Are you having the tough conversations?

No one is excited to have a difficult conversation with a key team member. But you choosing to avoid that conversation (I initially wrote your inability to have that conversation but we know it’s not really inability) because it’s uncomfortable can cost your agency so much. In today’s super snug employee recruitment/retention environment — you think you’re tiptoeing around that challenging situation or employee, but the truth is, you’re afraid. Giving in to that fear can cost you some of your best employees, your reputation as an honest (remember those values you preach or have hanging in the agency’s conference room) leader and clients. Leaders who fail to address bad behavior tacitly endorse such behavior to other workers. If one person gets away with late starts or low-key insubordination, your team will emulate the behavior (or think less of the manager who allows it). This is a skill that every agency owner needs to embrace and improve. Entrepreneur Magazine asked me to write about the risks of not being good at the difficult conversations and I did a solocast on the topic with what I hope are some helpful tips. If this is an area of growth for you, please check out the article and the solocast. But beyond that — commit to making this a focus for you in the coming months. This should also be a high priority skill for anyone in your shop who manages other employees. You all have to get better at this. The risks are too great to ignore the consequences of letting this slide.   This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

The Principle of Dual Minds—the Secret to Business Success

I’m really enjoying billionaire investor Ray Dalio’s book, Principles. Dalio writes very candidly about his journey in life and work, and the principles he has developed that guide him. Chapter 3 in Part II of the book is titled ‘Be Radically Open-Minded.’ Though the title suggests our need to be humble enough to listen, it is also about the value of allowing other people in your life to help you overcome the barriers (e.g. your ego and blind spots) that are standing in the way of what you want, challenge your thinking through thoughtful disagreement, and of listening to ‘believable’ people (his term). The Principle of Dual Minds Dalio also discusses the importance of having people in your life who will thoughtfully disagree with you. This idea resonated with me so deeply that I decided to give it a name: the principle of dual minds. Put into consistent practice, the principle of dual minds can be a powerful tool to amp up the success of your personal and business ventures. In fact, this principle of dual minds trumps most people’s ability to operate on their own. This chapter spoke to me about the value of partners in business, whether legal or operational. However, Dalio isn’t just talking about any legal partner—he is talking about a partner that you are humble enough to listen to and who is courageous enough to disagree with you—you guessed it, that’s “the principle of dual minds.” But it’s not always easy to accomplish. Truly, it takes work and practice to get to a place where you can argue well with your partner and reach a conclusion that two limited people could not have reached on their own. Dalio points out [...]

5 Big Agency Owner Mistakes Make and How to Avoid Them

All agency owners have one thing in common: the desire to create a company that does it better and does it their way. But you can’t realize your vision if your agency isn’t financially successful. It’s simple: Your agency must bring in revenue, and your team must be rewarded for its hard work. Agency owners still trip up on the same five mistakes over and over, despite having a straightforward goal. These five agency owner mistakes aren’t unique, and fixing them isn’t optional. Get back to your main goal, and get over what’s making your agency more complicated and less successful. The Big Five Agency Owner Mistakes These five mistakes are probably things you already know you need to fix. They’re the things holding your agency back and keeping you from being as efficient and successful as you could be. 1. Your agency doesn’t have a business plan. Most organizations don’t have one; of those that do, very few actually use them. But without one, how do you recognize areas that need improvement? Your plan needn’t be a 20-page monstrosity that sits on your bookshelf collecting dust. It can be a single piece of paper that identifies your most pressing needs in finances, management, staffing and more. If you commit to your business plan, you can increase your bottom-line profits significantly. The plan should focus on your vision for your company. What do you want for your future? Take your ideas, make a list, and then make them real. 2. You don’t stick to your processes. No one violates an agency’s procedures more than the owner. But we both know the problem with that. If you don’t do it, neither will the rest of your team. That’s why [...]

How to Make Your Company an Irreplaceable Partner in 3 Steps

Your company might think they’re building relationships with clients, but until they sink multiple hooks into an organization, the relationship is volatile. The deeper the connection with your customer, the longer it is likely to last. And, of course, losing existing relationships is costly, considering the second dollar you earn from a client is always more profitable than the first. In fact, the cost of acquiring new customers versus returning customers is six times higher. However, when you delight your clients, meet their needs and cultivate deep relationships, those clients will be happy to pay your prices. Why you need more connections If your sole contact leaves, who else in the company will understand your value? If the old contact wasn’t clearly explaining or documenting it, then your new contact might find it difficult to understand why your company and his should continue a relationship. And if only one person knows you and what you can do, other departments or leaders in the organization might hire someone else to do something you’re perfectly capable of. Additionally, spending time walking the halls of your client’s office could potentially lead to new work. Bumping into people and having conversations can easily lead to, “Can you help me out with this project?” For example, many agencies I work with regularly embed employees in their clients’ offices for a few days a week. That face time creates a depth of service and provides the chance to mine for new opportunities. It’s the ultimate in having multiple relationships. How to get in deeper If you find yourself with a single relationship within a company, the following tips can expand your influence and ensure you’re never left in the dust. 1. Get the [...]

Hey agency owner – make 2015 the year of action

My wish for you -is that 2015 is your year of action! I don't know about you but as much as I love the holidays, I look forward to this time of year as well.  The slate is clean and for the first couple weeks in January as things rev back up -- it's the perfect time to finish your annual planning. Want to have a spectacular year?  Here's how to give yourself a fighting chance. Complete the One Page Business Plan for the year and follow it. Institute a bonus program that gets every single employee focused on AGI (ask me more about the AMI model) Have an aggressive, unstoppable new business system and assign a bulldog inside your agency to manage it Resolve to be a owner of action this year What do I mean by being an owner of action? I think one of the human truths that cripples many agencies is that their owners are too slow to take action.  You either overthink everything or you are a little passive/aggressive and hope if you ignore an issue, it will go away. I know running an agency is complicated and exhausting -- but honestly, sometimes you are the one who makes it that way.  (I can say that because I've also said it to the guy in the mirror more than once!)  Are you sometimes going to make the wrong call?  You bet.  But more times than not, you know what you need to do. You're just afraid to do it. Owning an agency takes a blend of insanity, courage and confidence. I think he recession beat a lot of that courage and confidence out of agency owners.  The ones who are back and kicking ass are the [...]

Hey agency owner — your agency’s morale begins with you

If you're frustrated with the attitude permeating your agency, I'd like to remind you that your agency's morale begins with you. You must improve your own attitude before you begin to improve employee morale. I get it.  I've owned my agency for almost 20 years and I'd had more than my share of sleepless nights. The truth is, even when things are going better than anticipated, there are still those nagging concerns. There's always a shoe just waiting to drop. But as agency owners we need to remember that we're the barometer our employees use to take the agency's temperature. If you're uptight, they're uptight.  If you're frustrated with a certain employee, pretty soon they'll be frustrated with that person too.  If you talk about clients like they're a pain -- your employees will treat them that way. Be honest -- when you have the opportunity to chase a big new account, are you excited or do you dread the effort?  Guess what -- your employees take your lead and feel the same way. It's time to take a good look at your agency's culture and do an honest assessment. Is it the kind of culture that you're proud of and would want to work in day, after day?  Is it snarky?  Does everyone help each other or is there a parade out the door at 5 pm? Before you improve employee morale, your agency's morale begins with you. Every single time. You are the agency's visionary and it's your job to wave the company flag, not burn it. So what do you do if you're feeling worn out, frustrated, under appreciated or worried?  You fake it. You don't burden your employees with agency owner worries. [...]

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