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Chasing money vs pursuing passion as an agency leader

This week on the Agency Leadership Podcast, Chip and Gini talk about how to make a living while doing something you love. It can be difficult to get to a place where you’re both happy with what you do, and also getting compensated well, but it’s far from impossible. They discuss their past experiences, both the good and the bad, and share what they have learned along the way.


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

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

GINI: and I’m Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and we’re here to talk to you today about bs absolute total BS.

GINI: Now which you can’t actually say the word because we will get flagged

CHIP: that’s what we’ve noticed that I may or may not, but that’s what I’ve heard. So since we’re putting this up as videos now we’re we’re gonna watch our language will be very prim and proper, as we always are.

GINI: But to be fair, I never swear on this stuff

CHIP: anyway. So no, I don’t either. Now if I’m off camera no different right yeah. I’m you know, that’s that’s the advantage of having done media training and provided media training and all you learn to say certain things and not say other things and probably haven’t been in politics. I tend to be

GINI: especially for you. When you give your cleaner but we are. You cannot Yeah, no, no sound bites? sound bites, sound bites?

CHIP: Yes. Yes. Which shot we are going to talk about how many people in the PR space are not good at being able to speak succinctly, and I’ve had it happen on my interview podcast where I just have guests who go on and on. I’m like, you provide media advice to people? How How can you not know that you shouldn’t talk for four minutes without coming up for air?

GINI: Well, I think they know. Right, because they teach it but teaching it and doing it are two different things. It’s It’s It’s challenging. It takes practice. And if you’re not doing interviews, illogical,

CHIP: no. And I’m still not perfect at it. But I’ve gotten better at it over the years because I you just have to make an effort to focus on it. Right. And the advantage of having hosted podcasts for so long is that I get a chance to hone in some of these skills and away from saying every other word and I’m, yes, yes, I still use them more than I should. But yes,

GINI: we all do. But you know, it’s funny as I’ve been transcribing videos, I have not been transcribing. I’ve been reading transcriptions of videos for a client, and oh, man, they’re bad. I read these transcripts and it is an AWS every other word. It’s really challenging and use

CHIP: a different service that doesn’t transcribe those. Oh.

GINI: Oh, do they is there? Yeah, you can tell me I didn’t.

CHIP: You never go. Um, so it. Generally speaking, these services can be set up to either include or exclude them.

GINI: I did not know that. All right. Thank you. So see, look at that. I learned something on our podcast, I will do that. Thank God because it will make me less it will like make me less angry because I get angry. I’m like,

CHIP: I do not want to see you angry. So speaking about angry. I think that’s a great segue into the topic today, because it was an angry tweet that I saw last week from David C. Baker, who is an agency consultant and general expert. He’s advisor. He’s got lots of great content. He’s got some good books and good podcast to Bob’s with Blair ends, puts out lots of great content, but he had one that sort of made me want to react. So why don’t we talk about that, shall we, Jenny?

GINI: Sure. Let’s talk about it.

CHIP: We control this show. So, so. So this is a tweet that he put out last week, which is what’s this Bs, I see everywhere, stop chasing the money and start chasing the passion. So I guess I take away from that, that he thinks you should be chasing the money.

Unknown Speaker
I take I don’t necessarily know that. That’s what he meant. But that is also what I took away from that. It may just mean

CHIP: that he doesn’t like focusing on passion over money. I’m not sure but in any case, regardless of what he thinks we’re going to tell you what we think, because you listen to this podcast, hopefully, if not, hopefully, why did you tune into this podcast? You do know that it’s Jenny and I talking about What we think? Anyway, okay, so enough of that. So what what do you think about this? Should you should you focus on money or passion or something else?

GINI: yes to both. I don’t think that you should focus solely focus on passion because there plenty of starving artists out there in the world. But I also don’t think that you should chase the money. And I think I’ve been pretty, fairly vocal about the fact that the last couple of years I’ve been pretty miserable in my my job. And one of the things I talk about, especially with agency owners is did you create yourself a job? Or did you create yourself a business that sustains can sustain without you And for the last couple of years, I definitely had myself a job, not a business that could sustain without me. And it was because I was chasing the money. And so I think there is something to be said for doing what you’re passionate about, but also making sure that you can make a living at it.

CHIP: I think that makes sense. I like to think of it as having sort of a Venn diagram. So if you think about it in terms of three circles, and you’ve got one circle of, you know what your passion is what you’re excited about, you get one circle, about where there’s a market for that. And then you’ve got one circle where it’s what you’re good at, because what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about aren’t always the same thing. Hopefully, there’s an overlap, though, amongst all three of those in the center of that diagram. And that’s where you will find success because that’s, that’s when you know that you’re going to wake up every day, doing something that you like to do, which will make you better at it, you will do something that you’re good at, which will give good results to clients, which means they’ll want to stick around and there’s a market for it, which means you’ll actually get paid for all of that because that’s important too.

GINI: So one of the clients that I work with, she’s I adore her. She’s one of my favorite people. She is an incredible, incredible artiste. She’s incredibly creative. She’s very smart. And she’s built a branding agency. And, you know, we’ve we’ve gone through the process in the last few months of getting her website redone and copy and messaging and all those kinds of things. And we’ve been talking a lot recently about how to combine that with her Fine Arts and the her this ability to, I mean, some of her paintings are I actually bought one because I want to be have her part of my office, but also because she’s, I mean, she’s incredible, incredibly creative. And so we’ve talked about how do we combine that with her business because she has a business that allows for that, because they do branding work, they do design work, they do, you know, those are the kinds of things that they do. So she has found a way to take her passion and build an agency around it, which I think is phenomenal.

CHIP: Yeah, I look at it at the end of the day if you’re if you’re not doing something that you like to do, what’s the point of having your own business? Right, right there. Exactly. Absolutely no point in taking all of the stress and risk of having a business. If you’re

GINI: stressed and risk, what are you talking about?

CHIP: If you wake up every day, and you say, Look, I’ve got money in the bank, but I’m miserable. I mean, I don’t think you should do that even in a job if you can avoid it. And obviously, there are times where we all have to do what we need to do to make ends meet. But if you can at all avoid it, you shouldn’t be doing that. It makes no sense. And if the last three months hasn’t taught us anything, hopefully it has taught us that, you know, life is short. There’s a lot of uncertainty. We should focus on, you know how to make ourselves successful, but enjoy ourselves while we’re doing it.

GINI: Yeah, totally agree. Um, yes. Because it’s funny you say that because I think probably about two years ago, maybe three now, there was this whole conversation online about work life balance and 20 working 24 seven and figuring out you know, where to do this and where to do that. And, and I kind of always took, you know, people would say, Well, I love my job so much that it doesn’t feel like work which I think is baloney. Not the word I can’t say. Um, I do. I think that’s baloney because I think especially for for what we do for a living, when you’re in front of your computer screen all the time, you’re our brains are not situated for that. So if you can, if you consider that painting is part of your job, or you consider that writing is part of your job or creating something as part of your job, then Okay, maybe you are working 24 seven. But this whole idea that we love our jobs so much that it doesn’t matter if we don’t make any money and it doesn’t matter if we don’t have work life balance, because it’s our passion. I think that that is also baloney. And that sort of goes on the other side of this. So it’s I think, to your point, I really like that Venn diagram idea where you find the right there in the middle where it fits. And it’s okay if you take a break every once in a while.

CHIP: Yeah, you can absolutely take a break and I guess, you know, I I think that I’m not a big fan of the term work life balance. Because to me, when people talk about work life balance to me, it usually means that they’re unhappy with their workpiece. Now, you don’t have to say, I enjoy it so much that you know that I do it 24 seven? And I certainly do I skew more in that direction, particularly, for sure, I actually am focused on the things that I like to do. I mean, I finally, you know, it’s only taken me until I’m almost 50 years old to figure out that, you know, what I really like is the intersection of business and communications. And so, you know, trying to figure out how I can pull that all together, has been what I’ve been doing over the last year and a half, and I absolutely love it. And, you know, hopefully it will be successful over the long term and I can keep doing it. But you know, you need to be seeking those things out. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still take on projects that I would rather not do. You know, we all have to do it from time to time, but you need to make sure that you’ve got that intersection of things because otherwise you’ll just be miserable. And and that will show through in the quality of the work that you’re doing, particularly as an agency.

GINI: You know, when I wrote my first book, my dad said to me, gosh, you know, you, you’ve always been so passionate about writing and writing a book, and I just never knew you would actually make a living at it. And he’s kind of right, because had I done that right out of college, I wouldn’t have made a living at it. And I had the advantage of being able to blog for several years before I wrote, wrote my first book. And so I have been able to, at that point, had been able to create a living out of my passion. And I think that those are the kinds of things that we can be thinking about creation. You know, writing, painting, whatever it happens to be communication, the intersection of business and communications, whatever it happens to be that you’re passionate about, you certainly can build an agency around that. And I would even say, you know, I agree that there are cases where you will take projects or work that you don’t necessarily want to do, but you can do it and it’s is not maybe not your passion, but it allows you to pay the bills, so that you can focus on the other stuff that you enjoy.

CHIP: Right. And it’s, you know, it’s just making sure that that’s in the right balance. Because if you get to a point where that’s all of the work that you’re taking on, well, then you may need to reevaluate that Venn diagram and figure out, you know, what the right mix really is, and what your what your business is all about. But they’re, you know, the beauty of the work that we all do, or most of us do, who are listening is that we have flexibility. And so we can, we can continue to adapt and make adjustments. It’s not like, you know, we’ve sunk millions of dollars into capital equipment. And so, you know, we’ve got papers, right closers, right? all this kind of stuff that, you know, we just were stuck with. And so we need to figure out how to make it work. In my business, we’re using our intellectual property to advise clients on locations or business, however, we can make those pivots quite easily. So you don’t want to be doing it every day. But you do want to make sure that you’re making those adjustments along the way. So that you can have that intersection of success

GINI: and to live agrees with you and you notice she has achieved her big girl bark that she’s eight months old.

CHIP: That is definitely a big girl bark there.

GINI: But she agrees that is

CHIP: that is the kind of client I would not want to take on. She’s not she’s but I’m not a dog person. So unfortunately, you’re not

GINI: you’re not an animal person. I still think about your your beta fish fighting one another. But that’s

CHIP: attacking itself.

GINI: Did you put a mirror up?

CHIP: Yeah, it’s attacking. It’s reflection. No, there was just one beta fish. If you put two beta fish in there, you’ll only end up with one beta fish pretty quickly.

GINI: Well, that’s what I thought you did. No, no, no,

CHIP: no, no, no, that would be terrible, but mirrors a lot more humane. But for anybody listening the beta fish has not hurt the beta fish survived at least as long as beta fish survive which is not very long. So

GINI: Our beta fish has been alive for how long do they last? because ours has been alive for a long time. Really? Yeah.

CHIP: Well, I’m not an expert, I

GINI: did not survive.

CHIP: I’ve never had a beta fish that lasted far too long. So

GINI: it’s been here forever,

CHIP: pilot. Know where you’d get a beta fish these days? I mean, I guess maybe there are still pet stores, right? I don’t know. That’s true. I remember growing up, we always had pet stores at the mall and that kind of stuff. But now we don’t really even have models. In any case. So let’s let’s talk about perhaps getting back on track for you listeners, we’ll stop talking about beta fish. And so you know, and this is why I think and when I work with agency owners, one of the first things that I do is I use my aim get framework, which the a is ambition because I want to work with owners to figure out what are they trying to achieve? And and that’s the that’s the piece where you really need to understand what is your motivation, and it may be that your motivation is mostly to make as much money as possible. The passion comes second, that’s fine. You just need to know that about yourself. Unfortunately, so many agency owners just get into the trap where all they do is chase the money. And particularly in times like this, I mean, I can’t tell you how many agency owners have asked me in the last three months, you know, what’s the recession proof industry I should go after. Don’t do it. First of all, you’re too late to that party, as we’ve said before, but more importantly, you’re not going to be excited about it. You and if you’re if you’re sitting there saying, I’m going to go into this industry, I know nothing about them. But I hear that they’re doing well. And so I should and the recession, and the recession. Nobody’s recession proof because every recession is different. This one’s proving it. Yep. Things that you would never see evaporate restaurants, for example. All right. Normally, they take a hit during a recession, but it’s, it’s in terms of particularly hiring places. Now. It’s everybody across the board. You don’t see that. So you know, focus on focus on the things that you can do to grow your business and to do the things that you want to do because that’s how you’ll end up having more success because if you’re enthusiastic about something, you’re going to want to put the time into it. If you’re if you have no passion for the work you’re doing, you’re going to do the bare minimum to get the checks through the door. And it will show to your clients.

GINI: It will and will absolutely show and it’ll show to your team and you’ll be completely miserable. You know, one of the things that I’m passionate about is food. And so early in the in my agency’s life we did. We’ve heard a lot of celebrity chefs and we’ve we’ve built their brands for them. That is the worst business that is. That is the worst business you can do. It’s terrible. You work literally 24 seven because they’re open nights so then so you do your job running your agency and then you go to events or taking clients or reporters or whatever happens to be to the restaurant. You eat very well I will say but they don’t pay very much money they don’t pay on time they don’t they nickel and dime you and this has been across the board and so finally, we had to Make a decision inside my agency that even though we loved it, and we loved the work, and I mean, we had clients on the Food Network, we did all sorts of I mean, it was it was amazing work. But there was, it was the flip side of that, I would say where you know, you you get taken advantage of you’re nickeled and dimed to death. You’re not paid if, if at all on time. And so you have to make the decision from that perspective to Are we really passionate about this, but we’re not making any money. I can’t even make payroll because of it. So, you know, I like the Venn diagram idea, because it does have to fit there right in the middle of it.

CHIP: Yeah. And I think that, you know, I mean, it all comes down to taking the time to think through your decisions as a business owner. So, yes, step stepping up to an even higher level than, you know, is it passion or is it money, it’s really just being intentional about the decisions you’re making, as you grow your business and figuring out not only that, you know which decision you’re going to make, but why you’re making it because it’s I think far too often we don’t think them through. And if you don’t think them through, then you end up with a bad outcome accidentally. And that’s, that’s not good for anybody.

GINI: Right? Right. Yeah. And then everybody’s unhappy. And if you’re unhappy if you have a team, they’re unhappy, it just trickles down.

CHIP: Deep. But you know what makes me happy recording this podcast because it’s fun. Also enjoyable. gives me a chance to talk to you every week, Jenny.

GINI: This is new. You’re not normally nice to me. I don’t know what to do right now. Wow.

CHIP: That’s just that’s harsh. That is harsh. No, seriously. I mean, if you’re it actually goes to the point. You know, if you’re not excited about doing podcasts as a marketing tactic don’t do right. I am excited about doing podcasts. I’m excited about having videos out there, which is why we’re now making this available through video on YouTube agency leadership TV if you want to see it.

GINI: That’s that was a nice plug agency leadership. TV.

CHIP: Yes. Right there. Nice and simple and easy. And you can see I really love my weekly live streams production multi. Yeah.

GINI: And I really love for those of you who are listening and not watching, he has this fancy what’s it called v mix Is that what it’s called? stream deck?

CHIP: Well v mix is the software and then I’ve got a stream deck switcher that I use for it. So I got all sorts of it makes it

GINI: look like we’re on CNN. It’s amazing. And we’re not but it looks like we are so

CHIP: we’re not on I love it. I thought I hijacked the feed. And we’re actually going out worldwide, CNN International. Everybody’s seeing this right now. Because there’s no other news in our world today. This is

GINI: just Yeah, everybody wants to listen to us.

CHIP: Yes. We appreciate you listening and the fact that you’ve made it through this far means you are a dedicated fan. So drop us a line and tell us what you think. As long as it’s nice. We only want nice emails.

GINI: You can send the nice ones to me in the mean wants to ship that works.

CHIP: For now. That’s fine. I’m used to it. Yeah.

GINI: If thicker skin than I do.

CHIP: That’s true. less hair but thicker skin. Yeah. Correct. Well, you know, I think we’ve taken the show pretty far off the rails now. So let’s, let’s just bring it into the station. How about that we’ll draw this a good idea to a close follow your passion but find the money at the same time. Don’t think that it’s an either or situation. And with that, I’m Chip Griffin,

GINI: and I’m Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and it depends.

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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