Episode 169

podcast photo thumbnail
1x
-15
+60

00:00

00:00

On this episode, we delve into the unconscious mind and the concept of “limiting beliefs.” It’s the idea If I say to you, “I’ll meet you there in five hours” what is the first question you’re going to ask me? Right, meet you where? Finding our way without knowing the destination is impossible. But too often, that’s how we run our agencies.

Both short and long-term planning often gets sidelined in the hubbub of running our agencies. We’re putting out fires. We’re solving client crises. We’re answering employees’ questions. All stuff that needs doing, but for a lot of agency owners, the urgent gets in the way of the important

On episode #169, we get right into it. What does it take to create plans that inspire compliance and action? What does it take to actually follow through? Is there such a thing as work-life balance? I’ll give that answer away for free: no, there is not. (But still listen in!)

That’s why I loved my conversation with Jennifer Dawn. She is a business coach for high-achieving entrepreneurs, and she’s developed some really strong tools for goal-setting and planning.

Jennifer spent years working in the corporate world before taking the plunge and pursuing her passion for mentoring entrepreneurs to grow profitable, healthy, and truly exceptional businesses.

Business plans don’t have to be the Mona Lisa. They don’t have to be epic works of prose. Jennifer and I agree – one page, two max, is a great length for a plan.

If you’re ready to really make time for the important; if you want a plan for work and life that really serves the life you want, this is a perfect episode to dive into. There are tons of practical tips and suggestions about how to get your plans out there on paper, review regularly, and actually, follow through so you get to the defined destination of your choosing.

 

 

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to get your business plan down to two pages or less
  • The importance of getting an outside perspective on your business plan
  • Why beginning with the end in mind has not gone out of style
  • How to make your business plan a living document
  • Breaking down your goals into tiny, manageable steps
  • Definition of the “A” task
  • Actionable ways to manage your work/life blend this week
  • How to build personal and work components together into your planning
  • How to plan your business priorities so they are in support of your life goals
  • Three steps to achieve any goal you set

The Golden Nuggets:

“Get the feedback. It might be a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s where the gold is.” – Jennifer Dawn Click To Tweet “As entrepreneurs, we feel like we have to carry the weight of the world all by ourselves. And if we ask for help, it means that we're a failure. Wrong! You can’t go it alone. There are lots of ways to ask for help.” – Jennifer Dawn Click To Tweet

Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!

Itunes Logo          Stitcher button

Ways to Contact Jennifer Dawn:

Speaker 1:

Are you tired of feeling like a lonely light housekeeper as you run your agency, 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 is now in our third year of sharing insights on how small to mid-sized 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, there everybody Drew McLellan here, from Agency Management Institute. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I think one of the biggest challenges as an agency owner is finding the mix of time and energy and focus to both look down the road at what’s coming and also look down at the road to figure out what has to happen today. I think that that blend of planning for both the long term and the short term, often gets caught up in the hubbub of the day and often gets lost in the shuffle of putting out fires and solving client crises and answering employees questions. And that for a lot of agency owners, we know that we should be better planners. We know that it’s pretty difficult to get to a city if we don’t know what city we’re headed to. If I told you, I want you to get into a car and I wanted you to get to the place in 12 hours without telling you the place, the odds of you getting to the right place are pretty knelt on that.

You’re going to get somewhere in 12 hours, but it certainly isn’t going to be Cleveland, which was the city I intended you to get to. And so we know intuitively and we know in our own personal and professional life, how important having a plan is and how important having a game plan of accomplishing our bigger goals is. But I think it often gets buried or it gets complicated. We think that our plans have to be the Mona Lisa of plans and that until it’s perfect we can’t show it to anyone on our leadership team. And we certainly can’t show it to the agency at large, because what if we’re wrong? And so I think a lot of our own, I don’t know, insecurities or a lot of our own perfectionism gets in the way of us actually finalizing a plan and recognizing that it is a living document and it’s going to keep changing, but at least we’re headed in the right direction.

We have some definition of where we’re trying to go and why we’re trying to get there and what the method of transportation is going to be for us getting from here to wherever we want to go. I think a lot of times we just get in our own way, and oftentimes we let the things that feel urgent, maybe they’re not so important, but they feel awfully urgent because something’s on fire also derail efforts to plan. And so that’s the topic of today’s podcast. I’m really hoping that at the end of the hour we’ve inspired you to think differently about planning and actually moving forward with a plan. It seems this time of year is a great time to be discussing planning for sure. My guest is Jennifer Dawn, and Jennifer comes at this work from years of experience. She’s been an entrepreneur for a lot of time. She has been the president of companies, she’s led organizations.

And now what she’s doing, is she is using her talents as an entrepreneurial business coach. And also interestingly, her years of leading others and leading ourself has led her to creating a planner which we’re going to talk a little bit about, because I’m fascinated by it, to help business people plan their whole life better, not just their professional life, but the holistic look at their life, including their business. I think we’re going to get into all kinds of topics around this notion of planning and what makes a good plan and how do we actually get the plan done and how do we take the first bite of the elephant if you will. Let’s just jump right in and have the conversation. All right, let’s get to the conversation. Jennifer, welcome to the podcast.

Jennifer Dawn:

Hi Drew, thank you so much for having me here today.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. With your area of expertise, one of the things that I think many agency owners would tell you if they could call in and join our conversation, is that they would love to plan, but the reality is they’re so busy chasing their tail because their work is reactionary to what clients want, but they really struggle with planning. One of the things that I often talk about is that I think that’s because a lot of business owners and my agency owners in particular think that their business plan has to be the Mona Lisa of business plans, right? It’s got to be perfect and people have to stand in line for hours just to gaze at it for a few minutes. I know you have a different philosophy around business planning. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jennifer Dawn:

Yeah, absolutely. I really want to validate exactly what you’re saying, where you’re right, so many business owners, I used to be one of them, are in a constant reactionary state. Of course they are in love with the idea of having the time to do the planning properly, but they never seem to have it. And it’s because they’re in that reactionary state all the time around clients, I used to be that way myself. But as far as a business plan goes, you’re right again, in that people seem to think it needs to be either this really lengthy novel, it’s got to be this perfect, perfect thing. And what they end up with, is either a giant paperweight that nobody looks at, because it’s not functional, it’s too huge, it’s too lengthy, it’s too complicated. Or they get so overwhelmed the process that they just simply give up and revert back to that we’re just going to fly by the seat of our pants business plan.

Drew McLellan:

What should it look like? If it doesn’t have to be the Mona Lisa, it doesn’t have to be the novel. What are the elements of a business plan that someone actually will use as a tool throughout the year and it’s not, as you said, a paperweight?

Jennifer Dawn:

Absolutely. When I work with business owners on creating a plan for their business, we like to get it to one to two pages and that’s it. If it’s more than two pages, we haven’t done the job quite right, because we really want to drill down to the essence. It’s funny, my husband’s a writer and he just had a story he had to submit. The thing was like 5,000 words and he wanted to submit it in a competition and we had to get it down to 2,500 words. 11 o’clock at night, we’re going crazy drilling this thing down, but we got it to 22,493 words, and it was phenomenal because we trimmed it down to the essence, every important piece of information you needed was in there. That’s the exact same process that I suggest that you go through on your business plan. Because if it’s one to two pages, you can absolutely follow it. It will be understandable. It would be down to the absolute necessities, the essence of what it should be.

In that plan, I like to combine elements of, of course the vision, of what this company is, who we want to attract, who we want to work with. Those kinds of who was our ideal client, the vision of the company, where we want to take this. I like to build in of course measurable goals and then some strategy in there as well. The strategy, I think is the piece that a lot of people just miss. They’ll be like, hey, this is where we want to go. And off they go and they just get busy and they don’t really take that time to do that strategy work. I like to see those three elements in the plan really lined out, but in a super one to two page, super compact format.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting your story about your husband’s story. I’m a writer by trade, that was how I started my career. It was always easier when somebody said, well, just write, I don’t care how long it is. And when you had to trim it down, for years I wrote a column and it had to be 300 words or less, but it had to be valuable and meaty, because it was going to be in the newspaper, the business newspaper. It was like, every word had to matter. And so I would end up writing what I needed to say and then figuring out how to call it down to its essence. I think the thought process of really deciding what mattered and what was, I liked that turn of phrase, or I liked that thing, but it really wasn’t the essence of what I was trying to say. That forced me to really think about what I was trying to teach.

I think you’re right, that in a business plan, oftentimes that’s the part that we miss, is if I have to boil it down to a pager or two, now every word I put on that paper I have to weigh it against a different word. And so where every strategy or every tactics. So now I really am doing the thinking that actually turns it from being a dust collector to a tool.

Jennifer Dawn:

Exactly. The thing is, if you start out, at least what I’ve found, is if you start out trying to just get it to the essence, you almost end up with too little and it’s like, this still sucks. Right? And so it’s much better to actually, I just say, put it all out there. Just get it all on the paper, and even with the writing, just get it all on the paper and then let’s drill down and let’s carve the essence out of there, and that’s where you really get the gold, if you can just get everything brain dumped. We might start with 10 pages of stuff, but we’re going to drill it down to that one or two and you’re right. And that’s where the real strategic, that heavy thinking piece that so many entrepreneurs just blow past, that’s where it happens, is right in that space.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think that’s where the prioritization happens too. Right? If I have to decide between these five tactics, because I really do have to boil this down, now I’m really having, as opposed to just banging down one tactic and going up, done. If I have to decide which two out of the five I’m going to use, now I have to go through the thought process either by myself or with my leadership team or whatever that is, to really force myself to make the argument for those two versus a different two.

Jennifer Dawn:

Exactly. And then the beauty of that is then once you really drill down to these are the two that we really want to focus on, now you’re putting all your time, your energy, your effort into those two things, and you’re going to do it so much better than trying to go in 45 directions all at once. Now, you’re putting all that time and effort and it’s laser focused.

Drew McLellan:

What about, if I’ve done that in a vacuum, if I the agency owner have sat down and I’ve written my plan, at what point in time does it make sense to bring in some outside perspective and what is the right outside perspective? Is that my leadership team? Is that somebody completely from the outside? What do you think about having other eyes on the document at some point in time?

Jennifer Dawn:

Yeah, absolutely. And as far as which eyeballs to get on it? My answer is yes and yes. You should get the leadership team eyeballs on it and you should absolutely get an outside perspective on it, because when you’re in it, it’s hard to see other things. And even your leadership team, they’re going to have their own unique perspective, but they’re also still in it. That’s why it’s so important to get that outside perspective. I think that you should bring somebody in at the very, very beginning, simply because you can’t, it’s too easy to spin your wheels and spin your wheels and spin your wheels. And so depending on where you’re at in business, obviously there’s no, hey, let’s try it for six months and then bring somebody in.

No, it’s right at the beginning, if you’re going to sit down and you’re going to drop the plan, getting an outside perspective on that, I think is super, super critical, because they’re going to see things that you don’t. If it’s somebody even that’s, it’s a mentor and it could be any number of people. It could be a mastermind group that you’re a part of with other entrepreneurs that are at a similar or higher level of business than you are. It could be a coach. It could be a mentor. It could be, even if you have a friend, as long as they’re not just a friend, they’ve got to be somebody who has proven themselves in business, they’re at least a level you are or higher, that has some business knowledge and acumen, that can really look at it, because they’re going to give you ideas that you didn’t think of. They’re going to offer solutions that you didn’t think of. They’re going to be able to provide you solutions that maybe their industry has solved that yours hasn’t, that’s going to super short your curve.

Drew McLellan:

Right. For those of you that are listening, that are inside the AMI family, and you belong to one of our peer groups or something like that, that’s a great way to buddy up with somebody inside your peer group and other agency owner and ask them to take a look and swap services of perspective. I think it’s the age old acronym of, it’s difficult to describe the outside of the bottle when you’re inside the bottle. And so it is good to have somebody else’s outside perspective, looking at your ideas and just asking questions, if nothing else, about your thought process and where you want to go. But I think one of the other keys to this, we haven’t talked about it quite yet is, the Stephen Covey finish with the end in mind, or start with the end in mind. Where in the process of planning do you think I have to define where I’m headed?

Jennifer Dawn:

I think you have to do it at the very beginning. Now, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have all the answers at the very beginning, because sometimes as you’re moving through the process of growing a business, information is coming to you, things are changing. The industry is changing. Competition is changing. All these moving parts are happening. You can never expect to have all the answers right at the beginning. But I do think that you have to make an effort to think about the future, to think about where you’re heading. And I think that you have to build that into a regular routine. We review this annually, we review this quarterly, some a regular routine where you’re always constantly updating. I get people who I work with and they think that they’ve got to have this perfect vision statement created of their business. And that once they’ve got it done, it’s never going to change.

Of course it’s going to change, everything changes. And so-

Drew McLellan:

By Tuesday.

Jennifer Dawn:

Yeah, by Tuesday. You have to be willing to change with it, but if you’re never looking at it at all, again, you’re right back into reactive, running by the seat of your pants mode. But one other thing I just want to add really quickly to getting the outside perspective, is that if you want to get the benefit of the outside perspective, you’ve got to have an open mind. If somebody is asking you questions and you go into defensive mode of, this is the way we’re going to do it and there’s no better way. You are going to completely miss the entire opportunity of the value of that outside perspective. If you really want to get, if it’s in a peer group or whatever, you’ve got to come to it with an open mind and be willing to hear what people are asking, what they’re challenging, so that you can really look at it objectively, and it’s from that place, that’s where the information is going to come from.

Drew McLellan:

This crazy notion you’re talking about is when you ask for someone’s opinion, you have to be open to hearing it.

Jennifer Dawn:

Yeah, crazy. Right?

Drew McLellan:

We all laugh at it until it’s us who’s not open-minded about it. Right? We all go, of course, you have to be open-minded, but it’s tough when somebody is talking about your baby.

Jennifer Dawn:

It’s true. It’s so true. One of my mantras is feedback is my friend. And it is, because feedback truly is your friend. It’s interesting, I have a separate company and I have a daily planner and it’s out there, it’s out there to the world. This is my baptism by fire, even with my earlier companies, I would get feedback from my customers, but I knew them. With a separate retail product, where the world, they could all say whatever the heck they want to say. And this is where I really had to put my money where my mouth is, because you’ll get feedback from these crazy people and they’ll just be saying mean things. And you’re just like, oh my gosh. But every time I’ve ever gotten negative feedback, almost every time, I would say almost every time, if not every time, I’ve been able to pull something from it.

And so if you have a really hard time with it, I just want to say, it’s your mindset, it’s your mindset shift. I wasn’t born with some special ability to be able to assimilate feedback. It’s just, I’ve decided that I’m going to pull something positive out of even the most negative feedback, and I’m going to use it to my advantage and I’m going to use it to get better and to get stronger. And the people who are out there criticizing the negative ones, kill them with kindness. But if you can get into this mindset that feedback is really your friend and it gives you something to think about, that’s where you’re going to get so much more from it.

Drew McLellan:

I think part of it is, you have to be able to look past how it’s delivered. Sometimes people are not tactful. Sometimes people are aggressive or maybe their questions are a little more pointed than you want them to be. I think you’re right. You have to be willing to sift past that to say, okay, what’s the carnal here, that actually is of value to me?

Jennifer Dawn:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. If you have an agency and you get a lot of positive feedback because you have great service, fantastic. I get a ton of positive feedback and it’s such a blessing, but at the same time, sometimes I will find myself like, okay, tear it apart just a little bit. Give me something to work on. And it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s so great to get all that great feedback, but it’s not bad to actually really seek out, how would you change this? How would you make it different? Pick it apart a little bit here people, give me some meat on the bone to work with.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. You know what? One of the services we provide is we do client satisfaction surveys for agencies. As a third party, we’re able to get their clients to say things that maybe they’re too nice to say to their face. The conversation I have with the agency owners is you have to go into this knowing we’re going to change things about your business and that’s for the good. And so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to fair it out. Even if you’re a B plus every day, all day, how do we notch it up just a little more to be the A minus, and how do we look for places where even your satisfied customers and clients would like something a little different and maybe we can deliver it that way, but you have to be open and know that it’s not all going to be roses.

Jennifer Dawn:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s the kind of feedback that you want. You want the stuff that maybe they wouldn’t say to your face. And so I love having a third party go in there because they’re going to tell you things that they wouldn’t say directly to the agency owner. If you’re listening to this right now, go for it, get the feedback. It may be a little uncomfortable, but that’s really where the gold is. That’s the stuff that will change the business and change it for the better.

Drew McLellan:

Out of the business plan, so now let’s say I’ve gotten my business plan, I’ve narrowed it down to a page or two. I’ve gotten some outside feedback, we’ve tweaked it. Now I have to figure out how to get all that stuff done, whatever that is. And so, for almost everybody listening, what they’re going to say is, and I can certainly relate to this since I have 30 hours worth of work to do today. I have to figure out which ones I’m actually going to do. I think sometimes the stuff that gets on a business plan, the bigger stuff, the meatier stuff, the bigger picture stuff, it’s so easy to lose sight of getting that done when your email’s pinging and the phone is ringing and there are people standing in your doorway with questions. How in the world do I actually get to act on the business plan? What do I have to do? What do I have to put in place?

I’m guessing that this marry’s the two sides of you both, the planner that you’ve put together and also the coaching that you do. How do I make sure that I’m actually spending my day on things that I’ve decided are so important, I’m going to put them on this business plan? These are the most critical elements of my business. How do I make sure I get them done?

Jennifer Dawn:

Yeah. That’s such a great question. Even in my own businesses, this is something that I’m faced with every day. And Drew I know you are face every day.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Jennifer Dawn:

I did the work to create this plan and now how am I