Agency leadership

Hey Agency Owner — Employees Need Clarity

If you’ve been struggling to work with some of your team members, odds are you have not embraced the idea that employees need clarity.  Truth be told — most agency leaders struggle with this, especially if they are offering constructive criticism or even tougher — disciplinary action. Agency owners and department heads are notoriously passive aggressive in their management style (you may well be the exception to the rule) and I think there are a few reasons for that. Most agency owners/leaders are accidental leaders: Odds are you were a brilliant writer, art director, account exec or some other tactical role earlier in your agency life.  At some point, you either got promoted or decided to hang up a shingle. Suddenly, you’re the boss and now you have to supervise people. In many cases — the people that used to be your peers.  And you’re flying without a net because you’ve never been trained or coached on how to mentor and coach a team. You don’t have a practice dummy: When we’re trying to learn a new skill, it’s ideal to be able to practice before we have to actually execute. Managing people doesn’t work that way. So you need to ask for a lot of forgiveness as you improve. Admitting that you didn’t handle a conversation well or could have been better at a coaching opportunity doesn’t negate your authority. You may not have good role models:  It’s easy to conjure up the name of a bad boss but much tougher to point to someone who really did mentor you, give you constructive and specific feedback and held you both capable and accountable. Good bosses/leaders are not plentiful. So you may have to swim in uncharted waters. It’s difficult [...]

Building Your Business for the Future with Jason Swenk

One of the goals of many agency owners is to build a business that has enough value that someone will want to buy it from them down the road. If you got a call with a cash offer for your agency tomorrow -- would you be ready? Would your agency be? That’s exactly what happened to my podcast guest, Jason Swenk and because he had a plan -- he was ready.   He calls himself the defender of truth, justice, and effective business practices and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to agency value. In his opinion, the only difference between an eight-figure agency owner and someone who is struggling is their systems. It's not about how smart they are or their experience. It all comes down to having the right systems in place. This is just one area that Jason’s expertise can help you in building your business/agency with the future in mind. Learn more as Jason and I explore: How Jason prepared his agency for sale The importance of systems inside an agency What to do when the systems you put in place make you nonessential for day-to-day operations Lead generation: why this is the biggest pain point for agencies and what can be done about it How agencies can deliver exceptional value to clients willing to pay a premium price and how to get those clients in the first place How to recognize which clients to seek out and which to avoid Jason’s Agency Playbook Things agencies do to get in their own way Agencies and niche: why you need to start very, very small What can agencies do right now to take action on the ideas in this [...]

Strategies for Increasing Employee Success in Your Agency with Art Boulay

Whether you want to improve the skill, leadership and commitment levels of your current team to elevate them to be the best they can be or you need to add a superstar to your roster – you have to be able to assess their skills, attitudes, behaviors and motivations. How do you make increasing employee success happen? Most agency owners are not development or hiring experts. How do you determine if you have the right people in the right seats? How do you know you’re hiring not just the right person, but the right person for your agency? Do you just go with your gut and hope things will work out for the best?   Having the wrong person in the wrong seat or hiring a bad fit employee will cost you about nine months of their loaded salary. And that’s before you factor in the potential risk of losing a client or team members. My podcast guest, Art Boulay can ease some of this angst by offering common sense solutions for hiring better employees and making current employees stronger. He does this through a series of assessments both of current employees and prospective hires to help you keep your agency on track and moving forward. Art and I discuss the ins and outs of employee acquisition and retention.  Amongst other things, we cover: Assessment tools for hiring the right employee lead to more objective and effective hiring How Art’s tools can assess agencies, what makes them unique, and how that will help to find the right future employees From hire to retire: what employers and employees should do to ensure that employees don’t leave right away The strategies for increasing employee success in any [...]

Why Accountability Partners are Vital to Your Professional Growth with Adam Carroll

Agency owners are creative by nature and as such, our minds are churning 24/7 with ideas and new initiatives we want to experiment with and implement. But which ones are worthwhile? What should we pursue and what should we skip over? It’s helpful to have a sounding board to explore these potential directions before you take off after them. In this podcast, my guest Adam Carroll has been able to harness the power of great partnerships (accountability partners and mastermind groups) and effective accountability to help determine which ideas really deserve attention and which ones don't. Adam has been able to rely on his mastermind groups for accountability, brainstorming, and guidance, and he leverages his accountability partners for productivity and challenging his habits and patterns. Both avenues, accountability partners and/or mastermind groups, are exceptionally valuable to your business because they help you dig a little deeper and hold you accountable. Adam and I explored these ideas from an agency’s perspective by showing you: How having accountability as an owner allows you to put your time into the ideas that matter, making the most impact for your agency How he makes the most of slow business periods to increase productivity How to find a great accountability partner who will be more concerned with pushing you forward, rather than protecting your feelings How to work on your business, not in your business. How taking five minutes to create a list of the people can help you find your perfect mastermind group. Adam Carroll is quickly being recognized as one of the top financial educators in the country based on his core message of “you are the architect of your own life.” Adam has presented all over the [...]

Coaching and Mentoring Employees for Success in Your Agency

You look at your employees and you see what’s possible. They’re capable of even more. But what’s in the way of coaching and mentoring employees so that they can get there? There are lots of reasons, but the biggest one is you. You have to make the time for coaching and mentoring employees if you ever want them to reach their potential and serve you, your agency and your clients at the level you’re looking for. In a recent solocast, I walk you through some ideas that can help you find the time to become part of the solution, rather than contributing to the problem. The solution is actually pretty straightforward and is critical to not only the employees’ success but your agency’s as well. In this solocast, I help you explore: how to be a good mentor and teacher on a regular and consistent basis how to set priority or growth goals for your employees how to provide your employees a time and place to ask questions and relay important information how to give your employees the opportunity to toot their own horns or those of their co-workers how to identify obstacles for your employees before they become overwhelming By putting these ideas for coaching and mentoring employees into play, you will not only create an environment where the employees know they need to keep getting better but they’ll be hungry to do so.  It will also help you keep your best employees.  Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency over the last 20-years. And all through the year, he straddles the fence of working in his agency and working with 250+ small- [...]

How to Clear the Obstacles that Prevent You from Growing and Scaling Your Business with Karl Sakas

Starting an agency is easy. Growing and scaling your business is anything but. There are lots of obstacles and landmines, not to mention just trying to run the agency, which can get in the way.  My podcast guest Karl Sakas and I chatted about those obstacles and how to move around them.   Some of the specifics we talked about included: the number one question owners must answer in order to understand what type of agency they want to grow ways to delegate work so you can focus on what you love about agency work how agencies can manage their time, stating, “no one will defend your time but you” how to figure out where you want to go and get people to help you so you can get there faster. Karl Sakas served as the #2 man in a couple different digital agencies before he created the Marketing Agencies community at, which has over 1,000 agencies in 48 countries. As president of Sakas and Company, Karl advises agencies worldwide about strategy, operations, and leadership.He has recently published a book entitled, “The In Demand Marketing Agency: How to Use Public Speaking to Become an Agency of Choice.” To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site ( 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, invest in employees, and best of [...]

What Successful Mentoring Looks Like & the Effect it Has on Your Agency with Mitch Matthews

Never had a mentor? Not sure where to start or how to structure a successful mentoring relationship with your employees? In my podcast conversation with Mitch Matthews, he helps us to understand what great mentoring looks like. Mitch will show you how to mentor your employees with a wide variety of tools and specific solutions to move both yourself and your employees down the road to a successful mentoring relationship. I love this quote from Mitch, ““I know especially in agencies … this is so critical because you want to inspire the best work, you want to inspire full engagement, you want to inspire loyalty, you want to inspire creativity, all of those things. One of the best ways to do that is through mentoring.” If you’re not familiar with Mitch, let me tell you a little about him. He has an amazing podcast that I highly recommend called “Dream, Think, Do” ( and it is at the top of the iTunes chart for a reason. Mitch has worked on mentoring with entrepreneurs, leaders and teams from organizations like NASA, Disney, and Principal Financial Group. He’s really passionate about helping entrepreneurs and leaders dream bigger, think better, become more successful, and do more of the stuff they were put on this planet to do. To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site ( 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 [...]

Time Management Advice for Agency Owners

Every fifth podcast — I’m doing a solocast. That’s just you and me, having a conversation about a topic that I know is on the minds of agency owners. For this solocast — we’re going to dig into a topic that I probably dive into every single week with agency owners — some good old fashioned time management advice.   How should an agency owner spend his/her time? As you know and are probably a example of — most agency owners struggle with extracting themselves from the day to day enough to actually work on the business. Too many agency owners are too deeply engrained in the work of the agency, which prevents them from running a successful and scalable agency. “If you are still serving clients, you are not servicing the agency.” That’s the bottom line. You are diminishing YOUR bottom line. Instead, you need to build an agency that someone would want to buy some day. An agency where you are dispensable. In this podcast, I’ll outline this time management advice by where you should invest your time and what vital priorities you can knock out if you do. We’ll talk about your role in new business, in mentoring your team and much more. To listen — you can visit the Build A Better Agency site ( 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 are 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 [...]

Hey agency owner — what’s your succession plan?

When I look an agency owner in the eye and ask, “what’s your business succession plan?” it’s amazing what I see in their eyes. I work with 150 or so small to mid-sized (1 employee to 150 employees) privately held agencies every year.  These are smart business owners who are successfully running profitable businesses that provide a great life for themselves, their families and their employees. These are people who make lots of right choices every day.  And yet most of them (and you) have not faced the succession plan issue dead on. I think for many agency owners it feels so far down the road that they don’t worry about because they’re focusing on hotter issues. I can’t tell you how wrong you are, if that’s what you’v been thinking. If you actually want some control over your own exit strategy — you should have a good idea of how you’d like it to play out at least a decade before you’re ready to hang it up. Yes, a decade.  The sooner you decide how you’d like your business succession plan to go, the sooner you can make decisions that increase the likelihood that it will happen the way you want. I’ve seen agency succession plans play out in many ways over the years but the truth is, you have a limited number of options. You can sell your agency to an outside buyer You can sell your agency to an employee or group of employees You can just decide when you want to be done and lock the door on your way out You can be forced out by partners You can die at your desk and leave your heirs to sort it out [...]