"By prioritizing your people and striking a balance between strong core operations and flexibility, you can set your team up for success, no matter what the new year brings." In this piece I recently contributed to Forbes.com I discuss how to create your business plan for 2021 amid uncertainty.
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 [...]
As an agency owner that serves the travel, tourism and hospitality industry exclusively, I have been tracking the data on when face-to-face group meetings and conventions will return. My clients depend on it! The good news is face-to-face events will return. The better news is innovation is happening at a rapid pace in the meetings industry and you will see many virtual features that have become popular during the shutdowns stick around as new hybrid formats are created. If you or your clients have been resisting the investment in virtual events, now is the time to get serious about adding them into your marketing mix. Here are some data points that we have been tracking that tell us this makes good business sense. First, the sentiment of the American Traveler is telling us it will be a slow rebuild for face-to-face events to be at the level they were pre-pandemic. A few highlights from Destinations Analysts Coronavirus Traveler Sentiment Index Report from December 15, 2020: 74% of American Travelers say they will not attend an in-person group meeting or convention until the Coronavirus situation is resolved. Only 24% of American Travelers say they have plans for in-person group meetings and conventions in 2021 53% of American Travelers say they will not feel comfortable going to an in-person group meeting or convention until sometime after September 2021 If you or your clients are counting on adding events back into the mix in 2021, be prepared for fewer event options and lower attendance. Many projections are targeting 2024 and 2025 for a full return, if live events and meetings are an important part of your marketing mix waiting four years is likely not the best option. Benefits [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
Our goal as leaders is to help steer our team, motivate them when times get tough, and achieve the objectives and goals we’ve identified for the term. To do this well we consult with our clients on how to create Clarity, Alignment, and Purpose. Clarity of the vision. Alignment to make sure we’re all on the same page. And Purpose to understand how what we do matters. Purpose tends to be the missing link for a great many organizations and leaders. (Especially during a particularly challenging period of time. Our purpose gets lost in the stress.) Yet, when employees understand the purpose behind their work -- as in, why what they do matters -- you can unlock another level of effort, effectiveness, and efficiency that wasn’t there before. The difference between hands, head and heart. When you have someone’s hands, they’re willing to do the work and will achieve some level of productivity. Companies that have built great processes into their work can achieve their goals with just their employee’s hands. The challenge is, they may not be putting their “all” into the work they do and they’re definitely not thinking about how to make the process better. When you have someone’s head, they’re not only doing the work well, but they’re thinking about how they could do it better. An employee who is engaged at the “head” level will put more mental energy into the work they do and find different, better and more efficient ways of working. You’ll achieve productivity and profitability with a group of employees that use their heads, but there’s another level you can strive to achieve. At the ‘heart’ level, you’ve engaged an employee in such a way that [...]
Owning, leading, or even just working in an agency is a fantastic gig. You get to be surrounded by wicked smart, witty, committed teammates, you get to save the day for clients on a regular basis, and let’s face it, the work is fun most days. We are lucky. Damn lucky. But we are also tired. Along with all of those privileges comes the worry of keeping the sales pipeline full, dealing with the human side of your team and clients (which can be both joyful and tragic as we all walk out our lives together), and long, arduous days. (and nights, and weekends....) We work at a pace that is fast and furious, shifting from one client to the next and often working weird and long hours. That is unsustainable without giving yourself some respite. But we’re not so good about giving ourselves that break. It’s not about taking a vacation or a long weekend or just not checking email for 24 hours — it’s about survival. Back when I was a kid in the business (call me 30 or so) I remember one of my mentors saying “this is a young man’s game, Drew. “ And that was before the 24/7 connectivity we have now. I think he was both right and wrong. Our chosen profession does require an incredible amount of energy and passion but that’s not about being young. It’s about recognizing that it’s an endurance sport and we have to train and plan for that. Here’s my challenge to you — when was the last time you didn’t check email for 24 hours? When was the last time you took 5 workdays off (in a row!) and played as hard [...]
If there is an Achille’s heel for agency owners, it’s the ability to have candid conversations with members of their team. In our work with over 250 agencies a year, this is a pattern I’ve come to recognize all too often. A strong, charismatic owner is petrified to be honest with a member of their team. So they either avoid the topic altogether or they pussyfoot around the discussion, leaving the employee in the dark but feeling as though they can check it off the list. I have my own theories about why so many agency owners allow this weakness to paralyze their agency’s growth but whatever the root cause, it’s one of the biggest barriers to building the agency you deserve to own. See if any of these seem familiar: You don’t do regular reviews of your team You often find yourself talking (and repeating the same conversation) about an employee with your business partner or another employee that serves in a leadership role You have a love/hate relationship with a superstar performer who isn’t in alignment with your agency’s culture You tiptoe around conversations because you’re afraid of the repercussions You believe that having frank conversations that hold people accountable is not good for your agency’s culture You can be good at just about everything else, but if you can’t cultivate a culture of respectful candor — you’re going to hit a brick wall. Again and again. This is a leadership issue. This is a maturity issue, and this is a profitability and growth issue. If you want to attract and retain top performers — you have to be willing to rise above your discomfort and be candid with them. Beyond that, you [...]
I remember my parents lamenting how quickly time passed and, as a kid, I thought they were crazy. Every day seemed to crawl along. Now, I get it. A blink ago it was December and we were all planning our amazing 2020. Little did we know what 2020 had in store. Now, we’re almost to December again. How are you coming on those plans? If you’re a typical agency — you’re behind. Distractions, especially this year, (both worthy and the squirrel variety) have drawn your attention and your time away from your biggest priorities. It’s not too late but it is time to get serious about it. Here’s what I’d like you to do: Pull together any planning documents you developed for 2021 Schedule a 2-3 hour meeting with your leadership team A week ahead of that meeting, send them all the documents with your assessment of the agency’s progress on each goal Ask them to come prepared to discuss: Is this still a priority? (For each item) What do we need to do to get this back on track/keep on track? Who needs to own this goal/initiative? If we only accomplished one of these goals — which one matters the most? Have an open conversation around these questions and then revise your plan. Odds are, you were more ambitious than is reasonable. So get realistic with yourselves and get back on track. Note — if you don’t have any planning documents — that does not mean you should disregard this. You can still pull everyone together and create a plan for the new year. It’s time to build a rock-solid foundation for your agency. Think about how to strengthen your current client relationships, increase [...]
We’re facing a mental health crisis in America. In the last week of June, nearly 11% of over 5,400 U.S. adults surveyed said they had seriously considered suicide within the previous 30 days. If those numbers reflect the larger population, then it’s likely that two or three people on your 25-person team have had similar thoughts. It’s easy to assume that your employees are fine, but some of them may not be — and it’s your job to support them. In this piece I recently contributed to Forbes.com, I discuss what you can do as a leader to support employees’ mental health by actively listening, opening up, sharing resources, taking charge of conversations and volunteering. We will get through this crisis together, and it’s important for your employees to understand that — even in our crazy agency world.