We spent the weekend in Dallas as I completed a bucket list goal of seeing a baseball game in every ballpark in North America. After pursuing that goal for 15+ years, just walking into the final ballpark was going to be pretty exciting. But I couldn’t have imagined just how amazing the weekend would turn out to be. Danyel and I could have just gone to the game, and it would have been awesome. But I’d been sharing this goal with people for years. Odds are, even if we’ve never met, you probably know I’ve been chasing this dream for a long time. As a result of sharing that goal, people wanted to help or participate. They’d ask which parks I had left. I got invited to games or people offered to get on a plane and meet me at the final ballparks. They were cheering me on and felt engaged. As a result, for my final ballpark — we were surrounded by 30 family and friends who were very invested and wanted to celebrate the milestone with us. Their participation made it so much more than just a checking of the box. At AMI we are constantly reminding you that we learn faster and better when we learn together. That’s true inside our shops as well. One of the things we hear from your employees over and over is “I wish we understood the agency’s/owner’s goals so I could help us get there.” I know you think you share the goals. But most of you don’t do it often enough, with enough detail or context so they get excited about helping you get there. This has been a tough year for many of you [...]
(Or a HUGE zucchini if you’re a vegetarian) When I was a kid, my mom kept a vegetable garden. I’m not going to disparage her abilities but let’s say that we still bought a lot of vegetables every summer! Which made my mom’s crowning achievement as a gardener all the more amazing. One morning, while she was weeding, she discovered a ginormous zucchini. Like the size of your thigh level zucchini. In fact, it was so big the local TV news did a story on it. (Imagine a camera crew in our backyard while my mom hoists this monstrosity of a vegetable in her arms — clearly a slow news day!) We ate that zucchini for days. In a vast number of different ways. There’s no way we could have consumed it all in one meal, even if we’d invited the entire neighborhood. It was definitely a one bite at a time task. Whether you’ve owned your agency for 20 years or 20 months... it’s a work in progress. I don’t know about you, but I find that both incredibly frustrating and equally exhilarating. After many years of facilitating our agency specific version of Traction, I can tell you one of the biggest obstacles to improving your agency is that you are overly ambitious. You bite off more than you and your team can possibly chew and when it gets overwhelming (which it does pretty quickly) you abandon all of the efforts. It takes a lot of patience and discipline to recognize that the ONLY way you can create sustainable, meaningful change in your agency is to eat the elephant (or zucchini) one bite at a time. An agency cannot focus on more than [...]
Are you feeling pressed for time? Does your To Do list feel overwhelming? Do you wish you had more time to just chill with your family this summer? In the process of writing my keynote for this past year’s BABA Summit, I spent some time researching how we can all create some margin in our lives. Margin for reading. Margin for enjoying sunsets. Margin for digging into a deep conversation. Margin for doing work that matters. Margin for just catching your breath. Some of these numbers blew me away. The average American spends 4.9 hours a day watching TV. And we watch reality TV garbage like Selling Sunset as opposed to watching something inspiring, educational, or redeeming in any way. Americans spend almost 4.5 hours a day on their mobile devices. In contract — Americans spend 15.6 minutes a day reading, 14 minutes a day exercising, and only sleep 6.8 hours. We spend less than 8% of our time outdoors and a whopping 37 minutes of quality time with our family a day. I’m not suggesting you stop watching TV or smash your cell phone and I’m guessing most of you live a life that’s more balanced than these stats would suggest. But when someone tells me there’s not enough time in the day and they can’t possibly accomplish all they want to do — I have to call foul. Our lives are a collection of our habits. Which of your habits are serving you? Which help you be the best version of yourself? Which feeds your soul, your mind, your creativity, and your body? Here’s my challenge for you. First — if you magically had an extra hour a day, how would you spend [...]
Our oldest daughter Kelsey turns 30 today. 30. As in years of existence. How in the heck did that happen? In a mere blink ago she was banging her head on the coffee table as she learned how to walk. (A baby bike helmet seemed like a good idea at the time!) Another blink — her first day behind the wheel of a car. In what felt like half a blink — I was walking her down the aisle. Time has a way of catching us off-guard, doesn’t it? And we don’t get it back. It’s very difficult to go backwards and undo something we did or even tougher... do something we should have done a long time ago. The consequences of not being mindful of time’s fleeting nature can be painful and costly. I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life but if there’s a theme around the regrets I do have it’s often “I wish I’d done XYZ sooner.” I’m looking at the calendar and feeling time’s hand on my shoulder. We only have five more months in the year. I have a small handful of To Do items, changes in our business, relationships to invest in, and new ideas to explore that I keep saying...”later this year.” It’s NOW later this year and honestly, I haven’t touched most of them. I have all the ready excuses. Super busy, full calendar of meetings, calls, and coaching, lots of travel days, got married, etc. etc. Time doesn’t care about my excuses. It just keep marching on. And my “after in the year” window keeps getting smaller. Not only that — but my back of the napkin math suggests I’ve probably left $50-100K [...]
We just got home for a whirlwind family vacation that included NYC, Paris, and Portugal. I was very familiar with the first two destinations but none of us had been to Portugal before so it was fun to explore a new place. One of the many things that surprised me about Portugal was finding bamboo growing in the less urban areas. It was unexpected and when we discover something unexpected today — we google it! As I was reading about how bamboo was brought into Portugal because its warm and windy climate is the perfect growing conditions for the plant, I was also reminded of bamboo’s strength. Bamboo, it turns out, is designed for strength, unlike other woods. Because of it’s internal microbiological structure, each stalk can withstand more stress and can bend with the pressures, giving it a higher tensile strength than steel! In my decades (ouch!) of working with agencies, I’ve come to believe that the ability to bend or flex as needed is one of the most vital core skills for a successful agency owner or leader. The reality is — our industry is often on the forefront of change and our clients look to us to herald in that change and help them adapt to it. We did it during the great recession, COVID and now we’re doing it with AI. An agency owner or leader has to naturally be flexible or if that’s not your strong suit, you need to develop the ability to bend. I believe it’s more of a mindset than anything else. Once we recognize and either accept or ideally embrace the concept that change is a natural part of our work and honestly — can be [...]
For the past two decades, I've been the go-to communications coach for world leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, and innovators—helping them unleash their true potential and propel their businesses forward. I've had the privilege of coaching remarkable individuals, from securing the 2016 Summer Olympics for Rio to working with tech giants and inspiring change makers at events like the Clinton Global Initiative and the Commonwealth Games Federation. Here’s the surprising thing I've discovered in my career: When making the asks that will move your career, business, and life forward, the goal is not always about getting a "yes." Before I get going, I need to say I’ll be talking about money and asking in this article, but money is a metaphor. You will make all kinds of asks in your career. Maybe your asks are about job titles, or connections, or access, or visibility, or responsibility. All of them will help you move toward your goals. So, let’s start with money, then you can apply this advice accordingly even if compensation or cash isn’t part of your ask. I’ve been out “on my own” for most of my career. That means I’ve written a lot of proposals. And when I say, “a lot,” I don’t mean a handful. I mean thousands. More than I care to count. I’ve got a lot of experience with proposals and negotiating, and I’m pretty good at it. But what I’ve learned from my long, independent career is that most of us go after the wrong thing. We pursue the “yes.” Now, I know what you’re thinking. The ‘yes’ is the wrong thing? What does that even mean? How could a ‘yes’ be bad? The “yes,” and especially the “quick yes,” is [...]
Whew — fear can be crippling, can’t it? I’m a leap and while in mid-air look to see if there’s water in the pool sort of guy, but I will admit that fear has shut me down more than once. But when I look back on my life, it was the moments that I stood at the end of the cliff, scared to death, but took the leap anyway that have provided me with some of my most satisfying moments. Pushing past fear into big, life-changing adventures (becoming a dad, buying the precursor to AMI and creating what AMI is today, etc.) are some of my most pivotal moments. But there were plenty of smaller moments too. I’ve always liked how tattoos looked on other people but the fear of the needle/pain combined with not having clarity about what would be meaningful enough to have permanently put on my body kept me from pursuing it. When I’m honest with myself — it was the fear of the needle that kept me from really contemplating the art part. Last year my daughter asked me to get a tattoo with her. The significance of that request and her idea for our shared tattoo was motivation enough to actually consider enduring the pain. When I actually got the tattoo — I discovered that the pain was far less than I imagined and the satisfaction of doing it was far greater. Why had I allowed fear to deprive me of that for so long? What is fear depriving you and your agency from experiencing? For much of 2023, agency owners have behaved out of fear. There are many sources of that state of fear — the economy, the challenges [...]
Employee satisfaction is not a one-size-fits-all thing. So, what should managers know about team members to improve satisfaction all around? In this piece I recently contributed to TalentCulture.com, I discuss how especially now, when employers are struggling to find strong talent, knowing what motivates your staff can play a central role in attracting and retaining top performers.
Some agencies don't measure any metrics at all. They're just flying by the seat of their pants. How can you possibly know what is going on with your agency if you aren't taking a closer look at the numbers? In this piece I recently contributed to Mediapost.com, I discuss how understanding metrics can help you increase profitability without ever taking on a new client.
When you develop a plan to sustain your agency during a recession, you increase its resiliency and even put it in a position to turn a profit. Agencies of any size can make 20% profit — no matter the economic conditions. In this piece I recently contributed to ChiefExecutive.net, I discuss how there is still time to prepare for a possible downturn and five steps to consider.