Here are some questions you should be asking yourself when wondering how to motivate your employees: Can you name ten ways in which you motivate your agency employees? Can you name one? Or are you too busy putting out fires to consciously think about keeping your team fired up and working at a peak performance level? It’s all too easy to complain about an employee’s perceived lack of performance on the job. Sometimes, performance can be dramatically improved just by paying a little attention to all your employees. Too often we end up taking good performers and the ones we like for granted and grumble about the ones that need to improve. Having a strategy to motivate, grow and retain your biggest and most expensive asset is just good business. It’s part of working ON the business, and not just IN it! Here’s a list of my top ten tips when you are wondering how to motivate your employees: Consciously try to say “hello” or “good morning” or “good night” or “good job” to everyone, every day. Notice them and acknowledge them. It sounds simple but how many days do you walk through the office and just walk right by people because you're on your phone or deep in thought? Personally thank employees for doing a good job - face to face, in writing, and in front of others. Do it often and sincerely. You cannot be too grateful. Be willing to take the time to meet with and listen to employees - as much as they need or want. Provide employees specific and frequent feedback about their performance. Support them in improving performance. Ask for their opinion too. Recognize, reward and promote high performers; deal [...]
I have found that most agency owners are very generous people. They love the people they work with and want to create an amazing working environment. They are also very slow when it comes to firing an employee – whether it’s because the person isn’t performing at the right level or because billings have dropped and they just don’t need that person any more. All of that is lovely. But, you are literally taking that money out of your own pocket when you make that decision. I can’t tell you how many times an agency owner has lamented to me, “I know I should let Carl go but he’s putting two kids through college.” Yup – and you are taking money that should be going into your kid’s college fund (or your retirement or investment account) and handing it to Carl’s kids. Even more than that – by not firing an employee, you are putting your entire agency at risk, for the sake of this one person. Your responsibility is to run the agency in a fiscally sound manner so that the agency survives the ups and downs of cash flow, clients coming and going and other economic factors. I saw way too many good agencies just close their doors in the last recession because the agency owner stubbornly held onto too many people and didn’t trim overhead expenses fast enough. One ratio that can help you stay in alignment is a rule of thumb we use at Agency Management Roundtable with our agency clients. On average, for every $100,000 - $125,000 in AGI (adjusted gross income = your gross billings minus your costs of goods sold) you should have one full time equivalent. If [...]
Have you ever wondered what your agency employees want from their boss -- AKA you? I just spent two days with a room full of account executives, teaching them how to add more value to their agencies and their clients. As part of the conversation, we talked about improving employee relations and the difference between what they think their bosses want from them…and what you, agency owners, truly do want from them. It's an eye-opening experience for them to say the least. But then I turn the tables and ask them what they want most from you -- their boss. What I always find fascinating is that "more money" is rarely mentioned. Here's a partial list of what your best AEs want from you: They want to learn from you, your past experiences and work They want to keep learning and for you to give them access to workshops, webinars, etc. They want to get smarter in terms of how business works, not just marketing They want to know you're running the business in a fiscally responsible way They want to work someplace that is vibrant and has a fun/cool factor They want the "this job isn't M-F, 9-5" to work both ways But the number one thing, time and time again that I hear they want most -- they want you to notice their work, their effort and express your appreciation for them going above and beyond. They work hard and part of the reason they do it is because they want your trust and respect. We all know, as agency owners, that we get going so fast that sometimes we forget to say "thank you." This is a great place to start when [...]
Content marketing is all the rage but most of it is just packaging. Frankly -- agencies have been using content marketing for decades for their clients. It's not new. But what I think is new is the idea that agencies should use content to attract prospects for themselves. This type of content management strategy was the focus of an article I wrote for The Agency Post before the holidays. Agencies are, by their very nature, superb story tellers. And they have an incredible depth of knowledge when it comes to marketing strategy, their own agency's niches, etc. I get the whole "we're too busy doing it for our clients to do it for ourselves excuse" but honestly -- that needs to stop. In theory, agencies should be perfectly structured to create content so intriguing that people never want to leave the conversation. But the reality is most agencies practice a conservative approach with their content management strategy because they are paranoid about sharing anything of genuine value. They fear their competition might see it or that they might turn away potential clients because of what is posted. They’re also afraid that if they give knowledge away for free, the reader might never become a client. This is why most agencies are still just curating content or talking about their business, which of course means they’re not inspiring anyone. They are simply restating their company slogan or biography to exhaustion. If what you have to offer is high quality and helpful to the client, he or she will come back. Today, the model for professional services new business efforts is -- you give first. Share something of value. Demonstrate your expertise. Show me you know your [...]
A personal development network is a great way to grow as an agency owner and employee, and your agency will succeed because of it. Back in the early days of my agency career, I worked for a shop that would not allow employees from other agencies into our building. So if you were hosting an Ad Club meeting or some other event that involved agencies from the area -- you had to take it off site. When I asked why the rule exists I was told, "what if they walked by and saw some of our work for a client. They could go after our clients." I thought it was a bit paranoid back then, even though I was professionally wet behind the ears. Now, 30 years later, I think it was ridiculous. If your relationship with your client is so tenuous that you're at that sort of risk -- then you're going to lose that client in a hurry no matter who knows you're working together. While that agency's policy was an extreme, it was very representative of the attitude most agencies have about their competition -- other agencies. They are the enemy. We must keep them at arm's length. I've always had the opposite attitude. If our work is good and our relationship rock solid -- no one can steal that client away. Which means we should be free to enjoy the benefits of connecting and collaborating with the talented and smart people who are drawn to agency work - even if they work for our biggest competition. That's probably what drew me to AMR and the agency networks from the beginning. The idea that I could sit around a table with 11 [...]
Every good agency is big on planning for their clients. They facilitate strategic plans, they build marketing plans and they guide clients through the process of developing a digital strategy that can be woven into their overall communications plan. But agencies stink at planning for themselves. Which is why I created a one page business plan template for agencies. Everyone can fill out a single page, right? I'm not going to preach the reasons why planning matters. You know why. You preach it every day. Instead, let me tell you a little bit about the plan template and how you can use it to grow your agency in 2013. I designed the template to accomplish a few goals. You need to grow your agency holistically -- rather than focusing on just one or two problem areas. You need to do more than just identify some goals. I want you to flesh out the first few steps of actually getting started. Every goal has obstacles. This template will help you identify those right up front. You shouldn't forget the less sexy aspects of the business like systems as you do your planning. You can either work through this planning on your own, with your leadership team or depending on the size of your agency, with your entire team. While the end goal is to have a map for the upcoming year, one of the big benefits of putting together a plan is the process itself. These are the kinds of conversations you don't have very often. Listen carefully and closely to what your employees have to say. You might gain much more than you bargained for when you use this one page business plan template for [...]
At Agency Management Roundtable (AMR) we've been preaching this for years. Agencies need to get out of the "making stuff" business and get into the business problem solving business. Agencies need to behave like consultancies. We need to shift from doing to thinking. Our clients expect us to help them hit their goals and dodge their challenges. We don't do that by just making a brochure or video. We do it by sitting at the strategy table with them and digging into their business, asking smarter questions and helping them think bigger, better and faster. Business consultant Amber Naslund wrote an insightful blog post that outlines how to build a strong consulting practice. Interestingly -- she could have been writing about how to build a successful agency in the 21st century. Her points about not billing by the hour, value pricing, asking better questions etc. are right out of the AMR handbook! Read her post and heed her words. Whether she knows it or not my agency owner friends -- she is talking to you.
For the past 12 years, Agency Management Roundtable has conducted an annual salary and benefits survey looking at the trends in small and medium sized agencies. The survey results report allow agency owners to compare their salaries by position with how the rest of the country's salaries. The results are also presented by agency size and region. For the first time in several years, salaries seem to be on the rise, albeit a modest one. We’d seen flat or declining salaries over the past several surveys. This and several other indicators in the report seem to suggest that the recession’s toll on agencies is beginning to recede. A new trend appeared in this edition of the AMR Salary Survey as well. More agencies (18%) do not have an in-house copywriter. As freelancing and contract labor options become easier and more plentiful, it will be interesting to see how this trend evolves. It seems to fly in the face of all the Content Marketing push that is being driven by social networks and the rush to digital marketing spaces. Agencies, like all small businesses, are clearly struggling to offer their employees healthcare coverage. Over 90% of agencies surveyed offered their employees some form of health insurance and contribute to the costs at some level The 2012 AMR Salary & Benefits Survey Report is available for purchase at $99 The 2012 survey of advertising agencies’ employee compensation was conducted by the consulting firm, Agency Management Roundtable (AMR). The firm is the only consulting group that focuses on marketing communication agencies employing fewer than 50 people. Over the past twenty years, AMR has worked with several hundred advertising agencies, public relations firms, graphic design companies and new interactive [...]