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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 of Agency Management Institute.
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Build a Better Agency Podcast
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May 10, 2021

You’ve heard me say it a million times. Most agency owners are accidental business owners. Whatever your agency’s origin story, most of us can remember the moment when we looked around and realized, “This is so much harder than I thought it would be and if I’m being honest – I am winging this.” In the beginning, we’re nervous about admitting our uncertainty but at some point, most agency owners are hungry to learn and willing to admit don’t always have the answer. But what if embracing the doubts we all have is actually a sign of great leadership?

Author and executive coach Marc Pitman has spent several decades building his knowledge base around growing strong leaders. His insights not only help agency and business owners become better leaders themselves, but he also shares ways to grow, build, and nurture future leaders throughout an organization.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Marc and I explore a variety of topics surrounding leadership and the need to make peace with your doubts. We discuss changes in leadership brought about by the adaptations required to weather the pandemic. We also discuss different kinds of leaders, ways to assess and clarify the kind of leader you are and want to become, and ways to inspire others as they work on their own leadership.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Leadership

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The changes in the leadership created by the pandemic
  • Four quadrants of agency leadership
  • What it means to be a focused leader
  • Some available assessments to offer insights into what kind of leader you are
  • The best ways to encourage others to grow into their leadership
May 3, 2021

The last year has been one for the books as an agency owner and the HR issues we’ve had to deal with have been off the charts! We’ve faced the pandemic, working from home, layoffs, furloughs, understanding what employee assistance was available for our people and been put in the role of mental health counselor to boot! There’s also been a call to build a more inclusive workforce during a time of incredible racial tensions. All of this has challenged us to truly think about what kind of an employer we want to be.

Molly Eyerman owns an HR consulting company that does a lot of work with agencies. She’s here to help us try to figure out how to navigate all of these new challenges so that we can be proud of the way we treat our employees and how we handle some of these hot topic issues in a way that benefits both our team and our clients.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Molly and I discuss a wide range of human resource related topics, including how to best embrace diversity, inclusion, and equality regardless of an agency’s size, the new demands of work-from-home policy considerations, and ways to create and implement boundaries as far as how employees discuss delicate topics and present themselves on personal social media platforms.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Human resources

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What it means to be an agency invested in diversity and inclusion
  • The importance of looking at diversity in mentorship and internships
  • How to have difficult conversations within your agency
  • The proper boundaries for political discussions in the workplace
  • What is human resources allowed to dictate as far as employee expression outside of the office?
  • Things some agencies aren’t thinking about in regards to work-from-home policies
  • Some positives that have come from the demands created by the pandemic
  • Where to find information on requirements for remote employees working in other states
Apr 26, 2021

Every agency is going to have a vaccine policy. You have three choices – you can mandate the covid 19 vaccine, you can encourage it or you can take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and in essence, ignore it. But each of those choices is in essence a declaration of how you’re going to handle the question of vaccine in your shop. It will become your policy.

Given that truth, you should make a conscious decision and communicate it clearly to your team and clients. I have several agencies who have already had clients and prospective employees ask them a simple question, “is everyone at the agency vaccinated?” How are you going to handle it when you’re asked?

I’m obviously not a doctor or scientist but all of the available information indicates that COVID and the discussion around vaccines is going to be a big part of our shared awareness for at least the next few years. With that in mind, it’s important to make it clear where your agency stands on the issue.

In this solocast, I’m going to talk through the things you need to think about as you begin to approach creating your agency’s vaccine policy. There are basically three options: you can require, encourage, or ignore the vaccine. Each of these creates a series of questions that you as the agency owner has to be prepared to answer and I want to give you as much information as I can to guide your decision.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Vaccine Policy

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The importance of having your vaccine policy in writing
  • The three choices around creating a vaccine policy
  • How no decision creates your policy unwittingly
  • The criteria for requiring vaccines
  • Limitations on what we can do to entire employees to get vaccinated
  • Questions to consider when creating your vaccine policy
  • Why this shouldn’t be a group decision
Apr 19, 2021

We talk about influencer marketing like it’s a hot new trend. That’s not quite right. Celebrity endorsements have been around forever. The difference is that celebrity is defined very differently today.

It’s a bit of the wild west and we’ve all heard the horror stories. That’s why many agencies and brands have shied away from influencer marketing. What if you could sidestep the risks while maximizing the credibility and trust that the right influencer can bring to our clients?

Jason Falls wrote his latest book Winfluence, Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand, to help agencies re-think this important opportunity. He’s been an agency leader for many years, owned social media properties, and created an influential blog in the marketing space. Jason believes that if we redefine who we think of as an influencer, we can change the game.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Jason and I dig into his version of influence marketing. We discuss how we need to rethink what it means to be an influencer and why it doesn’t need the celebrity stamp that so many people associate with the word. Among other things, we look at the various ways influencers can work both online and off, where agencies miss the mark with these campaigns, and how to measure and track ROI for influence marketing.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Influence Marketing

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why we need to rethink the definition of influence marketing
  • Examples of off-line influencers
  • Where agencies get influence marketing wrong
  • The correlation between influencer strategies and business driver goals
  • Ways that influencers are bringing audiences onto platforms owned by an agency or brand
  • The four key purposes of influence marketing
  • How to measure and track ROI for influence marketing campaigns
Apr 12, 2021

Trust. It’s always been at the core of running and leading your agency. If our teams don’t trust us, they don’t follow us. If our prospects don’t trust us, they don’t hire us. And if our clients lose trust in us, we lose them. The challenge is – how do you know if you’re trusted? You can’t just point blank ask. If an employee doesn’t trust you, they sure as heck aren’t going to say so. And even if you are trusted – how do you level up to an even deeper degree of trust with your team, clients, and prospects?

David Horsager has been studying trust for 20+ years. An author and international researcher, he has dedicated his professional life to helping people see and understand how building trust leads to business success.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, David and I discuss ways we can level up our trust. We talk about options for assessing and proving how much we’re trusted, and how to improve on any weak spots so that we can become more trusted leaders within our organizations and with our clients.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Leadership trust

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The eight pillars for assessing leadership trust
  • Ways the pandemic helped humanize some CEOs
  • What lack of trust costs you as a leader
  • How to build a better relationship with an employee where trust is lacking
  • How to handle topics that you can’t discuss in a way that builds leadership trust
  • Ways to kickstart some trust in an organization
  • The importance of the word “how?”
Apr 5, 2021

In the agency space, we have to constantly be reinventing the wheel because everything keeps changing. By the nature of our business, we are always doing something for the first time which, by default, lends itself to having a nagging doubt now and then. In a world where it’s impossible to have all the answers, but also being a leader in an industry where you’re supposed to understand everything, it’s easy to fall victim to imposter syndrome. Fortunately, you are not alone and there are some fixes you can deploy.

Kris Kelso is here to help silence that nagging voice of doubt. An author and executive coach working mostly with entrepreneurs and doing leadership work, he has literally written the book on imposter syndrome. Kris’ book, Overcoming the Imposter is about silencing your inner critic so you can lead with confidence.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Kris and I discuss many aspects of imposter syndrome. We talk about its prevalence in high achievers and the underlying fear that it represents. We look at what it costs us as creative professionals and the many ways it can weaponize our gifts against us. And, perhaps most importantly, we’ll walk through some tangible reframing techniques that can quiet that inner critic.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

 Imposter syndrome

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why imposter syndrome is not gender based
  • The reason imposter syndrome is more prevalent in high achievers
  • The difference between self-esteem and self-efficacy
  • The underlying fear of imposter syndrome
  • What does imposter syndrome cost us?
  • The damage of “productive procrastination”
  • How imposter syndrome weaponizes our gifts against ourselves
  • How to quiet the inner critic
  • Helpful reframing techniques
Mar 29, 2021

Every week I get an email or three from an agency owner asking me if I have a contract template or some other legal document that they can just copy and use. My response is always the same. For a few hundred or thousand dollars – do not put your entire agency at risk. It’s dangerous and short-sighted for an agency to use someone else’s agreement as a template. They need to be built for your agency, your clients and your particulars. But when is a DIY approach acceptable? What, exactly, is a “done with you” model? And how can you determine when an actual attorney is necessary? Understanding the when, what and how of various legal tools available is vital to protecting your agency. The good news is that you can spend a little now to avoid paying a lot down the road.

As AMI’s go-to attorney, Sharon Toerek* specializes in working with agencies just like yours and mine. She understands the constraints and challenges of running a small to mid-sized agency and helps clients dodge legal bullets every day.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Sharon and I talk at length about ways agencies need to best prepare their agencies legally. We discuss a wide range of topics, including the need for a legal readiness audit, agency insurance, IP rights, regulatory issues, influencer marketing, freelance contracts, data privacy compliance, the legality of unsigned agreements, if DIY legal agreements are safe, how exactly the “Done with you” model works, and when you need to get an attorney involved.

*Please note, Sharon is here as an educator speaking to her experience and nothing she shares should be interpreted as legal advice.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Legal tools

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The three different agency owner personas and how they approach legal decisions
  • What legal tools are available to you and why they matter.
  • How to audit your legal readiness as an agency
  • The need to review agency insurance
  • A look at IP rights and usage
  • Regulatory issues and data privacy compliance that need to be considered
  • Is there any value to agreements not signed by the clients
  • When DIY legal agreements are acceptable
  • How a “Done with you” model works
  • How to know when you need to get an attorney involved
Mar 22, 2021

It’s lonely at the top. While that’s a cliché, as agency owners we all know it to be very true. On those days when you’d sell your agency for a nickel, who do you have to confide in? On the flip side – when you land the biggest account in your agency’s history, who can you call who will be as excited as you are? Surrounding yourself with people who care about your success as much as you do is critical. No one gets owning an agency more than another agency owner. And no one gets owning a business more than another business owner. How do you surround yourself with people who genuinely understand your world and are in your corner?

Mastermind groups of various forms have been around for a long time. In fact, Agency Management Institute was founded with agency owner peer groups which are, in essence, a mastermind group. There are plenty of organizations that offer formal mastermind groups but you can also form your own. Either way, it’s essential that you have peers who will be your sounding board, tell you the truth when you don’t want to hear it, and will bend over backwards to help you succeed.

In this episode of Build A Better Agency, I want to talk to you about the value of these groups, as well as outlining several ways to ensure its success, including things to look for in a mastermind, understanding the difference between formal and informal groups, meeting structures to implement, the importance of accountability, and creating a safe space for facing crisis.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Masterminds

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The value of a mastermind group
  • Four things to look for in a mastermind
  • Formal vs Informal mastermind groups
  • Models for successful masterminds
  • Ideal size of an informal mastermind group
  • The importance of accountability
  • Deal with crisis in a mastermind
  • How often a mastermind should get together

“What a mastermind does for you as a business owner is it gives you other people who have some shared experiences, some different perspective on those experiences, and also have your best interest.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“The first thing that matters when you’re thinking about a mastermind is to be in a mastermind with people who genuinely care about you as a human being and who care about you in terms of your business success. They are committed to you being…CLICK TO TWEET“I have often said, the best thing about being a business owner is, you’re accountable to no one. The worst part of being a business owner is, you’re accountable to no one.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“There’s great comfort in knowing that you can command everyone’s attention and they are willing to give you that time and attention.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“There are times when you don’t honor the exact agenda of the mastermind but, honestly, having an agenda is probably one of the most critical elements of whether or not this is going to work.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“The questions they ask me help me see with a clarity that I couldn’t see if I was doing it all by myself.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Tools & Resources:

Mar 15, 2021

At AMI we preach the idea of building your wealth outside your agency, while you still own your agency. Sadly, many owners leave too much in retained earnings inside the agency and over time, they piddle that money away. Every agency owner deserves to profit from the risk they took to start the business and the sweat equity they’ve put into it for years. Agency owners often ask me about how other agency owners are building a nest egg outside of the shop. Most will consider real estate but rarely do they think about passive real estate investments. I want to make sure we change that!

Chris Prefontaine is a returning guest (episode 203) who talked in general terms about real estate investing last time. I asked him back to specifically talk about passive real estate investments. Speaking from personal experience, one of the beautiful things about this option is that you can generate a pretty remarkable return without you as the investor doing any of the leg work!

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Chris and I discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of real estate investments, especially passive partnership options. We talk about ways to vet these estate opportunities, what kind of investor would be ideal for this kind of deal, and the questions to ask when considering an investment.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Passive real estate investments

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The three paydays of an active real estate investment and which two of those apply to passive real estate investments
  • What the payouts look like for passive real estate investors
  • How to vet passive real estate opportunities
  • Who makes a good investor in passive real estate
  • What questions to ask when faced with a passive real estate investment opportunity
  • Does it make sense to invest in multiple properties or a single property?
  • Specific financial requirements for being a passive real estate investor
  • How does this work from a tax perspective?
  • The trends that are happening in real estate investments
Mar 8, 2021

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic but many agency owners wonder how, exactly, it can benefit their shop. They get how it works but they think that either a) they don’t understand it enough to deliver on it for clients or b) they can’t afford the AI tools out there for agencies. The truth is – now is the time to experiment. Most agencies are at the infancy stages of learning about AI and how to use it to serve clients better. But we have to get up to speed or we will find ourselves left behind. The good news? It’s within your grasp.

It’s with these challenges in mind that I was inspired to reach out to RJ Talyor and have him on the show. RJ’s SaaS company, Pattern89, works with agencies and brands and improves their ad effectiveness and efficiency by measuring over 49,000 characteristics of a digital ad. With that data, they can provide insights on what’s working and what isn’t, as well as the predicted shelf life of any ad. Through their analytics, they’re also able to predict with over 95% accuracy whether or not a piece of creative is going to work.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, RJ and I discuss the many ways AI insights are quickly becoming a necessity for agencies of all sizes. We look at the specific data it can provide, as well as how an agency can begin to experiment while convincing even the most dubious of clients of its importance. We also talk about the way the creative life cycle is changing, how agencies approach AI wrong, and what is coming next in the world of artificial intelligence.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

AI for marketing

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The specific data AI for marketing can give to an agency
  • Why AI doesn’t undermine creative
  • How small to mid-size agencies are leveraging AI marketing insights
  • Why AI is quickly becoming a need-to-have for agencies of all sizes
  • How the creative life cycle is changing
  • How iOS 14 is changing the way marketing will work
  • Why the speed of change is disruption A/B testing
  • Ways agencies can begin to dip their toes in AI
  • Where agencies get AI wrong
  • What is coming next in the world of AI
Mar 1, 2021

Back in the good old days (pre great recession) agencies used research to make their work smarter and more effective. But it became a luxury we trimmed out as we had to squeeze budgets. As we emerged from the recession, we dismissed research as expensive and didn’t build it into our recommendations as often as we should. But what if we could benefit from the insights research provides without busting the budget?

This week’s guest Matt Seltzer has worked in several agencies in a research capacity. A couple years ago he started a market research firm specifically to partner with ad agencies to create more revenue streams and gather insight for themselves and their clients.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Matt and I talk about the many ways agencies of any size can utilize DIY research to build better pitches and client work. We discuss options for reducing bias, increasing response, and minimizing survey fatigue. We also explore ways to approach clients about investing in research, different ways to utilize the insights, and specific areas where agencies get research wrong.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

DIY research

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Effective DIY research options
  • The benefits of simple surveys
  • Why customer personas are helpful
  • The way to increase survey response
  • Ways to reduce bias in DIY research
  • Why clients appreciate research
  • How to avoid survey fatigue
  • How to approach a client about adding research
  • Different ways to use the research insights
  • Misperceptions that keep us from DIY research
  • Ways agencies get research wrong
Feb 22, 2021

One of the biggest bottlenecks in many agencies is that the agency owner is the only person who can develop strategies for clients or new business pitches. As you know, this causes a host of problems, not the least of which is then the agency owner can’t focus on doing his/her job. Most owners feel stuck – believing that strategic thinking is not something you can teach. But what if you could?

Adam Pierno has a long resume working with well-known agencies and brands. When his experience on the creative side led to a realization that there was no methodology that could help agencies bake strategic thinking into their business model, he put his research and experience into authoring two books on the subject and now helps agencies looking to enhance their strategic approach.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Adam and I talk about the necessity to expand an agency’s strategic thinking beyond one or two people. We look at specific ways to do this that can empower your entire team to think strategically. We also discuss the errors many agencies make in communicating strategy to clients and prospects and how to leverage strategic thinking as we begin to move beyond the pandemic.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Strategic thinking

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to infuse strategic thinking throughout an agency.
  • Different ways agencies can approach strategy.
  • How to soothe the conflict points that can develop when strategy expands to the who team.
  • Specific ways agencies screw up strategy during a pitch.
  • The need to create a story connection between the strategy and the creative.
  • The place for strategy in pitching.
  • The importance of having a captivating storyteller share the strategy.
  • How to help a team become better strategic thinkers.
  • The need to document the steps of your agency’s strategic thinking.
  • The secret to making clients want to stay with your agency as we begin to move into the next normal after the pandemic.
Feb 15, 2021

Over the last couple of years, many agencies have started reaping the benefits of embedding an account executive in a client’s office. By that I mean someone from the agency team literally has a desk or office in a client’s business for a set amount of time every week. This trend was growing prior to the pandemic and actually held its own during the work from home period of 2020. Now that more agencies and clients have returned to the office, this becomes a very viable option again. In this episode, I want to talk about what this means, how to do it well, and both the risks and value of doing it.

As an agency owner, your brain might jump to several potential problems that make you leery of such an arrangement. Truth be told, there are several benefits for your shop and your client. If done well, this can be a huge win for you.

It takes a bit of a learning curve, as well as putting the ideal employee with the right client. But, when done correctly, you create a really great hook that makes it nearly impossible for a client to consider taking their business anywhere else. In the process, as the agency owner, you cultivate a better, stronger, more connected relationship with the client organization.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why clients love embedded employees
  • How embedded employees guarantee that business’s growth
  • The dark side of embedding employees
  • How to protect yourself from having the employee poached
  • Ways to help your embedded employee stay loyal to the agency
  • The ideal employee to embed in a client’s office
  • The benefits to the agency of having an embedded employee

“Without exception, embedded employees are able to grow that book of business.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“You want an embedded employee to remember where they work and where their loyalties lie.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“An embedded employee should be someone who bleeds the agency’s colors.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“This is an opportunity for you as the agency owner to cultivate a better, stronger, more connected relationship with the business owner or CEO of the client organization.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“You are setting a really great hook with an embedded employee and it can be a fantastic thing for both the client and the agency.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Tools & Resources:

About the Author: Drew McLellan

For 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies, and then started his own (which he still owns and runs) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops, and more.

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for agency 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 over 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 several books, including Sell With Authority (2020) 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.”

Feb 8, 2021

Who is responsible for keeping the agency’s work on time and on budget? That is an oft debated topic among agency owners. At AMI we believe that a specific role (Project Manager, Traffic Manager, etc.) to keep everyone and everything on track is a luxury if you have fewer than 10 employees and by the time you’re at 15-20 employees, it’s usually a necessity if you want to keep your team and clients happy. But who you hire and how they go about implementing a traffic system is a challenge many agency owners struggle with.

Ben Aston is a self-taught digital project manager with over 15 years experience in the agency world. Realizing how difficult his own learning path was and how few resources exist for those interested in developing these skills, he turned his focus to training others on how to develop the craft of project management.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Ben and I talk about what a project manager does and how this role will help grow your bottom line. We get into the nitty gritty of what makes for successful project management, including defining the skills for an ideal project manager, injecting flexibility into planning, reframing time tracking, and solving the problem of the dreaded “scope creep.”

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Project Manager

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • At what size agency would a project manager make sense
  • What skills creates an ideal project manager
  • Why project management is such a challenge for a majority of agencies
  • How to recognize project management issues
  • The necessity for creative and craft briefs
  • Solving the problem of “scope creep”
  • How to inject flexibility into project planning
  • Defining negative scope
  • How to create effective templates
  • The need to reframe time tracking
  • Best practices for successful project management
Feb 1, 2021

The reality is, we spend so much time thinking and worrying about business development, and in most cases that exuberance is not really matched with the same level of excitement for our existing clients. Which is crazy because we all know that clients get much more profitable the longer we keep them. Despite knowing that – we keep making the same mistakes and jeopardizing our most important client relationships. What if we could avoid those mistakes?

Stacey Singer has a great love of how agencies combine business, creativity, and psychology. She has worked in agencies large and small and now she devotes her expertise to helping agencies build amazing client relationships that really hold up, even when things get rocky.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Stacey and I discuss why paying attention to existing client relationships is even more important than pursuing new clients. She walks through the need to try to imagine your relationship from the client perspective, as well as specific but seemingly small things she has learned that can sometimes damage that relationship.

We also dive into the need for a client satisfaction analysis, as well as why putting the client first doesn’t automatically mean blindly agreeing with whatever they ask for. Sometimes telling the client “no” leads to a stronger relationship.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Client Experience

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Specific ways agencies mess up the client experience
  • The need to see the client experience from the client’s perspective
  • Simple ways agencies undermine trust with clients
  • How to get a response from challenging clients
  • The importance of explaining the implications for actions
  • The error in interpreting client questions as an indication of a lack of trust
  • The need for clear service standards
  • How an exchange program with a client can be incredibly insightful for both sides of the relationship
  • The danger in letting your agency needs seep through to the clients
  • Why being invested in the client beyond just what your agency can offer can lead to more business actually
  • How to tell the client ‘no’ but have it sound like a ‘yes’
Jan 25, 2021

Leadership can feel like a loaded word. We often think about leadership as defining how you run your business but, to me, that refers to how you manage, not how you lead. Leadership is how you show up, and great leadership isn’t just about getting people to do what you want, it’s about inspiring them to WANT to do what you are asking because they are invested, emotionally and otherwise, in your goals and the goals of the agency. In this podcast, we’re going to explore how we can get to be that kind of leader.

As a self-proclaimed “snow globe shaker”, Jeff Nischwitz is on a mission to shake up how we lead and the impact of that leadership. A global speaker and coach, Jeff is all about pushing aside our fears and leading from the heart so we can all be better leaders.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Jeff and I talk about the challenges and revelations of agency leadership over the last year during the pandemic. Beyond that we dive into the untapped power of vulnerability, the need for grace, and the biggest fears in modern leadership. We look at the specific skills and tools that leaders will need as we move into the next normal.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Better leadership

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The need for vulnerability in better leadership
  • How fear is driving leadership challenges
  • Why what you tolerate defines your agency
  • The importance of creating a “no waiting zone” in your agency
  • Defining the difference between a good manager and a good leader
  • How the concept of grace is missing from business leadership
  • Why leaders need to invest in the physical and emotional safety of their team
  • Understanding why bad leadership is actually a selfish act
  • The need to reframe your definition of “nice”
Jan 18, 2021

Think about how you build out journey maps or of journey maps you’ve seen if that isn’t something your agency does. They chart out how a potential customer goes from not being aware of the product or service to the point of purchase. Typically, we’re building this journey map to coincide with our work in helping our clients increase their sales. In that way, it makes sense that the map would end at the sale. That’s our job is to get them to that point. But the customer’s experience has really just begun. The real journey begins once you’re in a relationship with the customer and how you nourish and grow the trust and connection with the client moving forward.

The opportunity for our agencies is to help our clients beyond the initial sale. What if our agency also engaged in helping clients build stronger, more resilient relationships with their customers? That’s some very profitable work for us and a lasting value for our clients.

As a certified customer experience professional, Jeannie Walters is an expert on this exact topic. An educator and consultant that comes from the agency world, she has a real passion for improving customer experiences and she’s here to share some insights that will help you serve your clients even better.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Jeannie and I dive into the changes in customer relations that were inspired by the pandemic and how companies were forced to evolve in order to survive. We also talk about how the entire supply chain process has come front and center, as well as the continuing need to be innovative, even though the stakes aren’t as high as they were during the pandemic.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Customer experience

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to get your clients to think bigger
  • The need for a customer experience mission in your agency
  • Ways to improve journey mapping
  • The difference between the buyer’s journey and the customer’s journey
  • Why communication is key to the customer experience
  • The way the customer experience differs in a B2B environment versus a B2C environment
  • How to get your whole agency on the same page regarding the expectations of the customer experience
  • How to use a customer experience success statement to measure what is being done right
  • The important of including the billing process in the review of your customer journey
  • How to spot and utilize “micro-moments” to create surprises that delight customers
Jan 11, 2021

As we celebrate the most anticipated New Year’s Day in any of our lifetimes, we also find ourselves planning, goal settings, and making resolutions for the new year. Whenever I ask an agency owner what goals they’ve set for their shop, without exception, the first goal (and often the only goal) they can come up with is a revenue goal. I absolutely want you to set revenue goals for this year but you shouldn’t limit your thinking to that one metric. There are other growth goals that are as important, if not more so, than what your gross revenue is for the year.

One of the fallacies that plagues agencies is that the only way to have a successful year is to get bigger (gross billings) but that’s a short-sighted and incorrect notion. There are many ways you can build and expand your agency that have nothing to do with your revenue. And depending on your agency – several of them could be even more fruitful and put more money in your pocket.

In this solocast episode of Build A Better Agency, I’m going to walk you through ten metrics worthy of consideration as you think about your agency’s growth. I’m not suggesting you try to tackle them all, but two or three might be the right number to consider as you plan your way to a good dose of growth for 2021.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Growth goals for 2021

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Reasonable expectations for AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) growth goals in 2021
  • The right way to think about growing your team
  • How to think about client growth in a different way
  • How certain employees block growth
  • The power of focused goals
  • The growth potential in specialization
  • How a gorilla client impacts your ability to grow
  • Taking care of the clients who got you this far
  • The powerful satisfaction metric that can impede or fuel growth
  • Why you need to take some time to think about your life goals, and not just your agency goals, and an AMI mini course to get you started
Jan 4, 2021

As marketers we understand the power and influence of a brand. We know that every buying decision we make is based on emotion. This helps explain why some brands garner a cult-like fan base. They understand the power of their emotional triggers. As agencies, we should be brilliant at discerning and leveraging a brand’s specific emotional triggers. But sometimes it’s difficult to help a client see the value in what can appear a bit ethereal. But what if there was a tool to help you validate what you know about your clients’ (or your) brand?

Today’s guest has turned the science of emotion into a tangible tool. Brian Gregory comes from a long publishing and advertising background. He has studied the core emotional triggers that lead to a specific brand’s buying decisions and is using this insight to help agencies and their clients build a better business and ROI.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Brian and I discuss the principles of emotion-based buying, including examples of how it has been used successfully by well-known brands. We also talk about the formula that all good marketing follows, what the big brands fear small businesses will figure out, and why it’s important to have an emotional emphasis in all your marketing communication.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

emotional triggers

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The science of emotion buying marketing
  • An introduction to Admanity, an online tool that defines which of the primal emotions can be best utilized by your clients and your agency
  • How to use the knowledge of emotion buying triggers to increase sales
  • How advertising follows a formula
  • The importance of understanding how emotions are related when it comes to marketing communication
  • How businesses and agencies get advertising wrong
  • What the big brands fear small businesses will figure out
  • Why this is the perfect time for small-to-midsize agencies and brands to embrace the power of emotion buying
  • How an agency can use emotion buying concepts to sell a client on a new campaign
Dec 28, 2020

For many agency owners systems is the S Word. We bristle at the idea of being confined. It feels like an attempt to stifle our creativity and ability to think out of the box. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there’s a lot of wash-rinse-repeat in our work every day. And without systems (which I translate to “the agency’s way of doing something) everyone develops their own way of accomplishing each and every task. Not only does that mean we are inconsistent at best but it also means that if that employees leaves, so does their tribal knowledge. This is a problem we can and should solve.

My guest for this episode is Josh Fonger, a Business Performance Architect and co-founder of the company, Work The System. The company is based on a book by the same name by Sam Carpenter and exists to help people implement the concepts. If you loved Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth, but wished he’d told you HOW to follow his recommendations, you’ll love hearing from Josh.

In our conversation, Josh outlines not only why systems are important but the specific steps you can take to build them into your agency, no matter how long your agency has been around or how you’re functioning today. While the work may not seem sexy, once the processes are in place, you’ll love the reduction of mistakes, the ability to scale and the increase in profitability.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Business Systems

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Practical tips for how to create systems for your agency
  • Why processes actually create more space for creativity
  • How the tribal knowledge method can fail you
  • Examples of how documenting systems allow you to productize your service
  • How to get started when it all feels so overwhelming
  • The agency owner’s role in building systems
  • How to document processes in a way that your team will actually reference them
  • How to get everyone (including the company owner) to follow the process once it’s in place
  • Productivity tips for how agency owners can extract themselves from the day-to-day in order to concentrate on business development.
Dec 21, 2020

Here are three things I know every agency owner wants. 1) A shortcut to landing new clients. 2) A way to prove ROI for their clients’ marketing budgets. 3) A way to automate tasks around data that allow them to guide their clients in the right direction faster and more accurately. The good news is – we can get all of that from marketing automation. If we use it wisely and well.

Agencies are constantly working to find ways to help their clients attract right-fit prospects, stay relevant to them during their buyer’s journey, and shorten the entire sales cycle. We have many tools at our disposal to accomplish those goals and a sophisticated marketing automation system is certainly one of them. Many agencies have barely scratched the surface of what marketing automation can do for their own agency and for their clients.

When we don’t delve into the power of marketing automation, we’re relying on email marketing circa 2000. But in this era of clients demanding ROI stats for their marketing spend, we are missing out on what can be a very compelling tool that can drive revenue for both our clients and our agency! In fact, my guest, Rick Carlson suggests that marketing automation is an outdated moniker for the tool. He believes we should call them revenue growth systems.

Rick is the founder and CEO of SharpSpring and has seen how a marketing automation system can transform the way you connect and communicate with your leads and clients. In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Rick explains how using your marketing automation system to its full extent can enable agency owners to multiply their efforts, expand their communication, and build deep meaningful relationships as they build their agency.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

A marketing automation system can help agencies shorten the sales cycle and strengthen their client relationships. Learn how to use them in your agency with insights from Rick Carlson about:

  • How to think about the tools in a marketing automation system through a different lens
  • Stand apart by having true one-to-one conversations at scale
  • Best practices for using marketing automation to generate leads
  • How agencies can create effective landing pages that align with their marketing goals
  • How agencies can communicate with their audience without burning them out
  • Different ways agencies can use marketing automation to bridge the gap between their marketing and sales teams
  • How agencies are leaving money on the table by not using their marketing automation system to its full potential

“Agencies have been called upon to help their clients fortify relationships with their existing customers, and they have been called upon to shorten the sales cycle. I think marketing automation tools play a role in both of those things.” @sharpspringCLICK TO TWEET“As marketers, the opportunities to spend money on leads are endless. But a disproportionate amount of time is spent on lead generation instead of nurturing the leads we’ve landed.” @sharpspringCLICK TO TWEET“The key to nurturing leads with a marketing automation system is truly knowing your customers’ business so you can apply the tools properly.” @sharpspringCLICK TO TWEET“A marketing automation system is about having a one-on-one conversation with your prospects at scale based on each individual’s interests.” @sharpspringCLICK TO TWEET“Marketing automation is an antiquated term. These tools are revenue growth platforms, and so many of them are geared towards the sales process as well.” @sharpspringCLICK TO TWEET

Ways to contact Rick Carlson:

Tools & Resources:

Dec 14, 2020

Project management is a challenge for every agency, regardless of their size or tenure. Many agencies have a physical project board on a wall or are using Excel spreadsheets to try to keep everything in check. Unfortunately, these rudimentary project management systems end up costing agencies time, money, and even clients. But it does not have to be a source of frustration or profit evaporation.

If your agency has been resisting a project management system, it’s time to recognize that you are choosing to put your agency at risk. A shop without a more sophisticated tool and process for getting the work done on time and on budget will experience missed deadlines, scope create and frustrated clients. It’s not ideal from your team’s perspective either. No one wants to drop the ball or disappoint a client or teammate.

Agency owner Peter Coppinger knew all of this too well. His own shop, located in Dublin, Ireland was struggling to find a tool that would help them keep everyone in alignment and manage all of the details of every job without fail. That frustration led them to decide to design a project management tool of their own, Teamwork, which is one of the more popular options among agencies throughout the world. His software now powers more than 20,000 businesses.
During our conversation, Peter walks through the common mistakes agency owners make with project management and some best practices for overcoming them – all with the goal of profitably growing and scaling your agency.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

 Managing Projects Effectively

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Pitfalls that many agencies face when it comes to getting the work done
  • Why agencies should be tracking and charging for every little piece of work they do
  • Peter’s best practices for managing projects effectively in the agency world
  • What characteristics agencies should look for in their search for a qualified project manager
  • Why effective project management is the key to growth and scale
“It’s easy to be a busy fool. As you scale your agency and add more people, you need to make sure you are scaling your profits as well.” @irlTopperCLICK TO TWEET“You’re not managing projects effectively if you’re constantly whipping people to get work across the finish line. You want your team to be self-reliant, and project management systems play a major role in that.” @irlTopperCLICK TO TWEET“Some customers are willing to pay more, and you need to have systems in place that can extract that value.” @irlTopperCLICK TO TWEET“People who are managing projects effectively are usually a rare combination of organized and good at dealing with people.” @irlTopperCLICK TO TWEET“Every agency has similar kinds of daily projects. If you don’t write down and organize the steps it takes to get them done, you will never be able to scale your agency.” @irlTopperCLICK TO TWEET

Ways to contact Peter Coppinger:

Tools & Resources:

 
Dec 7, 2020

As I thought about this solocast and what I wanted to say to you, I came up with a big list. Year-end planning, appreciate your clients, get your biz dev kicked off for 2021. And then I realized you, like me, are on stress overload already and the last thing I needed to do was to add to your To Do list. Instead, the most helpful thing I can do in this episode is to acknowledge what’s going on, how you’re feeling and offer some support. So that’s what we’re going to do together.

You’ve been going full steam ahead at a breakneck speed for almost nine months. You’ve scrambled to replace lost business, get government assistance, shift to working from home and taking care of your team.

You’ve had to make some tough choices, have difficult conversations and yet you’ve rallied each and every time. But no one can sustain the pace and stress you’ve been keeping forever. It’s not humanly possible, even for you. Most of your agencies have fared well through the pandemic and financially, you’re in good shape. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to focus on giving yourself some respite. And that’s what this episode is all about!

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Stress Overload

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The overarching sentiment of agency owners in 2020
  • What agency owners can do to move past the exhaustion and heavy emotions of 2020
  • Why it is important to step back and reflect on the hardships and victories of the last year
  • How agency owners are dealing with stress overload in this fast-paced environment
  • Why agency owners are particularly affected by being “stuck” in the pandemic
  • Why agency owners need to put on their own oxygen masks now so they can help their families, employees, and clients down the road

“Whether you have been breaking all records or struggling to keep your head above water, none of this has been easy for anyone.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“I think it is really hard for us to admit that we cannot possibly keep up the pace and the level of stress we have been dealing with for the past nine months.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“We as agency owners are not a group of people that likes to feel stuck or have control taken away from us. I think one of the things that dealing with stress overload does is render us completely out of control.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“Being powerless is not something we are used to—or comfortable with. I believe that we have to take some of that control back.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET“We as agency owners have to find new ways of dealing with stress overload. We need to put on our oxygen masks first so we can fight another day.” @DrewMcLellanCLICK TO TWEET

About the Author: Drew McLellan

For 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies, and then started his own (which he still owns and runs) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops, and more.

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for agency 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 over 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 several books, including Sell With Authority (2020) 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:

Tools & Resources:

Nov 30, 2020

If you’re not new to the podcast or AMI, you know that I am a proponent of agencies differentiating themselves by finding a niche where they can develop a depth of expertise or a position of authority. It’s one of the core messages in the book I co-wrote with Stephen Woessner, Sell with Authority. Which makes Brent Weaver a kindred spirit! Brent Weaver shares our philosophy of niching down, and he joins me to talk about what he believes it takes to become an authority.

Brent is a former agency owner and now focuses on helping business leaders finding their niche. He currently serves as the founder and CEO of UGURUS, a business training and education company dedicated to helping business owners achieve freedom by owning their markets. His work focuses on helping clients overcome their dependence on referrals and word-of-mouth through developing thought leadership. If you didn’t get a chance to meet him during our previous conversation, check out Episode #66 where he explains how to turn a profit doing web dev.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Brent provides valuable insights about finding your niche. He shares his own experience on niching down so you understand what it takes to become the dominant player in a specific market segment, even in times of crisis. Learn how to find your market, own your market, and, as a result, scale your business.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Finding your niche in the agency landscape

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The framework of Brent’s book, “Get Rich in the Deep End”
  • How finding your niche and serving that audience will make everything in your business easier
  • The difference between having a lot of clients in a niche vs. being an authority
  • Why niching down will enable your agency to thrive in good times and bad
  • How to find time to market your business amidst your chaotic schedule
  • What type of content is central to developing a position of authority
  • The correlation between niching and scaling a business
  • How niching goes beyond marketing

“Finding your niche and serving that audience will make everything else in your agency 10x easier.” @u_gurusCLICK TO TWEET“Having a select market and consistent deliverables makes it easier to sell. It also makes it easier to deliver results for your clients.” @u_gurusCLICK TO TWEET“It’s one thing to have a lot of clients in a niche. When you are the thought leader and the marketing authority in your niche, clients will start coming to you.” @u_gurusCLICK TO TWEET“When you’re a niche agency and times are good, you make more money than anyone else. And when times are bad, you get back on your feet quicker than anyone else because clients are not looking for a generalist.” @u_gurusCLICK TO TWEET“The more complex your business is, the harder it is to scale. Finding your niche simplifies the equation.” @u_gurusCLICK TO TWEET

Ways to contact Brent Weaver:

Additional Resources:

Nov 23, 2020

Successful business development strategies are always a hot topic when I’m talking with agency owners. That was true before the pandemic, so you can imagine how often we’re talking about it now! Business development for agencies has made a 180 over the past decade. Have you changed the way you sell to keep current?

Greg Jacobs is the head of Strategic Partnerships at Schiefer Chop Shop, an Irvine-based brand transformation agency where he developed a unique recipe for successful business development strategies. He also led NASCAR’s unscripted content division and served as Head (SVP) of Monetization at Red Bull & Red Bull Media House. As you might imagine, with that background, he comes at prospecting for his agency in a very different way.

During our conversation, Greg walks us through his approach to creating successful business development strategies and offers up some suggestions for agency owners who are looking to hire a salesperson for their shop. It’s never too late to re-tool your own biz dev strategies and this episode is sure to point you in the right direction.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

 Successful Business Development Strategies

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Greg’s approach to building successful business development strategies and how agency owners can use it in their own niches
  • Greg’s transition from content creation to biz dev
  • How Greg mediates between biz dev and content creation teams
  • How to attract and retain the right biz dev talent
  • What Greg does to differentiate his agency and make it stand out from the crowd
  • How content plays a role in Greg’s biz dev efforts today
  • How newcomers can be successful in an agency biz dev role

“Content can be a universal language. If a brand has an interesting story and you can tell that story in a short form piece of content, the brand now has an asset they can use across their owned and operated channels.” @GregoryJacobsCLICK TO TWEET“The key metric of any piece of content is engagement. Will they click on it, will they watch it, and will they stay for a period of time?” @GregoryJacobs” @GregoryJacobsCLICK TO TWEET“There is no biz dev rep worth their salt that will do one of two things: A) Work on commission only. And B) Claim they can close business in less than six months.” @GregoryJacobsCLICK TO TWEET“Successful business development strategies give reps a window of time to figure it out, proper onboarding, some kind of retainer, and the ability to maintain relationships post-close.” @GregoryJacobsCLICK TO TWEET“Successful business development strategies are all about finding a balance between what you want to make and what fits your partner’s brand.” @GregoryJacobsCLICK TO TWEET

Ways to contact Greg Jacobs:

Additional Resources:

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