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.

Sometimes you have to check out

As agency owners and leaders — we live in a pressure cooker.  There’s always an endless list of To Dos.  Deadlines constantly loom.  Someone is always in our doorway, needing five minutes that quickly turns to twenty. Clients call with emergencies, employees have personal issues and we seem to be the focal point where all of these demands gather.  Truth be told, most of us like the controlled chaos. We thrive on the challenge, the pace, and energy that comes from our daily demands. Until we don’t.   I’m a high energy person as a general rule.  I juggle multiple companies, work long hours, produce a significant amount of new content, and am constantly working to create something new and valuable — be it a course, writing a book, launching a conference or guiding a client through a thorny issue. So when the holidays wrapped up, I planned on jumping right back into the fray, going at 110 mph and getting back into my usual routine. But I couldn’t.  This past fall and early winter were packed with some colossal challenges and demands in both my personal and professional life.  The specifics don’t matter but suffice it to say, I have not been stretched that thin in many years.  I was emotionally, physically and mentally spent. I went on a trip that I had been looking forward to all year. I thought that it was what I needed to re-charge my battery. But instead, it just exasperated the issue. I am not an apathetic person.  In fact, I am sort of the opposite.  I care about everything. But, when we got back from our trip, I was pretty much apathetic about everything. I didn’t care about [...]

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 [...]

Creating Systems That Your Team Will Actually Use

If you're a busy agency owner like myself, you know that systems are so important, but likely the last thing on the never-ending to-do list.  My secret sauce? Standard Operating Procedures (living, breathing documents) so that at any point in time, your team can hand over the SOP to someone else on the team and they can jump into the role no problem. But, where to start?  Here are some of my top tips to get started on building systems your team will love, and actually use:  Sharpen up your client onboarding system. How do you hand over a new client from sales to client manager? If you're shaking your head, I'd recommend peeking at what your workflow looks like. Of course, there will be clients that need to have specialized onboarding, but for most, it's the same! What are the assets you need? The briefing docs? The email templates? Workflow that into your systems so it's not stressful to onboard a new client. And bonus— it'll allow your team to scale quicker because you have your team confident and waiting on the other side of that sales call. Get a copy of our Client Onboarding Checklist here. Who's responsible for what? This is a super important element to any agency, and it's really important in understanding the roles within your team! This is key to getting buy-in from your team so they’ll actually want to use these systems! Who's responsible for sending the client onboarding package? Who's sending reports? The definition of each team members' role should be identified in an org chart or job description so it's super clear.  Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Documents. When you create these documents, share them with each [...]

Should Your Agency Offer Programmatic Advertising Services? Here are Key Reasons Why

If you’ve found this article, you probably already know that programmatic advertising is growing—fast. In a few short years, the share of digital ads run programmatically has skyrocketed from zero to 85%, and it continues to climb year over year, particularly as COVID-19 has hastened the shift toward all things digital.  Without offering programmatic as a service, your agency may be missing out on what has become a massive slice of the $172 billion digital advertising pie. That said, the implementation of new and complex programmatic technology coupled with the emergence of new media channels like CTV/OTT, digital audio, and digital out-of-home is a challenge most advertising agencies don’t have the resources to tackle on their own just yet. Still, clients are increasingly expecting the option as digital advertising becomes increasingly synonymous with programmatic. In this post we’ll explain why most clients already expect their agencies to offer programmatic, what adding this service to your own agency’s repertoire entails, and how agencies can most easily add programmatic advertising to grow their revenue in 2021 and beyond. The Digital Transformation of Client Expectations In many cases, the traditional advertising methods agencies have relied on for decades are becoming less effective by the day as the world shifts to digital. Post-2020, U.S. consumers are spending more time online per day than ever before. Programmatic advertising allows your clients to get more bang from their digital media budget through robust ad targeting and data sets that work together to avoid wasted ad spend. Because of its improvements to campaign efficiency and scale, the vast majority of digital ads are already run using programmatic advertising technology.  The programmatic industry has its own unique challenges to address as it grows, [...]

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 [...]

What’s new at your agency?

Like it or not, our clients expect us to be ahead of the curve. They’re counting on us to keep learning and evolving our services to keep up with the constant motion that our industry (and culture) is experiencing. How are you and your agency doing that? An interesting way to assess if your agency is staying current is to evaluate your offerings. Ask yourself these questions: What product/package or service are we offering clients today that we didn’t offer a year ago? How have we refined/improved some of the products/packages and services that we did offer a year ago? Have we evaluated them to make sure they’re still on point? Where has our knowledge base increased in terms of audience, sales, technology, or marketing trends? If we got called to provide a speaker for a conference called “Where marketing is going” who would we send and what would they say? Who in our shop is learning something new and how are they transferring that knowledge to the rest of the team? What’s next in terms of my own learning (topic, method of learning, etc.) I’m hoping your answers pleased you. If you struggled to answer some of these questions or don’t like the answers, then maybe it’s time to examine your agency’s commitment to lifelong learning. How are you communicating to your team that you expect them to keep growing and learning? How are you supporting that effort, not just financially, but also in terms of setting the example, teaching what you know/learn, celebrating people’s growth, etc. One of the aspects of our business that I love the most is that we get to keep learning. We need to know so much about our [...]