Marketing Consultancy

Prepping your agency for sale – Are you? Might you?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Retirement. Now there’s a loaded word. For some — it’s the holy grail that they’re working toward. For others, it’s the epitome of boredom and obsolescence. Others believe it’s an impossible goal.

Whatever your feeling about retirement, there’s one thing we know for sure. You can’t work at your agency forever. So what’s the plan?

The truth is — most of you don’t have a plan. You might have a vague idea or two, but in terms of a concrete plan, not so much (if you don’t have SMART goals and deadlines, it is not a plan!).

We do a lot of work with agency owners to get their agency in a desirable position for someone to buy it. And in most cases – it’s tough going for awhile. Most owners wait too long to get started. They want to be out in a year or two but haven’t prepped the shop for that. Waiting too long diminishes their options. I can tell you horror stories of agency owners who wanted to be out five years ago…and are still running their agency today.

So let’s make sure that is not you. For the next few weeks, I am going to focus on one aspect of your agency that needs to be in place before anyone will considering buying it. I don’t care if you’re 35 and just launched your business. You should still be building your shop so that it can stand on its own. Just like Stephen Covey taught us — begin with the end in mind.

Is your agency sellable element #1:

The more specialized your agency is, the more likely it is to sell.

I know you’re sick of the niche propaganda but hear me out. Outside buyers are much more attracted to agencies who serve a specific niche or a couple of related niches. The competition is much lighter, you can command a premium price, and the target market is clearly defined and contained. It typically also means you have fewer clients with a higher AGI and either consistent project work or a retainer agreement of some kind. Which also delights a buyer!

If you’re a generalist agency, your only real option is going to be an internal sale. Odds are your clients are local/regional and you have a lot of smaller clients with one gorilla or two.

There are a couple exceptions to the generalist rule. If you are a PPC/Paid search/lead gen. agency — then your clients aren’t typically local and you’ve got a lot of retainer clients. That makes you more attractive than a generalist marketing agency. You’ve also probably put 20-25% profit to the bottom line for the last several years, so that’s also in your favor.

For this to be a selling point for you — you have to embrace it. Your website, content, and client roster all need to support your specialization claim. You can’t hid it under a bushel because you don’t want to say no to any/all prospects who do not fall into the specialty area.

Of course, I am just scratching the surface here — but you get the message. When you’re talking about selling an agency — there are riches in the niches.

OK Drew, we’re ready to hear more! 

Today’s post by Drew McLellan of AMI

 

The danger of family thinking

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

For the past year, you have done everything you could to protect your team. Many of you have made some pretty significant sacrifices to make sure your folks had a job, health insurance, etc. during the pandemic.

But as I told you last week, their gratitude for all you’ve done was worn a little thin by November and now, you’ve got people asking for raises, leaving you for other opportunities, and just tapping out.

Behind closed doors, agency owners bemoan their employees behavior and admit that they’re taking the departure personally. It hurts when someone you’ve bent over backwards to help and to grow decides they want to leave. And the conversation usually starts like this, “After everything I’ve done for XYZ, they do this?

The answer is because they don’t think about you the way you think about them. Many agency owners think of their employees as family. As such, they go way above the call of duty to care for and nurture their employees. You might even refer to them as the kids or some other family colloquialism.

But they don’t think of you in the same way. Now, if you have a partner of the opposite gender, they might jokingly refer to you as mom and dad. But that’s in the “if dad says no, ask mom” sort of way.

They like and respect you. They might even love you. But they’re much better at separating their feelings for you from the job itself than agency owners are.

This was true before the pandemic and now that the crisis has passed, it’s true again. In last week’s newsletter I wrote about the shift from gratitude for having a job to asking for a raise. Again — they see the relationship differently. And, may I suggest, they view the relationship in a healthier way than some of us owners do.

Before I get hate mail, I want to be clear. I want you to love your team members. I want you to treat them well, pay them fairly, and create an amazing work environment. I want you to be invested in their growth. My personal goal is to ruin my employees for all others. But some have still left. Because it was the right thing for them, for their family, for their career, etc. We have to know that sooner or later, every employee is going to walk. No one can be indispensable.

We can’t think of the agency as our other family. It’s not healthy for us or the agency. When we think of them as family, we make bad business decisions. We keep a C player because we’re not sure they can get a job anywhere else. We tolerate lousy, corrosive behavior. We neglect to cut payroll when we don’t have the business to support it. We don’t call individuals out when someone disrespects the agency’s values. We go without a paycheck so everyone else gets paid.

They like/love and respect us. And many of them will stick around for a long time. But when they get a job offer for $10K more than we’re paying them, or they can get a promotion they might not get at our place for years — they will leave. Because it helps them get where they want to be.

We need to find a way to have that same healthy view of our employees. We can still love them as people but not be beholden to them for life. Next week we’ll explore how we can begin to make that shift.

Note: Critical Thinking by Drew McLellan of AMI

The invisible threat to your agency

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Never Before

The invisible threat to your agency. I’ve owned my agency for 25 years, and we’ve never faced anything like 2020. A pandemic, having to abandon our offices, a recession, and the social unrest that much of the world has experienced for the last several months. All of them have tested and taxed our leadership chops like nothing we’ve lived through before.

Each of them on their own poses a threat, but the combination of all of the 2020 bizarre realities has created what I think is the most dangerous threat of all. What makes the threat even more insidious is that it can go undetected for a long time until it’s really taken hold.

The threat is the fragility of your team’s mental health, not to mention your own.

Many agency owners are talking to me about the overall malaise among their team members. I think when the pandemic hit, we all stood tall and were determined to endure the 2-3 month lockdown. But as we approach the 9th month of this, no one is unaffected. Productivity is lagging, tempers are flaring, and the fatigue is hard to ignore. We are all juggling more at home/work than is humanly possible, and we’ve been doing it for the better part of a year. This isn’t a problem we can just wish away or ignore.

Here’s how some agencies are helping their teams hold it together.

Mandatory days off: Some agencies are shutting down on certain days or limiting access to email/servers after 5 pm to force their employees to take some downtime. Other agencies are strongly encouraging their people to use their vacation time rather than lose it.

The zoom cocktail parties are passe but fun is still being had: Most agencies abandoned the zoom cocktail hours sometime during the summer. But they are finding ways to be creative/have fun with contests (pumpkin carving, BBQ cookouts, etc.).

Giving employees access to mental health resources: Many agencies are reminding their employees that their insurance covers mental health treatments and even providing employees with a list of providers.

Talking about it: The truth is, most of what is stressing out your team has nothing to do with work. But it is still seeping into the agency and impacting our work. Investing in meaningful conversations with your team members and talking about it as a group (crowdsourcing solutions) is helpful and healthy. It’s not just your employees. It’s you too. I feel it. You are bone tired. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ve been surviving on fumes for a while now. And unfortunately, it isn’t over yet. Whether your agency is incredibly busy and scrambling to manage the growth or you are still struggling to rebuild after this past spring – you are worn out.

No one is going to mandate you do something about this. If I thought you’d listen – I would. But you’ve got to recognize that you’re dangerously close to crashing and do what you need to do to refuel and replenish.

For some of you, that might be a complete detox from your agency for a few days and hiding out in a cabin. For others, it will be getting on a plane and being anywhere but home. You’re going to have to self-diagnose. But I’m telling you – this can’t wait until you take time off in late December.

I know you’re looking longingly at 2021. But don’t ignore this threat in 2020.

Lovingly contributed by Drew McLellan of AMI

Where did your confidence go?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Guest Contributor – Drew McLellan of AMI

If there has ever been a year when our confidence has taken a knock to the chin, it’s this one. If you are like most agency owners, January and February gave every indication that 2020 was going to be a break-out year for you.

Many agencies reported the most robust January they’d had in a decade and were looking to exceed year-end goals. And then COVID hit. Many of us went two to three months, feeling it was inappropriate to sell at all, and when we did, it was a bit apologetically.

As if that was not enough, the combination of COVID, racial tensions, economic challenges, back to school maybes, and just feeling like we are still being restricted and contained at every turn has caused an underlying malaise in just about every human I know.

Muster Up the Courage – Given everything we’re all carrying on our shoulders right now, how in the world do we muster up the confidence to sell?

Marketing and sales are all about confidence. When you believe in what you’re selling, know it is the right answer for the prospect, and can see the benefits the prospect could enjoy – it’s much easier to approach a new opportunity and offer your assistance.

Focus on the facts – That’s where I think we can regain our confidence – by focusing on the fact that we have something valuable to offer and seeing sales as us offering assistance. Your marketing should be helpful and useful, which builds trust. Once the trust is seeded, sales is about continuing the trust-building while offering tailored solutions that are going to exceed expectations.

Barbara Corcoran, from ABC’s Shark Tank, recently shared a letter that she wrote to the show’s producer Mark Burnett. It’s clear from the letter than she had received a “thanks, but no thanks” response to her audition and I’m sure Mark expected her to exit gracefully.

Instead, she sent him this letter, outlining very respectfully why this was not the right decision. Her arguments were not about her but how he was taking a more significant risk by not allowing her to come to LA for the final tryout, even though her rival for the position would be there as well.

She called Burnett’s rejection a lucky charm and then gave him point by point suggestions of how his final decision would be more reliable if he reconsidered her for a role on the show.

The entire letter exudes confidence. There’s nothing arrogant about it, but as she builds her case, you begin to understand what a formidable force she really is. She ends the letter acknowledging that it is his decision, but she’s already booked her flight and hopes he invites her to get on that plane.

While the letter may not be your style — I know you can find your own way to exude that level of confidence.

It’s about having faith in yourself and what you sell. It’s about truly understanding what your potential buyer is trying to accomplish, his/her situation, and being helpful to their efforts. And even when you get a “no”, remembering that it’s not really a “no”. You’ve planted a seed that you need to nurture. Sooner or later, it will grow to a “yes”.

How can you bake that confidence into your sales efforts for the rest of the year?

Editor Note: Your paid Manager or EVP Plan will bring qualified opportunities to your door.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but Horses and Even Agencies Don’t Always Abide

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Sometimes Amused: As the owner of an agency search consulting service, I’m sometimes amused when an advertiser is surprised when every invited agency wasn’t interested in their opportunity. Maybe that harks back to the days when consultants were guilty of sending out 50+ RPF’s (i.e. – the infamous cattle call) and waiting for the chips to fall. Under today’s circumstances, you might expect agencies to pounce on everything new that comes their way. That’s clearly not the case, and never was, but for any company looking to engage new “marketing outsources”, it helps to know what attracts an agency. Here’s a thumbnail.

What agencies want to know: At the onset, agencies like to know why they were included. Was it their reputation, creative, awards, profile in a database or experience with the consultant.  Agencies expect to be talking directly to the client. Gone are the days where the consultant served as a conduit between the two, screening and interpreting the message content. An impersonal RFP calling for pages of agency detail coupled with an admonishment not to contact anyone at the company is an immediate Red Flag. An agency wants to be speaking and dealing with the person who is managing the review, an individual with authority, well beyond the collection of candidate credentials. An initial due-diligence phone interview saves everyone time and money. It gives the agency a chance to ask and answer and the client to reciprocate.  Here the parties evaluate “chemistry”, the magic elixir that will or will not cement the two in an extended relationship. Questions such as – Is this a project or an extended relationship? What’s the desired measurable outcome? Then budget, that elusive budget.  An agency worth hiring needs to know what funds will be available to manage the assignment. Not precisely but order of magnitude. Don’t shadowbox there. Summarizing, that phone interview should have given the agency sufficient information to produce and send a package of preliminary agency materials with relevant experience, similar client challenges, creative strategies, client testimonials, agency capabilities and credentials.

There’s always fallout: There’s always an immediate fallout from initial invitations; then more will follow phone interviews. Upon receipt of agency materials, corporate colleagues are assigned to examine and evaluate what was received. Some agencies are eliminated (for any reason). Ideally there should be 6-8 firms that remain.  Schedule those for on-site or Zoom visits. Then identify the 2-3 finalists. There’s clearly more to those visits and final presentations than I’ve described; the entire process is where a search consultant earns their stripes!

Listen closely, re: The Most Challenging Time of Our Professional Lives.

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Editor’s Note: Your agency may already be a member of Drew McLellan’s Agency Management Group. Drew works extremely hard to help and guide his agencies. That’s particularly true now. His advice is good for all.

For most of us, we are approaching the six-month mark of the most challenging time of our professional lives. If we’re being honest with each other and ourselves, it is taking its toll. We have to listen to what’s happening in our hearts and give a lot of credence to the nudges that are subconsciously trying to keep us whole and healthy through this.

It doesn’t really matter if your agency has never been busier or you are scrambling to bring in enough new business to keep your team intact — none of us are getting through this unscathed. Everything is just more difficult. We’re not meant to be this isolated, and the cracks are showing. The burden of leading your team through this is a heavy one.

The coping mechanisms we deployed in March are starting to wear thin and everyone is feeling very frayed at the edges.

You may be experiencing it differently, but many of the agency owners I’ve talked to have felt themselves slipping into this odd mix of anger, frustration, and depression. We feel like we have to keep it contained because our team, our family, and our friends are counting on us to lead them through this.

And we will — but we have to lead ourselves through it as well.

The problem is, the pressure of that containment is going to win out if it hasn’t already. I know for me, I had to consciously find ways to release it before it exploded in a really ugly way. I had to take back what control I could and recognize that I do have choices that COVID has not taken away from me.

Every one of us is going to have a different pressure valve. And our own coping skills are whispering to us what they are. You have to listen with intention sometimes to hear the nudges — but they are there.

For some of you, it may be about being with people who fill you up and finding a safe way to do that. For others, it may be getting away from technology and truly unplugging for a few days by a lake or a cabin in the woods. For yet others, it may be forcing yourself to take a few days off and indulging in whatever hobby brings you joy. I believe for most of us, it’s going to require something significant to help you keep your equilibrium.

I know you’ve been coping through this thing in lots of little ways. I’m not talking about another zoom cocktail hour or FaceTime with a friend. All these options are good — but it feels like the pressure is winning out for many. It’s time to truly take a break of some kind to release that pressure valve.

Listen for it. Find it. Give it to yourself. This isn’t about being selfish. It’s about making sure you don’t run empty.

Does Your Marketing Feel Like This These Days? As an Advertiser or As an Agency?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy, Marketing Partenerships

Why this is the Right Time to Hire a New or Replacement Ad Agency and Others

Is your current agency or in-house group providing creative and tactical ideas for developing relevant online content during these COVID-19 and country-wide rioting disruptions in business? Are they thinking about how to use this time to help you creatively drive engagement, traffic or calls to your business? If your business has lost internal marketing support is your agency stepping up to fill in those gaps? Regardless of the challenges we all face, there are ways to continue to market and promote a brand. Finding the right PR, digital or marketing agency can transform these challenges into opportunities.

COVID-19 has given us time to think. If you have anything to do with marketing, this disruption is likely causing a lot of indecision. Hiring a marketing, digital or PR partner is about identifying the right agency and talent that understands your industry and how to mitigate the uncertainty of the pandemic. They must have a firm understanding of what it takes to continue building brand awareness and sales. If you have an agency or in-house department that is not pulling their weight, use this time wisely to consider searching for a new partner.

Your Criteria
There’s the temptation to search for an agency “type.” As in digital, experiential, direct, integrated, public relations and so on. Don’t start with type. Start with experience. Does this agency have relevant experience in your industry, do they understand the nuances and personalities of the people you are targeting? Do they have the right type of talent, experience and background that brings fresh thinking? are they equipped to work remotely with your company and team to turn projects around on budget and deadline? Are they willing to share meaningful insights that can help accelerate the growth of your brand?  Are they the right size, fit, responsive and willing to do what it takes to ensure the seamless execution and implementation of any marketing challenging?

Your Search
In the final analysis, many options exist for identifying a new marketing partner. Many of which are impersonal and lack the insights, details and information necessary to make a good decision. For over 20 years we’ve been connecting marketers and advertisers with agencies and agencies with new clients. We provide an elegantly, curated, powerful, complimentary and efficient, platform to identify and evaluate agencies. The combination of an on-board search engine and extensive agency-produced profiles allows for identifying and targeting the most appropriate candidates.

So is it the right time to find a new marketing partner? See for yourself. There may be the perfect agency just waiting to help through these uncertain times. And the recent turn of events that lead to rioting has added another unheard of challenge. You have nothing to lose and you may be surprised at what you’ll find.

What will your tomorrow look like?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Today’s close look by Drew McLellan of AMI

First — many of you let me know, after last week’s note, that apparently the locusts are on their way. I shouldn’t have been surprised!

Many of you also wrote that the piece resonated with you because you were struggling to even think about the agency, let alone buckle down and focus on the work you need to do. I think that’s where we’ve all been for the last couple of weeks.

And it’s no wonder. Here’s what 2020 has looked like so far (you may have to adjust dates based on your location in the world):

January – March 15th:
So busy we couldn’t see straight. Healthy profits and projections said 2020 could be a record year.

March 15th – March 31st: A cocktail mix of panic and paralysis as COVID-19 strikes, clients hit the pause button, and we have to figure out this WFH thing.

April 1st – April 25th: Starting to get our groove back. Gov’t relief funds in the bank and starting to have meaningful conversations with our clients and our team. Had our first decent night’s sleep in awhile, no matter if we lost no business or half our business. We are getting used to the discomfort of not knowing.

April 25th – May 25th: Hey — we’re going to be okay. Landed a new client or two, some clients slowly coming back, and our virtual happy hours are a highlight of the week. We’re beginning to think about going back to the office. And many of us have gotten a haircut!

May 26th – now: A new mix of emotions as we watch the protests, struggle with the raw reality of racism, and in many parts of the US, live under a curfew until the violence settles down.

Tomorrow: Will yours be red or green? Look at the pattern so far. Cooking with gas, then knocked to our knees, struggling to stand up, and then stand tall. Just to get knocked to our knees again.

The way you moved from the panic and paralysis season of COVID-19 is that you believed you had no choice. You just forced yourself to focus, to fight, to serve your clients, and to sell. You took care of your team when you thought your tank was empty and you made smart decisions along the way.

You decided there was no other acceptable path. Yes, it was like climbing a mountain in the dark. But it was the only way forward. And so you not only climbed the mountain — you scaled it and stood on the summit to catch your breath.

Today, someone on my Facebook feed asked the question “at what age is one too old to hide from the world in a blanket fort?” I totally get it. But we can’t afford to hide or wait. Nothing we are facing right now is a quick fix. Holding our breath and just waiting until it’s over isn’t an option. We have to be able to survive and thrive as we go through it.

You know this drill. If you wait for the perfect time to launch a business, fire a bad client, have a baby, or grow a mustache — you’ll never do any of them. You do them when you find the courage to do them, even though it’s never the perfect moment.

That’s what we have to do right now. We have to decide that despite everything our world is going through right now — it’s time to fight for our focus. It’s time to decide forward is the only path.

You’re at the base of the mountain. Are you just going to set-up camp and wait or are you going to step out into the dark and start climbing?

I wish I could make it easier. But what I can do is remind you that you are not climbing the mountain alone.

Benevolent boot camp – Fit for the Times

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Reminiscing & Advice by Drew McLellan at AMI

When I was in high school, I took one of those aptitude tests to see what I should be when I grew up. It was really just an exercise of curiosity because I already knew I was going to be a psychologist (I’ll tell you how that went sideways over a drink sometime). When I got the test results back I was stunned to see that military officer was one of the top suggestions. If you know me at all, you know that would have been an unmitigated disaster. All I could envision was me apologizing to my troops for making them get up early!

As I think about the mini-plan I want you to focus on this week — your team plan — it reminds me of a bootcamp scenario. Our people are out of their natural work element, we’re asking them to work at odd hours with lots of obstacles, and they’re under a ton of pressure. They’re worried about how their performance will influence the ultimate outcome and what impact that will have on their lives. But, unlike a military bootcamp, our role needs to be a little different than a drill sergeant. We aren’t going to mold our team into soldiers and then send them on their way. This is OUR team — so we can absolutely hold them accountable but do so by creating a healthy, candid environment.

If you remember, the five mini-plans I want you to develop are:

  • Operational/financial plan (How will you get the work done on time and on budget? Then, determine the minimum acceptable profit margin for your agency and use agency math to manage your way to never dipping below it.)
  • Team plan (How will you keep them motivated, efficient, profitable, and striving to serve each other and your clients?)
  • Client plan (You need to proactively guide each client into a position of readiness so that when they can step back in — they’re ready and more prepared than their competitors.)
  • Prospect plan (What can you talk about that will be valuable? Base this on what your prospects are ready to hear at any given moment in time.)
  • Vision of the future plan (What parts of normal are worth rushing back to and what could/should be different?)

I believe that in a crisis people reveal their true selves to you. By now, you’ve been surprised and impressed by some of your team members and maybe a little disappointed by others. I know you’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But, even beyond that, you’ve been given some important insights into your team. As we slowly work our way out of crisis mode, do not lose track of those insights.

Now is not the time to ease up on holding everyone accountable. When every penny counts, we have to make sure we’re as efficient and effective as possible. A couple weeks ago my podcast guest, Adam Carroll, had some easy to follow tips for holding your team accountable with his HEAT framework.

Here are some of the ways the agencies that are really performing well are managing their team:

  • Daily Zoom huddles (Traffic meetings.)
  • Honoring their one-on-one meeting schedule.
  • Leave-no-man behind Zoom calls. (Personal check-ins to make sure each of your team members is doing okay personally.)
  • Weekly agency update with lots of transparency around money, job security, client activity, biz dev, etc.
  • Playtime (Virtual happy hours, word games, getting to know you questions, photo contests, Zoom background competitions, etc.)
  • Group and individual goal setting and sharing (We all do better with something to work toward.)
  • Investing in new learning and skills development (If your team is not fully deployed — this is a smart way to prep for our re-entry.)
  • Peer and supervisor recognition. This is such good medicine as we socially distance. If you don’t already have a peer recognition program in place, this might be the time to start one.
  • Review of company values. Re-teach everyone how they look in action.
  • Serve others together. Whether that’s a community project, everyone coming together to help a client through a sticky situation, or supporting a team member who is having a tough time, about to have a baby, etc.

COVID-19 is calling on us to be the best version of a leader we can be. You absolutely need to be kind and understanding but at an equal level, you also need to hold each employee to a very high standard. Think of yourself as a benevolent drill sergeant and do all you can to not only get good work from your team today but even more importantly — prepare and assess them for the future version of your agency.

Are they the people you want to go into battle with? If so, do everything you can to guarantee their success.

If you could read your employees thought bubbles …

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Do you remember the movie “What Women Want” with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt?

You do watch any movie that takes place inside an advertising agency, don’t you? Anyway —the premise of the movie is that Mel Gibson is an arrogant, sexist ad guy who receives the “gift” of being able to hear what women are thinking all around him. As you might imagine, it was a shock to Mel’s ego to see himself through the eyes of the women in his life.

If you haven’t seen it — check it out. It’s definitely worth a Netflix night.

The movie popped into my head because I’ve had some interesting conversations with agency employees over the past few weeks and my conversation with Craig in this week’s podcast also touched on how our employees see the agency, and us as the agency leader. I wish you could hear their unedited thoughts because I think we unintentionally miss the mark sometimes because of our assumptions.

Like poor Mel — sometimes the listening was not easy to hear. But, given what we do for a living — we know how important perspective is and as you might imagine, the Mel at the end of the movie is a different guy than the Mel we met initially. I wonder if that would be true for you, too.

Here are some of the biggest refrains that are running through agency employees’ brains that I believe are worthy of your time and attention:

  • “I’m relieved that she got a new car. It means the agency is stable financially and I don’t have to worry about my job.”
  • “He has no idea how much harder it is to do my job when he doesn’t have time to talk to me.”
  • “Oh my God…we just decided A last week. Now he wants to do B? Why?”
  • “I’m worried about him. He looks tired and he works too much.”
  • “I know a lot of agencies are open book. I wonder why she doesn’t trust us enough to share the numbers?”
  • “It’s so hard to get my team to do (timesheets, follow the traffic system, etc.) when he disregards it. How do I answer them when they point out that it might not be that important if the agency owner isn’t doing it.”
  • “I don’t know how she does it. I admire her and all she’s accomplished. But those are big shoes to fill. Am I ready?”
  • “I’m going to just tread water on this thing he asked me to do. He never sticks to anything. If he asks again, I guess it means he’s serious this time.”
  • “I wish I could spend more time with him. I want to be as good as he is and learn from him.”
  • “It’s so frustrating that she doesn’t have her act together and then shoves her last-minute projects into the workflow. How do I explain that to the client whose work is now going to be late?
  • “Does he notice that I am working my tail off? That I am trying to step up and prove how committed I am to the agency?”
  • I would kill to have a consistent weekly meeting with her. I could keep things moving if I just had her attention on a regular basis.”
  • “The team is getting worried. We haven’t had a state of the agency meeting for a while and that usually means things are not going well.”
  • “We all care about this place and want to help. But other than just doing our jobs, we don’t know how.”

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Your team (unless you are the exception to the rule) feels a little out of the loop. While they are grateful that you work as hard as you do — it’s frustrating when they are never a consistent priority. They want more of you. More feedback. More informal teaching. More mentorship and more “Atta boys!” from you.

I watch the agency owners who truly are the exception to the rule and their agencies are on a growth path. They are experiencing less turnover and their client retention is higher. If I can sum up what they’re doing, it’s this set of behaviors and beliefs:

  • They see their agency as a teaching tool and use performance metrics, pitch results, and every other aspect of their agency’s life as lessons to be shared with the team.
  • They overshare (meaning they repeat themselves) because they know everyone is not going to retain it the first time.
  • They celebrate victories — big and small. They remind everyone why their work matters and why the team is so good.
  • They are very open about the agency’s performance, money situation and their own hopes, fears, worries, and joys.
  • They are present. Sometimes half the battle is won simply by being there.
  • They say thank you. Often —and in person.
  • They invest in the relationships and the people. They hang out, enjoy a bagel in the break area with the team, and participate in company outings.
  • They don’t sugarcoat or dodge the tough conversations.

Every one of you is capable of all of the above. I just think you are running so fast and have so much on your mind that you forget to slow down and connect with your team. I know you want to be an amazing leader. I know you want to inspire confidence and trust. I know you want to build a team that will follow you into battle and do you proud.

Make it a priority. Schedule the time on your calendar. See those thought bubbles over their heads and anticipate what they might be concerned about and proactively deal with those worries.

You’ve got this. I know you do.

Another great contribution by Drew McLellan, CEO AMI (Agency Management Institute)

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