Episode 319:

As agency owners and leaders, we all want to succeed at the long game. We plan and work with the hope that it will lead to long-term success. But it can be difficult to hang in there when faced with uncertainty, and we constantly wonder which bets are going to pay off and when we need to pivot. Fear can paralyze us or force us to make decisions that undermine a potential payoff because it all feels a bit like a guessing game.

Author and keynote speaker Dorie Clark is a world-renowned teacher and coach. She’s been on the podcast before (episode 152) and returns with tips and insights for how to leverage the long game, based on her new book of the same title, to avoid a lot of mistakes created by this fear and uncertainty.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Dorie and I discuss a lot of tools that help build a successful long game. We talk about ways to build more breathing room into a busy life, the need to track progress, and how to recognize the indicators that you’re on the right track. We look at the importance of building the right support system, how to find more focus, and why it’s so important to acknowledge and celebrate the small successes along the way.

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.

The Long Game

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Defining and Creating “White Space”
  • The need to track progress
  • The indicators that create success in The Long Game
  • The importance of having people around you who understand your business
  • How and where to focus for The Long Game
  • Why it’s important to acknowledge the successes
“As you are trying to build something meaningful and get your ideas out there, it is really hard in the moment to tell the difference between something not working and something not working YET.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet “It’s not that we need balance all at once, it’s that we need balance over time.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet “We have to look for qualitative measures even before the quantitative starts coming in.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet “Thinking ‘long-term’ is when you are making choices today, even hard choices, that will make tomorrow easier and better.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet “Minimizing our goals is actually quite helpful.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet “We cannot give away our power to random people who for some reason don’t like what we’re doing.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet “It’s not that we don’t recognize the success, it’s that we don’t take time to pause and savor it.” @dorieclark Click To Tweet

A previous episode with Dorie Clark: Episode 152

Ways to contact Dorie Clark:

Tools & Resources:

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 midsize 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 McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Guess what, we are back with another episode of Build a Better Agency. I want to tell you, before I tell you about our guests, who you’re going to love, and actually you’ve loved her before so that’s a hint. Anyway, first I want to tell you that as we round the bend on the fourth quarter, I am super excited. This is about, I’m recording this in early October, which is about when we launch the podcast cache six years ago now. And I just got to tell you, I continue to be grateful and amazed. Sounds like I don’t think anybody listens and that’s not the case.

But just I’m delighted, I guess maybe that’s the right word. I am delighted that you come back week after week, and you listen. And I am grateful that we continue to provide value to you. I love your emails, I love your ratings and reviews. I love hearing from all of you. So, I love meeting you at conferences and having you tell me that a certain episode was really helpful to you. So, thank you for the feedback, thanks for listening and thanks for coming back. A couple of things I want to get on your calendar before I tell you about our guest. We have some great workshops coming up in December, January and February. And, I want to make sure that you know about them so that you can take full advantage.

So, we have money matters December 9th and 10th, and that’s two days of talking about nothing but money, as I have told you about before. And then we’ve got build and nurture your agency sales funnel coming up on January 20th and 21st. All of these workshops by the way are in Florida. When it’s winter, we go to Florida. I’m like an old person who retires for the winter, I’m a Snowbird, I’m a workshop Snowbird. Anyway, build and nurture your agency sales funnel, the 20th and 21st you are going to leave with a baked out marketing and sales plan for your agency with who’s going to do what when? How are you going to get it done? All of that, we actually make you sit and do the work with our help. So there’s that.

And then of course we are back with the amazing Mercer Island Group on January 25th and 26th with selling with insights. And this is a workshop that we have taught twice, about 70 agencies have gone through it all total, and they’re at about $60 million of new AGI simply by using the methodology they learned in this workshop. I can brag on this workshop all day long because really I’m the color guy in the back. The Mercer Island Group people bring it and they bring it in a big bad way. And then we’ve got a brand new workshop on the docket, February 17th and 18th; rethink innovation with Carla Johnson.

Best selling author, Carla Johnson. So Carla has written this amazing book called Rethink Innovation. The premise of the book is we all are born, able to come up with big ideas to create on the fly to make a circus out of a pot and a pan and a box and a wooden spoon. And the dog usually. I don’t know about you but my dog was always the lion. I always tried to get my head to fit in her mouth, which I don’t think either was actually enjoyed. Anyway, I’m sorry I’m digressing. Anyway, we are able to create, as kids, and over time that gets worn out of us. And Carla has figured out how to reinvigorate that, not only in you, but in your team. For many of you, you’re the only big idea person in your shop, and Carla is going to show you how to reinvigorate that big ideas on demand for yourself, but even more important, to take back that methodology and teach everybody on your team so that everyone is creating at that level all of the time.

So again, that workshop is February 17th and 18th. It’s going to be very hands on, there’s going to be field trips involved, we’re on Disney property so that’s going to be awesome. So, please grab a seat at any of those workshops that sounds appealing to you. We always love seeing our podcast folks there, and I think all of them are going to offer a really great learning environment, and a lot of takeaways. With AMI workshops, if you attend a workshop and you decide that it was not worth it to you, all you have to do is say to me Drew you know what? That didn’t work for me, and we will happily give you your money back. I’ve never had to do it, but we are happy to. So, there’s that as an option.

All right, so let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Actually our guest is a repeat guest, that was the clue I gave you. So back in Episode 152, which was quite a while ago, Dorie Clark came to us and talked about how to build multiple revenue streams inside your business. And she’s back. She’s authored several books, but she’s back because her brand new book called The Long Game: How To Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World is hot off the presses in early October, so by the time you hear this, it’ll be out for about a month or so. So Dorie is a consultant and a keynote speaker, she teaches executive education at Duke University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

She’s been named one of the top 50 business thinkers in the world by Thinker’s 50, and the number one communication coach in the world by Marshall Goldsmith Leading Global Coaches Awards. She is the real deal and this book is spectacular. It’s really about how do we leverage the long game? How do we hang in there when there’s uncertainty? How do we know which bet is going to pay off? It’s a really, really great book. And Dorie is one of those speakers and coaches and just human beings that I love to talk to. Such energy and passion for the work, and so hungry to help others. And so I know you’re going to love this conversation as much as I do so, let’s get right to it. Dorie welcome back to the podcast, it’s great to have you back.

Dorie Clark:

Hey Drew, it’s always a treat talking with you. Thanks.

Drew McLellan:

All right, so The Long Game, tell us what prompted the book because I have a million questions about the book, it was so good. Just before I hit the record button, you just told me that it just hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, so congratulations on that. So this is a great read, just came out not that long ago. by the time this airs it’ll probably be out for about a month, the book will be out for about a month so this is hot off the presses. So what prompted you writing this particular book?

Dorie Clark:

Well, I think Drew this is actually something that probably a lot of agency owners can relate to. When I was starting my business, in my case I’m a solo practitioner but, I think the phenomenon is often the same, I was really trying so hard, and so assiduously to crack the code. Because the minute you enter a business, suddenly it’s like, oh my God, why is it that everyone else is doing this exact same business? How can you differentiate yourself? This is horrifying phenomenon. And so I struggled in the early days in my business to try to figure out positioning and how do you get your message heard? And how do you actually get people to pay attention and to care?

And trying to solve that problem, trying to solve that puzzle so that I could build a business for myself really preoccupied many years of my work. And as I figured it out, I began to realize that no one is really teaching this exactly. A lot of the information is kind of hidden, or opaque, or people try to keep these trade secrets. And along the way it can be incredibly frustrating. And this was really hammered home to me about five years ago, because I started an online course and community called recognized expert, where I started working with a lot of other smart professionals in a similar situation where they wanted to do platform building and things like that.

So I literally got to see and work with hundreds of people, and I could see patterns in what they were struggling with. And it was the same stuff that I did, which is, as you are trying to build something meaningful and get your ideas out there, it is really hard in the moment to tell the difference between something not working and something not working yet. And that’s-

Drew McLellan:

Such, I was going to say, such a critical distinction, right?

Dorie Clark:

Yes, absolutely. It’s the distinction, and we have to try to somehow suss it out, and it’s very, very tricky. And so based on all that I have learned in the past 15 years of building my business and really thinking in depth about it, I wanted to share that with other people and try to create a framework to help other people navigate it, because I don’t want good people to quit too soon. I want people to be able to persevere, to get to the other side and get the results they want. And so that’s why I wrote The Long Game.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. You know it’s interesting as I was reading it, I was reading in this dual mindset of one, thinking about it from my agency owners perspective and their business, but also thinking about as an agency owner, the conversations we have with clients because sometimes I think they too, the analogy I use with clients is, sometimes we start work for you and you are so anxious for it to take hold and root that it’s sort of like we plant a bulb, and then you run out the next day, and because it hasn’t broken ground yet, you think something must be wrong and you dig it back up, and you move it to another part of the yard. And you keep doing that as opposed to saying, You know what? I need to let the sun, and the water, and time do its thing, because it’s just not yet.

And I kept seeing that analogy in my head as I was reading the book, because you’re right, so much of what we do, and I think especially in agencies where things are changing so fast. We’re so reactionary sometimes that it’s hard to be patient. And it’s hard to know, to your point, it’s hard to know, okay, is this working? Or, is it time to pivot? And we talk so much about being agile and pivoting, and all of that, that sometimes I think we do ourselves a disservice.

Dorie Clark:

I think you make such a good point Drew, it’s meta, because we need to remember this for ourselves, and also we have to be educating our clients about it, and preparing them for it. Because so many of the pressures in society are just instant results, instant results. And if we play into that, that’s a little bit of a losing game eventually.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. So one of the things in the book is that you sort of talk about how … what are some frameworks or some tools that we can create for ourselves and our companies, that give us a better shot at winning the long game? And one of the ones that I just, as soon as I started to read it, I was like, oh my gosh, we have to talk about this, is that idea of creating white space. So can you talk a little bit about that? Because as you and I were saying before I hit the record button, this is not something agency owners are gifted at, is the concept of white space.

Dorie Clark:

It’s true, it’s true. And the most important element of white space is, no one is going to do it for you. No one is going to hand you white space ever. We have to actively seize it and guard it. And [crosstalk 00:11:56]

Drew McLellan:

Because right, not only will they not hand it to you, but they will violate it as soon as they can, right?

Dorie Clark:

That’s right. Because it is always more convenient for other people for you to be at their beck and call 24/7. I mean, that’s the default, like, if I can have permanent access, why wouldn’t I? But they don’t care about your outcomes the way you care about your outcome. So we have to be the defenders there. So, how do we begin to think about this and do this? I mean obviously, every agency owner has huge amounts of time pressure and the gaping maw, the hungry maw of employees and clients, and all the things. And I can absolutely relate in my own business as well.

So, I think that there’s a few things. I mean there’s a lot of ways and strategies to think about this but I mean, at a high level, to start there, we can definitely get into tactics. But I think that, one starting point that I think is really powerful is understanding some of the psychological barriers. Because when we think about being busy, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is well, I’ve got all the meetings and I’ve got all the emails, and that is not wrong. That is true that we all have those things and they are taxing to us. But it is also true that there are some weird societal pressures at play that often make it harder for us to extricate ourselves, even if we say that we want to do that.

And so some interesting research by Silvia Bellezza at Columbia University, she and her colleagues did some work. And, what they’ve discovered, and of course I think intuitively we know it’s true, is that in many western societies, especially the United States, busyness is actually viewed as a sign of social status. And so for us to actually, to actually make the changes necessary to dispatch some of the obligations and make ourselves less busy, frankly, we run the risk, at least in our heads, of making ourselves look less essential, less important, less valuable. And so sometimes at a subconscious level we hold ourselves back.

Drew McLellan:

I’m sure that’s true. When you talk to people, whether they talk about it, “I’m so busy, I’ve got this going and that going and I can barely breathe,” and they rattle off their obligations kind of like they’re proving themselves, right?

Dorie Clark:

Absolutely. it’s a card to play like, “Oh well, Jimmy just got into Harvard.”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right, that’s right. So how do you recommend we begin to build that white space and what does that look like? Is that me sitting in a recliner, staring at the ceiling, thinking big thoughts? Is that just like 15 minutes between a meeting so I can catch my breath and go to the bathroom? How do you define white space and how do I create it for myself? If I live in this crazy world that we all do, and odds are I have, as you said, people nipping at me all the time. So how do I make that happen? And what does it look like?

Dorie Clark:

Sure. Well the first thing to put on the table about white space is, this is not about a certain amount of time, it’s not like “Oh well, actually Drew you need 3.75 hours per week to do x, y, z. And, thankfully that’s good because most of us don’t have actually that big chunks, but you don’t need them. In one of my previous books, I will even reach down and get a prop here. In one of my previous books, Stand Out, I interviewed David Allen, the productivity expert, the GTD.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah get it done guy, right?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, yeah, Get Things Done. And he said something really interesting that I think is very applicable, which is that, “It doesn’t take time to have big ideas or great ideas, what it takes is space.” And for me this is quite powerful because it’s true, right? It’s not that you have to go meditate for a month in India, the issue is that, even if we actually do have a bucket of time, most of us right now can’t deploy it properly because our minds are constantly racing with the obligations, and the pressures that we feel. And so what we actually need to do is to carve out space. And once you’ve created mental space, 15 minutes, 30 minutes actually can become a very valuable tool.

So how do we do that? Well, ultimately it’s about finding ways to just stop the feeling like we are constantly behind, and we’re constantly racing. And so, I think a lot of us look for magic bullets when it comes to time, there’s not really magic bullets. But what actually is sometimes even more powerful, is if you make small incremental improvements, things that are so small, a, they’re manageable and b, they’re almost invisible, you can actually transform how you think about time. I’ll give you just one example Drew. When we are looking for ways to try to get a little bit more efficient, one of my favorite strategies, and this seems so silly or simple in some ways, but it’s a very powerful tool. It’s just literally asking for more information.

And what I mean by this is, you might actually think that if you want to get something done, like extending the conversation, that’s the last thing you’d want to do. But if you come to me and you send, which a lot of people do, they send an email, “Hey Dorie, I’d love to hop on a call with you. Can you let me know when you’re free for 30 minutes?” A lot of us our default is just like, “Okay.” And we do it. We have no idea. We don’t know if it’s a topic we want to talk about, if it’s topic we are knowledgeable about. If it’s important, if it’s not important. And so I’m like, “Oh my God, Drew wants to talk to me, I better … God, I’m so busy tomorrow. Okay, well could you do it at 7:30 in the morning? I guess I can wake up early.” And that’s how we start to make our life miserable.

Whereas if we just say, “Hey Drew, I’d love to be helpful, what do you want to talk about?” And you can tell me, “I just wanted a referral for, whatever your dog walker.” I could be like, “Let me email you instead.” We just have no idea until we inquire but we can save so much time.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Dorie Clark:

So I’m curious Drew, what is your white space strategy? How do you make this work for you?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So it’s a really great question. So my white space strategy honestly is planes. So I’m on pre-

Dorie Clark:

That’s tough for during COVID man, how did you do it then?

Drew McLellan:

… pre pandemic, I was on 200 planes a year. And so I try not to get on WiFi, I try not to be accessible, it’s where I have some time to just focus and be able to do longer tasks that require less interruption. It’s also time for me to pull out a notebook and just sort of doodle ideas. So during the pandemic I wasn’t traveling very much and so, then for me it was dog walking time. So I have two girls that need lots of walking and so, that’s again a time where I can throw on some music, or I can, I’ve got a voice recorder on my phone so sometimes I’m walking and I’m just talking to myself, I’m talking out loud, and just thinking about whatever.

But I’m not in a meeting, I’m not on a phone call. I try not to be on a phone call, sometimes I am on a phone call. Sometimes I violate my white space, I will admit that to all those who are listening. And I probably talk to some of you during my white space in fairness. But yeah, I just try and carve out … but you’re right, it’s not four hours, and it’s not … it’s, I’m going to grab 15 or 20 minutes or 30 minutes where I can but, those are two strategies for me that work because of the way my life is structured. How about you? How do you carve out white space?

Dorie Clark:

That’s great, I think those are definitely good strategies. So for me personally, I think it varies depending on what I will call the season. And I mean that sort of more metaphorically than literally. But in the long game I talk about a concept called thinking in waves, which is basically just understanding that, it’s not that we have to have balance all at once, it’s just that we need balance over time. And so sort of thinking through the cycles that we’re in. So the truth is, for the past couple of months with my book launch, I’ve had very little white space. Which is unfortunate, but it’s not unfortunate in the sense that, I know that I will come back to equilibrium. It’s unfortunate if you never have white space.

But for all of us, you’re getting ready for some big pitch or something like that, that’s crunch time, that’s the time you should be going all in. And once you execute on that, then you can recalibrate afterwards. So during other times when I’m not launching a book or doing some big, huge deadline, I would say, my version of that actually, I do not have a dog but I, especially during COVID and especially when gyms were closed and things like that, I would walk a lot. That was like my exercise. I would just basically be working all day and you can see this is a little bit depressing about my social life, but I’d work all day and I’d be so sore and cooped up from just sitting in front of a computer.

And so starting like at 7:00 at night or something, I’d grab some food, and then I’d go for this crazy, I don’t know, three or four hour walk, up and down Manhattan. And I would just listen to audiobooks, or I’d think, or I’d call friends or something like that. But, this combination of exercising and thinking, or exercising and taking in new information was very useful for me.

Drew McLellan:

And there is no greater people watching then in Manhattan, so I’m sure you did a fair amount of that too.

Dorie Clark:

It’s true. There were fewer of them also during on the streets-

Drew McLellan:

That’s true.

Dorie Clark:

… during COVID but, we would see the persistent ones actually, it was like the ratio of people with dogs I think shot through the roof, because those are the ones that had to head [crosstalk 00:22:10] out.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah I was just in the city last weekend, and it’s back to normal. It’s busy and crowded, and it’s good.

Dorie Clark:

Yeah it’s encouraging. It’s like simultaneously you get pissed off because you can’t get a seat on the subway and you’re like, oh thank God, I can’t get a seat on the subway.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. That’s right we’re back to getting back to normal, absolutely. Okay so beyond creating white space, one of the things that you and I talked a little bit about, and that the book talks about is, I think all entrepreneurs, I think all business owners, and certainly agency owners, I think we’re constantly making bets. We’re making investments in things, we’re trying new things, so much of our work is the requirement, the expectation of clients that we are innovative and that we’re trying new things. And I think one of the challenges is, in this idea of the long game, how do you know? Where are the clues that tell me that what I’m investing in is worth … that I shouldn’t dig up the bulb.

That I should leave it in the ground, and I should put some more water on it. And I should let the sun do its thing versus, you know what? This bulb is not going anywhere, and this ground I need to move it somewhere else. So what are the clues or how do I know, or how do I sense which investments are worth sticking with, and that they’re gonna pay off?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, this is such an important question Drew, and it’s one that I deal with all the time with my executive coaching clients. Because, oftentimes it’s sort of heartbreaking because it’s almost like they’re like the kids in the back of the car, “Are we there yet?”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right, absolutely.

Dorie Clark:

And you just have to be like, okay, a little longer, keep going. And they’re wanting to see the results, or they’re like, “But should I try this?” And I’m like, actually just keep going with the that we were doing. So, I think that one important starting point is, for so many of us, and I mean, agencies are much better than the norm because, you know you need to be tracking things. But nonetheless, I think we can probably all up our game a little bit. Because an area where I think in general humanity is pretty weak, is creating hypotheses about how things should unfold, or how things likely will unfold, and then tracking against that.

And just as one example, in The Long Game I share a story that Jeff Bezos actually tells in his 2018 shareholder letter to Amazon shareholders. And he talks about a friend of his who hired a handstand coach because she wanted to get good at handstands in yoga.

Drew McLellan:

Don’t we all?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, I mean, normal goal. And the handstand coach said, “Okay, the average person thinks that it should take about two weeks to be able to become proficient at doing yoga handstands. In reality, it actually takes six months of daily practice.” And, I think for me this is a very powerful example, even if it’s a random one because, most people, especially if you’re not a scholar of handstands, you probably know, okay, my estimate is off a little bit. But, if you’re guessing, maybe it’s off by 20, 30%, it’s in the ballpark. It is literally off by 12x, it’s two weeks versus 24 weeks, 12x. If we can imagine that, for so many of us we want to do certain things with our clients.

Well we want to help them grow their YouTube followings, or we want to help them get x market share, or x number of views or whatever the metric is that we’re optimizing for. But, we really need to have hypotheses about what that process looks like so we can be checking in. And also this ties into an another concept that I share in the book called looking for the raindrops, especially if you are dealing with clients, they’re looking for the big win. They’re looking for the like, oh, and then and then our company was on the cover of Fast Company. They’re looking for this huge thing.

And again, this is hard because on one hand we want to give them what they want, but on the other hand if they’re smoking crack, we really need to cut that off at the pass and help them understand like, look, please don’t be sad when this doesn’t happen, because this is not going to happen. Here’s what’s realistic. And so looking for the raindrops is actually training ourselves, and frankly training our clients, to look for the small, tiny signs of progress that often could be overlooked if we are too fixated on the end goal, and learning to read them. Because, a thunderstorm doesn’t come out of nowhere. It starts with a few raindrops, and we need to see what they are.

I mean maybe it’s, in this case maybe it’s increased customer interest in the Cleveland market. Maybe it’s an uptick in unsolicited emails from their customers saying, “Oh wow, I’m really impressed with the blah blah blah. But we have to seek those out and look for them as qualitative measures, even before the quantitative starts coming in.

Drew McLellan:

Well and I was thinking, one of the things that I love about agency owners is they’re the most pessimistic optimists I’ve ever met in my entire life. So, they have this sort of gritty view of the world, and this sarcastic bent to them as a general rule, but they always believe they’re going to land on their feet, and that things are going to go great, and they’re going to win every pitch. And, I never talked to an owner after a big business pitch where they go, “Yeah, we’re dead, we’re not getting that one.” Always it’s like, “Oh my gosh, the chemistry was amazing.” And so they’re super optimistic. But I think what that does sometimes is it sets them up to be disappointed.

Because, using your handstand example, I think they always think the clients new project is going to come in next week, or the check is going to come from the past two client tomorrow. Or the employee that they’re chasing after, the prospect, that five other agencies want or, of course, are going to choose them. And sometimes, I think that our optimism actually hurts us because we overestimate how successful we’re going to be and underestimate how long it’s going to take to be successful.

Dorie Clark:

Yeah. I think that’s really right on Drew. Because, one of the things that I realized in writing The Long Game is, it is not impossible to run a marathon, right? Lots of people run a marathon every year, it’s not easy, but plenty of people can do it, and it is absolutely an attainable goal. But where running a marathon becomes impossible, is where you think you’re signing up for a 5k, you run a 5k, you’re feeling all proud of yourself, and it’s like, actually keep going brother.

Drew McLellan:

Right. You’re just set the first water stop, right.

Dorie Clark:

And that becomes very dispiriting. So having realistic understanding and expectations is so critical. It’s not to say that you won’t do it better or faster than other people, you might well, but it’s also true, that you’re probably not going to do it 10 times faster than other people. So having a sense of what other people have done first, is a useful grounding mechanism.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Are there other clues or signs or things we should look for or think about when we’re trying to determine to judge if it’s time to pull the plug on something?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah. Well one of the things, and this is a drum that I’ve been beating for a long time, even starting with my first book, Reinventing You, and I know this is something that you both believe in and live out with your business Drew, but I am certainly a big fan of having community around you. And the reason I think this is so important, I’m talking about two criteria specifically, the people around you, your mentor, board of directors, your kitchen cabinet, however you think about it. Number one, it of course should be people who care about you and want the best for you. But number two, it also really needs to be people who are knowledgeable about your field.

Because, while it is useful, of course, to have people like your family who just care about you that, they might be like, “Oh Drew, yeah, whatever you do is amazing, it’s great.” But-

Drew McLellan:

You want to feel good call mom, right?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, a cheerleader is not really helpful when it comes to making nuanced business decisions. You need people around you who know the business and who can actually help you judge more effectively. Because, we tend, when it involves us, we tend to swing to extremes. This is just the human condition, right? One day it’s like, oh God, it’ll never work. This is terrible, I should throw in the towel. And the next day it’s, oh we’re so close, we’re right around the corner, I just need to hang on. And so you need the reality check. And I’m so glad that you run a community like this because people need to … they need to have that outside judgment because, in the moment we can’t trust our ourselves.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And in our peer groups, it’s fascinating to watch. I mean in essence these are agency owners who have known each other for years and come together twice a year, and hang out for two and a half days. And one of the sections of our meetings is when an agency owner will present a challenge, and then people go around and ask them questions, and then they offer words of wisdom or advice and it’s sort of fascinating how, just having somebody who gets your world, but is not emotionally invested in the challenge, can distill it down by asking three questions and making two statements. And now all of a sudden, the person who raised the challenge is like, oh, yeah, okay, I know what to do now.

But they couldn’t see it before, because they were so blinded by either the emotion, or the excitement, or the fear. And so you’re right, getting somebody to clear all of that out, and also being willing to be really candid with you, and be able to say, you know what, I don’t think you’re seeing this correctly, or I think you’re overestimating this, or maybe she didn’t mean that at all. You’re only hearing it one way but when you tell me the story, I hear it three other ways. So, maybe going back and clarifying would be good. So I think you’re right, surrounding yourself by other people who will help you gauge whether or not you’re on the right path is a really amazing tool.

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, definitely. And I think, I hear from some people sometimes, there’s a class of folks who say, “Well, why do I need to connect with other people in my field? That’s not what I need to do. I need to be working with … I need to be spending my time [crosstalk 00:33:09]”

Drew McLellan:

I can’t sell them anything.

Dorie Clark:

That’s right. That’s right. “I need to get into the thick of it with people who can buy.” And I mean, yes, obviously that’s also true, but I think we are really drastically shortchanging ourselves if we do not build a peer level community. Because the truth is, buyers see 100 of us, buyers have more information about us, and fees, and services, and business practices than we do. And if we’re ever going to overcome that structural disadvantage where we’re just guessing, we need to band together with colleagues to learn from them so that we’re not just throwing darts and saying, oh gosh, I hope it works. I think that’s actually a very short sighted business practice to not cultivate relationships with peers.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. All right, I want to take a quick break and then I want to talk a little bit about focus and figuring out where and how to focus. So, let’s take a quick break, and then we’ll be right back with Dorie to talk about that. When it comes to conducting a client satisfaction survey, your agency has three choices. The first one is adopted, don’t ask, don’t tell policy and just roll the dice. Your second option is to do this study in house. And the third option is to use a third party to conduct your client satisfaction survey. If you decide that you’re ready to invest in protecting your client relationships and improving your win and keep ratios, we believe there are some benefits of using AMI as your third party research partner.

Number one, we know emphatically that your clients will tell us things that they just won’t tell you. The reality is they’re going to speak more freely if they’re not talking to you directly. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, and they don’t want to get into a big conversation about it. So a third party is a safe place for them to share their real feedback. The second is that at AMI we don’t have a bias about any particular client. We don’t know if you like them, don’t like them, if they’re a pain, if they’re your favorite. And so because we understand the agency business, but we don’t come into those conversations with any preconceived notions, we can absolutely give you unbiased and unfiltered information based on what your clients tell us.

And you know what, we know agency clients. We can hear what they’re saying, and we know which threads to pull on as we’re talking to them to get more information for you and more insight. Your clients will be comfortable talking to us because we speak their language. If you’re interested in having AMI, do your customer satisfaction survey, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the how we help section of the website to learn more. All right, let’s get back to the show. All right, we are back. We are back with Dorie Clark, author of many books but the one we’re talking about today is The Long Game. Which is a brand new book out on the Wall Street Journal bestsellers list. Grab it wherever you grab your books. Dorie audible yet? Do we have an audiobook yet?

Dorie Clark:

It’s on audible, yes it is.

Drew McLellan:

All right so-

Dorie Clark:

I narrated it myself.

Drew McLellan:

I did that on our last book too, that was fun. Yeah [crosstalk 00:36:16]. But kind of hard. I don’t know about you but rereading your own book out loud it’s like, oh, oh. Sometimes I was like, I forgot that I’d written that. Or, I would have reworded that sentence if I had read it out loud before. So it’s an interesting experience.

Dorie Clark:

It is. It’s also an extreme level of concentration because, you basically can’t screw up or else you have to redo the whole thing. So, I just kept being so paranoid I’m like, don’t mess it up, don’t mess it up, say it right.

Drew McLellan:

And then the guy would go, “Okay, do that part again.” And it’s like, oh, come on.

Dorie Clark:

Of course.

Drew McLellan:

Right, yeah. Anyway guys, you can read it like a book, you can listen to it, however, but you want to consume this content however you do that. So let’s talk a little bit about speaking of focus, let’s talk a little bit about focus. And how do we know how and where to focus our time?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah. So when it comes to focus, at a really basic level, sometimes people ask, “Okay Dorie, how do you define long term thinking? What are we talking about anyway?” And my super quick back of the envelope answer to that is, thinking long term is when you are making choices today, even hard choices, that will make tomorrow easier and better. That’s the frame that I have. What can we do today that we will be glad that we did? And so when it comes to focusing I think this is really the place where we have to get clear Drew on what our North Star is, what are we optimizing for? we often don’t stop frequently enough to ask that question and then work backwards from it. Whether it’s a specific agency related goal, or whether frankly it’s a life or a lifestyle goal.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So, I think one of the things that is challenging for anybody today, professionally, but certainly when you’re running a business, is there are so many demands on your focus. I mean like, every time you turn around, like you were saying, every time you turn your email’s pinging, or somebody’s in your door or, you’ve got a text or whatever it is. So I’m curious if you have a way to suggest, as I think about my day, my week, my month, how do I make sure that I have at least some bandwidth of focus on the things that, to your point, are going to have this long range impact and effect? Because it’s super easy to do the immediate things, right?

Dorie Clark:

The immediate things are going to take care of themselves.

Drew McLellan:

We all took the time management class with the grid, and the urgent versus the important. So how do I make sure that enough of my focus goes to the important things?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah. Well one of my personal strategies actually, is frankly just making sure I don’t have too many goals. Because, where we get pulled in a lot of directions is if there’s 10 things that I feel like I’m supposed to be doing, you get paralyzed and you don’t do any of it. Instead, the framework that I follow, and again, I’m a big fan of simple framework, so let’s not make it complicated, it is … first of all, I generally do my planning on about a six month timeframe. You could do it annually if you want, but I feel like these days life is kind of moving fast enough that it’s useful to check in every six months.

It doesn’t mean you can’t reup a goal, but it’s just kind of poking your head up long enough to be like, is this still the right goal? Is this still the most important thing? Yes, okay, I’ll keep doing it. But it’s good to have that check in. And so, at these six month marks, what I try to do is, my back of the envelope goal is, for myself, is to have no more than three goals. And what I mean by this is typically I strive for one personal and one professional goal. Maybe if there’s something super important on either end I will throw that in and have like two personal and one professional or vice versa. But that’s really it.

Because there’s only so many heavy loads we can carry. Of course this is above and beyond regular client work and obligations but it’s-

Drew McLellan:

And these are bigger things.

Dorie Clark:

… what’s the big thing that I’m accomplishing? And so obviously for fall, sort of the latter half of 2021 it, for me was launching The Long Game successfully. And I’m going to continue working on that through the end of the year, pretty assiduously, and then I’ll come up with something else for the first part of 2022. But, this was the North Star. And there’s a lot of ways that it can manifest. Part of it is, I might be writing articles tied to the book, I might be doing podcasts tied to the book but, I know why I’m doing it and that was really the driving force for me. So I think minimizing our goals is actually quite helpful.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I think so often people have either eight million … they have a to do list that is … I think sometimes we set ourselves up for failure, right? We set so many goals or to dos and you look at the list and you think, well, I’m short before the day has started because there’s no way I can get all that done. So even on a daily basis, I think saying, okay, what are the two or three things I have got to get done today that are the most important that are going to … and then they ladder up to those two or three goals. But I think you’re right, I think we set ourselves up for failure, but we also just stretch ourselves so thin, that even if we accomplish the goal, it may not be at the level that we wanted to accomplish it at because, we’re also accomplishing 12 other goals.

Dorie Clark:

Totally, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

So one of the things that I loved about the book was this whole idea of, a lot of the stories and a lot of the frameworks you teach in the book are really pragmatic and practical, which I love. But there’s also this idea of kind of keeping the faith. Like at a certain point in time, part of it isn’t a tactic or a methodology, or a framework, part of it is just heart and soul, hanging in there, and you have some specific things around that about how to keep the faith. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, certainly. And of course we were alluding to this earlier, this is a crucial piece, right? All of us, if we have been working on goals that are meaningful enough and long term enough, it is far more likely that it will not unfold the way we want as compared to having it go precisely as we predicted. The longer out we are, the more time and the more twists in the road, and the more opportunities there are for things to just break a little differently. Sometimes it’s in a better way, sometimes it’s in a worse way but it’s … we can’t predict every part of the future.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Dorie Clark:

So I think there’s there’s some key elements here in terms of just refusing to give too much power away, I think that’s the key thing. I mean I tell a story in the long game about a woman that I know and have worked with, really great successful executive coach, she even coaches for Harvard Business School executive education. So she got a great background, writes for Harvard Business Review. And there was another publication that she wrote for and for six months, she did this for free, just as kind of a business building tool. Which is probably something that many agency owners that you work with do as well, get the content out there. So she was writing for this business publication after six months and 35 free articles, her 24 year old editor fired her from this position, and told her, “Sorry, we thought about it, and we just think you’re not creative enough.”

I mean, boom, okay. And that could really mess up a lot of people’s self confidence. So this woman, [inaudible 00:44:18] the executive coach, she did it just right. She said, Oh, man, she was feeling bad, so she reached out to a bunch of friends and colleagues and she said, “Well, how did you deal with it when you had some situation like this, where you were rejected by somebody.” And everybody’s giving her different pieces of advice. And so one woman that she reached out to, they had a conversation, the woman said, “The same thing happened to me.” And Ann said, “Oh man, I’m so sorry. Well tell me what did you do?” And the woman said, “Well, I never wrote again.”

And Ann realized, oh no. Okay that is not what I want to do, that sounds like the wrong answer. And so that actually motivated her the most to get back on the horse. And within two months, she had found another equally prestigious publication, and she’s writes for them to this day. But we are always going to get things like that, and we cannot give away our power to random people who for some reason don’t like what we’re doing. I mean fine if 100 people tell you, but if one or two or 10 tell you, that really is just random chance and personal preference, and we cannot afford to let that stop us.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think too, sometimes I think the one person who is stopping us, and the one voice is our own sometimes, I mean sort of those self doubts and things like that. So again, I think that’s the power of community, I think that’s the power of … I mean because that’s what Ann did in this example, she reached out to an informal community of people, and got feedback and input and perspective. And I think part of keeping the faith is having perspective and really understanding, stepping back and again, looking at it from a longer lens and saying, okay, this moment in time is just that, it’s a moment in time.

And agency owners, rejection is a normal part of our life, and I think that’s probably true for all business people but, given the work that we do, and how we are putting ourselves out there all the time to try and earn new clients and help our clients accomplish those goals that we set out for, sometimes rejection is just part of the game for us. And so you have to be able to weather that, I think, and not let it damage your confidence or your psyche, you have to keep being able to move forward.

Dorie Clark:

That’s exactly right. Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

And I think one of the things that you talk about in the book is the idea of savoring the moment. And so, I often think one of the counterbalances to the, either your own voice or somebody else’s voice is, we’re not really good at celebrating or even stopping to appreciate what we’ve accomplished, or where we’re going, or how much further on the path we are, that’s not something most entrepreneurs are just naturally gifted at. Because we’re going so fast that we don’t stop. So, how do you recommend that we carve that time out, not just for us, but for our team too?

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. In some ways it goes back to that looking for the raindrops and consciously training yourself, forcing yourself to look at it. But also, I think that it’s not sometimes that we don’t recognize the success, but you’re right, that we don’t pause to savor it, or to appreciate it. And so honestly one of the things that I like to do and think is important, is to actually create what I will call a success checklist which is, when you have a success, even if you can’t master a celebration for yourself, which can be hard because as an entrepreneur you’re like, we got to keep going.

You know it’s important for the people around you, you know it’s important to thank the team, reward the team. And so for their sake I would say, go through the success checklist and just ask yourself, okay, who were literally all the people who contributed to this success? Write them down. Just make sure that you’re thinking comprehensively about who contributed to it. And then, even just the act, depending on how big or whatever, whether it’s sending them a gift, whether it’s just sending them an email, thanking them, whether it’s having an all hands and calling them out by name, those are very small things, but are quite meaningful to people.

And just helping them savor it, even if you can’t do it for yourself, that act of gratitude, as we have seen from research, is one of the ways that you can essentially appreciate the moment vicariously by seeing their satisfaction at it.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. That’s a great way to, again, we could chat about this for another couple hours. But I think that idea of gratitude and celebrating and savoring the success, that’s, I think, one of the ways you put gas in the tank to play the long game. Is when you are grateful, and when you share that gratitude and you get … which then makes it reciprocal, you get it back, I think that’s what gives you some energy to hang in there. Because that’s really, in a lot of … I was talking to agency owners during COVID and what I have said a million times is one of the things I love and respect the most about agency owners is their perseverance, they just will not give up. They refuse to give up. And that’s why they’re successful is because they just hang in there.

And they believe that it’s going to get better, or it’s going to get good, or it’s going to get even better than it is today because it’s really great today. Wherever they are at on the spectrum they just have this optimism and belief in themselves and in their teams that, and just the stubbornness of not giving up. So they’re sort of naturally good at the long game, I think, because of that.

Dorie Clark:

Yeah, fantastic.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Dorie if people want to find out more about all of the work that you do, want to follow your content, I know you have, on your website, a list of all of the books you’ve written, and we’ve had you on the show talking about other books before, what’s the best way for folks to find you?

Dorie Clark:

Thank you Drew, I appreciate it. Well my website is dorieclark.com, I have more than 700 free articles on there that I’ve written for places like Forbes and Harvard Business Review and Fast Company and more. And I’ll also mention especially around the strategic thinking and long term thinking topic, I have a free long game strategic thinking self assessment. And folks can get it for free at dorieclark.com/thelonggame.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. This has been great. Thanks for coming back on the show, it’s always good to talk to you. So I am grateful that you carved out the time to do this.

Dorie Clark:

Thank you my man, glad to be here.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right guys, this wraps up another episode. So, I think Dorie gave you some really good nuggets that I want you to spend a little of that white space thinking about, and really think about how you can, not only equip yourself, but your entire team to recognize that the work we do, and the way we serve clients is absolutely a long game. And how do we prepare ourselves to be better at the game so that we a, enjoy playing the game more? It’s not just about winning the game, but it’s also the journey. If it’s a long game and it’s grueling all the way to the finish line, that doesn’t sound awesome at all. So how do you play it better so that you enjoy the journey more, and you can set yourself up for success?

So, I highly recommend you grab this book. And hopefully you took a lot of things away from today’s conversation as well. Before I let you go, I want to, quick thanks to our friends at White Label IQ, as you know they’re the presenting sponsor of the podcast, so every week they make it possible for us to bring you guests like Dorie. They provide White Label PPC Dev and design for many agencies all across the world. Lots of AMI agencies use them and swear by them. So check them out at whitelabeliq.com/ami, they’ve got a special deal there for you. And I’ll be back next week with another guest getting you to think a little differently about the business.

And in the meantime, you know how to track me down, I’m [email protected], I will see you next week, thanks for listening. That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build a Better Agency. Visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages, and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.