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 of hiring, the frustrations of a hybrid or fully remote work force, the elongation of the sales cycle. You can probably add a couple more reasons to that list. But for many of you — a combination of those factors has kept you paralyzed in place.

Should you make a big hire? Do you niche down? Do you tell your employees you want them back in the office at a different cadence? Do you fire the abusive or profitless but good for cash flow client? Do you fire the toxic or underperforming employee even though it will have impact on your culture?

It’s time we stand up to our fears and take some leaps. Our business is not really a “wait and see” kind of industry. It’s all about having the edge. The better culture. The right tax advisor. An easier path to new business. A stable bottom line. None of those come without risk. But you can’t be successful long-term without all of them.

I’m not suggesting you be reckless. But I am suggesting that you might be allowing fear to keep you from taking the right leap at the right time. I’d like to suggest that the back half of 2023 be about being bold. About taking some calculated risks. About not just hunkering down and waiting for things to happen to your business.

A leader makes things happen. A leader drives change. A leader steps out and carves a new path where it makes sense to do so. Even if it’s in uncharted waters. Even when it’s scary.

It’s time we start leading again as opposed to letting our fears hold us in place while our competitors move past us.

I think we need three things to move past our fear.

1) Clarity: We need to know what we should do and the why behind it. Why does it matter? What’s the gain? How will this decision change our trajectory?

2) Accountability: For many of us, we need someone else to help hold us accountable. It might be a business coach or another agency owner or your leadership team. Making a commitment to action with someone else is a strong motivator for us to actually take action.

3) Data: I’m not calling for us to be stupid. Let’s gather some facts. Let’s talk to some others who have gone before us. Let’s pilot the decision if it is that risky or big.

Odds are you created your agency in a huge leap of faith. And look where it’s taken you. Why wouldn’t you have that same level of confidence now?

Let’s push past the fear and make some of the investments, changes, and pivots that will set us up for success in 2024.


This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.