Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by HubSpot

My podcast, Build A Better Agency, is completely focused on helping you do just that.  No matter how strong, big or well-known your agency is today — I believe it can get even better.  My guests are all agency-centric or have an expertise in an area that I believe agency owners need to know more about.

Each podcast is 30-45 minutes long and always ends with some next steps that you can take immediately to implement something you’ve heard.

While my intention is that these podcasts are designed specifically for agency owners, I do believe that any agency leader will gain new ideas, fresh perspective and maybe a kick in the pants or two from listening.

We’ll release a new episode every Wednesday and here are the links that I believe will be pertinent to you.

GuestIf you have been asked to be a guest – all you need to know is right here (and will be emailed to you)
If you think you’d be a good guest – shoot me an email.

Episode 180: Agency Owners Need to Stop Breaking Their Word with Drew McLellan

Agencies have an accountability problem and it starts at the top. Every day, as owners and team members we make promises to our team. I’ll get the copy to you by 5.” Or, “I’ll have my part of the RFP done by Tuesday.” You’ve heard yourself making those commitments and then you hear that voice in the back of your head say, “I hope.” If we as owners can’t honor our promises, how on earth can we expect our team to honor theirs? As owners and principals, we overfill our schedules. We overpromise – and guess what? The natural outcome of that is we under deliver, let down our team and set up a pattern where pretty soon, they take everything we say with a big grain of salt. Everything we do, internally and externally, is deadline driven. If you’re wondering why your employees don’t seem to worry about deadlines or other commitments, like budgets, look no further than your mirror. Odds are, without knowing it, you’ve taught them that the promises we make are “fluid.” We must be accountable – and hold our teams accountable – for time commitments. This episode of Build a Better Agency is a solocast. It’s all about providing more leadership in our promises to deliver projects (or answers, or whatever the deliverable may be) on time. We’re all incredibly busy, and too often we use that – and accept that – as an excuse. You don’t want your agency to be a place whose staff members don’t respect each other enough to keep their promises. And you don’t want your agency to let down or embarrass clients because you didn’t deliver something on time. These are the games we […]

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Episode 179: Permission to Win with Doug Austin

The number one barrier to growth for agencies in 2019 is staffing. Agencies are struggling to find and keep good talent. And that conversation always leads to the topic of culture. When we think about culture – we often think about the fun stuff – parties, bonuses, and recognizing people for going above and beyond for clients. All of that is super important but it is also equally critical to instill a culture that seeks, celebrates, and rewards growth. What are the attributes of a growth culture – and how do you make sure your agency has it? A longtime practitioner in this area of creating a growth culture inside your agency is my guest on this episode: Doug Austin. In this episode, we talk about why that is the key to, in Doug’s words, “having permission to win that business.” Doug has been doing agency work for many years and now spends his time as a consultant, working with agency owners and leaders to create a culture of growth in their business. We’re going to dig deep into what a growth culture means and how to get it. What You Will Learn in This Episode: The steps of a four-tiered plan for growth and innovation Why it is important to know your client’s business inside and out How to build training in the industries you serve into your overall training program How to write a brief that makes sense to your client Best practices for setting up training for agency employees Creating a culture of growth Building a culture based on the worth of all people and doing the best work you can The connection between continuous learning and a culture of growth How […]

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Episode 178: Is There an Accountant in the House? Getting Real About Agency Financials with Jenn McCabe

Agency owners are notoriously ill-informed (and uncomfortable) when it comes to their agency’s finances. Which means they make important decisions in the dark. Not ideal and we’re trying to change that at AMI. That doesn’t mean you need to understand all the fine-grain details. But you do have to understand where you stand financially at any given time. On episode #178, I talk with Jenn McCabe, who started out in accounting at Ogilvy and Mather but soon started her own accounting firm to help small to midsized agencies figure out their numbers. The numbers you need to know (and if you do any AMI planning, this will sound familiar) should fit on one sheet of paper. We’re not talking about miles and miles of Excel spreadsheets. Just the key figures and concepts you need to understand your agency’s financial health. We’ll also talk about best practices for preparing your agency for sale when the time comes. Recently Jenn merged her company with Armanino. They provide, among many other services, outsourced accounting, finance, and HR, working primarily with agencies to create simple accounting dashboards and financial documents that allow the agency owner to make good decisions.     What You Will Learn in This Episode: The difference between cash accounting and accrual accounting (and why you NEED to know the difference) The need for accounting rather than bookkeeping Understanding run rate, aka your monthly “nut” Why you need to pay yourself as an owner Best practices around owner salary How much cash and cash equivalents to keep liquid and available How to be an attractive acquisition target Transitioning your employees to new owners Managing an internal agency purchase Why management buyouts are becoming less common The […]

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Episode 177: Notes from the Social Media Lab with Scott Ayres

Staying on top of the social media landscape and what it means in terms of going from engagement with fans to ultimately generating new opportunities and sales is one of those ongoing tasks in agency life. Algorithms are always evolving, so what got you reach last year – or even last month – might not get you the same reach today. We are creating social content for clients every day. Add to that the thought leadership we want to develop for our agency – and that’s a lot of social interaction to manage! On this episode, we dig into the current data. What’s happening on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and, oh, yeah – Twitter. How do we engage on these social platforms in smart and effective ways? My guest is Scott Ayres of Agorapulse. His Social Media Lab (a literal lab and also a podcast he hosts) digs into this question with gathered and analyzed data to back up any answers given. Scott has the awesome title of Content Scientist at Agorapulse. He takes what we all believe to be best practices or questions we have around engagement or audience activity or behavior, and he looks for data points that will help us make better choices in terms of how we use these social channels for our agency and clients’ benefit. What You Will Learn in This Episode: What social metrics to measure, and why Why local business pages are still thriving on Facebook How people are using hashtags as “Google” Whether or not emoji usage changes engagement Why you might want to post on social networks before or after peak How social media channels are beginning to segment in a good way Why LinkedIn text-only […]

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Episode 176: Reining in Your Healthcare Line Item with Allison De Paoli

This is one of those episodes that proves that you don’t know what you don’t know. We’re tackling the subject of health insurance – how to manage costs as an employer since it is such a big-ticket cost for most agencies. I’ve been an agency owner for the past 25 years or so, and health insurance is something I want to offer because I value my team and want to provide a generous benefit package. But when renewal time comes around, I’m always wondering what kind of increase is coming. Like most of you, it’s usually in the double digits and super painful. Someone (me or my employees) has to endure that increase or we have to increase the deductible or reduce features. One thing I do know: For all of us, healthcare costs typically one of our biggest expenses and feels completely out of our control.

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Episode 175: Getting Employees to Think Like Agency Owners with Drew McLellan

When I talk with agency owners, there’s one topic that often comes up in conversation. They say, “I wish my employees would think and act more like owners!” And my question back is, “why would they – they aren’t owners.” Think about it. As the agency owner, you run the business, and you understand clearly what’s at stake every month. You stand to win or lose something each month when you make or don’t make your adjusted gross income (AGI), and the agency’s performance has a direct impact on your success. If the agency doesn’t do well – you’re the one who does not get a paycheck. But they do. On the flip side, when the agency does very well, you reap the benefits of that windfall. You might pay out bonuses to your team but rarely do agency owners explain where the bonus came from or what was done to earn it.

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Episode 174: How to embrace project management in your agency with Tim Johnson

Agencies are creative spaces. Especially as owners, we may bristle at the thought of being managed. But as your agency grows, there a definite need for systems and processes that ensure that things get done on time, on budget, and as promised. I understand that even as the owner I get managed in order to keep tasks and projects on track. As agencies grow and need more structured management of tasks and processes and eventually, a full-time project manager. I did a solocast on the role of the traffic manager, if you’d find that useful. But on this episode of Build A Better Agency, I have Timothy Johnson as my guest who is a seasoned project manager for hire and a professor of project management at Drake University. Tim also has been known to wear a pink bunny suit for reasons I may or may not be at liberty to discuss. Bunny suit aside, Tim knows a thing or two about getting down to business. We talk about the needs of project managers, agency owners, and the agency staff. Often project managers feel like the odd person out, especially in the agency world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Project management is necessary, but it is not an evil. Tim is the perfect guest to help us really understand the ins and outs of project management, and maybe even getting a little excited about upping your PM game. Tim has successfully led many high-end projects and programs, serving as both a project management consultant as well as a business analyst consultant across the U.S. He is the author of Race Through the Forest and other project management books. Timothy believes in delivering value, […]

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Episode 173: Process and automation are your friends with Michael Koral

Maybe things run smooth as silk at your agency. I know that’s what I hope for in mine. It’s more likely to happen on a Saturday or Sunday! One of the ways that we all try to evoke that sense of efficiency and calm is by creating processes that systemize and manage work flow. Not that many agencies do this (if anything, we are system adverse, not system advocates) you can take it too far. There’s a fine line between creativity and process. But if things can run more smoothly and free you and your team up to do more interesting things like coming up with bigger, more valuable solutions for your clients, then the payoff is worth the challenge of getting it in place.

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Episode 172: Ways to grow your agency with virtual assistants with Barb Turley

Before the ’08 recession, most agency owners couldn’t fathom the idea of remote employees, let alone working with a virtual assistant they’d likely never meet. But with sites like UpWork and elance teaching us that sometimes it makes good business sense to source work from with someone we’ve never met, the concept of working with virtual assistants has grown in popularity. In my world, on both the agency and AMI side – we’ve found it to be a very effective way to get a volume of work handled effectively and efficiently. This is definitely an ongoing topic of conversation with agency owners. How do we keep up with the needs and demands of clients in a cost-effective way, without putting quality or the client relationship at risk. For any agencies, virtual assistants are one of the answers to that question.

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Episode 171: Beating Time and Disorganization with Jon Denn

For most people, especially the creative types that tend to inhabit the agency world, time management is a hodgepodge of post-it notes, paper to-do lists, and several online tools – all used haphazardly and resulting in missed deadlines, meetings and a sense of being overwhelmed. I know for me time management has been a series of constant improvements. While I am 95% happy with the system I have today, I always wonder if I could get little more efficient. I remember when I was first starting out in agency life and had no sense of when to walk away from the to-do list. I felt this sense of obligation to stay until the work was done. My problem, everyone’s problem: the work is never done. So, being productive when you need to be is an agency imperative. That’s why I was looking forward to talking to Jon Denn. Jon is a creative person and has also done a ton of neuroscience research to understand that—guess what—one size does not fit all when it comes to time management tools and strategies.

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How should an agency owner spend their time?