Facing my problem head-on

I’ve had this problem for a while. I feel it impeding my ability to do my best, most important work, and yet, I haven’t faced it before. Oh, I give it lip service or a half-hearted fix, but nothing sticks.   Today, I took the first step to truly eradicating from my life. Why am I telling you this? Because I suspect many of you suffer from the same affliction, and I thought we might work on it together. My problem? There’s no white space on my calendar.   I book myself so tightly in meetings, coaching calls, on-site consultations, workshops, peer groups, etc., that I don’t give myself enough margin to actually get my work done. And so I do it on the weekends or at 1 am. I get it done but is it as good as it would be if I were fully charged and wasn’t trying to cram it into the cracks? I have some huge plans for 2021, but to cross the finish line, I need big blocks of time to create. I know if I can find that time, I can create uber helpful content, videos, mini-courses, and other teaching tools that will be incredibly valuable to you. But…first I have to find the time. The challenge is — I love every single activity that fills my calendar. I love coaching agency owners. I love sitting in a conference room working with a leadership team. I love teaching a workshop or consulting on a gnarly issue. I’m good at them, and the work is rewarding. For you, it might be doing strategy for a client or sitting in on a creative brainstorming session. Or putting out a client fire or jumping [...]

How could you change the rules?

We’ve been doing some initial strategic planning in the hallowed halls of AMI and one of the questions that keeps getting batted around is… what if we changed our own rules?  It’s led to some very intriguing conversations and “what if” scenarios.  And no doubt will continue to do so. I think as business owners we sometimes forget that we actually get to make the rules.  All too often, we let clients or employees or habit or convention or fear or complacency (or any combination of these) drive how we actually run our business.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut or feel boundaries that may actually not exist. What if you HAD to change the rules?  What rules would you consider modifying, eliminating or strengthening? Just as a mental exercise... imagine you had to radically change something in each of these areas: How you are staffed How do you mentor or groom your team? The types of clients you serve How/where you connect with your clients The work your agency produces Your pricing model Your biz dev model How you as an owner spend your days Your work schedule The metrics that define success How you manage your agency’s money I’m not suggesting that you implement all of these radical ideas.  But when you force yourself to come up with crazy things… some of the crazy might actually also be smart. Another way to approach this… same list but answer this question for each area — what do I hate about how we… Just some food for thought that might yield a big change or two.   This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

If you could read your employee’s thought bubbles

Do you remember the movie “What Women Want” with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. You do watch any movie that takes place inside an advertising agency, don’t you? Anyway —the premise of the movie is that Mel Gibson is an arrogant, sexist ad guy who receives the “gift” of being able to hear what women are thinking all around him. As you might imagine, it was a shock to Mel’s ego to see himself through the eyes of the women in his life. If you haven’t seen it — check it out. It’s definitely worth a Netflix night. The movie popped into my head because I’ve had some interesting conversations with agency employees over the past few weeks and my conversation with Craig in a previous podcast also touched on how our employees see the agency and us as the agency leader. I wish you could hear their unedited thoughts because I think we unintentionally miss the mark sometimes because of our assumptions. Like poor Mel — sometimes the listening would not be easy to hear. But given what we do for a living — we know how important perspective is and as you might imagine, the Mel at the end of the movie is a different guy than the Mel we meet initially. I wonder if that would be true for you too. Here are some of the biggest refrains that are running through agency employees’ brains that I believe are worthy of your time and attention:  “I’m relieved that she got a new car. It means the agency is stable financially and I don’t have to worry about my job.” “He has no idea how much harder it is to do my job [...]

What’s your turnover rate these days?

This is a tough time to be an agency on a growth path. Ironically, not because the clients aren’t out there and ready to spend money.   Agencies are reporting better biz dev opportunities than I’ve seen in awhile.  But those same agencies are saying to me, “Drew, I can’t go after it.  I just don’t have the people to service it if we win it.” That’s painful. But if you’re struggling to field a full roster, know you’re not alone.  In the last 18 months, many agencies are experiencing turnover like they have never seen before.  Some of our agencies are weathering a staggering 35%+ turnover rate.  I don’t care if you are 5 people or 555 people — that hurts.   Your people are being poached left and right. Or they’re coming to you with ridiculously high salary demands to stay.  How are agencies combatting this trend (which I hate to tell you, shows no signs of easing up until the economic correction hits)? Invest your time in your best people:  One thing I hear over and over again in the AE bootcamps or some of the speciality summits (AMI member benefit only) when I hang out with agency employees is how much they crave your time and attention.  They want to learn from you. They want you to invest in them, and they want you to help them grow. Use salary surveys specific to our industry to level set expectations: Whether it’s ours, (broken up into both size and geography categories) Creative Group’s (remember they are a recruiting firm so theirs is going to be high to their own benefit). Second Wind’s (2018 looks like their most current) or 4A’s (have to be [...]

Reflections and refractions

I’ve always been drawn to water, especially the ocean.  I find the reflections and refractions mesmerizing. I also find them illuminating.  A solitary walk along the ocean or just standing in the water and feeling the waves lapping against my legs helps me find a clarity that the hustle and bustle of a normal day can obscure.  I know that I need a few of those ocean front days a year just to keep myself on track.   There are times of the year that also invite that same sort of introspection and if the end of last year doesn’t call us to be a little more thoughtful, I’m not sure what would.  Let me give you a few questions to get you started, if you have been too busy to start down this path on your own. Reflections: What was the biggest goal you had for 2021 and how did that turn out?  Did it matter in the end? What did you have to remind yourself more than once in 2021 and how can you avoid that same pattern in 2020? What’s the most painful thing that could happen in 2022 and how do you protect yourself from it now? Who came to your rescue in 2021 and helped in some way — profound or not? What are you most proud of, when you look back on the last year? What is your biggest regret of 2021? How do you avoid it in 2022? Refractions: Who surprised you this past year and what does it mean for the coming year? What worry never came to pass or turned out differently than you expected in 2021? What’s the lesson there? What did you pursue in 2021 [...]

Is Gratitude A Noun Or A Verb?

Many years ago, I created a “mantra” for myself  - three words that I try to live by every day.  Gratitude • Grace • Give.   I had a wooden sign made and it hangs in my home — to serve as both a celebration and a reminder of that personal goal. I don’t alway honor that promise as fully as I could, but I sure try.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to say to you in this week’s article, I decided to actually look up the definition of gratitude.  I know this will make me sound like I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box but I was reminded/surprised that gratitude is a noun.   For me, gratitude is a verb.  It’s an action word.  I absolutely feel it, but more than that — I try to walk it out in all that I do.  It’s why we produce so much free content like the podcast, blog, webinars, etc.  It’s our way of supporting agency owners out there and being very clear about whose side we’re on. I know how many resources you have out there and I am grateful that you choose to lean on AMI to help you build an agency that is more sustainable, scalable and if you want to down the road — sellable.  Since I can’t talk to/hug/help all of you individually, it’s my group hug, I guess. I am very aware of my good fortune.  I get to serve people I genuinely love.  The agency owners and leaders in my world are important to me, far beyond the work we do together and I understand how rare and special that is.   Thank you. Whether you are [...]

When was the last time you sent flowers?

I read a statistic once about the frequency of floral deliveries in relation to the length of the relationship and as you might imagine, the longer the relationship had been around, the less often flowers got sent. It was an old article in Psychology Today and the point of the article was that in the mind of the sender, because he/she had been sending flowers for so long and because the relationship was stable — they viewed the flowers as less significant. Interestingly — from the recipient’s side of things, the exact opposite is true. The longer the relationship had been around and the less turbulent it was, the more the flowers meant because they were sent from the heart with no agenda other than to express the sender’s affection. The fact that they are frivolous and serve no functional purpose was part of the significance, from the receiver’s point of view. The article went on to talk about how during the courtship, gestures like sending flowers is almost expected. But once you’re an old married couple (I am paraphrasing) they’re more special because it’s not expected anymore. A few years ago, in one of our Agency Edge research projects, we identified that one of the triggers for a client to start being susceptible to another agency’s advances is because they feel like we don’t appreciate them anymore. We take the relationship for granted. When we were chasing after them — they got all of our time and attention. And we did it for free! But in many cases, they don’t feel our desire or love for them as much anymore. We don’t send flowers or write them love sonnets like we did in the [...]

Advertising’s Hybrid Future: Why Outsourcing Is Here to Stay

The pandemic wasn't the first time agency owners and advertising leaders "rented" talent. The 2008 recession forced many businesses to outsource advertising work. In this piece I recently contributed to MediaPost.com I discuss how by leveraging the abilities of outsourced partners, agencies can cover skill gaps while making better use of full-time employees.

Tag teaming with prospects

We all know it’s easier to sell to someone who knows and trusts us.  In fact, it’s essential.  We can either try to create that sense of connection and trust during the sales process or it can already exist long before the sales dance begins.  I have seen many agencies build their entire biz dev strategy around the latter — creating opportunities for getting to know and collaborate with prospects and then initiating the sales conversation once that collaboration has build the foundation of the relationship.  One of the methods for creating this pre-sales bond is by inviting your prospects to co-create content with you.  Whether it is being a guest on your podcast, featuring them in an article you are writing, interviewing them for a book or some other way of putting the spotlight on them — it works.  Forbes asked me to write about some best practices when it comes to collaborative content and I’m hoping you find it useful if you are thinking about deploying this strategy. By the way — this is also a brilliant strategy to help clients adopt as well.  Practice on yourself, demonstrate how it works, and then create a program for them using the same methodology.  It’s a very sustainable way to generate fees for the agency and new relationships/sales for your client! This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

Is it really thought leadership?

In case you haven’t heard, you are supposed to be a thought leader and your clients are as well.  Thought leadership goes by many names — authority, expertise, having a niche, being an expert, etc. But at the end of the day it’s all about having a depth of expertise and sharing it so that others can learn and identify you as a subject matter expert. That’s, unfortunately, the part that many agencies miss the mark.  Our content is generic and impersonal.  Sure — we’re telling people why they should care about the latest Pantone color of the year or five ways to maximize something vital — but it’s not specifically about our unique expertise and it doesn’t give the reader a sense of who you are as a leader or a person. If I ask you to think of people that create content that you actually look forward to reading and find value in, my guess is that it’s most often going to be a person (as opposed to a company) and someone who has earned the right to be seen as an expert.  Good news — that’s you!  You have spent decades honing your craft and earning the right to be respected for what you know.  Your content should reflect that. I wrote an article for Spin Sucks on how marketers get thought leadership wrong and what we can do about it.  I absolutely know for a fact that this needs to be a significant strategy in your biz dev efforts.  I have seen it work many times for agencies big and small.  I’d love to see how you could increase genuine connection, open the door to new relationships, and carve out a [...]