Implementing Efficient Business Processes and Systems with Brian Shea

  • Business Processes and Systems - Brian Shea

Business processes and systems. Most business owners flinch at these words but the truth is that your agency cannot grow/scale without both. Processes and systems actually increase the ability to be creative by freeing your team from re-inventing the wheel every time they’re trying to get something done.

That’s exactly what my podcast guest, Brian Shea brings to the table.  Brian and his firm, Shea Consulting take process and systems to the next level by helping agencies customize them so they can grow and scale efficiently. Through the use of systems and processes, they minimize the stuff you don’t want to do so you have more time and energy to do the stuff you want to do.   

In this podcast, Brian covers:

  • How implementing systems is vital to successfully scaling a business.
  • How looking at a business’s current processes can help business owners structure the company in a way that allows them to focus on the creative and strategic work, and delegate more tasks to employees, thus developing the employee’s abilities.
  • How to dig deep and get to the actual cause of why processes, systems and software fail.
  • The consequences an agency may face if they do not implement processes and systems.
  • Great, easy to implement ideas for helping agencies connect with their dream clients.

Brian Shea is the founder of Shea Consulting, where he helps companies become more proficient with their business development systems so they can enjoy consistent, sustainable success.

To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/brian-shea/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.

If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25-plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew: This is going to be a great episode of Build a Better Agency. Drew McLellan here to guide you to strengthening your agency so you can enjoy all the rewards of business ownership without all of the worries and the headaches, which is why I know today’s guest is gonna rock it for you.

So, Brian Shea is with us today. Brian is the founder of Shea Consulting. And he works with busy companies and helps them do it better. What I love about Brian’s work is he takes companies who are already very successful and already have lots of tools in place, and he helps them implement additional business processes and systems, which I know for agency folks are two swear words, into place to streamline, get more done, and do the work they’re capable of, their best sales, marketing, and best service to their clients and customers. And so with that, Brian, welcome to the podcast.

Brian: Hey, Drew. Thanks a lot for having me.

Drew: So I wanna talk about systems and processes, which as I said in my introduction to you are curse words in most agencies as I know you’ve experienced.

Brian: Absolutely, yup.

Drew: Before we dive into that, though, give everybody a little bit more information about your background and how you came to start the consulting business.

Brian: Sure. So I spent about 10 years working with a large company, large organizations, large corporate organizations, and a few large nonprofits, specifically higher ed institutions. And I worked in the space sort of sitting in between marketing and technology. So basically, me and my colleagues, as both an employee and a consultant, we help marketing and salespeople basically do their job by putting software in place, by customizing that software for the particular teams we were working for or working with, putting business processes in place, doing some training, that kind of thing. And I started my own consulting business working specifically with large companies, and I found more and more that smaller companies were reaching out to me. Or I was talking with smaller companies, and they had needs that were similar to the big companies. They were having trouble with their software. They were having trouble getting their sales and marketing done. They were having pain points in their services. And I found that working with those smaller companies was a blast. I really enjoyed doing it. And also there was a niche there for me to serve them. So that’s sort of in a nutshell my career and how I got started working with kind of boutique service companies and boutique agencies.

Drew: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about these business process and systems. Why do you think that small businesses are so resistant to the idea of process and system? Because if there is one thing I see across the board when I work with agencies is they give a lot of lip service to the value of process and systems. But, man, it kills them to actually implement and maintain one.

Brian: Sure. So, I think the number one reason why people, especially smaller companies, are resistant to systems is I think when people hear systems and processes, they think, “Okay, we’re gonna stop everything for three months or six months. We’re gonna spend a lot of money on consultants. And they’re gonna put a whole bunch of stuff in place that makes us maybe run more efficiently but also, in a sense, be more bureaucratic and more big company-like.” And I totally hear that because I’ve actually worked on projects like that. But in general, the reason why I work on systems and processes is to really help those smaller companies with the pain points that they’re experiencing day to day.

You know, one of my big sort of learning curves in working with smaller companies… Like I said, I work with larger companies for years. And larger companies have big budgets, and they’ve got a lot of people, and they’ve got a lot of time to do large scale projects. One of the things that I had to learn in working with smaller companies is how we can take a lot of the tools and the process in the projects that I do and really implement them very, very quickly, like on the scale of four to six weeks. Do an assessment, figure out what an issue is, and really start to immediately alleviate pain points that small companies are feeling. So I think that’s the number one reason. It’s that feeling of how long is this gonna take and how much is this going to cost us? And for a lot of small agencies and small businesses, they were started oftentimes by dynamic salespeople or dynamic account people or dynamic design and creative people.  

So the idea of taking that formula and putting it through a system feels…it doesn’t seem to make sense for a lot of agency owners, for a good reason. So I definitely understand where that’s coming from. But on the flip side, what I hear a lot of companies saying, and agency owners in particular are saying, they get to a certain point in their success, and they say something to the effect of “We keep running into the same wall” or “My company is successful, but I know it can be so much more” or “We’re going for this new goal, whether it be a new market or a larger scale client or a new type of project or maybe a product.” And they just can’t seem to get traction on it. And oftentimes, that’s a process issue in terms of how their team works together. We’re putting the right tools in place to help them do their work better.

Drew: Yeah, I think agencies get to a certain size where they can kind of chug along by the seat of their pants. But as they start to scale and as the tribe gets big enough that the tribal knowledge “I can’t know what everybody’s doing all the time anymore, and I can’t have my finger on every project or every client,” then all of a sudden, it’s impossible to scale without some systems in place.

Brian: Right. Kind of funny enough, I went back like a few weeks ago, I was sort of thinking about, okay, what are the reasons why people come to me? Like what is the felt need that people have where they pick up the phone and they call me or somebody like me? And one of the things that I found over and over again is companies who have the CEO or somebody very close to CEO used to handle all the sales, right? And then they hired one or two salespeople trying to grow the company. And they found that hiring the new salespeople didn’t increase sales at all, just added work, like added management work, added oversight, all of this stuff. And that’s the point where they realize we need to do something process and systems wise to help the company grow and to help these new salespeople be productive in their jobs. So there definitely is a point in scaling or growth mode where systems and processes, you really can’t live without them.

Drew: Well, you know, I had an interesting email conversation with an agency owner yesterday about the whole idea of strategic thinking. And I challenged him because he was talking about the fact that he’s really the only one in the shop who can do that at the level he wants it done. And I said, “That’s a learned skill. And you could put a process around it or teach it.” And it had never occurred to him. He just assumed that people either had it or don’t have it. And I think that kind of mentality around all kinds of process and system is one of the reasons why they’re not implemented better.

Brian: Right. And a lot of times too, when you think about the agency that either the founder or maybe a small cadre of the people who started early on who are kind of the strategic thinkers in the company, a lot of times, those folks are doing a lot of great amazing strategic work. But they’re also doing a lot of stuff that they don’t wanna be doing too, which is maybe there’s business development activities that they’re doing or administrative tasks that they’re doing or, I don’t know, sales or service tasks or aspects of their job that maybe they don’t need to be doing anymore. And oftentimes when we go in and look at their process, it allows them to do a couple things. Well, the first is just have transparency into how their business works, because a lot of times it’s sort of in people’s heads, but they don’t have an objective look on “Okay, this is actually how we do business.”

But the second thing it allows them to do is break up their work a little bit more and delegate tasks a little bit more. And this has two benefits. Number one is the founders get to focus on that strategic work that they love to do, that creative work that they love to do, or that biz network that they love to do. And the second thing is it allows them to do is to delegate tasks to kind of their next rung of employees or staff. And it helps to develop those people, so they can start doing the higher level work a year, two, three down the line. So, it helps them develop their organization in general. It can have a lot of non-obvious benefits to put process in place. It’s not only an aspect of “Hey, we can save some time” or “We can make things run more efficiently.” But it can really be about growing your company from a talent perspective too, not just like a headcount or dollar perspective.

Drew: Well, and I don’t know if this has been your observation, but I think, at least with my sort of lens on agencies, they start a lot of processes and systems. They just don’t stick.

Brian: Yes.

Drew: Give me your idea of why that, why start them and not be able to sustain them?

Brian: Sure. So I think I think one of the biggest reasons why business processes and systems and software fail is because, at the beginning, the folks that are trying to implement them, a lot of times, they don’t get down to the root cause of what’s actually causing the problem. And before I even talk about process and systems and all that stuff, I was talking with a friend of mine, a fellow business owner, and he was saying that he was having problems with his projects. He’s a consultant. He’s having problems with his projects. He’d get to the end of projects, and the projects would sort of bleed on longer than he had expected. And they’d sort of start aspects of the project but not finish them successfully. And the scope of work always seemed to get a little bit out of whack. And he found that it was happening more like in the last year.

So we were sort of chatting, we were chatting, we were chatting. And after chatting about this for an hour, what we came to realize was that his problem was that he didn’t have enough leads in his pipeline. And as a result of not having enough leads in his pipeline, what he’s always trying to do is tack on additional stuff on to his existing project. He’s trying to say, “Hey, we’re gonna do this,” and then as the project went along, “Hey, you also need this as well.” So it was causing him to sort of go outside of the scope of contract, add scope in. And it just wasn’t working. My point is that the felt need was “Hey, my projects are failing.” But the cause of it was he didn’t have enough leads, totally different thing, right?  

And I think where a lot of projects, a lot of systems and process and software fails is they look quickly and they say, “Man, we’re having a lot of pain on our projects. We need a new piece of project management software.” So they go, and they implement this big piece of project management software when, like in this example, the issue has nothing to do with how they run their projects, a little bit had to do with how they run the project. But really the core issue, the root cause is that they didn’t have enough leads. So until you solve the “We don’t have enough leads” problem, you’re not gonna solve the, you know, “Our projects aren’t going well” problem. So I think that for me is the number one issue is that people are trying to address the wrong thing with process and systems and whatnot.

So what we talked about at the beginning in terms of companies, especially small companies, not having the appetite to take on a three, six, nine month analysis and process building project with good reason makes complete sense. So for me, in my business, what I had to do is sort of take the process that I used with big companies, where they did spend three, six, nine months on this, and figure out a way to collapse it into, again, four or six weeks to figure out, to do something that I call a root cause analysis and figure out, okay, what is the true problem here and do it quick and to have specific steps that I go through to do it. And for me, that’s sort of the secret sauce too to an extent and in terms of what I do. There’s a lot of people that can implement software. There’s a lot of people that can help train employees on how to do various things. But I find that until you get good at figuring what that root cause is, it doesn’t really matter what you do after that, because you’re sort of shooting at a moving target.

Drew: So I’m not asking you to give us your secret sauce, but are there some things that agency owners could do if they have identified, “Man, I’m tired of banging my head against this brick wall”? Are there some questions they can ask themselves, or are there some symptoms they can look for that might hint at a root cause or a cause a least a little deeper than the surface symptom?

Brian: Sure, yeah, and I’m happy to give away my secret sauce. I actually believe in that. But what I’ll do is I’ll just sort of talk through, and I’m not trying to make a pitch about what I do, but I’ll just talk through about sort of how I do the assessment phase of my projects, because I think it just sort of tells you, if somebody were to do it on their own, how they could do it.

Drew: Okay, great.

Brian: So I break my assessment down into four steps. The first one is we get clear on goals. The second is we look at current state process and pain points and figure out, again, root cause of those pain points. Three is what should the business process be, whether it’s a sales process or how a company produces content or whatever the case maybe or how they do their services. What should that look like? And then the fourth is what I call implementation options. And basically, those are the tangible things that a company can do whether it be implementing software, processes, or what to get from where they are to where they wanna go. And it’s really as simple as that.

In terms of goals, what I try to do, you know, and I’m sure, you hear it too, like when business owners talk about goals, they’d be like “Okay, we wanna grow.” Okay, or “We’re not working on a number of ideal projects. We wanna work on more…” you know, this type of client or this size of project or whatever the case may be. So the first thing we do, and I’m sure you do the same thing, is focus on getting more specific on that. So a lot of times, when companies say they wanna grow, especially with a service business like an agency, a lot of times, there’s a limit.

Drew: Absolutely.

Brian: How much they could possibly grow like within the next year or two. So figuring out what that is, like what their max is, is huge, because it could be maybe 10% or 20% or one new client a quarter or something.

Drew: Which I also think gives them a sense of relief that “I’m not hunting for 20 new clients. I’m hunting for 3.”  

Brian: Exactly, yeah. I was chatting with a lead gen company, and they were like “The solution is always more leads.” And I would say, “Absolutely not,” because there’s a lot of companies out there that, you know, if they were to get twice as many leads, they couldn’t handle twice as much business. So when you can get clear that the issue is “Hey, we wanna get one new client a quarter” maybe or, I don’t know, if they’re a bigger size client, maybe one every six months or something, that’s totally different than “We wanna double our business in a year.” So getting really clear on that is huge. And like you said, that can be a huge relief to companies, because they know like, “Okay, well, this is what we actually need to do.” It might be, let’s say, it’s one new closed project a quarter. Okay, well, then we can take a step back even further and say right now, how many leads does your team generally close? Is it one in seven? It’s okay. It’s one in seven. So now, we have to figure out how to get seven good qualified leads into your pipeline more every quarter so that it becomes much more tangible. So that’s kind of the goal side of it.

In terms of the current process, again, that’s about figuring out what really is the root cause of the problem. And for that one, that one is, you know, I find probably if somebody’s gonna try to do this themselves, I would say the biggest thing that they can do is to talk through the pain that they’re experiencing with somebody, you know, a smart person that they know, maybe a fellow executive at a different company.  And sort of openly talk about the pain that they’re feeling, because I find one of the biggest things that I bring to clients is not just the experience I have, but just the objectivity of it, where I can kind of…  

Drew: Absolutely.

Brian: You know what I mean? So it’s like that’s a tough one to do yourself. But I think if you’re gonna do it, try to get somebody, sort of a peer or somebody who you trust and who’s smart to kind of talk it through with them. So that’s figuring out the pain points.

And then in terms of what their current process should look like and implementation, obviously, I won’t bore you with those. But as you can imagine, it’s sort of about taking those pain points and figuring out the best ways to solve those.

Drew: So one of the things that you didn’t mention, and I’m sure it’s because you’re nicer than I am, but one of the reasons why I think agencies struggle with processes and systems is because the process is often implemented with this sort of a phrase, “I think it would be really awesome if all of you did time sheets,” right? And talk to me about the importance of the leadership setting the example as a new process is being implemented.

Brian: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Before we got on this, before you hit the record button, you and I were chatting. And I was saying, like all business owners, I run into a case of the, you know, the cobbler shoes. Where there are times that I look at my systems and the way that I run my business, my business process. Man, I’m glad there’s no client seeing this, because I could really be doing this better and in a more systematic way. But to your point, yeah, I mean with organizations, it always starts from the top. And, yeah, the CEO or the executive team needs to be on board with the systems to make them work for a couple of reasons. One is because folks look up to the executive team. And if the executive team isn’t doing it, nobody else is going to. All the work kind of starts with them. And in most organizations, most small organizations, everything very much revolves around the executive team. So it just doesn’t work if they’re not doing it. A lot of the work kind of starts with them. So, yeah, it’s critical for the leadership to be on board.

And again, I think it goes back to the reluctance to do it, to be more process- oriented, to be more systems-oriented, has to do with stuff that we already talked about, right? Like it’s gonna be too expensive. It’s gonna slow us down. It’s gonna take too long. We’re a creative group. We’re a sales-driven group. We don’t have time for processes. It’s not what we do. Or the case of feeling like the processes you’re implementing aren’t really solving the problems that need to be solved, and you’re just putting process in for process’ sake. So I get why there is that reluctance. But you’re absolutely right. Like it needs to come from the top, or it just doesn’t fly.

Drew: I also think one of the maybe misunderstandings around business processes and systems is, particularly in the agency world, and you sort of touched on it earlier, is that it feels bureaucratic or it feels stifling. And regardless of what kind of agency we are, we pride ourselves on the creativity, whether it’s we’re strategically creative or sort of traditionally creative or whatever it may be. And so there’s almost an inherent aberration for the idea of the cookie cutter. A lot of agencies talk about “We don’t do cookie cutter. We do custom solutions.” So address that issue of system and process in that context.

Brian: Sure. It’s interesting, because I work with not just agencies. I work with kind of B2B professional services companies. And it’s interesting, because some companies very much embrace the idea of process in the sense of, like I sort of talked about the steps that I go through in terms of my assessment. And that’s something that I’m very upfront about with potential clients or clients. I say, you know, “This is how we’re gonna do it. I do it this way every time.” Especially in the consulting space, that idea of having sort of a proprietary process, whatever that means, or a way that we do things is very much embraced. So for those types of businesses, a lot of times, I have a much easier time making the case for processes and systems.

But in terms of, sort of, what you’re describing as those, if you’re talking about a branding shop or you know sort of a boutique design shop, you’re right. I mean they’re doing extremely creative work that requires a lot of customization and care and taste. And the idea of bringing process to that isn’t…it sounds anathema to it. But what I find is processes in cases like those help them do things that they don’t necessarily wanna do but do them better. So, for instance, different companies have different things that they like to do and don’t like to do. But I know with, to generalize, a lot of creative firms aren’t huge fans of doing sales. Putting a killer sales process in place allows them to do sales better, make more sales in a much more painless, much more efficient way. So for a company like that, a creative agency, a lot of times, there are aspects to their business that they’re struggling with. And systems and processes allow them to do them better and in a more painless way. So that’s sort of the first thing that I think of when you talk about that creative business that doesn’t really embrace systems. It’s not to say that you’re gonna take your creative work and turn it into cookie cutter or repeatable or outsource-able. It’s that you’re gonna take the aspects of your business that need to be improved and make them work a lot better so you can do that work that is the high value add or the important thing that you love to do.

Drew: So, let me just see if I can paraphrase this. So part of what I’m hearing you say is that a lot of times business processes and systems are in place to minimize the stuff you don’t wanna do so you have more time and energy to do the stuff you do wanna do.

Brian: Yes, thank you. You said that in 20 seconds. It took me 5 minutes to say. But, yes, that’s exactly right.

Drew: Well, I wouldn’t have been able to say it at all if you hadn’t said it first. So we’re good. So, what’s the price of not systemizing? We talked a little bit about the inability to scale. What are the other consequences of… Although they are loath to admit it, I think a lot of agency owners sort of like the fact that they kind of fly by the seat of their pants. So what’s the cost of that?

Brian: So there’s a few different things. One of the things that… There’s been a couple of occasions of it recently that I’ve run into. But having processes and, well, I’ll just tell you the thought that immediately came to mind when you said that. There’s a couple of small professional services companies that friends and I knew, we’re sort of in similar circles, and they were doing amazing work. The work looked great. They had a great client list. And all of a sudden, they went out of business. And the reason was…I shouldn’t say “the reason was.” I don’t know what the reason was. But you see that a lot, because like the interior of the business isn’t running properly. They’re doing projects internally in a way that maybe isn’t making money or isn’t efficient enough. They’re doing amazing work. But from a business perspective, they’re not running the way they should be. So that’s sort of the worst extreme case.

But just sort of a less scary case is a founder who maybe loves running by the seat of his or her pants but doesn’t like pulling all nighters anymore or is just sort of tired of not taking vacation or an executive team or a team in general that’s just burnt out. Or the one that I mentioned before is we’re trying to grow in a certain area, whether it be hiring more people or getting kind of one or two dream clients or getting more projects or launching a product. And they just can’t seem to get to the next level. It’s kind of all of the above right there. It can be something as small as just burnout, which isn’t really a small thing. But it can manifest itself in terms of burnout. Or it can manifest itself in really bad stuff, like going out of business. Or it can manifest itself in “We can’t grow in the way that we know we’re capable of.” So it could be any of those things.

And again, going back to that idea of goals, I think this is where goals are super important, because I’m not an advocate of scaling for scaling’s sake. If I look at my business, one employee in my business is me. I have a lot of subcontractors that I work with. But I have no desire at this point in my life to hire people. So I’m not an advocate of scaling just for scaling’s sake. But I’ve built a business that works for me. And at a high level, when you see business owners that are struggling and they build businesses that are no longer working for them or they want them to be in a certain place and they’re not, a lot of times, it comes back to looking at goals, seeing what the pain points are, and then fixing the business.  Whether it’s with a business process or a system or some other thing that helps them to get to where they wanna go. So again, long answer, but that’s the answer.

Drew: Well, you know, you mentioned it earlier when you were talking about your friend whose pain point really was that the pipeline wasn’t full enough, and so they ended up sort of giving away a lot of work to their current clients. I’m sure with the hope that they would then be able to bill those clients for that work. And sometimes they could, and sometimes they could not.

Brian: Exactly, yup.

Drew: And I think, as I crawl through a lot of agencies’ financials, if there’s one business system or process that most of them don’t do well, it is all around scope creep and getting change orders done and holding clients accountable to a scope document, well, back up, writing a decent scope document, but then holding a client accountable to that. And so, you know, I think the other cost is, literally a cost.  It’s the money that is left on the table because you’re over-servicing clients and have no way to recoup that cost and, in some cases, no way to even track that you’re doing that and to understand the magnitude of the loss.

Brian: Right. And I’m really, really glad you brought that up. When I was talking earlier about companies that get into trouble, I felt like it was something like I was talking about their core financials. But what you’re talking about and what I was thinking of is the question around scope of projects. And this can definitely happen. We’re talking about creative business owners. I’ve seen this happen a lot in creative projects where they get so invested in a particular creative vision that the project is losing money, or they’re not making lot of money on the client. And there’s a way to do both, achieve an amazing creative vision and also have a financially successful business outcome for your agency by doing a few things that, and I’m sure you’d agree, in terms of writing scope documents, sticking to scope documents, figuring out ways to communicate with clients in a positive way. They’re not impossible things to solve. They can be relatively straightforward to solve as long as you’re, as an agency owner, willing to look at them and willing to take some time to do things the right way. So, I totally agree with you on defining scope and, I’ll say, sticking with the scope that you define for the project.

Drew: Yeah, and there very well may not be an answer to this question. It may be too generic a question. But if an agency is primarily system-free, so, you know, they’ve got some process in how they work with clients and all that, but for the most part, they’re system-free. Is there a spot, is there a department or a functionality where, if they’re gonna start to systemize, if they’re gonna start to kind of put on their big boy or big girl pants and start to, to your point, scale to the aspect level where an agency owner doesn’t have to be there every day and doesn’t have to be in every meeting but really is able to work on the business rather than in the business, are there some systems that every business needs to have?

Brian: So I’m gonna give you two answers. I’m gonna give you the philosophical answer, and then the second one is sort of the real-world answer. The philosophical one would be, again, with the idea of looking at goals and pain points, identify where the pain point is, the true pain point, and start there. That’s sort of the philosophical answer. The real-world answer, especially for agencies, is over and over again having a CRM in place and having a way that your business, the people in your business who need to do business development, having them know how to use it and having a, I’ll use the word, process for how they do business development I’d say is the one thing, the biggest thing, for service-based businesses.

People wanna go nuts when they talk about marketing technology in terms of all these fantastic things you can do in terms of marketing automation, content creation things, and all these different things, which are awesome. But for service-based businesses, again and again, the companies that I work with, when you dig in, the ones that have a solid CRM and a solid process around their CRM, those are the ones that are just doing well over and over and over again. So I would say start with CRM as kind of that that real-world example. That’s a great, great place to start.

Drew: Yeah, new business solves a lot of problems.

Brian. Yes.

Drew: And it also surfaces other problems again as you grow, but it’s a lot easier to solve those problems when you’re feeling fat and happy as opposed to when you’re scrambling to make payroll.

Brian: Yes, yup. And, yeah, it’s CRM and new business is a fantastic place to start, especially, again, because some agencies grow up driven by an account person or a salesperson. So for them, CRM and new business is very much in their DNA. But other companies that grow up from more of a creative direction, a lot of times, sales is not something that they like to do. So for those companies, especially like spending some time, thinking about how you generate new business and putting…and the stuff doesn’t even need to be that complex, but putting a CRM in place is a huge step forward.

Drew: Well, and a lot of agencies when I talk to them about how they get new business, the most common answer, of course, is “Oh, it’s all by referral.” Well, at a certain point in time, you have to work with people who don’t know someone you know. Otherwise, you know, sitting back and waiting for clients or prospects to walk in the door, either through referral or however they may find you, means that that’s your choice right there as opposed to you being really conscious about “These are the kind of companies I wanna work with. These are the kind of clients that we can really delight on a day-in-day-out basis. So I want more of those.”

Brian: Yeah, nothing wrong, obviously, there’s nothing wrong with word of mouth. It’s great to have. But, yeah, you can definitely add on to it. And I know, it’s funny, I was chatting with somebody, and he was giving the example, I think everybody has heard this sort of story before of the creative design person who has no website, who does no marketing, who does no business development, and has all this business. And that’s all well and good. I’m sure those people are out there and doing great. But there are ways to put a new business program in place that don’t need to necessarily take a lot of time and can really, really change a business for the better. And I will make a plug for your fantastic macro, micro, and nano framework that I think everybody should read, because it’s fantastic.

Drew: Thank you very much. I’m sure the listeners are tired of hearing me nagging them about it. But so we could probably continue this for quite some time. But I wanna be respectful of your time and wanna kind of wrap this up. But I like to end every podcast with something really tangible and practical that our listeners can take some action on right away. So if there are two or three things that you would say to everybody listening, “Go back to your shop and do this if you want to get a little more process-driven or a little more system-driven or if you wanna identify where you need to start,” what would you suggest that they go back and do?

Brian: Okay, so I am going to pick up the nano piece of your framework, because I think it’s great for business. And I think it also illustrates how business processes and systems can be great for companies. So part of that nano piece of your framework was to choose, I think you said, 25 dream clients, right, and basically to love these folks to death until you either what is it? Number one, they hire you or, number two, they tell you to go away.

Drew: Yup, that’s right. Those are the two choices.

Brian: Those are the two choices, right? And the thing with that is…25 is a lot. For a lot of people, it doesn’t sound like many. But I’ve talked with clients about it, and I’ve actually told the ones that I’ve talked to to not to try to do 25, to do either a dozen or 18, because they were a little bit smaller companies. But what I loved about the article, and this is what illustrates process, is to think about, let’s say, you’ve got a dozen realistic but dream clients that your agency would love to work with and take that list and think through the next 12 months. And think about over the next 12 months, what is the information that you could give them that would help them. What are the things that you can do? What are the things that you can send them that would not only help them but keep you top of mind and show off your expertise? And that could take the form of, I remember you mentioned, snail mailing a great book that you read, preferably a book that you wrote or a white paper that your business created, helping them but also showing off your expertise. But taking that and thinking out a year in advance and putting those things in place so they’re done consistently, we haven’t talked about that, but that’s another huge benefit of putting a process in place, especially with sales, is consistency, is keeping in touch with that prospect that contacted you at the end of 2014 and said, “I’m not ready to buy yet. But I’d love to keep in touch,” and then keeping in touch with them in a way where whenever they are ready to buy, they think of you and you’re top of mind and you’ve shown off your expertise to them.

So, yeah, I would say for folks out there, definitely take that idea of the nano framework. Pick out two dozen dream clients and think of a process for keeping in touch with them in a consistent way. I was telling somebody that if a company does that, I said with a dozen prospects, if you do that for a year, Drew, what do you think? I mean how many new clients out of those dozen would you get? I would say you get one. You might get two. I mean that’s fantastic. Do you know what I mean? I mean that’s fantastic to get one or two dream clients.  

Drew: And again, if you’re building your list right, they are of the size that you don’t need a dozen of them. You only need one or two a year. That would a round out your client base beautifully.

Brian: Right, exactly, yeah. Again, if you take that idea of what would one or two, if you’re a boutique agency owner, what would one or two I deal perfect dream clients in the next year do for your business? A lot of people would say, “That would be huge. That’s our number one thing.” And to take it, walk it back at the steps in the process you need to go through to do that, like it seems almost too simple, right? Pick 12 prospects and just love them to death in a consistent way, and you’re probably gonna get 1 or 2. So to answer your question, that is my one tip. That is my one takeaway.

Drew: Well, and as you know, it sounds simple, but most folks don’t and won’t do it. And so that’s again where you could stand out is if you actually do it consistently and they hear from you every six weeks or so, they’re going to remember you.  

Brian: Yup.

Drew: Yeah, absolutely.

Brian: One last thing I was gonna say, actually, I was talking with our mutual friend, Susan Baier, about this. And we were talking about how a lot of the stuff out there to grow a great business, it’s sort of like the advice to give somebody if they wanted to run a marathon, right? Like you got to run consistently. You gotta eat right. You got to make sure you get enough sleep. There’s no secret weapon here. It’s just about doing the fundamentals consistently over time. You’re absolutely right with that nano strategy. It’s not rocket science. But there’s not a lot of companies that actually do something like that. And it really helps them to stand apart.

Drew: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so, Brian, if folks wanna hear more business processes and systems from you, if they wanna read your blog, if they wanna find out more about your business, what is the best way for them to track you down?

Brian: Sure. So they can go to my consulting site, it’s sheaconsulting.biz, and I’ll spell that out, because my last name isn’t obvious. It’s sheaconsulting.biz. I also have a blog that I write as well and a newsletter, so people can check that out at sheaconsulting.biz/blog.

Drew: Yeah, it’s great content, and it’s good practical content. One of the things I like about the work that you do is it’s not ethereal. It’s not all about the philosophy. It’s “Okay, let’s just roll up our sleeves and figure this out.” It’s very pragmatic, which is I think helpful, which is, you know, it would be nice if everybody’s content is that way. But yours certainly is. So I strongly encourage our listeners to go check that out. And I think you’re gonna find a lot of good suggestions that you can put into play right away.

Brian: Well, I really appreciate you saying that, Drew. Especially coming from you, it means a lot. So thanks.  

Drew: So, Brian, thank you so much for your time. I really am so grateful that you are so generous with not only your time but with sharing your expertise. I know a lot of folks, even if they had heard that we were talking about business processes and systems in the beginning, I think now that they’ve listened to our whole podcast, maybe it’s not so scary to them. And hopefully, they’ll embrace some of your suggestions soon, because I think you and I both know that that will help their business. So thank you.

Brian: Yes, thank you

Drew: Appreciate it.  

That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementInstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients, and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.

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