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 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.

To Slow Down And Appreciate Agency Life, Get Grateful

Owning or leading an agency can feel like a never-ending high-stakes poker game. There’s always something to worry about. Too often, we’re so focused on what could go wrong that we don’t truly appreciate the things that go right.  Of course, I’m not saying agency owners should stop looking at the numbers or worrying about new business, nor am I suggesting we don rose-colored glasses and ignore the hard realities of owning an agency. I’m merely challenging us to stop and appreciate the good, too. The steps I’ve taken to overcome the constant anxiety are simple but powerful. I challenge you to slow down and be grateful for how much fun you’re having. Acknowledge the wonderful wins that occur in the midst of the daily grind. Let’s not wait until our careers are over to notice the good stuff. The full article was originally published on Forbes.com

By |June 29th, 2020|

What Can Agencies Reasonably Do To Benefit From AI?

Every time you use a digital assistant, receive a recommendation from Amazon or use an app to find the fastest route, you’re using artificial intelligence. AI has changed our lives in countless ways, but I’ve noticed most agencies still struggle to harness its power to improve their business. In truth, AI is already a part of agency life — and its influence will only become more profound. According to a recent report, AI in marketing is predicted to be a $21 billion market by 2023. Clearly, this growth means agencies may want to get on board. They also may need to grapple with determining what data to collect, how to analyze it, which tasks to automate and how AI can help clients. In my agency, we typically use AI to analyze the content, context and outcomes of client calls. Our findings, ideally, lead to higher profitability and retention rates. If you feel behind when it comes to AI, don’t stress — there’s still plenty of time to integrate the tools to optimize your agency operations and strategy. With that said, choosing not to use AI may not be the best option. It doesn't seem to be a fad, and the future of your agency may depend on it. The full article was originally published on Forbes.com 

By |June 22nd, 2020|

Paycheck Protection Program: What it Means for Your Business

I was recently a guest on B2B Growth’s podcast discussing how to use the CARES Act to your agency’s benefit. I hope you take a few minutes to look at the overview of this podcast and listen to the full episode soon. I look forward to hearing what you think! Sweetfish Media — Paycheck Protection Program: What it Means for Your Business Let’s talk about the CARES Act—the federal government has approved a $2 trillion relief bill. One aspect of this bill is the Paycheck Protection Program. Through this, we do not have to let our employees go due to lack of income. By presenting simple documents showing your expenses, you can apply for a forgivable PPP loan. The loan is 2.5 times your monthly expenses (loaded salaries, utilities, rent, mortgage, etc.). That amount (times 2.5) will be deposited into your checking account. As long as you do not change your staffing in those 2 months, the loan is forgiven. Two trillion dollars sounds like a lot of money, but remember the money is scattered into several subcategories within the CARES Act. Talk to your CPA, call your banker, and apply as quickly as possible so you can get your share of money before it runs out. The goal is no debt; you have to try not to go into the red this season. Use the resources the federal government is providing to care for your business, your employees, and yourself. We want to be a resource to agencies as we all manage our way through this pandemic. We have resources available to you on our website here. This podcast was originally published on sweetfishmedia.com on April 2, 2020.

By |April 26th, 2020|

Measures Agencies Can Take To Make It Through COVID-19

Recently I was featured on the Hollywood Branded podcast, Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) with CEO Stacy Jones, discussing what measures agencies can take to make it through COVID-19. Check out this quick synopsis and be sure to listen. "Living through a pandemic has had a major impact on marketing efforts across the board of every industry. Many business owners are finding themselves in the difficult position of wondering how to continue with operations. Recently, Hollywood Branded's CEO, Stacy, Jones sat down with another agency owner to discuss how to move forward and continue operations to weather the pandemic storm." Listen Here: Hollywood Branded Website: Click here iHeart Radio: Click here iTunes: Click here Stitcher: Click here

By |April 25th, 2020|

Surviving COVID-19

I was recently a guest on B2B Growth’s podcast discussing how agencies can still prosper during COVID-19. I hope you take a few minutes to look at the overview of this podcast and listen to the full episode soon. I look forward to hearing what you think! Sweetfish Media — Surviving COVID-19 Working from home is changing how our industry functions every day. I have seen agencies gain more clients or working time as a result of COVID-19, but I have also talked to agency owners who have lost close to half of their clients because their specific market is no longer needed during this pandemic. There are also some agencies that fit right in the middle, who have not seen any loss or gain. In all of these scenarios, working from home during a pandemic is altering how our industry functions and who is coming out for the better. Right now, each agency is like a ship that is getting pummeled in a storm. For some of us, it’s the roughest storm you have sailed through; others have been through worse. Our goal is to make it to calm waters alive. To do that, we must remain calm, confident, and compassionate while surrounded by chaos. Unfortunately, we will have to make sacrifices in one way or another. Some clients will leave, and some employees might be unsatisfied with their amount of work right now. Remember that we are all going through challenges right now, and we must show up as strong leaders.  Let’s focus on metrics, specifically your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Fifty-five percent of that goes to loaded payroll, 25% is spent on overhead, and the last 20% should be profit. For those [...]

By |April 24th, 2020|

Give yourself room to grieve

We are living through what feels like a surreal moment in time. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I have to stop and think “Is this real? Am I really on house arrest, wearing a mask to the grocery store, and feeling offended when someone stands within three feet of me?” It happened to me today. The weather has finally warmed up and I was in the backyard, trying to exhaust the puppy so I could get some work done. I took in a deep breath of fresh air, laughed at the puppy pouncing on the ball I’d thrown, and thought, “today is a good day.” It felt perfectly normal. And then I remembered. It’s like my mind knew I needed the break and so, for a moment or two, it gave it to me. This past week was the first time since COVID-19 really hit the US that I was not on the run from 7 am - midnight, or later. Like all of you I’ve been busy, I haven’t had time to react to the crisis and what it’s doing to our world, our industry, our agencies, and our families. Many of you had to scramble to get your team set-up to work from home and then you were dealing with the client pauses and cancellations and from there, you went right into applying for financial aid in whatever country you’re from. We’ve been so busy trying to keep our head above water, we haven’t had a moment to step back and process what is going on. But I expect that for many of you — that pause will come this week or next. And in that pause you [...]

By |April 17th, 2020|

Documents that agencies are being asked for — Paycheck Protection Program

Many agencies in the US applied (or tried to apply) for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on Friday or over the weekend. We've been getting reports on what kinds of documents they're being asked for and have compiled a complete list.  No one is being asked for ALL of these items but each application is requiring some combination of the items below...and in many cases, most of the items below. Completed Application Proof of ID and citizenship (driver’s license or passport) Articles of Incorporation/Organization of each borrowing entity Bylaws/Operating Agreement of each borrowing entity Copies of all owners’ Driver’s Licenses Payroll Expense Verification documents to include: IRS Form 940 and 941 Individual payroll reports for each employee for 2019 Payroll Summary Report with corresponding bank statement. If a Payroll Summary Report is not available, Employee Pay Stubs as of February 15, 2020 (or corresponding period) with corresponding bank statement, Breakdown of payroll benefits (vacation, allowance for dismissal, group healthcare benefits, retirement benefits, etc.) 1099s (for independent contractors) Report on healthcare premium payments for 2019 Report on retirement contributions for 2019 Bank records (to verify payroll figures) for 2019 Certification that all employees live within the United States. If any do not, provide a detailed list with corresponding salaries of all employees outside the United States Trailing 12-month Profit and Loss Statement (as of the date of application) for all applicants month by month Most recent Mortgage Statement or Rent Statement (Lease) Most recent utility bills (Electric, Gas, Telephone, Internet, Water) Signed good faith sheet or good faith letter  

By |April 6th, 2020|

Agency owners — rest your brain

I'm worried about you. I can feel the strain and stress when I talk to you or you ask a question in one of our open mic webinars or I get your text at 1 am because we're in different time zones and you can't sleep. The covid-19 crisis is a mother and there's not an agency on the planet that isn't feeling the effects. It's not all bad news. Many of you are busier than ever. Lots of agencies are hiring and every day, I get a text from an agency who landed a new account. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some of you have watched 50% or more of your AGI walk out the door and you're wrestling with managing the agency to the numbers -- knowing that may mean you have to lay some people off, despite the Paycheck Protection Program loan. Most of you are somewhere in the middle. I see this in my own interactions with all of you and we saw it in the poll we took of about 125 agency owners, asking about the impact of covid-19 on their agency. All of you are used to dealing with tough times -- when a key employee walked out the door or your gorilla client gave notice. You weathered those situations and got your team through whatever came next. But part of what make that more palatable for you is that you knew what to expect. One of the most disconcerting aspects of our current crisis is the unknown. Agency ownership already has an element of that baked into it, but not like this. I think most agency owners are in a constant state (even if they're crazy [...]

By |April 4th, 2020|

Coronavirus impact on agencies as the end of March 2020

Agency Management Institute partnered up with Orbit Media to do a quick poll of agency owners to find out what the initial impact of the coronavirus had been on their agency. Since everything seems to be changing hourly – it’s important for you to know the time frame that this data relates to. Most of us in the states started working from home between March 10 and March 16th. We launched this poll on March 25th and closed it a couple days later. Our goal was not to conduct proper research, obviously, but instead just to take a pulse on how things are going out there. I also wanted to compare how the general population of agencies were faring on comparison to the 250 or so AMI agencies that I’ve been communicating with on a daily basis. Our survey was completed by 122 agency owners or leaders.   There was an almost even split between agencies that were all B2B, all B2C and mixed and the agency offerings were equally mixed as you can see in the chart below.   One thing is certain – every agency’s work level is being affected by the coronavirus, but I think it’s important to point out that almost half (42.93%) are having either a net neutral or positive effect. I think it’s incredibly tempting and easy to only see the doom and gloom in all of the news stories, conversations and most dangerously – what we tell ourselves. Less than 20% of agencies reported a very negative or near disaster impact.  So far.  That perhaps that is the key phrase at this stage.  But, we have to control our lens on this situation or we'll be paralyzed.   [...]

By |March 31st, 2020|

The #1 Reason Why Agencies Aren’t Making More Money

Agency owners constantly ask me why they are always busy but are not making more money. The answer?—we write off too much time and overservice our clients to the death of our agencies.  How do we figure out how badly we are writing time off? What is your billability, and what is your utilization? Billability is how many hours your employees are working doing billable tasks, tasks that can be billed directly to a client you already have. Utilization is “hours” you actually assign to an invoice to a client. You do not have to bill by the hour, but it still starts with figuring out how many hours a task will take and adjusting your flat fee you charge your clients accordingly. Billability should always be more than your utilization. Your goal should be 65% of all available hours are utilized, meaning your billability average should be 75%. Keep in mind you will almost always overservice your clients. Every billable hour will not actually be billed, and that is okay as long as you stick to the goals above. One problem could be that your agency has too many people and employees are taking more time than necessary to complete tasks. This is called Parkinson’s Law. Each task you assign with a due date or time will use the full amount of time available to complete it, even if it can be completed quicker. You might have too many people, and there is not enough work to keep each of them busy at a pace that is reasonable. Another problem is overservicing your clients. Be clear with your team about how many hours there is to work on a project. People go over because [...]

By |March 28th, 2020|