Build a Better Agency Podcast

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 185: What we learned from the 2019 agency salary & benefits survey with Drew McLellan

For almost two decades, AMI has been conducting an annual salary and benefits survey. The 2019 results are in and they are quite telling. 2018 was clearly a good year to be an agency employee. As we cull through the data to pull together the report, certain trends and patterns emerge. In this episode, I want to walk you through the ones that I believe are most critical for you as an agency owner. I know that every agency owner is walking the fine line between wanting to fairly compensate the people on the team, not lose your best people to poachers, and still make a profit. Some insight into how other agencies are making it work should help your 2019 and 2020 planning. What You Will Learn in this Episode: What similarly sized agencies in your market are doing with salary and benefits How the focus on content is favoring writer creatives over art creatives The state of entry-level starting salaries What agencies are doing to keep their staff from seeking greener pastures Why agencies tend to be so generous with benefits How to attract and retain top employees when you can’t compete on price The intangibles that make agency life so rewarding, and how to emphasize them The Golden Nuggets: Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today. AMI works with agency owners by: Leading agency owner peer groups Offering workshops for […]

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Episode 184: Embracing the word “NO” with Andrea Waltz

Let’s admit it. Agency owners are reluctant salespeople. However, biz dev should be a significant part of how we spend our days. When I hear agency owners say that they don’t have to prospect because they get so much business via word of mouth, I always ask, “Are those the clients you would choose to work with or are you simply working with them by default?” When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth can sting a little. I get it – no one likes to be told no. That doesn’t make selling any easier. But how do we change our mindset? Hearing no (or deafening silence) feels like a failure, so we avoid it at all costs. But what are the costs of fearing the “no” and settling for whatever comes our way? In episode #184, I talk with Andrea Waltz, co-author of the best-selling book, Go for No. We have to re-think the word no. A “no” is one step closer to a “yes”. Andrea and I talk about the no, not just in sales, but also in the creative process. Sometimes we phone it in because big, bold ideas have been rejected in the past. So we play it safe, even though we know that’s not in our clients’ best interests. Andrea Waltz is a keynote speaker, author, and sought-after sales strategist. At the age of 8, she called George Lucas to see if she could work with him on future movies. She was the youngest general manager in eyeglass retailer Lenscrafters’ history. At the age of 24, she launched her own training company. Hubspot named Andrea one of the “25 Sales Experts You Should Follow on Twitter” while Salesforce.com named her one […]

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Episode 183: Leveraging and scaling word of mouth with Steve Gordon

For 95% of all agencies, referrals and word of mouth are the #1 method of gaining new clients. On the one hand, that’s great. It means your clients, friends, and peers love and trust you enough to introduce you to their friends and colleagues. Unfortunately, they’re not always the right clients for our agency.  What if they aren’t a good fit? What if they are the furthest thing from a sweet-spot client for who you are and what your agency does? We have to be more intentional about referral and word of mouth. That’s why my conversation with Steve Gordon arrived right on time. Steve has developed processes and systems that you can use to leverage word of mouth, qualify referrals, and scale your efforts so you don’t have to spend more time in one-on-one meetings than you have hours in your already stretched-to-the-limit day. Steve Gordan started the Unstoppable CEO in 2010. He has invested nearly two decades into studying, implementing, testing, and proving the strategies that work to sell professional services. Through Unstoppable CEO, Steve shares this knowledge with growth-minded professionals who are ready for world-class help with their marketing. He has become an expert at leveraging and scaling referral systems and word-of-mouth marketing techniques. What You Will Learn in this Episode: How to leverage your word of mouth and referrals Why you must vet referrals to ensure they are a good fit for your agency How to use presentations as referral machines The many ways to leverage technology in gaining referrals Why human nature creates points of interaction that don’t change over time How to become a successful journalist How to turn podcasts into referral engines What it means to gain total […]

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Episode 182: Building credibility through partnerships with Josh Steimle

When you think about or define a global agency, do you think of those giant conglomerates that started on Madison Avenue and have mushroomed into marketing behemoths? Well, that’s one model – but certainly not the only one. What if your global agency was set up more like a series of regional micro-agencies still under one banner? On episode #182 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with Josh Steimle, who has developed a unique business model that is really working for him and the growing team at MWI. We dig into it all: how to develop a cohesive culture across multiple locations, how to hire well, and how to niche down. What they are doing is still very unique in the agency world but seems to have the potential for replication – as many successful ventures do. Josh founded MWI in 1999 while a college student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In 2013, he moved from Salt Lake City to Hong Kong to open MWI’s first international office. Josh is the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work: How Top Marketers Build Customer Loyalty, a TEDx speaker, and regularly presents at marketing and business events. He has written over 200 articles on marketing and entrepreneurship for publications like Mashable, TechCrunch, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Time. What You Will Learn in This Episode: Why there is more than one way to scale a business How to rethink the global agency Why hiring the right person is such a critical decision How a niche service can land you big clients Why even small events can pay off with good business opportunities How to build credibility in the marketplace through strategic partnerships Using credibility […]

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Episode 181: The Business of Expertise with David C. Baker

We talk to clients about positioning every single day. We walk them through differentiation strategies. When they don’t take our advice, we walk away shaking our heads. However, guess who is lousy at taking our own medicine! I say this all the time, but it bears repeating: Being a generalist is not going to cut it in today’s marketplace. Getting clear on your subject-matter expertise – the heart of your differentiation – has never been more important. I don’t think there is a way to overstate that point. On episode #181 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with David C. Baker, who has seen it all as a consultant, often working with design firms and agencies. It’s why he wrote the book The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth. He speaks regularly on more than 70 topics relevant to entrepreneurial expertise and also appears as a guest on many entrepreneurial focused podcasts. What You Will Learn in This Episode: The most egregious mistake agency owners make Why “seats on the agency bus” does not always equal success Why establishing subject-matter expertise is more important than ever The ideal numbers of prospects and competitors that define strong differentiation How to measure and demonstrate your subject-matter expertise Why your geographic reach is an important metric Why employees are not as interchangeable as they once were How to elevate training in agency culture Why 85% of agencies are niched vertically Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!            Ways to Contact David C. Baker: Website: davidcbaker.com The Business of Expertise Book: expertise.is/

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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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How should an agency owner spend their time?