Episode 18

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Adam Carroll is quickly being recognized as one of the top financial educators in the country based on his core message of “you are the architect of your own life.” Adam has presented all over the globe. Over 500 universities have been lucky enough to host him and he has presented some amazing TedTalks all over the world.

In 2014, Adam successfully crowdfunded a documentary on student loan debt titled Broke, Busted & Disgusted, and he raised nearly $70,000 for the film in 45 days. The mission of the film is to start a national debate about changing the way we fund college and not crippling 20 something’s with mountains of debt.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Adam’s documentary “Broke, Busted, & Disgusted”
  • Accountability and business owners: why you need accountability partners
  • What agencies should be doing at the tail end of the year
  • How Adam saves time for his family by using a Power Priority List
  • What to look for (and look out for) in an accountability partner
  • What different kinds of accountability partners you should have (hint: they shouldn’t all be entrepreneurs)
  • Mastermind groups vs. accountability partners: do you need both? If not, which one is right for you?
  • The commitment required for mastermind groups and accountability partners
  • What you can do right now to act on the ideas from this episode

 

The Golden Nugget:

“When you start a mastermind group, it has to be your highest priority.” – @adamcarroll Share on X

Click to tweet: Adam Carroll shares the inside knowledge needed to run an agency on Build a Better Agency!

 

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Speaker 1:

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 McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am your fearless leader, Drew McClellan, and my role is to introduce you to guests and ideas and best practices that help you minimize the risks of agency ownership while making the most of all the rewards that can come with it. As you know, I work with over 250 small to midsize agency owners every year and I know that today’s guest is going to have something to share for all of you. Whether you are ready to hear it or not, that’s going to be up to you but I know that it’s stuff that we need to talk about and you need to hear and we’re going to talk today about accountability and how difficult that is when you own the joint. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Adam Carroll is quickly being recognized as one of the top financial educators in the country with his core messages being you are the architect of your own life and that starts with your behavior around finances and money.

Adam has presented all over the globe. Over 500 colleges and universities have been lucky enough to host him. He has been in London where he did an amazing TED talk and he’s done TED talks all over the US as well. In early 2014, Adam successfully crowdfunded a documentary on student loan debt and raised nearly $70,000 in 45 days. The film Broke, Busted & Disgusted is being released very soon and is already garnering critical acclaim and I’m really excited for all of you to see it. It’s very eyeopening and something that we need to talk about.

The goal of the film is to start a national debate about changing the way we fund college and not crippling 20 somethings with mountains of debt. So you would think that Adam and I were going to talk about money today but instead we’re going to turn our attention to the idea of being accountable and the idea of using mastermind groups to do that. And in full disclosure, there’s a special reason why Adam and I are choosing that topic. Adam is a very close personal friend of mine and for the better part of a decade has been a part of my mastermind group. And I can tell you without a doubt that being a part of that group absolutely has changed my business and my life and so I am very excited to welcome my good friend and mentor Adam Carroll to the show. Adam, welcome.

Adam Carroll:

Drew, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be in front of your tribe. I’m very excited.

Drew McLellan:

I’m excited too. And a couple other things guys. You’re going to want to check out … Adam was a podcaster long before I jumped into the water and he does probably my all time favorite podcast and ironically it’s called Build a Bigger Life Podcast. He talks to amazing people who have decided that they wanted to do something bigger and better and really he dives into how they do that and why they do it and really gets the recipe for how that gets done. So you’re going to want to check that out wherever you happen to go get your podcasts. And we’ll talk more about that I’m sure. But Adam, let’s talk a little bit about accountability because you and I are both business owners and it would seem on the surface that one of the perks of owning a business is that you’re not accountable to anybody. So help me with the psychology and help our listeners with the psychology around why even though it doesn’t sound all that great, why we should want it.

Adam Carroll:

It’s a really interesting question Drew and I think that you hit the nail on the head. We are business owners. And I think by nature we gravitate towards being business owners because we don’t necessarily want to answer to anyone.

Drew McLellan:

And we’re twisted.

Adam Carroll:

And we’re twisted. Yes. There’s some weirdness that goes on with being a business owner. But I also think that especially your demographic, your tribe, and a lot of the folks that I work with, we’re creatives. And as creatives we have ideas pop every minute. But it’s being able to figure out which of those ideas are worthwhile and which we should go after and which we shouldn’t that has become a challenge in my life. And it wasn’t until you and I and Mitch began our mastermind group and I started partnering with some accountability partners that I really began to harness the power of being accountable to what I said I was going to do and what my ideas were and which ones really needed attention and which ones didn’t.

Drew McLellan:

And what was the outcome for you of that?

Adam Carroll:

Well, interestingly, I’ve been reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s a great eye opening read. And in it, he has this diagram of … If you can imagine a circle with arrows coming out from all different angles and sides. He gives that example on the one hand and on the other hand is one circle with one arrow going straight up much farther, much darker and much more powerful than the other. And I saw that diagram and thought, this is me. I have multiple paths and avenues that I could go out and find opportunity. And let’s face it, types of revenue. But am I better off going after one or maybe two? And so having an accountability partner and actually multiple accountability partners has been really instrumental for me in saying, okay, I have all these great ways of making money, but just because I can make money doing things doesn’t mean I should.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and in fact, by chasing all of the different ideas, I dilute all of the different ideas because I can’t possibly give all of them my time and attention to the level that they need for the level of excellence that A, I want to bring, but B, so I can really dig a deep mine and really get the riches out of one or two of those big ideas right?

Adam Carroll:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, in its simplest form, it’s the 80/20 principle, right? It’s Pareto. Are we spending the highest percent of time on things that are giving us the greatest bang for our buck? And I’ll talk candidly about one of my accountability partners who is … Again, very candidly, he pisses me off sometimes because he is so laser focused about his feedback to me that sometimes it almost stings a bit. And I’ll give you kudos to this too, Drew. You have a way of giving advice and it’s sort of a duh moment when you say it. And I think that sometimes it’s easier to read the label on the outside of the jar than on the inside of the jar.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Adam Carroll:

So having that person like you or like my friend David, to give us that kind of feedback and to hold us accountable to what we said we’re going to do is really, really critical.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. When I talk to agency owners, one of the biggest challenges they talk about is that they’re scattered and they can’t actually get their to-do list done and all of that. I think part of that is a symptom of unlike your direct reports and unlike the rest of the people on your staff, nobody is looking over your shoulder and going uh-uh (negative), or this is due today. We have to do it for ourselves and quite honestly, we’re really horrible accountability partners for ourselves.

Adam Carroll:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And what happens as an agency owner or a business owner when there’s no carrot and no stick? So some of us will say, “I need to get this done,” but we don’t really build in any layer of accountability in the sense of I’m going to bonus myself, or I’m going to award myself for getting this done on time. And there’s really no penalty because if I don’t get it done, well, I own the place so they have to answer to me. I don’t have to answer to them.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Adam Carroll:

And I think installing someone in your life that … It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You’re able to mentor, coach and hold them accountable. And likewise, they do the same for you. I think that does tremendous things for a person’s business and productivity.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I was just with a group of agency owners and we were talking about time management and accountability and all of that. And somebody suggested that they put one of their staff people in charge of holding them accountable. And it was amazing to watch all these agency owners bristle at that idea that. That someone who works for them would tell them what to do. And while in theory that makes sense, they’re around every day and all of that, the truth of it is we don’t want to be held accountable to somebody whose paycheck we write. And that’s I think the power of having sort of dual accountability back and forth between two people or a small group of people like a mastermind group, is that these are people who are in your life and in your world, but they’re not so in your world that it’s offensive that they hold you accountable.

Adam Carroll:

Right. Exactly. And I think there is something key in that statement and that is that it’s not offensive, but it can be very, should I say, abrasive if it needs to be. Because I had a conversation with this accountability partner of mine last week and it was after we had set up a time to meet. We have a weekly standing call that we usually check in for 20 or 30 minutes and we go through the regular, this is what you said you were going to do last week. Did you do it? Why didn’t you do it? And then we begin to notice patterns in each other. And I would say he’s very good about noticing patterns in me and calling me out on them. And last week we had a moment like that. I had to cancel at the last minute. And I said, “Something’s come up. I would like to have this call. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Well, I didn’t call him the next day. And he sent me an email. And it was a very long, very heartfelt email, but it was very to the point about fact that I had said I was going to call him, I didn’t do it. How many times am I doing that in my life and what is the impact that it’s having? And so then he challenged me to look at how many emails am I responding to at the very first attempt that have nothing to do with my business, but they’re people who want my time or want my attention, but they don’t help me build what I’m trying to build? And his point was in a very friendly, but assertive way, saying, “You need to look at your priorities and decide what are the most important conversations to have and which ones you need to abandon or push off for a while.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That had to sting a little bit.

Adam Carroll:

It did. It sat with me for about three days in all honesty Drew. And I wondered why it hurt so bad. And it wasn’t a hurt physical pain or anything. It was more like a, oh, mentally, emotionally, it hurts that he had to say that. But I also know that that hurt means that it impacted me. If it didn’t hurt, I just didn’t believe it. But I believed that it was probably true. So it’s definitely been something I’ve been working on.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I think for a lot of the listeners, I think this is really about … Odds are they’ve built a great agency and things are going pretty well. And yeah, there are the ebbs and flows and the bang your head against an employee issue or get fired by a client. But for the most part things are going pretty well. And I think sometimes the most dangerous thing for a business owner is to be fat and happy. And you sort of stop putting the pedal to the metal because you are feeling like things are better. And I think a lot of agencies came out of the recession and things are better today than they were a few years ago. But the reality is every agency owner is feeling this nagging thing in the back of their head that they aren’t getting as much done.

They certainly are not spending times on the things that are important, but not urgent, which is one of the things that we often talk about in our mastermind group is really sort of the bigger picture. What do I have to get done this quarter to hit my goals and all that sort of stuff. So that’s why I think this topic is so critical for them because everybody has to find a group of people or another person that allows them to be their best self. When I look at our mastermind group, I think that’s what it does for me is it forces me and gives me the opportunity to be my best self by holding me accountable.

Adam Carroll:

Absolutely. That notion of being fat and happy, I hear complacency a lot. And people will say, “Well, I kind of lost my drive.” It’s just it’s comfortable. I had this conversation with a gentleman yesterday, who I think was actually looking for accountability, Drew, in all honesty. And he said, “For the last three to five years I’ve had a really good job. I could come home at five or 5:30 and open a bottle of wine and sit and hang out with my kids. I didn’t really have the drive.” And I think part of that is an accountability partner too will say, “Do you want more and if you want more, what is it? And why aren’t you going after it? What’s in your way or what’s keeping you back?” For me it’s been both you guys. Dave. I have one other accountability partner I talk to on a regular basis. It’s sort of them reminding me what I’m capable of, like you said and then pushing me to that level as much as possible. And I think there’s something to that. Having someone that reminds you how good you are or how good you can be and you’re not quite living up to that at this point. It’s nice to have that mirror to be held up to you every now and again.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and I think too, I think the other thing that a lot of agency owners struggle with is sometimes they’re just wiped out. They’ve sort of lost their mojo. And I think having somebody hold you accountable is the gentle kick in the rear sometimes of, you know what, you do still have gas in the tank and you have things to accomplish this month, this quarter, this year. So let’s go do them. So to your point, it is about holding up the mirror and saying, “You got this and I have your back, but I’m also going to … Not only do I have your back, but my hand is on your back and I’m sort of pushing you along a little bit when you need the nudge.”

Adam Carroll:

Absolutely. Absolutely. So a question for you Drew, when it comes to the agency owners. We’re nearing the end of the year or if there was an end of the quarter period or a midyear point, do agency owners begin to let off on the gas a little bit towards, let’s say the end of the year?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think like a lot of business owners, unless you’re in a retail kind of environment, I think everybody looks at around December 10th, December 15th as okay, that’s sort of when things slow down. So for a lot of agency owners … AMI put together several years ago, we have a one page business plan worksheet and that’s the time of year that I’m encouraging them to really invest the time thinking about what are the big things they want to get done in some key areas like finance and new business and the staff? What’s the one big thing that’s in the way of you having a stellar year and how do you get that out of the way early on in the year? It’s a great time to do some planning, but for many agencies, yeah, things do slow down at the tail end of the year.

Adam Carroll:

And I think one of the things that I’ve been doing with my accountability partner which may be helpful to some of your agency owners is chunking down the last six weeks or four weeks or two weeks and saying, “Okay, here’s the things that I think I can do to add value.” And maybe they’re calls, maybe it’s 10 calls you haven’t made. Maybe it’s check-ins with some of your biggest clients that you lost two years ago. But something you can do in the last two or three weeks of the year or six weeks of the year that would allow you to offer some tremendous value to people that sets you up for success at the beginning of the first year. And I’m very similar. My business tends to taper off towards the end of the year. A lot of my revenue comes from speaking engagements and most of that is put on hold after about December 5th to the 10th.

And yet those last few weeks of the year, I generally will be creating a ton of value for the first quarter. I’ll be doing a lot of outreach. I’ll offer even 30 minute consultations with certain people that I’ve worked with in the past. And my accountability partner had said, “What can you do during that period so it’s not wasted time?” Because it would be like me to catch up on all the shows that I’ve been wanting to watch on Netflix. And yet I know that there is a tremendous amount of productivity yet in me. It’s kind of like getting the last of the toothpaste out of the tube. My wife is a master at getting every last ounce of toothpaste out of that tube. And I feel like years have passed in years past where there was still toothpaste left and I threw it away at the end of the year when I should have been squeezing all that I had out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s a great analogy. And I think a lot of times people go, “Oh, well, you know what? This is my time. This is family time. It’s the holidays and all of that.” And that sort of reminds me to make the point that the whole reason you want to be more accountable is so that you are more successful, however you define that, whatever that means for you, so you do have more time to do the things that you love to do, whether that’s hang with friends or family or whatever it is. It’s not about being busy all the time. It’s not about putting more things on your to-do list. It’s about actually carving things out of your to-do list and, as you said earlier, sort of laser focusing in. And what you’re talking about is … We’re not suggesting don’t hang out with your family over the holidays. That’s not what we’re saying. What we’re saying is when it’s a quiet time work wise and you’re going to be at work, how do you amplify what you do to make 2016 or 2017, any calendar year, more productive right out of the chute?

Adam Carroll:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things that I know about you is that your family is incredibly important to you and you’re a very devoted father and husband. And so talk a little bit about how all this accountability allows you to do more of that. And maybe the lines that accountability crosses between both our personal and our professional lives.

Adam Carroll:

Well, it’s a great question Drew. And you are right. My family, I would hold at the highest level of importance in my life. I think if I’m not being an effective father or husband, I’m failing at my main job. Part of that … And this is the challenge I think for a lot of entrepreneurs is we see ourselves as the breadwinner, as the person that’s going to go out and slay dragons all day. And yet we also need to make sure we have time for our family. And I had some big goals this last year. I wanted to speak internationally. I wanted to finish this documentary project I’d been working on. And I had a number of these goals that had been listed out. And I got called to the carpet by one of my accountability partners. And he said, “Based on all of this, where do you plug in time for your family and how do you make that a priority?”

And one of the things that he challenged me on was I had international travel on my list and he said, “So you want to spend more time with your family and yet you want to do inter travel, which will take you away from your family. So how do you put the two of those together or how do you reconcile that you want one thing but it’s mutually exclusive of the other?” And I think there’s value in that. There’s value in having someone question based on what you say you want, are you doing that? Are you living up to those principles? So for me, it has been a matter of making sure that my family rank in high priority. That I measure and manage the amount of time that I’m spending with them. And at the same time, figuring out when I can be most productive.

To your point, I don’t generally have a lot of days where I sit and twiddle my thumbs or answer emails or mindlessly surf the web. My very first thing that I do every day Drew is I create my power priority list. And my power priority list are all of the things that I have to do that day. I then take about 10 minutes and I list them all in A, B or C priority. And then I list them A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3. And then before I even start on the project, I’m listing how much time that I think I will spend on each of those. And then when I begin that project, I’ll race the clock. So if I say, “I’m going to record a solo cast and I think it’s going to take me 30 minutes to write it and 15 minutes to record it.”, then I set a timer and I’m racing that timer to make sure that it’s done.

Similarly, one of my high priorities is my kids get home about 3:30 or 4:00 every day, I’d like to be done at about 4:30 so that I can go shoot hoops with my boys or download about my daughter’s day before she digs into a book or her iPod or whatever she ends up doing. And carving out that time for me. There’s this period between 4:30 and 7:30 that should be dedicated family time. And the weeks where I have more days that that doesn’t happen I know that I feel out of sync. And that’s usually when I’m talking to you or Mitch or an accountability partner saying, “Okay, here’s what’s happening. Here’s what I did.” And they’re saying, “Well, what can you do to change it? Do you need to get up earlier? Do you need to do work at night? How can you make that a priority given that you’re saying it’s a priority?” But for me, I feel like the wheel of life is lopsided if my family isn’t getting adequate time.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and at the end of the day, that’s why we need to be held accountable. It’s not about making our businesses bigger, better, stronger, although that obviously is part of it. But at the end of the day, I don’t know an agency owner or a business owner that doesn’t have someone in their life, whether they have a family or they have close friends or whatever it is, that they want to spend more time with. And there are things that are I to all of us personally, that when we’re distracted all the time … I have a lot of agency owners talk about how their kids feel about their cell phone and that it’s always ringing and they can never get away. And that’s really a result of not having your priorities in order and not being able to sort of marshal up all that you have to go as fast and far as you can so that you can carve out the time. I think that’s the message of why this matters is because we work so that we can have a life. Work shouldn’t be our life. And by having an accountability partner I think you have a better chance … Or partners in a mastermind group. You have a better chance of actually getting to your true priorities.

Adam Carroll:

Agreed. Agreed. And I think there is an assumption based on what you just said, Drew. There’s an assumption that when the phone rings we need to be available for it. And I actually think that … And I think this was a four hour work week tidbit that Tim Ferris wrote about. But if you have a very purposeful voicemail message and the voicemail message were to suggest something like I apologize if you’re getting this voicemail if it’s before 5:00, but I make it a point to cut out of work at 4:30 or at 5:30 or whatever time you feel comfortable. I make it a point to cut out of work at 5:00 and that time is family time. If this is an emergency, text me and I’ll respond within an hour.

But I think offering up something like that, I’ve done it in the past a