Agency leadership

If you’re going to go pro bono, at least get credit

I have yet to meet an agency owner who did not have a generous spirit. Whether your clients live in your community or not, every agency I know does a ton of pro bono work for the non-profits in their area. My agency has always been that way too. But I have to admit, I got tired of always being asked and feeling like a jerk when I had to say no. On top of that, I felt that in most cases, we were just slapping a bandaid on the non-profit’s issue. A run logo here or a golf tournament t-shirt design there or even a simple website now and then. But I never felt like we were leaving a true mark — I couldn’t see how we were deeply improving the non-profit in the long run. So I created a completely different way of approaching pro bono work. A way that allowed us to create events that attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of the charities — year after year. Long after we were done working with them, they were still reaping the benefits. And we got a little publicity for our efforts as well. I described the pro bono transformation we experienced in an article for Hubspot and I’d love to hear what you think. I believe we can do good, make it really last, and benefit from it as well. I love that combination!

By |September 9th, 2019|

Consistency triumphs over bursts of brilliance

Last week, one of my mornings was consumed with podcast recordings and interviews. In some cases, I was the subject matter expert but in most, I was the host, asking questions of other agency- centric subject matter experts. By sheer coincidence every conversation danced around some aspect of business development, retaining clients and creating a culture that had the capacity and passion for chasing opportunities. Interestingly, there was a thread that wove through all of these separate conversations. The theme was consistency and the overarching opinion was that agencies live and die by their habits and by the agency owner’s habits. What we do (or don’t do) on a consistent basis sets our course. That got my wheels spinning and I came up with a little quiz for you to take. Do you have at least 4-5 hours a week blocked off on your calendar for new business sales (not marketing) activity? Do you hold (and not cancel) a weekly new business meeting with your internal team? Do you have a list of no more than 25 “I’d love to have them on our roster” prospects that you proactively touch at least every 6 weeks? Have you defined your agency’s philosophy/point of view so you can differentiate yourself and does every agency employee know, understand and use the same language to describe it? Now, a tangential question. How many new clients that are individually worth at least 15% of your agency’s current AGI have you earned since January? My guess is that there’s a correlation between how you answered the quiz questions and your answer to my tangential question. You and your agency are a product of what you consistently do. Are you reaping the [...]

By |September 2nd, 2019|

Do you have every base covered?

Business development is a challenge on many levels. If you don’t have every base covered...being good at all the other aspects may not be enough. Many agencies have not defined their sweet spot client — so they don’t bother chasing after prospects that aren’t a good fit Most agencies don’t have a consistent new business machine that is actively and regularly touching prospects and working a targeted list The lion’s share of agencies have a great win rate with smaller, less profitable clients but struggle to win with “stretch” prospects that could really change their agency and help them elevate their game About 50% of agencies do not have a retention program to actively and intentionally keep and grow their best clients A weakness in any of these areas can really compromise your efforts overall. As you begin to plan for 2020, having a holistic business development plan of attack (with action items, a calendar and most important — regular accountability meetings) may be one of the most important aspects of your vision for the next year. It’s not too early to start working on this. If you’re getting at-bats but not winning or if you’re not getting invited to the pitches/opportunities that you think you should be, we’ve got a great two-day workshop for you. AMI is partnering with the agency search firm Mercer Island Group to help you work all the bugs out of how you chase new business. These guys see proposals, RFP responses and live pitches from agencies big and small. They’re going to give you a sneak peek into the mistakes that you’re making, the missteps of agency positioning and so much more. This is a very hands-on, work ON [...]

By |June 17th, 2019|

Do your employees trust you and do you care?

As we struggle to find and keep great employees, we need to do a quick self- assessment. Are you creating an environment that breeds trust and connection among your team? Especially with you and your leadership team? MediaPost asked me to explore how agencies can create a culture of trust and connection and I’d love your thoughts on my recommendations on the topic. So, how do you find out if your environment is one of trust and connection?  You ask.  We have built an assessment tool that will help you measure the health of your agency in five key areas - account service, finance, Bizdev, staff management, and agency owner happiness. We're aggregating a large number of agency owner participants so we can come back to you this summer with a comparative analysis of where agencies ranked on these issues. And so you can compare your rankings with other agencies. All you need to do to take the assessment is click here. Just a few minutes of your time and you will get your results as well as a follow-up email with your results.  Later this summer I will be letting you know that we're going to do a webinar where we will walk you through the results and you can compare yourself to everybody else and see how you're doing.

By |June 3rd, 2019|

Daily timesheet practices

You've probably heard me say it a million times, but timesheets are the source of foundational data that you need to to run your agency in a fiscally responsible way. They may have nothing to do with billing.  You can value price, project price or sell your work for chickens...that is not my point nor is it the reason timesheets matter.  They matter because they are a measure of the efficiency and effectiveness of your team.  Your people (W2 people) are your most expensive resource.  If you do not know if you're using your resources well, if they are performing at a high level, or if/when you need to add more resources -- then you are operating your business in the dark. I totally get that no one likes timesheets.  I have never met an agency employee or owner who does.  But without them -- I promise you, you are leaving money on the table.  Every month.  Timesheets that are not done daily are 67% less accurate than daily timesheets. So let's assume (humor me) that you've decided that daily timesheets are a mission critical focus for the agency.  You want to be able to use all of the other agency metrics that are based, at least in part, on timesheet data. But, your folks don't do their timesheets every day.  Maybe they don't do them at all.  Or, if you are like most agencies, most people do them once a week or so.  But you always have some stragglers who are a few weeks out. How do you change the culture? I have seen many agencies from from zero to hero in this arena in 2-3 months using the carrot and stick combo I [...]

By |May 28th, 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|

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|

Are you happy with where your agency is standing?

It's the end of the 1st quarter  — are you happy with where your agency is standing? It’s so easy to get caught up in the flurry of clients’ needs, demands of the day and the all mighty To Do list. All the while, you’re treading water and your agency is much like it was a year ago or even longer. Your agency can’t change until you do. If you want to build something different, it starts with you. I promise you, if you re-think how and where you spend your time, you can build the agency that lives in your business plan, your heart and in the scenario you painted in your agency retreat. Or you can keep doing what you’ve always done and expect different results. I did a solocast on how agency owners should spend their time. Take a listen and see if you have some adjustments to make.

By |March 25th, 2019|

Have you lost your swagger as an agency?

The recession damaged a lot of agencies a few years ago, but one of the most damaging aspects of the financial crisis was that many agencies and their owners had to scramble just to keep the doors open. They were cutting deals, taking work they shouldn’t have and getting by on less for a long time. Unfortunately, for some owners — they haven’t been able to shake that stink. I believe one of the biggest impediments to your agency’s new business efforts is the lack of swagger. I don’t mean cockiness. I mean confidence. I want agency owners to make prospects prove to them that they’d be a great client. As much as you have to earn their business, I want them to have to earn the right to work with you and your team. I think if you can bring back your swagger and a little bit of attitude — you’ll actually win more and better business. I explored this idea over at Agency Post and I’d welcome your input. How do you keep your swagger?

By |March 18th, 2019|