4 Questions to Ask Before Calling Your Talent Recruiter

Planning for growth or adding new services to your agency inevitably leads to “we need more people!” Of course, having a dependable, hard-working staff at your business is key. A talent recruiter can be a great asset in the new hire process, but before you dig out those job advertisements, or call your favorite talent recruiter, ask yourself these 4 critical questions:  Do you have a management problem or a hiring problem? Did the last person leave because of their manager?  Do you have a turnover problem or a not-enough-turnover problem, or a little of both?  Full time? Part time? Or is there a productivity problem that could be addressed by training the current team (or replacing a weak performer)?  Do you have an “up-and-comer” who would love to take on new duties, and view this new opportunity as a reason to stay and grow with your company? These are the four most important questions you can ask before you call a talent recruiter, and my bet is that you haven’t asked them about your agency team in a long time. So let's go through each one and how it can impact your need for a talent recruiter. 1. Management problem or hiring problem? The “management problem” is the number one reason people leave their jobs, and it often concerns the trusted employee who’s been with you for a long time (perhaps since the beginning). They “have your back” and “run the place” so you can get out there and grow your business, but is their management style costing you good employees? You may be aware there are issues with the way they handle day-to-day management issues—and you need to re-engage with individual employees to find [...]

By |July 17th, 2018|

How to Scale Your Agency — Overcome the Wizard Complex

At UGURUS, a business school for digital agencies, my team and I spend thousands of hours a year consulting and coaching owners in groups or one on one. Our aim is simple: To help you achieve freedom in your business and life. One of the ways we do that is by helping digital agency owners work ON their business, not just IN them. “When you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.” -Michael E. Gerber, E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It For agency owners, achieving freedom usually means: Working fewer hours (less than sixty is a start) Making more money (getting paid a healthy salary) Sitting in fewer seats (helping you do better work) There’s a commonly-accepted fallacy out there that most entrepreneurs are working towards an early retirement and days filled with sitting on the beach drinking fruity cocktails. However, most entrepreneurs I meet love the work they do, and have no intention of retiring early. The standard definition of the term “exit” in entrepreneur-speak is to sell your business, but most agency owners I meet aren’t anywhere near this point. They haven’t built a company that is worth anything beyond themselves. They’re involved in every aspect of the business from generating leads, converting those leads into clients, and delivering the work. They’ve built themselves a job. A stressful. Demanding. Underpaying. J-O-B. For these owners, “exit” means being able [...]

By |June 26th, 2018|

How to Find Top-Level Freelancers to Help You Grow Your Business with Nathan Hirsch

One of the most common challenges agencies of all sizes are facing right now is finding the right people to add to the team, especially as it relates to learning how to find freelancers who are capable of doing the great work that agencies require. Client budgets and programs are growing, agency new business is getting a little easier and so everything should be rosy. But when you don’t have the right team to get the work done – it’s frustrating and frightening.   Ten to fifteen years ago, the prevailing attitude was that agencies needed everyone under one roof. After all, the work is so collaborative. But when the recession hit and people had to reduce fixed expenses to survive, many agencies who swore they would never try to manage a network of freelancers or hire someone virtual crossed over and did just that. Not only did they survive it – but it opened up many opportunities to serve clients in new ways.  Fast forward to today – whether you are in a big market with lots of talent (and lots of competitors for that talent) or in a smaller market that just doesn’t have enough qualified bodies – finding and keeping the right team is a serious struggle. Most AMI agencies have a pretty robust freelance pool and are versed in knowing how to find freelancers. 75% have some sort of flex hours where people either come in early/leave early, come in late/leave late or have some sort of non-traditional work week, be it fewer than five days a week or a full work week but they work from home one or more days. In terms of remote employees, I would say that [...]

By |February 8th, 2018|

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 your 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 skills 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 [...]

By |February 6th, 2018|

Diversify Your Staff For Deep And Meaningful Results For Your Clients

Despite its roots in liberal San Francisco, Uber lacks equality. Uber's diversity report revealed minorities are underrepresented, especially at higher positions. Blacks and Hispanics fill only a small percentage of company roles, and other Silicon Valley giants have similar demographics. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau discovered Silicon Valley’s workforce is 2.2% black and 4.7% Hispanic, which are minute compared to other tech hubs' workforces, like Houston (11.9% black and 12.6% Hispanic) and New York (7.3% black and 9.6% Hispanic). These companies have received poor PR for their homogenous workforces, but it’s important to identify why diversity is so important in the first place. Pepsi was criticized earlier this year for its commercial that unintentionally belittled the Black Lives Matter movement, and the marketing team behind it was, in part, to blame. A recent poll found 42% of marketers feel the brands they work for don’t reflect a racially diverse or contemporary society in their marketing efforts. Clearly, there’s room to improve here. Still, it’s never a good idea to hire minorities for diversity’s sake. Diversity brings value to a company through its connections to a broader range of customers and clients. Especially for advertising agencies, customer connection is the name of the game. Who wouldn’t want more? Unfortunately, agencies aren’t known for being the most diverse workplaces either. These days, clients can catch agencies off guard with questions and conversations about diversity. Mad Men painted the advertising industry as overwhelmingly white, male and heterosexual; many clients want to know whether that’s still the case. Agencies need to be on their toes and explain how they’re representing other genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations. It’s No Longer Just A Man’s World Researchers who study diversity break it down into two [...]

By |November 15th, 2017|

Four Ways Mentoring Employees Leads to Company Growth

Regardless of the type of business you own, your staff is your greatest asset. It’s crucial that you’re getting the most from your employees, and you do this by actively mentoring employees on your stellar team to produce growth for your company. This growth-centric mentorship isn’t casual or sporadic. In fact, at least 20% of your time should be devoted to mentoring employees. It’s a purposeful weekly meeting scheduled by, prepared for and owned by the employee. The meetings don’t have to be long, but they’re the best opportunity for employees to discuss their goals, get feedback and present their ideas. As their supervisor, it’s your opportunity to encourage and ask questions to push them to do their best work. Bestselling author and keynote speaker Mitch Matthews -- who’s worked with organizations like NASA, Walt Disney and Principal Financial Group -- is a big advocate of what he calls “project-specific mentoring.” He says, “Project-specific mentoring is where you identify someone in your organization that you really want to invest in. So you look for a specific project where you give them more autonomy, more ownership.” He also says mentoring allows for limited risk and fast learning: “At the same time, it also increases the sense of ownership and increases the loyalty, and it increases engagement.” Mentoring employees to ensure growth An increased sense of ownership, loyalty, and engagement leads to a successful mentorship program, which in turn ensures growth. You achieve this by making these one-on-one mentorship meetings, allowing you to ask the best questions, demonstrate how you think through business challenges, and show each employee that he or she is a priority. Because these meetings are individual, train midlevel managers and department heads to be mentors, too. Mentoring [...]

By |November 1st, 2017|

How the Creative Director Role is Changing in the Digital Age

Our industry isn’t just changing, it’s evolving. What we offer clients, how we’re measuring success and the tools we use are all constantly changing. While the changes are helping us grow our agencies and future proof our businesses – it also means some painful changes to how we’re structured. The biggest change I am seeing within agencies is the shift in how we use the creative director role. I’m seeing more and more agencies realigning their agencies to meet the current demands of today and more often than not, that doesn’t include a traditional creative director.   Creative directors have played a significant role in agencies since their inception but now, out of necessity, they are morphing into all sorts of new roles. Join me as I detail out the changes that agencies are making to revamp their creative director roles such as: Why the days where creative led agencies have passed and why creative has been replaced by strategy, content, and lead gen The shortage of writers compared to the abundance of art directors and why that’s a pretty big issue for agencies Why the creative director role isn’t in that high of demand anymore, and what traditional creative directors look like in the agencies that have them Administrative, account service, and creative services: the three departments that make up most agencies today The triad of leadership - a writer, art director, and digital producer form to lead the creative services department in lieu of a creative director Why you don’t usually even need to produce spec creative for a pitch anymore Figuring out which roles inside your agency you still need Allocating funds from cut positions elsewhere to serve your clients better Drew [...]

By |October 12th, 2017|

How To Hire Strategic Thinkers — Not Just Order Takers

Good help is hard to find. You want people you can throw in the deep end on day one and can trust to make smart decisions and understand the context and impact of their choices. In other words, you want strategic thinkers. I work with hundreds of ad agencies every year, and they describe this as their No. 1 challenge. They can easily find great order takers, but these employees don’t know how to independently guide clients, which means the senior staff has to oversee everything. Some people have suggested that Millennials aren’t great strategic thinkers because they’ve never developed the ability to solve problems on their own. They had helicopter parents who overscheduled and over-orchestrated their lives, they were praised simply for participating, and they never developed real communication skills. But, however this happened, we have a glut of order takers who have trouble thinking strategically. The Brain Cocktail of a Strategic Thinker To hire independent, strategic thinkers, you first must understand what that means. Strategic thinkers have: Curiosity. They ask great questions, and they ask a lot of them. Patience. They don’t rush to an answer, but take their time gathering all the facts and talking to all the right people before coming to a conclusion. Big-picture thinking. They understand the context and long-term impact of their actions and are able to connect smaller decisions back to it. Confidence. They’re not afraid to take a stand and defend it. How to Spot the True Strategists It’s a challenge, but you can identify true strategic thinkers in the hiring process. Here are some steps you can take to weed out the order takers. Conduct professional assessments. This is not about personality, but ability, behavior, [...]

By |October 2nd, 2017|

Don’t Be Held Hostage by Your Rogue Tech Team

Some things creep up slowly in life, like global warming and receding hairlines. Now you can add to that list: The reign of a digital team in agencies. As digital advertising continues its double-digit growth, more and more agencies routinely rely on tech-driven campaigns to keep the lights on. And as web, mobile, and social command larger and larger chunks of clients’ budgets, the teams tasked with executing these campaigns often start calling the shots. In a well-run agency in which all departments communicate effectively and honor agency protocol, a powerful digital team can retain its autonomy without much trouble. Unfortunately, when team members stop respecting agency leadership and begin doing their own thing, they can drive projects over budget and behind schedule. I’ve seen strapped teams give preferential treatment to favorite account executives and even stonewall projects by refusing to answer technical questions. When digital teams go rogue, agency owners can find themselves held hostage by their tech-savvy employees. The advertising world is plagued by a digital talent shortage, so for many agency owners, keeping their digital divas happy seems like a safer option than letting them go. When agency owners feel beholden to their digital teams, these employees can cut leadership out of the decision-making process and severely damage the agency’s ability to function. One agency I know sold a large digital project to a new client that included a website redesign. The team put together a timeline and budget for completion, and everything seemed to be going smoothly. Weeks later, the account executive discovered that the programmers had invested 40 unauthorized hours on “improving” the site. The project was running behind and over budget, and the agency had to eat the overage. [...]

By |August 4th, 2017|