Episode 54:

Andrew Dymski is a co-founder of DoInbound, a process and project management platform for inbound marketing agencies and GuavaBox, an inbound marketing agency. He is a lacrosse coach on the side and loves doing almost anything outside. He is also the co-host of Inbound Agency Journey, a weekly podcast for agency pros.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How Andrew and his business partner Gray MacKenzie started their agency while they were still in college and the transformation that GuavaBox has overwent since then
  • How Michael Gerber’s “The E Myth” transformed how Andrew’s agency was ran
  • Using blogging as a method for separating yourself
  • Why clients will leave if communication is poor — even when you’re doing great work
  • DoInbound: a tool for creating templates that power the delivery of services just for inbound marketing agencies
  • How creating DoInbound has helped the way Andrew works with his clients
  • Why you need to figure out your vision and share that with your core team
  • Listing and pruning your agency’s list of deliverables
  • How to create processes with your employees and get them to actually follow the processes created
  • How many processes are too many processes?
  • Why you need multiple iterations of processes
  • What meetings about processes with your employees should look like
  • What you can do right now to put some of the ideas from this episode in place without freaking out your team

 

The Golden Nugget:

“If the top doesn’t follow a top-down decision, why should the bottom?” – @AndrewJDymski Click To Tweet

 

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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 McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency, glad to have you back if you are a regular listener, and also glad to have you here for the first time. I think this is a great podcast to get started on.

So let me tell you a little bit about our guest. We’re going to talk today about systems, processes, inbound. Lots of great information that you’re going to be able to take back to your shop and implement. So my guest today is Andrew Dymski, and Andrew is the cofounder of GuavaBox, which is an agency. And there, he serves as the VP of inbound. So he runs point on the marketing and sales initiatives that they have. And they really help their clients obviously reach new customers through content and inbound marketing, which I know a lot of you are wrapping your arms around, or have been knee deep in for a while. But he and his business partner also created DoInbound, which is aimed at agencies, and it is a mix of an… Andrew, correct me if I’m wrong. But it’s a mix of an inbound project management platform, some best practices and teachings around all things inbound, and in some cases if you want it, actual coaching on how to create, launch, and maintain an inbound strategy inside your shop. Did I get it right?

Andrew Dymski:

You got it, Drew. You got it.

Drew McLellan:

All right. So when he’s not running those two businesses, Andrew is a lacrosse coach on the side and likes hanging out outside. He is also a goalie when he plays. Oh, and you coach goalies?

Andrew Dymski:

Both.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, you are a goalie and goalie coach. Right. And this is a little quirk about Andrew, he actually gets whooped up about and excited about buyer personas. So you are clearly an agency geek. Welcome to the podcast.

Andrew Dymski:

Drew, thank you so much for that introduction. I don’t know if we’ve ever covered that variety of topics in an intro, but I’m fired up to be here. Thanks for the opportunity.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I’m glad to have you here. I think you’re going to have a lot to share that people are going to be sort of scrambling to take notes on. So let’s start with the agency, because as I understand it, the agency came first, and out of the agency came DoInbound, because you had a need that you couldn’t, you had sort of an itch you couldn’t scratch right?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, definitely. My business partner Gray MacKenzie and I, we started our agency GuavaBox back while we were both seniors out of Grove City College, which if you haven’t heard that name before, it is a little school out in western Pennsylvania. But we met up there, found out… like we were friends the whole time through, knew we wanted to go into business together but had no idea what that business would look like. And then going into our senior year, we took the school’s very first version of internet content marketing. We went through Get Content. Or Have Customers, Get Content? It’s Joe Pulizzi’s book.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Andrew Dymski:

It was awesome.

Drew McLellan:

All his books are awesome, yep.

Andrew Dymski:

Oh, yeah. The adjunct professor that led that class, his name was Tim [Sweed 00:03:22]. He was a thought leader at that space in that time. And I mean, he was giving us assignments of reading the HubSpot blog for our freaking college class, so we were loving it. We soaked it up. And when we were getting ready to graduate, we said oh, we don’t want to leave without moving something forward. So we laid the groundwork for GuavaBox, started off as a website design agency, did some basic social media strategy, but we basically started right away. Gray, when we graduated he started full-time. I went to work for a PR agency for about a year after graduating, and then came onto GuavaBox full-time. But we really just hit the ground running, kind of learning as we go.

Went through a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, found out that selling projects and projects only was a really, really hard way to make a living, especially for two young families. So that’s when we found HubSpot, became a value added reseller in their program. And they just offer a ton of training and coaching to help businesses, or agencies become businesses essentially. So we just kind of soaked up a lot of information from them, and became kind of a more retainer model agency in the inbound space, because we always loved the idea of content, right? The idea of, if you just focus on solving people’s problems, they’ll come to you when they’re ready to do business. That kind of fits the world that Gray and I grew up in, and it just seems to make a lot of business sense.

And we were able to validate that pretty early on in the market, that there were businesses out there that could fall in line with this idea. And even though that we were young guys, kind of trusted us, because young guys get tech. And so we led with that. And then as we grew and we learned, we became more and more astute at our inbound skills, and really focused in on the need for buyer personas and having a personalized driven marketing campaign. So that kind of characterized the nature of GuavaBox. We help B2B companies really implement inbound marketing strategies, build inbound focused websites. And we’ve been able to work with folks in all kinds of industries, so that’s been a cool five years so far.

Drew McLellan:

And today, what does your agency look like?

Andrew Dymski:

Today, it is scaled down a good bit from what it was. GuavaBox is still there. We focus on really just, really, really good fit clients right now. Specifically folks who are on HubSpot’s COS platform. If you’re not familiar with that, HubSpot is, they’re a marketing automation tool, but they also have a very, very well built and getting better every day website builder, called, it was called the COS. I’m not even sure if they’re branding it like that anymore, but building websites on HubSpot’s platform is our focus. Our niche now is kind of helping folks who are on HubSpot do HubSpot better.

Drew McLellan:

Got it. Okay. And so at what point in the evolution of your agency did DoInbound come to be, and how and why?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. It came about two and a half years into the journey, and really came out of a pain, kind of multi-faced. Like I said, we were in college, came right out into starting the business, and really didn’t have any idea how to structure the operational side of things, how to really understand all of the systems that need to be put in place in order to get a business up and running. I mean, one of the things that kind of characterized our journey as entrepreneurs is constantly learning, constantly soaking up as much information as we could. So one of the first business books I read out of college was The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Andrew Dymski:

Love that book. It is so simple, yet so insightful.

Drew McLellan:

And so hard to do.

Andrew Dymski:

Amen.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Andrew Dymski:

Amen. The little pie shop, it’s such a cute example, but-

Drew McLellan:

Well, and when you’re reading it you’re like, “Yes. This is what I’m going to do. I need to stop baking the pies.” And then you go back to your office and your agency and you look and you go, “I have no idea how to stop baking the pies.”

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly. And if I see someone else baking a pie I’m like, “I wouldn’t do it like that. I’d roll out the dough a little bit thinner.”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right, right, right. Yeah, they’re not primping the crust the same way I would.

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly. Exactly. So how did DoInbound come about was really out of our pain. We had no idea what we were going to do. We were so focused on selling new accounts, because we had no… when you come to inbound, a lot of agencies that do it, they’ve got some sort of history. They’ve got a client, a current book of business, or they’ve got past customers that they can go back to. But two guys just coming out of school, we really had no book of business to go back to, so we first needed to become our best case study. And that’s really where we kind of sharpened our stick in terms of becoming really good inbound marketers, was just blogging like crazy on the GuavaBox blog.

And so when we were, there were three of us. It was Brandon Jones, Gray MacKenzie, and myself, getting GuavaBox up and running, and we would have blogging batch days. Once a week, we would spend five hours just blogging for GuavaBox, and scheduling out those posts. We’d have one post going out per day. And that really separated us, that really got us up in the Google rankings around folks who were looking for inbound marketing. We were really, we wanted to be those niche experts, those folks who could help clients who already knew they needed help with inbound. We didn’t have a specific vertical focus, we couldn’t just speak to industrial manufacturers or just speak to insurance companies. We wanted to speak to the folks who wanted inbound. So that was a big part of our focus, was just marketing and selling.

And then once we actually sold clients and we had them on there, they were excited about inbound. But as I’m sure, if you’re listening to this, you’ve been in a similar situation before. You get them on, they’re all excited, and then things kind of start to peter out. The client kind of loses a little bit of their enthusiasm, communication begins to fall off. And for us, this went on until that point of renewal nine months in, we’re on 12 month contracts, trying to get that client to renew for the next contract was a pain. And we were really confused, because we were delivering results. We were delivering leads, and their search engine rankings were improving. But for some reason, our first couple accounts were not renewing.

And we found out that it was because they didn’t know what was going on. Our communication was all off. We had no process for managing client communication, and we had no process for really organizing all the different types of activities that went into an inbound strategy, putting those in a simple, repeatable format. We were kind of just flying by the seat of our pants, to be honest. We weren’t operating off of a tight scope, we were just out there creating stuff that we knew that they should be doing, but there’s no structure or order to it all.

Drew McLellan:

And so you went looking for something that would help you do that?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, and through this whole experience, and if you’re an agency owner, let’s be honest for a second. How many project management software trials have you started in your life? I think I’m at 50.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. Absolutely.

Andrew Dymski:

I was looking for that pixie dust in a platform, and just couldn’t find it at all. I mean, we tried so many different things out. And now looking back I can see I was looking for an operating system for my agency, and what I was buying was just a blank whiteboard. We need a system on a whiteboard so that we know what to follow as agencies. And it was a painful period, to be honest with you. It was very frustrating to lose revenue and to disappoint those clients, because I take that personally. If a client leaves and they’re not happy with me, that’s a personal touch for me. I want to make those people happy, I want to make those businesses succeed. And if they leave with a bad taste in their mouth, that’s not a good place to be.

So we wanted to fix that problem. We knew that another software tool wouldn’t do it, so we decided to build DoInbound, which would be focused just for inbound marketing agencies like GuavaBox. We were going to try to scratch our own itch there, and we were going to focus simply on the templates that powered the delivery of services, and how can we create documented processes for each step of a client journey and put it into a simple, easy to use platform, so that folks not only get a software that has all the bells and whistles they need, but it’s got the templates in there that kind of outlines the ideal workflow, and gives them the ability to customize them. That’s what set us on the journey. We started out just by talking to other agencies to validate, “Hey, are you guys feeling the same pain I am?” And that was a great way for us to start. And it’s been over two years now, a lot of iterations, a lot of changes, a lot of pivots, but it’s been a cool journey so far and we’ve learned a ton along the way.

Drew McLellan:

And along the way, I’m assuming you were sort of your own guinea pig, right? You kept tweaking and testing. So how has DoInbound changed the way you worked with clients, and what has that done to your retention?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, it has helped it in a huge way, just by focusing on first taking a step back and looking at our agency, and trying to decide okay, what’s the typical flow of a client through our journey? What are the different steps in the process? Because if I’m on a podcast every week and I’m preaching that you should be documenting your processes as an agency, and I’m not doing it myself, that’s pretty hypocritical. So just kind of building the platform and coaching people through the platform has helped us just kind of go over exaggerated in terms of what we document, and how we power the agency. And so creating documents and processes for easily onboarding new clients, for running them through a website project in a very efficient way, kind of defining each step of that journey, putting those assets in place.

Like we have, we call it a marketing inventory form, and it’s just a static form on our website that every new client we bring on, we send them that form and they fill out all of their contact information, we get all of their social media links, they upload all of the kind of the content offers that they have already, whether they’re sales brochures or they’re trade show presentations, whatever it might be. But it’s systematized. I’ve got a standard process now for gathering information from a client when they come on.

It’s also helped us really implement a solid kind of discovery meeting process, and having several structured meetings at the beginning of a client’s journey, to get in with the organization, get to know not only the contact in the marketing department, but the contact in the sales department, the service department, engineering, the CEO, the CFO. Getting all those people in the room and building a persona centered strategy, and showing each of them in the room, how does inbound relate to you? How is this going to make your job better instead of just talking to that marketer? Because that’s one big lesson that we learned along the way, and that we heard from other users of DoInbound, is how do I get out, get into the other stakeholders and show them that this is valuable for them? So helping us implement that process, first at GuavaBox, testing it out there, and then sharing that with DoInbound and that community has really helped us along the way.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s step away from your platform now, because I’m sure there are some best practices. You and I were talking before we hit the record button about, everybody is looking for, as you said, the platform with pixie dust. Everybody is looking for the magic nirvana, where if we have this platform, everything will be on time, on budget, on scope, and we’ll all know what’s going on. And the reality is, it’s very often a garbage in, garbage out sort of a thing. So what are some things, as you were putting together your specific tool, what are some more generic best practices or observations, as you think about agencies who want to systemize or create more process? What are some things that get in the way of them doing that well?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, the software’s the easy thing. It’s easy to sign up for a free software and see the tools in there. The hard work is to take a step back and say, what are we trying to build? What’s the five year vision for our agency? What’s the three year vision for our agency? What’s the one year vision for our agency? And the owner needs to come to terms with that first. But then he needs to be able to meet with the core team and get them to share that vision, or understand what is the vision that we share together? Because if your core team’s vision does not align with your vision, then there’s conflict. So we need to kind of bring some harmony to that equation before we even think about software. We need to know where we’re going to go.

Then the next step that I see is, we need to figure out what do we want to be known for as an agency? What are the key deliverables that we want to create to help our clients reach their goals? And just start, get that core team around the table and a whiteboard and a marker, and just write down all the deliverables that the agency’s created in the past six months. Get them up there on that board, and then filter through it and say okay, which of these should we not be doing? Because we’ve found at GuavaBox, there were things that we were doing that we should not be doing. Video is a beautiful thing out there, it’s a phenomenal way to market. We are not a video production agency, why should we be doing video? Leave that to someone who does it well. So kind of listing and pruning the number of deliverables that you offer as an agency.

And that sounds like an easy task, but that’s a multiple hour meeting right there, just to kind of have those conversations and figure out what is that basic list of deliverables that we’re going to create as an agency? What do we want to be known for? Because the more focus we get, the more profitable we get, whether it’s focused within a niche or it’s focused within the types of services. The more niche you are, the more profitable you can be.

Drew McLellan:

And again, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help your clients do great video, it just means you don’t do it in house.

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

It may mean that you have a great strategic partner. I think for some agencies, that’s a short term versus long-term sort of decision, where it’s hard to say, I’m not going to keep that revenue. I don’t want that money that’s on the table for the video. Instead, I’m going to give most of it to a strategic partner, and maybe I’m going to take a little cut or maybe I’m not, but it’s certainly not going to feed my family. But the reality is that if you can’t do something really well and sustain both a level of excellence and a consistency in staff… so I think one of the challenges for small agencies is, let’s say they want to do video. But the truth is, that means they have a video guy, or woman. And every time they lose their video guy who has all of the client knowledge, all of the subject matter knowledge, they basically all of a sudden don’t have a video department, so they have to reinvent.

I’m seeing this a lot for agencies who are doing web dev, or they are doing… it could be inbound or it could be something else. But the truth is they’re not deep enough in it, because it’s sort of a sideline part of what they offer, that they don’t really have… they can’t scale, because they have a person or two people, and that puts them at great risk.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. I think it comes from that, the natural inclination to be a digital yes man, or to be an agency yes man and say yes, we’ll do it, and okay, I’ll figure out how to do it once I’m off this call.

Drew McLellan:

And oftentimes we’re reluctant to come to the answer of, the way I can do this best for the client is for us not to do it, and for me to help them find somebody who’s great at it.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. And we had Marcus Sheridan on our podcast a few months ago, and one thing that Marcus and the team at The Sales Lion do really well is he just, he sets on his website what is the type of agency they are, and are you a good fit or not, and being very open and honest about that through the sales process. You don’t need to be a great fit for everybody, because if you are, you’re going to be running a madhouse in house to try to deliver on all those promises, and your clients aren’t going to be happy, because they’re not going to get what they thought they were going to get. So really, creating that list of deliverables before you even think about software. What do we want to be known for? Creating that full list, deciding on it, agreement on the core team.

That’s a huge step, and the next step after that is figure out within each of those deliverables, what are the tasks that happen every time that deliverable is created? Regardless of the client, what are the key five, six, seven, 10 tasks that have to happen? And you can do all this on a whiteboard, on a spreadsheet. You do not need a specific software tool to do this. But having those conversations, bringing in the people that are doing the work, and just getting everyone on the same page. Because you could be delivering blog posts for five different clients with two different team members, and each of them are following a completely different process.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And also recognizing that no matter how diligent you are, you’re probably going to miss a step or two until you test the process.

Andrew Dymski:

Amen.

Drew McLellan:

And then you go, “Oh, I forgot about proofreading,” or whatever it is right?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. Yeah, you want to be constantly improving on this thing. It’s not something where you need to turn the agency off for a month and say, “Okay, we’ve got to retool, and then we’re going to roll out, and we’re going to be the latest Corvette.” This is an overtime kind of thing, constant improvement is a big mindset to have. And that’s where meeting regularly with your core team on the operational side of things, and reviewing those templates that power your agency is a really, really important process to add kind of to your workflow. And in the client servicing space, it’s always easy to say there’s too much client work. You have to put it a firm date on the calendar, when you’re going to step back, pop the hood, and look at the agency and the way it’s running.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I want to push on something you just said. So I think one of the places where agencies get paralyzed when they are trying to create process is, they try and create a single process for all situations, including the weird exceptions. How did you avoid that?

Andrew Dymski:

I like to follow the 80/20 rule whenever I possibly can. So if it’s a template, I want that template to kind of cover 80% of the use cases, and get the 20% customized. At the same time, that means I’m not going to template out everything that we do as an agency. There’s going to be those wacko things that come in. And we still want to solve them to make the client happy, because that’s how we continue to learn as well. As long as we find that that whatever it is that we’re doing falls within the scope of the service that we’re offering, it’s okay to do something that you haven’t processed out before. Just once you do it, come back to it and say, okay, what was the process for that? Document that, kind of extract it out of your mind, and continue to build that log of templates over time.

And that way if you come across it again, you at least have that template as a point of reference, whether it’s a Google doc or it’s a saved project in Basecamp, whatever it is. You have some sort of a framework to go back to, so that you’re not… you’re becoming more profitable there, because you’ll spend less time researching, less time going out and testing different things, and you at least have kind of a pivot point to work off of, to crack that new challenge that that client project’s presenting. Does that answer the question?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and I think it’s much easier to modify a process 10 or 15 or 20% of the time than it is to reinvent the wheel every time.

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly, yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay, so let’s say we now have this process that we’ve sort of mapped out. Timeline wise, this is one of those things that I think agencies have great angst over. And first of all, I don’t think agencies like process and systems. We sort of bristle against cookie cutter-ing any part of our work, right? So I think one of the ways we avoid it is by making the creation of the process this huge, onerous, six month task. So from the day I say I want to create a task around, let’s say creating blog posts. What’s a reasonable timeframe to go from deciding I want to do that, to testing my first version of it?

Andrew Dymski:

What I recommend doing is, first of all if you’re the owner, do not do the process without talking to the people that do it every single day.

Drew McLellan:

Amen.

Andrew Dymski:

Those should be the folks, the boots on the ground should be the ones who document the process. And the first step is, okay, everyone break down how do you do what you do. Just put it in a Google doc, break it down with little bullet points, [inaudible 00:22:53] the steps. If you’ve got three content writers, break that blog process down. If you’ve got three proofreaders, break that blog process down and figure out okay, what are the common overlays that we have right here? Are these people doing different processes, creating inconsistency in the way that we’re working? So I guess the first step is just extract the process as it is today, and second step would be analyze, how do we kind of future proof this by making it so it’s not just specific for one client, but we can layer it across a couple by hitting those 80% of the points?

And then second is, how do we get all the people creating on the same page? Because maybe there’s a justifiable reason for each person to follow a different process. That can be okay, but if it’s just personal convenience and we’re creating inconsistent work as an agency, then that’s a good opportunity to kind of pump the brakes, talk to everyone who’s creating and following their own internal processes, and get them kind of united around an acceptable way to do it. Because in most cases, it’s not that someone is super opinionated about the way they do something. It’s just the way they’ve always done it. They were never walked through, here’s how we create, here’s how we proof, here’s how we schedule, here’s how we send to client for approval. They don’t walk through all those processes, they kind of have to ad lib it on their own. Whoever taught them just shared with them their process.

So just having an open conversation is the biggest thing that folks can do, and start documenting something. Have just a Google Drive file with different Google docs with different processes that folks follow as a very minimum step, and once you get going, it’s kind of addictive when you start documenting out your processes.

Drew McLellan:

Well I find when I’m working with agencies and we’re working on system and process, there’s a lot of, “I think this is a great idea for all of you people, but the way I do it’s a little different, and it’s super important that I get to keep doing it my way, because for some reason it’s,” better, different, fill in the blank. How does an agency get compliance so that everybody, whether they were part of the creation process or not, everyone understands this process isn’t really optional?

Andrew Dymski:

I think it starts from the top, and that’s why that vision setting meeting is so important, or those constant touchpoints. Because if it comes top down and the top doesn’t follow, why should the bottom? That’s kind of a no brainer thing. But the-

Drew McLellan:

I’m sorry, say that again for me.

Andrew Dymski:

If it’s a top down decision, the owner says, “We need to start following a process for how we do things.”

Drew McLellan:

All right, so let’s use time sheets as an example. And you can see I’m setting you up to say something that I’ve said eight million times. So let’s say you’ve decided that time tracking, especially given the fact that the overtime law is going to change the game, and for many agencies that’s how we manage our resources, whether you bill by the hour or not. Time sheets matter. So let’s say you’re going to create a process around daily time sheets. Now tell me about the from the top down.

Andrew Dymski:

Practice what you preach.

Drew McLellan:

Amen.

Andrew Dymski:

If you can’t show your team that you are eating your own dog food and you’re excited about it, why should they care?

Drew McLellan:

Or at least see the reason why it’s valuable, right?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, if you implement say, structured team agendas. Okay, we’re going to have… we follow Traction at DoInbound, the entrepreneurial’s operating system. So we have a level 10 meeting every Wednesday morning, and that’s just to… it’s a basic agenda that we follow week in, week out. And if I propose that as kind of the head of the company, and then I roll in and I want to start just rambling on about whatever I want outside of that structure, what does that tell my core team? It tells them that the owner’s not bought in, why should I be bought in? So I think you hit the nail on the head. Consistency from the top down, and just emulating what you want them to do, is going to be a huge part of it.

And then continuing to touch base. Don’t just push it out there and then next week it’s business as usual. We’ve got to have touch points that bring it back in, and just kind of keep implementing, keep following up and touching in to see how things are going. That’s a big, the follow on process is a big part of this as well.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. I think agency owners sometimes forget how closely they are watched and how they set the tone for the shop. And so whether it’s time… in most agencies, the person who most violates whatever processes there, who has all the workarounds, or who goes to the creative director and says, “Yeah, I know I’m supposed to do a creative brief, but can you just whip this out for me?” The biggest offender in almost all cases is the agency owner. And what I think we forget is, yeah of course they’re going to do whatever you ask, because A they like you and B you own the joint. But what you’re doing is you’re diminishing the importance and value of that system that you asked them to put into place. And after a while, there is a, “Well, you know what? If Drew can have a workaround, then I can have a workaround.” And all of a sudden, everybody has a workaround. So there’s a process in place, but no one is honoring it because you set the tone that it didn’t matter.

Andrew Dymski:

I think it jeopardizes your credibility as a leader as well. If I say I’m going to do something and I don’t follow through with it, that’s… I don’t know, that kind of is a notch against you in the eye of your team, because they’re always looking up to you to see how are you doing things, because I’m going to emulate that. So just pay close attention to that. If you’re going to push into something, make sure that you’re committed to it, you’ve got a core team around you that can hold you accountable, you can hold them accountable, and then that’s a great place to start from.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. So in a typical agency, what’s the right number of process and systems? Because I also think I’ve seen agencies that had a, “Here’s how we make coffee in the morning,” system right? And I think, okay, I get that consistent coffee in an agency really matters, but perhaps that was not the best use of your time.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, someone read The Toyota Way and got a little carried away coming back to the office. I mean, typical agency, that’s kind of… it’s hard to capture that, because as digital agencies, as traditional agencies, there’s so many different things that we’re doing. But I like to start with the client journey, and breaking down when we’re servicing our clients, what’s the process there? And start at that point. And then going through, once that’s in place, going through your organizational structure and having each head kind of figure out, within my department, what are the key processes that we need documented there?

Because they know it the best, they’ve got the hands on there. But if someone were to take a week’s long vacation, what functions of the company would come to a grinding halt because one person left? And if there are anything that you can identify after running it past that criteria, that’s something that should be documented, and it should be stored in a place where everyone knows how to find it and it’s easy to access. Just Google, a Google Drive file structure system that everyone knows how to navigate is one easy, simple way to do it. Using a tool like Process Street is another easy, simple way to do it, where you’ve got a structure and everything falls within that structure. And again, that’s talking as a team, whiteboarding how do we want to organize our processes? Are we going to follow our organizational chart? What is it? But yeah, I would leave it up to the heads of the different departments to break down what are the key roles underneath us that if someone walked away, things would come to a grinding halt.

Drew McLellan:

And then, okay, so now you’ve got a handful of processes, and I agree with you. I think you start with the customer journey, the client interaction, so that that’s consistent and delivered at a level that the clients are not used to, because they’re used to everybody sort of doing it in a haphazard way. But, so now you’ve got some critical systems. What’s the best way to introduce those and begin to live those inside the agency?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, I think it’s… you want to, small bites I think are better than holistic changes. So little bits at a time. And again, bringing those people into the conversation, the key stakeholders into the conversation around the documentation, is a really important point. And I don’t want people to just kind of breeze past that, because that way they’re introduced to the idea of documenting processes before they begin to be imposed on to follow those processes. So kind of having that conversation, having everyone talk about that, and then having kind of a fixed date on the calendar.

So if it’s how you manage a certain client, say we’ve been doing it to date in platform X, we’re moving to platform Y, and we’ve spent the last week preparing our processes and our templates inside process Y. Today, we’re going to flip the switch, we’re going to start managing processes in that new platform for just one client. We’re going to test that out for three weeks and see how that process goes. We’re going to tweak and improve that, and then after that, we’re going to move this next team over into that platform. So that way, you kind of… instead of just turning off one system and jumping into a new system, you’re going to test it with a beta client almost.

hat’s been something that we’ve seen just helping people get on to do inbound, is instead of flipping the switch and doing everything at once, it’s bringing one client over, get that tested, and after a certain test period where everyone knows how long we have, then we flip the switch. We bring everyone on at kind of a common point there. But as far as a team goes, again, as long as they’re engaged in the process, I think that’s the most important step in terms of getting them to start following that process.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I was talking to somebody else who does a lot of project management inside of agencies and helps agencies create system and process, and he made the comment that it’s usually the third or fourth iteration of the process where you finally get it mostly right, and that you sort of have to go into that beta test knowing we’re going to find some things that we missed, or we miscalculated, or that don’t need to be there at all. Whatever it is. This is not done by any means, so you have to sort of see it as iterations I think.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, definitely. We’re always going to be improving, we’re always going to be tweaking things, and you’re never going to be doing that more than right after you implement a new system. So let’s just go in with the expectation that we’re going to be tweaking this thing, we’re going to be making it stronger as we see how it actually runs, and then we’re going to move forward from there. We’re constantly learning. We don’t want to operate off of assumptions.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. So what kind of a feedback mechanism makes sense in an agency? So let’s say you’ve had systems in process for… let’s say you’ve had a specific system in line, and you’re on iteration six. What’s the process for tweaking systems? So again, because I think the tendency in agencies are, “Well okay, I know what the system is, and 30% of it works great for me, so I’m just going to do my own thing for the other 70%.” So what’s the right way to get feedback and to keep iterating, and make sure that A, the process continues to evolve, but B, that everyone continues to follow the process?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, I think it’s important to have the same… whatever your management structure is, whoever your team members, the people who are executing work, whoever they report to, whoever that person reports to, however deep your organization is, it’s important to have scheduled check ins with your employees just for agency culture to begin with. Check in with them, talking career track with them, talking workplace satisfaction. What could we do better, what can we improve on? And I would insert the process conversation into that type of a meeting environment, where you’re kind of taking a step back. It could be talking about performance reviews, that sort of thing. Whenever you touch base with those people on a monthly basis, you can get feedback from them on a specific process in that standpoint.

You can also do it if you kind of operate in different pods, and you have kind of team stand ups for those pods, or for that kind of team within your team, and have an open spot in that meeting agenda for process review. And that, whoever’s running that meeting, whether it be the account manager on that or if it’s a project manager who could own the process, that’s a very real situation. They should have a view into how people are performing inside the project management tool. Are they actually delivering on the process there? Because if someone’s not delivering on the process, we want to know why not. But if they’re offering tweaks and suggestions on something that they’re not even following themselves, then we have kind of a disconnect there.

So we have to know A, are they executing on it, and then B, what do they think about it as individuals. And then figure out, is this… are we hearing enough birds chirp around this specific step in the process to make a tweak? And not make it so that you can only tweak things once a month or once a quarter, but have those kind of set structures in place so that you make sure that over time, you continue to gather information. Because otherwise, we put something in place, we talk about it for two weeks, and then we fall back to business as usual. So kind of like how we talked about earlier, that agencies don’t like the idea of process and structure because it gets them out of their creative zone, we definitely need followup and structure in terms of checking on our processes over time.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, this is going to give agency owners heart palpitations, but what you’re saying is you need a process for checking your processes.

Andrew Dymski:

You need a process for process management.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I’m so sorry listeners, that you’re hearing that. But it’s true. I mean, that’s the painful reality of if you actually want… and again, this is all about if you want to scale and grow and be more efficient and effective. If you’re perfectly content with your agency just how it is today, then disregard all of this. But if you want to be able to scale, and if you want to add staff, and if you want to maintain a level of excellence, this is the only way to do it.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. We’re only talking to people who want to be more profitable, Drew. Not those who are happy where they are.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. So now a couple people are like, “All right fine, I’ll listen. Oh, if you had mentioned profitability on the front end…” Right?

Andrew Dymski:

I already lost those listeners though.

Drew McLellan:

They’re at Starbucks getting something to drink, cursing both of our names.

Andrew Dymski:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

So all of this is great, but it’s also a little overwhelming. So give the listeners who are still listening with us, and have not run off to get some caffeine, give them a really tangible, here’s how to get started. Here are some baby steps to take that aren’t going to be overwhelming, that are not going to freak you and your staff out, but will at least give you a taste of how this should go so you can sort of strengthen that muscle and build that muscle up to do it in a bigger, better way as you go.

Andrew Dymski:

I would say that very… the first step to take is to assemble that list of deliverables that you create. And I know that owners, we often think that we know the business in and out and that we don’t need to write it down because we’ve got it in our heads, because I’ve had those thoughts myself. But I almost guarantee, if we get our team together and we sit in front of a whiteboard and we start writing things down, the list is going to be much longer than we thought it was. So that is functional in that, A, it defines what are we doing today, and B, it does it in a communal sense, so we begin to build that team momentum around an idea to say, “Hey guys, we want to make your life easier by kind of bringing more clarity to the type of work that we’re doing.”

And just having that conversation, creating that full list of deliverables that you create today can be a great first step to beginning the process of documenting then how you do each of those deliverables. If we don’t know what we’re trying to tackle, we’re never going to hit it. So we document that list first, and then I would prioritize that list based on the frequency that those deliverables are created. And then I would document say, the first five deliverables on that list, the ones that are used the most by the team. And let’s stop right there. Let’s document those top five and see, if we document this and we share these with everyone and we start following that, can maybe next week we do another two or another five?

But don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t try to do everything at once. Do not try to shut the agency down just to do this, but block some time. You can block an hour or two each week to begin the process of understanding the work that you’re doing, because… and that’s kind of, how do you document the deliverables? I would really encourage every agency owner if they haven’t already, create some sort of a vision. Create some sort of a goal line that everyone’s running towards. I would highly recommend the book Traction, and-

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I recommend it almost every day. I agree, yep.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, but a simple operating system, and you can tweak it to your agency. But it gives you a phenomenal framework to operate off of. We’ve had a lot of… we’ve been transformed within our company. We’ve talked to a ton of agencies who love that framework, and that can really get the core team united around a common goal line. And then you get everyone kind of running towards that goal line together.

Drew McLellan:

And again, if your agency is really sort of anti system or process, do what Andrew said, land on those five deliverables and then just start testing and iterating them. Don’t do any more, but let people see how much easier and better the work becomes because you have these foundational sort of stepping stones that people can follow. And then after they’ve experienced the value of it, it’ll be much easier to get people onboard for the next five.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. Where there’s light, there can be no darkness, so apply that to your processes.

Drew McLellan:

Isn’t that the truth. So Andrew, this has been great. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your own experiences. It’s clear that you have learned all of this by walking it out, which is always I think the most valuable way to learn, and also I think it makes you a valuable teacher, so thank you so much for doing that.

Andrew Dymski:

It’s been my pleasure. Thank you so much for the opportunity to come on here and share, it’s been great.

Drew McLellan:

So if folks want to hear more about you, if they wanted to find out about your podcast… so let’s talk a little bit about your podcast, and also if they want to learn more about DoInbound. Give everybody the best ways to access all of that.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, our podcast, we run a couple podcasts over at DoInbound, but the one that if you’re a listener of this show and you love it, you should check out Inbound Agency Journey. And you can do that over at doinbound.com/podcast, and there we bring on each week a different owner of an inbound agency, or a thought leader in the agency space. And they share their personal journey, how they got their business up and running, the challenges that they’ve overcome, the lessons that they’ve learned, and the successes that they’ve had, and it’s a lot like this, Drew. Just conversations with folks who’ve walked the journey before us. And you can, once you’re on doinbound.com/podcast you can learn more about DoInbound there.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And if folks want to reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Andrew Dymski:

Twitter is the best way to grab me. I am @AndrewJDymski. D-Y-M-S-K-I. I would love to connect with anyone who’s got questions or just wants to chat about agency stuff.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, awesome. We’ll put all of that in the show notes as well everybody, so you can track it down there. So this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Many thanks again to Andrew for sharing his expertise and his time. I will be back next week with another great guest, hoping that I can help you in some small way make your agency bigger, better, stronger, and more of what you want it to be to reach your personal and professional goals. In the meantime if you need me, shoot me an email at [email protected] Otherwise I will see you next week. Thanks so much.

Speaker 1:

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 for 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.