed down the niches you want to serve?

That’s what this solocast is all about. How do you actually walk out your talk and live/sell and profit from your niches?

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why establishing niches for your agency is so important
  • How many niches should an agency have and why?
  • How do you promote your agency’s special sauce/niches and expertise
  • How sweet spot clients intersect with your niches
  • The business development process to sell to your niches
  • Why helping your clients be better at their job is the heart of your biz dev plan
  • What to do with those clients outside your niches that you don’t want to fire

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner and key executive peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Helpful Resources from this Episode:

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Sep 17, 2018

Word of mouth is nothing new. For generations, it’s been talking with your neighbor over the fence, at the local watering hole, or telling your co-worker about the latest movie in the breakroom. As a business, word of mouth is sparked by those things that you do that separate you from the pack. These talk triggers are so memorable and unique that your customers can’t help but talk about them.

My guest Daniel Lemin gives plenty of examples that show us that talk triggers are rarely very expensive, and they tend to be operational differentiators rather than gimmicks or flash in the pan activities. Think Doubletree’s complimentary cookie when you check in or the Cheesecake Factory’s epic novel of a menu.

Daniel has co-written a book with Jay Baer about this powerful marketing technique appropriately called Talk Triggers. In this episode, Daniel and I chat about what he and Jay learned in their research and the insights they gleaned for all marketers. These B2B and B2C brands (large and small) are following a specific pattern as they create and execute their talk triggers and Daniel will walk us through that as well.

We look at this topic from many angles – from how agencies can leverage this phenomenon and, of course, how we can put it into practice for our clients.

Daniel Lemin is a startup co-founder, trusted advisor and bestselling author on reputation management, digital marketing, and social media customer service. As an early member of Google’s global communications team, Daniel led the launch of products in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific, and edited the Google Zeitgeist weekly research report featured in over 40 markets worldwide.

His new book with co-author Jay Baer, Talk Triggers, explores word-of-mouth marketing and lays out an indispensable framework for building them in your own organization.

Daniel regularly provides expert commentary on TV and in high-profile publications such as the New York Times, USA Today, CBS Radio, and Fox News, and speaks and leads workshops across the nation. In 2015, he released his first book, Manipurated.

A native of Ohio, Daniel earned his MA in communications and leadership from Gonzaga University. He lives in Los Angeles with his cocker spaniel Truman and enjoys the simple joys of gin martinis, jazz, and eating his way around the world—he’ll try nearly anything as long as it doesn’t bite back.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to put structures in place to create WOM talk triggers
  • Why it’s got to be remarkable to be a talk trigger
  • How something as simple as a cookie or a deck of cards can get people talking
  • Why talk triggers are so often about operational differentiation
  • Why talk triggers need to be available to everyone—it’s not about exclusivity
  • The best examples of word of mouth are never complicated or expensive
  • Why metrics for word of mouth are more complicated than other marketing metrics
  • What metrics you CAN use to measure the impact of word of mouth
  • An unexpected benefit of well-done talk-trigger campaigns—they make the workplace more enjoyable for employees

How to Contact Daniel Lemin:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Sep 10, 2018

As agencies struggle to attract and retain top talent, it’s natural that we’re having a lot of conversation about culture.

We’re in a creative industry, and I find that most owners are pretty self-aware. We want to love the business we’ve built, and we want to do right by our employees. Everyone wants their agency to have a culture that employees value and enjoy, but some owners don’t really know how to be intentional about it.

Gina Trimarco is the chief results officer and founder of a company called Pivot 10 Results. In this episode, I wanted to get her take on some of the challenges owners are facing in the current business climate – mainly getting and retaining the right employees. Work culture is a big part of that equation.

We get into a lively discussion about core values and how they can either sit unremembered in an employee handbook or be pivotal in shaping culture. What does it take to keep core values front-of-mind for both owners and employees? How does that help attract and retain the best people? These are questions I am asked every day, so I was glad for Gina’s perspective on all this. I think you will be too.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to define a healthy work culture
  • Creative ways to thank employees for a job well done
  • Putting your best foot forward when an applicant is interviewing you as a potential workplace
  • Empathy-based training and emotional intelligence to create a positive work environment
  • The critical role of stated, repeated, and lived-out core values in establishing a healthy work culture
  • Using your story to sell services, and attract and retain great people
  • How a team of happy employees that has bought in to the core values can be your best recruiting tool
  • How to listen to employees’ hopes and dreams and develop strategies to retain them longer
  • Creating a positive culture that stays positive when the owner is away

Ways to contact Gina:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Sep 3, 2018

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” That’s the standard advice of any investment advisor. But that investment can only happen once we’ve actually made the money. But maybe the concept of diversification is equally applicable to the first stage – making the income in the first place.

Having multiple sources of income builds wealth more quickly and mitigates risks inherent in having just a single source. The logic of that seems simple enough.  But the execution – that’s a whole different animal.

My podcast guest Dorie Clark has a very interesting perspective on this topic and I was excited to pick her brain for all of us. Her most recent book, Entrepreneurial You, is a blueprint for developing multiple income streams without losing your sanity.

Building these income streams involves tough decision-making but it doesn’t have to mean you take huge risks along the way. Dorie suggests a more measured approach and walks us through some of the methods we can explore as we expand our ability to accumulate wealth.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review. She is also the author of Reinventing You and Stand Outwhich was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine and one of the Top 10 Business Books of the Year by Forbes. 

The New York Times described Clark as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives.” Clark consults and speaks for a diverse range of clients, including Google, the World Bank, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Yale University.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Creating diverse income streams without jumping into big, new, risky ventures
  • Guiding people through the sales funnel by offering incrementally advanced services
  • The importance of living beneath your means as an agency and as a person
  • Minimizing risk over time through developing diverse income streams
  • How to be the person that makes the hard choices
  • The meaning of the word “perspicacity”
  • The biggest obstacle to being entrepreneurial
  • How making introductions with no expectation of anything in return can be a superpower
  • The difference between a mindshare activity and a market share activity

Ways to contact Dorie:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Aug 27, 2018

In any trade, mastering the work is just the first of many hurdles. But one of the most daunting for most agency owners is pricing. What is the work worth? Who is my competition, and what if they offer services for less? What is the true value of the work we’re doing and what’s the ROI for our client?

There will always be someone (agency or freelancer) who is willing to do the same work for less. But how does that influence our pricing strategy and should it? This episode is all about the value conversation that leads to identifying a price based on the value you are offering. We’re going to dive into both the theories and principles and how to get over the discomfort of putting these pricing principles into practice.

Blair is an expert in sales, particularly in the creative services industry. He started his career working for a number of Canadian ad agencies and design firms. In 2000, he struck out on his own with a consulting practice named Win Without Pitching. In our conversation, Blair will walk us through a framework developed over decades of learning, trying, failing and perfecting value-based selling for creatives.

Blair is the author of Win Without Pitching Manifesto. He has just written a brand-new book called Pricing Creativity. I have spent some time with it, and the cool thing is, it's not really a book – or more precisely, it’s not only a book. It's more of a training manual – a three-ring binder full of all kinds of tips, tricks, and the psychology of pricing strategy.

This is a meaty episode and I promise – it’s going to give you plenty to think about.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to effectively price your creative work
  • Why a one-page proposal beats a 75-page presentation every time
  • The value of silence in the sales process
  • Moving from vendor to valued expert early in the sales process
  • Making the closing on the sale a “non-event”
  • The four-step framework for mastering the value conversation
  • How to discipline yourself to not offer solutions too early in the process
  • The mindset shift needed to improve selling skills to become a pricing expert
  • Having value conversations with the right decision-makers
  • How to move from agreeing with sales principles to making them standard practice

Ways to contact Blair:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Aug 20, 2018

Before we dive into today’s topic — I first want to say thank you for your listenership and loyalty! We are downloaded in over 85 countries and I’m grateful for every listener. This solocast is Episode 150 of Build a Better Agency and I’m grateful for your time and the conversations we’ve had over the last three years.

Way back in Episode 35 (in early 2016), we talked about the employee shortage and the challenge the shortage was creating for agencies and agency owners. If anything – things have gotten tougher.

As you know, I see the financials for about 120 AMI agencies a year. I review their P&Ls, balance sheets, ratios, and some other information. And I will tell you that even though agencies may have had a good year financially in 2017 — they didn’t actually get to keep a lot of the money they earned. And the reason why they didn’t is because their employees are taking more and more of that money. This is happening because of scarcity. The truth of it is...scarcity wins. And right now, your employees are in control.

There are fewer good agency employees than there are agency needs and jobs. And I don’t think this is going to change any time soon. I thought it might be helpful if I shared how some agencies are addressing this challenge. I will walk you through some creative benefits employees consider to be brag-worthy, as well as the benefits that scored at the top of our research with over 1,000 agency employees. The truth is, 401k programs and insurance coverage no longer differentiate you from your competitors — they are table stakes.

Here’s the reality — we have to understand what today’s workforce wants and you have to make sure that your culture and your benefits package match those expectations if you want to attract and retain the talent you need to grow your agency.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to attract and retain quality talent using today’s tools and why you need to build a pipeline for talent in the same way you build a pipeline for new business
  • How long you should reasonably expect your employees to stay with your agency
  • What are some brag-worthy benefits that will get your employees talking about your agency with their fellow professionals
  • How you can provide your employees the opportunity to have flexible work hours or work from home days without losing the valuable in-office collaboration
  • Why your employees will actually take less time off if you provide them with unlimited PTO
  • Why we cannot dismiss the changes in the needs of today’s workforce as just a millennial thing
  • What your employees consider to be the most important thing keeping them in a job – or – how they decide to accept a job they are offered
  • How treating all of your employees fairly does not mean you have to treat them all equally
  • Why just because someone is good at their job does not mean they’re going to be good at supervising other people doing that job
  • What are “boomerang employees” and why you should consider circling back to them

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Resources:

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Aug 13, 2018

In our industry, storytelling is one of those words that is so overused, it can lose its meaning pretty quickly.

Great stories stick with us. My guest, the co-author of The Storytelling Edge, Joe Lazauskas, understands that good storytelling gives you an edge. In a world where content can be all-but-meaningless pablum, it can also tell a story that moves a customer and makes a connection with them.

As a writer and storyteller myself, I always soak up any time I can spend with someone who’s as passionate about this subject as I am. Joe gets into the brain science of why stories are so powerful – they are a way to understand each other and ourselves better. He takes that knowledge and helps brands tell better stories.

For agencies and our clients, stories are how we build trusted connections with customers. In an era where there is pressure to churn out content, Joe helps us take a step back and understand why story is so important, and the key ingredients and tactics for telling good stories.

Joe Lazauskas is an owner and the director of content strategy at Contently. If you're not familiar with Contently, it is a content strategy practice. It offers a dashboard, but they also help big-brand clients create stories and content for those brands.

Joe was also one of the founding editors of the New York Egotist. After that, he became a tech and marketing journalist for FastCompany, Digit Day, and Forbes, among others. He joined Contently in the early days of their formation and in the beginning, he served as editor in chief.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How the brain engages with story, and how you and your clients can benefit
  • The four elements of good storytelling
  • Why content without a story is missing something
  • Key tactics for good storytelling, and how to apply them in your agency
  • How to help clients have less fear about sharing the gap between what is and what could be in their business
  • Discovering what the customer is interested in, and telling compelling stories around that
  • Educating clients about the power of content that tells a story. It’s not checking off the “wrote a blog post” or “sent out some tweets” box
  • The companies doing storytelling content well, and how you can scale it
  • Implementing editorial boards and newsrooms to get strategic about using content to tell stories

Ways to contact Joe:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Aug 6, 2018

If there is a common pain point for agency owners today -- it’s recruiting and retaining talent. It’s a conversation I am having every day and it’s more difficult than it’s been in quite a while. Unfortunately, I don’t see that trend reversing any time soon. Which means we’d all better improve our ability to keep the good ones that we either have or can attract. It’s starts with hiring the right person for the right reasons.

What are the most effective questions to ask during the interview process? What do you need to know about the candidate? What do they need to know about you, your agency and the culture there?

For my podcast guest Steve Lowisz, it all comes down to purpose. Are you clear on the purpose of the position your hiring for? Are deliverables clearly spelled out in the job description you are posting? It’s critical to discover if the candidate’s purpose actually aligns with your agency’s purpose, and if they do – you’d better have a plan for nurturing that shared passion.

Steve Lowisz is an expert on talent acquisition, talent assessment, personal development, diversity & inclusion, and business performance. He has more than two decades of research and practical business experience allowing him to serve hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals.

As CEO of the Qualigence Group of Companies that he founded in 1999, Steve regularly contributes to Industry events and publications and has been featured in Fortune Magazine, CNN Money, The Detroit Free Press and on Bloomberg Radio.  

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why job descriptions often don’t provide the right information to get the right candidate for the job
  • How to look at capacity, character, competencies, and culture when interviewing candidates
  • How to discover what is motivating someone’s job search
  • Identifying what a candidate is looking for that they don’t have now
  • The different competencies needed for working on site compared with working remotely
  • How facts, feelings, focus, and fruit can help get you through difficult, honest feedback conversations
  • Numerous strategies for hiring and retaining great talent
  • How to engage on LinkedIn, rather than using it as an “as needed” resume database
  • Why having one-on-one meetings still matter and how to fill them with purpose

Ways to contact Steve:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jul 30, 2018

Business development does not just happen. For most of us as agency owners, sales is one of those things we wish we didn’t have to do.

In this episode of Build A Better Agency, we’re going to really dive into sales. I think the reluctance comes down to a fear of rejection. Because of those fears and insecurities, we don’t prioritize biz dev. We don’t put it on the calendar. We don’t make it a must do.

I think the biggest change we can make, and this is my challenge to you, is to just carve out time to connect with your ideal clients. Maybe it’s one morning a week. But as my guest says, if it’s not on the calendar, you’re not going to do it.

My guest for episode #147 is Michelle Weinstein. Michelle has done it all. She's been on Shark Tank. She has raised over a million dollars for her last company, and she now teaches entrepreneurs how to sell.

At the end of the day, Michelle is a sales strategist. She teaches mission-driven entrepreneurs how to sell without being sleazy.

I think we make sales harder than it needs to be. That’s why I wanted to bring Michelle on to have this conversation. She generously shared some incredible ideas and strategies that you can implement right now.

What if you could make a list of your ideal top-tier clients and actually have the confidence and the plan to demonstrate to them that they’re be losing out by not working with you.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of our discussion. This is a must hear episode if you are looking to enjoy biz dev and ultimately the fruits of that labor in increased profits.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why saving those email and text “thank you’s” and testimonials from clients is so important
  • Why service-based businesses like ours are easier to sell than products
  • How to block out time for business development
  • The most useful tasks to tackle during your biz dev time
  • Why “bumping into” your ideal clients at a trade show can be a truly winning strategy-and how to prep for it
  • How to research and strategize for your pitch
  • Creating and managing a list of your top 20 ideal new clients
  • How to offer a gift that is something of value, without giving away the store or your trade secrets

Ways to contact Michelle Weinstein:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jul 23, 2018

Why do some agencies seem to “get” digital transformation and others struggle to cross that hurdle? Even more puzzling – among the ones who do get it – why are so many of them struggling to make money at it?

These are some of the daunting questions I’m exploring in this episode with my guest Chris Aarons. We all understand that digital transformation is happening. Few understand this as well as he does.

What does it mean for an agency to have digital-first DNA? Chris Aarons’ book Digital Helix explores this idea and I asked him about it when we spoke. Part of this concept is understanding that everything is connected, and a digital asset is never “done” or complete. When we approach our work with that understanding, what we do for and with clients becomes less about putting out emergency fires or checking off the boxes on the latest trend. It becomes about a consistent and constant state of evolution.

Chris believes the larger value we can all offer clients is helping them recognize and embrace that reality and then together, looking out over the horizon and planning for tomorrow’s opportunities rather than focusing on today’s fires.

That’s how we add incredible value and earn our seat at the client’s table. In this episode we talk about how to make that vision a reality for your agency.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The importance of an exploration mindset in moving you and your clients forward
  • What it means to operate with a digital-first DNA as an agency
  • How to encourage digital-first DNA thinking in your clients
  • How to develop ongoing conversations with clients rather than operating from a one-off proposal framework
  • Why talking with a client’s customers is at least as important as talking with the clients themselves
  • How sales are connective moments – not a journey
  • Why identifying the current problem is not the agency’s primary job
  • How to be relentless about getting better over time
  • When and how organic influencer models can beat the pants off of paid reach
Jul 16, 2018

When you’re busy running an agency, it can be hard to take a step back to see broader trends. What is currently happening and what is on the horizon regarding client relationships? What tactics and deliverables are hot and making agencies money? This is the second part of a discussion I started last month about the we’re tracking at AMI.

One of the best aspects of our work with agency owners from all over the world is that it affords me perspective. In episode 140, Top 2018 Agency Trends Part 1, I talked about trends that were related to money and the changing structures of our teams. And in this episode, I’m going to talk about the trends that I did not have a chance to get to in that episode.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How retail-facing companies are transitioning those skill sets into B2B space
  • Why big consumer brands are decreasing their marketing spend and what it might mean down the road for small to mid-sized agencies
  • The continuing rise of video and how to avoid the urge to over-produce video content
  • Why clients are coming back to integrated agencies after splitting their marketing dollars among smaller agencies focused on narrow tasks
  • What tactics and deliverables are earning agencies solid revenue in 2018
  • The rise of influencer marketing
  • The fascinating ways in which voice is changing search and how to stay on top of the trend
  • The love/hate relationship we all have with chatbots and what that might mean for their future

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today. AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jul 9, 2018

I’ve always described our work as being called upon to be creative on demand. Whether an agency employee sits in the creative department, codes apps, builds strategy or works on new business – we are all tasked with being fresh thinkers.

Our clients hire us to ask the right questions. We feel the pressure to provide answers or at the very least, to know the next right question.  It’s incredibly satisfying when a prospect or client says, “I’ve never been asked that before.”

My podcast guest Larry Robertson, encourages his clients – and us – to sit with questions – to not look for quick and easy answers. But to recognize that the real insight rarely comes from the first layer of questions. The paradox is that in times of frenetic change, having the right answers are more important than having the quick answers. Organizationally speaking, it’s a matter of life and death.

Larry Robertson is an innovation and strategy advisor. He is the author of two award-winning books: A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress, and The Language of Man: Learning to Speak Creativity, honored with a combined 16 awards.

During our conversation, Larry talked about the research he did as he was prepping to write “The Language of Man.” He interviewed recipients of the McArthur “Genius” award to gather their collective wisdom on creativity and staying power in business and life.

Along with being an author, he’s also a columnist for Inc. Magazine and The Creativity Post, and a regular contributor to Fast Company. He also has been featured guest on or in MSNBC, the Chicago Tribune, AdAge, SmartBrief, and in numerous podcasts.

He is a Graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a former Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to help clients recognize their value proposition
  • The five layers of “why” and how it can be a powerful tool for agency
  • How to answer the “so what?” question about what you do and why it’s important
  • The importance of staying curious and open-minded no matter how long your agency has been around
  • Cultivating the Five Habits of the Mind in your agency and weaving it throughout your discovery process
  • What prospects are looking for when picking an agency
  • The two things you can’t do as you implement the Five Habits of the Mind
  • Your role as an agency during the discovery session
  • Larry’s perspective on change and how it affects your agency and clients
  • The three key things you need to do to expand your agency’s brand lifespan to last longer than 15 years
  • The benefits of implementing “play“ as a habit and how it can help you become a better on-demand creative
  • How to encourage better micro-habits as a leader within your agency

Ways to contact Larry Robertson:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jul 2, 2018

We live in the ratings and review economy. While our clients (and I suspect we are guilt of this too inside our agencies) are busy chasing after the new customer, the truth is – if we don’t create an amazing experience for our existing clients – we’re sunk. It’s tough to attract new business when your current customers are giving you mediocre reviews or rushing to social media to share your customer service blunder with their connections.

Never forget that 70% of your net new revenue should come from existing clients. Odds are your clients are in the same boat. In today’s world of commoditization, the experience we create is often our point of difference. And let’s face it – you’re probably not on the front lines with your agency’s clients. Your team is.

That’s why I was eager to speak with my guest Stan Phelps – an expert in customer experience and employee engagement. Among the many things on his plate, Stan runs purplegoldfish.com where he digs deep into these topics in his best-selling book series and on stages across the globe.

I wanted to ask Stan about the links between customer experience, embracing weirdness, employee engagement, and above all – purpose in an organization – how they are all tied to one another; how they are often the difference between surviving (or not) and thriving as a company.

Stan Phelps is an IBM Futurist, TEDx Speaker, and Forbes Contributor. He has spoken at over 250 events on every inhabited continent, in over a dozen countries for Fortune 100 brands such as IBM, Target, ESPN, UPS, GlaxoSmithKline, and Citi.

Prior to focusing on writing and speaking, Stan held leadership positions at IMG, Adidas, and the PGA. He also spent seven years as Chief Solutions Officer at Synergy, an award-winning marketing agency. At Synergy, he helped create larger than life brand experiences for brands such as KFC, M&M’s, Walmart and Starbucks.

Stan received his BS in Marketing and Human Resources from Marist College, a JD/MBA from Villanova University and a certificate for Achieving Breakthrough Service from Harvard Business School. He is a faculty member on ANA’s School of Marketing and also serves as an adjunct instructor at Rutgers Business School.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How exceptional customer experience means current customers will be eager to bring you, new customers
  • What the concept of lagniappe (pronounced, “LAN-yap”) – a tradition in New Orleans – is all about and how you can use it to go that extra mile for your clients
  • The bottom line importance of warmth and competence
  • Making your best clients aware of your full range of services
  • How to embrace weirdness as a business development strategy
  • The 5 things that impact the growth and health of a goldfish – and what that means for your business
  • The correlation between the first 4 months of your business and its overall health to this day
  • How to put purpose at the bullseye of everything you do
  • The law of worthy intentions

Ways to contact Stan Phelps:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jun 25, 2018

Obstacles are a given. We don’t get to waltz through life without facing some tough days, barriers and people who are pretty convinced we’re crazy. As a result – we all have “those days.” Those days of doubt, of worry and of asking ourselves, “what am I doing?” I don’t know about you, but there are days when I wonder how I got on this crazy roller coaster. But then I realize that I stood in line just for a shot at the ride and most days, I love it. Every day we make choices and those choices have consequences.

The choices we make lead define the life we live. I work hard to come at life from a growth mindset. I know there will be uphill days, but I am going to tackle that hill and figure out how to avoid having to climb it again. My only other option is a limiting mindset.

My guest for this podcast is a person I’ve followed and admired for years and I couldn’t wait to speak with her – in fact we planned a return visit to the podcast not even halfway through this one! Pam Slim digs deep to get to the bottom of those tough questions that keep business owners stuck in place or afraid to step out into the light. Her goal is to find answers that allow us to face and overcome those inevitable challenges, so we can enjoy the ride.

Pam had just embarked on some pretty incredible research on this very subject of overcoming or not overcoming challenges right before we got together. I wanted to get a sneak peek at the findings and Pam delivered! We talked about the power of building a community around you and the power that unleashes as you both get support and support others.

Pam Slim is an award-winning author, speaker, and small business coach. Most of you probably know her from her book, Escape From Cubicle Nation, but there is a lot more to tell.

Pam spent the first 10 years of her solo practice as a consultant to large corporations like HP and Cisco and to worked with thousands of employees, managers, and executives. Then came then Cubicle Nation, the blog which led to the book. Her latest book, Body of Work was released with Penguin Portfolio in 2015. In her hometown of Mesa, AZ, Pam has opened up what she calls a business learning library called K’é, which is a Navajo word meaning “a system of kinship connection.”

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What kinship has to do with building a business
  • The impact of your attitude toward obstacles
  • Why people gather in ecosystems of shared values and experiences
  • What it means to have a “growth” vs. a “fixed” mindset
  • How to course-correct your business whether you’ve been in it for a year or 30 years
  • Why a great business ecosystem is like the ultimate dinner party
  • What the High Council of Jedi Knights can teach us about sharpening our business outcomes
  • The toll that a lack of shared values will take on you in a business (or any) relationship
  • The results of a major research study on overcoming obstacles
  • The power of a group of people who both have your back and hold you accountable

Ways to contact Pamela Slim:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jun 18, 2018

I hang out with agency owners every day and 95% of them resist proactive business development for as long as they can. Until that big client starts to give “I want to break up” signs, they are happy to rely on referrals and anyone who crosses the threshold as a substitute for a true biz dev program.

Most owners will tell me that they either hate sales or they’re terrible at them. But the reality is – you are all brilliant sales people because you are not a sales person. You are uniquely skilled at having business conversations at a level that no average salesperson can have.

The other excuse some owners will offer is that they are introverts, which means they can’t be good at sales. Again, I disagree. The key to good sales is asking better questions and listening with more intentionality and no one is better at that then someone who is more introverted.

All of this is why I invited Matthew Pollard to be on the show. He’s here to share insights from his work and from his forthcoming book, The Introvert’s Edge. He’s got some really great things to share to get us out of our reluctance about selling and networking.

Can narrowing our niche help us sell better? Matthew thinks so. Should we get beyond describing our work as a functional skill – the same skill everyone in the marketplace has? Matthew knows getting beyond functional skill is a crucial step.

Matthew is the Rapid Growth Guy. He's dedicated to helping small business owners succeed by giving them methods that helped them transform their business from struggling into profitable success stories. He is the founder and executive director of the Small Business Festival, ranked among the top five conferences in the nation by Inc. magazine. He is in the international sales blogger awards hall of fame and has been featured in Entrepreneur, CEO magazine, Fortune, you name it. But what we care about is that he's going to help us be smarter about selling.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How to craft a unified message about why people should work with you
  • The difference between your functional skills and the reason people actually work with you
  • The three-step process to rapid growth
  • Why you don’t have to be an extrovert to be excellent at sales
  • Plenty of life hacks for your next networking event
  • How to stand out when your services have been commoditized
  • Why bending yourself to perceived market “needs” will leave you tired and frustrated
  • How niching narrows your market in all the right ways
  • The folly of sharing a bland message in a crowded market – and what to do instead
  • Why a small niche you are excited about is better than a giant market you don’t care about

Ways to contact Matthew/Resources:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jun 11, 2018

I have the good fortune of hanging out with agency owners and their teams every day of the year. We work with over 250 agencies that range from a handful of employees to several hundred team members. While every agency is absolutely unique – there are some common themes and trends that bubble up as we work alongside our agency clients.

Every year I pull together the trends I see time and time so the agencies we serve aren’t surprised by any of them. I’ve categorized them into some big buckets: money, employees, agency structure, clients, tactics, and revenue opportunities.

There were too many trends to pack into one solocast, so I’ll cover half this time and the other half in July.

Here’s the good news – it’s a great time to be in the business. As always, both challenges and opportunity abound. My goal is to help you spot the opportunities so you can maximize them while sidestep the trouble spots.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How agencies fared financially in 2017
  • Why 2017 was a great year for agencies to make money – and where that profit got re-allocated
  • The factors complicating employee hiring and retention
  • Agency structure changes in terms of both department structure and employee life/work models

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today. AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Jun 4, 2018

Every agency has an internal culture. The only question is – did you build it on purpose. Intentionality. That is the bottom line. If you want to consciously create your team’s functionality and effectiveness, what kind of clients you attract, and where your own focus should be – that takes intentionality. That level of thinking has helped Raman Sehgal build an agency that allows him to work with clients from all over the world and enjoy a staff retention rate of 80%.

Raman Sehgal is the owner of a UK-based marketing agency called Ramarketing, an award-winning, creative, digital and PR agency. They are in the business of helping fast-growing companies in the life science, pharma, and manufacturing sectors get noticed.

Nine years ago, he was working from a desk in his home. His agency has now grown the agency to a staff of over 20 and they working with clients across the UK, the US, and Europe, and still have the very first client that they landed almost a decade ago.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What it looks like to go from freelancer to running an agency
  • How the job of owner changes over the lifecycle of an agency
  • Why it’s possible to run an agency from a kitchen counter or a big corporate office
  • How most agency owners become accidental business owners
  • How Raman’s agency model compares to how a traditional agency runs
  • How to build a family first, work second culture in your business
  • What it takes to serve clients in multiple markets around the globe
  • The power of being “meaningfully specific” in an agency
  • Raman’s agency billing structure and the difference between billing by the hour for the US compared to the UK
  • Building a fee structure on deliverables
  • The correlation between giving clients a good return and the margin you receive on your work
  • The red flags you can use to vet prospects and make sure they are a good fit for your agency
  • How trying to make a difficult client happy can actually cost you and your staff
  • Best practices to keep your team productive

Ways to contact Raman Sehgal:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

May 28, 2018

Making a profit is the goal of any agency owner. But too often, the way we think about profit actually hurts our agency. The standard equation (sales - expenses = profit) can lead to bad decision-making. We are willing to accept the leftovers (profit) rather than running our business to deliver profit as a key outcome. I’d much rather have you determine the amount of profit that is acceptable to you and then you manage your business to that goal.

This is a more effective way to look at the profit equation – one that helps agencies thrive and gives you the ROI you deserve for taking the risk of owning an agency.

Michael Michalowicz founded and sold two multi-million dollar companies. Then in his mid-30’s, he went broke. Starting over again, he was driven to find better ways to grow healthy, strong companies. Among other innovative strategies, Mike created the “Profit First Formula,” a way for small to mid-sized businesses like our agencies to ensure profitability from their very next deposit forward.

Michael is now running his third million dollar venture, is a former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal, the former MSNBC business make-over expert, a popular keynote speaker on innovative entrepreneurial topics, and is the author of Profit First, Surge, The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.  

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The two questions Michael asked himself that allowed him to find his calling to become an author
  • Why leaving too much money in your agency leads to bad decisions
  • What it means to run the Profit First system within your agency
  • Basic principles to help your agency get ready to use the Profit First system
  • Why you aren’t limited by a lack of resources
  • The parallel between Pumpkin farmers and business regarding organic growth
  • Key takeaways agency owners can apply to their biz dev strategy using the principle of “growing the strong sprout”
  • Why it’s important to serve the verticals your agency knows well, and that will allow three or four of those legs to support your stool
  • Consequences you may face when you put too much focus on your weakest clients
  • Why entrepreneurs struggle with being profitable
  • A better way to calculate profit for your agency so you can stop using the “Frankenstein Formula”
  • Principles taken from health and fitness industry you can apply to manage your money better and simplify your agency

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

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