When our agencies are going through rough waters, agency owners have difficult decisions to make. Without a doubt, the most difficult is letting go of team members because your boat cannot carry everyone’s weight any longer.

But we have to remember our most important role as the captain of the boat….getting the boat to calm waters.

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Hey everybody! Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. This week, I am coming to you from Austin, Texas. I want to talk to you about your boat. Not your literal boat. Don’t say to me, “Drew, I don’t have a boat,” or, “Oh my God Drew, don’t talk to me about my boat. It’s a money suck or a time suck.” I’m talking about, metaphorically, the boat that is your agency. And you are the boat captain, and your job is to get the boat from wherever it is today to whatever the destination is. So the destination might be to and through our 2020 goals. The destination might be through whatever economic downturn is coming our way. It might be getting the boat to and through a new client onboarding or a tough cultural issue but you are the captain of the boat and it is your job to navigate the boat and the people in the boat, your employees, safely from where you are today to where you are headed. And the greatest risk you have in terms of getting the boat safely to where you’re headed is the boat not making it to the destination because it sinks. And in most agencies, the reason why your boat sinks is because you’re carrying too much weight in the boat. So if each person on your team is inside the boat, and when things are great, when profits are good, when your AGI is high, when you’re at that $150,000 of AGI per FTE, the boat glides on the water and everything is good. But when times are tough, when you’ve lost a big client, when your profit margins are squeezed, when you’ve gone through a big expensive move, something that has put an extra burden on the boat and the boat starts riding lower in the water. The reality is the weight of the boat can put everyone on the boat at risk. And I think one of the toughest things to do as an agency owner is to be monitoring the weight of the boat and make the very difficult decisions that sometimes you have to lighten the load. And I get it, it is a difficult thing to do. It is a very personal and human thing to do and I don’t ever want that to change. I don’t want you to be callous or indifferent about letting people go or reducing staff, however you want to talk about that but I do want you to recognize it’s an important part of your job is to manage the weight of the boat because here’s what happens. If you’re not managing that weight and the boat keeps sinking lower and lower in the water and starts taking on water, you’re putting everyone at risk. Everyone can drown. The boat can capsize or go under if there’s too much weight in the boat so your job is to get the boat to the destination and sometimes that means that some people have to get off the boat. So here’s what I want you to be thinking about all the time is how much weight is the boat carrying? Is it an appropriate amount of weight? Is this a temporary storm we’re going through where we’re taking in a little water? Or is this something that’s going to be ongoing for three months, six months, nine months, and do I need to lighten the load so that I can safely get the boat and the remaining passengers of the boat to our destination? Because that’s your job. Your job is not to make sure that everyone on the boat always has a job. It is about protecting the boat and the cargo and sometimes that means a crew change. And you are the only one who can make those difficult decisions, and I want you to be thinking about that as we go into 2020. What is the appropriate load for this boat, right now? So based on our AGI, how many employees should we have? Not only how many but do we have the right people on the boat? And you need to make, one of the most important parts of your job is to make crew changes and corrections as the weather changes, as the water changes, as the boat speed changes. There is nothing constant anymore about who stays in the boat. Now, I am not suggesting you turn your agency into a revolving door but I am saying be mindful that carrying too much weight out of kindness, out of your humanity, out of avoidance of having difficult conversations can put the entire boat and the crew at risk. Don’t be that kind of captain. Protect the boat, protect the crew and sometimes honestly, the best way to protect the crew is to help them find a different boat to be on. So, that’s my word for you this week. Pay attention to the weight of your boat and make sure you’re not taking on water. All right? I’ll see you next week.

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