Xaña Winans of Golden Proportions Marketing says that resiliency may be her superpower, and that’s a characteristic many agency owners needed to tap into as the pandemic upset existing business structures.
Like many owners, Xaña has kept her team remote. She shares some of her experience about how she made that transition and manages a team that is no longer full-time in the office. She talks about some of the challenges, as well as opportunities that creates.
In this conversation, Xaña also talks about how she started with a clear focus with the agency — which she has maintained — but also some of the evolution she has made along the way.
- Chip Griffin: “Accidental agency owners are still the owners of the business and they should be designing something that actually works for them and gives them the financial satisfaction, the psychological satisfaction, and the happiness of being their own boss.”
- Xaña Winans: “A big part of it is for us to both find a voice in how to run this agency. Because I can’t do it without them, but they can’t do it without me either.
- Chip Griffin: “Don’t hire that diamond in the rough if you really need the diamond today, because diamonds take a long time to create.
- Xaña Winans: “I’ve had to remind myself that as an agency owner, vacations are not an indulgence. They’re actually a necessity.”
About Xaña Winans
Xaña Winans is the founder and CEO of Golden Proportions Marketing, the first strategy based, full-service marketing company exclusively for dentists. Xaña founded and built Golden Proportions Marketing on the belief that dentists deserved a goal-driven, strategic approach to marketing. Transparency, results, and return on investment are the driving forces behind the work her agency provides.
Xaña teaches her audiences the foundational principles of marketing, as well as the actionable strategies necessary to turn brand awareness into actual new patients. She believes that doctors should understand the patient journey in order to attract, capture, and keep new patients in the practice. Audiences will learn valuable internal marketing strategies and leave empowered to better manage and maximize their marketing relationships.
Xaña has been an invited speaker to numerous national dental meetings including GNYDM, Yankee, and the AACD as well as numerous state meetings and study clubs. She has been guest faculty for both Pankey and LVI, teaching marketing to thousands of dentists over her 30 year career. She and her husband Dr. Larry Winans are parents to Ryder and Savannah. Outside of dentistry, they have founded, manage, and market a regional craft brewery.
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I’m delighted to have with me an agency owner who I think will be able to share a lot from her experience that will relate to a lot of you who are listening. My guest today is Xaña Winans, the founder of Golden Proportions Marketing. Welcome to the show.
Xaña Winans: Thanks for having me, Chip.
Chip Griffin: And hopefully I didn’t butcher your name too badly because I was thinking about it the whole time. In any case so before we dive into talking about your experiences as an agency founder and some of the evolutions that you’ve had over the years, why don’t you just share a little bit briefly about yourself and the agency to set the table for listeners.
Xaña Winans: Sure. So I founded my agency coming up on 23 years ago by accident, which I think most agency owners are. My husband is a dentist, or actually a former dentist. He now brews beer for a living. But when he was a dentist, I did marketing for his practice and it started getting noticed. And all of a sudden other dentists were calling me.
And so that is literally all we do is marketing for dental practices around the country. So we’re a full service agency, lots of digital these days, but just one thing that we speak solid is teeth.
Chip Griffin: I, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around going from being a dentist to brewing beer, but…
Xaña Winans: It makes him really, really happy.
And that’s all that matters.
Chip Griffin: You know, and that’s, that’s actually a good thing to touch on here because I think that 1 of the things a lot of agency owners forget is that they may have been an accidental agency owner, but they still, they are the owner of the business and they should be designing something that actually works for them and it gives them the financial satisfaction, the psychological satisfaction, and the happiness of, you know, being their own boss. And if you’re not getting that, change something, right? You can be miserable working for someone else.
Xaña Winans: Absolutely. I mean, I don’t know any agency owner that hasn’t been through that cycle.
Any business owner that hasn’t been through that cycle. I’ve hit it a couple of times and still standing so far.
Chip Griffin: Right. So you know, let’s, let’s talk about, I mean, you mentioned being an accidental owner, you know, did there come a point where you sort of said, you know, I really want to grow this into a real business as opposed to just, you know, Hey, we, I picked up some business along the way that most accidental owners are just sort of, you take a contract here or there.
And at some point you have that moment where you’re like, aha, this is a real business. What, what was it for you that, that made you make that decision?
Xaña Winans: Honestly, I think it was like that from the beginning. I, I was very fortunate in that I fell into healthcare marketing right at the time where it was losing its stigma because, you know, back in the day, if, if you had to advertise a healthcare practice there was something wrong with you. So I just managed to catch that perfect moment in time where there was a lot of demand for it. And I honestly really just rode the wave. There wasn’t a point in time where I ever imagined, you know, that this was kind of a temporary thing. It was just full steam ahead from day one.
Chip Griffin: So as, as you evolved through the business you know, we came across the pandemic. And I know you made a big decision coming out of the pandemic as to how you would run the business. So why don’t you share a little bit about that decision? Because I know it’s, it’s something that a lot of owners have, have confronted when they had you know, that event in front of them and an opportunity to change things.
Xaña Winans: So before COVID hit I had this beautiful 1890s farmhouse that we completely renovated. We’re in central Pennsylvania. All of my team was local. They come in every day. We’d have this, you know, great dynamic, but at the same time, all the struggles that happen when you’ve got a bunch of people in each other’s faces all day long. COVID comes along.
Our governor says, if you can work from home, you must work from home. And literally it went from like one day, everyone was in the office to the next day they were never ever there again. So the governor told us we had three months that we were all required to work from home.
And along the way, it was kind of at that point in time where the employees started to have a lot more control about what was going on in a business because they were realizing from COVID, they needed to take control of their lives and was this the thing that made them happy? And I heard a lot of feedback from my team how important it was for them to continue to work from home. It wasn’t my first decision but I agreed that we would try it and we ended up Really benefiting from being a fully remote agency, partially because I live in central Pennsylvania.
I am like four hours from Pittsburgh and three hours from Philly and three hours from New York. So you can imagine the talent around me is we have cows and Amish buggies. So I’ve got a limit to the talent that’s available. And moving remote meant I could recruit people from all across the country. And to be honest, about a third of my team is local now, and the other two thirds are California to Michigan to Florida to Alabama, you name it.
So, it turned out to be a really good thing for us.
Chip Griffin: Well, and access to that talent, I think, is a huge benefit, and it’s a reason why a lot of agencies may have even originated as a virtual agency in the past, right? Because, you know, like you, I’m in a relatively rural area. It is not the kind of place where you tend to have a lot of talent, particularly more junior talent, right?
Because there’s, there’s not a lot of social life in the part of New Hampshire that I’m in, unless you’re, you know, older and married and that kind of stuff. It’s not a singles place. And so, you know, it’s hard to attract what a lot of agencies need in order to thrive and you know, so finding the specialties that you need that certainly benefits from being virtual. But I guess you know, I think there are challenges to being virtual too and so that’s You know not to be the debbie downer but i’d like to drill into that a little bit and how you’ve managed to to continue to hold together a culture for your agency, how you manage to to continue that team effects.
I know a lot of owners are struggling with how they do that in the virtual world, particularly if they were used to doing it in person and you’re used to you know having those water cooler moments or the opportunity to go out to lunch together things that you may not be able to do on a regular basis in a virtual environment.
Xaña Winans: So we definitely have had our challenges. I would say a big one is just zoom fatigue because you’re literally every conversation is on camera. And in the beginning I also got a lot of resistance from my team. Why do I have to have my camera on? Well because i’m not face to face with you. I can’t Read your body language any other way.
They’ve gotten used to it now, but it’s more mentally exhausting to always be on camera. I think it’s because we, it’s harder to make perfect eye contact when you got four or five different faces on the screen and it, it just takes more brain power. The other big challenge was staying connected to them.
You know, early in the pandemic, there were updates every single week and we’re having team meetings and here’s what’s happening and here’s what you can expect. And then it kind of slowed down and just became day to day agency life. And I missed my guys. I missed them a lot. Like I genuinely, that was one of my favorite parts of having an agency was the team that I built.
And now I was interacting with the three people who happened to have a meeting with me in a given day. As opposed to all of them. So we had to learn to be really intentional about how to bring our team together for interaction. So we do a retreat twice a year now, which that took a little while to kind of get off the ground, but now it’s pretty consistent, they expect it.
And every Wednesday and alternating Fridays, there’s some sort of like half hour break in the day. Where anybody who wants to can jump on a link and there might be trivia or a scavenger hunt, or it could just be happy hour. And so that’s helped with some of that connection. It’s still not the same.
I know a lot of agencies are going back into the office, doing a hybrid model. But given where I’ve now found my talent, I don’t really have that as much of an option. So we’ve had to be flexible.
Chip Griffin: Yeah, and it certainly is a challenge and there’s no one right answer, right? I mean it, you know, if you’re an agency in New York City, it may be a different answer than for an agency in the middle of Pennsylvania, right?
There’s there really are different things and the kind of agency and the, the talent pool that you’ve built up and all that, that also affects it as well. But I think one of the things that, that struck me that you said, and I think this is also something that’s a shared experience with a lot of other owners is how much more, not necessarily control, but leverage, let’s say that employees have or at least the perception of it.
I mean, I would argue that that it’s just a little bit more obvious. Owners have realized this a little bit more. Employees have realized it a little bit more than they did in the past. But it certainly is a factor. And it’s not just about being virtual. It’s about all sorts of things, whether that’s flexibility of schedule or the kinds of work that they do or titles.
I mean, there’s so many things that go into this. And so I’m curious, you know, what your experience has been with that with the virtual, but also any other aspect where you’ve seen in the last couple of years, employees taking a, a different view towards things that you’ve had to, to deal with.
Xaña Winans: It was kind of weird being in that position where all of a sudden, even though you’re the boss, you don’t have as much control over your own agency and what you’re asking people to do.
I mean, the world had been moving towards a lot more flexibility. We used to have like you could take two days a month to work from home or we would give them a little bit more of a flexible schedule. First, I mean, I grew up in the era of like, 8 to 5 was the required minimum. Right. And if you wanted to get ahead, you came in early and you stayed late.
And that was not this generation’s culture. They were not willing to give up their family life. So them taking more of that control I will admit it was a bit of a struggle as an owner, cause you almost start feeling held hostage to people that you feel like you’ve given your heart and soul to. I think we finally hit a, a middle ground by kind of just really zeroing in and listening to everything that was important to them.
We, we do a lot of one on one conversations to find out what’s making them happy, where would they like to see changes. We do a quarterly happiness survey, which, you know, everything from, do you have enough connection with me personally? If you want access to me to, are you getting enough continuing education?
Do you have the tools you need to do your job? And so it’s, I think, become a little more of a meet in the middle that I’m hearing more of what’s important to them. And thus I’m able to give it. When I’m ready to give it. I’ve always equated employee benefits as like the upgrades that are planned for cars.
Like we’ve all come to take cupholders for granted, right? But that was a novel, crazy new thing a long time ago. Backup cameras were wild and crazy way back when, and now they’re in every single car from the cheapest car that you can buy. And so I knew I had to kind of stage out these additional benefits over time.
If it was all in one fell swoop, they would have had way too much power and I wouldn’t have been able to keep giving them things to show them how much they, they meant to me. So I think that was, that was a big part of it is for us to both find a voice in how to run this agency. Cause I can’t do it without them, but they can’t do it without me either.
Chip Griffin: Right. And it is a challenge, but you know, I think that a lot of agency owners will have over the years paid lip service to the, you know, the, how important the team is, right? The team is our differentiator. That’s, that’s why we do our best work. And yet there was always this expectation. I know when I was starting in the agency world, just like you were, you know, it was a minimum number of hours, not a maximum.
And, and you just kind of, you kept going and the owners expected that. And that’s, that’s how they made the financial model work. And I think, you know, now we’re in a situation where a lot of owners are realizing that, you know, they were probably either underpriced or over promising on what they could provide because they were relying on employees working more than 40 hours a week in order to balance those books.
And so now it’s causing a fresh look. And I think what you’re talking about in terms of one on ones to understand what the employees are actually looking for is incredibly good advice because, frankly, it’s not even one size fits all from one employee to the next within your own agency. Some, some will value certain things more than others.
Some may value flexibility more. Others may value time off. Others may value their salary for their perceived stature amongst their friend group or whatever. I mean, there’s all sorts of things that can matter and knowing what those are allows you to, yes, it requires more work, but it allows you to customize your solution to them.
Xaña Winans: Yeah, very much so because you’re right. I mean, I have people on my team who I, I would have to drag them kicking and screaming into a week’s vacation out of a year. And then there’s those that use up every single minute before the end of September. And then they’re struggling come Christmas time.
So one of our moves was moving to unlimited PTO obviously within reason. But we were able by giving more, we actually gave them the flexibility that they needed. And so they didn’t feel like they had to take advantage of the benefits that weren’t really important to them. So some, you’re right, needed, you know, flexible PTO whenever they needed it or a flexible working schedule for their kids or whatever it was, the more I gave them, the more we met in the middle. It was kind of odd, actually, to give more and, and for both sides to get what they needed.
Chip Griffin: Well, it really just comes down to that open and honest conversation. And it’s where I also think that it’s important for owners to share with their employees how the model works, right?
So that they understand, you know. I want to work with you. I want to give you what you need. But you also need to understand how it works from, you know, a client delivery standpoint, a financial model standpoint. And I think owners have historically in the agency world in particular, tried to be very opaque about a lot of that, right?
Afraid to let employees know, what’s the scope of this agreement? You know, what is the price of this agreement to the client? And I think, frankly, the more of that you share, the more you can put it in perspective, because employees always think that the owners are doing far better than they actually are.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case where I asked an employee to guess what the owner was making, and then the owner told me what they were making, and the employees didn’t guess much, much higher. So, you know, trying to – you don’t need to you tell them everything, but I think it’s, I think it’s important to share more in order to have that meeting in the middle moment.
Xaña Winans: Yeah, we actually moved to profit sharing just about two years ago. We had previously done performance incentives for kind of custom tailored to each person and what we wanted them to get stronger in, but when we moved to profit sharing in January of 2022, lots of resistance to it in the beginning, but it meant that we were much more transparent with our numbers because I wanted them to see how they influenced the amount of profit that they were going to get a share in.
So not just how much the sales team did, but the quality of the work we turned out. Became client retention, which is how we grew the business because we have a lot of recurring revenue retainers, SEO, paid search, social so like we measure all of that stuff and they get to see the nitty gritty of if we lost this many clients this year, here’s how much money the whole company lost.
Here’s how much money you lost in profit sharing, but if we fix these problems, here’s what the gain is. And I get a lot more investment and buy in from them because they see all the nitty gritty details. They still don’t know my personal salary, my take home at the end of the year, but I honestly don’t think most of them would begrudge me what I get because they are getting a healthy share.
Chip Griffin: And I think that’s something that owners need to remember as well that you know that they I think employees expect the owners to do be doing well. But I think the key is that they need to be doing well as well. And so, you know, if you’re going to try to, you know, get away with below market pricing, because you’re underpaying your team or making them work extra hours, it may work short term. It generally doesn’t work out long term, because you have higher turnover, you have more staff issues to deal with and And so I think it’s, it’s a really important area for owners to focus on to make sure that they’re getting that right balance of productivity versus satisfaction from their team.
Xaña Winans: Yeah, kind of on that note, I will tell you one lesson that I learned, and I wish I had learned it a long time ago. It is, you get what you pay for. In terms of your employees. And it takes a while to get to a point where you can pay what feels like an outrageous amount for the talent that you bring on, but boy, when they could hit the ground running when they bring in new ideas, they are worth it times 10. I had too many junior people that I wanted to try and grow in the past, and I wasn’t getting the results and I was getting frustrated. I saved money there, but I lost a lot of money in terms of the growth of the company versus the higher quality talent that I’ve been able to get now being remote.
Chip Griffin: Yeah. And you just have to understand what it is that you need and go out and actually hire for that. Don’t, don’t hire that diamond in the rough if you really need the diamond today, because diamonds take a long time to create. And I think that’s important for folks to remember. You know, obviously we’ve talked a lot about employee satisfaction, but you know, let’s talk about your satisfaction as an agency owner.
What, what have you had to do over the years in order to structure the business so it gave you what you were looking for? And were there changes that you had to make along the way in order to accommodate you and those goals?
Xaña Winans: Oh, gosh, there’s more changes than I could count. I think like most business owners, I’ve hit burnout at a couple of different levels. First time I hit burnout was five years into it, where I was just working until seven o’clock at night and managing every client myself and doing way too many things that I didn’t need to.
And what’s really funny is I actually was nominated for in one, One of the top 50 women in business in the state of Pennsylvania. And yet I was more miserable my agency in that moment than I’d ever been. So, you know, huge burnout happened to connect with a coach, teaches me the importance of building systems and then things get better and then you kind of hit the next level of burnout.
And, and so I think burnout actually goes through a couple of different levels of where the agency is growing. It’s almost inevitable. The, the big difference is being a resilient person. If somebody ever asked what’s my superpower, I would genuinely tell you it’s resiliency. I can just put my head down and keep working through stuff till I get to the other side because I know it will be better if I put the work in.
It’s tempting to want to give up when you’re feeling that level of burnout though.
Chip Griffin: And burnout is something that I’m sure every owner experiences at some point. I know every owner I’ve ever talked to has. Frankly, that’s a lot of times when they come to me as an advisor to try to help them sort that through.
But I, I think, you know, one of the things that you touch on there where you talk about, you know, having to, to work till seven o’clock at night and, and just kind of, you know, Feeling like you’re just grinding through it. I think it’s important that we all remember that as owners, we are also employees.
And so we need to look at ourselves just as we’re having conversations with employees about, you know, how can we make their lives better, structure things better so that it works for them. And one of the things they always talk about is hours and workload and that kind of stuff. We need to look at that ourselves as well.
And, and if we can’t, if we feel like we’re in that situation where we just can’t do it any different, then we need to look at what else needs to change. Is it the pricing? Is it the kind of client? Is it the kind of, you know, what, what can we change so that our own personal situation changes as an employee of our own business?
Xaña Winans: Yeah, it reminds me of when I had my son 26 years ago, good lord. I remember kind of just that like constant demand on your time of having a newborn. And it was at one of his checkup visits that the doctor said how important it was for me to take time to take care of me. And I’m like, but I don’t have that time.
I have to load the dishwasher and make dinner. And I’m also running a business and and, and, and, and, and. And it seemed so unreasonable to not do the other things in order to make time for myself. But once I did it, I had more energy for the other things. So it was very similar. And I’ve had to remind myself that of that as an agency owner, like vacations are, are not an indulgence.
They’re actually a necessity. If I don’t take time away, I can’t refresh my thinking to come back and be more valuable for the people who need me. There’s, it’s hard to have, I think that objectivity in yourself. It helps a lot to have some advisors around you who can let you know when you’re kind of hitting the point that you need to take a step back and, and take a breather.
Chip Griffin: Yeah. And I think, you know, the first thing is obviously recognizing that. And I think most owners recognize it a little on the later side, but they do ultimately recognize it. And I think the other thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to change everything all at once. And so what I always tell owners who are experiencing burnout is, is try to find the one or two little things that you can change that will make you have the most relief, right?
You know, is, is it just being able to, you know, knock off at, at, you know, six o’clock instead of seven o’clock? So now, now you’re only trying to figure out, okay, how do I, how do I carve out five hours of my week that I either just don’t do something, I can pay someone else to do it, something, right? And, and so trying to break it down into the little chunks.
Once you start feeling the relief, it starts to give you a lot more clarity and ability to make good decisions as opposed to those frustrated, panic borne decisions that usually don’t end up working out.
Xaña Winans: Yeah, I agree. Absolutely. Completely. It’s just when you’re making decisions under stress, they’re never good.
Chip Griffin: So, you know, as you, as you look to the future, you know, how do you see your business continuing to evolve? What changes do you see? I mean, you know, AI obviously comes up a lot. So, you know, it could be that, you know, do you see you know, the workforce changing in a way that’s impacting you, marketing services.
I’m just, I’m curious, sort of, as you look on that horizon over the next couple of years, you know, what are you starting to plan for or at least think about?
Xaña Winans: Great question. What am I planning for? I’m, I’m a constant and never ending improvement kind of person. So often I’m, I’m diving into the things that we have and how to make them better.
But we’re so full service. It’s not like there’s a thing that we’re missing. It’s probably more a matter of changing the way that we do the work. So bringing in more AI, using more subscription tools, even though, dear God, the cost of subscriptions anymore, like it, it’s a huge chunk of my budget for all these tools that we use, but it’s saving us a lot of time and money.
I don’t know that I have like a great vision for where I’m going. You and I should probably talk.
Chip Griffin: Well, I mean, it and so much of it ends up being, you know, very specific to the industries that you serve. And one of the great things that you’ve got going for you is you started out with a very clear niche.
And you’re still in that niche, right? I mean, it’s a lot of agencies that I talk to are still trying to figure out today, you know, maybe 10 or 20 years into their business, you know, who is their ideal client? And I think that You know, by virtue of the evolution that you’ve had in your business and how you started, it’s pretty clear.
And so I think that certainly helps a lot. But a lot of it, looking to the future, is trying to understand how your client base is going to change. What are their needs going to be 2, 3, 4 years down the road? And I always tell owners they’re the best experts in that, right? It’s, you know, you can’t go get that from somebody else.
You’re talking to those clients on a daily basis. And so part of it is just spending time listening. And so I always encourage owners to to just have those open ended conversations with clients, you know, what’s what’s on your mind? What’s what’s going on with you? Just sort of like I asked you here.
It’s a great way to garner that intelligence and help you figure out where that that puck is heading to use a hockey analogy.
Xaña Winans: So one of the things that we have done for 23 years is every client that’s got any kind of ongoing contract has a review call every month or every quarter, depending on the plan that they’re in.
And most of that call isn’t sitting there and reviewing, you know, you got this many phone calls and this many new patients and you generated this much revenue. It’s more of a consulting kind of conversation. That is that tell me what’s going on. Are you having employee stress? Are you, you know, are you having problems with the retention of patients; diving into that entire funnel of their, their business structure.
Because at least for us. Dentists are rarely, they are accidental business owners also. They don’t know how to run a business and they really rely on consultants. And even though I’m a marketing consultant, I know enough about business that we can give them that much greater guidance in those conversations.
And that’s probably why we have the longevity with clients that we do is because they’ve known they can trust us with literally any question out there. We’ve probably got a pretty good answer or someone to refer them to.
Chip Griffin: Right. And it’s one of the real benefits of being a specialist agency you know, who, who understands a particular space because you can veer off into those areas where, you know, if you were serving, you know, dentists and lawyers and restaurants and tech companies and all of that, it becomes a lot more challenging, you can have general business discussions, but not in the same kind of meaningful way where you can say, yeah, we’re seeing a lot of people have that same problem with their, their teams or with their patients or those kinds of things.
And it helps you to identify you know, challenges as, as well as opportunities much more easily you know, than others who may be more generalist.
Xaña Winans: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I, I do get to see the trends often before they do, because we’ve got hundreds of clients across the country. Like, before the Great Recession hit, I could literally see that it kind of hit from the outside edges of the U.S., from like the West Coast and East Coast, and gradually rolled its way into the middle of the country. Based on the clients I was talking to and when they were starting to feel the stress. So like, I get to see things on a much broader scale. We also have this great advantage because we are so niched that, you know, in a conversation a client might throw out a great idea of something they’re doing.
And then I can broadcast that to hundreds of other clients who get to benefit. So it gives us a lot of layers that does make us, I think, a little more valuable than just working with a local freelancer.
Chip Griffin: Well, you’ve offered some great insight. If, if people are listening and they’d like to learn more about you or get in touch with you, how can they do that?
Xaña Winans: Easiest way is probably to go to our website, which is goldenproportions.com. I’m welcome to take any emails. I’ve got frankly, a couple of other agency owners who have met me at events and said, Hey, can I pick your, your brain about something? So happy to drop me an email. It’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. Somebody helped me get to where I am years ago. I love sharing any knowledge that I’ve got, if it’s helpful.
Chip Griffin: And I always encourage owners to be talking to each other because there’s so much to learn from each other, the shared experiences that, that you all have. And, and so I think it’s incredibly valuable and, and highly encouraged.
So thank you for, for sharing your insights today and being open to connections. My guest today has been Xaña Winans, the founder of Golden Proportions Marketing.
Xaña Winans: Thanks for having me, Chip.