Agency Staff

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 [...]

How to Deal with Stale Employees in Your Agency

One of the most heartbreaking realities in agencies today is what I call stale employees. These are employees that usually have been on your staff a long time and were a wonderful fit for your agency back in the day.  But today, they really aren’t pulling their weight, their attitude is slipping or you just don’t have as much use for their skill set as you used to. The other unfortunate byproduct of this type of employee is that the rest of your staff is either working around the stale employee’s lack of skills or they are resentful of them because they have slacked off but are still getting paid a pretty penny. Neither helps your agency be the best it can be.   It’s a tough, emotional situation. These are people who have been loyal to you for a long time. But the truth is, they aren’t worth what you are paying them. In this solocast, I give you some tangible steps to move that stale employee either out the door or back to becoming a productive part of your team again. What you can learn in this solocast: Stale employees: how to recognize them and why they’re holding your agency back Can these employees be saved? It’s a firm maybe How to have the necessary conversation with stale employees — you owe them honesty The kinds of goals to set to see measurable change and growth before determining their place inside your agency The costs to you as an agency owner for working with stale employees to up their game How to recognize if you really do have to let the employee go How to make a decision while realizing that you aren’t [...]

Hey agency owner — can you run an agency without any employees?

Can you run an agency without any employees? You're about to find out. Recently I received an email which in essence asked how feasible it was to run an agency without employees.  I thought it was a worthy discussion to share here. Here's the question I was asked:  In the last year or so I've noticed more and more agencies that have an organizational structure like this: a strategist or two lead the agency, do new business, do client strategy and service. And the design, technical work and production is done by virtual assistants. This seems to be a particularly popular model with agencies that are Hubspot partners (or partners with other marketing software vendors) or focus on inbound / content marketing. I'd love to hear your experience on this. Particularly, where you see this model working well and where you see the more traditional agency model (a model fully staffed with strategists, account people, creative, etc) working well. My answer: I see this model working with smaller agencies that deliver something that is almost formulaic — like SEO or email automation.  If you can sell it like a product/package — it may work. Typically these agencies are smaller, could be virtual and have little to no staff. They are also at great risk of being commoditized. But for an agency that wants to dig into strategy and really be at the decision making table (in contrast to the more order taking product/package model) it’s really not effective. I don’t believe account people (AE/strategist — whatever you want to call them) are great new business people.  In most cases, they lack the sophistication in business acumen to truly have the kinds of conversations that CEOs/CMOs want [...]

Hey agency owner — 2016 Content Conferences for Agencies

I recently had an AMI agency ask me which 2016 content management conferences for agencies I would recommend they consider putting into the budget. First -- bravo to the agency for actually baking professional development into their budget.  Most agencies underspend in this area and it costs them their best talent. A recent survey showed that agency employees consider being sent to a workshop, conference or other professional development opportunity as being equal to a 17% raise. Whether they are telling you or not -- your people want to keep getting better.  You have a responsibility and frankly it's just smart business, to help them sharpen their saw.  Do they have a responsibility too?  You bet.  I wouldn't send anyone to a conference or workshop if you don't see evidence of them also trying to learn on their own and them bringing that new knowledge into the agency as a teacher. You co-own the responsibility and the best employees are the ones who are hungry to learn and to teach their peers. And of course, whether they want to get better or not -- you NEED them to get better.  You invest so much into your people and they are your primary source of revenue, so you'd better keep investing in them. In our world today -- even if you know everything today, you will be woefully behind in a blink if you don't keep adding to your knowledge base. So your folks need to keep improving.  If not, you have to keep trading up and that gets very expensive. And it should go without saying but I'll say it anyway -- YOU my agency owner friend also need to keep sharpening your skills, knowledge and exposure [...]

Hey Agency Owner — Do you have the right people in the right seats?

Agency life is hectic.  Tight timelines, demanding clients and intense pressure is part of every day life.  In this kind of atmosphere every part of the machine must work in order to achieve both agency and client goals.  Anyone who has worked in an agency has experienced the aftermath of a bad hire. If one piece falters the whole thing can break down and cost more than just time. Digital Marketer asked me to talk about the common mistakes most agencies are guilty of in the hiring process and what steps can be taken to ensure you have the right person in the right position. A little bit of time on the front end in the hiring process can both save you a lot of lost time and money.  Have you assembled the right parts to make your agency run smoothly? You can read the article here and I’d love to hear what you thought.

Hey agency owner – how can you accelerate your agency growth?

The day to day functions of an agency can be both thrilling and chaotic. And when you’re in the heat of the moment, it’s often easy to forget to revisit your long term plans and strategies. And more so, those long term strategies are often kept in the executive suite.  But how can you expect your team to help you achieve those goals if they don’t have a clear picture of where the agency should be heading? I wrote the following article for Branding Magazine to talk about how you as the agency leader can engage your staff in both the long and short term goals for growth.  Sharing the plan with the team will not only will you improve staff engagement, but increase your agency growth and keep you on track to meeting your goals. Do you share your financial goals with your staff? If so, how often? In how much detail do you discuss them?  What have your results been? Share your experience with us.

Hey agency owner – how do you solve the agency talent dilemma?

Do you find yourself looking for that perfect staff addition after there is already a crises in motion? Do you feel rushed to fill a position, only to be frustrated by the shallow depth of the prospect pool? Does everyone who comes through the door for an interview want to make more than you do? I wrote the following article for MediaPost to talk about the so called agency talent dilemma.  The bottom line for me is that there is no shortage of talented, capable people out there willing to work for what you can afford to pay. What there is a lack of strategy on the part of agencies to be prepared to find those gems.  So how do you deal with your own talent “dilemma”?  How can you prepare for the staff work load crunch before the crunch happens?  Let’s talk!