Episode 390

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This week, I’m using this episode to talk about some questions I get asked a lot, and that is what we offer in AMI memberships. Many of you want to know what our different tiers of memberships include and what other services we offer. If you’re curious about AMI and our membership offerings, this episode is for you.

I will break down what we offer for agency owners and leaders and how you can get involved in the AMI community if you feel compelled to do so. We have a ton of different ways to become a community member, get consulting and one-on-one coaching, access our peer networks, and even get help with succession work.

Our goal is always to help small to mid-size agencies reach their goals and get access to the best network possible. You’re never too small or far away from us to participate, so if you’re feeling compelled to join the community in some way, I’m giving you all the details here today.

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.

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 owners

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The free resources we always offer agency owners and leaders
  • Our workshops, both online and in-person
  • Online and onsite consulting with experienced business leaders
  • Creating a network of agency leaders with Peer Networks and Virtual Peer Groups
  • How we can help in succession planning and coaching new buyers to acquire an agency
  • The BABA Summit
  • How to get involved if you can’t travel or just want some content from us
  • The members-only perks as an add-on to our free content

“Our goal is to change the lives and the businesses of as many small to mid-size agencies and agency owners and leaders as we can.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet
“You can plug into AMI any way you want, whatever serves you and your agency best.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet
“We want to help all of you make more money, keep more of the money you make, and feel like you are running a scalable business that you can grow.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet
“Don't feel like you're too small, or too far away, or whatever it is playing in your head that you can't participate at a deeper level at AMI. We would love to have you.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet
“We dig into whatever's going on in your shop and help you make course corrections, take advantage of opportunities, and eliminate some of the barriers that are in the way of you being as successful as you want to be.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:


Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ, is packed with insights on how small to mid-size agencies survive and thrive in today’s market, bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McClellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is one of my Solocasts. So I am going to use this episode to answer some questions that I get asked on a regular basis. So I’ll tell you a little bit more about those questions and then you can decide whether or not this is an episode for you. But before I do that, as you know, with every Solocast, we give away a free workshop seat. And the way you become eligible to win the free workshop seat is by leaving us a rating and review on whatever website you download the podcast from. So it might be Apple Podcast, it might be Google Play, it might be iHeart, it could be lots of different places. Doesn’t matter to us where you leave the review, as long as it’s one of the places where you download the podcast.

So here’s the deal, go to wherever you download the podcast, leave a rating and review, and then take a screenshot of it. Send me the screenshot. So email me at [email protected]. Email me a screenshot of your review. Why? Because a lot of times on those sites, your username doesn’t tell me who you are or where you work. So HotdogFanWithMustardOnly63 doesn’t tell me that you are Bob Smith who works at Smith and Co. So I need a little help from you, so the easiest way to do that is just for you to send it to me by email, and then you go in the hat and you stay in the hat until you win. So sooner or later you are going to win a free workshop seat. And whether or not you’re a member, that could be anywhere from 16 or $1,700 to $2,000. So we would love to have your name in the drawing, we would love to give you a free workshop seat, and all you have to do is leave a rating and review and send it to me.

So this month’s winner is Melissa Silverman. So Melissa, if you are listening, congratulations. Melissa left this review back in last year in 2022. So Melissa, I will reach out to you and let you know that you won and just in case you’re not listening, and we will figure out which workshop you would like to spend that free token on, all right? Okay, so here’s what I decided to do with this Solocast. A lot of people many times during the month will shoot me an email and ask me about what membership at AMI looks like and how are the ways that we help agencies? So I thought I would just explain how the memberships work and all the different ways we engage with agencies, and that way you’ll know if you ever need some more help, how you can engage us and connect with us.

So first what I’m going to talk about is… So everything at AMI is priced in two tiers. We have a member price and we have a non-member price. And I’ll walk through our offerings first and then I will tell you how to become a member if that’s something you want to do. So if none of this interests you, if you’re like, “You know what, Drew, love the podcast, have no desire to ever hire AMI to do anything, don’t want to be a member,” then this is not your episode. So feel free just to come on back next week and I will have a guest for you to learn from. But if you’re like, “Yeah, I’ve been kind of wondering that,” or, “I don’t even know if I am a member.” Sometimes I have our live peer group members email me when they’re getting ready to register for a workshop and go, “I’m a member, right?” So whether you are a longtime agency that is connected to AMI or we’re new to you, this might be helpful.

So let me first talk to you about the offerings that we have and then I’ll tell you a little bit about membership. So if you imagine a target and the target, if you look at the outer ring of the target, the outer ring of the target, the AMI target if you will, is to provide free resources to agency owners and leaders. So that’s the podcast, that’s the blog, that’s our annual research that we do, agency edge research that we do with Susan Byer at Audience Audit. It is all of the places that we speak. It’s when we appear on other people’s podcasts. So it’s all of the ways that we share knowledge and content and best practices free of charge, happy to do it. And for many of you listening, that’s all you need from us. And you know what? That’s fine.

My goal, our goal at AMI is to impact as many agency owners and leaders as we can across the globe. We want to help all of you make more money, keep more of the money you make, feel like you are running a scalable business that you can grow, and if you want to sell someday. And if we do that through the free resources, that’s great. But if you want a little more for us in the next from us, if in the next ring is all of our workshops. So we teach a ton of live workshops. We teach Money Matters, Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit, we have the AE Bootcamp, the Advanced AE Bootcamp. We are working on, I Want to Buy an Agency, I Want to Sell my Agency workshop. We’re working on a workshop for project managers. And we often partner with other people like Mercer Island Group or my co-author of Sell With Authority, Stephen Woessner, or the brilliant Carla Johnson who wrote Rethink Innovation. Other people. So we invite them in and we co-teach workshops with them. So we have lots of workshops going on all through the year.

We’re going to be start experimenting with some virtual workshops, so stay tuned for that, but know that that’s coming as well. We probably are not going to take the workshops we already teach, but we are going to take new topics and create one and two day workshops. We also have several workshops online. So we have a biz dev workshop online, we have an AE bootcamp online, and we have a version of Money Matters online, which you can take on demand. So that’s the next sort of ring inside this target. And again, you can come to a workshop. Obviously you pay the fee, you come to the workshop, you learn for two days, and maybe that’s all you want from AMI. That was enough knowledge for you and you’re in great shape. That’s fine. Makes us happy.

But the next ring in is coaching and consulting. So what that looks like is that’s us facilitating traction for you. That is us selling you a coaching package and you working with either myself or my business partner and wife Danielle, or it might be another AMI coach. All of our coaches have owned their business for at least 15 years successfully. Some of them have exited out of their business, some of them still own their business. They’ve all been a part of AMI for at least 10 years, so they understand all the best practices. But nonetheless, you can get one-on-one individual coaching. We do that for both agency owners and agency leaders. Most of those are delivered over the phone or over Zoom. In fact, I can’t think of a time we actually delivered it in person other than on a fluke that we happened to be in your town.

But again, you’re going to buy a 12 pack. You can use them all in one day. We could talk to you literally for 12 hours. Don’t recommend that model, but we could. You could use it once a month, which is sort of typical. You could gang up a few hours and say, “I want to talk for two hours every other month.” They never expire. You can use them however you want. And we just dig into whatever’s going on in your shop and help you make course corrections and take advantage of opportunities and eliminate some of the barriers that are in the way of you being as successful as you want to be. So we also do some onsite consulting. We don’t do a ton of that, but we do. We will come to you and spend a whole day in your conference room talking. Most people opt for the coaching rather than the consulting, but we offer both. Again, that may be all you need.

But the next ring of the circle are our peer networks. So imagine a peer network is like a Vistage Group or an EO Group, only everyone around the table looks just like you. So we have agency owner peer groups, and we have key executive peer groups. So the key executives are COOs, director of account service, we have some creative directors, might be a director of media. But these are people who sit on the leadership team of their agency, and what their agency owner wants is to help them create a network of people who do that same kind of work that they do so that they have resources, so that they have people to talk to and people to reach out to and say, “Hey, we’re updating our handbook. How do you deal with this issue? How do you deal with paternity in your handbook?” And those kind of conversations that our right hand people often take on and are trying to help us accomplish the goals of the agency owner.

So the key exec group meets twice a year. They meet in October and April. Those meetings are always in Denver. They come in, they have dinner together. So the same cohort of people, about 12, 13 to 15 people. You can send up to three people for the membership fee. And then they spend two days learning from each other, sharing what they know, challenging each other, celebrating each other. It’s a great two days and it’s amazing professional development. So those are the key exec groups. Then we have two peer group models for agency owners. AMI was founded on the live peer group model. So again, think of a Vistage Group or an EO Group, only everybody around the table is an agency owner, and those agencies range and size from a handful of FTEs to, I think our largest is about 350 FTEs. Most of the agencies in the peer group are under 100 agencies, and we have lots of 5, 10, 15 people agencies. So don’t think you’re too small no matter what your size is.

But anyway, they get together twice a year for two and a half days. Again, they share full financials with each other. They pass out a P&L, a balance sheet. They fill out an Excel doc that we give them that we call the AMI report card that looks at a lot of the key metrics that we teach, and they just learn from each other for two days. They have to set goals for themselves, they have to report back to the group how they did on the goals. So lots of accountability, lots of learning, lots of sharing in those groups. And to even be eligible to join one of those groups, you have to attend either Money Matters or Running Your Agency for Growth and Profit. So that’s the prerequisite for becoming a live peer group member.

We also have virtual peer groups. Those we started way before COVID. We actually started them because we have a lot of international agencies that listen to the podcast and they wanted more. So we started the virtual peer groups. They meet every month for 90 minutes, and again, 10 to 12 agencies in a cohort, and they do the exact same thing. They share challenges, they learn from each other, they share best practices, they share ideas of things that are helping them grow their business, save them money, make them money, and they stay in touch in between meetings, typically on a Slack channel. Every group is a little different. But you would stay in one group, the same people over time, so you get to know them very, very well. So those are the peer groups.

And then at the very center of the target is our succession work. So we help agency owners assess whether or not one or several of their employees are suited to be agency owners, and sometimes we help facilitate that deal. We do the valuation, we help with all the legal documentation, the letter of intent, the partnership papers, the purchase agreement. We help with financing. And most of what we do is we help both the buyer and the seller do what they need to do over a period of time, a lot of times it’s 12 to 18 months, so that the sale is successful. So that’s coaching up the buyer to get ready to actually own the agency, because it’s very different than being a department head or sitting on the leadership team. And we coach the seller on how to mentor the buyer and then how to get out of the buyer’s way, so that they can step in and take over running the agency.

We also do some matchmaking. So agencies will come to us and say, “Hey, I want to be acquired, or I want to acquire an agency,” and we will go shopping for them and try and do some matchmaking and facilitate those initial conversations and then help through the exact same thing, letter of intent, purchase agreement, financing, all of those sort of things. So that’s all of the ways that we serve agencies. I guess at the workshop level I should have also mentioned the Build a Better Agency Summit. So as you all know by now, once a year we hold a huge conference for agency owners, small to mid-size agency owners. We are the only conference that focuses on truly small to mid-size agency owners and their leaders. So it’s not just an owner’s conference. A lot of people bring three, four people because we have so many different breakouts and so many different round table discussions that they really want to divide and conquer so they can cover more of the subject matter. So that is another way that we serve agencies.

All right, so those are all the ways, and people will say to me, “What’s the path in?” It doesn’t matter. It depends on what you need. You might want to join a peer group right away, which might mean you have to go to a workshop first. You might be hungry to go to a subject matter specific workshop. You might go right to coaching because you have a thorny problem and you want some help solving the problem. You can plug into AMI any way you want, whatever serves you and your agency best. All right, I’m going to take a quick break and then I’m going to come back and tell you how the membership works, and then I’m going to let you get back to work. All right, I’ll be right back.

Hey there, just a quick interruption. I want to make sure that you are aware that you are cordially invited, not just invited, but cordially invited to join our Facebook group, our private Facebook group. All you have to do is go to Facebook and search for Build a Better Agency and you’ll find the Facebook group. You have to answer three quick questions. You have to put in the agency URL, you have to talk about what you want to learn from the group, and you have to promise to behave yourself. And that’s it. And then we’ll let you in and you can jump into the conversation with over a thousand other agency owners and leaders, and there’s a robust conversation happening every day. People are sharing resources and best practices and discussing everything from work from home policies to maternity and paternity policies to biz dev strategies. So come join us and jump into the conversation. Speaking of conversations, let’s head back.

All right, I am back. We spent the first half of this Solocast talking about all the different ways that AMI supports and serves small to mid-sized agencies, and I want to spend the back half, which won’t take me very long at all, to tell you about the different membership models. So I already told you about the live peer group membership, the virtual peer group membership, and the key exec peer group membership. Those are all memberships that get all of the benefits of membership, so I’m going to walk you through the silver, gold, and platinum memberships. Above those memberships are the key exec, the virtual peer group, and the live peer group. So anything I tell you that the silver, gold or platinum get, so do the key exec, virtual, and live peer group members.

All right, so we originally started, as I told you, with the peer groups, but there are some people who either they can’t travel or they’re not joiners or that’s just not what they want from us. What they want is access to some content, they want discounts on other workshops, they want a free copy of our annual salary and benefit survey. They want that sort of thing. So we created these associate memberships for people who basically weren’t joiners, who did not want to be a part of a peer group, but they still wanted to be a member and get some member discounts. So at the silver level membership, what you get is you get invited to all of the member only webinars. We do at least four a year. You get invited to the member only webinar where we do a deep dive into the agency edge research every year, so we walk you through what the research taught us, and we hold back certain information in our research executive summary and we only share it with members.

So if you’re a non-member and you’ve seen some of our executive summaries, you know they’re meaty, there are 30 some pages, but we do hold some data back, some key insights for just members. So we would reveal those in this webinar, and you also get a member only version of the executive summary that has the stuff that we held back. You get a free copy of the annual salary and benefit survey. You get a discount on all of our live and on demand courses. Not on consulting or coaching or any of the other things that we do, but you do get a discount on workshops and on demand courses at the silver level. And about once a month or so, I have gathered up enough things that I think are interesting and I just send an email out to the members and I call it On Your Radar Screen, and it’s just stuff that I think should be on your radar screen.

So it might be special discounts that some of our partners get. Like for example, we get a discount from Macon for the AI conference, we get a discount that we can put out on the newsletter for everybody, and then we get a special member discount that’s an even deeper discount. So that would be the kind of thing I would share in these On Your Radar Screen emails. Sometimes it’s a reminder about certain tax things or it might be some resources I’ve found, some interesting articles or studies and I will share those. So all of that comes at the silver level membership.

So if you want to be a gold level member, you get all of that stuff that I just said, plus you get access to the AMI Health Insurance, 401K program, and define benefits program so you can see if those are a good resource for you. And if so, you can tap into those. You do, at the gold level, get discounts on the coaching and onsite consulting. You get a discount for the Build a Better Agency Summit. And all members of all kinds, by the way, are eligible to come to the member only day, we call it family day at the summit, which is always the Monday before the conference. So we have three speakers or we have three panels, and then we all go out to dinner together. So you’re welcome to do that.

You have the ability to invite your team members to participate in what we call the special interest group summits or the specialty summits. So we tend to do two or three of these a year, where we will invite all of the digital people or all of the creative people or all of the CFOs and accounting people to come together for a day or two of learning where they just sit around and talk to each other and we just facilitate that conversation where they can steal best practices and ideas from each other and just get some support around the work that they do. You have access to the AMI marketplaces. So the AMI Marketplace marketplaces where vendors put discounted services and products into the marketplace just for members. So you can easily, with a purchase or two, with those discounted purchases, save the entire cost of your membership. At the gold level you get one complimentary coaching call, a 60 minute call every year. And again, you get the email from me on whatever’s on my brain, on the radar screen.

At the platinum level you get all of that, plus you get one seat at the summit, so at the Build a Better Agency Summit every May. So the price of the platinum membership in essence covers the what you would’ve paid to go to the summit and vice versa. So that’s how memberships work. They renew annually. We have your credit card on file, so we auto renew it unless you tell us not to. You always get an email, I think it’s 60, 45 and 30 days out saying, “Hey, you’re about to renew. Hey, you’re about to renew.” So that never happens without you knowing about it. And we are happy to have you as a member however that seems to fit for you. So again, if you just want discounts and access to the content, the member only webinars, the emails from me and associate membership may be perfect for you.

And if you want more than that, you want to create a cohort of agency owners or leaders around you that you can get idea