Making 2021 different for your agency

Chip and Gini talked about how things won’t magically change once the calendar flips over to January 2021.

Then Brad Farris jumped in with a great post making the same point, albeit more eloquently.

So Chip and Gini decided to pick up the ball and run with it in this episode. 

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Transcript

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich 

And I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin 

not Jenny, Juju this week, you’re back to be

Gini Dietrich 

going. And I decided that I decided I really didn’t want to create that trends.

Chip Griffin 

I could hear the hamster wheel spinning in your head. Or maybe it was next to you. I still not really sure.

Gini Dietrich 

I mean, it’s also next to me. But yeah,

Chip Griffin 

yeah. So, speaking of hamsters, makes me think of groundhogs. Groundhog Day, we’re doing the same thing over and over and over again, right, which is 2020 2020, which is the lead in to our topic today. Because our topic today comes to us from our friend Brad Ferris. Another, another, another Chicago in

Gini Dietrich 

his and Brad Ferris, by the way, has the best laugh on Earth. The best. If you get him laughing, you it will be

a very good laugh.

Gini Dietrich 

You all you just start laughing. And then 20 minutes goes by accomplish nothing. But you have laughed until your episode. He’s amazing.

Chip Griffin 

He is a lot of fun to talk with. So

Gini Dietrich 

it was very fun. Yeah. But very smart.

Chip Griffin 

Very smart, too. But yeah, I mean, come on Fun. Fun is more important than smart these days, right?

I mean, I feel like it is but yeah.

Chip Griffin 

In any case, so So why don’t you kick it off? Because this was this was your suggestion. We’ve we’ve, we both I think engaged with him on this topic. Because he wrote a blog post about it, but go ahead and kick it off.

Gini Dietrich 

So I think maybe two or three weeks ago, you and I were joking about what happens on January 1, do we like 2020s? Over are we everything’s fine. Everything? Oh, yeah. Um, and so he not in response to that. That was just you and I haven’t conversation, but clearly,

Chip Griffin 

because he probably probably doesn’t even listen to us. I mean, you know, I’m probably going to tag him so that he knows that we actually posted the

podcast episode yet. Wow. Wow. No, that’s,

Chip Griffin 

that’s pretty harsh. I’m pretty sure i think i think i Yes, you’ve been attacking me a lot lately. Thanks. I appreciate it. I think I’m caught up on publishing, maybe? I don’t know, I’ll have a look through my files. You know, I forget, sometimes it’s hard. It’s 20. It is

Gini Dietrich 

hard. And really, I shouldn’t make fun of you. Because you do all the work. I just show up. So I should not make fun of

Chip Griffin 

anybody. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that slight concession, I guess. Sort of.

Gini Dietrich 

So he wrote a blog post called what’s going to make next year different from this year. And he says, I know, we’re all looking forward to turning the page on 2020. It’s been a year. But things don’t automatically improve just because we change the calendar, right? If you want 2020 2021 to be different from 2020, you need to take different actions and make different decisions. It’s not automatic, you have to make it happen.

Chip Griffin 

That is absolutely true.

Gini Dietrich 

Amen.

Chip Griffin 

I mean, look at the intent not to get too philosophical, but time is an artificial construct anyway. So you know, the anytime that you you, maybe you have a milestone birthday, or it becomes January 1 of a new year, or it’s a new decade, none of these things actually have anything magical happening with it. Right. I mean, you know, I remember the the end of the 1980s watching a special on TV about the 1980s. And now that the 1980s years are gone, or into the 1990s. So what right, I mean, now I sit there, and I’ll watch a movie from the early 90s. And I’ll be looking at I think, Oh, that must be an 80s movie, and then I’ll look it up. And it turns out, it’s the 90s because guess what, there’s nothing magic that happens when the calendar turns a page.

Gini Dietrich 

Although we do evolve from things like bell bottoms, and then we come back, and then we evolve, and then we come back. So you’re right. It’s

Chip Griffin 

true. But but but that’s but it has nothing to do with a magical time, like so. So the day I turned 40, nothing actually changed for me

Gini Dietrich 

25 years ago.

Chip Griffin 

Well, I mean, every time you’ve turned 29 I’m sure it has not been any different either.

Gini Dietrich 

I always turn 35

Chip Griffin 

or 3535. eligible to run for president? Is that the deal because that’s that’s the for someone like me, that’s the first thing I think of when someone says the 35 I say, okay, you’re eligible to write president now.

Gini Dietrich 

I had never considered that. But yes, that is why

Chip Griffin 

because 25 for house 34 senate 35 for president just you know, yeah, there was

Gini Dietrich 

never ever running for president.

No, come on.

Gini Dietrich 

No, that would be the worst job on Earth. No.

Chip Griffin 

I, I think it would be a fun job to have. It would not be a fun job to get but anyway. That is way far afield of the things that are likely for any of us or our listeners in 2021, unless Joe Biden happens to be listening, in which case Hi, Joe. No, he’s not listening. No, I hope not. I think he’s got more important fish to fry as it were. Yeah. So So I guess so. So, right, because it’s PR agencies, it’s not government agencies. But anyway, so look, here’s the thing. If you’re looking at January one and say, okay, it’s 2021. We’re, you know, we’re finally out of this rotten year. And I think pretty much everybody agrees that 2020 No, rotten here. Yeah, I mean, even even if you’ve done relatively well, it’s still kind of a rotten year, for all sorts of reasons. So what should you be doing? How do you really set yourself up for success in the new year if it’s not just magical, because the calendar has changed?

Gini Dietrich 

Well, I really like what he has to say about this. And he says, One of the challenges I’m seeing, and we’ve talked about this, too, about making plans for 2021. is there so much uncertainty. So instead of trying to find the one way to thread the needle and succeed, what if you looked for the many ways to fail? And he goes on to say, instead of asking the question, what should we do to be more successful next year? start by asking, if I wanted to make sure we didn’t make any money next year? What would we do?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I love the construct of turning things around, right. And instead of, you know, doing the normal exercise, and this is this applies to almost anything, right? So you know, anytime that you can look at the opposite position, it often helps you to think with more clarity. So if you’re trying to, for example, to argue a position, learning how to argue the other side, usually helps you out. So something like this, where instead of looking for the keys to success, look for the keys to failure, and that will help inform some of your decision making.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, and I really like that, I think it makes you more creative, too. Because if you just think about it from the perspective of you know, you’re not gonna make any money. And let’s just say that, financially, from a personal perspective, you’re fine, your mortgage is going to be paid, your kids are going to be okay, like all that’s fine. What would you do next year, to allow you to have some success? Without the money implication? Would it be, I’m going to create some products, or I’m going to go back to school, or I’m going to invest in professional development for my team? What are the kinds of things that you would do without that piece of it? and be really creative from that perspective?

Chip Griffin 

Well, look, the reality is that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, always. Right. So you know, we sit here and say, Oh, my God, you know, there’s so much uncertainty right now, the reality is, every single year, every single month, whenever you’re running a business, there’s a lot of uncertainty, you just don’t know, your biggest client could be perfectly happy with you one day, and then something could happen to their business, that they go away the next day. And so so there’s always the potential for this, you always need to be thinking, you know, how do you set yourself up for success by being nimble, being creative, setting up a structure that gives you some resiliency, and the more of that, that you have in your processes in your client base in your thinking, the more likely you are to succeed no matter what the external conditions are?

Gini Dietrich 

Absolutely. And, you know, I mean, you think about this, when you start a business or when you’re helping a client with their planning, you say, Okay, let’s take away the structure. And let’s take away even just just when you’re you’re planning for the next year, from a communications or marketing perspective, if we took away the budget constraints we set and we said, okay, we don’t, let’s not worry about, we only have $5,000 a month, or we only have a quarter of a million dollars, or whatever it happens to be, let’s just take that away. And let’s think about all the things that we could do to create a really successful year. And then figure out how to implement it into the constraints that we do have, but take that away, so that you can open your mind and be really creative. And then you can add in the constraints.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And I think one of the things, one of the lessons that most people should be taking away from 2020 is that you need to be thinking about your business in terms of what you want from it. What is your goal? And and a lot of people you know, you start your agency and you sort of just you’re kind of run on autopilot, you do things because you think this is the way it’s supposed to be done. This is the way it’s always been done. This is the way I saw someone else do it. And this is the time if you haven’t done so already hit the pause button, take advantage of the fact that we’re nearing the end of 2020. And so you know, we may have a little bit of downtime here and there in pockets, depending upon you know, what your client base is like, and gives you and take that opportunity to think about, what kind of business do you want to build? What do you want to be delivering the same kinds of services to the same kind of clients that you always have? Or do you want to make some adjustments? Do you want to have some additional lines of revenue, which obviously, is something that you preach Jenny, quite a lot for agency owners to be thinking about? What is it that you want? What do you want to get from it? And if you start thinking about 2021, and beyond in those terms, you’re going to find probably that you that there are some things you want to change. And that should open up your horizons and expand your thinking, so that you can come up with those new ideas.

Gini Dietrich 

Absolutely. And I think that’s such good advice is something I did earlier this year, when everything fell apart, as I sat back, and I thought, Okay, what is it that I want out of this business? Because for so long, I’ve been running so hard and so fast for clients and for the industry and for my team, that I wasn’t happy. And so this allowed me and I keep calling it the great pause from that perspective, but it allowed me to stop and think and say, okay, that’s not going the way we anticipated. What, as we come out of it, what does the agency look like? And how can how can I start now to build that foundation? Mm hmm.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, and I’ve done the same thing, as I’ve looked at my business over the last seven or eight years, you know, I’ve had to look at it in terms of my business before, this was large projects on site with clients, you know, a lot of larger agencies, those kinds of things. And coming out of this, I’ve thrown a lot of that out the window, to be honest with you, obviously, not traveling, not doing on site work. So I’ve built out the studio that I have behind me, and I do almost all, you know, well, not almost all entirely remote work. But I expect to continue to do that even coming out of this. I probably travel someone’s weekend. But I don’t think I’ll go back to the traveling every week, like I had been prior to the great shutdown. But the other thing is, you know, I’ve refocused the business to focus primarily on small agencies. And so, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out how, how can I serve a broader swath of people who need help running their businesses, but maybe can’t afford my higher end consulting services? So you know, I’m doing the, what I call the slow motion rebrand from Agency Leadership Advisors to the small agency growth Alliance. It is truly slow motion. But, you know, hey, I’m a party of one right now. So you know, it is

Gini Dietrich 

all this stuff you’ve added this year, you added the live streaming, you’ve added video. I mean, you’ve added a ton of stuff this year that you weren’t doing at all? Yep. And it’s been fun to watch, just as you and I think that’s, that’s the point here is what kinds of things can you look at doing that you’ve wanted to do or have been on the back burner, or you just haven’t had a time to do? So instead of looking at next year and going, gosh, I have no idea how to plan for this. Because there’s too many things up in the air, you know, our runner kids going to go back to school? are kids going to go back to school? Are we always going to be on down on in shutdown? Are we when’s the vaccine going to be available? There’s too much uncertainty. So instead of focusing on that, focus on exactly what you’ve done, and say, Okay, what are the things I’ve always wanted to do, and let’s figure out how to implement a plan to do that,

Chip Griffin 

right. And I think the key is to take some chances, try some different things. Because, you know, you know, whether that’s, you know, trying to offer a service, that’s maybe a little bit different than what you’ve done before servicing a different kind of client, or, you know, using some, some different marketing tactics, you know, and, and not all of them are going to work, not all of them are going to make sense over time. You know, I, I’ve been doing those live streams three days a week, it turned out that really wasn’t probably productive for all sorts of reasons, the audience wasn’t likely to be there three days a week, so I’ve moved it to one day a week, fine. So what you learn through the process, and it gives you a chance to try and test different things, and, and so take advantage of the new year, while it doesn’t change anything on its face, it does give you an excuse to change things. You know, I, I often tell my clients, you know, if they’re thinking about, you know, changing how they do contracts, or pricing or those kinds of things, use the turning of the calendar as an excuse, you know, we’re going into a new year, so we’re changing the format of our contracts or something like that. And it it’s, you know, it’s it’s a normal way of doing it that doesn’t alarm anybody. So take advantage of the calendar to experiment and try different things if that’s something that you’re inclined to do.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, I think it’s really smart advice from Brad’s perspective. We can link to his article in the show notes. It’s pretty short. It’s pretty easy read. But you know, he just says, try brainstorming that for a minute. If we if I wanted to make sure we didn’t make any money next year, what would we do? And then take that question. If you have a team take it to your next team meeting, and envies you or you know, take it to friends ticket to industry, friends, whatever. However you like to brainstorm with See what kinds of things you come up with?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a really great way of doing it. And I think that most of you listening within the first five minutes will come up with a hefty list of things that you could do to run your business into the ground. Some of the some of them were probably,

Gini Dietrich 

that’s what any say? You got saying run your business into the correct.

Chip Griffin 

Nobody if if you’re talking about not making any money,

Gini Dietrich 

yeah, but I think I’m looking at it from the perspective of, if we are, if we make sure that we’re not going to make any money, so does that, that doesn’t mean that means that we’re not going to bring on new clients, right? We’re not going we’re gonna focus on other types of things. That’s how I read it. That’s how I how I perceived it was, what are the things that I can focus on next year, because I’m not focused on business development, or whatever it happens to be, I’m not gonna make any money. But how can I, what can I do over here that’s going to build a foundation so that I can make more money in 2022.

Chip Griffin 

And I think I perceived that that’s a good idea too, to me, what i what i would think of in terms of, you know, you know, what are the things that I could do to destroy the business? Because those are the kinds of things that I can think about, okay, you know, how do I make sure that doesn’t happen? Right? Well, but, but they’re things you know, if you say, okay, you know, if I made sure that I didn’t get any clients, right, any new clients? And so then you say, Okay, well, if I, if I want to avoid that, what do I need to do? How do I make sure that I continue to get clients? You know, you know, if, if I’m worried about losing big clients, how do I offset that? So to me, I think there are a lot of different ways that you can go about doing this, but to me, I would look at those things that are that I could do to really damage the business and figure out how to make sure that doesn’t happen. What’s the opposite of that? So, you know, however you do it, it’s it’s a useful exercise to be thinking about it in different and fresh ways today than the way that you did maybe yesterday.

Yeah, absolutely.

Gini Dietrich 

I think it’s a really interesting way to do it. Nice job, Brad Ferris.

Chip Griffin 

And thank you, Brad, thank you for giving us something to talk about today. Because otherwise journey, and I would have sat here silently, scratching our heads and saying, What is there to talk about?

Gini Dietrich 

It’s we’ve never been known to do that.

Chip Griffin 

No, but sometimes the topics are better than others. So this This, I think, was a good topic. I think, you know, this was not a stretch.

Gini Dietrich 

It’s a really, really smart idea.

I like it a lot.

Chip Griffin 

It is indeed. And you should you should actually follow Brad for all sorts of other insights, because he shares blog posts on a very consistent basis and has lots of good ideas in them. So don’t just read this one. Subscribe to his blog or his newsletter. At the same time.

Gini Dietrich 

Yes. And if you have a chance to have a conversation with him, see if you can you can make him laugh because it’s

Chip Griffin 

it’s not that hard to make Brad laugh It really is.

Gini Dietrich  

Fair. That’s fair.

Chip Griffin 

As you learn very hard to make you laugh either. So not hard to make me laugh.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, I think I’m I’m laughing myself. So. Yeah, we’ve got recent notes. Happy Thanksgiving.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, except this is gonna be published after Thanksgiving. So hope you hope you had a

great never

Gini Dietrich 

had a nice Thanksgiving

Chip Griffin 

as we were not publishing during Thanksgiving week since because no one will be because well, yeah, cuz you’re not going to record with me on Thanksgiving Day. And Thursday is our recording time. I mean, I would happily do it. I would you know, but I know you would do you believe in taking time off or some such thing.

Gini Dietrich 

Which I believe in sleeping in riding my bicycle. playing Monopoly but

Chip Griffin 

isn’t sleeping in for you basically like the same as for me like you sleep until 445 instead of 430 or something crazy.

Gini Dietrich 

Snap point, okay, I don’t have to set an alarm. And I don’t have to get out of bed. I could lay there if I wanted to, even if I was awake.

Chip Griffin 

Now, well, it’s all I can say is at least it’s not summertime. So we no longer have the risk of me crossing with my son where he’s going to bed as I’m getting up. And we only we only had that happen one time over the summer where it was I think about 345 he was going to bed and I was getting up. So anyway, on that note, we hope you had a great Thanksgiving since you will be listening to this after. But Jenny, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving since we’re recording.

Thanks. Yes, you too.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. And on that note, we will wind up this episode. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich 

And I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin  and it depends

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