Effectively Managing the Client-Agency Relationship with Scott Monty

  • Managing the Client-Agency Relationship - Scott Monty

As an agency owner you know how valuable effectively managing the client-agency relationship is. But it’s getting tougher every day, as clients choose to work with multiple agencies and push for measurable metrics that proof that they money they invest with you is turning into leads and sales.

So how do you earn that loyalty with your clients? That’s part of the conversation I had on my podcast, Build a Better Agency, with Scott Monty, from Scott Monty Strategies, who used to be Ford Motor Company’s Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager.

Along with how you go about managing these relationships with your clients, Scott talked about his days at Ford and how he dealt with his multiple agencies and how they did/did not earn his trust and loyalty.

We also dug into how agencies can bring a different level of digital strategy to their clients and where professionals can look for strategic inspiration.

You’ll love his candor and his hard-earned client side advice.

To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/scott-monty/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.

If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below.

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits, too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew: Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Build a Better Agency. In today’s podcast, we’re going to explore the evolution of agencies, effectively managing the client-agency relationship, what it’s like to work with large agencies, and why our guest loved the agency side of the business so much that he left an influential position with Ford Motor Company to come back to our world. You’re going to really love this conversation with Scott Monty.

Let me tell you a little bit about him. Scott is an internationally recognized leader in digital communications, digital transformation, social media, and marketing. Today he is the principal of Scott Monty Strategies, where he counsels brands and agencies on strategy, executive communications, influencer management, the customer experience, and digital initiatives. Prior to that, Scott spent six years at Ford Motor Company as a strategic advisor on all kinds of things. From crisis communications, influencer relations, digital customer service and innovative product launches and much more. Prior to his time at Ford, Scott had about a year of experience at agencies where he worked with clients like IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, Coca-Cola, American Airlines, T-Mobile, and others.

Scott also writes about the changing landscape of business technology communications, marketing, and leadership at ScottMonty.com and is the executive editor and co-host of the Sherlock Holmes website and podcast, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. Scott, welcome to the podcast.

Scott: Hey, Drew, it’s a pleasure to be with you.

Drew: It’s good to reconnect. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a chance to talk, and I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation.

Scott: Yeah, same here. I’ve been following the evolution of your career and your business model with great interest. It’s an honor to be on the show.

Drew: Well, I think this will be fun. I think you’re going to have a lot of great things for the listeners. Let’s talk a little about initially kind of the career path you took. You started at agencies, and then you had the opportunity to move to Ford, and now you’re back on the agency side. Talk to us about that thought process and what it was about agency life that lured you back.

Scott: Well, it is a long and winding road. I think the time at Ford that I had was like no other. It came at a particular time during my career that it just made a difference in terms of where I was able to go, the things I was able to be exposed to, and how I could evolve both personally and professionally. I was in Boston at the time when I got the call from Ford. They said, “We need someone to lead our digital efforts out here.” My first question, because I had been doing a lot of the work I’d been doing the previous year virtually, was do I have to move to Detroit?

The answer was, “Yes, this is a kind of leadership position, we need you here at the headquarters,” and I actually turned them down at first blush. But what it did was it planted a seed. It got me to thinking about the things I had heard. I took a look at Ford’s plan, at its product cadence, at its leadership, most in particular, and I was predisposed to positive thoughts about them every time I saw them in the news. We had an opportunity to reconnect, and on the reconnection, that’s when they convinced me of the error of my ways and I got out there.

While I was there, we had the luxury of being supported by many different agencies. I think we had about four agencies on the communications side alone. Then the marketing team had a kind of conglomerate agency, that was a mash up of four separate agencies that had been supporting it. So between marketing and communications, we had a lot of agency input, and it exposed me to some of the smartest people in the industry, people that kept me on my toes. And I recognized that as a strength. It’s something that I had tried to do internally at Ford was to be…I want to back up just a second, Drew, because we use the term agency rather freely, and frankly in my new role, I consider myself more of a consultant rather than an agency.

I think there’s a nuanced difference between the two. I know agencies, it’s parlance. It’s common terminology, but an agent, if you look it up in the dictionary, is someone who is authorized to act on someone else’s behalf. A lot of times in the advertising world, whether it’s media buying, or ad placement, or what have you, that is exactly what an agency is doing. However, in the type of work that I do, I find that I am more of a consultant. I am a trusted counsel. I am someone who gives professional or expert advice based on my perspective. I think I’ve always brought a consultative approach to my work which is, ask a lot of questions. Try and understand people’s mindsets. Try and understand what their goals are and then offer advice only after you’ve done all of the sleuthing, as it were.

I did a lot of that internally at Ford. I was a consultant to many departments, even though that wasn’t communications’ primary responsibility. And I realized, “You know what? I could do this on my own,” and a lot of people told me that. They said, “You know, you should open your own consultancy,” and my response was, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Someday. Who knows? We’ll see.”

I was allowed to be very entrepreneurial within the confines of Ford, and I realized that I liked doing that. And as my time came to a close there, the walls were closing in. It was getting more and more corporate, and I missed that entrepreneurial spirit, that entrepreneurial activity. Rather than simply jumping from a Fortune 10 to a sole proprietorship, I took a year with Shift Communications. Great communications agency. Todd Defren, Christopher Penn, some of the brightest minds, and did the same kind of thing there where I consulted with all of the VPs internally to help them with strategy and digital. And at that point I was ready to jump off on my own.

Drew: What is it about serving the client-agency relationship, serving in that consultative role, what is it about that that at the end of the day sort of provides you with the juice to take the risk? Because as we know, whether we call it an agency or a consultancy or whatever, being out on your own is a little riskier than having a plum position at Ford, right?

Scott: Well, it is and it isn’t. In one respect, yeah, you have to hunt and kill. You have to provide your own overhead, your own insurance, etc., but it is also incredibly liberating to be the master of your own fate. To determine whether you want to put in a full day’s work or go to the park with your kids or whatever you have to do. The flexibility I think is fantastic. The other thing that I like is that I find myself challenging myself even more to keep on my toes, to stay connected with colleagues, to stay up to date on what’s going on in the industry, so that I am at peak performance when a client calls. I want to be giving them the best possible advice I can, and if I’m not priming myself, I don’t feel I’m really in a position to be giving them any kind of advice.

Drew: Yeah, makes perfect sense. While you were at Ford and you worked with all of those agencies, identify a couple of things that they did really well and a couple of things that our listeners can do differently, can avoid some pitfalls that you saw some of the agencies fall into. From a client’s perspective because we don’t get to see that very often. Most agency folks, as you know, have lived and breathed agency life pretty much most of their career. You have a unique perspective, so give us a little insight into how the client views that client-agency relationship, and what we’re doing well, and what perhaps we could do better.

Scott: I want to start with a story from the time I was at a B2B agency in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We had a client in the medical device community who had spent a number of years at an agency herself. I was really excited going into this because I thought, “Well, this is fantastic. To get someone who understands the trials and tribulations of being on the agency side.” A sympathetic ear so to speak. And so I was very much looking forward to building this client-agency relationship with her.

I should have seen the warning signs from my colleagues. They had already dealt with her, I was new to the account. She turned out to be one of the most vicious and thoughtless people. Just command and control, and barking orders, and never thanking the agency for the work they did. Just this huge expectation and it was never enough. And I thought, “Wow, you’ve been on the agency side already. If anyone should understand this, it should be you.” When I went to Ford, I vowed to myself, I will never be that kind of person on the client side. So I brought that with me.

The work that the agencies did for us on the communications team at Ford was groundbreaking. You have to remember this was during the time of the “carpocalypse.” When the entire auto industry globally was melting down, when Ford had to separate itself from the other two Detroit automakers and make it clear that it had it’s own plan.

The thing that I liked about our agencies, and we had traditional PR agencies, we had grassroots, we had social, you know we had crisis obviously, was their ability not only to integrate with the team, so it felt like we were a single team, not client and agency, but their ability to think ahead of us. When you’re not inside the brand, that can be very difficult to do. The challenge with most clients is, they know the brand better than you ever will because they live, sleep, breathe and eat it. And yet we had colleagues at our agencies that were constantly pushing us. That were getting ideas in front of us that we hadn’t thought of before. As you heard from what I described before, I like to stay on top of this stuff, so it was absolutely refreshing to have someone else pushing us rather than me having to push them. And that’s the kind of agency you will pay good money to keep around.

Drew: Yeah, you know, every year we go into the field and we talk to CMOs and business owners, people who hire agencies. One of the things we hear over and over and over again in the client-agency relationship is the agencies they value are the agencies that are always bringing them fresh ideas. Even if they don’t buy them all. It’s the idea that they’re forcing them to think and you’re trying. One of the trigger spots for knowing that they’re getting ready to fire an agency is when they feel like it’s sort of same old, same old.

Scott: Exactly. Frankly that can be very hard for an agency. Constantly coming up with new ideas. Being fresh, being creative, and being strategic. Not just getting an idea in front of the client because it’s the latest, greatest toy. It fundamentally has to fit with the strategic objectives of the business or of the department.

Drew: Right. So when you think about the relationships you had with all of your clients, was there anything, or were there some things that were commonalities that were sources of irritation or frustration for you in working with those partners?

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. And this may happen more with larger agencies or with larger clients, but I think it’s a trait that is common to human nature so I would like to address it. When you’re dealing with, whether it’s different teams from within the same agency, or perhaps different agencies within the same holding company, there is a constant turf battle for budget.

Just like on the client’s side there are constant turf battles between, say communications and marketing over who owns what. At the end of the day, the customer, or the client, they don’t care what your internal squabbles are. They want a problem solved. They want a solution to what it is that they’re trying to do. For us, when I saw agencies within the same holding company battling over who was going to own this idea, look, guys, I don’t care. Bring me the best idea you possibly can, and there will be plenty of money to be spread around between you. We’ll figure that out later. But they led by the P&L rather than being led by what’s right for the client. I absolutely couldn’t stand that.

Drew: On a small to midsize agency scale, it’s typically not inside a holding company, but a lot of clients are putting agencies together and saying, “Okay, you’re going to be my digital shop. You’re going to be my traditional shop. You’re going to be my PR shop. You people all need to work together.” That’s even worse because that’s not staying inside the family. That’s, somebody else is getting my part of the pie, but you’re right. From the client’s perspective, that’s squabbling over nothing and I just want this solved. And so, in many cases, it’s the agency who learns how to play nice best that ends up winning in that equation.

Scott: Exactly. Exactly.

Drew: Yeah. It’s all about the perception of always putting the client first in order to build that loyalty, right?

Scott: Exactly, yep.

Drew: As you thought about starting your own firm, what were some tenets or things that you knew had to be sort of cornerstones for how you wanted to work and how you wanted to provide value to your clients.

Scott: I think the first thing that I have is this experience with a Fortune 10 company. That’s very rare on the client side, and I wanted to make sure that it was perceived as a high value engagement. It’s awfully easy to get into the conversation, “Well, what’s your hourly rate?” Let’s put that off the table for now. Let’s talk about how we can work together toward providing a solution. Look, I’m coming to this with experience from working on the inside at one of the largest companies in the world. And not only working in communications, but working with the CEO, working with the Chief Marketing Officer, working in Investor Relations. It went on and on. The type of experience that I bring to the table, I think is quite unique.

Couple that with how companies are trying to figure out digital. Whether it’s the customer experience, whether it’s how their executives adapt to and use digital technologies, or how they engage with consumers. There’s still a lot of knowledge gaps out there about how to be effective in the digital space. That combination of digital, strategic, and big corporate experience, I think is a great package.

Drew: Yep, I agree, and I’m sure your clients are echoing that as well. So what’s the price? This is your first time owning your own shop. I know you’ve worked in B2B shops before you went to Ford. As an owner of a consultancy or an agency, and I will tell you that I think a lot of agencies today, many agencies today, aren’t buying media anymore or aren’t serving in that agent capacity. So even though they may have staff who executes and makes stuff, they probably do serve more as a consultancy with an execution arm than some of the big agencies that are still buying millions of dollars of media.

In terms of owning your own shop, what has surprised you so far in terms of the day to day life or how easy or hard it is? Where have you had to make some adjustments from your initial expectations?

Scott: That’s a good question. I don’t know that I was incredibly surprised by anything either positively or negatively. I did mention this just before we went on the air that if I had to do this over again, I probably wouldn’t have launched it at the height of the summer. I figured the time was right for me, and during the summer as you well know, people are mentally and physically checked out and delaying decisions. But it did allow me to get into people’s sub-conscious before Labor Day hit. Now that they’re back to work, things are really in motion. Frankly this is planning season for 2016 as well.

I will tell you this though, one of the things I’ve always had difficulty with, and this may seem like great irony for a guy who decides to eat everything he kills, I am not a new business development guy. I detest the whole cold call sales kind of thing. I felt that at least at this point in my career I had built enough of a reputation that I wouldn’t have to do a lot of the, “Hello, my name is…” kind of introduction. That my reputation precedes itself a bit.

For that reason, I’ve developed a kind of a side area, which is also a revenue stream for me, and that is public speaking. This allows me to get in front of large groups of people. It allows me to present my thinking, to interact with the audience. And it could be at corporations, it could be at trade and industry shows, it could be at marketing conferences, but this is allowing me to use something that I like doing as a calling card, so to speak, to help sell my services.

Drew: Yeah, many agency owners feel exactly the same way you do. They are all hungry to find the magic new business person which, by the way, typically does not exist so they don’t have to do it, but many of them are turning towards speaking, maybe even on a local level, or a regional level, or if their agency has a specialty niche or category. Obviously with your experience, you can probably open a different level of door, but the methodology and the model is the same which is stand in front of someone, give them great value, teach them things that will help their business, and they’ll go, “Hey, you know what? I bet that guy or that woman can teach me stuff on a regular basis. I should explore that a little more.” So you’re right. It’s a great strategy.

Scott: Exactly. The next phase of that, or the phase that I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are public speakers is, “When’s your book coming out?”

Drew: I was going to say write the book. Yup.

Scott: I’m like, “Oh.” Again, that’s one of those things that I’ve heard time and again, “You should write a book.”

First of all, I’m not going to write it on social media because that’s the last thing the world needs is another book about social media. And I want to appeal to a broader audience anyway given the lessons that I learned at Ford and what I just observe and bring to the table. I think that is part of my future plan, but I need to figure out exactly what it’s going to look like and what the timetable will be.

Drew: Well, I think that one of the things, when I talk to agency owners, one of the things I warn them about is you don’t want to marry yourself to a channel, or a medium. Because while social media, or digital, or mobile, or whatever programmatic is the hot one today, whatever the hot thing is today, it’s not going to be hot tomorrow. You certainly don’t want to hang your hat on something that is going to last you for, in our world today, maybe five years at the most, and then it becomes a commodity.

Scott: Exactly.

Drew: I think you’re wise to not go down the social media path, but the business strategy path which is really, at the end of the day, what you sell.

Scott: Exactly.

Drew: That’s never going to grow old, right?

Scott: That’s exactly right, Drew. I think if you’re able to tap into these universal truths, whether it’s in business or just human nature in general, and that’s one thing that I’ve enjoyed doing throughout my career is…I was a classics major as an undergrad at Boston University. My intention after school was to go to medical school. I figured, “Well,” I was doing pre-med, “I’ll get plenty of science later on, so why don’t I do something that is different?” so I majored in the classics. It didn’t hit me until later on in my career, and I’ve obviously veered off of the medical field, how valuable that education was in terms of understanding the universality and the timelessness of human nature and understanding what drives people.

If you can understand from a psychological standpoint, from a sociological standpoint, how people have carried themselves, the things they care about, even studying the history of media, it’s a wonderful tool to educate yourself on how you might act moving forward.

Drew: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. My original major was psych, and I often lean on it on the agency side of the business and also with the work I do at AMI, so you’re right. I think having an understanding of humans and how we think, and feel, and respond to those thoughts and feelings ends up serving us well. Absolutely.

Thinking about the clients that you serve now, at the end of the day, what are you doing in the client-agency relationship that makes you sticky? How are you making sure that they have no desire to talk to anybody else? That once they’ve hired you and your firm that they are going to stay put for a long time so you can avoid that new business hustle that you don’t enjoy?

Scott: Well, clearly it’s my irresistible charm.

Drew: No doubt. I figured you were bringing that in spades.

Scott: I think, again, one of the things is simply being in front of them. Pushing them with ideas. I’ve done some work with some agencies recently where I helped them with new business. To me that’s an invaluable service if it works out well because here’s the way I set it up. You need some particular area of expertise. Maybe you’re pitching a big corporation. Maybe you’re doing something that’s digital heavy. Maybe you’re even doing something in the automotive space, I am your guy.

I come in for about 30 days to help beef up the RFP strategy, maybe work on the deck, provide some input, and give them the option of bringing me in on the pitch, because I typically do very well in person. The way the contract is written, because I don’t believe in the whole bait and switch thing that I’ve seen some agencies do. They dangle the big talent out there, and you sign the contract, and the person is never to be seen again.

Drew: Right. Then you get the junior woodchucks.

Scott: Exactly. And it’s all done for the sake of maximizing the profit. I’ve never believed in that. When I go into these relationships, the proviso is, “Look, if you win the business, then you bring me on as a retained advisor and utilize me to rep the relationship with the client.” As long as they have the client, I have a job.

What I like about that model, at least for my purposes right now is that I don’t have to deal with procurement. I don’t have to go through all of the back- breaking calisthenics that the finance department makes you do. That’s somebody else’s job. I come in under the umbrella of someone else managing the client, and I just need to show up with ideas.

Drew: You get to do the fun part of the work then.

Scott: Exactly.

Drew: And when you own the joint, you get to sort of decide what you do and don’t do, right?

Scott: Exactly.

Drew: As you have come alongside agencies in that kind of a role, what have you observed about what agencies are doing well or could do better sort of as they prep for a big pitch or an RFP? What are you seeing out there that are sort of some oops, here’s a place that I can help course correct because a lot of agencies are making this mistake?

Scott: I think there’s this notion that’s, and I mentioned this before, wanting to grab at whatever the latest trend is and make that the big thing. I don’t care whether it’s real time marketing or streaming mobile video. Whatever. I don’t bother with those details up front. Those are the things you figure out later on.

My concern is the strategy and focusing on providing a solid strategy first rather than a bunch of cool tactics that all look great because they’re bundled together. I think having an external viewpoint, having a third party step in, a lot of times helps you stay honest with the assignment and to really step back and say, “Well, is this really addressing what we were asked to address, or is it just a bunch of tactics that all happened to ladder up?” I think it’s very easy to get sucked into that leading with tactics kind of approach because you’re so enamored with the assignment, or you’re so enamored with the particular platforms or technologies you’ve just seen. You just want to put it into use.

I get that, and I love that agencies are so enthusiastic about that kind of work, but without that kind of…I guess you could say gravitas that I bring to the role. I say, “All right, this is great. Calm down,” and then I launch into my questions and start the consultative approach. That tends to get people back on the same page a lot of times.

Drew: I think it’s easy to lead with the shiny object as opposed to the thinking. A lot of agencies struggle in the new business processes you know with, but that’s what we get paid to do is think. You’ve got to find a happy medium of, yep, and you will get paid to think more if you think now and show them how you think in the new business process. But if you come in with just stuff and someone else comes in with a great strategy, you’re never going to even have the opportunity to get paid.

Scott: Exactly.

Drew: What does the future hold for you? I know one of the things that I want to remind everybody about it and I did mention it in the intro is you also publish a great weekly piece. Tell us a little bit about that and how the listeners can access that.

Scott: I publish a newsletter. It also goes up on my website. It’s called “The Week in Digital.” What I try to do with this is to pick and choose the stories in our industry, in communications, marketing, technology, that are significant in some way, that can affect how we do business, how we approach customers and clients.

It’s divided into about eight or so sections. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. The industry at large. The rising importance of audio technology, particularly around podcasting and streaming audio. The collaborative economy, things that are changing the way that we look at goods and services. A section on metrics, and data, and measurement, privacy and things to do with legal matters. Then just things you should be thinking about reading that are longer form that require a little more thought.

And more than just providing a series of links, because I’ve seen plenty of publications that just throw a bunch of links at you. What I like to do is to first of all describe what it is that is being talked about in the news, and then bundle stories together to create trends or to help people see the bigger opportunities here, and then provide a little bit of commentary and analysis along with it. That combination of everything I’ve just described has turned out to be very valuable to a number of people. It’s available on my website, ScottMonty.com. Just go to the newsletter section in the header there and you can find it. I get compliments from people every week, whether privately through email, or publicly in tweets or on Facebook, just saying how valuable it is.

Drew: It’s great content. I’ve been a reader for a long time, and in full disclosure, AMI is a sponsor of the product. It’s great stuff.

Scott: And we appreciate that.

Drew: Something that all of the listeners should go and subscribe to because it will immediately make you smarter and more versed in conversations throughout the week. It’s a great way to get abreast of everything. It must take you hours to pull all that together.

Scott: It’s a labor of love. Let’s put it that way. But again, this is part of how I keep myself up to speed. I’m spotting these stories throughout the week. I plan to write an article about exactly how I do all of this curation because I think it’s a valuable exercise for people to understand, and some of the tools I use. I’ve got, obviously RSS subscription, but I get a lot of email newsletters. Again, I scan everything in the morning, and throughout the day when I’m interacting with people online, I look at the links that they’re sharing and what’s important to them, and I just throw all these links into a Flipboard magazine which acts as a repository. Toward the end of the week I start assembling it, and by Sunday afternoon I’ve got a pretty good sense as to what the flow is like.

What I’ve started doing recently on Facebook, because I’ve got one of those blue check marks next to my name on Facebook. I don’t how it happened. It just showed up one day. I’m like, “Okay.” What that has allowed me to do is, it’s given me access to the Facebook mentions app which is, it’s been going to a lot of journalists. You can do live video on there. What I’ve done is on Sunday evenings for about 10 minutes, I’ll talk about 2 or 3 of the issues in my newsletter in more depth. So you’re getting a little more commentary analysis from me actually on video, which then actually I can take and put as a topper onto the newsletter when it goes out Monday morning.

For the people that are tuned in, for the people that are paying attention, they get a little bit of an extra value add there. They can certainly pop into the comments stream, ask questions, interact with me, and feel like they have a jump on some of the issues that they’re going to be reading about the next day.

Drew: Yeah, it’s a great publication, and I also think it’s also a great new business tool for you in terms of demonstrating. It’s, you’re showing me. You’re not telling me how smart you are, but you’re showing me how you are as current as you are and you’re on top of all the trends which, if I’m a client looking for a consultant in that space, that would make sense that that would be appealing to me.

Scott: Sure.

Drew: Right now, correct me if I’m wrong, but right now, Scott Monty Strategies is you, right? You have no employees at this point?

Scott: That’s correct. I do have folks that I’m talking to with skills in various different areas so that if a client assignment comes up that is beyond my capabilities or beyond my time constraints, I’m starting to look at folks that can actually help me out there.

Drew: Okay, that was where I was going to go. Is it the vision of your model to stay a solo consultant or do you envision building some sort of a consultancy with a team behind you?

Scott: I haven’t really gotten that far, Drew. I’m just taking this one day at a time. I think if I can manage on my own, and eke out a pretty good living and still do the things I want to do, then I’d be more than happy to just do that. If it gets to a point where business is simply flowing in more than I can accommodate, and I’ve got people that are banging down my door that really want to work with me, then that will certainly be up for consideration as well.

Drew: Yeah, one of the great things about owning your own shop is you get to decide those things. Back to what you said before, which is, “I sort of like being able to control the situation and know that I am the one who is making the decisions.” That’s certainly an appealing part of agency ownership.

Scott: Yeah, exactly. To be able to go into this with the notion of, “Well yeah, I’m going to build up an agency of X number of people.” I don’t want to force anything. I don’t want to do something that the market has no call for. I’m more of the one that responds to the market forces.

Drew: As you know because we have talked about, you and I share an affection for Sherlock Holmes. So I cannot go through the whole podcast without asking you if those two loves ever intersect for you, and if somehow do you find yourself quoting Sherlock Holmes with your clients, or do you find anything about that passion of yours trickling into your work life or are they truly separate?

Scott: No, I think they always have. I’ve had the Ihearofsherlock.com site for 10 years now. The podcast is eight years old. For me it’s always been something that has acted as a bit of a laboratory because it’s more of a mainstream audience, so I get to test out technologies and techniques and see how Middle America responds to it, or the rest of the world, quite frankly, it’s an international readership and listenership. It’s a good thing to keep me honest in terms of the work that I do.

The other thing is that, let’s not forget, Sherlock Holmes was a consultant, and Watson was his front man. He was his PR man, he was the guy who basically made him known to the rest of the world. In some cases I feel like I’m channeling a bit of each, the consultant and the publicist.

There are a number of great quotes from the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I’ve been doing visuals each week that I share with quotes that inspire me. A lot of what I do, what I talk about on stage when I speak, I get my inspiration from literature. Again, trying to dip back into that undergraduate education. I just opened a speech last week with a poem by Robert Frost.

What it does is, it takes people off-guard and it really gets their attention because they don’t…This is a business speech, or this is a business podcast. This is a business website. What business do you have quoting poetry or literature? I firmly believe that the more widely read you are, the more of a critical thinker you are, the more that it brings alternate ideas to your work. To the extent that I can get inspired from some of the literary greats of the past and apply that to knowledge today, that goes right back to the point that we were talking about earlier about the universality and timelessness of human nature.

Drew: Cannot agree more. I agree. I think the broader our knowledge and the more we fill our head with different things is…one thing I say all the time is, “You have no idea what you’re going to need to know,” and so the more you know the better. It’s all handy fodder for the client work that we do and the humanity that we deal with.

Scott: Absolutely.

Drew: I always like to wrap up the podcast with some actionable items. One of the themes I think from our conversation today is the idea of really focusing in on strategy and critical thinking and not getting caught up in tactics or shiny objects.

For the agency owners that are listening who struggle, maybe not themselves but may be struggling getting their team not to jump right to tactics, give me a couple of action items or things that they can do either for themselves or for their team to stay in that strategic space longer and to dig deeper into that field before they leave it into, “Here’s the stuff we’re going to do.”

Scott: I have to credit my friend, Jay Bear, with this. It was a conversation he had around content, but I think the premise is still relevant. He said, “Before you go off on any tangent and create content…” which as a marketer, as an agency owner, you are in love with the idea, right?

Drew: Right.

Scott: But what would your mom think about it? How would your mom approach this kind of thing?

Let’s face it, most of our moms, and we love them dearly, are on the trailing edge of technology, and they’re from another generation. And that stands to reason. It’s certainly not a slam against moms. What would your mom…what would your grandmother think of this idea? Would she be scratching her head at it?

Again, this is why I constantly lean on that Sherlock Holmes blog that I have to test out the stuff to the mainstream audience. If you’re jumping to something that mainstreamers have…First of all you don’t even have any idea what it is let alone how it works. Why bother?

Coming at it from, what would your mom think or how would you describe this over Thanksgiving dinner to your parents? That’s not to say you need to dumb it down. It’s to get to the core of what it is that you’re trying to achieve and making sure that everyone is on that page together.

Drew: Great advice. Any last thoughts or something that you think agency owners need to hear, or need to know, or need to be cognizant of as they march out their vision like you’re marching out yours?

Scott: Again, I think that relentless focus on the client and the client-agency relationship is absolutely critical. One of the things that really struck me when I was at Ford Motor Company, and this will stay with me for my entire career, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the agency side or on the client side.

When Alan Mulally called me up one day, I think I was in New York at the auto show. It was early on. I got a call, “Hi, Scott. This is Amy, Alan’s executive assistant. Can you hold for Alan?” I’m walking around the floor of Javits, I’m like, “Oh my God. I’ve got to find a place to sit down.”

She patches him through and he just…He wanted to tell me what a good job he thought I did on whatever project or initiative. I said, “Alan, it’s my pleasure. I can’t believe I’m part of this organization.” He said, “Neither can I. It’s an honor to serve.” I’ve heard him talk about that a number of times. He said, “We are in the business of service.” It doesn’t matter whether you are an agency owner, an account director, or someone on the client side, you are serving someone else. You’re serving a market. You are serving a need. You are serving customers. If you constantly remember that you are in the service business, and what an honor it is to serve, what an honor it is to be chosen to represent your company, I think that will guide you a long, long way.

Drew: Amen. Cannot agree with that more. Absolutely. When you figure that someone like that who’s used to having everyone serve him can remember that, we certainly can remember it too.

Scott: Absolutely.

Drew: This has been awesome as I knew it would be. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your experience. I really appreciate it.

Scott: Thank you, Drew. I do have to say, you ask some of the most insightful questions, and you really roll with the conversation really well. So nice job on your end.

Drew: Thank you very much. Listeners, please go to ScottMonty.com. If you don’t do anything else, make sure you grab that weekly newsletter. It will make you smarter, it will make you more insightful, and it will connect you with Scott, which I promise you will enjoy. Again, thanks everybody for listening and I will catch you next week.

That’s all for this episode of “Build a Better Agency.” Be sure to visit AgencyManagementInstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up to our e-newsletter, grab our free eBook, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients, and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.

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