Episode 60

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Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at Agency Management Institute. For the past 21 years, he has also owned and operated his own agency. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an active agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year, give him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

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

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



What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why I absolutely believe Jim Rohn’s famous adage that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with
  • Why you should go back and take a look at the one page life plan I outlined in episode 10
  • Spending time with the people who inspire you to commit to excellence in every aspect of your life
  • Spending time with the people you learn from that challenge you to think in different ways
  • Spending time with people that you can teach
  • Hanging out with people who see you more clearly than you see yourself
  • Spending time with people who will call you out when you need to be called out
  • Having people in your life that make you push harder than you would on your own
  • Spending time with the people that fill you with joy


The Golden Nugget:

“You need to spend time with people who inspire and challenge you.” – @DrewMcLellan Share on X


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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, invest in 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 with another episode of Build A Better Agency. This episode is one of my solo casts, so no guests today, just you and I chatting about something that I’ve been thinking about and I’ve been talking to other agency owners about and I want to make sure I get on your radar screen. So this one is super important to me, and I want to make sure that you hear me loud and clear on this, because I think it’s something we don’t think about very often, and yet I think it has huge impact on our success.


  So Jim Rohn is famous for saying that we are the average of the five people we hang out with the most, and I absolutely believe that’s true. Back in Episode 10, I gave you two documents, so I’d love for you to go back and take a listen to that podcast again. And if you remember, there was a one-page business plan, but there was also a one-page life plan. And the very last question on the one-page life plan is, who are the five people I want to spend more time with? And that was no accident. I really do believe that we can be the architects of our own life and the outcomes of our life by making some really smart choices, and one of the smart choices I think we get to make is who we spend our time with.


  And so I really want you to be intentional about that. I want you to think about that, and as we approach the end of the year, if you are listening to this in sequential order of when they get recorded. We’re about a month away from the end of 2016. But whenever you’re listening to this, this is not a year-end thing. It’s not a resolution thing. It’s a make-your-life-better-today thing.


  So I want you to think about who it is that you spend time with and how do they serve you and how do they change you and mold you and shape you? And I want you to think about the kinds of people that would be helpful to you. So the the first category, when I think about who I want to spend time with is who inspires me, who makes me want to be a better human being, a better business leader, a better coach? Who is excellent at what they do.


  And again, whether they do what I do or they do something different, it’s their commitment to excellence that inspires me. And it’s not just around work or professional things, but also the way they conduct their life, the way they serve their clients and their family and their community. Who helps me raise the bar when it comes to being a better… And then fill in the blank. Human being, father, friend, child to my parents. Who helps me be the best Drew that I can be and who inspires me to do that?


  And the next group of people I want you to think about is who do I learn from? Who is constantly making me think differently? Who is teaching me new ways of looking at problems? Who is asking great questions? Typically we learn from people who ask us really great questions. I know when I’m with a client and they say something to me like, “No one’s ever asked me that before,” I know that I’ve hit a goldmine of a conversation where we can really drill down deep because I’ve asked a great question.


  So as I think about who I want to spend time with, as you think about who you should be hanging out with, who can help you grow? Whether it’s professionally or personally, who’s going to stretch you in terms of your knowledge, both intellectual knowledge, but emotional knowledge as well? And who is open to being that teacher?


  On the flip side of that, I think we also need to be thinking about who can I teach, and that’s somebody that we should hang out with. I think we learn the most when we teach, when we are forced to explain something or to be really clear or to coach someone. I think that’s when we actually learn the most. It’s one of the things I love about the work that I get to do every day with agency owners. As I am coaching them or helping them sort something out, I promise you, I am learning as much as they are from the interaction, and it makes me better.


  And so, as we think about the people that we want to spend time with and know that we have a finite amount of time, one of the categories I really want you to think about is who can I teach and who’s open to learning? Who is willing to keep an open mind and to explore things in a different way? Certainly professionally, our industry is changing so fast and in ways that we can’t even fathom. We have to surround ourselves with people we can both learn from, but also we need to be teaching the things that we’re learning, and that’s what really cements that knowledge in our mind and heart is to be able to communicate it so clearly that someone else can grasp it and understand it and then take it and use it. So that’s another category.


  As you are pondering who those five people should be, one of the things I hope you do is that you look for someone who celebrates you, somebody who is your cheerleader, who’s in your corner, who believes in you, who reminds you how awesome you are. I have a friend who is looking for a new job, and I wrote her a letter of recommendation. And she sent me a text back and said, “I really aspire to be the person that you described in that letter.” And what I said back to her is, because she’s in a tough situation at her current job, “You are that person, you just haven’t been allowed to be that person and you’ve forgotten who you are.” And I didn’t stretch the truth. I didn’t lie. I didn’t exaggerate. I just told them exactly who you are, but I think you’ve forgotten that.


  And I think that’s true for a lot of us. I think when we’re in the grind every day and we are trying our best to keep our head above water or to make 1200 decisions, and you’ve got client fires going on and you have employee issues and you probably have stuff in your personal life, sometimes it’s easy to forget how awesome you are and how rare an individual you are to have accomplished what you’ve accomplished, to have built the agency that you either work at or that you own, and to have taken the risk of doing that and to continue every day to take the risk of owning an agency and having all of the people that work for you dependent on you for their mortgage and all that other stuff. That’s a rare choice, and I think sometimes you forget that. I think sometimes you take it for granted that everybody of course would do that, while the reality is very few people have the courage and the stamina to start and continue a business, especially something as difficult as an agency.


  So I want to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who see you more clearly than you see yourself, and who are verbal and effusive in helping you understand just how awesome you are and all of the great things you do and the impact you have on other people’s lives. Make sure that on that list of five, there is somebody there who celebrates you.


  The flip side of that, of course, is I also want you to hang out with people who are going to call you on your stuff, because while you are awesome, you’re not perfect and you make mistakes and you say things perhaps in a way that isn’t clear or might even not be kind or might not be supportive or whatever. We’re flawed human beings. And we need somebody who is honest enough with us, who cares about us enough to be honest. And I’m not talking about being a jerk about it, but who’s honest enough to say, “You know what? I get where you were going with that, but you probably could have handled that better,” or whatever it is.


  You need somebody in your world, in your inner circle, who calls you on your stuff and who is willing to be brave and honest, and maybe even endure a bad reaction from you because they care about you so much that they understand that you’ll come around and you’ll get it and you’ll appreciate what they did, even if you don’t appreciate it in its first delivery. So that’s another kind of person that I want you to have in your corner.


  The other thing that I want you to do is I want you to have people in your life who make you better. And a lot of times, for me, that’s somebody who challenges me or pushes me, or maybe is really awesome at what they do. And we’re competitive people, let’s admit it. If we own an agency or even work at an agency, we’re probably a little competitive. So I like to surround myself with people who make me want to push a little harder, to run a little faster, to reach a little higher, because they are a living example of that.


  So I’d love for you to go and download the life plan in Episode 10 and spend some time thinking about who it is that should be in your life, that really does inspire you and help you be a better person. And think holistically. It’s not just about your professional life, but in your personal life. Who loves you unconditionally? Who sees the best of you in everything that you do and points it out for you? Who is someone who makes you laugh so hard that you cry and that your stomach hurts? Who fills you up with joy?


  Don’t let that kind of thing happen by accident. Don’t allow those interactions to be accidental. I’d love to see you be more intentional about who your inner circle is and who your confidants are and who you talk to on a regular basis that allows you to breathe them in and absorb emotionally what they offer you, intellectually what they offer you, and really helps you be a better version of you, and really helps you recognize how awesome the version you are right now is, but also what you’re capable of doing and who is both cheerleader and has their hand on your back and pushing you.


  So that’s not one person, it’s not two people, but make sure that in that inner circle, you don’t have people who are tearing you down or, out of jealousy, diminish your accomplishments. Be mindful and intentional about who you spend time with and who you connect with and who you open up to so that you can as awesome as are. You can get a little better and you can be a little bolder and you can be a little stronger and you can be a little braver and you can also be a little kinder to yourself.


  I want that for you, and I hope that as I’ve been talking, people have been popping into your mind, and what I’d like you to do is literally make a list of those five people: the five people you should spend more time with and you should hang out with the most. And then figure out how to make that happen.


  And by the way, hang out with doesn’t necessarily mean physically in the same place. Some of the people I hang out with the most live many states away, but they still do these things for me. They still inspire me. They still celebrate me. They still call me on my crap. They still get me to think differently. They still invite me to learn. They invite me to teach. And those are the kinds of people who help me get a little better every day, and I think you’ll have the same experience.


  So please go to Episode 10, download that form, and if you do nothing else, just fill out the bottom part and make a plan for filling your life with the five people who are going to help you create the best version of you.


  That’s it. Short podcast today, but I hope a really important one for you and a great reminder, and I will be back next week with a guest and they will share their awesome goodness and what they know, and I hope you come back. So here’s a couple of reminders. Number one, if you’re enjoying the podcast and you have not subscribed, you might be missing episodes. We bring out a new episode every week and I want to make sure you don’t miss any of them. So please subscribe to the podcast so that you get notified every time there’s a new episode.


  Also, I would ask you, if you don’t mind, if you’re enjoying this, if it’s valuable for you, if you would please go to iTunes or Stitcher or Google, wherever you access the podcast, and if you would leave a rating and a review, that would be awesome. So all of those hosts pay a lot of attention to the ratings and reviews and how often we get them and how new and fresh they are. So if you can do that, that helps other people find us and that makes me feel like my time is being really well spent if I can reach out to more folks and help them get a little better. So that would be great.


  If you need me, I think you know how to get ahold of me, but just in case, it’s [email protected]. I try to get back to folks as quick as I can, so feel free to shoot me an email. And come on back next week, and we will have a great guest and more stuff for you to learn so that you can build a bigger, better, stronger agency that serves you and your community and your employees and your clients well. That’s a great legacy for you to build, and I know you’re working on it every day. Thanks for listening, and I will talk to you next week.


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.