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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.

5 Ways to Prep for an Agency Sale

"Even if you’ve done everything possible to maximize your agency’s valuation, there will likely be surprises throughout the selling process." In this piece I recently contributed to Spinsucks.com I discuss how to maximize your company’s value to prep for the sale of your agency. No matter the size of your business, there’s a buyer out there.

By |February 26th, 2021|

The Benefits of Niching Your Agency in 2021

"Successful agencies understand who their target clients are. Every other aspect of business — sales, operations, marketing, etc. — becomes infinitely easier once you know what market you’re working in."   In this piece I recently contributed to MediaPost I discuss how as an agency, it's important to cement your verticals and own those markets in order to scale your business in a consistent and planned way. That way, you'll be protected even if one pipeline dries up.

By |February 19th, 2021|

How stressed are you?

We manage our people, we manage client expectations and we manage our finances.  And then there’s email management, biz dev management and a host of other things that are under our watch.  But all of that focus on making sure that everything is running like clockwork can also jack up our stress.  That stress shows up in a lot of little ways:   We are short tempered with our team, family and friends We feel like we can never let up or wind down We miss deadlines (internal or external) We fall behind, putting incredible pressure on our teams to cover our rear ends We are distracted when we’re with our family and friends We  feel our jaw clenching, our head pounding, or our back knotting up   Our “normal” work day is to run around and put out fires all day.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have ever had a work day that played out exactly how I thought it was going to when I woke up that morning.  We have chosen to live in chaos.  And sometimes, we even like it.  But like it or not — it’s our reality.   And that’s before you add in our personal life and the challenges that sometimes come from that side of the equation.   The truth is — we can’t escape stress.  They say, in moderate doses, it’s actually good for us.  But left unchecked, it can diminish our effectiveness and we bring a less than ideal version of ourselves to work and home.   And we all know — there are some serious physical/health consequences to boot.   To survive that reality, we need coping mechanisms.  Yes, I [...]

By |February 12th, 2021|

What Agency Edge Research Can Tell You About Your Clients

"The first step to adequately serving your clients during an economic downturn is understanding who they are and how they will handle uncertainty. Do you know which categories your clients fit in?" In this piece I recently contributed to Business 2 Community I discuss how your clients might respond to the coronavirus pandemic and how to tailor your work to reflect an understanding of their perspectives and needs and three key ways to connect with each type of client.

By |January 29th, 2021|

Who are you learning from?

Agency people are lifelong learners. If you aren’t — odds are you will be “counseled” out of your role if you don’t own the joint and pushed out of the day to day, if you do. We can’t afford to stop learning in our world. It’s simply changing too quickly and to keep up, we have to make learning a priority. What I love the most about AMI is that in everything we do — you are learning from people who are actively involved in agency life. I’ve owned my shop for 25+ years and am still active there. Craig (who runs our Key Executive networks and the Virtual networks) also still has an agency and has been an owner for 27+ years. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The best aspect of AMI is that owners who attend our workshops, network meetings, webinars, etc. — are all both students and teachers. I love how owners are so quick to offer to share resources, forms, best practices, and connections with other owners. That spirit is the best of AMI and of our profession. If you don’t have a posse of other agency owners/leaders — I implore you to find one. If AMI works for you, great. If not, seek it somewhere else. But do not fight the fight alone. Looking for some places to learn from other agency owners/leaders? Build and Nurture your Agency's Sales Funnel— January 21/22 in Orlando on WDW property Running Your Agency for growth, profit & a little sanity — April 6/7 in Chicago Advanced AE Bootcamp –August 17/18 in Chicago AE Bootcamp — September 14/15 in Chicago Money Matters for Agency Owners — Dates TBD We’d love to help [...]

By |January 11th, 2021|

A bad fit pinches

We have all bought clothes that weren’t quite the right fit. Whether too tight, too big or whatever the issue — they are uncomfortable and when you are wearing that misfit of clothes — you are very aware that something is not quite right. In fact, pretty soon, the pinching, sagging or snugness is all you can focus on. You either bought it without doing your homework (trying it on or moving around in it) or it was so cool/cute/dashing that you ignored the intial discomfort, thinking you could either fix it or get used to it. But we don’t. I think that exact same thing happens with clients. We either ignore the warning signs, think we can fix them or, if we’re honest with ourselves, we want their money and don’t care if the fix is off. You know it when you do it. There’s that nagging voice in the back of your head that you shhh every time it raises a concern. We’ve all done it. If you haven’t done it yet — you haven’t owned your agency very long. I get why we do it. But I also get the price we pay. I have never seen an agency turn that situation into a profitable one. In the short run — sure, you can make some money. But in the long run, you are going to lose money and even worse, potentially lose critically valuable team members. That’s why I wrote the article How to Find New Clients That Fit Your Agency Perfectly for Forbes. I not only believe we don’t have to settle for wrong fit clients but I think we’re fools if we do. Take the time to find the [...]

By |January 4th, 2021|

Noticing the signs

A couple of years ago, when we were able to be out and about and travel the world, I went on a photo safari vacation to South Africa with my daughter. We spent the better part of a week in the bush, coming face to face with prides of lions, serene giraffe, wild dogs right after a kill, and even some mating leopards! I was fascinated to watch how our rangers and trackers scanned the dirt for tracks, examined the foliage to look for breaks, and even tested the temperature of dung to determine what animals were nearby and how long ago they had come through. The clues were so subtle that it was amazing when they spotted them. But the rewards that came from that attention to minute detail was the difference between an incredible game drive (or survival in different circumstances) and just a lovely drive in the woods. It made me think about our own business and all of the subtle clues that our clients, prospects, and employees give off. I wonder how many of them we blindly walk by, about to enter into a danger zone we’re not expecting? I think most agency owners are very astute at picking up the signs — unless we’re moving too quickly and are too distracted to be present. Which is pretty much every day. So what are we missing? One of the traits of the tracker and ranger that took me some time to get used to was the speed at which they worked. Slowly. Sometimes painstakingly slowly. As a Type A kind of guy, I was pretty antsy in the beginning. But then I began to understand the method to their madness and [...]

By |December 28th, 2020|

How do you avoid losing your star players?

Every day I talk to agency owners who are worried about losing a key employee and every day another key agency employee walks out the door so it's easy to see why finding and keeping talent is the #1 pain point for most agencies today. Unfortunately, having a laid back culture, flex time and more vacation isn’t enough anymore. I wrote an article for Forbes on this topic and I identified several ways (based on our research with almost 1,000 agency employees) agencies are upping their game to keep their best team members. As always — I hope it’s helpful and I’d love to hear how you’re managing this challenge.

By |December 21st, 2020|
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