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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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Build a Better Agency Podcast
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Apr 15, 2019

Let’s admit it. Agency owners are reluctant salespeople. However, biz dev should be a significant part of how we spend our days.

When I hear agency owners say that they don’t have to prospect because they get so much business via word of mouth, I always ask, “Are those the clients you would choose to work with or are you simply working with them by default?” When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth can sting a little.

I get it – no one likes to be told no. That doesn’t make selling any easier. But how do we change our mindset? Hearing no (or deafening silence) feels like a failure, so we avoid it at all costs. But what are the costs of fearing the “no” and settling for whatever comes our way?

In episode #184, I talk with Andrea Waltz, co-author of the best-selling book, Go for No. We have to re-think the word no. A “no” is one step closer to a “yes”.

Andrea and I talk about the no, not just in sales, but also in the creative process. Sometimes we phone it in because big, bold ideas have been rejected in the past. So we play it safe, even though we know that’s not in our clients’ best interests.

Andrea Waltz is a keynote speaker, author, and sought-after sales strategist. At the age of 8, she called George Lucas to see if she could work with him on future movies. She was the youngest general manager in eyeglass retailer Lenscrafters’ history. At the age of 24, she launched her own training company.

Hubspot named Andrea one of the “25 Sales Experts You Should Follow on Twitter” while Salesforce.com named her one of the “25 Sales Influencers to Follow on Twitter.” She was also named among the “Top 100 Sales Influencers” and “Top 65 Women Business Influencers” by Tenfold and one of the “47 Top Sales Speakers and Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by SummitSYNC.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to retrain your brain to accept more “no’s”
  • Why setting “no” targets is as important as setting sales targets
  • How going for “no” translates beyond sales
  • The power of actually wanting to fail
  • Getting ready to fail bigger and fail faster to get to “yes”
  • Why celebrating failure is so important
  • How to encourage the effort and not just the result 

Ways to Contact Andrea Waltz:

Apr 8, 2019

For 95% of all agencies, referrals and word of mouth are the #1 method of gaining new clients. On the one hand, that’s great. It means your clients, friends, and peers love and trust you enough to introduce you to their friends and colleagues.

Unfortunately, they’re not always the right clients for our agency.  What if they aren’t a good fit? What if they are the furthest thing from a sweet-spot client for who you are and what your agency does? We have to be more intentional about referral and word of mouth.

That’s why my conversation with Steve Gordon arrived right on time. Steve has developed processes and systems that you can use to leverage word of mouth, qualify referrals, and scale your efforts so you don’t have to spend more time in one-on-one meetings than you have hours in your already stretched-to-the-limit day.

Steve Gordan started the Unstoppable CEO in 2010. He has invested nearly two decades into studying, implementing, testing, and proving the strategies that work to sell professional services.

Through Unstoppable CEO, Steve shares this knowledge with growth-minded professionals who are ready for world-class help with their marketing. He has become an expert at leveraging and scaling referral systems and word-of-mouth marketing techniques.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to leverage your word of mouth and referrals
  • Why you must vet referrals to ensure they are a good fit for your agency
  • How to use presentations as referral machines
  • The many ways to leverage technology in gaining referrals
  • Why human nature creates points of interaction that don’t change over time
  • How to become a successful journalist
  • How to turn podcasts into referral engines
  • What it means to gain total business freedom

Ways to Contact Steve Gordon:

Apr 1, 2019

When you think about or define a global agency, do you think of those giant conglomerates that started on Madison Avenue and have mushroomed into marketing behemoths? Well, that’s one model – but certainly not the only one. What if your global agency was set up more like a series of regional micro-agencies still under one banner?

On episode #182 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with Josh Steimle, who has developed a unique business model that is really working for him and the growing team at MWI.

We dig into it all: how to develop a cohesive culture across multiple locations, how to hire well, and how to niche down. What they are doing is still very unique in the agency world but seems to have the potential for replication – as many successful ventures do.

Josh founded MWI in 1999 while a college student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In 2013, he moved from Salt Lake City to Hong Kong to open MWI’s first international office.

Josh is the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work: How Top Marketers Build Customer Loyalty, a TEDx speaker, and regularly presents at marketing and business events. He has written over 200 articles on marketing and entrepreneurship for publications like Mashable, TechCrunch, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Time.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

 

  • Why there is more than one way to scale a business
  • How to rethink the global agency
  • Why hiring the right person is such a critical decision
  • How a niche service can land you big clients
  • Why even small events can pay off with good business opportunities
  • How to build credibility in the marketplace through strategic partnerships
  • Using credibility to sell your services
  • The ROI of giving away advice
  • Challenge and opportunity in building a global group of micro-agencies
  • Building an agency that is both virtual and face-to-face

Ways to Contact Josh Steimle:

 

 

 

Mar 25, 2019

We talk to clients about positioning every single day. We walk them through differentiation strategies. When they don’t take our advice, we walk away shaking our heads. However, guess who is lousy at taking our own medicine!

I say this all the time, but it bears repeating: Being a generalist is not going to cut it in today’s marketplace. Getting clear on your subject-matter expertise – the heart of your differentiation – has never been more important. I don’t think there is a way to overstate that point.

On episode #181 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with David C. Baker, who has seen it all as a consultant, often working with design firms and agencies. It’s why he wrote the book “The Business of Expertise.”

He speaks regularly on more than 70 topics relevant to entrepreneurial expertise and also appears as a guest on many entrepreneurial focused podcasts.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The most egregious mistake agency owners make
  • Why “seats on the agency bus” does not always equal success
  • Why establishing subject-matter expertise is more important than ever
  • The ideal numbers of prospects and competitors that define strong differentiation
  • How to measure and demonstrate your subject-matter expertise
  • Why your geographic reach is an important metric
  • Why employees are not as interchangeable as they once were
  • How to elevate training in agency culture
  • Why 85% of agencies are niched vertically

Ways to Contact David C. Baker:

Mar 18, 2019

Agencies have an accountability problem and it starts at the top.

Every day, as owners and team members we make promises to our team. I’ll get the copy to you by 5.” Or, “I’ll have my part of the RFP done by Tuesday.” You’ve heard yourself making those commitments and then you hear that voice in the back of your head say, “I hope.”

If we as owners can’t honor our promises, how on earth can we expect our team to honor theirs? As owners and principals, we overfill our schedules. We overpromise – and guess what? The natural outcome of that is we under deliver, let down our team and set up a pattern where pretty soon, they take everything we say with a big grain of salt.

Everything we do, internally and externally, is deadline driven. If you’re wondering why your employees don’t seem to worry about deadlines or other commitments, like budgets, look no further than your mirror. Odds are, without knowing it, you’ve taught them that the promises we make are “fluid.”

We must be accountable – and hold our teams accountable – for time commitments.

This episode of Build a Better Agency is a solocast. It’s all about providing more leadership in our promises to deliver projects (or answers, or whatever the deliverable may be) on time. We’re all incredibly busy, and too often we use that – and accept that – as an excuse.

You don’t want your agency to be a place whose staff members don’t respect each other enough to keep their promises. And you don’t want your agency to let down or embarrass clients because you didn’t deliver something on time. These are the games we play when we don’t take our time commitments seriously, and they have to stop. Accountability is the key to honoring our word and earning our team and clients’ confidence.

Dig into this issue with me and let’s examine a culture that is reluctant to say no. Let’s look at how we track (or don’t track) our time and our employees’ time. Our goal is not to micromanage or pad billable hours but to get a clear handle on whom and what it really takes to deliver on a project so that we are putting enough time in the calendar to get it done on time and within budget.

What You Will Learn on This Episode:

 

  • The difference between expectation and agreement
  • Why accountability for deadlines starts with you
  • How to put more breathing room into your calendar so you can honor your agreements
  • The life-changing magic of timesheets
  • Why internal deadlines are at least as important as client deadlines
  • How to build a traffic management function into an agency of any size
  • How to make accountability a lived core value within your agency

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.”

Helpful Resources from this Episode:

 

 

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

 

Mar 11, 2019

The number one barrier to growth for agencies in 2019 is staffing. Agencies are struggling to find and keep good talent. And that conversation always leads to the topic of culture. When we think about culture – we often think about the fun stuff – parties, bonuses, and recognizing people for going above and beyond for clients.

All of that is super important but it is also equally critical to instill a culture that seeks, celebrates, and rewards growth. What are the attributes of a growth culture – and how do you make sure your agency has it?

A longtime practitioner in this area of creating a growth culture inside your agency is my guest on this episode: Doug Austin. In this episode, we talk about why that is the key to, in Doug’s words, “having permission to win that business.”

Doug has been doing agency work for many years and now spends his time as a consultant, working with agency owners and leaders to create a culture of growth in their business. We’re going to dig deep into what a growth culture means and how to get it.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

 

  • The steps of a four-tiered plan for growth and innovation
  • Why it is important to know your client’s business inside and out
  • How to build training in the industries you serve into your overall training program
  • How to write a brief that makes sense to your client
  • Best practices for setting up training for agency employees
  • Creating a culture of growth
  • Building a culture based on the worth of all people and doing the best work you can
  • The connection between continuous learning and a culture of growth
  • How to perform a service audit of your agency
  • Dealing effectively with culture culprits

Ways to Contact Doug Austin:

 

Mar 4, 2019

Agency owners are notoriously ill-informed (and uncomfortable) when it comes to their agency’s finances. Which means they make important decisions in the dark. Not ideal and we’re trying to change that at AMI. That doesn’t mean you need to understand all the fine-grain details. But you do have to understand where you stand financially at any given time.

On episode #178, I talk with Jenn McCabe, who started out in accounting at Ogilvy and Mather but soon started her own accounting firm to help small to midsized agencies figure out their numbers.

The numbers you need to know (and if you do any AMI planning, this will sound familiar) should fit on one sheet of paper. We’re not talking about miles and miles of Excel spreadsheets. Just the key figures and concepts you need to understand your agency’s financial health.

We’ll also talk about best practices for preparing your agency for sale when the time comes.

Recently Jenn merged her company with Armanino. They provide, among many other services, outsourced accounting, finance, and HR, working primarily with agencies to create simple accounting dashboards and financial documents that allow the agency owner to make good decisions.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The difference between cash accounting and accrual accounting (and why you NEED to know the difference)
  • The need for accounting rather than bookkeeping
  • Understanding run rate, aka your monthly “nut”
  • Why you need to pay yourself as an owner
  • Best practices around owner salary
  • How much cash and cash equivalents to keep liquid and available
  • How to be an attractive acquisition target
  • Transitioning your employees to new owners
  • Managing an internal agency purchase
  • Why management buyouts are becoming less common

 

Ways to Contact Jenn McCabe:

Feb 25, 2019

Staying on top of the social media landscape and what it means in terms of going from engagement with fans to ultimately generating new opportunities and sales is one of those ongoing tasks in agency life. Algorithms are always evolving, so what got you reach last year – or even last month – might not get you the same reach today.

We are creating social content for clients every day. Add to that the thought leadership we want to develop for our agency – and that’s a lot of social interaction to manage!

On this episode, we dig into the current data. What’s happening on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and, oh, yeah – Twitter.

How do we engage on these social platforms in smart and effective ways? My guest is Scott Ayres of Agorapulse. His Social Media Lab (a literal lab and also a podcast he hosts) digs into this question with gathered and analyzed data to back up any answers given.

Scott has the awesome title of Content Scientist at Agorapulse. He takes what we all believe to be best practices or questions we have around engagement or audience activity or behavior, and he looks for data points that will help us make better choices in terms of how we use these social channels for our agency and clients’ benefit.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What social metrics to measure, and why
  • Why local business pages are still thriving on Facebook
  • How people are using hashtags as “Google”
  • Whether or not emoji usage changes engagement
  • Why you might want to post on social networks before or after peak
  • How social media channels are beginning to segment in a good way
  • Why LinkedIn text-only posts perform better than FB text-only posts
  • Data around the resurgence of the Twitter chat          

Ways to Contact Scott Ayres:

Feb 18, 2019

This is one of those episodes that proves that you don’t know what you don’t know. We’re tackling the subject of health insurance – how to manage costs as an employer since it is such a big-ticket cost for most agencies.

I’ve been an agency owner for the past 25 years or so, and health insurance is something I want to offer because I value my team and want to provide a generous benefit package. But when renewal time comes around, I’m always wondering what kind of increase is coming. Like most of you, it’s usually in the double digits and super painful. Someone (me or my employees) has to endure that increase or we have to increase the deductible or reduce features.

One thing I do know: For all of us, healthcare costs typically one of our biggest expenses and feels completely out of our control.

I wanted to tap into the wisdom of Allison De Paoli, who works with businesses to get more out of every healthcare insurance dollar. She offered some incredible insight on managing the costs, increase the benefits to your team and protect yourself when it comes to renewals.

A veteran of the insurance and benefits industry, Allison and her firm are members of Next Generation Benefits Network (NBN). NBN is a national alliance of elite independent benefits firms that are successfully challenging the healthcare status quo to improve benefits for employees, while reducing the costs for employers.

 

 

 

 

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Creative ways to manage your healthcare line item
  • The difference between a level-funded plan and a standard premium plan
  • Cost savings and other benefits of telehealth programs
  • Finding a benefits advisor who will truly advocate for your best interests
  • How to make sure employees of every age are getting the right kind of medical care
  • Hidden drivers of healthcare costs
  • The role and surprisingly affordable cost of a direct primary care doctor
  • Why self-funded plans are not as scary as you might think
  • How a health savings account can act as a retirement savings vehicle          

Ways to Contact Allison De Paoli:

Feb 11, 2019

When I talk with agency owners, there’s one topic that often comes up in conversation. They say, “I wish my employees would think and act more like owners!” And my question back is, “why would they – they aren’t owners.”

Think about it. As the agency owner, you run the business, and you understand clearly what’s at stake every month. You stand to win or lose something each month when you make or don’t make your adjusted gross income (AGI), and the agency’s performance has a direct impact on your success. If the agency doesn’t do well – you’re the one who does not get a paycheck. But they do.

On the flip side, when the agency does very well, you reap the benefits of that windfall. You might pay out bonuses to your team but rarely do agency owners explain where the bonus came from or what was done to earn it.

Without similar incentives to meet targets, why would the staff feel a sense of ownership that drives their thoughts and actions?

This episode of Build a Better Agency is a solocast – and on it, I walk you through the AMI bonus programs that is designed to teach your team agency math (how we make and lose money) and create incentives so that they do start thinking and acting like an owner.

Ideally, a bonus program educates your team to think like owners, helps with retaining your best people, and shares the spoils from a good year. It also eliminates the obligatory year-end bonus that is not tied to anything but the calendar. As you know, if you give away a bonus a couple years in a row – without tying it to performance metrics, it becomes an entitlement.

Walk through the actual program with me on this episode and be sure to download the PDF so it’s easier to follow along.

What You Will Learn on This Episode:

  • How to incentivize employees to think like owners
  • Why automatic raises might start to backfire
  • Why you should divide quarterly bonus funds evenly
  • How to tell your team the story of why you did or did not hit your AGI target
  • How to be reasonably generous and not ridiculously generous with bonus programs
  • How to adjust AGI goals based on what happened in the previous quarter
  • Why a bonus program is a good retention tool
  • How to build behavioral incentives (continuing ed, time sheets) into your bonus program
  • Why a bonus program can replace conversations about raises

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:

Resources:

Feb 4, 2019

Agencies are creative spaces. Especially as owners, we may bristle at the thought of being managed. But as your agency grows, there a definite need for systems and processes that ensure that things get done on time, on budget, and as promised.

I understand that even as the owner I get managed in order to keep tasks and projects on track. As agencies grow and need more structured management of tasks and processes and eventually, a full-time project manager. I did a solocast on the role of the traffic manager, if you’d find that useful.

But on this episode of Build A Better Agency, I have Timothy Johnson as my guest who is a seasoned project manager for hire and a professor of project management at Drake University. Tim also has been known to wear a pink bunny suit for reasons I may or may not be at liberty to discuss.

Bunny suit aside, Tim knows a thing or two about getting down to business. We talk about the needs of project managers, agency owners, and the agency staff. Often project managers feel like the odd person out, especially in the agency world. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Project management is necessary, but it is not an evil. Tim is the perfect guest to help us really understand the ins and outs of project management, and maybe even getting a little excited about upping your PM game.

Tim has successfully led many high-end projects and programs, serving as both a project management consultant as well as a business analyst consultant across the U.S. He is the author of Race Through the Forest and other project management books. Timothy believes in delivering value, completing the deliverable, seizing the accomplishment, and getting out.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Working under the triple constraints: on time, on budget, and delivered as promised
  • Components of a S.H.A.R.P. report
  • How Agile is so useful in scaling the management to the size of the project
  • The communication and other skills to look for in a good project manager
  • How creating quick wins can create buy-in around new process frameworks
  • Why you should avoid the phrases “we need” or “we have a lack of”
  • How to ask for project management to share stories in the interview
  • Why agency owners need to hire people who can manage them
  • How to define the specific requirements of what done looks like
  • How to give project managers time to find their way in a new agency setting          

Ways to Contact Tim Johnson:

Jan 28, 2019

Maybe things run smooth as silk at your agency. I know that’s what I hope for in mine. It’s more likely to happen on a Saturday or Sunday! One of the ways that we all try to evoke that sense of efficiency and calm is by creating processes that systemize and manage work flow.

Not that many agencies do this (if anything, we are system adverse, not system advocates) you can take it too far. There’s a fine line between creativity and process. But if things can run more smoothly and free you and your team up to do more interesting things like coming up with bigger, more valuable solutions for your clients, then the payoff is worth the challenge of getting it in place.

If you remember my solocast where we talked about being a wonder bread factory versus an artesian baker, that’s part of what I talked about. How much uniformity and what kinds of boundaries do you want to put around your business?

There’s no right or wrong answer – just a right or wrong answer for you.

That’s what I wanted to talk to Michael Koral about, because he’s lived it. Michael started out with a more traditional agency that was primarily a web dev shop with some ancillary services. Their work was very labor and people-intensive. He and his partners decided to make an interesting pivot. They decided to leverage the power of artificial intelligence, data and numbers around advertising on Facebook and Instagram – to get people the best results possible and now they run a very different kind of agency.

Michael is an operations guy, with some fantastic ideas on process and automation –he naturally knows how to get more done, more simply. His company, Needls, helps businesses advertise effectively on Facebook and Instagram, so I am going to pick his brain about what they’ve learned in that arena as well. 

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How the right processes and automation can help you scale your business
  • There are lots of right ways to do things
  • Why taking time to document and develop processes makes for a better agency
  • What to know about Facebook advertising post-Cambridge Analytica
  • Click vs. Reach – what you should optimize for
  • Why you NEED to optimize for mobile
  • Best ways to capture attention with video
  • Between Facebook and Instagram, where people are watching longer video content
  • Why you should put closed captioning on videos
  • How and why to track your ads          

Ways to Contact Michael Koral:

Jan 21, 2019

Before the ’08 recession, most agency owners couldn’t fathom the idea of remote employees, let alone working with a virtual assistant they’d likely never meet. But with sites like UpWork and elance teaching us that sometimes it makes good business sense to source work from with someone we’ve never met, the concept of working with virtual assistants has grown in popularity.

In my world, on both the agency and AMI side – we’ve found it to be a very effective way to get a volume of work handled effectively and efficiently.

This is definitely an ongoing topic of conversation with agency owners. How do we keep up with the needs and demands of clients in a cost-effective way, without putting quality or the client relationship at risk. For any agencies, virtual assistants are one of the answers to that question.

On episode #172 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with Barbara Turley of The Virtual Hub. She recognized the need for high-quality VAs and decided to create a business around that need.

We discuss the many upsides of hiring one or more VAs – like freeing up your most scarce resource: time. But we also discuss some of the pitfalls to avoid, especially around rigorous training and expectations on both the VA and the agency side. I found it to be a fascinating conversation and I hope it’s incredibly useful for you.

Barbara is the founder and CEO of The Virtual Hub – a business she started by accident that exploded in the space of 12 months to become one of the leading companies that recruits, trains, and manages virtual assistants in the digital marketing and social media space for businesses who need to free up time and energy so they can go to the next level.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to set expectations for a virtual assistant – and your agency
  • Understanding the difference between hiring within your national borders and offshoring
  • The right questions to ask about prior training
  • How to share processes around tasks and check in
  • Why you should consider a virtual assistant a permanent and integral part of your team
  • How to integrate a virtual assistant into your team
  • How to choose the right virtual assistant for the right tasks
  • Your role as an agency owner as it relates to virtual assistants
  • Which unwanted tasks you can hand off to a virtual assistant

How to Contact Barb Turley:

Jan 14, 2019

For most people, especially the creative types that tend to inhabit the agency world, time management is a hodgepodge of post-it notes, paper to-do lists, and several online tools – all used haphazardly and resulting in missed deadlines, meetings and a sense of being overwhelmed.

I know for me time management has been a series of constant improvements. While I am 95% happy with the system I have today, I always wonder if I could get little more efficient. I remember when I was first starting out in agency life and had no sense of when to walk away from the to-do list. I felt this sense of obligation to stay until the work was done. My problem, everyone’s problem: the work is never done.

So, being productive when you need to be is an agency imperative. That’s why I was looking forward to talking to Jon Denn. Jon is a creative person and has also done a ton of neuroscience research to understand that—guess what—one size does not fit all when it comes to time management tools and strategies.

In this episode, I ask Jon to share insights from his research and provide some perspective. He is a huge proponent of testing or experimentation. So, you can take his basic framework—3 hours of your day broken into chunks that correspond basically with how much mental energy they require—and test it out. He suggests 90 minutes for deep thinking, but quickly acknowledges that 45 or 60 minutes might work best for you. What time of the day are you at your peak? Use that time for your deep thought projects.

Here’s some good news – there’s are reasons why we work at odd hours. I don’t adhere to a strict 9-5 schedule and neither do most agency owners I know. Jon’s time management framework is at once freeing and very focusing.

Jon is the Chief Thinking Officer of Drumbeat Productivity. His background includes serving as a Hotel Chain CEO. Jon ran an adaptive leadership program for 12 years, and is a publisher, entrepreneur, and has been a Vistage CEO Coach and Group Chair since 2014.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to do small tests to understand when and where your most productive time can be focused
  • How to take control the parts of your schedule that matter most
  • The difference between doing meetings and idea meetings, and how to manage both
  • Why dividing tasks into groups based on the mental energy they require is much more efficient than the traditional “buckets” of work, home, etc.
  • How dividing time into 90-minute (deep thought), 60-minute (complex communication), and 30-minute (quick to-do) blocks is so efficient
  • Why you shouldn’t force a fit with time management tools
  • How to find the time management tools and processes that work for you
  • Setting up office-wide “don’t distract me” hours, and then other times to just be social together          

Ways to contact Jon Denn:

Jan 7, 2019

It’s something we all dream about – retirement. Selling our agency for big bucks so we can sip Mai Tai’s on the beach. The agency’s name and reputation carrying on with another generation. Or just locking the door and calling it done. All are worthy ends for your shop.

Whatever your dream is – I know that it’s very personal and important to you and I want you to achieve it. But no matter which end game appeals to you, it requires some serious planning (up to a decade before depending on your exit strategy) before you’re ready to walk out the door for the last time. And you’ll need to run your agency differently in terms of how you handle the money and make other key decisions.

Bottom line – the end game is not something you can leave until the end. You’ll need to give it serious thought and as Stephen Covey has long implored us, “begin with the end in mind.”

It starts with some soul searching in terms of how, ideally, you want it to play out and what is possible or at least plausible. Once you’ve figured that out – you need to put your plan into action, so everything is in place when you’re transitioning out and the agency can survive that transition.

Over and over I see agency owners who started too late or didn’t do the homework to build out the details and specificity they needed in their succession plan. That’s the perfect way to limit your options or force you to stick around longer than you want.

I don’t want that to happen to you. In this episode, we’ll take a close look at all of your options and the criteria for each. Hopefully, that will set you up to create a win for you, for your employees, and for potential buyers of your thriving agency.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Building your wealth while you still own your agency
  • Succession options for agency owners
  • Factors that affect the valuation of your agency when you go to sell
  • Why being a generalist decreases the value of your agency
  • The value of setting up sources of residual income outside your agency work
  • Different options if you want to sell your agency
  • How to have candid conversations with potential buyers of your agency
  • Why gifting shares of your agency to employees is a bad idea
  • Baking succession planning into partnership agreements
  • Why you need to go slow when considering merging with another agency

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:

Dec 30, 2018

On this episode, we delve into the unconscious mind and the concept of “limiting beliefs.” It’s the idea If I say to you, “I’ll meet you there in five hours” what is the first question you’re going to ask me? Right, meet you where? Finding our way without knowing the destination is impossible. But too often, that’s how we run our agencies.

Both short and long-term planning often gets sidelined in the hubbub of running our agencies. We’re putting out fires. We’re solving client crises. We’re answering employees’ questions. All stuff that needs doing, but for a lot of agency owners, the urgent gets in the way of the important

On episode #169, we get right into it. What does it take to create plans that inspire compliance and action? What does it take to actually follow through? Is there such a thing as work-life balance? I’ll give that answer away for free: no, there is not. (But still listen in!)

That’s why I loved my conversation with Jennifer Dawn. She is a business coach for high-achieving entrepreneurs, and she’s developed some really strong tools for goal-setting and planning.

Jennifer spent years working in the corporate world before taking the plunge and pursuing her passion for mentoring entrepreneurs to grow profitable, healthy, and truly exceptional businesses.

Business plans don’t have to be the Mona Lisa. They don’t have to be epic works of prose. Jennifer and I agree – one page, two max, is a great length for a plan.

If you’re ready to really make time for the important; if you want a plan for work and life that really serves the life you want, this is a perfect episode to dive into. There are tons of practical tips and suggestions about how to get your plans out there on paper, review regularly, and actually, follow through so you get to the defined destination of your choosing. 

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to get your business plan down to two pages or less
  • The importance of getting an outside perspective on your business plan
  • Why beginning with the end in mind has not gone out of style
  • How to make your business plan a living document
  • Breaking down your goals into tiny, manageable steps
  • Definition of the “A” task
  • Actionable ways to manage your work/life blend this week
  • How to build personal and work components together into your planning
  • How to plan your business priorities so they are in support of your life goals
  • Three steps to achieve any goal you set          

Ways to Contact Jennifer Dawn:

Dec 23, 2018

On this episode, we delve into the unconscious mind and the concept of “limiting beliefs.” It’s the idea that our unconscious mind can hold us back without us even realizing it. So, how do we stop something we’re not even conscious of? The good news is that it is possible, and while it does take hard work, the steps themselves are pretty simple.

This limiting beliefs stuff may sound a little new-agey. I’m a big fan of data and looking at the facts at hand. For me, turning those limiting beliefs to unlimiting beliefs is fascinating because of the science behind it. This isn’t some magic act.

My guest on episode #168 is Karen Brown, author of Unlimiting Your Beliefs. Karen is a mentor and coach who works with people to uncover what might be impeding their progress in work and life. Often, our unconscious thoughts and actions are the source of this impediment.

One of the most interesting turns in the conversation for me was when Karen talked about her experience preparing to be an Ironman Triathlete. Her limiting belief had told her for 28 years that she shouldn’t even be thinking about this. She was not a good swimmer. That was a big hurdle. It was limiting. So, she unlimited her belief, telling herself out loud, “I am a good swimmer.” I asked if she suddenly became a good swimmer. As you might imagine, it took more than that. But giving herself that unlimiting belief propelled her to action. She got a swimming coach. She practiced. And soon enough, she was a good swimmer.

Our conversation is a fascinating look at the unconscious (or subconscious) mind and how it works. Listen to learn more about how to uncover the unconscious limits we put on ourselves and what to do to break that pattern.

Karen Brown is CEO of Velocity Leadership Consulting, a Denver-based business psychology executive and coaching company. With more than 20,000 business coaching hours under her belt, she founded Velocity Leadership Consulting in 2012, after finding her own divine potential while training for and finishing the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The science behind limiting beliefs and how to retrain your brain
  • How to make unlimiting beliefs natural and habitual
  • Asking the right questions to uncover the limiting beliefs of your unconscious mind
  • Why writing out your limiting beliefs is so important, and why speaking the opposite out loud is just as important
  • How the skills used in unlimiting your beliefs in one area will have a broad positive impact personally and professionally
  • How to counteract the most common and pernicious limiting belief: I’m not good enough
  • Why our unconscious beliefs and our conscious goals are sometimes at cross-purposes, and what to do about it
  • How, like most things, you’ve got to use it to lose your ability and reshape limiting beliefs
  • One way to get yourself into the unlimiting mindset: name and write down just one of your achievements          

Ways to contact Karen Brown:

Dec 17, 2018

When you started your agency, it was probably pretty exciting and somehow any worries you had were squelched before they could get in the way. But as our agencies get a little more established and we get a little more comfortable, taking a risk seems scarier, doesn’t it?

My guest thinks that’s a problem and he recommends that we re-acquainted with being uncomfortable.

In some ways, I’d like to think my big risk-taking days are behind me. But when I go to manage my business, and in nearly every conversation I have with my AMI colleagues, I know being risk-averse is not a strategy any of us can afford. Staying relevant and successful—according to my guest—requires a level of comfort with being uncomfortable.

It is a bit of bromide that the rapid pace of change is the one constant we can count on these days. How do we manage that change and thrive in the midst of it? That’s what we’re getting at in this episode.

On episode #167, my guest Scott Amyx proves that he knows this topic. From a childhood of poverty in South Korea to a career at the tip of the spear in terms of understanding and embracing innovation, Scott has lived and thrived in this era of discomfort. The upshot of his research is clear: being prepared for change and meeting disruption with a strategy of embracing it and pivoting as needed is a critical skill to survival as a business owner today.

Scott Amyx is the Chair & Managing Partner at Amyx Ventures and Singularity University/Smart City Accelerator Mentor and Startup Board Member. He is a TEDx speaker on disruption and success. Scott is a thought leader, speaker, author, and winner of the Cloud & DevOps World Award for Most Innovative Vendor.

Scott’s book, Strive, is all about how doing the most uncomfortable things leads to success.

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • How to get comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • What you need to know about decentralized, autonomous organizations
  • The market imperative of lifelong learning
  • Why selling expertise and strategy is where differentiation happens
  • How individual discomfort gets collectivized and creates tipping points for innovation
  • Why as individuals and organizations, we need to be disrupted in order to be our optimal selves
  • How process automation is disrupting the work of agencies as much as any other business sector
  • Why the way we tell stories in our business needs to evolve with the tech and platforms people use to engage with stories
  • Why the move toward a more agile, freelance workforce in your agency is likely not a short-term trend          

Ways to contact Scott Amyx:

Dec 10, 2018

Back in my early days of agency life, there was a production or traffic manager in every agency. Their job was to make sure all of the work was in the pipeline and delivered on time and on budget. Somewhere along the way, as agencies streamlined, that position went away.

But now it’s back. And it’s making a huge difference in agencies client retention and profitability.

Back then, the production manager was a combination of what we might think of today as a traffic manager and somebody who negotiated with all the outside vendors like printers or other suppliers providing a service to the agency to solve a client’s problem. The production manager kept track of all the jobs the agency had open, the due dates, who within the agency was working on them — and it was all done by hand without software.

Then in the middle of my career, that position sort of went away as people within agencies started tracking their own jobs using some sort of software. Computers and systems began to replace things that humans did previously.

Because of the complexity of our work today, and how fast it needs to be delivered, many agencies are discovering they need more than just software. They need a dedicated person responsible for driving how the work gets done and how it gets done on a budget.

This is a vital role inside an agency and I’m glad to see it’s back. Depending on the size of your agency, this position, combined with implementing the right software, might be something you want to think about as you prepare to step into 2019.

But before you do, I want to share several best practices, resources to evaluate, and a month-by-month roadmap so you and your team will know what to expect and when.

Quite honestly — on-boarding this new role, especially if you add in new software, will be bumpy. It will be hard on your team. You need to think about it carefully, and if you’re ready to grow, maybe it’s the next step for you. My goal for this solocast is to help smooth out the road for you as much as possible.

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why not having a traffic manager may be holding back your agency’s growth
  • How to decide if and when your agency is ready to hire a traffic manager and onboard the software system
  • The day-to-day role of a traffic manager and the impact the role can have on your agency’s profitability and client retention
  • Why the traffic manager is a full-time position, not a hybrid, and definitely not entry-level
  • Who the traffic manager should report to within the agency and why
  • The personality and EQ a good traffic manager must have to handle the work and the team
  • The advantages and disadvantages of all-in-one software solutions versus standalone
  • What you and your team can expect to happen within the agency during each month of the implementation process and how it gets worse before it gets better
  • The role of the agency owner throughout the process
  • What are the success metrics you and your team need to consider before deciding to go down this path

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:

Dec 3, 2018

Content marketing is growing up. It’s no longer about throwing out random social posts, random blog posts, or making an infographic once a quarter. Instead, we need to begin asking the questions (for our own agency and our clients):

  • What are we building?
  • What can we become as a brand that is of value to this audience of people we care about?
  • Who can we be for our prospects, our customers, and our business partners?

And I think an agency’s role in that can be both exciting and profitable.

Why? Because one of the biggest frustrations for most agency owners is that it’s getting harder to have a seat at the client’s strategy table. Agencies are being commoditized and relegated to the status of order takers all too often.

But when we have strategic conversations with a client around how they can truly leverage content in a way that is much bigger than a set of assets — you help them become a destination. You help them become a media company. That’s when the game changes and you’re back driving the client’s strategy and having significant impact on their goals. You become a must have partner.

My guest today is Robert Rose. He was instrumental in the creation and growth of the Content Marketing Institute working alongside CMI founder Joe Pulizzi. Robert has written several books, including two with Joe. Their latest, “Killing Marketing” is about how innovative companies are using content as a strategy to turn marketing cost into a revenue stream rather than a cost.

I promise you — Robert and I will get you thinking in completely different ways about content, the way your agency delivers content, charges for content, and talks to clients about content.

Here’s the thing — most agencies will not have the courage to implement the future proofing strategies Robert and I discussed in this episode. Be one of the few that does.

I encourage you to take action — do something with what you learn from this episode. If you do that — you will be sought after — and I want that for you.

And if you found this episode helpful — you might also be interested in the 2-day “Content Marketing For Agencies” workshop Robert and I are teaching this January. Learn more here.

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • How using content as a strategy can help solve a client’s business issues — and in the process — future proof your agency
  • Why your audience — or your client’s audience — should be considered your “pre-client database
  • Why agencies need to understand how to create content with a purpose and that it is no longer about creating more stuff
  • How all the content marketing assets created for a client need to connect together to tell a single story
  • How treating audience members like customers builds trust, then their walls come down, and they become much more open to sales messaging
  • How to create an owned content experience for your clients and help them transform into media companies
  • Why agencies need to have some sort of vertical specialization combined with a unique point-of-view of how they approach the world in order to be differentiated
  • How an agency can go about uncovering its unique point-of-view
  • Why midsized agencies looking to grow and become trusted business advisors to clients should focus on the strategic side because that is where the value is
  • Why if you can’t control the media — then becoming the media is a viable content strategy for agencies and clients alike

Ways to Contact Robert Rose:

Nov 26, 2018

In last week’s encore interview with Robin Boehler — we talked about the biz dev practices that she and the team at Mercer Island Group see when they’re sitting on the client’s side of the room. If you listened to that episode — you heard me say that if you implement the best practices Robin shared, you’re going to see the difference in your win rate.

And because I want you to be as prepared as possible as you step into 2019 — I invited Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil, also from Mercer Island Group, to join me for this week’s episode. Think of this as a new biz one-two punch!

There is nobody more in the fray of seeing why agencies win, lose, or how the pitch process plays out than Steve, Lindsay, and their team. And nobody is more generous in sharing what they observe.

This episode will give you the inside look at how agencies present themselves (accidentally and on purpose) and the influence each nuance has on our prospects as they weigh one agency against the others.

We talked about the prep work agencies need to be doing so they’re ready to make a successful pitch. My guests dove into the details like researching a prospect, building out a business profile, preparing your PowerPoint so it stands out, some best practices around rehearsing, and even how your agency should ask for a client’s business at the end. Because making the “ask” really matters.

Steve and Lindsay also shared examples of case studies from agencies that won a pitch because their teams showcased the client as the hero in the work, as opposed to putting the spotlight on themselves.

Whether you’re pitching a new prospect — or you’re strategically merchandising the work you did for an existing client during the last year — the case study process we discuss is worth the listen alone!

I’m excited for you to listen to these two (this one and episode #163 with Robin) interviews because I know Robin, Steve, and Lindsay will help you put your best foot forward in 2019.

And if you found the episodes helpful – you can get even more by spending 2-4 days learning from Robin and Steve Boehler at AMI’s Win More Business workshops this January. Learn more here.

 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • How to build a detailed dossier for your prospective client in about two hours
  • Why learning how a prospective client talks about themselves is a valuable piece of information to uncover in your research process
  • How to ask the right questions that uncover a prospect’s business issues while instilling confidence that you understand them and their industry
  • Why preparing brilliant case studies like those of FIG Agency makes your client the hero — not your work
  • How to make your client a celebrity as McCANN WORLDGROUP did for its client, State Street Advisors with “Fearless Girl
  • Why less is more when it comes to the written proposal and what are the key elements that must be included — and most agencies miss
  • How to front-load your proposal and presentation so that you focus on the client and not your agency
  • How and why you should invite your prospective client to your agency for a visit
  • How to build and document your business issue success experience so it is at the ready for your next presentation
  • How to let a client know at the end of the presentation that your agency wants their business without sounding schmaltzy

Ways to Contact Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil:

Nov 19, 2018

Business development is a topic that is always front-and-center for agency owners. So I’m welcoming back one of our most popular guests, Robin Boehler from Mercer Island Group, to talk to us about the observations she and her team have made as they work with both agencies and clients who are asking to be matched with agencies. From those observations, Robin will outline some of the best practices that we need to be mindful of as we work to grow our agencies.

One of my favorite songs from the play Hamilton is “In the Room Where it Happens” where Aaron Burr laments that he’s not an insider, seeing how decisions are made. Mercer Island Group is always front and center in that room, as brands decide which agency has earned their business. You and I, as agency owners, are like Burr. We’re never going to be invited in, but fortunately, we have access to someone who is always there. In this podcast, Robin will help us understand how clients respond to the work we do, our level of preparation before and during a pitch, and how we communicate our understanding of the client’s business issues.

Sadly, sometimes the best fit agency doesn’t win. The agency lined up perfectly with the client and maybe should have been the agency that was selected. But something the agency did or didn’t do take them out of the running. All without them even knowing what they did.

We’ve all made mistakes during a pitch and didn’t come out ahead. Those mistakes are painful and expensive. But they’re fixable if you heed the insights Robin shared in this episode.

I promise you — if you implement the best practices Robin and I talk about in this episode, you’re going to see the difference in your win rate. This is the perfect time of year to put this advice into action so you step into 2019 ready to serve your prospects and build your agency.

If you love this episode – you can get even more by spending 2-4 days learning from Robin and Steve Boehler at AMI’s Win More Business workshops this January. Learn more here.

 

 

 

 

What You Will Learn About in This Episode:

  • Common mistakes Robin sees agencies make when preparing, or while making, their pitch to a client
  • How agencies need to stop underutilizing the cover letter to their presentation
  • How to read, analyze, and uncover what a client is requesting in their RFP / RFI
  • Why it’s important to focus the majority of your presentation around the client’s business issues — and not your agency
  • How to evoke curiosity and make your prospects want to lean in when you describe your agency
  • How to write a cold email to a prospect and stand out from the crowd
  • How to ensure everyone on your team is telling the same story about the agency and how you serve clients
  • Why “frame of reference” is important when communicating with a prospect about what your agency does
  • Why you should put the entire pitch process, assets, and everything you will need to be successful onto an agency calendar — and allow enough time at the end for adjustments
  • How problems around attention to detail make clients begin to question an agency’s bandwidth and capacity

 

Ways to contact Robin Boehler:

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!

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