About Drew McLellan

For almost 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 run) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads Agency Management Institute, which advises hundred 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.

How are you investing your time?

I had a great conversation (podcast) with Andrew Dymski, the host of Inbound Agency Journey about how and where agency owners should be investing their time. We talked a little inbound but the lion’s share of the conversation would be relevant for any agency owner. Take a listen here. In the podcast, I talk about how a primary focus for any agency owner should be new business. In fact, about 50% of your time and attention should be devoted to it. How are you doing on that? To make that happen, you need to get out of the weeds of daily client work. You also need a plan of attack. Take a look at our online business course - AMI’s Agency New Business Blueprint. It just might be what you need to help you get out of the weeds. Like all AMI work, if you don’t like it, we’ll give you the money back. Check out the content here and hurry up before 2020 budgets and plans are created and you’re not part of the mix.

By |May 20th, 2019|

4 Ways Small Businesses Can Save Money on Healthcare

At many small businesses in America, health insurance costs are second only to payroll. As a longtime agency owner, I’ve gone through all the typical frustrations of employee healthcare planning. Most providers make it seem like business owners have little control over benefits packages: We can either sit tight and hope our premiums don’t spike every year, or we can look for another provider with nearly identical prices and policies. In this article I contributed to Score.org, I provide tips that will not make healthcare cheap for your small business, but they will help you trim the fat without sacrificing your employees’ well-being. Work with your agent and fiduciary partner to discover more options that could help you save.

By |May 18th, 2019|

This Payment Model Will Keep Clients Satisfied and Bank Accounts Full

Every business needs to make money, but not every founder knows how -- or when -- to collect it. Cash flow problems are one of the top startup killers. The fad of acquiring users now and making money later is over. Companies need to turn profits quickly if they want to survive. To keep the lights on without angering clients or investors, service-based startups should consider the advantages of retainer agreements. Dependable, recurrent income provides security that no investor commitment can match. Investors can always decide to withdraw their support, but a company with paying customers always has a fighting chance. In an article that I recently contributed to Entrepreneur.com, I discuss the mutual benefit of retainer agreements, and why they add value to your client services and how they provide a more productive working relationship. Does your agency utilize retainer agreements, or would you consider it? After you read, I'd be interested to know your stance. 

By |May 11th, 2019|

How to promote your book as part of your thought leadership strategy

With all the buzz about establishing yourself as a thought leader and the long-term value of that effort, many agency owners have written or are thinking about writing a book to demonstrate their expertise. There is assumed esteem that comes from being a published author, whether you self-publish or choose to work with a hybrid or traditional publisher. No matter how your book comes to life unless you’re James Patterson, the promotion of your book is pretty much going to be on you. Odds are you didn’t write the book to make millions of dollars, but instead to use the book to build your position as a thought leader, open up opportunities to speak, or be sought out as an expert by the media. Some agency leaders write a book merely to be used as a three-dimensional business card! No matter what your end game, you have to get your book noticed before you can enjoy the benefits of going through the hard work of writing it. Here are some ideas on how to launch and promote your book. Ideally, you’ll have time to plan for all of this before your book comes out. But many of these tactics can be effective, no matter how long ago your book was first published. Build your audience before you need it: Depending on the subject matter of your book, start creating relationships with potential readers before the book is out. Focus on growing your social reach on the channels that you typically use and where you think your core audience is hanging out. You’re also going to want to build up an email list of people who are interested in your book’s topic. Hopefully, you are already [...]

By |May 9th, 2019|

Are your employees stale?

Many agencies are struggling with what I have termed “stale employees.” These are seasoned pros who have probably been with your agency for a long time. They were incredibly talented and valuable back in the day, but their skills have not evolved as your agency and the marketplace have. Odds are, they’re someone who has stuck by you through thick and thin as your agency has gone through its ups and downs. Which is why you’re ignoring the issue. But the truth is — this employee is typically one of your more expensive salaries and they are contributing less and less. Not only is this team member costing you money but odds are, they’re going to cost you some of your most valuable employees too. American Express’s Open Forum asked me to dig into the issue and offer some solutions. If you’ve dealt with a stale employee — I’d love to hear how you resolved it.

By |May 6th, 2019|

How to Practice Discomfort and Initiate The Next Era of Your Agency

The only way to keep your agency growing is to get comfortable with discomfort. When you think back on those first few years of owning an agency, somehow the tough parts get muted. That period of discomfort — though some of it was genuinely painful — helped you transform a mere idea into a real, living thing that served real, living people. The uncomfortable period was such a fertile time. It involved constant invention and reinvention and required continuous problem-solving. If you’re feeling stagnant as an agency owner, your clients are probably experiencing that, too. They’re on their own journeys to growth. Show clients how to be brave by stepping out of your comfort zone publicly. Invite clients to join you in your experiments. In this article I contributed to smartinsights.com, I provide ideas for how you can get the buzz of growth back into your agency (and in your clients) and start practicing discomfort. If you’ve been feeling stagnant lately, this may just be the opportunity for you to get back to basics, and navigate your next stage of growth by engaging in the uncomfortable.

By |May 4th, 2019|

Stop talking about yourself

I spend a lot of time in various agency conference rooms, critiquing their new business pitches. The invitation to do that usually comes after a streak of “we loved you, buts” or worse — not even making it to the final face to face meeting stage. The truth is — you are pitching your agency every day, whether it’s a formal review where you put on a suit and stand up in front of a committee or you’re sitting across the table from a prospect talking over coffee. Whatever the circumstance — the biggest (and most common) mistake agencies make is that we’re so enamored with our fill in the blank (proprietary process, programmatic prowess, award-winning creative, etc.) that we forget that is not what the prospect needs. They need results. They need proof that their marketing dollars are working. They need leads and sales. Go grab your last three proposals/pitches (word docs, PPT — whatever the format) and give yourself a score. How often do you talk about your agency (our work, our results, our team, our process, etc.) versus the tangible results that the prospect can reasonably expect if they hire you? If you’re honest and your proposals look like most — you are not going to get a passing grade.

By |April 29th, 2019|

Creative Is Key, But Strategy Is King

When you hear marketing agencies say "content is king," we don’t mean creative is king. Content’s supremacy has less to do with the creative genius behind it and more to do with the strategy that makes creation worthwhile.  Businesses now recognize that creative work is only as valuable as the results it delivers. In the old days, agencies led new business pitches with creative assets. Clients were excited to see new artistic concepts and ideas. Today’s clients want far less of that. Modern companies expect to see strategy and hard numbers, and agencies that cling to a creative-oriented past could lose business to their strategy-driven competitors. Recently I brought up this changing process in an article I contributed to Forbes.com, and elaborated on the need for agency’s to adapt and change to fit their client’s evolving priorities. Think about the clients you want to serve and the opportunities on your horizon. What roles will you need to fill to meet those challenges? What will those clients want from you, and how can you organize your company to deliver on those requests?

By |April 27th, 2019|

Agency owners need to embrace the 50-20-30 rule

Given that it's the Monday after a holiday weekend, I have one question for you ... Where were you?  Most agency owners can barely squeak out a long holiday weekend, let alone a family vacation. And even when you get away, you aren’t really disconnected. There are lots of issues with this reality and the costs are significant. It’s tough on your relationships, you’re super stressed, and if something doesn’t change... your agency isn’t sellable. But other than that, it’s a great strategy. So what do you do about it? That’s what iMedia asked me to write about and my answer was — you embrace the 50-20-30 rule. In the article, I describe how I believe agency owners should be spending their time and how to actually own a business as opposed to just having a stressful job. Check it out and let me know what you think. Our September AE bootcamp is getting pretty full. If you want to send some of your crew — it would be good to get them registered soon. Click here to register.

By |April 22nd, 2019|

How should an agency owner spend their time?