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So what is SAGA all about anyway?

Gini noticed that Agency Leadership Advisors rebranded as the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA), so she asked Chip to explain himself in this episode.

You’ll hear Chip explain his thinking and how some of the decisions he made may be useful things for agency leaders to consider in the post-pandemic world.

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

Chip Griffin: You’re listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast on the FIR Podcast Network. Each week, we bring you actionable ideas to help PR and marketing agencies grow and thrive.

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

And I’m Gini Dietrich.

And it is 2021, Gini. How does it feel to be in a new year?

Gini Dietrich: It feels fantastic. Nothing has changed. A vaccine is coming. Well, it’s here, but we don’t get it yet. we’re getting a new president.

There is change coming.

Chip Griffin: That’s true. And we’re joking a little bit here. I don’t want to get into like morning Joe style trouble where we pretend that we’re actually recording this in 2021. Cause we’re not recording near the end of 2020. This is our, our last recording of 2020. We’re a little punchy. So hopefully that won’t show through too much more than normal, but I’m sure predicting how we will feel when this is released, I think we will be.

Happy to say it’s 2021, even if we know that just flipping the calendar doesn’t really change anything.

Gini Dietrich: Wow. 2021 will be better than 2020. That is all I’m going to say.

Chip Griffin: I think it will be different, and we will only be able to tell whether it’s better later in the year, so I

Gini Dietrich: think it’ll take six months for sure, but It has to be better than this year.

Chip Griffin: But things can change. Change is good. Many of you may be rolling out changes within the New Year. Maybe you’re, you’re rolling out New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’re making some tweaks to your business. I’m making tweaks. You are making tweaks. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Yeah, because I’m It’s a little bit self serving, but you know It’s a little

Gini Dietrich: bit self serving, but I like it.


Chip Griffin: but You know, we own the airtime here, so we get to do with it what we want. Well, in

Gini Dietrich: your defense, it was my idea to talk about this fair. So it’s not like you came to me point me and said we

Chip Griffin: we’re gonna do this. Fair point. Yeah. But you know, we are, we are the Murdoch family of the Agency Leadership Podcast, and so we have complete editorial discretion and if we want use it to sell our own newspapers.

We can do it. So be it. So be it, but we still be useful for you. We’re not. This is not right. We’re not going to sales pitch. This is really just talking about really some things that I’m doing that I think will be helpful to the overall agency community. So Agency

Gini Dietrich: Leadership Advisors has a new name,

Chip Griffin: and a new mission.

A new name, a new mission, all for a new year. Actually, I did a slow motion rollout over the last quarter of 2020. Not nearly at the pace that I would normally advise any agency. Right minded client to do a rebrand and relaunch and all that kind of stuff, but you know, it’s 2020 and you got to do it when you can do it and how you can do it and, you know, it’s fine.

So yes, Agency Leadership Advisors, the name for the business for the last couple of years gives way to SAGA, the small agency. The Small Agency Growth Alliance. Let’s see if I can say that correct.

Gini Dietrich: Small Agency Growth Alliance. Yep, that’s SAGA.

Chip Griffin: Yep, got it. SAGA, see? and it’s got a new logo. And the SAGA has a nice little arrow off of the G.

It does, yes. To signify growth. Yes,

Gini Dietrich: it’s going up. Very

Chip Griffin: nice. And that’s, that’s, that’s about the limits of my graphical design expertise. So it is what it is because I believe in investing in things in the business that actually help people as opposed to a lot of the branding elements, for my own business, because you’re not coming to me for help or advice or work with other agencies because of my fancy logo.

It’s hopeful.

Gini Dietrich: I don’t know. It’s pretty fancy. I might, I might hire you for that reason, actually.

Chip Griffin: Well, you know, no, don’t do that. That’s just that’s a bad idea. All right. Well, tell us tell us about it. So yeah, so so look the the Over the course of the last couple of years, as I’ve worked with agencies, I’ve worked with agencies, large and small pre pandemic.

A lot of the work was with larger agencies, working with leadership teams and big picture stuff. Large engagements, a lot of them on site, those kinds of things. And one of the things that I figured out during the pandemic was certainly those folks can use help. They need help. there’s a much bigger need amongst small agencies and, and so over the last, nine months or so, a lot of small agencies have come to me looking for help.

And one of the things that, that’s nice about the way our world has changed is we’re doing a lot of things by video. And so that means that I can offer my help to agencies much more economically and without any real concern over geography. So. Hmm. you know, in the past, you know, a lot of my engagements were limited by, you know, where could I get, how much time would it take to get there, you know, and so that meant that the engagement had to be of a certain dollar value before it became worthwhile for either side to take part.

And so now working with this, it’s opened the door to working with a lot of the agencies that really need the help and frankly, that I can make a bigger difference with in a shorter period of time because, you know, large agencies move slowly. Right, which is an advantage for small agencies. So now as I’m working more with small agencies, you know, I can point out where they have opportunities because they can be more nimble, more flexible, you know, they can try more things than some of the, you know, the, the bigger businesses out there who just don’t have that degree of nimbleness to them.

and so trying to find ways to help them, but more importantly, and one of the reasons why I call this an alliance, as opposed to, you know, small agency consulting or something like that. is because one of the things that I’m trying to do with it is to find ways to bring small agencies together. Not always in ways where I get direct compensation, but because I feel like, you know, building up the whole small agency community benefits the industry, but it also helps me over the long run.

And so, so where you can find those win win type situations, to overuse a phrase, that’s what I want to do in 2021 with SAGA.

Gini Dietrich: So when you bring small agencies together, tell us a little bit about what that looks like and what. You know, as a small agency or what I might, someone like me might expect.

Chip Griffin: Yeah.

So one of the things that I’ve done right out of the gate is to have a free membership program where small agencies can join together, and I’m creating a number of opportunities for engagement between them. So there’s, there’s a discussion forum in the membership area where you can ask questions and look for answers that other people have already asked and answered, right?

So, it, it builds on some of the great work that you’ve done in the spin sucks community. which is great for sort of the real time collaboration. I wanted to have some discussion forum. So there’s also a place where there’s more of an archival history that’s easier to go through, because a lot of times the questions you have, as an agency owner may already have been addressed.

And so you can find those great resources in a more traditional discussion forum place that, you know, is different from a Facebook group or a slack, community or something like that. but the other one is to, to actually bring. Agency owners together. So over the course of the last nine months, I’ve done, you know, various happy hours, office hours, meetups, those kinds of things to give agency owners an opportunity to just talk to each other.

And so that’s something that I’m bringing to the free membership on on the SAGA site. So that’s over the course of a month. There are four different opportunities to engage with other agency owners. there’ll be a happy hour. There’ll be more of a, I call it a coffee or a breakfast, because it’s, you know, earlier in the day, there’ll be a midday, type meetup, and then there’s also going to be office hours with me once a month.

So each week, basically there’s an opportunity to get together at different times of the day so that, no matter what your schedule is, what time zone you’re in, there should be something where at least once a month you have an opportunity to get together with other folks. And I, I found that when I’ve done these.

The interactions between the agency owners has been absolutely fantastic. I know that the partnerships have been created out of it to work on different projects or ideas. And so I really want to foster more of that going forward because it’s just, it’s so beneficial to have other people like you to talk to.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. When I started my agency, I joined Counselor’s Academy, which is through PRSA. And I remember going to the very first conference that they had, their annual conference, in Cabo San Lucas. La la la, right. and I remember before I went being really nervous about it because it was going to be with other agency owners.

And what I, I remember thinking like, what could I get from hanging out with other agency owners, because. I mean, for all intents and purposes, we compete, right? Some, and there were some large agencies that we wouldn’t compete with, but not many, most of them were our size. And I remember, I remember vividly thinking, I can’t imagine what I’m going to get out of this, but all right, I’ll go try it and see what happens.

And I will say that, Not only have I gotten a lot of business, I mean, business from it, business relationships, clients that we’ve shared and all that I have forged lifelong friends from, from that. And it’s because we’re all in the same boat. You know, we all have the same issues. We all have the same challenges.

We all have the same HR issues, how to hire, how to fire, how to grow, how to scale, all of those things are the same. And the fact that we were all willing to work together to, to, figure out those challenges made it significantly easier to grow my own agency. So I say that I relay that stories because it’s such a great way for you to be thinking about things because you’re right, you know, being able to work with other small agencies.

Maybe you want to bring in a large client and you need expertise in three States where you don’t have anybody you, and now you can create those alliances with one another. Through this group. I think that’s really great.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, look, I mean, you know, this doesn’t take away from anything that Counselors Academy or other groups do.

No, sure. They’ll have real value. I think one of the nice things about this is there’s, there’s more diversity in the types of agencies, right? So Counselors Academy obviously is part of PRSA. Really caters to PR, although, as we all know, PR and marketing and digital are all blurred together a little bit.

So, you know, certainly Counselors Academy has seen some evolution in membership along those lines over the years. But the, you know, with SAGA, it really will be a much more diverse group. So you can, you can find opportunities, if you’re a PR agency, to find someone who might turn into a digital partner for you, or vice versa.

And so, You know, finding those those matches is really beneficial, and I think I’m sure you’ve seen over the years that the whole notion of, you know, seeing others as your competitors is is really overblown. And the more time that you spend with other agency owners, you realize that that’s not what it is.

And if you even look at your own agency business, I mean, how often are you going head to head with other specific agencies all the time? It’s, it doesn’t, because most small agencies aren’t involved in these, you know, big RFP circuses and those kinds of things where, you know, it’s, it’s always the usual suspects showing up time and time again.

Right. It’s really more, you know, you having conversations, building relationships with prospects. And then deciding to work with you based on that, not based on some cattle call. so, so, I think, you know, one of the things that, that a lot of folks discover as they engage with more, peers is that it really is more of a peer relationship and not something to, to fret about, giving away your deep, dark secrets that’s going to cause you to lose

Gini Dietrich: business.

Yeah, I think it’s great. I think I, I, You know, there’s, there’s something like this for solopreneurs, but you have to be a solopreneur. And I think this is really great at this level of, of growth, you know, where you may have a handful of employees or you’re thinking you’re, you’re considering hiring employees or even working with a network of contractors.

I think this is a really great place and a really, really great value that you’re offering to the industry.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And it’s, I mean, I, you know, the, the other nice thing is it’s opportunity for me to learn and figure out, you know, what, what are the things that, that folks need help with? Because one of the other things that SAGA is going to do different from sort of my usual, you know, consulting and coaching is also put together more resources.

And so there will be later in 2021, a paid membership level where you have access to trainings, courses. templates, those kinds of things that are much more in depth and that will be based in part on the feedback and the, you know, the requests from that free membership. So I’m trying to find ways to help meet some of those needs so that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to go and do a lot of original research, because One of the things I found in my coaching work is a lot of clients ask the same questions over and over again.

And so if I can have, you know, resources that I can point them to, okay, you know, here’s how you handle, onboarding a new employee. Here’s how you handle difficult clients. Here’s how you handle terminations. Here’s how you handle, financial reporting. You know, putting those resources together in one place can be really helpful.

You know, for lots of folks, whether you want to do it, you know, in more of a DIY way, where you’re just accessing it or whether it’s in collaboration with some of the consulting that you or I might do with folks, to give them some additional resources to work with.

Gini Dietrich: Well, one of the big marketing trends for 2021 is humanization and personalization.

So you are doing that right there. That’s an prime example of how to do that.

Chip Griffin: Well, I am a human, so It’s been debated at various points. For the most part, I guess. But I can tell you I have had scans done and they have determined that I actually do have a heart. It is in there. So that’s what I’ve found out from my various irregular heartbeat issues over the years.

Anyone who says, you don’t have a heart, I can say yes.

Gini Dietrich: He does have a heart.

Chip Griffin: It’s irregular, but he has one. It’s irregular. But I’m a regular, so, you know, and that’s, that’s fine. It takes, it takes all kinds to, you know, to make the world go around. but, you know, and I think that, you know, So, you know, as, as we, as we evolve this or as I evolve this over the course of 2021, it really is going to be based on a lot of the feedback that I get from, members and, and some of my coaching clients and those kinds of things to continue to figure out, you know, what are the solutions that folks are looking for?

I do, you know, I’ve, I’ve experimented with some things over the last nine or 10 months with some, you know, group coaching. Do I bring some of that in here? I don’t know. You know, it’s, it’s still an experiment. I think there are pros and cons to it. you know, but. one of the things I want to do is to really, to find out from folks, you know, what, what are the things that would be most helpful to them?

and the other piece of this, frankly, is figuring out, you know, how to be a better advocate for the small agency community generally. So, you know, I want SAGA to be working with, Others who are advising agencies and servicing agencies to find ways that we can really help the small guys compete better because most of us spend at least a portion of our time working with small agencies.

So any agency consultant that you talk to sure they may work with. You know, 50, 100, 150 employee agencies, but they’re doing a lot of work with the 25 and under folks, too. And so finding ways that we can figure out, okay, you know, how can we band together to work with service providers to get better options for small agencies?

And I ran a service provider. I ran a media monitoring business, and I know that small agencies have unique challenges, both from a function standpoint, as well as a cost standpoint. How can we find ways? You know, by bringing the small agency community together to work with those service providers to get the solutions that they need, how can we help them to better compete against some of the larger agencies out there?

Because oftentimes clients we better served by the creativity and flexibility of a small agency, but they may just not know how to go about working with them. And so I think there’s some opportunity there as well. And

Gini Dietrich: I would say client clients want the flexibility and creativity and nimbleness of small agencies, but they don’t have the manpower to put together several of them into one cohort.

So, if you can offer that where you’re you or somebody is managing the agencies, and then just the client has just 1 point of contact. I think there’s a really big opportunity there for, for larger to work, do work with larger brands.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, no, I mean, I think there’s, there’s no limit to what small agencies can do if they’re working together.

And I hope that, that SAGA will be at least a small piece of that in 2021 and beyond. Yeah,

Gini Dietrich: I think it’s great. I’m a big fan. Hopefully we’ll find some things to do together as well.

Chip Griffin: You know, it’s always possible, you know, and hopefully we’ll get some good questions out of the discussion forums there so we can, you know, mix those in with all the great ones we get from the SpinSucks community.

And then you and I can spend even less time trying to figure out what topics. to come up with for this show. Even less time on this podcast. So that’s, that’s really the motivation here. Sure. It’s just, it’s to make this podcast easier. I appreciate that. Because I don’t really want to have to think, and, and I, and I suspect that’s, that’s why you wanted this as a topic.

So we can encourage growth there so that you and I can just sit back and show up once a week to just blab. I think we do that anyway, but okay. Yeah, but, but we have to spend like a couple of minutes trying to come up with a topic idea sometimes. So it’s nice to just be able to. Sometimes, sometimes. Yeah.

To pick from things in the various communities that we’re part

Gini Dietrich: of. That is true. Yeah, so if you all could leave comments, questions in the next couple of weeks, because we don’t have a topic for our next episode. That

Chip Griffin: would be great. Yeah, I mean, you know, you won’t hear this over the next couple of weeks because, you know.

But that’s okay, because

Gini Dietrich: you can still doing. You could still do it the next couple

Chip Griffin: of weeks. It’s fine. Yes. Whenever you hear this, even if you’re listening to this well after we initially release it in the first week of January, by all means, send us your ideas. Go to the Spin Sucks community. How do you get there, Gini?

Where’s the Spin Sucks community? Spinsucks. com. That’s pretty simple, I guess. I thought you were going to give the full URL, but we

Gini Dietrich: have it in the navigation now.

Chip Griffin: So, oh, that’s nice. Yeah, that’s nice. Cause you, you couldn’t get it to be spin sucks. com slash community. Like I’ve always asked you to, no, I can’t get it to do that.

That’s just sad. I know. It’s really, really sad. It’s really irritating. Every time I give it out on one of my shows or live streams, I always like to say, It’s at spinsucks. com slash community, but then I realize, no, it’s not. It’s at spinsucks. com Yeah. So it’s in the navigation now, folks. It’s in the navigation now.

There’s no excuse. Go to spinsucks. com. Join the community there. Go to smallagencygrowth. com. Join the community there. Get the free membership. There’s a lot of ways that you can engage with your peers and even beyond what Gini and I are doing, I would encourage you to find ways to, to, to connect with others who are like you, because you will learn so much from those experiences, whether they’re one on one or group settings, it’s online, offline, doesn’t matter, take advantage of it, because you will grow so much more quickly if you’re having these kinds of conversations with other folks who know what it’s like to be going through what you’re going through.

Gini Dietrich: Yes. And to your point, you do not have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t.

Chip Griffin: Right. Now, sometimes there can be a benefit to reinventing the wheel. Sure. Right? So I don’t, you shouldn’t do things just because that’s the way it’s always been done, but it’s a really good starting point to at least know that. And there are a lot of these basic things that you can at least avoid gotchas by talking to folks who have been through that.

And they can tell you things like, Don’t ask that interview question. You’re going to get in trouble if you do that, you know, you know, here’s a way that you can save money on insurance or whatever. I mean, there’s so many different things that you can learn from just talking to other folks, and it will help you accelerate your progress.

And really, if you think about it, that’s what we’re all looking to do. It’s not necessarily about finding shortcuts, but it’s finding the best way forward. and so, I mean, that’s, it’s why Google Maps was so good when it came out years ago, right? Because you could figure out the best way to get from point A to point B, and you maybe had some choices because it presented them to you.

If you’re working with your peers, they can help you figure out how to get from point A to point B with the fewest possible turns and the fewest possible maps.

Gini Dietrich: That’s a great analogy. That’s a great analogy. I love it.

Chip Griffin: So SAGA is the Google Maps of the free agency world. Something like that. You know, because we all have to be that.

You know, we are the Uber of this, or we are the Right, so SAGA is the Google Maps of small agencies. Like it. Like it, like it. Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter. Just go to smallagencygrowth. com and sign up for free. Do it. Do it now. Who doesn’t like free? Right?

Gini Dietrich: I like free.

Chip Griffin: So, well, with that, that freebie that I’m giving away at the start of 2021, that will draw to a close this very first episode of the brand new year.

That’s all different, completely changed. And there’s no complaining. Cause you can’t sit there and say, no 2020, Nope. Can’t do that anymore. Cause that’s, I mean, how many times did you say that? A lot. Bye. You know, just something happens, you just say 2020, nothing else. And everybody knew what it meant. That doesn’t fly in 2021.

So be proactive, find ways to make change in your business, in your personal life, wherever you’re looking to improve things. Now is the time to get started. Do it. Do it now. Go get on your Peloton or treadmill or whatever it was that you made your New Year’s resolution on to, because I’m sure most of you have those as well.

I do. So. No resolutions. Not the, not the actual equipment. I, of course you’ve got one. I mean, you, you are, you are like the queen of cycling and you put in like a gazillion miles a year. How many, how many miles did you do in 2020?

Gini Dietrich: Well, I don’t know yet. It’s not over yet.

Chip Griffin: Roughly how many will you have done in 2020?

Gini Dietrich: Probably 5, 000 ish.

Chip Griffin: 5, 000 miles. Yes. I just, I can’t even wrap my mind around that. I mean, when I was, when I was doing more running, I remember I, I, I had a, you know, my big month was like 110 miles running. It’s a lot for running. It is. It’s a lot. Well, I mean, particularly when you look like I do. As I always said to people, imagine what I’d look like if I didn’t run at all.

Because people always look at me askance when I say I like to run. Like, really? I I do. As I get older, it gets harder. It is.

Gini Dietrich: It’s really hard on your body.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, it is. Anyway, on that note, nobody cares about our exercise regimens and all that kind of stuff. So we will wrap this up and we will be back here next week.

In the meantime, I’m Chip Griffin.

And I’m Gini Dietrich.

And it depends.

You’ve been listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast. For more information or past episodes, just visit agencyleadershippodcast. com.

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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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