Episode 307

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As we continue the push into a post-pandemic world, many agencies are taking a hard look at how they approach business and what they want this new future to look like. Many are implementing long-term changes inspired by what the last 18+ months has taught them. Others have been inspired to make changes toward a more focused vision. Success with these changes starts with becoming crystal clear on what kind of agency you want to be.

In over 300 podcasts, I have never repeated or reposted an episode. Until now. Episode #100 entitled “Are You A Wonderbread Factory or An Artisanal Bakery?” is probably the single most common episode people mention when they bring up past episodes. The response has been so positive and consistent that it felt like a perfect episode to revisit as a guiding light toward defining your agency’s next chapter.

In this solocast, I discuss the spectrum of how agencies can do business, from the creative-driven, custom-designed artisan way to the numbers-driven, one-size-fits-all factory approach. There are pros and cons of both sides, and many agencies live somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. But having agency clarity about where you are and where you want to be is the surest way to ensure the kind of success you are striving for.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Clarity

Agency Clarity

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why this topic seems more relevant today than when originally recorded
  • How agency focus sets up agency success
  • Defining the two ends of the spectrum of how agencies can approach business
  • The pros and cons of running a wonderbread style agency or an artisanal bakery
  • How to approach shifting your agency’s focus
“When you are super-efficient and super-effective, it is easy for you to make money by doing the same thing over and over and over again. So there is nothing wrong with that model. ” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Have you really weighed the pros and cons of the spectrum of how agencies are structured, and are you in the right place?” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “You just have to decide why you’re in business and what you want to get out of your business.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “For those of you that really want to sit at the C-Suite and have a strategic conversation with clients, the artisan bakery is a better place for you to do that.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “If you aspire to not be as involved in the day to day, or to not be on site every day, maybe you want to have a winter home or side business, then for you, it may make more sense to go to the wonder bread side of the spectrum.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “You cannot be so much of a generalist that you serve all of the people all of the time.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “You don’t get to custom order if you’re building the wonder bread factory.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

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About the Author: Drew McLellan

For 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies, and then started his own (which he still owns and runs) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops, and more.

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for agency owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with over 250+ agencies every year, Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written several books, including Sell With Authority (2020) and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast, present by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money, and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down the road sellable. With 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for coming back. Episode 305. So first of all, for many of you, if you listen to episode 300, which was my last solo cast, I just want to tell you that your feedback and your response to that episode, because I was a little anxious about sharing it with you. It was kind of personal for me. I just want to tell you that your reaction was really a great gift. So I’m glad that it resonated with so many of you. I’m glad that you were feeling some of the same things I was feeling, and that it felt like we were having a great conversation. So thanks for letting me do that, and thanks for responding as well as you did. So I’m super grateful.

This is another solo cast. So this is just you and me, no guest. Just want to talk to you about something that’s sort of on my mind. But before I do that, I want to tell you about some really killer workshops that we have coming up. So this is the start of workshop cycle for me, and we just have some great things coming up. So in a couple of weeks, August 17th and 18th, we’ll be in Chicago for the advanced AE bootcamp. So that’s for your AEs that have four years or more of experience. And we’ve had people there with 25 and 30 years of experience, and they walk away with some new learnings, some new skills, some new takeaways. So I promise there’s something for everybody.

We talk a lot about how to grow their book of business, how to serve many masters, because AEs do that. Right? They serve the clients, they serve the agency, they serve their internal team. So we talk about how to manage all of that. But at the advanced AE boot camp we talk a lot about delegation, and building teams, and sort of the financial responsibilities of being an account person. So that is August 17th and 18th. And then our entry-level AE bootcamp is September 14th and 15th. So that’s for folks who have less than four years of experience.

So we see a lot of project managers, account coordinators, junior AEs, AEs with a few years of experience. And we focus on some of the more basic things that go along with being a good account person. So we still talk about money. We still talk about responsibilities. We just talk about them at a less advanced level, as you might imagine, than the advanced one. Then December 9th and 10th, probably one of my very favorite workshops to teach is Money Matters. So for two days, all we do is talk about money. We talk about money in terms of agency math and the metrics that you need to run your business, so you know how to make decisions objectively.

Which, honestly, for many agency owners, even if you’ve been doing this 20 or 30 years, that section of the workshop is sort of mind blowing for a lot of agency owners who have been making decisions as best they can by the seat of their pants, and by gut, and now you can actually do that with data, and it’s pretty clear what you should or shouldn’t do. So love teaching that workshop. We talk about proposals. We talk about pricing. We talk a biz dev. We talk about your salary. We talk about how to make more money as an agency owner in a very tax friendly way. We talk about tax strategies. So every aspect of money we cover in that workshop. And what I love about teaching that workshop is that everybody walks away knowing that they can make more money, and keep more of the money they make. So super gratifying for me to teach.

Then in the turn of the new year, January 20th and 21st, my coauthor to the book, Sell with Authority, Stephen Woessner and I are teaching a workshop that basically helps you take the concepts of that book and put it into practice. This is a very different workshop for us, because it’s very hands-on. You are doing a lot of the work. We’re actually making you do the work while we’re together, which some folks think are great, and other people are like, “Oh my gosh. This is a lot of work.” And you’re right, it absolutely is a lot of work. But I know that if we show you philosophically or in theory how to build out a biz dev, a marketing and sales funnel for your agency, because that’s in essence what we’re doing, you leave that workshop with a complete funnel, exactly what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, who on your team’s going to do it, how are you going to resource it. You leave with all of that.

And I know if we walked you through the theory of it, and we didn’t actually make you do it, you would never go back to the office and do it. We’ve been teaching this workshop now for, gosh, I think three years now. And when I look back at the graduates of that workshop, and what’s happened to their business, and how they’ve grown their business, how the plan that we put together pre COVID helped them survive COVID, super gratifying to me the power of that workshop. So again, that’s January 20th and 21st. If you are frustrated with your biz dev efforts, and you are living off the feast and famine of referrals, and you want to actually attract, both go after and attract the perfect fit clients, this is the workshop you.

And then January 25th and 26th, our good friends from Mercer Island Group, Robin and Steve Boehler and Lindsay O’Neil will be back with us again to teach a workshop called Winning Business with Strategic Insights. In this workshop I play a very small role. I’m sort of the color man in the back of the room, so I can tell you without bias and without bragging, because it’s not me, this workshop is spectacular. So we’ve taught it now three times. We cap the attendance at 50 people, because it’s a very hands-on workshop. You’re going to be doing a lot of actual work, small group work, together with a team.

So we’ve [inaudible 00:06:38] three times. And I would say maybe 70 agencies have gone through the workshop in the three times, because a lot of times people will bring more than one person. So we’ve had 150 people go through, but I’m going to say that in most cases it’s about half of that is independent or unique agencies. Those agencies that have applied what they learned in that workshop have won over $50 million dollars in new AGI. And they all credit that workshop for the change in their win rate, for the size of their wins, for the significance of their wins. So I’m telling you, this workshop is a must do. If it’s not this January, then whenever we offer it again, you need to make sure you get there.

So the workshops in August and September are in Chicago. The workshops in December and January are in Orlando at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Resort, so not a bad place to be in December and January. It’s also Disney’s 50th anniversary, Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, if you care about that, or you’re inclined to enjoy that. So stick around for an extra couple of days. But anyway, those workshops, I’m proud of the content. I’m proud of the outcomes that people get from them. And I would really love for you to enjoy them as well. So I hope you can join us.

Also before I get started on my solo cast, as you know, I keep asking you to put your name in the hat, if you will, for a drawing for a free workshop, live workshop, or one of our on-demand workshops. And all you have to do is you have to go wherever you get your podcasts, wherever you download this podcast from, and leave us a rating and review, take a screenshot of it, and email it to me at [email protected]. Because when I go and read the reviews… Which I do, and thank you all very much for your kind words. When I go to read those reviews, I can’t tell if your username is Hello Kitty 107. I don’t really know who that is. So you need to take a screenshot of it and send it to me, so I know it’s you. And then we throw your name in a hat for the drawing, and then every solo cast, so every fifth episode, I give away a free workshop or a free on demand course.

So this month’s winner is Abby Carey from Huebner Marketing. So congratulations, Abby, super excited for you. I will reach out to you and let you know that you won, but thanks for the great review, and let me know which workshop or on demand course you want to take. All right, here’s what I want to talk to you about today. So if you’re watching the video version of this, you can see that I’m wearing a t-shirt that says, “Be good to people.” It’s a black t-shirt. It’s got tiny little white writing. This is my flying t-shirt. I own four of these. So that one, even if I’m flying from city to city, to city, and I don’t have time to have the hotel do laundry, I can wear this t-shirt every time I get on a plane.

And the reason I started doing it was because, and this was actually pre COVID, people are snotty on planes. They’re mean to the flight attendants, they’re rude to each other. So it was just sort of my way of reminding everybody to chill out a little bit. And honestly, it reminds me too. When I’m wearing this shirt, I can’t really be a jerk, because people will be like, “Hello, read your own shirt.” So it just reminds me to stay calm. I hope that it reminds other people to stay calm, but this shirt has this bizarre impact on people. I’ve never worn this shirt where people don’t stop me and say, “Love your shirt, man,” or, “Great shirt,” or, “Great message,” or whatever.

But even more bizarre than that, because I have a lot of shirts that say a lot of things, and most people don’t comment on them. So there’s something about this shirt, but anyway, even more bizarre than people commenting on my shirt, this shirt makes people want to touch me, physically touch me. So I’ll be sitting on a plane, and I always get an aisle seat, and people will be walking by me to get to their seat, and they literally will tap my shoulder, or some guy the other day pumped my chest with his palm, “Good shirt, man.” It’s crazy.

Flight attendants are constantly like, “Oh, I love your shirt,” and touch my shoulder. Keep in mind this is in COVID, and when we’re not supposed to be touching each other, but there’s something about this message. There’s something about this shirt that just gets people talking and apparently touching. So I was on an elevator about a month ago, and wearing the shirt, because I had just flown in somewhere. And this elderly woman got on the elevator with me, and she said, “I love your shirt.” And I said, “Thank you.” And she reached out to touch my arm, and she said, “That’s a message everybody needs to remember.” And I said, “I don’t disagree.”

So that was coming back down elevator, and we were way at the top of the hotel. So every time we stopped, and this hotel only had a couple of elevators, and every time we stopped, which was pretty much every floor, and somebody would come on, she would go, “Do you like his shirt?” And then she would engage these people in this conversation about how it’s important for us to be good to people. By the time we got off the elevator, there were probably 10 or 15 of us on the elevator, it was packed. And she had talked to everyone on the elevator about my shirt. Everybody was engaging with each other. Everybody was laughing. Everybody felt connected all because of a message on a t-shirt.

So I know that’s crazy, and you’re like, “Okay, where’s the agency ownership lesson in all of this, Drew? And maybe you need to dress better on planes.” But I do have a point to all of this. I think the message is critical. And I think the message is critical all of the time. Being good to people I think is something we should all aspire to do. But I think it’s particularly important right now. I’m recording this in August of 2021, if you’re not listening to this in chronological order or in real time. So we have been “out of the pandemic” for several months. We’ve been out and about. We’ve been without masks everywhere but planes. Right now the Delta variant is causing some trouble, and we’re going to start seeing some more mask mandates, I think, for a period of time until we reach herd immunity.

But nonetheless, we feel like we are sort of out of it for the most part. Some people more than others, no doubt. I know everybody reacts differently to all of this. It’s been a heck of a year and a half, almost a year and three quarters now. Heck of a year and a half. And we went from crisis mode of the second quarter of 2020 with many of you losing a lot of clients, a lot of revenue, a lot of AGI, to climbing our way back out, but staying really in panic mode all through the end of 2020, where we were just scrambling to survive, and then to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us.

For some of you, you thrived by the end of 2020. You had one of your best years ever. Pre federal funding, or PPP if you’re in the US, or other federal funding if you’re outside of the US, but then we hit 2021 hard. And I think we feel like we have to make up for lost ground. I think we are feeling like we have to outpace, outrun whatever the next twist in this pandemic is. Right now we’re battling a huge employee shortage. So those of you that are growing, you’re struggling to find the people to help you grow. You’re being asked for ginormous raises from the people that you already have on staff. So it is in its own way a trying time.

And when I talk to you, and I talk to you often, I talk to you seven days a week some of you, not the same people, but what I’m saying is I’m talking to agents seven days a week. When I talk to you, here’s what I hear, “I’m exhausted. I’m so tired,” or, “I can’t find my mojo,” or fill in the blank, but you are feeling the weight of the last 18, 19, 20 months. And so I think my shirt has a message for us. I promise I’m not going to become a t-shirt philosopher, but I do think there is a message here that we need to hear.

So this idea of being good to people, I think it starts with us honestly being good to ourselves. I think you need to take better care of yourself. I know you feel like you have to keep pushing and running, and a lot of you are working short-staffed, so you’re working extra hours to try and fill in the gaps, but you’ve got to cut yourself a break. You have got to disengage. You have got to get away. You’ve got to indulge yourself in the family activities that fuel you, or being with friends, or sitting on a beach and reading a book, whatever it is that fills up your bucket, you have to make time for it. You have to be good to yourself.

And by the way, I don’t think this is about the big vacation. I don’t think this is a one and done sort of thing. And in fact, if you have to forgo the big vacation, then what I really care about is how are you taking care of yourself every day? So a lot of agency owners I’ve been talking to have sort of let their routines fade away. You were in such crisis mode in 2020 that your getting up early, or your exercising, or your meditating, or your praying, or your journaling, or whatever it was that you did that sort of helped you keep your head on straight, odds are, if you’re like a lot of other agency owners, that went away during the pandemic, and you haven’t really gotten back in the groove of it.

So step number one I think is for you to think about what did you used to do to center yourself, to ground yourself, to give yourself energy and focus? And how do you put that back into your schedule? Because a lot of you are still running like we’re in the middle of the pandemic, and we’re not. We need to get back to the things that fueled us. The things that helped us stay focused and grounded. And so, again, that might be a morning routine for you. It might be a mid day walk, or a couple of you that I know swim at the Y over the lunch hour. So whatever it is that gave you that continuity, that predictability, that faith, that feeling that you could accomplish whatever you wanted to accomplish, whatever sort of helped you get into that head space, it’s time to get back to it.

It’s also time to get back to connecting with people that you have not connected with for a while. It is time for you to reengage with the world. It’s time for you to go golfing with your buddies, or planning a spa day with your friends, or whatever it is. But for most of us, most of us agency owners, one of the reasons why we love the agency life is because we love people. And so figuring out who your people are, and again, it might be friends, it might be family, it might be your coworkers, figuring out who your people are, and making sure that you’re spending the time with them that you should is important.

And this is another habit that we allowed COVID to break for us. And I want you to put it back. I want you to put it back in place, because it’s part of how you take care of yourself. You know what? A lot of you are not sleeping well. A lot of you got in the habit of maybe one, or two, or three, or four more glasses of wine than normal a night or a week. So I just want you to sort of do a self assessment of how good are you doing at taking care of yourself? And what do you need to do different to really allow yourself to replenish and restore so you can come back to the office, and be at the office, literally or figuratively, depending on what you’ve decided to do, whole, and strong, and happy, and healthy?

And so I want you to be good to people. You being a person that you should be good to. So that’s number one. Number two is I want you to think about your team. Your team is tired. Your team is stretched. Your team is feeling a lot of pressur