Login or Join

Close this search box.

The value of coaching for agency owners

You can certainly go it alone as an agency owner, but it can quickly get pretty lonely. On this week’s episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast, Chip and Gini talk about how coaching can help agency owners get more from their businesses.

Of course, Chip and Gini both provide coaching and advisory services for agency owners, but this episode covers a range of approaches that are available — well beyond the border of just their two businesses.

The co-hosts explore a range of benefits from coaching, including accountability, second opinions, useful insights, a shoulder to lean on, and more.



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 today to coach you.

GINI: Yes, we are.

CHIP: Not you the listener. Not Not you, the co host, Gini. Yeah, yeah.

GINI: And vice versa.

CHIP: We could end up with a better show. If we each coach each other on how to how to do a show. We’ve got a lot I

GINI: I don’t know. I don’t know, Chip. I don’t know how we could get much better than what we already are.

CHIP: That’s true. All we’ve gotten a lot of feedback lately. Some of it positive some of it not so positive. Yes, we have. So so we know people are listening at least and that’s the most important thing. So thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing your feedback. Whether you think that we bicker like an old married couple, and that’s a good thing or that we bicker like an old married couple and it kind of cheapens what we do either way. We’re happy to hear from you because it means you listened. And

GINI: I’m having to compose myself right now.

CHIP: I’m gonna have to edit this clearly. That’s lovely. Thank you. You know how much I like editing podcasts? Yeah,

GINI: I do that I’m going to start throwing in pieces where you have that. And

CHIP: that’s great. So I’ll take out the silence. But I’m not going to take up this banter because it just goes to show the listeners point. Anyway. So let’s move on. But enough of this, we’ve wasted 60 seconds of your time. But hopefully you got a good chuckle out of it. And if not, well, I’m sorry. So coaching, that this is we will admit slightly self serving because we coach agencies and we can probably get into a debate over whether we are truly coaches and what coaches are

GINI: It’s probably more consulting but good.

CHIP: Yeah, it’s really more man. In my case, it’s sort of skews more towards management consulting. You know, there’s a lot of different ways to look at what we do. But But therapy, I’ve often joked in in various places that I’ve worked that I sort of felt like the camp counselor, yes. Because for whatever reason people have always enjoyed coming in sitting in my office and just talking through their problems. I’m like, you know, you realize I’m not Like a certified therapist or anything, and fortunately, most of the issues that people come to me with their work related, if it’s not work related, you’re really in trouble. I can help you some with the business and communications issues when it comes to personal stuff. You might as well just get one of those first magic eight balls and see what that tells you.

GINI: I mean, sometimes that works, too, you

CHIP: know, it can work just as well or a fortune cookie,

GINI: you know, because in today’s work,

CHIP: nice Chinese food can often be soothing. And so then you crack open the fortune cookie, and it’ll, it’ll solve your problem for you or not like it. But what we do, hopefully is a notch above that. And so the question is, why do people come to us for coaching or anyone for that matter? And what are the values that what is the value that you get out of coaching generally? And so since you’ve been at this game a little bit longer than I have Jenny, I’ll, I’ll throw it over to you for your first impressions.

GINI: Well, a couple of things. First off to sort of set the stage you know what’s interesting is we think that the most successful people don’t need coaches. And when in fact, the most successful people have coaches. And one of the things I always look back on is, Michael Jordan had a coach, arguably one of the very best coaches in basketball history, you know, so you have to think about it from that perspective of a it’s significantly cheaper, from both time from time resources and money to to hire a coach because you can fast forward you can learn from somebody else’s mistakes, and you don’t have to go through that process alone. There’s also the value of accountability and all those kinds of things. But when you think about it, you know, Bill Gates, I think he had at his peak had something like seven coaches, Steve Jobs, had a business coach, who, who just came out with a book, by the way. So I think that that’s one big misconception that just we have in general is sure athletes have coaches in sure fashion models have coaches. I’m trying to think of other industries. But you know, professionals, we don’t need coaches because we can get to the top without on our own and on our own merit. And that’s just not the case. And it was a good lesson for me in the very early days of my own agency, and when I heard a coach and I was like, Oh, so everything I learned on the job, actually, that was really bad. And it was, I mean, of course, I learned some great things. But there were some really bad leadership things that I had learned from my previous jobs that were really bad. And I didn’t know it. And having a coach helps me with those things. So I think setting the stage from the perspective of the most successful people do have people who help and hold them accountable is really important.

CHIP: And I think the other thing is it regardless of whether you think of it as coaching, per se most of us over the course of our careers have had people who have coached us, we made a call the mentors we may not charge we may not pay them, it may be informal, it may be just you know, folks we trust and get together with for Coffee on a regular basis and talk through various challenges. It may be coworkers if we’re in a large organization, but most of us who have been successful have had coaching in either a formal or informal way, sir over time. And so really what we’re talking about here is what I would argue that you need some some form of coaching, whether it’s, you know, working with a paid advisor like us or whether it’s finding some of those informal accountability partners and mentors and thinking, you need those to surround you in order to be successful, it is really, really difficult to go it alone. And as you say, you can fast forward if you take advantage of other people’s learning, so you know what I do a lot with my own clients just tell them what didn’t work. Right. I am really good at sharing my failures. I have a long list of them and and there’s no need for you to make the same mistakes that I did. So I’m happy to share them along the way.

GINI: So let’s talk about the different types of coaching because I think there’s the one on one Coaching that you and I both do. But there are also things like Vistage or YPO. Tech in Canada, you know, membership organizations for business leaders, it doesn’t. You don’t necessarily have to be the owner, but a leader in a business. Those kinds of things are coaching as well. So you can join a membership organization, you can join a co working space where you have access to like minded people, maybe that’s one way. You know, there are lots of programs online. I’m actually going through an entrepreneurship course right now with Cornell and there’s a coaching piece to that. So I think there are different ways that you can look at it based on where you are in your agency’s growth. Do I want to be with 12 to 15 like minded leaders who don’t compete with me? Do I want to have one on one? Do I want to join an organization? Do I want to be in a group coaching where I have, I can network and work with other people? Do I want something like counselors Academy through prsa where I have actually Is to other PR firm owners like so you have to think about what your own goals our goals are, and then figure out which kind of model works for you at this time.

CHIP: Yeah, I think there are two different things there. One is, you know, what is your own learning style? What is your separate level, you know, if you’re someone who doesn’t really enjoy sharing a lot of the details about your own business, a group setting probably isn’t going to be as effective for you as one on one. Whereas if you if you tend to be that kind of person who is very open and likes talking through things with large groups, then you know, some sort of a group environment may be better for you. Some folks use both, and they use them for different purposes. So part of it is understanding yourself. But the other thing that I think that you want to think about is that you can get sort of generic business advice, you can get agency focused advice. You can be part of groups that are all of folks who are similarly situated or you can be with folks who are different. So some of these business Organizations that you mentioned, you’ll probably be sitting next to people who are not agency owners. I think that’s actually a good thing. And that’s that can be very helpful to have access to people who are in other spaces. I think one of the things that as we’ve all started consuming more digital media, and it allows us to be really focused in that the content that we’re consuming, we’ve had blinders on. And so we have less serendipity, we see less of what’s going on outside of our own worlds. And that’s not just from a business perspective, its overall. And I think that the more opportunity you have to get outside of that, the better so for example, I there’s a CPA website that I go to regularly, it’s designed to help. Yeah, well, and you sit there and say, Oh, my God, this is this is horrendous. Why would you ever want to do this? But I tell you, I get a lot of great ideas out of the advice that they’re giving to CPA firms. Because when you think about it, there are a lot of similarities, but 10, CPA, service business, a service business, and so you can learn a lot from that. Those things, there’s all sorts of groups of lawyers out there. And again, you know, lawyers guy, but, but again, you know, you’re in the professional services space. So if you start looking beyond that you can get ideas. But frankly, I’ve gotten good ideas talking to people who are in, you know, the car sales or absolutely, you know, in the restaurant industry, I have lots of friends and I pick up lots of good tidbits. And frankly, there are a lot of good TV shows about restaurant business that will still give you good ideas for your own agency. So you need to be willing to expand your horizons and and take lessons where they exist and not necessarily look just two people who are exactly like you.

GINI: Well, and I will say to that one of the biggest things that I learned I was a Vistage member for a long time. And one of the biggest things I learned was, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you operate, we all have the same problem as we’re all trying to figure out how to make profit. We’re all trying to figure out how to scale we’re all trying to figure out how to hire and retain the right people. We’re all trying to figure out how to put the right people in the right seats. The bus like we’re all we all have the same issues, we all have the same challenges. So you can learn from that too. And I will tell you one of the best experiences I had during that era was it was during I left right after the recession, but or during the recession. But right before the recession, I watched a fellow Vistage member go bankrupt. And before that happened, the idea of bankruptcy felt very, like it felt like a death sentence. To me, it was an IT, it was interesting, of course, I would never want to go bankrupt. I wouldn’t want to have to go through that. But the fact that he did and the things that he did and how he protected himself, and then he came out on the back end and created a different business was fascinating to watch. And you wouldn’t end I learned a ton from that that you wouldn’t necessarily get if you wouldn’t get if you were going it alone, for sure.

CHIP: Right. And I think that you know that shared experiences is useful as far as informing you, but it is also useful as you’ve just pointed out as far as helping you to understand that You know, the challenges that you’ve challenges that you face are not all that unique, you’re not, you know, when you’re having a bad day, it’s not it’s not that you suck and everybody else knows what they’re doing half the time the people that you look at and listen to you think they’re all put together, they’ve got no worries in the world. And if you actually sat down and talked with them in depth, you’d find that there are a lot of challenges there that aren’t that different from what you have. So yeah, so so coaching and either an individual or group setting can help expand your horizons in that way as well so that you see that you are not unique and that you know these struggles can be overcome.

GINI: And I think lots of creative ideas that you wouldn’t come up with on your own tues as you know, I have clients will say to me, gosh, this has been so cathartic because you can’t, you can’t talk to your employees. You can’t, in most cases, talk to your partner, your spouse, your your partner, because while you can, there’s just a different level of understanding and you know, under What you’re going through and so having somebody who has the same experience that you do not necessarily I mean, it can be an agency for sure. Or it can be another business. But you know, hiring and firing and clients and client retention and contracts, all this stuff, like having somebody that you can talk to, about that kind of thing helps immensely. And sometimes it does. I mean, we joke about being therapist, but sometimes it helps just to talk get it out of your head and talk about it.

CHIP: I that that’s a huge part of it is having that opportunity to talk things through. You know, one of the things that I often tell my clients is, is I’m not there to give you the answers, right, you’re right. If you’re, if you think that I’m there to tell you here, the 10 things you need to do tomorrow, you’re wrong. That’s I can’t do that. In whatever time I spend with you coaching I don’t have nearly the amount of information that you have, nor can I make your decisions for you because you need to weigh the pros and cons of each thing. But what I can do is sit there with you and talk through and you know, challenge some of your assumptions. ask you questions, let you explain it. And oftentimes, in the course of explaining a challenge to someone else, it starts to lend clarity in your own mind. So, yeah, I mean, frankly, these shows helped me, because I will sit here and talk through, you know, challenges that I may be advising folks on. And the mere fact that you and I are going back and forth and talking about it helps me gel my thoughts better than if I just sat there and kind of stared up at the ceiling and let my mind wander. So, you know, putting things into words can be a very helpful part of the process.

GINI: Humans a human can never be beats, as it turns out,

CHIP: that that is true. It is really, really helpful. I think the you know, the, the other thing that you get from coaching is a level of accountability. And yeah, for sure. And it’s not just the accountability that comes from you know, your coach saying to, you know, Hey, did you get this done, you need to get this done. Part of it just comes naturally. I mean, I remember we used to have Cleaning Service that would clean our house and the night before, we would always go around and clean the house. Because you don’t want the cleaners to know what slobs you are, right? So so we wouldn’t make our kids go around the house and we tidy everything up and you know, get rid of the, you know, the biggest accumulation of crumbs or whatever. So, you know, they were they were doing sort of more the deep cleaning as it turned out as opposed to the general cleaning. Right and that’s a form of accountability. Right? It so you know, you great example if you know everybody does, everybody Does everybody know nobody wants to be the one that the cleaning service people go into. Oh my god, can you believe what slobs these Griffins are? This is outrageous.

GINI: I’m sure they find other things to say that about.

CHIP: Yeah. Watching things. And then of course our kids became teenagers and we decided that they didn’t deserve a cleaning service and they needed to do the cleaning themselves. So now now the house is filthy, but Yeah, they’re learning a lesson in the process or something. Yeah, but but but it goes to the point, we are now less accountable, because unless we’re having company come over, we don’t go through that weekly cleaning exercise where we kind of make sure that everything’s tidy up. So right, certain portions of the house become more cluttered now than they used to solarians. So I think there is that, that element of the working with anybody and this this can be whether it’s a, you know, I have someone that I work with, informally, we both run service businesses in different spaces. And we talk every week or two, and have a regular schedule, so that, you know, we’re talking through the things that we’ve been working on, and it’s it’s not a formal coaching relationship, but there is that mutual accountability through that. And, you know, certainly there are the times where one or both of us will be on a call and say, you know, got to hang our heads this time, we, you know, we didn’t we didn’t accomplish what we said we were going to do over the last two weeks. So, you know, you get some real value out of that and certainly, if you’ve got a Paid engagement that goes even further brace, right? If I’m paying you, I, you know, I don’t want to pay you and be shamed by you simultaneously, right? nothing would ever say,

GINI: No, I would never shame you know, it’s not in my DNA at all.

CHIP: Yeah, okay.

GINI: Exactly.

CHIP: And I think that you know, a lot of this you know, that little joke goes to the point of you actually need to when you’re looking for a coach in a group setting or a one on one setting, you need to make sure that you are comfortable not just with their knowledge and experience and all that yes, but make sure your gel and so you know, if you’re going to be working with someone closely and you’re sharing the deepest, darkest secrets, your business and your in your dreams and ambitions and that sort of thing. You need to make sure that it is someone that you can relate to that that can relate to you that and that just personality wise that there’s a fit because you don’t want to be spending that time with someone that just doesn’t feel right. And so a lot of it, particularly one on one on one, but even in group settings, you know, you want to make sure that the dynamic within the group fits with you. So, you know, think about those things when you’re considering coaching.

GINI: Yeah, I mean, you definitely have to you, it’s, I think it’s the same thing with client relationships. You don’t want to dread getting on the phone or being in a meeting with your client. And the same thing with somebody that you’re working with. And it is the most intimate details of your business, right? I mean, I have clients say to me all the time, I’ve never shared financials with anybody. And this is really scary. It is really scary. It’s really scary. And so you want you you have to make sure that it’s somebody that you not only trust, but that you like,

CHIP: right, and you have to understand that before you go into a coaching arrangement, that it is going to be a lot of work on your part, you know, it is that you have to be committed to that you have to be committed to being open and sharing those financials and certainly, you know, there are there are clients I’ve worked with that I’ve had to sort of prod along on that. Because just like the client you were referencing, a lot of them haven’t shared that information ever with anybody, perhaps,

GINI: perhaps not even themselves? Well,

CHIP: yes, in some cases, they didn’t have the documents, I had to put them together for me. And so as, as you’re thinking about that, you have to have that willingness. Because if you can’t share all of that information openly with your coach or advisor, it’s not going to be successful because you as limited as the information set is that we have, because we’re only working with you know, maybe a few hours a month or depends on what the relationship is how much it is, it’s still a lot less than what you have. And so you got to share as much as you can in the time allotted, so that they have that background and can be useful to you.

GINI: Yeah, it’s that I would say that’s probably the most important part is the the chemistry and and the trust and then the rest of it. Welcome, but you’re right, you will work very hard.

CHIP: And very hard. And there are no shortcuts. You know, there are no, this is building a business is hard work. And it is work. And it takes time. And it doesn’t matter whether that’s an agency or a car dealership or a window cleaning business, or whatever it is, you have to be invested in it. And you have to understand that none of us have all of the answers for you. It’s going to be trial and error until you find the right path. And even once you find the right path, it’s going to be more trial and error. It just that that is that is how business works and how life works. And so, you know, if you are someone who thinks that you’re going to enter into a relationship with the consultant, Coach advisor, and it’s going to magically turn things around or magically accelerate growth, that that simply doesn’t happen. No. Right. And I do think, unfortunately, you know, there are a lot of folks out there. I’m not speaking necessarily in the agency space but generally in business coaching sake, my system will, you know, get you 25 new leads and a $7 million revenue stream within whatever, you know, I mean, right? It’s sort of like some of those weight loss commercials on TV. Yes. Right. You know, some, some people go on, you know, Nutrisystem or whatever and lose 50% of their, you know, body weight in six months, but most people don’t. And so you know, you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish, and set your sights on incremental improvements and not overnight change.

GINI: Well, it’s, you know, I mean, like, I Harken it back to our client relationships, you would never tell a client, right? You can have massive results and help them generate new revenue in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, even a year, you just wouldn’t do that. And it’s the same thing with this. Like you there is no such thing as overnight success. You have to have a plan that you have to have some accountability and you have to work that plan

CHIP: right? And part of what you’re doing when you’re working with a coaches is prioritizing what to work on, sir. And and so that’s again, you have to decide truly what to make your priority, but your coach can help you and say, Look, I think if you focus on these three things, this will make the biggest difference in the shortest period of time. And it’s the same thing that you would do with a client, right? If you’re, if you’re a PR agency, and you’re going in and sitting with a client, and and you know, they want to do 17 different things, you’ll help them by saying, look, you know, if you do these three things, it’s going to give you 80% of the benefits of start there. And you’re using your experience and hopefully, the coach or advisor you’re using is doing the same thing. So you know, it’s really just a question of being committed to it, finding a good fit, and being open to taking the advice because if you are I can make a very big difference in the success of your business.

GINI: And I think that’s a perfect thing to end on the open to taking the advice because if you’re coachable, you will have success.

CHIP: Indeed. So with that we are at the end of this episode of the agency leadership podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

GINI: And I’m Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and it depends

New Episodes by Email

Get the latest Agency Leadership Podcast episodes delivered straight to your inbox!

MORE OPTIONS:   Apple Podcasts    |    Google Podcasts    |    Stitcher    |    Spotify    |    RSS

Like this episode? Share it!

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.

Recent Episodes

Never miss an article, episode, or event

Subscribe to the weekly SAGA Newsletter

Subscription Form