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Demystifying Business Systemization: Figure out which systems will create the biggest impact in 20 minutes or less.

If you've been in the business world long enough, you know of systems. Perhaps you've read The E-Myth, Traction or another book and are fired up about them. But HOW? Where should you start? You're busy and so enmeshed in everything your business does that even thinking about which processes to systemise first is overwhelming.  Through my work helping hundreds of business owners free themselves from daily operations, I realised that systemising doesn't have to be stressful or overwhelming. In fact, in just 20 minutes, any small business owner in any industry can identify the 10-15 systems that make the biggest impact. In this article, I'll walk you through this — well, system — mapping out your Critical Client Flow (CCF) step-by-step.  The following is an excerpt from chapter one of my book, SYSTEMology. There, I share the method that has transformed hundreds of small businesses from owner-dependent, zero-systems businesses to finely tuned assets. Step-by-step, I show you how to create the systems you identify here (without you) and how to get your employees excited about systems, too. The Critical Client Flow (CCF) is the first step in the SYSTEMology method, a breakthrough system for creating systems. All you need is a pen and paper. You can also go to systemology.com/resources to print out a plug-and-play CCF worksheet. We'll fill it out together.  It looks like this:  How to Create Your Critical Client Flow (CCF) In the CCF, you'll map out the core of how your business works.  You'll identify the minimum viable systems required to consistently bring in new business, convert those leads to clients and then deliver your product/service.  You’ll also see the 'holes' within your business, and it will help you develop [...]

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|

Seven steps to better biz dev

You have probably said or at least heard the agency-centric expression “new business cures all ills,” and it’s pretty accurate. Will it fix fundamental problems at your agency? Unfortunately, no. Those are still on you to solve. But it does fix a lot of cash flow challenges, too much time on our hands bickering, and morale issues. I believe that agency owners need to invest a significant amount of their time and attention to biz dev and yet, when I get into most shops, to say the effort is haphazard is an understatement. Most of you have a reactive new business program, which means you respond to what walks in the door through referrals, RFPs, etc. One of the areas where I see the least amount of prep is in that initial conversation. You go to all of that effort to get the meeting. I want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity. I wrote an article for Spin Sucks about seven steps you can take to improve that first impression, whether it’s a coffee meeting or a full RFP presentation. My guess is that some of them will just be a reminder but hopefully a few will inspire you and your team to tweak what isn’t working. Making some minor tweaks in how you show up may be all it takes to move you from being the agency that hears “we really liked you but we went a different direction” to “We can’t wait to work with you!” This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |November 30th, 2020|

You still have time

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 [...]

By |November 16th, 2020|

Not Finding Your Ideal Clients? Maybe You’re Looking for the Wrong Things.

At the beginning of most of my engagements, I start by sending the client team a questionnaire that helps me establish a baseline understanding of how the agency approaches business development—strengths, weaknesses, skills, and areas of resistance. In it, I ask them to describe their ideal client. Here’s a sampling of what I hear more often than not: “Open-minded, seek out expert advice, and take it, challenge us with problems they can’t solve, value our time and expertise.” “Really smart, and motivated to get things done.” “Collaborators who recognize the importance of strategic planning and thoughtful execution.” “They provide us with direct access to key decision-makers. They’re collaborative, value our opinions and input, and have a healthy balance of practical and aspirational thinking for their brand.” “They’re ‘brand collaborators’—marketing-led companies looking for a long-term, transparent partner to challenge the status quo and collaborate on integrated solutions.” “They trust us, respect us, and like spending time with us. Discussion is always thoughtful, relaxed, and challenging. It never feels like we’re not on the same team even when we disagree.” “They are appreciative of the work we do and pleasant to work with.” These are pretty idyllic descriptions. And not necessarily unrealistic. Every agency deserves to work with clients like these. The problem is, these descriptions are limited in their ability to help you find ideal clients. I began to consider why agencies default to describing ideal clients in this way. What I realized is agencies tend to frame the question as "who are we best served by?" when the question I’m really asking is “whom do you serve best?” Understanding the distinction between the two has big implications for the effectiveness of your new business outreach. Who is [...]

By |November 9th, 2020|

When the going gets tough…

...you don’t go anywhere! I’ve spent the last several weeks with agency owners in our peer network meetings. As a part of that meeting, the owners have to present their financials (show P/L, Balance sheet, etc.) to the group. They also have to report sales progress, staff issues, and a host of other metrics. It’s always an interesting lens from which to see the agency owners. I am reminded of what a rare breed they are. We all get frustrated and discouraged sometimes. There have certainly been moments in time when I would have gladly sold my agency to you for a nickel. But not very many and that malaise never lasted very long. Because you’re an owner (if you are one) you forget how unusual you are. The risks you have taken are not risks most people are willing to accept. The emotional roller coaster you ride on a daily basis isn’t a ride most people can stomach. There is a blend of fortitude, resilience, and confidence in you that you take for granted but the truth is, it’s a very uncommon combination. Agency ownership is hard, even on the good days, but it’s relentless when things aren’t going your way (which, by the way, is inevitable). Your unflagging enthusiasm, “it will get better” belief and most of all, your willingness to be very uncomfortable for as long as it takes, is your secret weapon. Why am I reminding you of all of this? Because you think everyone is wired the way you are. But you are a rare breed. And that’s okay. But the misperception that everyone is like you can cause some trouble. It creates expectations that your employees often can’t meet. [...]

By |November 2nd, 2020|

How to Strengthen Your Agency’s Hiring Process During a Pandemic

Attracting and retaining talent is likely a challenge in this unprecedented time. The coronavirus pandemic forced agencies around the globe to go fully remote whether they were ready to or not. Only 16% of HR professionals say they were ready to go 100% digital. Right now, it’s imperative to control what you can, and when it comes to hiring, you still hold the cards. By shoring up your hiring process now, you’ll strengthen your talent recruitment and onboarding processes in a way that sets you and future employees up for success. I recently wrote an article for Business 2 Community about this very topic. I hope you take the time to read through it and let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing back from you!

By |September 7th, 2020|

Your boat can only carry so much weight

Agency owners are, for the most part, some of the bravest people I know. They have put everything on the line to start/own their agency and every day they face and move past tough decisions. But if there’s an Achilles Heel for most owners, it’s the staffing issue, especially if your agency has hit a rough spot. It’s ironic but in a typical agency, the higher a person’s salary, the less billable client work they do. They’re running a department, doing admin work, or chasing after new clients more than serving clients. I’m not suggesting their work isn’t valuable. It just isn’t billable. What balances that out is that most of your younger, less expensive employees are very billable. Their billable hours cover the non-billable hours of the more senior staff. If you look at all of the hours your agency employees (including the owner) works — you need to be at 60% billable overall. Most agencies struggle to get into the 50-55% range. Which is why you aren’t making the kind of money you’d like to make. Unfortunately, many of you are out of proportion. You’re over-staffed in general and in particular, you’re top-heavy. You might have a large leadership team or multiple owners. On top of that — you’ve got an employee or two (or more) who have been with you for a very long time. You’ve given them regular raises and now, if you’re honest with yourself, they’re overpaid. Odds are, their skill sets and energy aren’t really what they used to be. But you feel a loyalty to them and so they stay. You’ve been okay with a net profit that’s nowhere near the ideal range and you’ve stayed in the [...]

By |August 24th, 2020|

Don’t Worry, Be Ready: How Agencies Can Take Control in the Wake of the Coronavirus

There is a lot to be stressed about right now—the pandemic, recession, you name it. However, we as agency owners should spend our time strategizing for the future after the COVID-19 pandemic instead of focusing on our worries. You can do this by completing an agency owner life plan, developing a one-page business plan, creating a business development program, or showing your employees and clients more attention. Any combination of these preparations will prove successful for yourself and your agency in the future. I recently wrote an article for Brand United about strategizing in our current pandemic to make sure your company does well when it is over. I hope you take the time to read through it and let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing back from you!

By |July 27th, 2020|

Coronavirus impact on agencies as the end of March 2020

Agency Management Institute partnered up with Orbit Media to do a quick poll of agency owners to find out what the initial impact of the coronavirus had been on their agency. Since everything seems to be changing hourly – it’s important for you to know the time frame that this data relates to. Most of us in the states started working from home between March 10 and March 16th. We launched this poll on March 25th and closed it a couple days later. Our goal was not to conduct proper research, obviously, but instead just to take a pulse on how things are going out there. I also wanted to compare how the general population of agencies were faring on comparison to the 250 or so AMI agencies that I’ve been communicating with on a daily basis. Our survey was completed by 122 agency owners or leaders.   There was an almost even split between agencies that were all B2B, all B2C and mixed and the agency offerings were equally mixed as you can see in the chart below.   One thing is certain – every agency’s work level is being affected by the coronavirus, but I think it’s important to point out that almost half (42.93%) are having either a net neutral or positive effect. I think it’s incredibly tempting and easy to only see the doom and gloom in all of the news stories, conversations and most dangerously – what we tell ourselves. Less than 20% of agencies reported a very negative or near disaster impact.  So far.  That perhaps that is the key phrase at this stage.  But, we have to control our lens on this situation or we'll be paralyzed.   [...]

By |March 31st, 2020|
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