The Chats with Chip Podcast https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/topics/chats-with-chip/ Chip Griffin hosts conversations to help PR and marketing agency owners build better businesses. Wed, 10 Aug 2022 14:51:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/saga-triangle-2021-12-150x150.png The Chats with Chip Podcast https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/topics/chats-with-chip/ 32 32 Chip Griffin hosts conversations with experts to help PR and marketing agency owners build better businesses. Chip Griffin clean episodic Chip Griffin chipgriffin@me.com chipgriffin@me.com (Chip Griffin) Copyright 2019 Griffin Strategy Group LLC Helping PR & Marketing Agencies Grow and Thrive The Chats with Chip Podcast https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/alp-cover-art-1.png https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/chats-with-chip/ Weekly Going from agency coach to agency leader (Part 2 of 2) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/going-from-agency-coach-to-agency-leader-part-2-of-2/ Tue, 02 Aug 2022 12:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=22996 In this second part of a two-part series, Zach Hyder explains what it has been like to transition from agency coach to president of the agency founded by Ward Hubbell.]]>

In this second part of a two-part series, Zach Hyder explains what it has been like to transition from agency coach to president of the agency founded by Ward Hubbell.

Zach and Ward explain how they transitioned from an advisory relationship to one in which Zach joined the firm to help lead the day-to-day operations and give Ward a chance to begin to phase out.

There are also some interesting insights into what it was like to make the transition just as the world was shutting down in 2020 — and what the future looks like for Zach, Ward, and Hubbell Communications.

Key takeaways

  • Zach Hyder: “I saw enormous potential. I equate it to flipping a house. I saw a house that was in a great neighborhood. It had great bones. It had enormous potential. Ward just didn’t really want to stick around to do the fix up and turn his little investment into a bigger investment. And I love doing that.”
  • Ward Hubbell: “Zach is really working on the agency. He’s working on our putting out interesting content, our doing things that have us in the middle of important conversations. His focus is promoting Hubbell Communications. Whereas mine was really relying on the connections I had to personally grow the business. His is a much more sustainable approach.”
  • Zach Hyder: “Ward and I are two of the most dissimilar similar people. We think a lot alike. Our general views are kind of the same, but the way we approach a problem or the way we operate stylistically can be very different. He is a firefighter. He is brilliant at it. He is one of the best I know in a crisis, whereas I am more like a fire prevention specialist. How do we make sure the building doesn’t catch fire?”

Resources

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 am delighted to have back with me for part two of a two part series. And if you haven’t listened to part one, go back, listen to the last episode, Ward Hubbell of the CEO and founder of Hubbell and Zach Hyder, the president, CMO, janitor, chief bottle washer and everything else also at Hubbell. So, we had a great conversation in the last episode, talking with you Ward about the, the transition that you made and thinking about succession planning and the decisions that you made and how you basically beat Zach up over the head.

And he finally agreed to go from being your coaching advisor to coming in house full time. And so that’s where we’re gonna pick up the conversation today. And, so Zach, why did you give in?

Zach Hyder: Ward is, Ward is very persuasive and as evidenced by the last, you know, 19 years of his success, very charming in getting what he wants. So, no, it, I mentioned this in the last episode, Chip. I mean, it just… so, you know, I’ve worked with, you know, 25, 30 ish agencies in the time that I was consulting in different sizes, some big ad firms, some national, some local, some, you know, firms were more like a Hubbell, kind of a, you know, 15 ish person, you know, small PR firm.

Ward is the… and I had many clients who I really loved and still, you know, talk with regularly. In fact, I just talked with one this last weekend, who’s kind of become my coach, but Ward was the only one that I, I looked at him and thought it’s really not so much… it was, he was the only one who I thought I could see myself working with.

I think I’m at the point in my life where I don’t really wanna work for anybody. That’s one of the things that Ward and I have in common was, you know, we’re very independent people. I think we, we do our best and, and work our best outside of, you know, really rigid corporate environments. But no, I just, you, like you said, you know, he shared in the last episode, you know, I’m kind of the yin to his yang and it, and it worked. It just felt, it just felt right.

And, as he said, I mean, I saw enormous potential. I always, you know, sometimes equate it to like flipping a house. I saw a house that was in a great neighborhood. It had great bones. It had enormous potential. You know, he just didn’t really want to kind of stick around to do the fix up and, you know, make it, you know, turn his little investment into a bigger investment.

And I love doing that. That’s, that is where, you know, he gets excited about starting things and I get excited about taking something like diamonds in the rough and, you know, polishing them off for the world to see.

Chip Griffin: Mm-hmm so. You you’ve agreed to join. You’ve gone through the process that we talked about in the last episode about, you know, you know, putting together a contract and all that.

So you it’s now your, your first day on the job. What’s that like?

Zach Hyder: Well, Chip, my first day on the job was like the day the world ended two years ago. So Ward and I, you know, we’re so we’re busy. This is, you know, early, this is like January of 2020. We’re busy doing our thing over here. And, you know, there’s this virus that everyone’s kind of talking about in the news, but, you know, blah, blah, blah, right.

You know, it’s, it wasn’t really affecting us. So we were kind of head down making decisions about how this was gonna work and the timing and what were my needs, what were his needs? And I mean, we signed the contract two days before, like the universe shut down and even still, I think we were kind of like, really? Is that, is that happening?

So my, my initial, in fact, all of my time, up until just the last few months we have been, restructuring, transitioning, rebranding an agency in the middle of a global pandemic virtually. And I will, I will tell you if I had known that, you know, maybe would have hesitated just a little bit, but you know, you just keep going.

You know, from the first day that we started, you know, doing this, I, I will say this. I don’t know that I could have made it through that whole process without Ward. And I’m willing to bet he’d say the same about me. You just kind of look at each other and you go, okay, I guess this is what we’re gonna deal with.

And, you know, we were very cautious. At the same time that I think we were, we moved quickly and did things we needed to do to kind of get the company where it needed to be to… it’s hard to think back Chip to those early days when, I mean, a lot of bad things happened in a very short period of time and businesses had to make very quick decisions.

I was very grateful and very lucky to have someone with Ward’s experience and his fortitude. You know, with me to kind of, you know, give me good advice and, and help us kind of work through things. And you know from there, I think a great partnership was born. You’re just forced together in a crisis.

And you, you it’s either like this is gonna bring us closer together, or this is gonna push us apart really fast and very, very grateful that it, it pushed us closer together.

Chip Griffin: And I mean, the timing of it, obviously there are a lot of bad parts of the timing, of you taking over some of the day to day, but was it, were there benefits to it as well?

In other words, did, did sort of were you able to take advantage of the crisis with, you know, not, not in a bad way, but to, you know, maybe break things, move faster than you might have otherwise been able to?

Zach Hyder: Yeah. I mean, you know, Ward and I hatched this, you know, transition plan, you know, before COVID was even on the, the map. I mean, no one had when no one was even talking about it, when he and I were kind of finalizing this plan. so, yeah, and I think I would say Chip even up until the day, I, you know, they announced I was taking the job and then ultimately my first day, you know, we were all were saying like, oh, this, oh, they might close schools for a couple days.

Can you believe that? So, one, I will say it was not easy taking over a company, in terms of the day to day operations and doing it during a pandemic. You know, as the world was shutting down, it was not easy to do virtually. I’d never managed anything virtually much less been announced as a new manager to a team that I was now going to have to manage virtually.

But I will say, you know, the pandemic, the, you know, remote work, all the things, it, what it kind of allowed us to do Chip is, you know, anytime you’re going through a transition, it’s very disruptive. And I wanted obviously to have some disruption in terms of changes that we, I knew we were gonna need to make, but they were gonna have to happen in due course.

So the fact that everyone’s working remotely, people were kind of, they were paying attention to their issues and their struggles. And we kind of got to fly, I would say a little bit under the radar in terms of, you know, people not necessarily knowing the things we had to do and the changes we had to make.

But it wasn’t easy. I mean, I will say, you know, Ward always calls it. You know, we kind of had a year to sharpen our saws while nobody else was really, you know, paying much attention. And you know, I think it brought the team that’s here that we kind of restructured, I think is probably stronger for having been through, you know, those dark years, those dark days of when is this all gonna go back to normal?

Chip Griffin: And, Ward, let me bring you in here because I, I’d like to hear sort of your take on what the, the dynamic is between the two of you on a day to day basis. You know, it is, you know, when you’re talking about…

Zach Hyder: You’re gonna ask him that question, Chip?!

Chip Griffin: Yeah. Well, as, as we’re talking about succession planning and, you know, you’ve…you’re succession planning, but you’re still right down the hall and so there is this working together and, and anytime you’ve got a new business partnership, whether it’s for purposes of succession planning or just because you’re running a partnership, you have to work out that dynamic between the partners and who has responsibility for what, how you handle disagreements.

So I’m, I’m curious for, you know, your take on, on how you both approach that, going forward.

Ward Hubbell: I think first off and most important, our relationship, we, we laugh a lot. We really do laugh a lot. I mean, that’s, that’s kinda, if I had to think of one thing we do more often than anything else, it’s probably laugh.

That’s a pretty good, that’s a pretty good sign. You know what I had to do with Zach and, and, and let me just preface that by saying that, you know, this was made all the, all the easier by just the enormous respect I have for Zach and his abilities. You know, I always say, you know, I’m the, I’m the best boss in the world and I give you as much leash as possible if I trust you.

And if, and if I don’t, I’m in your knickers. I mean, it’s just this just the only two choices, you know? And so, you know, I have got, I’ve just got the, just enormous amount of respect for, for Zach and his abilities. And so, mainly what I had to do and have to do is just to understand that he’s gonna run this business differently.

He is going to, you know, where, where I, most of the business we’ve had in the 19 years we’ve been in business has been connected to me personally somehow. Because it’s just, you know, I’m out there, you know, I’m out there, you know, making things happen. Zach is, is really working on the agency.

He’s working on our putting out interesting content, our doing things that have us in the middle of important conversations. His focus is really promoting Hubbell Communications. Whereas mine was really kind of relying on the connections I had to, you know, personally grow the business.

His is a much more sustainable approach, right. Because, because, you know, the sky’s the limit. So, so if I’ve had to, if I’ve had to kind of bite my tongue a little bit and, and Zach knows, I mean, we’ve, he’s, he’s seen, he’s seen me kind of squirm….

Zach Hyder: He has a very specific look on his face, Chip and I’m like, yeah, I know.

Ward Hubbell: Yeah. But, but that’s, that’s why, because, because I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, this is a better way to do it. It is very unfamiliar to me, and sometimes uncomfortable to me, but I know, I know intellectually that it, it is, you know, the, the right, the right way to go.

Chip Griffin: So Zach, I, you know, now your perspective on, on how the two of you work together, because I’m, I’m determined to ruin the relationship between the two of you on this episode. I mean, it’s really my goal.

Zach Hyder: I got bad news for you Chip it’s, I think the world, the universe has tried, and I just don’t think it’s possible to fracture our, our relationship. You know, Ward and I are… you know, we’ve had some moments where I’ve said, look, the most important thing to me, no matter what happens, you know, if business gets so bad because you know, the world starts closing down and we just, you know, the most important thing to me at the end of the day is the friendship that he and I have.

And we’ve had many conversations about, you know, we’ll never let the business get in the way of our friendship. But you know, we have Ward and I are, and he’ll, I think he’ll agree with this. Ward and I are two of the most dissimilar similar people. We, we think a lot alike. I think we, we sort of see the world very similarly.

Our, our general sort of views are kind of the same, but the way we approach a problem or the way we operate stylistically can be very differently. He is a firefighter. He is brilliant at it. He is one of the best I know in a crisis, whereas I am more like a fire prevention specialist. You know, how do we make sure the building doesn’t catch fire?

What are all the things we’re gonna plan and prepare for to ensure that doesn’t happen? And sometimes it works really well for the two of us to complement each other like that. But what we have to do a lot of times is sometimes, you know, acknowledge to each other. Hey, okay, who’s leading here? And there’s moments where I’m like, Hey, I’m, I’m gonna lead this, but I need your support.

And there’s other moments where I’m like, you need to lead this, because you’re better at that than I am. But I think at the end of the day, we, we try to, you know, Ward always says, you know, I’m gonna try to stay outta your way. And I always worry sometimes that I’m like, don’t, don’t wander off just yet. But we’re still going through a transition and I think he feels an enormous obligation to me, which I am very grateful for, to help me and the, and the agency succeed, without necessarily getting in there and telling, telling us, you know, how to do things and, and how he prefers things.

And, you know, I’ll give, I’m gonna say something.

I’m gonna tell, I’m gonna tell a little story about that.

I think was an example of how our, our friendship and our business partnership, you know, really works is… you know, there’s obviously there’s a lot of things I want to do. I always say that Ward is Warren Buffett and I’m Jeff Bezos, right? Warren Buffett is about maximizing profits. He’s brilliant at it.

So is Ward. Jeff Bezos is about investing every ounce of profit back into the business to grow and scale. So we kind of naturally have this conflict of interest. But I’ve had to go to him over the last two years and say, look, I need, we need to invest in this. We need to do this differently. I know this is gonna cost more money.

And sometimes I’m so busy asking him for things that I think we need to grow, that I need sometimes for him to push back and he’s got an incredible business acumen and he said something to me once, you know, he’s like, you’re always so worried I’m gonna say no, but he’s like, think back over the last two years, Zach, when have I ever told you no? And I’m like, you know what, that’s absolutely right. But we have a lot of very good conversations about how to take whatever idea I bring him and make it really smart, make it really cost efficient. And that’s, to me that moment that comment that he made to me was such a great example of like at the end of the day, he and I are on the same page.

And that’s kind of amazing to have, I think, in any business partnership.

Chip Griffin: And how will that change when he is retired?

Zach Hyder: Well, I always joke that Ward will never allow me to use the retirement word. And he’s gonna get really mad if I ever throw a retirement party or invite people to celebrate his retirement.

I actually don’t really think Ward’s ever gonna retire because he’s, he’s got his hands in so many different things, you know, he’s, he’s got a lot of different business interests that he’s, you know, he’s continuing to manage. But I think, I think for me, as far as, you know, what I hope for him, and I hope for us at Hubbell.

Ward’s just one of those people who I hope I’m still going down to Oxford, Mississippi, and you know, sitting on his front porch and you know, having a sweet tea and, you know, getting his advice, you know, 10, 20 years from now. That’s one of the things he’s great at. What’s really interesting, about Ward and I, Chip, and I’m not sure if I said this earlier, in our conversation, but you know, I started as Ward’s business coach. That was how our relationship began. And what’s really interesting is that now Ward is kind of my business coach, right? Because he has many more trips around the sun than I do. You know, he’s done this for 20 years.

He built this thing from scratch. And so the fact that we can kind of coach one another is pretty, is pretty great.

Chip Griffin: And so you you’ll be going down there and sitting on his front porch, whether he likes it or not, huh?

Zach Hyder: Oh yeah, I’m already. So I’m going down for the Alabama Mississippi game in October and I am pretty, I’m very, that’s gonna be like this religious experience, because I’ve never been. But, yeah, he may have a room with my name on it, whether he likes it or not.

Ward Hubbell: That’s ok. No, you’re, you’re more than welcome.

Chip Griffin: So, so as, as we, as we start to, to wrap up our time together here, Zach, I think, you know, one of the other things that I just, like to get your perspective on is as someone who spent a number of years, advising agencies, looking inside them and, and understanding them, you know, what has that overall helped you in what you’re doing now, has it been a hindrance because you’ve seen, I mean, you know, one of the things we often say about young entrepreneurs is, you know, they, they don’t know what’s not supposed to work, so, you know, they’re willing to take more risks and try things and, and get things done.

You’ve obviously, having been inside a lot of agencies seen a lot of what doesn’t work. Do you feel like it’s overall an advantage or disadvantage, the experience that you had, as an agency coach and advisor?

Zach Hyder: Yeah. I mean, I, I always think having, you know, different experiences within this business is gonna be, is gonna be an advantage. I mean, I will say to all of my, my fellow agency coaches out there, including you Chip and, you know, my very good friend, Jody Sutter and others is remember on this side of the fence, it is really flipping hard.

Right. It sometimes can be very easy to see issues, problems. Oh, you need to do this. You need to do this. But mobilizing and managing and, you know, making, dealing with the realities of, you know, people in a business, different personalities, different motivations, different skill sets, getting everybody to do what you want ’em to do is hard.

And this is a very competitive business, you know, a lot, our, our VP here, Gina Maffei, who’s amazing. You know, she often says, you know, at the core, every agency’s the same, it’s what you choose to do with that, that matters. And I think that, you know, we talk a lot in the kind of coaching world about the importance of positioning, you know, really figuring out who you are and what you stand for.

And I think that element of it has been a strategic advantage as being able to come in and say, this is really critical to our growth. This is really critical to how we’re gonna define ourselves as we go through this pivot and transition. But I don’t think being a coach prepares you for, you know, the financial headaches that you’re dealing with sometimes, or the administrative burden of just running a business, and dealing with filing taxes and, you know, having to talk to your insurance agent, because rates are going up. I mean, I don’t think anything about coaching ever really prepares you for just the, the grind of it. And I’m very blessed to have a very experienced, you know, business person like, like Ward who I think kind of, I think he kind of likes that stuff.

He might tell you he doesn’t, but I think he does. And yeah, I will, but, and, Chip here’s one thing I will say. Having done this again. I mean, this, this is my last rodeo, no question. I tried to retire from this business and just do the coaching thing and it it’s like the Godfather line just when you’re out, they pull you back in.

This will make me one day, this will make me a better coach for sure. Having, having taken over this, this company and hopefully grown it will make me a better coach in the future.

Chip Griffin: Well, great. This has been a really, I think, enlightening discussion over the last couple of episodes.

I want to thank you both for opening up, a lot about your relationship and, and the, the thought process that you both went through to get where you are today. I wish you both, obviously the, the best of luck as you continue forward with this process. And Ward, if someone is, is interested in, in learning more about you guys, talking to you about the experience or learning more about Hubbell, where should they go?

Ward Hubbell: Thinkhubbell.com. Think like with your brain, hubbell.com,

Chip Griffin: I encourage you all to check it out again. This has been a, a very enlightening conversation. I appreciate the time that you’ve taken, and what you’ve shared.

Ward Hubbell: Thank you.

Chip Griffin: Thank you everybody for listening. And I look forward to seeing you all back on another episode very soon.

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In this second part of a two-part series, Zach Hyder explains what it has been like to transition from agency coach to president of the agency founded by Ward Hubbell. In this second part of a two-part series, Zach Hyder explains what it has been like to transition from agency coach to president of the agency founded by Ward Hubbell.



Zach and Ward explain how they transitioned from an advisory relationship to one in which Zach joined the firm to help lead the day-to-day operations and give Ward a chance to begin to phase out.



There are also some interesting insights into what it was like to make the transition just as the world was shutting down in 2020 — and what the future looks like for Zach, Ward, and Hubbell Communications.



Key takeaways



* Zach Hyder: “I saw enormous potential. I equate it to flipping a house. I saw a house that was in a great neighborhood. It had great bones. It had enormous potential. Ward just didn’t really want to stick around to do the fix up and turn his little investment into a bigger investment. And I love doing that.”* Ward Hubbell: “Zach is really working on the agency. He’s working on our putting out interesting content, our doing things that have us in the middle of important conversations. His focus is promoting Hubbell Communications. Whereas mine was really relying on the connections I had to personally grow the business. His is a much more sustainable approach.”* Zach Hyder: “Ward and I are two of the most dissimilar similar people. We think a lot alike. Our general views are kind of the same, but the way we approach a problem or the way we operate stylistically can be very different. He is a firefighter. He is brilliant at it. He is one of the best I know in a crisis, whereas I am more like a fire prevention specialist. How do we make sure the building doesn’t catch fire?”



Resources



* Hubbell website* Connect with Ward Hubbell on LinkedIn* Connect with Zach Hyder on LinkedIn




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am delighted to have back with me for part two of a two part series. And if you haven’t listened to part one, go back, listen to the last episode, Ward Hubbell of the CEO and founder of Hubbell and Zach Hyder, the president, CMO, janitor, chief bottle washer and everything else also at Hubbell. So, we had a great conversation in the last episode, talking with you Ward about the, the transition that you made and thinking about succession planning and the decisions that you made and how you basically beat Zach up over the head.



And he finally agreed to go from being your coaching advisor to coming in house full time. And so that’s where we’re gonna pick up the conversation today. And, so Zach, why did you give in?



Zach Hyder: Ward is, Ward is very persuasive and as evidenced by the last, you know, 19 years of his success, very charming in getting what he wants. So, no, it, I mentioned this in the last episode, Chip. I mean, it just… so, you know, I’ve worked with, you know, 25, 30 ish agencies in the time that I was consulting in different sizes, some big ad firms, some national, some local, some, you know, firms were more like a Hubbell, kind of a, you know, 15 ish person, you know, small PR firm.



Ward is the… and I had many clients who I really loved and still, you know, talk with regularly. In fact,]]>
Chip Griffin 22:26
Transitioning your agency to new leadership (Part 1 of 2) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/transitioning-your-agency-to-new-leadership-part-1-of-2/ Tue, 26 Jul 2022 12:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=22604 In this episode, Hubbell Communications founder Ward Hubbell talks about the agency he founded, and how he decided to approach the transition when he no longer wanted to manage the business day-to-day.]]>

In this episode, Hubbell Communications founder Ward Hubbell talks about the agency he founded, and how he decided to approach the transition when he no longer wanted to manage the business day-to-day.

Ward talks about how he was working with Zach Hyder as his agency business coach when it struck him that Zach would be the right fit to take over Hubbell.

In this first episode of a two-part series, Ward introduces us to Zach and explains the journey he has gone through to make the transition as smooth as possible.

In part two, we will hear more from Zach about why he decided to leave the ranks of agency coaching to re-enter the agency world directly — along with what lessons he learned from being an advisor.

Key takeaways

  • Ward Hubbell: “Start early and start slowly. You know, get to know the person, work with the person, make sure that you’re not trying to find an exact replica of yourself. You’re trying to find someone who can build on what you’ve built.”
  • Chip Griffin: “I think that slow build, that getting to know each other thing is very important because a lot of agency owners, when they start thinking about succession planning, they waited too long. And so then they kind of rush into it and that’s sort of like going to the bar and proposing on the first night. That’s probably not the best approach.
  • Ward Hubbell: “I’m a starter, but I’m not a builder. Zach’s a builder. And I started seeing that he had processes, he had plans. He was a planner and a person who has a game plan and who can take a company and scale it. To scale a company, you’ve gotta have processes and procedures and you’ve gotta have a very deliberate growth plan.”

Resources

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 am delighted to have with me today, two guests, both from Hubbell. Ward Hubbell, the CEO and founder of Hubbell and Zach Hyder, who is the president, CMO, janitor, chief bottle washer, and pretty much everything else of Hubbell. So welcome to the show guys.

Zach Hyder: Thank you. That all fits on the business card, Chip.

Chip Griffin: I hope it’s all printed right there. If not, you should get new ones printed up that match up what I just said, so that we’re consistent, but yeah. We’re gonna have an interesting conversation over the next two episodes here, because we’re gonna be talking about some of the transitions that have gone on at Hubbell over the last couple of years.

Ward, obviously you’re the founder. We’ll talk about the founding story in episode one and your decision to bring in Zach to be that president, CMO, chief bottle washer and everything else. And how you came to that decision, how you decided to settle on Zach. And then in episode two of this two part series, we’ll talk with Zach about some of the lessons he’s learned, because he’s got an interesting background having been in the agency space himself, both within an agency, but also as an advisor to many agencies, so lots to dig into.

And so with that, I’m gonna shut up and Ward, I’m gonna let you start by introducing yourself. And then in episode two, Zach, we’ll let you give your introduction in that one.

Ward Hubbell: Okay. I’m Ward, Hubbell, founder and CEO of Hubbell Communications. We’re a public affairs and public relations firm headquartered here in Portland with an office in Seattle.

I started the business 19 years ago after a corporate career. And, you know, I’m in the process now of, of working with Zach to make sure this company lives on beyond me.

Chip Griffin: So let’s start with that founding story. Cause I always find that interesting. Why did you decide to start an agency?

Ward Hubbell: Well, a couple of reasons. I had been in the corporate world for 10 years, and I just knew that I was gonna thrive and function better if I were not relying on someone else for a job and identity, I’m just that way. You know, you just kind of know if you’re the kind of person who’s gonna do better on his own than working for somebody. So that was number one. Number two was we had moved out – I was 37 years old and we had moved out to Portland to, for me to take a pretty big corporate job at the time. And, we’d gotten dug in and started having babies and didn’t wanna leave. And I knew that that if I were to continue in the corporate world, that probably meant I was gonna, I was gonna have to move somewhere else and we just didn’t want to.

So I just decided I was gonna be successful or I was gonna starve to death. And that was the only two choices. And when that’s the only two choices you have it’s pretty easy. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Well, it’s good that you chose not to starve to death because…

Ward Hubbell: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Because I mean, this would be a really weird episode in that case.

So you know, did you originally set out to, to build what I call a proper agency? Or did you start just sort of freelancing and it mushroomed from there?

Ward Hubbell: Okay, Zach’s gonna smile here when I start talking.

Zach Hyder: I have nothing other than to do but smile as I listen to you, hear you tell your story, my friend.

Ward Hubbell: So, I’m not a real, I’m not a big planner and I’m not a, you know, kind of process person do it by the book and had some big strategic plan. I’m kind of a, kind of a bust on up in there and make it work kind of guy. And so, I didn’t have a plan other than I just wanted to make a living doing, doing PR and, I just took opportunities when I saw them, and created them when I didn’t see them.

And, got to a place, you know, pretty good place, where we’re, you know, one of the major firms in the region. And, but it didn’t come from a lot of planning and, and that’s probably what we’re gonna start talking about here in a minute when we start talking about Zach. But, but yeah, that’s, that was, I just wanted to, I just wanted to have my own business. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Well, I think your experience isn’t, isn’t that different from a lot of the agency owners that I, that I talk with, in that they didn’t have a concrete plan of, of how they were gonna develop the business. But I guess my question to you would be, how did you, how did the business grow and evolve?

Was it, did you have sort of sudden overnight success and you just kept adding headcount? Was that, was there some inflection point along the way? Talk to me a little bit about how you’ve gotten from here to there or there to here, I guess, over the last 19 years.

Ward Hubbell: So I would say – that’s a good question.

I would say that if, if I’m good at anything, it’s I’m a connector. I try – I’m kinda like water, you know, I seep into every crack I can find. And, most of the – and I’ve always done that and not, not because I’m trying to be, you know, opportunistic or anything like that. It’s just, that’s just my nature.

And so I know a lot of people and I make it my business to know a lot of people. And what I did was just start with the people I knew. And, you know, I always tell people when they’re, they’re thinking about doing this, I say, you know, go get the easy stuff first. You know, find the, you know, work that inner circle and build out from there.

So, the way this business got to where it is today pre-Zach is, just my persistence and my ability to get out there and really connect with people and find opportunities and, you know, bring ’em in. That’s kind of how it worked.

Chip Griffin: And, and obviously at some point along the way, you said, you know, I need to bring in someone like Zach to, to help me out and, and continue to, to pull this ball forward.

And so what, talk to me about the thought process that you went through. Was there, was there an aha moment where you said, this is what I need to do, or is it just sort of, you know, you’ve progressed along and you wanna move to the next stage, you know, where did that come from?

Ward Hubbell: Well, I said I wasn’t a planner, but this is one thing that I planned on.

And pretty much from the day one, from the day I started, I, I started thinking about succession. I started thinking about how do I, how will I monetize this? How will I get out of it? You know, how will I hand it over or whatever. And so I – it was a priority. It’s been a priority for, you know, the whole time we’ve been in business.

I didn’t know what I was looking for. And I learned more about what I was looking for by finding what I didn’t, what wasn’t gonna work, you know. I’ve, I went through several cycles of people and possibilities. And, I learned a lot about what I didn’t need and want. And, you know it wasn’t…

and so by the time I met Zach as my business coach, you know, I don’t know Zach, what, four or five years ago, whatever that was? Long time.

Zach Hyder: Yeah.

Ward Hubbell: I started thinking, wait a minute, this guy is, this guy’s a builder, right? So I’m a starter, but I’m not, I’m not a builder. Zach’s a builder. And I started seeing that, that, okay.

He had processes, he had plans. He, he was a planner and a person who, who has a, you know, I keep using the word plan, but, a person who’s got a game plan and, and who can take a company and scale it. To scale a company, you’ve gotta have processes and procedures and you’ve gotta have a very deliberate growth plan.

And that’s just not me. I’m a starter. And so I can get it going and I can get it to a certain level. But, having Zach as my coach helped me to appreciate the skills necessary to move beyond that level. And, you know, through a course of, you know, getting to know each other and becoming, you know, friends and everything, it, I guess became apparent to both of us that this would be a, you know, a good thing to do. So yeah.

Chip Griffin: So that’s a good opportunity, Zach, for you to explain a little bit about, you know, your most immediate past life, and how you came to work with Ward.

Zach Hyder: Well, the story of Ward and I meeting, Chip, is actually kind of an interesting one. And I’m gonna tell you the personal professional story, and then we’ll talk about the, the professional part of that question.

So Ward and I were supposed to actually meet 15 years ago. When I left, like him not long before me, left DC, moved back – so I’m from Portland. This is my hometown. You can’t tell from his accent, Ward’s not actually from Portland, he adopted it as his home. But my agency in DC, said, Hey, you know, don’t leave us, stay with us.

Well, we know this guy in Portland and you can go office with him and kind of be part of, you know, our team and maybe his team. And, and I was, you know, well, who is this guy? Well, he’s not from Portland. He’s from Mississippi. And I was like, that sounds like not very promising and never followed through on it.

Ended up taking – just like Ward – took a corporate job here in Portland. And then years later, when I went out to, you know, start my own consulting business, working with agencies, Ward and I got in touch. I can’t even remember how we got in touch, but we got connected. He said, Hey, I wanna meet you.

I said, Hey, I wanna meet you. And we went and, you know, had a bottle of wine and caught up on all kinds of things. And in the course of that realized, I was like, wait a minute. You’re the guy I was supposed to meet 15 years ago when I came out here from DC. They were good friends of his and it’s amazing to think that all these years later that now Ward’s a good friend of mine.

So that’s actually the story of how we met. And then the story of how this partnership happened, really sort of began from there. Ward was just someone who, again, in that first meeting, we, we just had an instant chemistry and connection. Ward always tells me. And, and I often don’t tell him back that I just kind of liked how his mind worked.

I liked his style. You know, he and I are not stuffy suit types. We just aren’t. We are just a little bit more relaxed and a little bit more casual. And, you know, I, I had been through just like he was saying, I had been through some attempts at partnership before that just didn’t really feel right.

They just didn’t feel good. And he was someone who I enjoyed talking to and it sort of started slow. I think, Ward correct me if I’m wrong. The first thing was like, y’all had a presentation and I think I came in to like help you guys get ready for the presentation. I think he was trying to make sure that I was actually good at what he thought I was good at.

So it started slow and, you know, won a piece of business and then he had me do some other stuff. And then before I knew it, it was really kind of helping him figure out his succession plan more than anything else. Like what am I gonna do with the agency? And we started mapping out a lot of options. It was funny, I’m sort of like – Chip, I’m sort of like Dick Cheney, cuz people don’t know Dick Cheney wasn’t supposed to be vice president. He was supposed to help find the vice president and ended up being, so that, that’s kind of what happened to me. I started helping Ward, you know, we mapped out on the whiteboard.

Here’s like five options for what you could do with the business. And he came to me, and said, you know, who should run this business is you. And I said, but I already have a job. So I’m, I’m gonna say no. And then he did it again, maybe a third time. And we, it, honestly, it just was one of those things that the more I thought about it and the more I looked at, what I thought he and I had as far as a good, you know, connection, I realized the thing that I was avoiding was all those kind of not great partnerships I’d had before. And what I really wanted was to do it with Ward. And that’s how this happened.

Chip Griffin: So Ward, I mean, obviously you had a chance to, to get to know Zach through the coaching relationship.

And, as Zach has described, you went through the options for succession planning, but it’s, it’s a difficult decision as an owner to bring someone in to your own baby. I mean, you literally have your name on the door. And so, you know, talk us through a little bit of your thought process and you know, what you, you know what, whether that was easy or difficult and sort of what the calculation was.

Ward Hubbell: So, I had the advantage of, of having Zach as a coach and a mentor for I don’t know, gosh, what, two, three years. And so I knew, I knew his mind very well. I knew I liked the way his mind works. And, so the trust was built in. When we had that conversation, I, you know, he was helping me understand that I, I did not have a good succession plan in place.

And, I knew it. I knew it deep down, but I’m just, I just didn’t wanna admit it to myself. And, and I didn’t wanna, you know, I didn’t want to rock the boat, honestly. So I just kept ignoring it and kept ignoring it and kept ignoring it. And finally he, and he kept telling me, he kept telling me. And finally, just kind of half as a joke, I said, well, why don’t you do it then, if you’re so damn smart, you know?

And, um, but you know, and then, and then…

Zach Hyder: Exactly how he said it, Chip.

Ward Hubbell: Yeah. Yeah. And then, and then I started thinking, okay, this really, you know, it’s not like I just drove this car around the block. I mean, I’ve been driving it for three years. I know exactly what kind of person this guy is. And I know I know what he can do, and I know how his skillset complements mine.

We could go into that, but we really do complement each other. And, I think it makes us, you know, better together. But, but yeah, it was, it was slow, but, once the day I made the decision, it was like a no brainer. It was like, wow. Okay, good.

Chip Griffin: Mm-hmm. Well, and I, I think that, that slow build that, getting to know each other thing is, is very important because a lot of agency owners, when they start thinking about succession planning, they waited too long.

And so then they kind of rush into it and it’s, you know, that’s sort of like, you know, going to the bar and proposing on the first night. Right. You know, that’s, that’s probably not the, the best approach. And so the, the more you get to know somebody, the, the better the fit can be. And, and so I imagine that, that you really wanted to make sure there was a good fit, both because it’s important I’m sure, for you and, and for your livelihood. But also because it’s, you know, part of your legacy.

Ward Hubbell: Yeah, so, so, you know, knowing that, that this was gonna work for me and knowing that Zach was, had the skills and the, and everything he needed to succeed made it, you know, that kind of completed the decision.

Chip Griffin: Mm. And so, you know, when, when you made the decision that, that you’re gonna do it, I mean, what kind of, what kind of transition process did you envision? Was this, I mean, obviously you’d gotten to know Zach for, for quite a while before you made the decision.

But once you finally wore Zack down and he said, fine, I’ll, I’ll give up consulting and, and come in house, how did that process go? Was there, was there a long lead time? And, and I know from, from my previous conversations with Zach, that the timing of this ended up being just a wee bit interesting.

Ward Hubbell: Yes. So, we sat down actually and, agreed. We had a contract pulled together and it, we agreed to a three month period. I mean, excuse me, a three year period of time where, he was gonna come in and I was gonna start pulling back. And, we would, you know, if all things went the way that we both wanted them to go then we would move to a transaction. So we’re actually two years into that three year process. And we’re, we’re working on the framework of that, of that transaction as we speak.

Chip Griffin: Mm-hmm . And so, so that becomes an opportunity for you to, to really get to know each other on a much more intimate basis then, because you know, we all know that as coaches and consultants, you can only get so close to your clients. You think, you know them probably better than you do, but once you start working side by side, full time, that changes. And, and that’s something that we’ll explore in part two of this two part episode. But before we wind down episode one here, you know, Ward, you know, what advice would you give to agency owners as they’re thinking about making this transition themselves?

They’re saying, okay. It’s time for me to get out of running the day to day, either because I want to go off and do something else, or I’m looking ahead to retirement or, you know, how should they be thinking about succession? What lessons would you share from your own experience?

Ward Hubbell: Well, I would, I would say regardless of, of where you are in your career, start now. Start now, because it, you know, it takes, it takes a while and, you know, I wonder sometimes was I, was I lucky or was I, was I just persistent? And I think, I think it was more the latter than the former. I really don’t believe in the former too much, but, you have to be committed. And you don’t wanna, you know, you don’t wanna run your business with that as the sole objective, you know, you gotta, you gotta focus on other things. But you have to be thinking about, about how this thing is, is gonna, is gonna outlive you.

And, so I’d say start, start early. And I would also say start slowly. You know, get to know the person, work with the person, make sure that, you know, you’re not trying to find a exact replica of yourself. You’re trying to find someone who can build on what you’ve built. And usually that means you gotta, you gotta a person who’s a little, whose skillset’s different from yours that you’re looking for.

So that’s, that’s an important thing to do, you know, and if I, if I had, for example, If I had gone out and hired myself, so to speak, I would’ve hired a, a starter, a hip shooter starter kind of person. And, that would’ve been okay, but I don’t think the business would’ve would’ve grown much, beyond where it was when we started versus finding someone whose skills compliment mine and who is a builder and a strategist and a planner and a person who can, can take something good and make it better.

Chip Griffin: Mm-hmm. Well, and that’s, I think that’s great advice, whether you’re talking about succession planning or just, you know, building your team out in your small agency, it’s important to have complementary skill sets, as opposed to just trying to look in the mirror because frankly, most of us would probably go bonkers if we had to deal with ourselves every day.

Ward Hubbell: You’re right.

Chip Griffin: It’s, it’s useful for someone that’s perhaps a little bit different. Well this has been a great start to the conversation. Ward, if someone wants to learn more about Hubbell, where can they go?

Ward Hubbell: They can go to thinkhubbell.com. Think like with your brain, Hubbell, H U B B E L L.com. And, probably more than you wanna know is on there. So go take a look.

Chip Griffin: Great. Well, I want to thank you both for, for joining me for this first of two parts, and we will have both Ward Hubbell and Zach Hyder back next week for the second part of this episode. Thanks for joining us.

Ward Hubbell: Thank you.

]]>
In this episode, Hubbell Communications founder Ward Hubbell talks about the agency he founded, and how he decided to approach the transition when he no longer wanted to manage the business day-to-day.





In this episode, Hubbell Communications founder Ward Hubbell talks about the agency he founded, and how he decided to approach the transition when he no longer wanted to manage the business day-to-day.



Ward talks about how he was working with Zach Hyder as his agency business coach when it struck him that Zach would be the right fit to take over Hubbell.



In this first episode of a two-part series, Ward introduces us to Zach and explains the journey he has gone through to make the transition as smooth as possible.



In part two, we will hear more from Zach about why he decided to leave the ranks of agency coaching to re-enter the agency world directly — along with what lessons he learned from being an advisor.



Key takeaways



* Ward Hubbell: “Start early and start slowly. You know, get to know the person, work with the person, make sure that you’re not trying to find an exact replica of yourself. You’re trying to find someone who can build on what you’ve built.”* Chip Griffin: “I think that slow build, that getting to know each other thing is very important because a lot of agency owners, when they start thinking about succession planning, they waited too long. And so then they kind of rush into it and that’s sort of like going to the bar and proposing on the first night. That’s probably not the best approach.* Ward Hubbell: “I’m a starter, but I’m not a builder. Zach’s a builder. And I started seeing that he had processes, he had plans. He was a planner and a person who has a game plan and who can take a company and scale it. To scale a company, you’ve gotta have processes and procedures and you’ve gotta have a very deliberate growth plan.”



Resources



* Hubbell website* Connect with Ward Hubbell on LinkedIn* Connect with Zach Hyder on LinkedIn




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am delighted to have with me today, two guests, both from Hubbell. Ward Hubbell, the CEO and founder of Hubbell and Zach Hyder, who is the president, CMO, janitor, chief bottle washer, and pretty much everything else of Hubbell. So welcome to the show guys.



Zach Hyder: Thank you. That all fits on the business card, Chip.



Chip Griffin: I hope it’s all printed right there. If not, you should get new ones printed up that match up what I just said, so that we’re consistent, but yeah. We’re gonna have an interesting conversation over the next two episodes here, because we’re gonna be talking about some of the transitions that have gone on at Hubbell over the last couple of years.



Ward, obviously you’re the founder. We’ll talk about the founding story in episode one and your decision to bring in Zach to be that president, CMO, chief bottle washer and everything else. And how you came to that decision, how you decided to settle on Zach. And then in episode two of this two part series, we’ll talk with Zach about some of the lessons he’s learned, because he’s got an interesting background having been in the agency space himself, both within an agency, but also as an advisor to many agencies,]]>
Chip Griffin 21:12
Grow your agency by developing relationships at scale (featuring Dan Englander) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/grow-your-agency-by-developing-relationships-at-scale-featuring-dan-englander/ Tue, 07 Jun 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=19521 In this episode of Chats with Chip, Dan Englander of Sales Schema explains how agencies can develop these relationships at scale — even with limited resources.]]>

Manageable agency growth doesn’t come from mass communication, but rather by developing real relationships with prospects.

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Dan Englander of Sales Schema explains how agencies can develop these relationships at scale — even with limited resources.

Dan has recently written a new book, Relationship Sales at Scale, that explains how to balance the right amount of automation and personalization to achieve the kind of agency growth you are seeking.

Chip and Dan talk about the challenges that small agencies have when it comes to business development and how his book offers practical solutions to help them overcome those hurdles.

They also emphasize the need to customize the approach to your own agency, including its resources and targets, in order to achieve the most desirable results.

Key takeaways

  • Dan Englander: “What we found is that the things that get doors open aren’t so much the ins and outs of a product or a service. It’s not the things that matter deeper in the funnel. It’s really more kind of a human, almost tribal connection that we have either on a personal or a business level that de-risk a conversation.”
  • Chip Griffin: “It’s interesting because the agency community is full of people who want to be creative and communicating. But when it comes time to actually do outreach themselves, they’re a little bit reluctant.”
  • Dan Englander: “There still is a numbers game. The numbers still matter. It’s just the numbers have gotten a lot smaller.”
  • Chip Griffin: “One of the big challenges that agency leaders have is that they fall in love with their prospects. One of the things that I think they have to get better at in business development is figuring out when they’ve come across someone who’s not really a fit.”

Resources

About Dan Englander

Dan founded Sales Schema in 2014 to help marketing service companies reach new heights by aggressively focusing on new business.  Previously he was the first employee business development lead at IdeaRocket, and before that, Account Coordinator at DXagency.  He’s the author of Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint.

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 am delighted to have with me here, Dan Englander, the founder and CEO of Sales Schema. Welcome to the show, Dan.

Dan Englander: Chip, a pleasure to be on again. Thank you.

Chip Griffin: It is great to have you on again and today we’re going to get to talk about your new book.

Let’s see if I can get it here for those in viewer land, Relationship Sales at – oh, take my finger off – at Scale. I’m not very good at this, am I? But I’m not a TV host. So I have a face made for radio and apparently…

Dan Englander: My copy’s not even at arms length, so you’re better than I am right now.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. So, you’ve got the book, you’ve got Sales Schema. Why don’t you just give a little bit of background before we dive into the conversation about the book.

Dan Englander: Yeah, no problem. So, like you said, I’m CEO and founder of a company called Sales Schema. We’re a fractional new business team for marketing agencies and B2B service companies.

Been in business since 2014, which is a fancy way of saying we go out and help people win new business, get prospects, get appointments booked and all that good stuff. Before that I was the head of new business for a creative house and eventually helped them grow to seven figures. And before that kind of started on the account side, with a social media agency around 2010.

So that’s kind of my background in a nutshell.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. So let’s start talking about the book here, because you know, you’ve got some examples in there of how not to do outreach. And I have to say over the last, I dunno, six months or so it seems like there’s been a measurable uptick in my inbox at least of bad pitches from agencies. Things that are off the mark, clearly they’re just spewing them out to as many people as they possibly can. It’s become very popular for folks to hire outsource people, just to comb LinkedIn and, and send a generic message out that really has nothing to do necessarily with the target. And so your book is designed to be an antidote to that, isn’t it?

Dan Englander: Yeah, it really is. And I think that, like, what we found was that there was a time, you know, maybe arguably when you could go in colder and you could sort of represent the new cool thing that you’re doing in order to get doors open. But the problem is like with the way the markets move now, especially for any company that you could start with an internet connection from your computer, there’s so much understanding, there’s so much direct or indirect competition for what you do that really like the, the barrier that we’re trying to get over at the top of the funnel anyway is a trust barrier, right?

To take somebody that is even more busy than, than we all are, and we’re all very busy. That’s getting barraged from agencies that may not understand everything about what you do, but understands by and large the problems that you solve and getting them to take time with you. And what we found is that the things that get doors open aren’t so much the ins and outs of a product or a service. It’s not the things that matter deeper in the funnel. It’s really more kind of a human, you know, almost tribal connections that we have either on a personal or a business level that de-risk a conversation. Do we know people in common? Had you, have you worked in the same companies that we might’ve, that we might be working with? You know, those sorts of things, and honestly, just sort of like setting this impression that you’re not going to have your time wasted, that, you know, you’re looking for a mutual opportunity, as opposed to looking to pitch somebody is really kind of the vibe of these emails. So that’s what we do for clients when they work with us is we’re often, or almost always sending emails, sending outreach on behalf of the person that’s in that sales seat.

But it’s really more about finding the connections that they’ve already built and then using those connections, not necessarily just LinkedIn connections, but just kind of the rolodex in general to get into the right companies based on trust. So there’s a lot more I can get into there, but that’s, that’s kind of the, the point of the book anyway.

Chip Griffin: Well, I love that you have relationship in the title because I think this is something that is often overlooked by agencies who are scrambling to generate new business. And so they really are just thinking about how do I touch as many people as often as possible. And so you, you know, you get into a numbers game as opposed to thinking about the recipient of your communications as a human that you are trying to develop a relationship with so that when they are ready to buy, whether that’s today or a year from now, they feel, as you put it, trusting in you and comfortable with you and your agency.

Dan Englander: Yeah. And I’m glad you, you mentioned the numbers game thing because you know, there still is a numbers game. The numbers still matter.

It’s just, the numbers have gotten a lot smaller and I think that us, uh, kind of in the B2B world, and also given that, you know, most agencies that we work with are selling to like mid to large companies and they’re pretty specialized, the total addressable markets that we’re dealing with are not massive.

You know, we might be, in some cases we might be talking about four figures worth of organizations that you can do business with. So our whole philosophy has been, you know, what, why are you wasting your time trying and taking the lessons from consumer marketers that are telling you to, you know, overall automate everything or over automate everything.

Put people through a funnel that humans never touch. Now the scale matters and we’re not suggesting that anybody’s going to be writing a custom love letter to each prospect, but at some point, you know, when you’re dealing with a, with a relatively small market, the automation can really backfire and can really, you know, just not work as well.

A more common scenario, you know? So that’s, so for us and our clients, and a lot of like, what I’ve written about in the book is, is almost like front loading the work of prospect identification, and then determining the commonalities that you have. So instead of trying to put people through a funnel where you’re just sort of like automating all these touch points, it’s more about like, what if you were to spend more time figuring out the prospects, just a really simple example that are like in your, in your backyard, you know, that are in the hometown, in your hometown. Getting fancier than that, like what if you have this giant list of companies and there’s individuals that work for those companies, and then you say, well, what if I wonder what percentage of these companies, these individuals used to work with the clients that we work with? You know, like we do a lot of work with FedEx, maybe some of the people that used to work at FedEx have now gone to UPS and we use that as a way in. So there’s the list goes on and there’s, there’s hundreds of these, of these potential strong commonalities that you can, you can leverage.

But what they all allow you to do is de-risk that conversation in a way that’s much more powerful than trying to AB test case studies or subject lines or any of these other things.

Chip Griffin: So you, you mentioned numbers and in the book you talk about Dunbar’s number and the construct around that, and you suggest a modification to that.

So first, why don’t you explain Dunbar’s number for those who may not understand it, and then talk a little bit about how you’d like to modify some of that premise. Or add to it, really.

Dan Englander: Yeah, there’s just that, thank you again, Chip for actually… of course. Yeah. And thanks again for actually like reading the book and I get that.

I can tell you that you did, and hopefully it’s been useful. But yeah, basically Robin Dunbar is a sociologist and he suggested this idea of Dunbar’s number, which is actually like a series of circles of influence that we all have. You know, the smallest one and I forget how exactly breaks it down, but it’s something like five very close friends or family, you know, you have 15 close friends, I should say. You have 150 acquaintances. I think that’s what he actually refers to as like Dunbar’s number, which are the people that you might invite to like a giant party or something like that. And it kind of keeps on going out by, by triples, past that. Right. So our whole hypothesis, and it just kind of maps with our experience running lots of campaigns, is that on the higher end of that, you have thousands of people that you’re not acquaintances with, but who would take a conversation with you based on a personal and/or business commonality or a relationship that you might have in common? Right? Like the examples that I talked about before – used to work at the same company, went to the same college, from the same hometown, many, many other things like that.

So our whole thinking is in a world, you know, it’s like at the beginning of a Twilight Zone episode, right? The, in a world where your total addressable market is not massive, and the, the actual grunt work of whether you hire us to do it, or you do it yourself or hire somebody else to do it, the work of actually identifying these prospects with this commonality really becomes worth it in that, in that world.

Right. So that’s our whole thinking is start with your circles of influence, even the outer orbits of your circles of influence instead of going in cold, you know, and hoping that that CMO, that you have no connection with it ever is going to be wowed by your, your awesome case study that thousands of other people sent him or her that day.

Right?

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And I think finding the commonalities is so valuable, particularly for a lot of folks in the agency community who aren’t necessarily comfortable with doing proactive, direct outreach, right? I mean, it’s interesting because the agency community is full of people who want to be creative and communicating, helping them to clients communicate.

But when it comes time to actually do outreach themselves, they’re a little bit reluctant. And so, you know, finding these connections can also make it not, not only more likely that the person on the other end will say yes to a conversation, but also easier and more comfortable typically for the agency person to do that outreach.

Dan Englander: Yeah, I think so, too. And there are, there are, you know, it is a little bit unorthodox and there is, there is still work involved, but we just find that it works a lot better. Right? So a lot of what we do are just referral driven campaigns and our, our most successful clients are the ones that are really into this idea, which is that, you know, most of us, especially in the agency world, when we ask, like how, how do you get your business?

How have you gotten a historically? Most people tell us, oh, we’re, you know, inbound, kind of like over the transom referrals and our personal networks and RFPs and stuff. And we used to like wave our fists in the air and say, oh, that’s not sustainable. You know, you’re never going to grow your business like that. And we weren’t entirely wrong, just sitting around waiting for a random referral is not going to be that sustainable.

Especially if you’re kind of like, like you have a lot of experience with when you’re dealing with an acquisition, you know, they want to see that there’s something more sustainable, but the fact is your Rolodex and the trust that comes from referrals is, is one of the best sources of new business. That the trick is being deliberate and focused and building a system that’s at least relatively scalable to get those referrals.

So a lot of, you know, what we do, and a lot of what I’ve written about in the book is how to do that. So instead of just waiting for referrals to come to you, it’s like, well, what if you were to identify the people that you actually know, not with fake connections that we all have, you know, like maybe that’s your, you have a short list of 50 or a hundred people.

And then you were able to map everyone that they know who, who would have its titles in the accounts that you want to do business with. And now you’re going to your friends and you’re saying, Hey, Bob, you know, hope you’re doing well. I’m working on some BD stuff right now. Can we, can we hop on a call?

You’re getting on these calls and you’re saying, Hey, I saw, you know, these three or four people with these titles. Like, do you actually know these people? You know, if so, would you be willing to help me out? And if you’re, and what we found is like that, you know? Yeah. It takes a little bit more work, but if you’re specific about who you want to reach, and you’re just very open and honest about what you’re trying to accomplish, uh, people will help you.

And it works a lot better than just kind of sitting around. So it’s really about like, being deliberate about that sort of work that creates green shoots. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: So this book is an unabashed advocacy for direct outreach, right? You mentioned inbound and some of the other approaches that agencies can use, but you really are a fan of agencies doing direct outreach to try to find their ideal prospects and not focus so much on, you know, creating the atmosphere in which they’ll just come to you.

Dan Englander: Yeah, exactly. And I realize the glaring screaming hypocrisy right now, as I’m on a podcast to sell a book, you know, which are all inbound channels, which are all earned channels. So…

Chip Griffin: But it doesn’t have to be exclusive. Right. I mean, it just means that it needs to be an important, if not primary approach.

Dan Englander: Exactly our whole argument is, you know, not to disregard inbound or not to do inbound, but you know, in a situation where again, you have a limited total addressable market, why not build the relationship with the people you can do business with sooner rather than later, even if the sales cycle might take longer than planned.

I think one thing that’s kind of gotten thrown around that I disagree with is the idea that sales calls have to be last mile. The the only way you’re going to get somebody on the phone is if they’re ready to buy right now and they’ve read a million articles and they’re like ready to sign up. Like, yeah, that’s great when that happens, but there’s no reason you can’t build a relationship sooner so that you can avoid all the commoditization that comes along with them doing all the research that frankly they don’t really want to do, you know? So that, that’s one thing. That’s one thing to mention. I lost your question a little bit, but yes, the other – back to outreach, the argument for outreach is another one is that, you know, a lot of the times when we’re talking about inbound, it’s being mediated by other people’s platforms. By platforms that you don’t really own, whether that’s a LinkedIn, and you’re running ads, or even just communicating with people on LinkedIn, whether it’s Facebook and you’re running ads whether it’s a Google you’re running search ads, you know, search, like SEO, these are all great.

And I’m not saying not to do them. They can have huge payoffs, but I think that the risk reward ratio has gotten a little bit out of whack since their inception. You know, like we all know companies that have been wiped out from algorithm changes. In the ad business, it happened recently maybe for good reason with the iOS 14 stuff.

Like every, it’s not like it’s an every five-year thing. It’s almost like an every 12 month thing now that a certain slew of businesses gets wiped off the map due to platform risks. So our thinking is that, you know, if you’re in this for the long haul, if your total addressable market is small, why not figure out how to do outreach, which is a channel that you actually own so that you can build relationships today and like go out hunting with a spear and never go hungry again.

You know? So that’s, that’s kind of our thinking on it anyway.

Chip Griffin: Now are there, are there certain parameters that, that work best for the kinds of businesses that can use your approach? In other words, is there, is there a sort of a magic revenue number? Is there, you know, what about the number of clients that an agency is trying to acquire?

How should they be thinking about those things before they jump into this approach?

Dan Englander: Yeah, it’s a good question. And we have kind of like very vague parameters, you know, there, there aren’t a lot. I’d say that we tend to work with agencies about like at least 1 million in revenue and up, and usually like between like 10 and 200 something employees is kind of our, our personal sweet spot.

But I think that, you know, even if people never hire us, this tends to work better for big wins, right? If you’re going after, and this is a very rough range, but let’s say like 50,000 client lifetime value and up. That’s part of it. Part of it is the work that goes into the approach of personalizing. But I think even without all the personalization, the sales cycles are long and costly.

And there needs to be a big enough pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. So this isn’t, this isn’t the right approach if you’re selling to gyms or you’re selling to med spas or chiropractors or something like that, there’s a whole ecosystem of people that are really good at that. And good at like building funnels for kind of like small and medium sized business agencies.

This is more for that B2B. B2B2B, you know, all the way down kind of thing. Not all the way down, I guess you could sell to like, you know, a big company that sells to consumers, but that’s, that’s the idea. And our whole thinking there is like, you know, at that point when there isn’t, you know, like I said earlier, when there’s not hundreds of thousands of companies, but when there’s like, you know, four or five figures worth of total addressable market, but the personalization starts to pay off a lot more, you know? So that’s, that’s where this is coming from, basically.

Chip Griffin: So, so let’s talk about that personalization, because you said it’s, it’s not a, an individual love letter, I think was your, your verbiage for each individual prospect, but there has to be some level of personalization there.

So, so talk a little bit about the logistics of that, you know, how do you do that and do it in a scalable way?

Dan Englander: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think the, the first thing is, is a lot of times, like we all, as business owners, we all have like a tendency to jump onto tactics, which obviously the book covers a lot.

I’ve talked a lot about tactics so far. They’re always fun. But the bigger question is, is who’s doing what and how much time is it going to take? And is it the best option for the time and resources that you have? Right. So in a perfect world, you have, you know, a sales team or you hire a company like ours to do it, and then you have somebody else doing this.

And that, that, that I think has changed a little in, in a way that is worth talking about. And that’s the classic way we’ve been sold as a sales team is you have, you know, an account executive who’s the closer. Behind them you have a BDR and that BDR is prospecting. And then, whatever. And then you have an account management.

What’s the account manager once the deal is closed. I think what has been taken for granted is just the amount of, of thinking of creative, of hustle, of systems, thinking that has to go into the BDR’s job, just to get a skeptical decision maker, to agree to have that appointment. So the answer is, you know, what, how do you do this?

How do you scale it? The question is, how do you scale it logistically? It kind of just depends on the size of your agency and the resources that you have. Right? So if, if you are, you know, a solo preneur, it really means that you’ve got to kind of like schizophrenically divide up your, you know, do the multiple hats thing and divide up your job into multiple jobs.

And I think the first one is the, the systems, the creative, the hustle of building out these, these systems enriching the data, you know, delegating things to list builders. And that’s a very different thing than what goes into closing a deal and building a relationship and presenting things and talking through objections, right?

So you’ve got to kind of divide up your time in those different ways. If you do have the resources, then this might mean you’re spending that system’s time going on Upwork and finding a list builder that can go find these pieces of information and put it into a spreadsheet. But you’re kind of dividing up things in that way.

And almost like it’s the, the sales assembly line. To get even further into the weeds than I have, I think another thing that has been taken for granted is the seniority of the person that’s reaching out. Right? So a lot of the times we’ve been sold this Silicon valley sales pod model, right?

Where you have a BDR, that’s saying, Hey, do you want to talk to our account executive? And I’ve seen that to varying degrees in the agency space. But the problem with that is as an agency, you’re not selling software necessarily, you’re not selling any invention, you’re selling expertise, you’re selling somebody’s time.

So you know that CMO is not going to be that interested in talking to your junior level sales employee. So the face of the outreach, even if that person isn’t the one handling the sales process really does matter. Right? So if you have a partner that’s willing to get on these calls as they, as they probably should be at least for a few minutes, then that’s going to go a lot further than, than having a sales person do it.

So what we’ve done with a lot of our clients is we have the face of the campaign, who’s like the partner that the outreach is coming from, you know, the, the CMO or whoever’s clicking through to see who this person is. They’re like, oh, this is somebody that knows their stuff. They’ve been around a while.

They just get on to kind of make the intro and then there’s somebody else that takes the baton and handles the rest of the process from there. So that, that that’s hopefully helpful is like first, just starting out with who’s doing what divide up your time between the systems processing versus like actually doing the outreach and the closing of deals and then kind of go from there and then it gets into the tactics and everything.

Chip Griffin: And I liked that, that you point out in the book and also just here now that, that it’s not one size fits all, right. It’s not a single formula that works for everybody as far as who does what, because it’s going to depend on the size of the agency, the nature of your prospects. You know, are you, it’s going to be different if you are a digital marketing agency, that’s doing high volumes of clients versus. You know, maybe more a traditional PR agency that’s, you know, only looking to add, you know, five or six clients a year, but you know, higher ticket value. So, you know, understanding how those all work into the mix is important.

And so you need to tailor something that works for you and your team, not necessarily what you heard from someone at a conference or what your, you know, your neighbor does.

Dan Englander: Yeah, exactly. And I think that, it’s – there, there there’s sort of certain exceptions to this, but everything kind of lends itself to being able to charge higher prices, because then you can actually afford to do the sales process.

Right. Because the fact is like the sales process doesn’t necessarily go up exponentially in terms of how much it costs to close a fortune 500 versus a startup. Yes, the fortune 500 takes longer. Yes, there’s, there’s more considerations there, but it’s not a million X more considerations. It’s just moderately more.

So there is, you know, that doesn’t mean you have to necessarily go out market, but it does sort of encourage getting away from like low end marketing services where you need to do this volume play to make the numbers work. Yeah. Right.

Chip Griffin: And speaking of numbers, you know, I think one of the really helpful things in the book is that you encourage folks to go back and look at their last year of communications with prospects and it will help them as they look and say, okay, you know, what stage did they get to?

You know, did I have an initial conversation with them? Did I have a proposal conversation? Did I send them a document? I sent them a contract and, and really you know, instead of taking whatever your CRM has for recommended, likelihood to close at different stages, instead of, you know, just sort of, you know, back of the envelope guessing you can use real data to inform your whole process and understand these things because at the end of the day, it is a numbers game. And so if you figure out, okay, this is how many new clients I need to hit my revenue targets, you know, you can then back that out based on your historical performance, whether you’re tracking that in a proper CRM or on a spreadsheet, or you have to go through your email inbox.

Dan Englander: Yeah, exactly. And I think that that’s kind of like the first hurdle to get over if you’ve gotten most of your business from just sort of organic referrals and that really just means you don’t have data yet. And it’s better just to accept that. But I think what happens is people run into that question mark, and they go in one of two ways.

They either say, eh, you know, we’re not even going to measure anything and we’re just going to wait until somebody is qualified and whatever that means. And then just kind of keep doing the same thing or they do the opposite and they try to measure every little thing in order to make some like overly complicated definition of what qualified or whatever any other word means.

And I think there’s a good middle ground where you can kind of keep things simple and base your rating of values of the CRM, based on just like actions people have actually taken and to kind of determine, use that to determine like where you should invest your energy.

Right. So the most simple one is, you know, have they agreed to speak with you? Have they taken a meeting with you? Have they agreed to a second proposal call or whatever that is in your process, and then have they bought from you? You know, start with essentially three stages based on actions that they’ve actually taken.

And the problem is we all fool ourselves, you know, we use qualified. And if you wake up on the right side of the bed, somebody is qualified. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or you got into an argument with your spouse than somebody who’s unqualified, right. So it becomes too wishy-washy.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And, look, I think one of the big challenges that agency leaders have is that they, they fall in love with their prospects. And so, you know, one of the things that I think they have to get better at in business development is figuring out when they’ve come across someone who’s not really a fit, right?

Maybe they, you know, they, they made it onto that list of people who will take the conversation and all that kind of stuff. They take the call, but at the end of the day, you realize this really isn’t a fit for what we do. And part of being a numbers game is making sure that you’re spending your time on those most likely to close and most likely to have a successful relationship. So that’s, I think a piece of it is, you know, working to identify those things that are red flags, warning lights, et cetera.

Dan Englander: Yeah. There’s a great sales coach I like named Temple Naylor, and I referenced his stuff in the book. He likens it to an episode of Scooby-Doo where you’re going down a hallway, just like looking for ghosts, looking for monsters and stuff. That’s kind of the idea is like you, you know, the problem is too many of us get happy ears and we just want everything to work out. So you hear something that could blow up a deal and you just sort of, ah, just leave it, leave it over there.

You’ll let sleeping dogs lie. And then guess what happens is, you know, you go through the RFP or whatever, and you’re two weeks in, three weeks in. It’s crickets. Nobody’s following up, nobody’s getting back to you. You finally get somebody on the phone and they’re like, yeah, it turns out, you know, our partner, uh, he had this other vendor over here.

They went to college together and uh, we’re, we’re gonna go, we’re going to go with them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard a version of that story. And maybe you could have, maybe you kind of got that vibe, but you didn’t explore it, or you could have found that out. Right? If you, if you, if you’ve been a little more, a little more focused and a little, little more skeptical. Right? So…

Chip Griffin: And I would argue, that’s not even the worst case. I mean, you know, if you don’t win the business, that’s better than winning the business and then after the fact realizing that that wasn’t a good fit, because now you’ve probably got an unhappy client.

Probably an unhappy team because they’re being asked to produce results that they can’t, or at least can’t do profitably. And by the way, that’s bad for your bank account too. So you’ve got to do that and not just fall in love with the fact that you may have a new contract on the line.

Dan Englander: Yeah, exactly. And that’s the purpose. That’s another argument for being able to have enough, you know, in the pipeline that you’re not tempted to go against your go, go for your demons, basically. Yeah.

Chip Griffin: Exactly. Yeah.

Cause if you’re, if you’re following the process that you outline you’re able to be having enough conversations that even if something falls through, or even if an existing client leaves, you know, hopefully you’ve got something to lean on there and you’re not starting from a standing start and saying, oh my God, what do I do now?

Dan Englander: Right. Right, exactly. And that’s what we’ve seen with, with our best clients is that, you know, it’s a team effort. It’s not just us, but because you know, we’re able to lean to this level of personalization. They then get to use the prospects that we’re getting them for advancing their process. But for also just like fine tuning their process overall, like one of our best clients is at 1.1 million in about 12 or 14 months with us, from, you know, using referral based campaigns to give them the door with lots of these brands. And they’ve done a lot of work. It’s not just us. We’re just getting the door open, but they’ve been able to just fine tune their process over and over again. And essentially qualify people out more, more quickly, and then just spend a lot more time on the people that actually matter.

So that’s, that’s a, another way to think about this.

Chip Griffin: Well, Dan, it’s an interesting book. It’s a great conversation. If someone wants to get a copy of the book for themselves or learn more about Sales Schema or connect with you, where should they go?

Dan Englander: Yeah. Thanks so much, Chip, really appreciate it. The best place is just Salesschema.com/RSAS that’s RSAS and that’s the landing page for the book.

You can go there to get it from Amazon. There’s also all the resources from the book there. There’s me reading the first chapter if you want a preview of it. Or you can snag it there. And, not sure when we go live, but it’ll be out on Kindle June 14th.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. Well, I encourage folks to check it out.

There are lots of good practical ideas in there that will help you to do more, to build your own agency into one that you enjoy owning because that’s my whole philosophy. You gotta like what you do. Otherwise, what’s the point? All right. Well that will bring us to the end of another episode of Chats with Chip.

Again, my guest has been Dan Englander, the author of Relationship Sales at Scale and the founder and CEO of Sales Schema. Thank you all for listening. And I look forward to having you back on the show again, soon.

Dan Englander: Thank you, Chip.

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In this episode of Chats with Chip, Dan Englander of Sales Schema explains how agencies can develop these relationships at scale — even with limited resources.





Manageable agency growth doesn’t come from mass communication, but rather by developing real relationships with prospects.



In this episode of Chats with Chip, Dan Englander of Sales Schema explains how agencies can develop these relationships at scale — even with limited resources.



Dan has recently written a new book, Relationship Sales at Scale, that explains how to balance the right amount of automation and personalization to achieve the kind of agency growth you are seeking.



Chip and Dan talk about the challenges that small agencies have when it comes to business development and how his book offers practical solutions to help them overcome those hurdles.



They also emphasize the need to customize the approach to your own agency, including its resources and targets, in order to achieve the most desirable results.



Key takeaways



* Dan Englander: “What we found is that the things that get doors open aren’t so much the ins and outs of a product or a service. It’s not the things that matter deeper in the funnel. It’s really more kind of a human, almost tribal connection that we have either on a personal or a business level that de-risk a conversation.”



* Chip Griffin: “It’s interesting because the agency community is full of people who want to be creative and communicating. But when it comes time to actually do outreach themselves, they’re a little bit reluctant.”



* Dan Englander: “There still is a numbers game. The numbers still matter. It’s just the numbers have gotten a lot smaller.”



* Chip Griffin: “One of the big challenges that agency leaders have is that they fall in love with their prospects. One of the things that I think they have to get better at in business development is figuring out when they’ve come across someone who’s not really a fit.”



Resources



* About the book Relationship Sales At Scale



* Sales Schema website



* Connect with Dan Englander on LinkedIn or Twitter



About Dan Englander



Dan founded Sales Schema in 2014 to help marketing service companies reach new heights by aggressively focusing on new business.  Previously he was the first employee business development lead at IdeaRocket, and before that, Account Coordinator at DXagency.  He’s the author of Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint.




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am delighted to have with me here, Dan Englander, the founder and CEO of Sales Schema. Welcome to the show, Dan.



Dan Englander: Chip, a pleasure to be on again. Thank you.



Chip Griffin: It is great to have you on again and today we’re going to get to talk about your new book.



Let’s see if I can get it here for those in viewer land,]]>
Chip Griffin 29:01
Leveraging overseas talent to grow your agency (featuring Noel Andrews) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/leveraging-overseas-talent-to-grow-your-agency-featuring-noel-andrews/ Tue, 03 May 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=17409 In this episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast, Noel Andrews of JobRack explains how talent from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world can supplement your workforce.]]>

Agencies in the United States and elsewhere are faced with a challenging labor market that makes hiring for needed roles more difficult than ever. Finding the right talent at the right time is never easy, so what options do agencies have?

In this episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast, Noel Andrews of JobRack explains how talent from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world can supplement your workforce.

With agencies more comfortable than ever with remote workers, commute time to an office is no longer a limiting factor in most hiring decisions. Why not look globally to fill the roles that you need to deliver excellent results for your clients?

Noel talks about what works and what doesn’t, as well as the best approach to finding good people in geographically diverse places.

Key takeaways

Noel Andrews: “When you look to hire remotely, whether it’s in the same country or further afield, it isn’t about saving money. It’s about getting equivalent or better quality for more affordable rates and being able to hire the people in the first place where there is actually an availability of talent.”

Chip Griffin: “It does take some skill on the part of the team at the home agency to manage geographically far flung resources, whether they’re employees or contractors, no matter which part of the world they’re in.”

Noel Andrews: “There are great people available to hire in every country in the world.”

Chip Griffin: “It’s like any resource, even if you had one that was just down the block, you need to understand what the expectations are on both sides for working hours and things like that.”

Resources

About Noel Andrews

Noel has over 15 years of hiring and management experience as an entrepreneur, with large corporations and with fully remote start-ups. He bought JobRack in 2018 and now helps business owners all across the world to hire well-educated, high-quality remote workers from Eastern Europe.

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 am delighted to have with me today, Noel Andrews, the CEO and owner of JobRack. Welcome to the show Noel.

Noel Andrews: Hey, thanks Chip, great to be here.

Chip Griffin: It is great to have you here and before we jump into our conversation, why don’t you just share a little bit about yourself and JobRack.

Noel Andrews: Based here in London, England. It’s not as dreary as people may think, plenty of blue skies and sunshine. I have a particular kind of favorite set of rooftop bars that I like to frequent whenever we do get sunshine. And yeah, JobRack, we help agencies and online business owners to hire really, really great talent from Eastern Europe.

And one of the big things that we do is we take all the hard work of hiring out for people so we really end up helping people get the kind of the talent that they need.

Chip Griffin: Well, and, and that’s a perfect segue into what I want to talk about today, shockingly enough. And that is how agencies can leverage talent from Eastern Europe and perhaps other overseas locations, more broadly to supplement the work that they’re doing, particularly if they’re here in the United States. Look, we know that it’s a very difficult talent market in a lot of places, but particularly here agencies are really struggling to put butts in seats and, and quality butts, preferably.

So how can they, how can agency owners be thinking about expanding their talent pool beyond just their local geography?

Noel Andrews: Yeah. So the last couple of years obviously has shown us that a lot of us have been forced to work remotely, even for the kind of agencies and businesses that weren’t already doing so. So, you know, the heart of it’s done, right?

You’ve proven that you can do it now. It kind of now kind of opens you up instead of trying to hire people that are within that 30, 40 mile kind of commute radius. Now you’ve got the rest of the country, the rest of the continent, the rest of the world. So the first bit is figuring out, right? What are the roles that you need?

Um, are there any particular requirements that mean you might need people in a certain geography in a certain time zone, with certain kind of access, et cetera. Now, most of the agencies that I work with are looking at, you know, there’s sometimes there are some onshore roles, so we often find people get nervous about putting like an account management role, for instance, or customer success, putting that offshore, further afield, they worried about accents. They worry about that kind of relate-ability. And that’s a very, very common thing kind of early on. What we tend to find is that people will often start off with roles, like kind of operation specialists, operations managers, like the technical specialist.

So whether it’s like SEO analysts or SEO specialists or BBC people that are a little bit more kind of back of house, But then very rapidly realize that when you hire really, really good people, then actually where they are, where they’re from, where they are, what they sound like really, really doesn’t matter.

Clients love it. When they’re seeing you’re really, really great quality and committed people and then agency owners actually then been able to leverage and get the benefit of better value because you know, the people in Eastern Europe or in other areas of the world, aren’t having to pay the cost of living that we’re seeing in UK and Canada and North America, et cetera.

That gives kind of a huge opportunity to not compromise on quality. And that’s most important thing for me to say, right? When you look to hire remotely, whether it’s in the same country or further afield, this isn’t about saving money, right? Because if you save money and lose quality, then actually you lose overall.

What it’s about is getting equivalent or better quality for kind of more affordable rates and actually being able to hire the people in the first place where there is actually a, you know, an availability of talent, unlike, you know, much of the U S right now.

Chip Griffin: Well, I think you’ve hit on something really important there, which is that a lot of agency owners tend to think of going off shore for labor, being a way to, to save substantial amounts of money.

And if you’re doing it right, you’re not really going to save a ton of money. You might. I mean, as you say, you may get better value for that money, but if you say, Hey, I can just get some, some cheap help. That’s not really the way to think about this.

Noel Andrews: Yeah, that’s true. And I think the mindset is very much about where can you, first of all, where can you find the people?

Right? Because the biggest constraint to the growth of any agency and the success of any agency is having the right people, right? Having enough people to do a really, really great job for your clients so that they become raving fans, and then come back to you and refer you on. That’s the number one thing.

The second piece, that is one of the big challenges that we all have as agency owners, is that when to hire. Right. You, you know, a lot of people will, you know, we all know that ideally we would hire it maybe 70 to 80% capacity. In reality, most agency owners are hiring about 120% capacity. Everyone’s getting really stressed.

Then they’re like, right, I’ve got enough money, the older books looking good, we’ll hire. One of the benefits of kind of hiring from lower cost regions of the world is that, you know, the people are, the salaries are lower, and often significantly lower. So if we take, you know, Eastern Europe, which is, which is my area of expertise, we’re normally talking, you know, 40 to 50% cheaper than hiring in the US for equivalent or better quality people. So it really, it can make a substantial difference. What we tend to see agency owners doing is that they kind of leverage that to hire sooner and so that they can actually safeguard quality of delivery to their clients, hire sooner, scale out faster, and kind of drive their growth and, and hopefully work less a little bit themselves as a result.

Chip Griffin: And I, and I think that there’s, there’s real benefit to getting that higher skillset that you can buy by stretching your dollars to make them go further or whatever currency you’re using in the business that you’re running, listening to us today. You know, over the course of my agency career, I have used offshore labor in Eastern Europe, central America and Asia.

I mean, obviously you specialize in Eastern Europe. Do you see any fundamental differences between the different regions and perhaps the kinds of roles they fill or is it really, is there really no particular difference? And it’s really more of the specific groups of people that you’re working with.

Noel Andrews: Yeah. So my first caveat before I answer that is that there are great people available in every country in the world, right? That’s the kind of first thing. In some countries for some roles in some regions of the world that takes a lot, it’s a lot harder to find them because there might be some cultural differences that mean, they have tendencies one way or another, for instance. So there are, you know, Eastern Europe kind of, uh, if I kind of refer back to that, so Eastern Europe is renowned for really, really hard work. Incredible, incredible work ethic and a very direct communication. So if you ask them to do something and maybe your instructions aren’t clear, or maybe instructions are wrong, or maybe there’s a better way of doing it.

And the old analogy is, you know, if you ask for a square wheel, then often you’ll get that. Now in Eastern Europe, the cultural tendency is very direct, right? Communication is almost blunt, right. Especially for us soft Westerners. And so, you know, if they think something is wrong or they think you can do it a better way, they will generally tell you.

Big kind of cultural stereotype, but you know, generally very, very true. And why a lot of our kind of clients come back to us again and again. There are other regions of the world that that is not a thing, right? The much more subservient, much more kind of, you know, the boss is this, you know, massive figurehead that they could never possibly contradict or go against.

And that can be challenging, especially when you want people to focus around process improvement, having their eyes and ears open in terms of how to make things better. And especially when you’re getting into management roles or specialist roles, right. Where you don’t want to be managing tasks, you want to be, you know, delegating responsibility and giving them autonomy and letting them run.

So that’s probably the biggest difference we’re seeing. There’s areas of the world that are kind of, that’s more or less of an issue for. It’s one of the key things that keeps people coming back to us, with Eastern Europe. Cause it’s not an issue in that direct communication is just that very kind of blunt and straight communication is wonderful.

Chip Griffin: And you’ve touched on it now a couple of times, but a lot of this comes down to how you’re managing these resources. And so it does take some skill on the part of the team at the home agency, if you will, to manage, you know, geographically far flung resources, whether they’re employees or contractors, no matter which part of the world they’re in.

And so there’s, let’s talk a little bit about how you effectively manage these resources. Because part of it is understanding what cultural differences there may be to make sure that you’re giving the proper level of direction, because I’ve, I’ve certainly worked with some of these groups where, you know, as you say, if you ask for a square wheel, you get a square wheel, it may not turn, but by God you asked for a square wheel and that’s what you’ll get.

And so, you know, you really need to understand that because it changes how you manage things. It changes the processes and instructions that you might give. But I think there are other things to consider too, when it comes to managing.

Noel Andrews: Yeah, definitely. I think, there’s two key things to me. So one is, it doesn’t matter how much someone is working for you, whether it’s five, 10 hours a week, or whether it’s 40 or 50 hours a week, treat them like a team member, right.

Treating like a full-time member of your team as if they were, you know, sat around the table with you day to day. Right. That is most important thing that people get tied up in knots with terminology, like freelancers, like remote workers, like gig workers, all this kind of thing. And to me, you know, employees for instance, and there’s lots of legal reasons why, you know, generally remote workers, especially ones outside of your home country, why they’re not going to be a true legal employee.

Right. So team member is what I use, right. And that is what you are looking to build. You should be looking to build a high-performing team of people that are working together. Right. That’s the biggest, biggest thing for me. So that’s the first bit is kind of in your, is how you frame it in your own mind as a business owner and saying, I am going to have, I’m going to build a team.

I’m going to make them a high-performing and highly functioning team, so what does that take? The number one thing is then communication, right? Putting in really really clear communication channels. And so, and when you’re all remote, this is actually reasonably straightforward. It just takes a little bit of effort.

And it takes effort to have things like team meetings, things like stand ups, whether you use slack or teams or whatever kind of tool you use use. So that sort of thing is actually reasonably straight forward. You just have to put a little bit of time and effort. It’s also really important to do things like the relaxed time, right?

So if you were in an office together, people would be going for coffee. They would be standing around the watercooler is the age old kind of cliche. They’d be going out for lunch together. So it’s important when you’ve got a fully remote team to give opportunities for that kind of like casual kind of chat. So we have at JobRack, we have afternoon tea every Friday afternoon, and we have just a kind of window of time. It’s normally about 30 minutes or so, and it’s kind of optional, but most of the team come along and it’s just kind of free-flowing chat, people just getting to know each other, chat about what’s going on. It’s a way of doing more things like that, just to help kind of foster that team.

But yeah, communication is key. And I think if you’re in a, if you have a hybrid business, so if you’re operating where sometimes people are in the office, but there’s still remote people as well, that’s actually the hardest approach. That’s the hardest thing to manage because when people, you know, Chip, if I come up to your desk and have a conversation about something, but we’ve got Joe that is the other side of the world, or even the other side of the state or the town, and he’s working from home today.

We’ve got to make sure that Joe knows about the conversation that we just had, if it’s relevant to something that we were working on. So it almost becomes harder. It almost becomes like, oh no, don’t kind of talk to me here. Talk to me on slack because the rest of the team has got to know what’s going on.

That’s a little bit tricky, but again, always a big, big fan of, you know, synchronous communication, getting people chatting and kind of conversing and generate ideas, just takes prioritizing it. That’s the most important thing.

Chip Griffin: And this is, this is something that more and more agencies have become familiar with as you noted, because of what’s been going on in the last couple of years.

A lot of us are very comfortable now speaking in these, you know, video conversations where, you know, three or four years ago, it was, you know, like pulling teeth in order to get someone to hop on a video zoom call. And so, you know, that piece of it from a logistical standpoint, I think people are generally more comfortable with, but they’re still learning the ropes for some of the things that you’ve talked about as far as, you know, really having inclusivity and trying to find ways to, to make sure that all of the team is on the same page.

You did mention something earlier that I, that I want to highlight here, because I think it’s a substantial issue that particularly US-based agencies need to consider and that’s time zones. You know, when you’re working with employees who are in other parts of the world, understanding how their working times mesh with yours is an important consideration and something that you need to discuss with any potential overseas resource. So you understand, are they going to be willing to do some time shifting to allow for, for those kinds of synchronous conversations that you mentioned? And it becomes even more important if it’s a role that’s more directly tied to immediate client service versus, you know, long-term work.

So, you know, how do you, I mean, obviously, you know, you’re based in, in England, so, you know, you don’t have a huge time zone difference with Eastern Europe. Here in the U S you know, it could be, you know, a 6, 7, 8, and nine hours time difference, depending upon where you are. And I know that from the work that I’ve done in the past internationally, you know, it is, it can be difficult if not, if both parties are not on the same page about how to hash out some of those things.

So, so talk a little bit about how you advise agencies to handle that.

Noel Andrews: Yeah. So the first thing is to look at the nature of the work. Now, the vast majority of roles that we help agency owners hire, and that agencies in the U S are running with, a lot of the work can be asynchronous, right? It does not need to be done, you know, minute by minute, the same hours that you’re working in, in the U S. And there are a couple of roles that that’s not quite the case for, but there’s often a lot of flexibility.

So, you know, if I take the hardest role, first of all, like a client account manager, right. They’re spending a good chunk of their time on calls communicating with your clients. Let’s again, go to the worst, the hardest scenario, which is someone on the west coast of the U S there’s a nine hour time difference typically with Eastern Europe.

So if you’ve got a very, very regular set of clients that, you know, are having the late afternoon calls, then that’s not ideal because then you’re getting into, it’s like one or two in the morning, Eastern Europe time. And I am very, very against getting people to work basically what is a night shift like permanently.

It’s very, very common in the Philippines, for instance, it’s just, you know, for me, like A players, the really, really good people, they’ve got their kind of choice of jobs. Right. So why would they choose to give up hobbies and evenings and weekends being shattered from work for, you know, for that reason?

What we often look at is we look at say, well, how much of the work needs to be, kind of have overlap. We always aim for at least three or four hours of overlap with your, where most of your people in the agency are. And we tend to find that works really, really well. You then get that kind of benefit of the geo arbitrage.

So you wake up in the morning and they’ve done half a day’s work already, but they’re still online for plenty of the time getting you through to kind of lunchtime or maybe early afternoon. And that’s, if you’re West Coast. It’s very, very common for people in Eastern Europe to work, you know, kind of an evening shift.

So maybe from midday till 8:00 PM, that aligns nicely with kind of west coast time for a good crossover. And you know, flexibility is really common as long as you just talk openly about it. So if someone knows that, Hey, from time to time, they’re gonna need to flex their calendar to do a call with someone in Australia or New Zealand or, you know, west coast of the U S afternoon.

It’s genuinely kind of never, never an issue. So we find that works really, really well. Then when we get into roles, like, you know, SEO specialist, BBC specialists where they’re more not working in isolation, but their work is not actually kind of time bound with, you know, needs, collaborate directly with anyone else so much.

Then, you know, three to four hours works, works absolutely great. And you know, if you’re on the east coast or central time, then you know, you’ve got even more hours to play with.

Chip Griffin: And it, I mean, it’s like any resource, even if you had one that was, you know, just a, you know, down the block, you need to understand, you know, what the expectations are on both sides for working hours and things like that.

And, and frankly, it’s becoming even more common here in the U S for employees to have flexible time arrangements with their agencies in order to accommodate personal needs and things like that. The other thing I will note is that, you know, I know a lot of developers that I’ve worked with who liked to work strange hours, right?

Who are effectively vampires. And if they see the sun, you know, they’re, they’re uncomfortable. So, so I have, I have worked with plenty of developers who basically worked the same schedule that I did. Even though they were on the other side of the world. So, you know, but it’s, it’s really just getting those, those understandings down.

And I love that you used the term geo arbitrage because I think that if you think about the time zone difference as a potential benefit and not just an obstacle, there are opportunities to be potentially had. Now that doesn’t work for every role. But, but if you understand how you can use that to your advantage and you’re adapting your own schedules and timelines with your clients effectively.

You can maybe take advantage of it or at least mitigate it. Right. So, so let’s say that, that it does take longer to get feedback, right? Because if someone’s doing some work overnight, you know, and by the time they get feedback, it’s now added a day. Just work that into your, your timelines with clients. A day isn’t going to make a huge difference in the whole scheme of things.

And you just need to get really good at estimating those things, but look for those opportunities because you may be able to use that geo arbitrage as you call it to help improve the results that you’re producing.

Noel Andrews: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. And when you look at, if I give a couple of kinds of examples, so, you know, if you’re running an SEO agency, for instance, you know, really absolute top end SEO specialists, salary-wise, it’s typically going to run you maybe three, three and a half thousand US dollars a month.

And this is for someone with, you know, 5, 6, 7 years experience that can be client facing. They could be doing strategy. They’re also happy to get, kind of get stuck in and get their hands dirty as well. Like real technical SEO specialists for those kind of rates mean you can probably hire two or sometimes even three for the kind of rates that you might be paying kind of locally.

And so that opens up a lot of opportunity to, you know, offset, like you said, those kinds of, you know, potentially that kind of few hours or a day kind of delay that you bring into it. And lets you either drive up quality, do more, handle more clients, things like that. So when the rates are as they are, and like I said, it’s for equivalent or better quality without that kind of compromise.

And with actual availability of people, it does open up a huge amount.

Chip Griffin: So now, you know, sort of some real nitty gritty logistical issues that some agencies I know have run into issues with when they’ve been hiring overseas talent. How do you pay them? Right. So, you know, what, what is your general advice there? Because I’ve seen all sorts of different approaches to paying overseas labor.

Is there something that for Eastern Europe in particular that you see, you know, works generally pretty well, because I think a lot of Americans don’t recognize that, that the financial systems in different countries are different and not everybody is set up the exact same way, where it’s easy to take a wire transfer into your personal bank account here.

That’s not capable in every part of the world.

Noel Andrews: Some ways it’s tricky yeah. So the two most common ways and what we use here at JobRack is, one is Weiss, formerly TransferWise, super simple. I have not found any Eastern European country that, that it doesn’t work for and it just dropped straight into their bank account.

And the fees are incredibly low. You’re talking like less than about half a percent normally, which is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. And then the other one that’s very common as Payoneer, very, very common in Serbia and some of the countries, right. And there, you know, they have an account, they would just simply send you an invoice and a payment link and you can make it on a debit or credit cards.

Typically a 3% fee, which often actually the worker will pay. Cause it’s kind of more convenient for them. But in the scheme of things, it’s, you know, 30, 60, $90, you know, depending on kind of the salary level, if you have, you know, if it’s a, an executive assistant or a marketing assistant, that’s around a thousand, 1200 US.

So it might 30 bucks, in terms of fee, even kind of SEO, PPC specialist level, we may be talking like $90 of a fee. And then the other bonus with that is if you’re into chasing kind of mileage points and credit card bonus points, then, you know, you can put that spend on that, on the company credit card too.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I think the key here is again, you know, just make sure you’re in communication with the individual that you’re working with so you understand what, you know, what’s gonna work for them and you do need to be willing to be flexible and adapt to, to what’s going to work for them, right? Because ultimately they need to be paid in a timely fashion and it, it, it behooves you to figure out you know what the best approach for that is. But you do need to understand there’s probably going to be a little different than the way you pay your current employees and contractors. But it’s, it’s not a particularly difficult process, once you, once you know how to do it. So, are there other gotchas that you need to be thinking about when you are particularly US-based and, and looking to hire this kind of talent, are there, you had mentioned earlier, for example, you know, language skills.

How much of an issue is that really? I mean, obviously there are some roles, I know in the past where I haven’t had much difficulty at all, again, developer oriented stuff, as long as you can sort of talk about the logic of it, you know, accents don’t matter and, and, you know, spelling doesn’t matter, but some of the roles maybe that does is. And Americans are kind of snobbish shall we say about, the use of the English language. It’s not that you, you Brits aren’t too. But my experience is that that Americans are not as culturally sensitive, shall we say to the fact that not everybody knows it exactly the same way you do. Does that matter? Is that, is that, is that a real challenge?

Noel Andrews: Yeah. So we’re very fortunate in the sense that, you know, all across Eastern Europe, you know, learning English, he starts at a very, very early age. There’s a huge number of people that then, you know, really push with that kind of studies, even as adults. And in that career, it’s going to get better and better. Lots of them go into English teaching. We kind of really took it from there. And so it’s, you know, we, we don’t work with anyone that doesn’t have at least a good grasp of what I would refer to as like business English. I, you never want to have someone that that’s working for you that is painful to communicate with because that just drains you of energy.

Right. The levels vary about, and some of it, you don’t need it to be perfect. Some of it, you need them to be, you know, absolute, absolutely spot on. And so we can kind of flex that very, but the minimum standard is extremely, extremely high and it’s just, you know, someone that you can converse with normally yes, they might have some, a bit of an accent, but then hey, so do most of us.

And so yeah, that, they’re the kind of the main things. It’s that the variety’s there. The breadth is there and it’s about figuring out what is it that you need. And then, you know, we kind of help you kind of find that. But yeah, not really an obstacle at all. I think of other things probably the biggest obstacle is really just, you know, for a busy kind of agency owner business owner.

It’s just making sure you take the time for your team. And actually that’s no different whether they’re in the U S in the same town as you, the same office as you, or, you know, all across the world. It’s just recognizing that as you grow your team, and this has been a kind of recent realization to me, this, like, you know, my number one job as CEO and owner is the team because they’re the ones that are ultimately powering the success of the business.

So the more time we invest in communication, collaboration, you know, kind of team getting to know each other and building out from that, that’s actually what drives the success. But yeah, no, thankfully that the internet, the kind of the world we’re in makes it super, super easy. So, you know, payments over things like Payoneer and transfer wise or wise as they are now.

You know, ease of communication across slack and zoom and the kind of strength of internet connections. Uh, and again, I mean, Eastern Europe doesn’t have any kind of like infrastructure challenges. There’s no extreme weather or anything like that. So that makes for a very kind of stable kind of work environment.

Chip Griffin: So let’s say that at this point, I’m now sold on the idea that I should be tapping into this as a labor resource.

How do I go about finding it? And obviously I know you’re biased. Your suggestion would be I pick up the phone and I say, Hey, Noel, this is what I’m looking for. But, but talk a little bit about the process, not just with JobRack, but generally, how do you go about finding the right talent? Because it is different than, I mean, you don’t just post a job on Indeed typically and find this.

So how do you go about doing this and finding the right people?

Noel Andrews: Yeah. So the first thing, and it doesn’t matter where you are, first thing is, figuring out what you want and what you need. I see a lot of business owners that jump into hiring or they think they need one role. And then actually after we have a conversation, it’s like, oh, that’s not the right role for you to hire right now.

It’s something different. So first the most important step is figuring out, you know, what’s the biggest needs right now. What’s the biggest priority. And then thinking, right? What. What kind of person do you need, what skills and experience they have, what other requirements, because that then dictates where you go to hire and where you kind of might need particular skills and geography, time zones, et cetera.

From that, you know, based on that geography, you know, I would always look for specialists in that area. There are sites that operate completely worldwide, but then, you know, and that can work really, really well. I’m not a big fan personally of just advertising on LinkedIn because LinkedIn, as an example, they make it way too easy for people to apply.

So it’s like a one click, one click application. And you just get whole ton of poor quality. You’re gonna get hundreds of applicants. None of them often will be, will be actually any good.

Chip Griffin: And that’s true, by the way, whether you’re looking for overseas or just in your own neighborhood, I mean, it is, LinkedIn has made it far too simple and it’s really unfortunate.

Noel Andrews: Yeah. So I think ideally what you want to do is have, you know, be having a conversation with someone. So one of the things that I do is I jump on a free consultation calls with people, and it’s very much about figuring out, right, what’s going on for you and your agency right now, what’s going on, what’s coming up.

What role do you think you need? And I, you know, often kind of coach and guide and advise people on, you know, the options and to think about. And if I think they should not hire from Eastern Europe, I’ll be the first to say so and kind of guide people in that way. And so ideally what you want to do is speak to someone, either another agency owner that’s hired from the region of the world you’re thinking of or hired the roles you’re thinking of.

Someone like me, for instance, or kind of peers or, you know, other people that, you know, in a similar space, just have these kinds of conversations and then get recommendations and advice. Um, and then when you come into the actual hiring, you know, you’ve got generally two choices, whether you do it yourself or you get help.

Most busy agency owners should not be trying to become recruitment consultants. I definitely don’t advise that. You’ve got way more important things to do with your time and the cost to get help with hiring is just not that, not significant at all. So yeah, definitely be looking at that, but have conversations with, like I said, with people like me to just understand your options, and then you can make a informed decision.

Chip Griffin: Well, I think people have a lot more information to go with to make that informed decision now that we’ve had this conversation. Hopefully folks have gotten that value out of this discussion. I know that I have. If someone is interested in having a further conversation with you or learning more about JobRack, where should they go?

Noel Andrews: Yeah, simply head on over to jobrack.eu/agency, and there’s a whole bunch of information there and you can click there and book a free call with me any time.

Chip Griffin: Fantastic. Well, Noel, I really appreciate the time that you’ve taken today to explore the options for agencies to expand their talent pool, to other parts of the world.

I think there’s lots of opportunity to be explored there and lots of things to think about. So thank you all for listening. I appreciate your time Noel and I look forward to having you all back again as listeners again, very soon.

Noel Andrews: Thanks, Chip.

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In this episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast, Noel Andrews of JobRack explains how talent from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world can supplement your workforce.





Agencies in the United States and elsewhere are faced with a challenging labor market that makes hiring for needed roles more difficult than ever. Finding the right talent at the right time is never easy, so what options do agencies have?



In this episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast, Noel Andrews of JobRack explains how talent from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world can supplement your workforce.



With agencies more comfortable than ever with remote workers, commute time to an office is no longer a limiting factor in most hiring decisions. Why not look globally to fill the roles that you need to deliver excellent results for your clients?



Noel talks about what works and what doesn’t, as well as the best approach to finding good people in geographically diverse places.



Key takeaways



Noel Andrews: “When you look to hire remotely, whether it’s in the same country or further afield, it isn’t about saving money. It’s about getting equivalent or better quality for more affordable rates and being able to hire the people in the first place where there is actually an availability of talent.”



Chip Griffin: “It does take some skill on the part of the team at the home agency to manage geographically far flung resources, whether they’re employees or contractors, no matter which part of the world they’re in.”



Noel Andrews: “There are great people available to hire in every country in the world.”



Chip Griffin: “It’s like any resource, even if you had one that was just down the block, you need to understand what the expectations are on both sides for working hours and things like that.”



Resources



* JobRack* JobRack’s Agency page* Connect with Noel Andrews on LinkedIn



About Noel Andrews



Noel has over 15 years of hiring and management experience as an entrepreneur, with large corporations and with fully remote start-ups. He bought JobRack in 2018 and now helps business owners all across the world to hire well-educated, high-quality remote workers from Eastern Europe.




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am delighted to have with me today, Noel Andrews, the CEO and owner of JobRack. Welcome to the show Noel.



Noel Andrews: Hey, thanks Chip, great to be here.



Chip Griffin: It is great to have you here and before we jump into our conversation, why don’t you just share a little bit about yourself and JobRack.



Noel Andrews: Based here in London, England. It’s not as dreary as people may think, plenty of blue skies and sunshine. I have a particular kind of favorite set of rooftop bars that I like to frequent whenever we do get sunshine. And yeah, JobRack, we help agencies and online business owners to hire really, really great talent from Eastern Europe.



And one of the big things that we do is we take all the hard work of hiring out for people so we really end up helping people get the kind of the talent that they need.



Chip Griffin: Well, and, and that’s a perfect segue into what I want to t...]]>
Chip Griffin 28:09
Getting a handle on your agency’s finances (featuring Jon Morris) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/getting-a-handle-on-your-agencys-finances/ Tue, 19 Apr 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=16407 In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jon Morris of Ramsay Innovations shares his perspective as a former agency owner turned agency financial advisor.]]>

Most agency owners didn’t go to school to learn about business management and financial reporting. For many, it is a necessary evil that comes along with being able to do the creative work that they enjoy.

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jon Morris of Ramsay Innovations shares his perspective as a former agency owner turned agency financial advisor. He explains the key reports that agencies should be paying attention to, as well as why they matter to the future success of the business.

Rather than treating finance as something that must be done, Chip and Jon discuss why agency owners should turn to the numbers for meaningful advice on the business decisions that they make every day — from defining an ideal client to plotting the path to expansion.

Key takeaways

Jon Morris: “Every single agency owner has a strategic plan, whether they know it or not. It is what they choose to spend their money on.”

Chip Griffin: “As soon as you hire a single contractor, you need to start understanding the finances of the business. Otherwise you’re going to end up working harder than you have to, to make less than you should.”

Jon Morris: “If you don’t time track and your employees want to work less, but the opposite happens, they end up getting burnt out because you don’t know how to staff, when to staff, how to staff accordingly.”

Chip Griffin: “Agency owners have been conditioned to focus on the wrong financial metrics. And so they think about top line revenue. Oh, I’m a million dollar firm. I’m a $5 million firm. Those things mean nothing.”

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 am delighted to have with me today, Jon Morris, the CEO CEO of Ramsay Innovations. And I was joking that your name was so easy, but apparently I cannot say CEO to start a show.

So, but that’s just, we keep it real here on Chats with Chip. So welcome to the show, Jon.

Jon Morris: Yeah, thanks for having me, really excited to be here, Chip.

Chip Griffin: It is great to have you on but before we get started with our conversation, why don’t you just share briefly a little bit about yourself and Ramsay innovations?

Jon Morris: Absolutely. So name is Jon Morris and prior to founding Ramsay Innovations, I actually founded a digital agency called Rise Interactive. I grew it from just me working out of my home to about 250 employees. Sold it to Quad Graphics, which is the largest printer in the United States, uh, and stepped down as CO 2 years ago.

And when I look at the success of Rise, a lot of it had to do with the financial acumen that we built. And so what I’m doing now with Ramsay Innovations, Is teaching smaller agencies how to build a world-class financial infrastructure and helping them implement that. And that entails everything from what I consider the table stakes portion of your finance department, the accounting group, which is paying your bills, sending out your invoices, doing the payroll, all of those really important things, to more strategic, putting your budgets and strategic plans together. Forecasting, cashflow analysis, emergent analysis, and giving you insights to spend your time and money more efficiently, more effectively.

Chip Griffin: And those are critical skills that, I mean, really every business needs to develop, but particularly small agencies as they’re going through their growth stages. So I think it makes for a good topic. And I know, it’s something that a lot of agency owners are interested in learning more about, and the fact that you can bring the experience as an agency owner to the table, to the financial mix is, is really helpful.

So let’s go ahead and start diving into some of that if we could. And as you’re, as you’re sitting there wearing your agency owner hat, you know, what are the, the most important things that you need to be keeping track of from a financial perspective? What are the, you know, the three or four key reports or metrics that you think almost every agency owner should have at the tip of their fingers as they’re making decisions.

Jon Morris: So I’m going to answer that, but I’m also going to let you understand that every single agency owner has a strategic plan, whether they know it or not. It is what they choose to spend their money on. A real life example: I had a prospective client two weeks ago. They were telling me how important growth is to their business.

And so I asked them a simple question. What percent of your revenue do you spend on sales and marketing? And the answer was zero. And so what I explained to them and I was like, look, the cool thing about what you spend your money on is it really prioritizes what is important. And so in that scenario, I said, growth is really not that important to you.

So one of the metrics that is most important to me is what percent of your revenue do you spend on sales and marketing? If you want to grow, could you grow? Like, could you be an amazing founder and be an amazing salesperson? Yes. But generally you’ll hit a wall in terms of the amount of new business you can bring in versus the amount of new business or amount of existing business that you lose.

And you hit a plateau point. Fueling sales and growth or sales and marketing is a really important number. Probably the most important metric though, is your gross margin. And let me explain what I mean by gross margin, because I have to define a few things. The first thing is I have to define revenue. When I say revenue, I break revenue up into two types of revenue.

There is gross revenue and there is net revenue. Gross revenue is including all of your pass through items. So like your media spend. Or any technology that you pass onto the client. And when all that pass through is gone, you get your net revenue. Then we have something called cost of service, costs of service are all of your employees, the technology, travel and entertainment.

Anything that you spend to do client work goes into that cost of service bucket. And what you have left over is your gross margin. Most agencies in the smaller size do not know what this number is. And it is by far the most important number to know. What we want as a benchmark is 50%. And I’m going to give you another real life example of two agencies, both around 5 million in revenue, both do the same services. Both are in the same market. Both have the same type of customer. One of them generated a million and a half in profit last year. One of them lost $400,000 last year. The only difference really was the gross margin. One had a 60% gross margin, one had a 19% gross margin. So understanding that allows you to make really intelligent decisions.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I think those are great points there. And, I think let’s start with the gross margin piece, because I think that is something that most agency owners, at least in the small agency space don’t know. They don’t know it at the agency level and they certainly don’t know it at the client or project level.

And I’m a big believer in, you have to know it at that more granular level as well because…

Jon Morris: Client, project, and service level.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, because otherwise what you have is you typically have some, some particularly lucrative and I don’t mean high revenue, but high profit clients projects or services that are subsidizing a lot of the other things.

And so if you’re not looking at it in a more granular way than you’re potentially masking real problems in your business, and you’re not focused on the right things, right. Because when you’re defining your ideal client, you want to get more of those high margin clients. Those are the ones you want. You don’t want the ones that you’re just, you know, eking out and doing your best to do.

Jon Morris: Can I actually give you a great example?

Chip Griffin: Yeah, absolutely.

Jon Morris: That company, I was just telling you about that made a huge profit and had a 60% gross margin. Everything sounds really rosy, but it turns out that one service offering is subsidizing all of the other service offerings. And so they actually have two core service offerings they’re losing money on right now.

Their expenses are greater than the revenue being generated. And then when you break up the service where they’re making a ton of money, they have two ways that they categorize it. And one way is 70 to 75% margin. And the other one, they actually have a person on the team with only a 12% profit margin for their book of business.

And so when you get into these granular layers, think about how much more money that company can make, even though they’re already making a ton of money. And so we’ve recognized that they’re, they’re leaving about a million dollars a year on the table with their existing team by not maximizing the employee utilization and the hourly rates that they’re trying to realize.

Chip Griffin: And I think a lot of this comes from the fact that the agency owners have been conditioned from a lot of what they read to focus on the wrong financial metrics. And so they think about top line revenue. Oh, I’m a million dollar firm. I’m a $5 million firm. Those things mean nothing. Particularly if you do have a lot of those pass through or reimbursable expenses like media, like technology and those kinds of things, because you can have a really, really high top-line number and a miserable bottom line number. You cannot do anything with that top line number except brag about it, perhaps to your peers. Right? You cannot go cash that top line number.

Jon Morris: Yeah. And that’s another thing is I try to explain it to a lot of people, their business is valued based on their profit or specifically their EBITDA.

And so we typically want agencies to come in around 20% EBITDA as a percent of their revenue. When I say EBITDA for those listening it’s earnings or think of earnings as the word profit before interest on any loans, taxes, or if you have any capital that you’re depreciating or any software that you’re amortizing.

And so it stands for earnings before interest tax, depreciation and amortization.

Chip Griffin: And importantly, I think it’s important for owners to understand that they have to assign themselves a fair level of compensation before they calculate that 20%.

Jon Morris: Absolutely.

Chip Griffin: Because that particularly, if you’re an agency of say, you know, two, two and a half million or less, your compensation can be a huge percentage of your profit, if you are not calculating it correctly. And so it can cause wild swing. So how do you counsel your clients or just any agency to, to assign a fair value to the owner’s compensation? Because obviously for tax purposes, there may be a variety of different ways that you want to do it to minimize your tax burden, but that’s not a real health of the business type analysis.

Jon Morris: I’m a huge believer in third-party compensation analysis. And there are a bunch of companies that provide this data where what you want to do is if you’re a $2 million agency, you want to ensure that everybody’s paid market rate. And so, and I’ll go into what is market rate. So what they’ll look at is your role, the size of your company, the industry in the market that you’re in.

And they collect all sorts of data of, you know, if you’re a digital agency in the Chicago land area, you know, this is typically what a CEO gets paid, and that’s what you should be looking at as the benchmark of what you should be paid. And it generally comes in a range. It’s not like a specific dollar amount.

It’s like a 25% to 75% range of what you get into. And I try to get base to be on the lower side. But the total comp to be on the higher side based on performance.

Chip Griffin: Right. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to, you know, get a healthy level of compensation out of your business through a variety of different levers.

But you need to know when you’re calculating that EBITDA, because it is the benchmark for how you can really judge the health of your firm and, and all that kind of stuff is you’ve got to come up with those fair numbers. And so, you know, in addition to doing sort of third-party compensation assessments, which I think is very helpful.

You know, some of the other advice that I give and I’d be interested in your perspective on this, you know, make sure that you are the highest paid employee. Oftentimes I see owners pay themselves less than people who are substantially more junior in their own firms. That’s a warning sign.

That’s a red flag that you’re probably not assigning yourself fair compensation. And the other is, think about, you know, what would it cost for you to hire someone to come in and do the vast majority of what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis?

Jon Morris: Couldn’t agree with you more. So, first of all, I have a general rule that, you know, your direct report should always make less than you and that whoever the next person’s direct report should make less than that person.

Like, you’re going to run into a compensation problem if you have direct reports who make more than their boss. And so if you follow that rule. I’ve also read 50% – you take the highest person, highest paid person and times it by 1.5 and that is a good target for a CEO compensation.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And I think that, you know, if you have no other numbers to go off, I think that’s a great place to start because, you know, more often than not I see owners who are under compensating themselves, at least on the P and L. They may be doing just fine, you know, once they start taking draws and things like that, but you, that’s not really helping you to understand how your business is growing.

Jon Morris: Exactly. What you have to do is you have to like, you know, for example, if you’re an LLC, you don’t pay yourself a salary, right.

It’s just your salary and your profits are synonymous. But in your budget, you want to actually put in this is the compensation for my time. And then this is what my owner’s draw should be based on me just wanting to take cash out of the business. And it’s very important to have a distinct. Like distinguishing the two.

Chip Griffin: Yep, absolutely. And so it often means that you have to have effectively two sets of books, right? I mean, it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean you have to have a lot invested in that. Right. But you do need to have the two sets of numbers, one that you’re using for tax purposes and one that you’re using for measuring the progress of the business towards your goals.

Because they do serve different purposes. And if you’re not doing that, then chances are, you’re either paying too much in taxes or you’re not learning enough about how the business is running.

Jon Morris: Well, the other thing is there’s something called cash versus accrual accounting. And when you do your taxes, you’re going to want to do it on a cash basis.

That’s when the cash actually comes in. So good example, if you win a contract and it’s for $50,000 a month, but they give you a check for $600,000 in January, cash would show you $600,000 of revenue in January, zero for February through December. Accrual is basically when you actually do the work. So if you’re a 50,000 a month, you would show only 50,000 in January, even though the cash came into that time period.

And for the listeners here, it is absolutely crucial that you measure your business on accrual method because that’s the only way you get real insights into how your business is doing at a specific given period of time.

Chip Griffin: Right. And, the fact that most agencies use cash based accounting, and don’t even bother with the accrual, even for measuring the health of the business.

That’s why there’s this, I think misperception that agencies are constantly in feast or famine, right. And it’s not that they’re in feast or famine. It’s that their books look like it because of these irregularities, in terms of when people are paying, you know, they may pay upfront for certain work. They may be slow to pay on certain things.

And so, you know, from a cash basis, you’re going to see that rollercoaster. In your revenue in all likelihood, unless you’re just, you know, getting all electronic payments once a month for everything you’re doing, but how many businesses do we know that are that rhythmic about that. But accrual evens that out.

And so now you can start to see the real trends and all of a sudden it’s not feast or famine. It’s just that you have to manage your finances a little bit more directly.

Jon Morris: Couldn’t agree more. Now I would even just say just another comment about, you know, people running it on a cash basis. A lot of people who start agencies are not necessarily entrepreneurs. They are marketers and they have a specific expertise in marketing that they want to share. And they feel like, Hey, by starting my own business, I can do it my way. I can provide a better service that wherever I was before. But finance isn’t, I get the core of their expertise.

But what I always explain to people is there are two versions of you. There is the CEO version of you, and there is the marketer version of you. And if you want to build a big company, you have to recognize that you’re, you’re moving out of the marketer, you’re moving into the CEO role. And that just happens to do marketing.

And if you’re going up against your competition and they are investing in their financial infrastructure, and they’re able to answer questions and get insights that you’re not, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. And what you want to do is you want to be the opposite. You want to be the one that has all the data structured really intelligently to answer questions that nobody else is answering so that you spend your time and money more intelligently.

And that’s one of the most important things about why you want to build your financial infrastructure.

Chip Griffin: Well, and I think it’s, it’s not even necessarily about wanting to grow a big business. It’s any time you want to go beyond just yourself in the business. So as soon as you hire a single contractor, you need to start understanding the finances of the business.

And running it like a business as opposed to running it like, you know, I’m just picking up freelance contracts. So I’m more like a, an independent employee. As soon as you’ve got other people you’re paying, you need to understand how all these things work. Otherwise you’re going to end up working harder than you have to, to make less than you should.

And that just doesn’t make any sense.

Jon Morris: Couldn’t agree more.

Chip Griffin: So let’s go back to your, the first point you were making in terms of you are essentially speaking to your priorities by how you’re investing your resources, and you were talking particularly about finances. I would also make clear to folks that you need to understand that your time, the time of your team is part of that.

Right? And a lot of times agencies forget to account for the fact that you know, that the time that I’m spending as the owner or that Sally or Johnny are spending as team members on a particular activity, that’s an investment. And it doesn’t matter whether they’re investing in a client project or sales and growth or whatever, it’s a, you have decided that this is a priority because that’s how they’re spending their time. And you need to understand that and make sure that you’re getting a good return on that investment. So let’s, let’s zero in on that a little bit, to understand, you know, where maybe some small agencies might be going wrong and could do better. And so how do you start to think about, well, first of all, let’s, let’s talk about time tracking because I think that’s, that’s core to what I’ve just said.

And. How important is time tracking and you know, how much do you need to, or how complex does it need to be in order to give you what you need, in order to make intelligent investment decisions.

Jon Morris: So I want you to think about when you go to the bar and you order a shot and they had that little measuring cup where they pour the drink into the measuring cup, and then they pour it into your drink.

And they do that to ensure that they get as many shots as they can out of that bottle. And when they don’t do that, And you’re just trusting each individual bartender to pour the drink based on what they believe a shot is, there’s a lot of inefficiencies. And that’s the same as how I would view time tracking.

What you’re looking to do is gain insight into the profitability of the services you’re offering, the profitability of your clients, the profitability of projects. If you do not time track, it is going to be incredibly hard to do that. Now I understand time-tracking sucks. Okay. Nobody enjoys it, but guess what?

Chip Griffin: Oh, come on! I love it, John. It’s fun.

Jon Morris: Okay. The people who own Harvest really enjoy time-tracking. Yes. But you know, the other part that people don’t understand. It is a critical element for resource planning. You know, there’s two certainties I believe that exist in the agency world. One certainty is every year your employees want to get paid more and they want to work less.

And the second certainty is that the client wants to pay less, have you work more hours and talk to more senior people and you as the agency owner are stuck with the bill. And if you don’t time track and your employees want to work less, but the opposite happens, they end up getting burnt out because you don’t know how to staff, when to staff, how to staff accordingly.

So I believe it is beyond a critical element to answering really critical questions. I can tell people oftentimes like, Hey, you’ve got a gross margin problem. But if I can’t get into the why you have a gross margin problem, it doesn’t help that much. All we know is we’ve got a problem. I can’t tell you if it’s because of client A or client B.

I can’t tell you if it’s because of service A or service B. And I can’t tell you if it’s because of project A or project B. And the other thing I can’t tell you is it might be a scoping issue on a specific task. Now you asked me how complicated it should get. And my answer is as least complicated as possible.

What happens is if you try to do time tracking in overkill, where you’re not just tracking the client, the service, the project, the task, but then you get into the sub and the micro tasks and you keep on going further down. Your adoption rate starts falling because it’s just too hard for the employees to keep up.

Yeah. So I’m very big on the user interface, and trying to make it so that you can get time entered into the system as fast, as quickly as possible. I’m very big in trying to track as few things as possible. So that someone doesn’t have to do massive amounts of data entry into it, because that’s where your adoption starts to fall.

Chip Griffin: Right. And I, and I think that’s where most agencies get it wrong. They go to one extreme or the other, they say, look, you know, we’re throwing out time sheets. It’s an antiquated way of doing things. You know, we’re not going to burden you with that. We want you to feel good. Or they go into, you know, I want to know every second of the day exactly what you’re doing.

And they collect all this data that not only is burdensome for the employee, but they never end up using. It just sits there on Harvest or whatever platform you’re using. And so, so now you’ve made the employees’ lives miserable for no good reason. And so I’m totally on board with you. You’ve got to get collect the least amount of information that you need in order to make those critical decisions.

And, if you do that, and I think the other thing that you mentioned there, it helps you with resource planning so that employees don’t get burned out. You have to explain the benefit to the employees of why time-tracking matters. You can’t just make it seem like your Big Brother trying to creep on what they’re doing.

You’re doing it because it can help you figure out when they’re overworked, when they need help, how you can invest better. And if you do that employees, you know, they’re not going to love time tracking, but they will at least understand it better.

Jon Morris: And you need to tell them it seven times and in seven different ways. It takes a lot for change management.

It takes a lot for them to be ingrained and to get on board. And the only other thing that I would say is before you get into time-tracking start with the question that you want to answer. And then when you figure out the question you want to answer, then think of the template that you’re going to create that’s going to answer that question. Then think of the data sources you need. Okay. So if you want to understand, you know, margin by client, well, there’s a lot of different data points you need. So the first thing is you need to know who works on what client. Then you’re going to have the person who works on multiple clients.

You’re going to have to figure out what do you do with those people. You’re going to have to get the payroll information so that you could assign it properly. And then you actually get to get the time data to figure out what people were actually spending. So then when you figure out that time data component, now you can start thinking, okay, well, I know that in Harvest, I need the time data to look like this, you know, But if, if that’s the only question you want to answer, you’re not trying to answer, you know, what’s the revenue by service or sorry, the margin by service.

Well, then you don’t need to ask for the service. And then, the only other thing I would add to it is once you have the template, then figure out how much resource you actually need to gather the data and put it into the report. Because if you don’t have that investment and so people time track, you got the template, but you got nobody on a weekly basis actually doing anything with the data. Well, then you just had everyone go through an exercise that they hate and that you’re not getting any value out of. So you got to think about the entire process, holistically.

Chip Griffin: Right. And I think you have to, I mean, in all the data that you’re collecting, you should always be asking that question, whether it’s for time-tracking or anything else, what question am I trying to answer?

Right. I mean, you should be thinking about that for your client projects, for your, your time tracking, for the financial reporting that you’re doing, understand what you’re trying to get out of it before you start setting the rules and choosing which packages to use and all that. And unfortunately, most people tend to start with the, oh, let’s start demoing a bunch of software for finances or time tracking.

Oh, I love this one. Let’s use that. Let’s use their template. Why? You, you need to think about what you’re trying to get from your business. I think the other advice that, that I typically give is make sure you’re trying to be accurate enough. You don’t have to be accurate down to the minute on most of your time tracking to get the information you need.

And so if an employee wants to use a timer on their stopwatch, on their computer to get it, great. But if you’re doing quarter hour increments, you’re probably going to get enough data that’s gonna be useful to you that you don’t need to worry about was it seven minutes or eight minutes?

Jon Morris: I completely agree.

Chip Griffin: So, you know, keep it simple, stupid.

So on the growth piece, because I do want to make sure we touch on that before we run out of time here. And it’ll be the last bit that we have a chance to cover today. You know, when you’re talking about investing in growth, I think you made a good point that if you’re not investing it, you can’t expect to be growing.

And I think part of the challenge is that agencies start out and they often have a growth spurt in the early years, because they are reaching out to a lot of the low hanging fruit in their network. And they’ve typically, you know, maybe they’ve picked up a client or two from, you know, what their last employer was or something like that.

And so they see this momentum without having to be really proactive at their sales and marketing efforts. But then at some point, typically, if you want to keep that momentum going, you do have to invest in both time and money. So, you know, how do you advise folks to think about the investments that they’re making in sales and marketing?

Do you have rules of thumb that you use? Are there, are there ways that you would like them to be thinking about how to track that return? So they know, yes, this makes sense, what I’m doing.

Jon Morris: Absolutely. So, the first thing is I teach everyone a language in terms of sales, and that language has to do with MQLs, SQLs, and opportunities.

So MQL stands for marketing qualified leads, and it means someone has raised their hand and said that they’re interested in working with you. You do not know if you want to work with them. You do not know if they meet any of your criteria. All you know is that they’re interested in your service. And SQL is you’ve talked to them, and you’ve done enough vetting to determine, you know, what I want to pursue this opportunity.

So MQL stands for marketing qualified lead, SQL stands for sales qualified lead. And then the third one is an opportunity and it has to meet a criteria called I call BANT, and BANT is an acronym that stands for budget, meaning that you’ve determined that they have the budget to actually pay for your service.

The next one is authority, that you’ve determined that they have the authority to make the decision. The third is that you’ve determined that they actually need your services. And the fourth one is timing, which is that they’re looking to make a decision in a timely manner. And if they meet those four criteria, you have an opportunity.

If they don’t meet that criteria, you might have an SQL. You still want to pursue it, but it’s not an opportunity. Now the reason why I bring that up is in order for you to grow, you have to generate new customers. In order to generate new customers, you have to generate opportunities. In order to generate opportunities you need SQLs or sales qualified leads and then marketing qualified leads. So what we want to start measuring is how many BANT opportunities do you get a month? And what is your win rate on those BANT opportunities? And so if you reach out to all your low hanging fruit and it just comes from your network, at some point you’re going to start seeing as a leading indicator, I don’t have any opportunities.

And so what you want to be thinking about is what are the investments I need to make and do those investments in sales and marketing lead to BANT opportunities? If the answer is no, well, then you have a pretty good at understanding that your marketing is not working. You know, I believe in investing in your brand, I believe in, you know, getting people to know you, but when you’re a small company, I believe much more in lead generation.

And do you generate BANT opportunities and are you winning those BANT opportunities?

Chip Griffin: Well, and I think the “are you winning” is important too, because I think there’s a lot of premature proposaling in the small agency community. Really agencies of all sizes but particularly small ones, they feel like they’re doing something.

And so they rush to, to send a proposal. So they may be sending proposals to folks way too early in the conversation. Before they’re even properly qualified simply because it feels like, okay, I’m making progress by putting them out there. Same reason a lot of agencies respond to RFPs that they have no chance of winning.

The problem is and as a financial guy, you can, you can help them understand this. They need to calculate the cost of preparing all of those proposals and pitches and roll it in. And that means that whatever few percent of those that they’re winning, they have to make up for all the money they’ve spent on all the losing ones just to break even.

Jon Morris: Couldn’t agree more. And if you go through that qualification process I told you about, and you don’t develop a proposal for anyone, unless they’re a BANT opportunity, you’ve just saved yourself a ton of money.

Chip Griffin: And you should have a pretty high win rate at that point.

Jon Morris: Exactly. I mean, just to give you an idea, you know, our win rate is historically around 70% in this business of our BANT opportunities we convert to customers. Now at Rise where it was a lower number, but there was a lot more competition. Right. And, so the, the next thing that you also want to think about is your number one sales goal is never lose a customer due to performance. You spent all this time and money to, again, to go win that business.

Well, especially if you’re in the retained agency world, as opposed to the project agency world, you know, the more you can hold on to that business going into the next year. You know, you have a large book of business that makes your life easier. This is one of my favorite stats. In 2019, 20% of our revenue was from clients we won in 2013. Think about that. A fifth of our revenue was due to something we won six years prior because we held on to their book of business. And so when you think about the investments you want to make, what you want to be thinking about first is are my services any good? Am I doing a good job? Are they truly differentiated? What investments do I need to make so that they’re better next year than they are this year?

Chip Griffin: And are they the right fit for those clients you’re selling it to right? It’s the whole, you know, you can sell ice to an Eskimo. Fantastic. They’re probably not going to keep buying it because they’re going to realize it’s sitting right outside their door already.

Jon Morris: Exactly.

Chip Griffin: So, well, we could go on for hours about some of these topics, so we, we will have to find other opportunities to engage on them, but, that unfortunately does bring us to an end of the time that we have available today. If somebody is interested more in learning more about you or accessing some of the resources that you provide, where can they find you?

Jon Morris: They can go to RamsayInnovations.com. That’s R A M S A Y innovations.com. They can connect with me on LinkedIn. They can also email me at Jon@Ramsayinnovations.com.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. Well, Jon, I really appreciate you taking the time to share a lot of this practical financial advice, and frankly, other management advice for agencies, you’re really bringing your experience to bear.

I know that listeners will have enjoyed it, and I appreciate everybody who has stuck with us listening all the way through. And I look forward to having you all back as listeners on a future episode.

Jon Morris: Thank you so much, Chip. It was great to be here.

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In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jon Morris of Ramsay Innovations shares his perspective as a former agency owner turned agency financial advisor.





Most agency owners didn’t go to school to learn about business management and financial reporting. For many, it is a necessary evil that comes along with being able to do the creative work that they enjoy.



In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jon Morris of Ramsay Innovations shares his perspective as a former agency owner turned agency financial advisor. He explains the key reports that agencies should be paying attention to, as well as why they matter to the future success of the business.



Rather than treating finance as something that must be done, Chip and Jon discuss why agency owners should turn to the numbers for meaningful advice on the business decisions that they make every day — from defining an ideal client to plotting the path to expansion.



Key takeaways



Jon Morris: “Every single agency owner has a strategic plan, whether they know it or not. It is what they choose to spend their money on.”



Chip Griffin: “As soon as you hire a single contractor, you need to start understanding the finances of the business. Otherwise you’re going to end up working harder than you have to, to make less than you should.”



Jon Morris: “If you don’t time track and your employees want to work less, but the opposite happens, they end up getting burnt out because you don’t know how to staff, when to staff, how to staff accordingly.”



Chip Griffin: “Agency owners have been conditioned to focus on the wrong financial metrics. And so they think about top line revenue. Oh, I’m a million dollar firm. I’m a $5 million firm. Those things mean nothing.”




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am delighted to have with me today, Jon Morris, the CEO CEO of Ramsay Innovations. And I was joking that your name was so easy, but apparently I cannot say CEO to start a show.



So, but that’s just, we keep it real here on Chats with Chip. So welcome to the show, Jon.



Jon Morris: Yeah, thanks for having me, really excited to be here, Chip.



Chip Griffin: It is great to have you on but before we get started with our conversation, why don’t you just share briefly a little bit about yourself and Ramsay innovations?



Jon Morris: Absolutely. So name is Jon Morris and prior to founding Ramsay Innovations, I actually founded a digital agency called Rise Interactive. I grew it from just me working out of my home to about 250 employees. Sold it to Quad Graphics, which is the largest printer in the United States, uh, and stepped down as CO 2 years ago.



And when I look at the success of Rise, a lot of it had to do with the financial acumen that we built. And so what I’m doing now with Ramsay Innovations, Is teaching smaller agencies how to build a world-class financial infrastructure and helping them implement that. And that entails everything from what I consider the table stakes portion of your finance department, the accounting group, which is paying your bills, sending out your invoices, doing the payroll, all of those really important things, to more strategic, putting your budgets and strategic plans together. Forecasting, cashflow analysis, emergent analysis, and giving you insights to spend your time and money more efficiently, more effectively.
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Chip Griffin 34:09
How to manage agency projects for profitable results (featuring Galen Low) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/how-to-manage-agency-projects-for-profitable-results/ Tue, 12 Apr 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=16282 Galen Low, co-founder of The Digital Project Manager, joined Chip on this episode to talk about how agencies can improve their project management skills to improve the results that they produce for clients while also contributing to the agency's bottom line.]]>

Many agency employees find themselves feeling overworked today. A combination of a shortage of available talent coupled with increasing client demand can make for a difficult time getting projects done on-time and on-budget.

Galen Low, co-founder of The Digital Project Manager, joined Chip on this episode to talk about how agencies can improve their project management skills to improve the results that they produce for clients while also contributing to the agency’s bottom line.

Galen offers practical advice for the processes, software, and staffing needed to produce the desired results. He offers concrete examples of what he has seen work — as well as what hasn’t — in a wide range of agency environments.

Key takeaways

Galen Low: “You can drag people, kicking and screaming into a big project management tool that they fundamentally aren’t willing to engage with. And that’s sort of like, over-engineering. That’s like giving me a Ferrari.”

Chip Griffin: “Document your processes. Not what your processes ought to be. Document what you’re actually doing today to get your projects done, because that’s the fundamental starting point for figuring out all of the other solutions that you need.”

Galen Low: “The best project management tool is the one that solves your problem, but you have to understand your requirements first and what you’re expecting of it. Choosing software is a project in and of itself.”

Chip Griffin: “That is how agencies end up thriving because they get really good at being able to set client expectations and being able to price correctly so that they can deliver what the client needs, while still generating a profit for the agency. And so a project manager plays a role in all of these things. It’s not just about the deadlines.”

Resources

The Digital Project Manager information:

Galen Low’s contact information:

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 am delighted to have with me Galen Low, the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager. Welcome to the show.

Galen Low: Hey Chip. Thanks for having me on the show. It’s a real pleasure.

Chip Griffin: It is great to have you here. We’re going to be talking about – well, project management. I mean, what else would we be talking about given your role? And it’s an important topic for small agencies, but before we start diving into it, why don’t we take a moment for you to share a little bit about yourself and where folks can find you.

Galen Low: Okay. Yeah. Awesome. No, that’s great. As you mentioned, I’m the co-founder of a little community called The Digital Project Manager. And me personally, I’ve got a background in client services and business development within digital agencies. And I’ve been doing that since about 2009, which puts me at about over a decade of doing this.

I’ve worked at like small boutique agencies, but I’ve also worked at larger consultancies. And a lot of my experience has revolved around human centered, digital transformations in government and healthcare and in retail. And also just for folks listening or watching, I’ve also been an account manager. I’ve been a project manager. I’ve been a client services director. I’ve been a manager of project managers. I’ve also been in various business development and growth roles. So hopefully I can provide some perspective today around project management, but not just about project management, as much as I’d like to nerd out about project management. Let’s, let’s zoom it out a little bit, and have a healthy conversation.

Chip Griffin: Well, and I think that’s so important that, that we not think about project management in isolation. It really does fit into the overall puzzle of not just client service and service delivery, but it also plays a role in business development and pricing and overall management strategy.

So you really need to be thinking about it in those broader terms, if you’re going to do it right within your agency. So when we think about project management, you know, how would you separate project management from all of the other things that your account teams are doing? I mean, how is it? Is this just my task list? Is this, something more detailed in Asana? Is it a bigger picture concept? I mean, talk to me how you look at project management.

Galen Low: Honestly, this is a tricky question for a lot of agencies, because in a way, especially in client services, almost everything is a project. What happens is in a lot of agencies, there’s an account manager running these projects, which might be marketing campaigns, which might be, you know, brochure websites, which might be print ads, radio ads, you know, film and television stuff.

I consider a project to be something where a collaboration of humans needs to be managed to achieve a shared goal, which is pretty broad. That’s pretty broad. It’s got a start and a finish. But it’s got an outcome that everyone’s driving towards. So in a way, a lot of what happens in an agency is actually a project. It’s like, listen, we need to get this ad out. We need to get this promo for black Friday out. We need to get certain things just put together. Multi-channel, personalized re-targeted ads, so that we can achieve our goal. And our goal is going to be a business objective. It’s going to be about delivering value for our clients, and in so doing, it’s going to be about increasing revenue. It’s going to be about increasing operational efficiency. It’s about, enabling them to do something that they don’t have the in-house capability to do so that they can scale and grow their business. So I think all of those things in mind, a lot of the time we are talking about projects in the agency context.

Where I think the line is drawn – you raised a really good point. Like when is this just a to-do list? And when is this something that’s in a project management software, like Asana at scale. And for me, the answer is, honestly, it depends where you’re going as an agency. You might start as a shared to-do list. I know many, many organizations that are running projects off of Todoist.

You know, the paid version of Todoist. Everyone just has eyes on it. Basecamp, for example, as well, right, where it’s kind of like we are to do list driven. That’s the way we work. We don’t want to get bogged down with methodology and process and learning a new piece of software. But then I think when you start to scale up, you start to think about projects and to your point earlier, how they contribute towards growth.

And I mean, agency growth at this stage, right? Because we’re talking about things like how healthy are our projects? What does this portfolio look like with this client? Are we making money? Are things on time so that we can operationally get the next project in? So it can start on time with that other client. And then you start needing to zoom out a little bit, because then you start needing that perspective of what’s going on with all my projects at once.

And that’s something you can’t really do, when you just have a to-do list that folks are sharing or like that, you know, Google sheet that everybody just logs into and that’s where they do their work. You can do that. Absolutely. You can manage projects like that all day long. And honestly, I’ve seen very large projects managed that way successfully. Where I think the breaking point is, is when you want to zoom out and say, listen, these are projects that are actually initiatives to help us grow. Every project can be viewed as an initiative to help your agency grow. And that’s going to be, you know, scaling up your capabilities. You know, you have that project where suddenly you need to hire that contractor who has that skill that you don’t have in house, but then you’re also adopting and embracing that skillset in your organization to allow you to do more. Then you need to run it profitably. Then you need to run it on time because we’re just going to keep coming in. Your pipeline is probably there. And if you’re doing a great job, just making people aware of your organization, and the quality of the work that they do then you probably have a pretty healthy pipeline and then you start running into scheduling and scale issues.

Right. And it’s like, how do we have that bigger picture? How can we operate as – how can we run every project like a growth initiative, I guess I would say, I think that’s a bit of a different perspective.

Chip Griffin: So you’ve brought up a number of things that I want to drill deeper on. So the, and I think the first thing that I want to focus on is you were talking about how some folks, you know, can just use Google sheets or that sort of thing.

And even for complex projects. And I, and I think when I’ve worked with agencies, a lot of them go in one of two different diametrically opposed directions with project management. The first is there really is none. It’s just like, you know, we’re just, everybody kind of does their own thing. They were exchanging some emails and someone remembers to flag something.

And so it’s very disorganized. Then there’s the other extreme that they’ve gone out and they’ve gotten this high-end software package. They’ve put in all sorts of dates and dependencies and they’re generating Gantt charts and all sorts of things. But it, it breaks down very quickly because you know, it requires a lot of care and feeding to actually make a system like that work.

So how do you think about the level of complexity that you need to do this well. How do you find that sweet spot so that you’re not completely disorganized nor overdoing it?

Galen Low: I mean, it’s about having a good, honest look about your processes, how mature they are and how process driven your organizational culture is.

Because to your point, you know, you can drag people, kicking and screaming into like a big project management tool that they fundamentally do not – not that they don’t know how to use it, but aren’t willing to engage with. Right. And that’s sort of like, over-engineering, that’s like, that’s like giving me a Ferrari.

I’ll be like, that’s cool. But I’m like, I dunno if I’m there yet. Right. I don’t know if I feel comfortable going get my groceries in my Ferrari. So I think really just understanding the culture and being really honest about what you need to do with it today, but then also have a mindset of what do I need to do with it in the future?

Because there are ways for example, to,take a piece of software, – I’m going to geek out on software for a little bit, but then we’ll get back to project management – but you can take a piece of software and you can make those decisions from a process angle, right. Process and policy. I know they’re like the scary P words, but what I mean is you have to know how you’re going to want to use it right away. And that might not be everything it’s not like, okay, well now everybody needs to create a Gantt chart for something that used to just be in email threads. Start as a to-do list or start in a system where communication can happen. I know somebody who just rolled out a rather a rather large project management system, but all they’re using it for right now is discovery with the client. They’ve chosen to only segment a certain portion of their projects. Test it out because the gap they’re trying to fill immediately is conversations, locked in inboxes and lack of visibility on communication. And what they’re trying to do is by enhancing that communication, they’re empowering their team to do more of this management so that their project managers can be doing more. Not just chasing down emails and following up and making sure that somebody had seen that email from somebody else who may have forwarded it down a chain. Less of that, and more like strategy.

More of that perspective of frankly, an account manager to be like, what is the bigger picture? How can I zoom out a little bit here and understand what we’re trying to achieve rather than get lost in the minutiae?

Chip Griffin: Well, and I think that I love that you say you need to think about what you’re trying to achieve because too often, I see these things driven by some process that they’ve read about or seen someone else use, as opposed to saying, okay, What problem am I really trying to solve for in my own agency business and, and how can I use tools or processes or policies to get me there. And I know I’m sure that one of the questions you get all the time is one that I get as well, which is what’s the best project management tool. What’s the best software out there. What should I be using? How do you answer that question?

Galen Low: I mean, it’s the one that solves your problem, but you have to understand your requirements first and what you’re expecting of it. I mean, a tool, you know, as we always say, and maybe is sort of a common thing to say, but maybe not fully understood is, you know, a tool is only as good as its users. But what we really mean is we need vision. We need direction. Like it needs to be – choosing software is a project in and of itself. Right. And even that mindset of understanding goals and understanding how it gets rolled out, understanding who’s involved, right? Your stakeholders like, is your UX team going to love it? If it’s, you know, not a part of the way that they work? How many things need to change in order for us to shoehorn into this tool?

Or maybe we are looking for a tool that works the way we work and goes in the direction that we want to go, because there’s no shortage of tools. I will tell you that. There’s definitely hundreds and hundreds of project management tools claiming to do everything. Some of them trying very hard to do everything.

It’s not just marketing speak. They’re trying to do all things and be all things for all people. It makes sense as a product. But at the same time, you need to understand you need to know you and you know where you’re going as an agency and what you’re trying to achieve. So you don’t get lost in all of that, you know, in a pond of just the feature comparisons.

Chip Griffin: Right. And you said something important there, which is if your user experience team hates it, they’re not going to use it right. And so therefore, you know, to me, the answer is typically it’s whatever you’re going to use consistently. You and your team, if you’re using the software or whatever tool it is.

I mean, it can be a napkin. I mean, you can do good project management on a napkin. I wouldn’t encourage it. It’s not how I would do it, but if you use it consistently, it could probably get the job done for you. You need to have something that you and your team are going to use consistently in order to make it work.

And I also think that it’s important that you talked about how selecting the project management software is a project in itself, and this gets overlooked a lot because I see a lot of agencies who hop from one project management tool to another, you know, they’ve heard about some cool new thing or they’re a frustrated with their existing platform.

And so they go to another one. And, and so much of that I think is driven by what you talked about earlier, which is not specifying the requirements upfront and letting that drive your decision, making it gets driven because you saw a cool demo video or a sales rep gave you a nice demo, or your buddy told you, oh, this is fantastic.

You should use this. And it really not only does that waste a lot of time. People misunderstand the amount of time it takes to switch from one platform to another. So I’ve even seen people switch because it’s cheaper. Well, okay. But that $20 a month you’re saving on your subscription gets completely blown away by the switching cost to train your team and move all the data.

I mean, it’s just it’s bonkers. So it really needs to be something where the tool is servicing you and not the other way around.

Galen Low: Yeah, this is not a switching your mobile phone provider, which, you know, in the telecom business is a huge thing. People just jump back and forth, get the whatever free pizza coupon for setting up as a new customer. Jump back, you know, their phone still rings. Fine. From a change management perspective, there’s nothing doing. Right. Nothing to be done. When you’re changing the tool that your team uses every day and your tool is – your team is guess what? Very cross-functional. They all do different things. They all work different ways.

Like that’s a huge, there’s a huge matrix of considerations there that you need to take into account. Otherwise, to your point, it’s going to be much more expensive than you thought on paper.

Chip Griffin: Right. Now, if software is not going to solve your problem, then what must be going to solve it is hiring a full-time project manager.

Right. If I hire a full-time project manager and bring them into my agency, that’s going to solve all my project management problems, right?

Galen Low: I mean, yes and no. And I think we, I get asked this a lot. Right. And when people come to me, they probably come to you as well. I’m looking to hire a project manager, who have you got? I need someone pretty senior. They need to set everything up and figure out the whole project management thing here. And what I tell organizations, especially agencies, is that that’s probably not your first step. Probably your first step is you need to do a bit of planning and again, understand that your current situation, the way people work and where this individual is going to fit within your operating model, within your org chart. What are the processes that you need to articulate and identify maybe even just document so that this person isn’t coming in and starting from ground zero.

Chip Griffin: That’s a great idea. I mean, I want to stop you there because I think that the first step for all of these things is exactly what you just said.

Document your processes. Not necessarily what your processes ought to be or something like that. Just document what you’re actually doing today to get your projects done, because that’s the fundamental starting point for figuring out all of the other solutions that you need.

Galen Low: Absolutely. Bring in your team. And I think, you know, the joy – what I find sometimes, especially in smaller agencies, I find there’s a hesitation to engage the team. And I’m like, why? Because you’re at a size where you can engage a team. Right. And when you’re at 500 people, like you’re not going to ask for 500 opinions, that’s fine.

But when you are 15, 20 people, just have a session, maybe a couple sessions with some of the teams and figuring out what people need, where the pain points are in your current processes, you know, where are your limitations of scale? What are even just those things that like, it’s good, but it would be even better if, and have that list and draw that picture and paint that picture.

And frankly, if you do that due diligence, you will probably be able to bring in – maybe start at a project coordinator level, right? Or a junior project manager. Someone’s going to come in and understand what needs to get done. Probably have a lot of recommendations for how things could be done better, probably will come in and help streamline some of the communication and some of the collaboration.

But not starting from zero. Cause when you have someone, when you ask someone to come in and design your project management processes and create the project management office or whatever you decided to call it, that’s expensive. That’s an expensive resource that you’re asking to come in and fundamentally make core changes to your business. Because there was nothing there to begin with, which frankly could also alter the direction of your, of your organization. It can change the culture of your organization. You need to know what that vision is and what the culture is and how that influences the way your teams work. So that, that is not only captured, but also sustained through change because that is what makes your agency you.

Chip Griffin: And your emphasis on engaging your team in the process is absolutely critical because it will give you great information and insights and ideas that will probably help you to improve the process, make better selections for tools, better to find the job description of a project manager or coordinator that you end up hiring. But the other thing is it, it starts to get their buy-in. And if you, if you do things in a top-down way, where you say, look, I don’t want to waste my team’s time evaluating all this stuff, I’ll take it on.

I’ll figure out the solution and I’ll give it to them. They’re more likely to resist. It’s just human nature. If someone feels like something is being forced on them without their input, they’re not going to use it to its full potential, at least as quickly. And so you’ve got to involve the team for all of those reasons.

Galen Low: Absolutely. And I’m going to circle back on something you said earlier, and I’m probably gonna say something that might be unpopular in my, in my circles. But we’re talking about hiring a project manager and we’re saying, okay, well, listen, get your house in order and develop those processes and policies before you bring in a project manager.

But then also there’s a world where, you were saying, you know, sometimes there isn’t just this project mindset, right? It’s just like emails going back and forth and work getting done. And it feels like business as usual. And I would say the interim step might actually be, especially if you’re in an agency where, like most of these, most of the client work is driven by an account manager.

I would say invest the time to up-skill your account managers in project management. Not to say that suddenly project management becomes their job, not to say that they suddenly have to be, you know, making Gantt charts and looking at burndown charts in your project management software, not just that. But adopting that project mindset and understanding what are those core, best practices, but not even best practices.

It’s the instincts. It’s the judgment. And it’s that leadership and a willingness to engage with the project and the project work in order to steer it to a conclusion that delivers value for the client that also delivers value for the agency. And frankly also delivers value for the team that they’re all feeling good about the work, and they felt like it was organized and no one had to stay at the office all weekend. No one had to sleep under their desk during that project. All of that elevates, right. All that elevates the culture of your agency. And it’s not really necessarily that heavy of a lift. I would say the biggest challenge for agencies who are trying to upskill their team and give their team some training and project management is just finding the time.

 It goes two different ways. There’s the, okay, well, we haven’t got the time. We’ve got so much client work on the go. Maybe so-and-so can just go and watch a YouTube video or like read a book and come back and do a lunch and learn. And it’s not necessarily the wrong idea. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t give the shape of how like end to end project management or project mindsets, we’ll be able to embed into your processes and uplift your organization. It might be like how to create a project plan. Great. Maybe they’re a little bit more organized about planning, but all the work still gets done as emails and other, everything else stays the same.

I think it’s just an end-to-end sensibility of let’s think of these things as projects. Let’s think of this as a collaboration that needs to get managed. Let’s think of it as something that is actually uplifting the quality of life for our employees and is helping our agency grow so that we can continue to have this culture that we love right.

Where it feels like we’re all, you know, a well jelling team. It feels like we are individuals who really care about the work and care about our clients and you want that to stay. And so maybe the first move is actually just to get, and I said account managers, I would say broadly speaking, I would say project management is a skill.

It’s an in-demand skill. It is a craft in my world. It is a discipline and you can go deep. You can go very deep in project management and that’s why it is a craft, but it’s also a sensibility and a skillset. So if you can give your account managers or you can give your a dev lead, or if you can give your UX lead, if you can give your business analyst some sensibility around projects, then you can really start turning the corner in terms of getting everyone to adopt this mindset, have some of these skills, share some of these skills. And maybe your business doesn’t change structurally right away. It doesn’t have to mean big wholesale change. We need to create a project management team and we have to figure out where this works in our org chart.

Maybe it’s just increasing the sensibility of your current team to think of things as projects and to understand what are those core things that make projects go well. And how do we fix projects when they go off the rails? Because it is a lot about just leadership, communication. It’s about managing expectations.

It’s about being strategic, and it’s about problem solving. And those are things that anyone on your team should feel empowered to want to be able to learn and do in order to help their job, help them do their jobs, but also help the organization.

Chip Griffin: You used the word mindset a few times in there. And I think that’s an important thing to consider.

This is not just about having a checklist that keeps projects on time, on, you know, meeting deadlines, making sure things don’t fall through the cracks. It really is a broader mindset that has additional value. So why don’t you talk a little bit about what the real value is of project management to the agency beyond just actually getting the work done.

Galen Low: Absolutely. And I’ll come at it obliquely. And I’ll say that, you know what, there are plenty of textbooks. And as someone who has a PMP myself, I know that there is the, you know, project management body of knowledge that you can rely on for tools and processes, you know, and all of those best practices and all those skills you want to have in your tool belt.

But I find that a lot of people exit those programs and, you know, they’ve got their certifications. But they’re not sure exactly when to use those tools. Like do I use it on every project? That’s what project managers do. I have to use all these tools every time. I need to have a project charter, I need to have a RACI matrix.

You know, I need to do all of these things. And I would say the, the answer is no, what you need is the sensibility to understand what the right tool is for the right situation and the right project. And that comes down to a bit of instinct I think. And that’s where the mindset for me comes in. The mindset comes into the fact that listen, it’s not about being able to do a thing.

It’s about being able to see and wrap your head around something bigger than just day-to-day work, because it is a project. It is something that’s organized. It is something that may be temporary, but you know, your chips are on the table in terms of like driving an outcome. And then I would come back to your question, I would say, okay, well, what is the value of that mindset for an agency?

And I think some of it, frankly, is going to be measurability. And I would almost start there. We’re talking about things like capturing the way you work or talking about things like, you know, qualitatively, what do people on the team think is working or what do they think could be better? And then I would almost say, okay, we’ll take a project mindset because it’s maybe not just business as usual work.

And let’s think about how we can get some data around it and it can be simple. It can just be like, listen, like let’s just set a budget. We’re not experts at estimating. Maybe this is something we’ve never done before because it’s digital and digital technology is always changing, but let’s just set a budget and see where we land.

Nobody gets fired if we go over, if we go under then that’s great. But maybe we didn’t leverage the budget as well as we could. Let’s just take something and measure it. And then when you have a project mindset, you can go cool. It started, it had a goal. We measured stuff and it ended. Now let’s look at it.

Let’s look at all of the projects we just ran. And then you start getting some data about how you can run your business more efficiently. Because, I mean, if every project goes over budget, you know, don’t close your doors, like try and fix it, right? It’s like now you have data and you can make this – you’ve been running probably fine.

Probably every project has been going over budget since the moment you began your organization, since that inception point. But now you have the ability to kind of think about how you fix it and then your changes are incremental. So I would almost think of it as like a unit, because it’s this temporary endeavor and you’re not looking at it as something that is a business as usual task.

You can then take these units and measure them and be like, okay, well, What if we could do that in less time? Or what if we hired this other person to take on this area? Because when we did our retrospective on the project, someone was like, well, I had to learn SEO to like, take this project on. You’re like, oh, well maybe instead of doing that or, you know, kudos to you for learning SEO, maybe now you’re our SEO person.

Or maybe we should look to bring on that talent to bring on that skillset into our teams on a per project basis. Right. We don’t have to necessarily staff them full-time and maybe that will help us run efficiently. But then also you’re looking at processes, right? You’re like, cool. And again, data is just that conversation starter.

It’s about, okay, again, right. We just put our finger in the air and we said probably 120 hours. And when we got to 140 hours and then the conversation is why? Let’s look at it. Let’s have a look and let’s have a conversation about how things could go better. How might we actually come in at 120 hours?

How might we hit our deadlines so that we feel confident to take on the next client project, right as that one closes, without stretching ourselves or without having to pause anything or without having to disappoint anybody.

Chip Griffin: And that’s vital to the agency success, by the way, your focus on getting insights and using retrospectives to improve your estimating, both in terms of finances, as well as deadlines, making adjustments.

I mean, that is how agencies end up thriving because they get really good at being able to set client expectations and being able to price correctly so that they can deliver what the client needs, while still generating a profit for the agency. And so a project manager plays a role in all of these things.

It’s not just about the deadlines.

Galen Low: Absolutely. No. And, I would even argue that some of the conversations I have is like, okay, project manager comes in and they work in the background. They’re, you know, checking all the boxes, making sure that everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re supposed to be doing it.

But then there’s also this inflection point where you might be able to get to a point where, as you are running your project, you actually have someone who’s maybe a bit more in the foreground showing leadership in the process, right? So your client is like, listen, I’m paying you because frankly, I don’t want to do this myself, or I don’t have the in-house capability. You were around. Somebody said you were good. We’ve worked with you before. Whatever the reason we’ve decided to work with you. But then there’s this kind of like, it’s that trust with your client and the client’s agency relationship is always a bit tricky. But what I find the most, what I find happens the most in terms of expectations management, is that sometimes a client will like just mistrust or doesn’t think the agency has a process, right?

You might come off as looking like you don’t have a process. Sometimes it’s because you don’t have a process, sometimes it’s because you haven’t clearly defined it to your clients. And I think a good use of a project manager role, even in an account manager context, is someone who can come in and be client facing and just give the rundown on like, here’s the way we work.

You hired us because we’re experts at what we do. We’re priced this way because we’re experts at what we do. And we can, we can, we built our reputation on the fact that not only are we talented and have these skills and have the ideas to, you know, make all your marketing goals happen, but we have a way of delivering that and we are intentional about it.

So, you know, trust us, we are your guides through this and it’s not just, oh, this thing is due, or here’s a risk or, or we’re off plan. It’s about, listen. When we follow our process on our plan, we deliver amazing work. And that’s what we’re known for. As soon as we go off that plan, that’s where uncertainty, that’s where everyone starts to waver.

Anyone would start to waver and then you can lead with your process. You can lead with their project management. You can say, this is the way we work. This is what’s going to make us successful. And as a result, this is what’s going to make you successful. And leave that so that your client, isn’t just kind of in the dark, like hoping things go well, while things are happening in the background.

Chip Griffin: And as we start to get ready to wind down our time together, talk a little bit about the intersection between project management and resource planning, if you could. Because this is really important, particularly for small agencies that do have smaller teams, but they do have different functions potentially within them.

Maybe you’ve got writing teams, whether they’re internal or external, SEO, designers, all those kinds of things. And I frequently see agencies run into bottlenecks where in order to complete two different projects they need help from the same team at the same time. So how do you look at that intersection between project management and resource planning for the agency?

Galen Low: I mean in a perfect world, you have a resource manager or a traffic manager or somebody who’s kind of central overseeing that, but that’s usually, maybe not every agency is at that point. We used to have just like, throwdowns. All the project managers get together in a room and fight for resources, which was messy and probably not what I would recommend.

Chip Griffin: Probably fun to watch!

Galen Low: Very fun to watch. And you know, it got everyone’s blood boiling on a Friday or whatever. But I think there’s probably, I mean, there were – I should actually say that that could work as long as you have two things. And I would say one, a way of just understanding people’s workload and yes, there’s tons of resource management tools out there and that’s fine.

But also just knowing that, you know, from a standpoint of like a, like a designer, let’s say,how many times can they context switch throughout the day? Because what I find is like, oh, let’s all share. You know, they’ll work on this project from nine to 11, then they’ll work on the other project from 11 to one. And then from one to three they’ll work on this, but it doesn’t work that way. Right. I think understanding the way people work and figuring out a block of time that makes sense. Like don’t resource down to the quarter hour. Like you’re probably not giving folks enough time to switch their cognitive focus to the next project.

So it’s kind of understanding the way people work, what you can reasonably expect from your team working across different projects. And that might mean, actually, we just need this person full-time for this project. Nobody else bug them. We need them, we need them. We need them locked in order to achieve that goal.

And then I’d say it’s about understanding, again, the data question, like if you’re not tracking time at your agency – probably most agencies are, a lot of us work time and materials, but not everybody. If you don’t have data on how much time people are spending on things and a way to kind of aggregate that data by category of task, you might not know how long it takes for someone to do a thing.

And the worst thing you could do is stand in a room – even if it’s a room full of project managers, butting heads. The worst thing you can do is just assume that you know, how long it takes for someone to do a thing. And you keep estimating that way. You keep resourcing that way and everything keeps crashing and falling off the rails.

And unless you ask yourself why and get the actual data, you will continue to make that mistake where projects go long and over budget, because actually you thought that this design thing took 40 hours, but actually it consistently takes 60. And you won’t know that unless you have the data. I think we could swing back to tools.

Honestly, I’ve seen agencies run again off of a Google sheet. You structure it that way, you get all your resources listed out and you have the, again mindset as an organization. Maybe it’s an ops person. Maybe it’s just a team of project managers, maybe it’s a team of account managers, that get together and go, okay, let’s look at this.

Not as, not as like, oh, you know, I need you in for four weeks, probably between like May and June, like it’s just that finger in the air stuff that usually means you haven’t thought about it in enough depth and don’t have enough data to make that decision. But as soon as you start numerically guesstimating it and looking at that data and then having something to compare to and with reality, then you start going, okay. We can really, we can really tighten the screws on the way that we run projects. We can build in some contingencies and buffers. We understand how people work, context switching, and probably, you know, exhaustion and going from one project to another project. But if we factor those things in, we have reliability and accuracy so that we can say, all right, well, I can reasonably say with some data that we’ll end on this date and then we can probably get them moved on to another project. And again, just keeping that utilization, but by utilization also, keeping your team engaged and interested and doing interesting work.

Chip Griffin: Well, this has been an interesting conversation. I think you’ve provided a lot of practical advice and a lot of things for agency leaders to think about.

If someone is interested in learning more about you or taking advantage of the resources that The Digital Project Manager has, where should they go?

Galen Low: Check us out on the web, the dpm.com. Also check us out on Instagram. We have a lot of fun there. The digital PM, on Instagram as well. Our website is full of free resources.

We’ve got our own podcast as well. Also we do project manager training. So shameless plug, if you want it to get your cross-functional team skilled up on digital project management, we’re a great place to start. And we’ve also got a great members community about a thousand digital professionals at all levels sharing knowledge, supporting one another, helping make sure that we feel confident and skilled and connected about this whole managing digital projects thing, whatever that means to you.

Chip Griffin: Excellent. I would encourage folks to check out those resources. I’ve been a long time listener to the podcast and other resources that you put out.

It’s great stuff. And I think a lot of agency leaders would get tremendous value from it. So go check that out. Thank you again to my guest today, Galen Low, the co-founder of The Digital Project Manager. Thank you all for listening. And I look forward to having you all back for a future episode of Chats with Chip.

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Galen Low, co-founder of The Digital Project Manager, joined Chip on this episode to talk about how agencies can improve their project management skills to improve the results that they produce for clients while also contributing to the agency's bottom...





Many agency employees find themselves feeling overworked today. A combination of a shortage of available talent coupled with increasing client demand can make for a difficult time getting projects done on-time and on-budget.



Galen Low, co-founder of The Digital Project Manager, joined Chip on this episode to talk about how agencies can improve their project management skills to improve the results that they produce for clients while also contributing to the agency’s bottom line.



Galen offers practical advice for the processes, software, and staffing needed to produce the desired results. He offers concrete examples of what he has seen work — as well as what hasn’t — in a wide range of agency environments.



Key takeaways



Galen Low: “You can drag people, kicking and screaming into a big project management tool that they fundamentally aren’t willing to engage with. And that’s sort of like, over-engineering. That’s like giving me a Ferrari.”



Chip Griffin: “Document your processes. Not what your processes ought to be. Document what you’re actually doing today to get your projects done, because that’s the fundamental starting point for figuring out all of the other solutions that you need.”



Galen Low: “The best project management tool is the one that solves your problem, but you have to understand your requirements first and what you’re expecting of it. Choosing software is a project in and of itself.”



Chip Griffin: “That is how agencies end up thriving because they get really good at being able to set client expectations and being able to price correctly so that they can deliver what the client needs, while still generating a profit for the agency. And so a project manager plays a role in all of these things. It’s not just about the deadlines.”



Resources



The Digital Project Manager information:



* The DPM Podcast: https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/digital-project-manager-podcast/* The DPM School’s 7-week certification Mastering Digital Project Management: https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/digital-project-management-training/* The DPM Members’ Community: https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership/



Galen Low’s contact information:



* Web: https://thedpm.com/* Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedigitalpm/* LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/galen-low-digital-transformation-advisor/* Twitter: https://twitter.com/GalenTheDPM




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin,]]>
Chip Griffin 34:30
The evolution of agency events (featuring Carl Smith) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/the-evolution-of-agency-events-featuring-carl-smith/ Tue, 05 Apr 2022 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=16134 In this episode of Chats with Chip, Carl Smith describes the journey and talks about what has worked — and what hasn't.]]>

When we last visited with Carl Smith, his Bureau of Digital was just beginning a substantial forced transformation. The world was shutting down, and as an events-focused business, the Bureau was facing tough times.

Two years later, the Bureau of Digital has transformed itself, building a substantial membership base and producing a variety of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events for the agency community.

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Carl describes the journey and talks about what has worked — and what hasn’t. He also peers into his crystal ball to share a bit about what the future looks like — both for events and the digital agency community itself.

Key takeaways

Carl Smith: “To all the owners listening out there, take a breath. Just be careful and take care of yourself. Don’t rush into where everybody else is running.”

Chip Griffin: “Build to own. Don’t build to sell. You really have to build something that you’re happy with. If you do, chances are someone will be interested.”

Carl Smith: “[The Bureau of Digital] has really become this global community of people who are in digital services. And it’s not just owners, it’s operators, it’s project managers, it’s creative directors. It’s anybody who’s in a leadership role that was never properly trained to be in a leadership role and we’re just keeping each other from falling over.”

Chip Griffin: “Agency owners historically have done a very bad job at understanding what they personally want from their own businesses and then trying to shape the business to that, and they allow the business to drive them.”

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 am very excited to have with me, a returning guest, coming to talk under different circumstances than the last time we spoke. Carl Smith from the Bureau of Digital.

It’s always great to have a bureau man here, you know, you’re, I feel like you’re about ready to investigate us. Is that, is that what you’re gonna do, Carl?

Carl Smith: Well, I do know some things we need to discuss, Chip, about your personal and business finances. It looks like things have been co-mingling

Chip Griffin: Well, yeah, no, fortunately, that hasn’t happened to me at any time recently because I have been in the game a long time and I know how to do it properly, so you’re not going to get me on that one, Carl.

Maybe something else who knows. Anyway, Carl, it is absolutely great to have you here. The last time we spoke on this podcast was shortly after these times began right after everything shut down and it changed everyone’s business quite a bit. And and so one of the things we’re going to talk about today is how your business has evolved and what that means for the larger agency community.

Carl Smith: Yeah, for sure. And thanks for having me back Chip. I know that last time when I was on, I mean, I got pretty aggressive and rude with you and I just, first of all, if you haven’t watched that episode, go back and watch it. You’ll see I was in a bad place. Watch all of the previous episodes. They’re all wonderful.

Yeah, so we spoke, I think right after I was coming out of what would be the last event that we had in person for quite a while. And I’ll say at that moment, I didn’t really know if the Bureau was going to make it, you know, it’s like, I knew we’d keep going. I just didn’t know if I’d have to get a job.

Chip Griffin: Well, I remember when we were talking, you were in such good spirits, but also telling me that so much had come to a crashing halt and I’m like, this is strange.

Carl Smith: For me, and I’ve always been this way. I am the optimist, I’m the optimist 99% of the time. And 1% of the time I’m on the ground crying.

But it doesn’t last long because somebody will find me. But when we were coming through that, I saw so much opportunity and I didn’t, I didn’t know where it was going to come from, but I knew that we had been on the course of just doing what we’d always done. Being who we’d always been. And honestly, it was a hustle.

We had to keep running really fast to sell the future, to pay for the past. And that was a little rhyme in there. You can, you can write that down if you want. But as we went through it and I do you know, I thank David Baker a lot for this but he gave me this opportunity to bounce some ideas off of him to think through things.

And you know, really the last time we spoke, I don’t know that we had come through the evolution of membership. Had we gone through that?

Chip Griffin: Not really, no.

Carl Smith: Okay. So…

Chip Griffin: Actually, that’s a good point. Why don’t you just tell folks a little bit about the Bureau of Digital in case they don’t remember that episode from two years ago.

Carl Smith: Which is really rude because what have they been doing? There’s a pandemic, people. Listen to Chip’s podcast. So the Bureau started – actually our 10 year anniversary is coming up on March 31st. I should do a logo or something. So 2012, 20 ish, I think there were 24 of us total shop owners got together in Portland. Happy Cog basically decided that they needed to talk to other shop owners because nobody really knew what was going on.

Coaching for digital shops for webs agencies, that kind of thing. Wasn’t really a thing. So we just got together and over the course of about three and a half days, we shared, you know, what was working, what wasn’t working, you get to see behind the curtain. People who had felt like were just crushing it were falling apart. People like me who were worried, they were falling apart, turned out not. The things I thought I was failing at were just really hard things and everybody was struggling. So you go from those 24 to today. Today we’ve had over 10,000 people come through events. Oh, well, I’ll get to this in a minute.

We have a significant number of members compared to when we started membership in 2016. And we just did this exercise to kind of see where the Bureau has reached around the world. There aren’t many places where somebody isn’t part of the Bureau right down to the part where when we have something happening, like.

You know, I mean, Russia, right? When we see that, we have shops in Russia. So, so now it’s, it’s really become this global community of people who are in digital services. And it’s not just owners, it’s operators, it’s project managers, it’s creative directors. It’s anybody who’s in a leadership role that was never properly trained to be in a leadership role and we’re just keeping each other from falling over.

Right. We just keep propping each other up and finding better ways to move forward. And yeah, it’s pretty magical.

Chip Griffin: Well, I mean, and a lot of the agency world has come to it because they’ve got creative experience and chops like that, but they don’t have management and leadership experience. And so providing those tools – I mean, it’s, it’s something that’s important that you do, that I do.

And hopefully it helps the overall community to up their game.

Carl Smith: Yeah, I would totally agree. And I mean, it’s even in the Slack every day, there are hundreds of conversations going on and the conversations are all around: hey, we just hit 20 people. I feel like we need to get a full-time ops person. How big were you when you did?

Oh, we did at 14, but she was an office manager. And then, you know, once we got to a certain size, we were like, that’s the most qualified person. So, so these conversations around inflection points, challenges, clients gone awry, all of that, I think the biggest way to say it is you’re not alone anymore.

Chip Griffin: So why don’t we talk about some of the evolution that you’ve gone through over the last couple of years?

Because I think it’s similar to what a lot of agencies in the event space have been looking at and trying to figure out. You’ve I think cracked the nut on some of it. And you’ve got a different business today than, than what you had two years ago. And my sense from watching and listening to what you do, you don’t plan to go back to the way things were.

Carl Smith: No, that would be, that would be really bad. And I don’t want to say it was an abusive relationship between myself and the Bureau and not the community, but, but the organization, the entity itself, but we were constantly on the treadmill. We were constantly running. Like if I were running a shop, I would call it, feeding the beast.

Right. We grew to this size, we don’t have enough work. We got to just bring in whatever we can, give me that mom and pop Mexican restaurant, you know, it’s, it was that level of we need butts in seats. We’ve got to get people to events. We’ve got to do this stuff and it felt horrible. Honestly, it wasn’t what I wanted at all.

What I wanted was to collectively make each other better, but to sustain it and be able to pay my mortgage and get my kids in college and all that. But we had to figure out another way of revenue. So when the world shut down, we found ourselves with $70,000 in refund requests. We found ourselves with almost a quarter of a million dollars in venue deposits that did not look like we were getting back that were on a credit card. Right. So all of these things were a big part of what just shook me to my core, but I also knew – and it’s easy for Now Carl to say that about Then Carl, but I think I knew that this was the only way the Bureau was truly going to achieve its potential was how it operated in the worst times.

And this was a bad time for us. What was amazing was about 20 of the shops that were there in the community at the time, one of them actually reached out to Slack and said, Hey. We’ve we’ve got about 1600 people in there at the time about 1600 digital professionals in the Slack channel, trying to help each other with the IDL and PPP loans and, you know, figuring out how do we structure so our staff can stay.

And if we have to deal with layoffs, what do we do? Can you please turn on the paid version for us? Because we don’t have the money, but we’re losing conversations every day. And these are really important conversations. And Slack did. They turned it on for two months, which ended up being eight months. And at that point I knew that we could never go back, but we couldn’t afford to keep the paid Slack, but it unlocked a half million messages.

That had been accruing over the years and now they’re all searchable and there’s just amazing knowledge and people are helping each other. At that same time, a bunch of shop owners got together and released videos about what the Bureau meant to them and talked about membership and talked about how being a member of the Bureau was so important.

And membership started selling. And membership, I had always had a weird dance with membership because it felt like a barrier to somebody saying hello. And my whole mission was to support it. And if somebody feels they can’t get in, because they don’t have the fee to get in the door, that felt bad.

Well, we had 60, no, we had 76 members, I think, before the pandemic at the end of 2019. When those videos went out, we were having 15, 16, $17,000 membership days. With people coming in and just buying membership. And membership is 49 bucks a month or 500 bucks for the year $499. Today, we’re just under a thousand members.

It’s unbelievable. And it changes everything so that now we don’t have to worry about if an event isn’t going to do well. Like if it’s not selling well, but even with that, we changed it because now we did get stuck. You know what you said? I’m not sure if we were recording. We were just talking before, but you know, the world changed and is the world still changed?

It has it, has it corrected? Are we okay now? Can we, can we deflect all the variants or are we still on, you know, yellow alert? Are we still kind of out there? So we thought we weren’t and we went for it and we got caught. Right? Owner summit. We had rented out the Hard Rock theater, which has this amazing theater. Beautiful.

We were expecting 200, 250 attendees. We ended up with 40. So we went to a hybrid model and I think you’ll see this with a lot of event companies, everybody. First of all, we went online and I’ll say we did too, we set up 70 events in just over a week. I contacted every speaker who had been part of the Bureau at some event that rated a four or five on a scale of one to five in terms of their, you know, attendee feedback. And I just said, you got nowhere to be, we got nothing to do. Let’s figure it out. And I just sent over a bunch of dates and people just took them on this public spreadsheet and we just went for it. So when we decided to come back, we did see some hesitation.

And so now the big model is we’re calling it the Kickstarter model. So when we’re putting an event on sale, like we did Owner Camp Costa Rica, doesn’t sound horrible. We put that on sale and basically you pay $500 to secure your spot. If enough people secure their spots, then we Greenlight it and we have the event in person.

If not that $500 goes to your online ticket and we’ll have it online. That event sold out in under 50 hours. It just sold out. It oversold. Right. And, and so now we’re doing that with everything. We’re just basically saying to the community, this is what we heard you want. If you want it put down this small amount, right.

Well no, 500 bucks isn’t small, but you know, but put this down and then if enough people agree with you, I’ll see you in Costa Rica.

Chip Griffin: So do you expect that that will be your model for the foreseeable future in setting up events? Are you going to kind of keep taking it by, you know, day by day, month by month?

Carl Smith: No, I think that’s the model going forward. One thing I hate is making decisions. I was never good at it.

Chip Griffin: And that’s a challenging thing, as a leader of an organization, right?

Carl Smith: Yeah. Okay. Well, when you, when you’re responsible for other people’s mortgages, it’s like hard to make a decision because you’re not thinking about what would I do.

You’re thinking about what’s best for us. And that’s such a different thing cause you don’t know everybody’s context or where they are, but, but yeah, I think we’ll keep it because given that we were always a community that sustained on events, right. We were always community first. We were always hanging out, talking, if somebody was in somebody’s town, they were getting together.

The biggest risk for us has always been in person events. There’s more than one time. Like, I mean, I’ll, I’ll just say it, you know, this event we’ve got coming up looks like we may lose about 30 grand. You can only do that so many times. But when you’ve got almost a thousand members and you don’t want to use the money that way, right.

You don’t want to be a bad steward of what’s come in. So yeah, that, that will be the last event that we do in that manner. It’s the last one we got caught on when we thought we were out of the woods. So really, I don’t know why we wouldn’t just let the community kind of crowdfund. If they want to do this, come together and we’ll make it happen.

Chip Griffin: What’s your experience with online, only events right now is that are people sick and tired of them? Are you seeing decreased attendance or are you seeing people sort of frustrated with that format? Or do you think that people are embracing it still in saying, yeah. You know, not for everything, but you know, this is a useful platform for workshops and such going forward?

Carl Smith: Yeah, I think that’s very much a yes, and. Right. It’s people where we get an online event going on, somebody is one is going to bitch about how much they’re on zoom. I’m on zoom all the damn time. I can’t stand it. I can’t this, I can’t that. But then it’s like, it was so good to see everybody. Right. So it’s, it’s one of those things where I think everybody is exhausted from being on camera all the time and not quite making eye contact. Right. But really it’s more in the work environment. I think when people come to an event and they’re allowed to just be themselves. And although I think a lot of humanizing has happened, we’ve all become a lot more open with who we are and how we are.

But I think that when we do the online events and we see the post event surveys, even when we did owner summit and we had a streaming option, but we were, they were involved in the Q and A, they were involved in those things. Those reviews were great. So I think it really depends. We’re not going to sit here and just stay on camera the whole time when we’re in an event for two or three days.

I mean, we’re going to do some fun games. We’re going to do some other stuff. And it sounds like forced fun, but honestly, Everybody leans in. I mean, it’s just great. I have so many bad cliches. I’m going to say, I’ve said out of the woods, I’ve said leans in. Let’s just keep going. Let’s play bingo.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. Why not? Why not? I mean, I’ve always thought that the zoom fatigue thing was overblown anyway. Because it it’s really more meeting fatigue first and foremost. Right. And that predates the pandemic. Yeah. A lot of us had way too many calls and meetings that were unnecessary for us to be participating in.

And does it get magnified by zoom? Yes. And does the fact that you’re staring into the camera a little bit weirdly? Is that more fatiguing than an in-person meeting? Yes. But at the same time, I look at it from a, you know, what’s the alternative? For me, pre pandemic, I was on the road, you know, a hundred plus 200 plus some years, days a year.

I mean, that’s a lot and that’s fatiguing in and of itself. And so, you know, now I spend most of my time, I joke in this 12 foot by 12 foot room. And you know, sometimes it feels like a prison, at the same time, I get to go out and see people like you that I probably wouldn’t see in person all that often, if ever. I get to work with people on the other side of the world that I know I would never be flying to go see, cause it would be cost prohibitive.

And so, so I think it opens doors. You have to figure out how to manage it correctly. And you know, anyone who expects someone to be literally staring into the camera for, you know, three or four hours straight is just bonkers. That’s, that’s simply not going to happen.

Carl Smith: But you’re doing a great job. I have to say your, your eye contact. It feels like you’re, you’re actually, you’re looking a little, you’re staring at me a little too much. It’s starting to get uncomfortable

Chip Griffin: Well, the secret Carl, is I do not actually see you cause I am looking into the lens so that viewers will think that I am staring them in the eye. In fact I have to glance down if I actually want to see you.

Carl Smith: Meanwhile, I’m worried about something off screen here that seems to continuously want to attack me, but all I’m really doing is suddenly looking at you and I’m over here. You know, I think everything you said, it just makes really good sense and, when it comes to meeting fatigue when it comes to accessibility, right?

When you hit, you hit on it, we have people come to our events now that never could afford the normal cost. Right? I mean, Bureau events, even for members can be thousands of dollars a ticket. And that is one of those things he said swallowing, oh my God, is it that much? But now that we’re doing stuff online, it’s so much more accessible.

We’ve tried to do a hybrid model of a camp, but we can’t figure it out because that’s a small group setting and to have one person who’s not quite there, that’s not quite going to hear it. That kind of level doesn’t work. But if you’re in a big group, like when we did owner summit, we have about 40 people in the room.

We’ve got other people that are just zooming in or literally we’re zooming in. And I got to give it to AVOD three who was the group that helped us with all of the, the streaming and the way that they manage was just amazing. When you’re on all the time when you’re staring into the camera, instead of looking at the individual.

And that’s what all of the science has said. That’s why we get exhausted because we can’t quite make eye contact. Right. And so our brains are like, this doesn’t feel right.

Chip Griffin: Right. Well, and I think part of it too, is, is trying to decide how on you’re going to be. Right? So for something like this, it’s fine for us to be on.

Right? Cause we’re recording this. We’re distributing it to lots of people. Hopefully, you know, two or three of them will actually pay attention. For a couple of minutes, you know, but, but if you’re on a, on a zoom conversation with a group of people, you know, then I think it’s, it’s fine to be a little bit more relaxed. Be looking at the screen, you know, kind of, you know, sit back. You don’t have to be on and focused in the same way that you are, if you’re recording something.

Carl Smith: Yeah. No. And, and there’s that difference when you have the thumbnail people? Right? I I’ve become a pretty good zoom DJ in terms of keeping people in the spotlight.

If they’re talking and bringing multiple people up and all that sort of stuff. And I think that’s really important too, because you do have that moment where you see somebody who’s obviously gone off to do something else when you get so many people in there. Right. And I think that becomes a different level of, of work.

I will say that one thing that’s really weird as an event organizer is when you do an in-person event, you get all of those great, thank yous. You have people that walk up after, you have, you know, people that send you the email or the text or whatever, and say, Hey, this literally helped me solve so many problems.

I’m just, I’m so grateful. When you do an online event, and you’ll still get some of that, but nobody can pull you aside. Nobody can say it privately because everybody’s on screen. And the last thing they’re going to do is ask to come back on screen later, right? Like that’s not a thing. So one thing I have found is in, in terms of, for an organizer, When you’ve done a big event afterwards, normally there’s a little bit of depression that sets in because you’re not really sure what you’re supposed to do now.

You’ve been so focused on this one thing and then it’s quiet. And then you’re like, oh my God, was that any good? What happened? When you do it online and you just close the laptop afterwards? It’s so weird. You don’t really go through that same type of post event depression. You’re just like suddenly the reentry into your normal world that you never really left is almost…

Chip Griffin: It’s abrupt, is what it is.

Carl Smith: It’s so abrupt.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And, you get that, certainly when you’re the organizer. I think if you’re a presenter, you know, it’s the same thing. It’s just, you know, you’re used to you, you walk off the stage and you maybe, you know, chat with a few people on your way out. You know, if you’ve done a really good job, you get swarmed and people are like, oh, that was so great. But you don’t, you don’t have anything. And you don’t even have to walk to the car. Just literally, just screen goes black. And so that is, that is an adjustment. But I think, you know, that it, I think the toughest are the hybrid events, right? From both the participant standpoint, as well as the presenter in those sorts of things, because you’re, there, there are the, you know, the different experiences that people had.

And I think you hit your, hit the nail on the head here that the larger it is, the easier you can do hybrid. The smaller it is, the more challenging it is.

Carl Smith: Yep. Cause if you’re in a large event, everybody’s going to feel like they’re part of a bigger group. You’re in a small event, anybody from the outside, it’s going to feel like they’re intruding.

They don’t feel like they’re just because there’s something great about that talk show model, which is what we did for owner summit, where you’ve got a live studio audience, and you’re basically interviewing somebody who has a great story. I think we learned that you do need to mix it up a little bit.

We went a little too heavy with interviews day one and workshop day two. So that’s always a mix, but it’s also based on your audience. So our audience is really quick to let us know what they think.

Chip Griffin: Well, speaking about audiences and letting you know what they think as we begin to wind down this conversation, you know, what is the perspective of your membership these days. And obviously, you know, you’ve got quite a few members, as you mentioned, they are in the digital space, which I think, in the agency community they’ve generally come through the last couple of years, a lot better than, than other kinds of agencies, you know, particularly in the early days.

Right. Because so many people were trying to go from brick and mortar to online or ramp up what they were doing digitally. So digital agencies, you know, certainly saw a surge of activity coming out of it. And I think most, at least in my experience, they’re still doing pretty well, but you know what, what’s the mood of the digital agency community today?

What are they feeling and seeing?

Carl Smith: From an owner’s and founder’s perspective, it’s exhaustion. The, at the end of the year, like right around December, a lot of people were talking about, we have to reinforce our leadership teams. We have to find new ways for other people to help carry the load. In January the conversation started turning more into how do I stand back?

How do I not let this overtake my life? And then if you’ve seen it, I’m sure. February, March you start to see a lot of acquisitions. You start to see a lot of mergers. I think where everybody is right now is this can’t keep going the way it is. If you look at it, we just released our salary guide.

It’s a member thing, sorry everybody.

Chip Griffin: So go become a member.

Carl Smith: Become a member just, just for a month. What could it hurt? But. Average salary increase or average compensation increases for across most roles is 25 to 35%. Owners is 6%. And when you start to look at that and a lot of people say, well, they can, the owner can pay themselves anything they want.

No they can’t. Not if they want to stay in business, right? Now, they should be able to make a good, healthy living. But if they start to see that the business isn’t going to be able to sustain and they can’t personally make it, then I think what what’s happening right now is people are reevaluating. What is it that we do?

And who do we need to do the new thing? So I think we’re still right at the beginning of a big shift in the way that web shops, digital agencies are going to operate.

Chip Griffin: Well, I think it’s necessary. I mean, I think this is, this is across all kinds of agencies. I think agency owners historically have done a very bad job at understanding what they personally want from their own businesses and then trying to shape the business to that, and they allow the business to drive them.

And so when you talk about compensation, Agency owners need to know this is how much I want to get out of the business. How do I build a business that gets me there? And it may be that you need to change your structure of your team, or you need to change your pricing, or you need to change your positioning.

There are all sorts of things that you can do to do it, but you have to start by understanding what you want from it. And I always say, there’s no reason to take on the risk and the stress of owning your own business, and not getting what you want from it. That’s just dumb. You can go get a job if that’s what you want.

I’m virtually unemployable at this point after, you know, 20 some years.

Carl Smith: We all are!

Chip Griffin: Right. You know, I’ve dipped my toe in that a couple of times over the last couple of decades for various reasons. But no, no.

Carl Smith: Yeah, no, I’m with you. And you know, the final thing, I’ll just say to all the owners listening out there, take a breath.

You know, take a breath and yeah, you’re going to hear that there are a lot of people selling and they’re making these multiples and they’re doing stuff. My personal experience, the people I’ve spoken with, there are people who’ve made it through and sold and they’re happy, but they didn’t get what they were told.

And, and you need to realize we are all very, very fragile right now. And people are going to show up and tell us that we’re going to be able to get like this four or five times multiple, but then as soon as they start digging in, they’re going to say, well…But you’ve already gone so far as to tell people.

So now you just go with it. Just be careful and take care of yourself. Don’t, don’t rush into where everybody else is running.

Chip Griffin: Build to own. Don’t build to sell. You really have to build something that you’re happy with. If you do, chances are someone will be interested. And if it happens to be terms that you’re okay with, and will give you what you want, fine. Go ahead and sell. But don’t think that that’s the end game because the vast majority of agencies don’t sell at all, those that do don’t sell for life-changing money. And those that do sell for life-changing money often come with horrible strings attached that end up being regrets by the owners at the end of the day.

Carl Smith: Exactly. Yep.

Chip Griffin: So not, not to rain on anybody’s parade, but…

Carl Smith: No, you know what really feels right for me? It’s like, don’t do it because you’re exhausted and don’t know where to go. Do it because you’re like, that’s what I want.

Chip Griffin: Yep. All right. Well, if someone wants to learn more about the Bureau of Digital or perhaps even join the Bureau of Digital to get the salary information or the great community, or the discount on events or all of the lovely things that you are for your members, where can they find you, Carl?

Carl Smith: At bureauofdigital.com

Chip Griffin: Why that’s very simple and straightforward.

So. If you’ve made it this far, we appreciate you sticking with us. Hopefully we’ve given you some good insights and hopefully you will now go visit bureauofdigital.com. So again, that will bring to an end this episode of Chats with Chip. Thank you all for listening. And I look forward to being back with you all again very soon.

Carl Smith: Thanks, Chip. Thanks everybody.

]]>
In this episode of Chats with Chip, Carl Smith describes the journey and talks about what has worked — and what hasn't.





When we last visited with Carl Smith, his Bureau of Digital was just beginning a substantial forced transformation. The world was shutting down, and as an events-focused business, the Bureau was facing tough times.



Two years later, the Bureau of Digital has transformed itself, building a substantial membership base and producing a variety of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events for the agency community.



In this episode of Chats with Chip, Carl describes the journey and talks about what has worked — and what hasn’t. He also peers into his crystal ball to share a bit about what the future looks like — both for events and the digital agency community itself.



Key takeaways



Carl Smith: “To all the owners listening out there, take a breath. Just be careful and take care of yourself. Don’t rush into where everybody else is running.”



Chip Griffin: “Build to own. Don’t build to sell. You really have to build something that you’re happy with. If you do, chances are someone will be interested.”



Carl Smith: “[The Bureau of Digital] has really become this global community of people who are in digital services. And it’s not just owners, it’s operators, it’s project managers, it’s creative directors. It’s anybody who’s in a leadership role that was never properly trained to be in a leadership role and we’re just keeping each other from falling over.”



Chip Griffin: “Agency owners historically have done a very bad job at understanding what they personally want from their own businesses and then trying to shape the business to that, and they allow the business to drive them.”




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



Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am very excited to have with me, a returning guest, coming to talk under different circumstances than the last time we spoke. Carl Smith from the Bureau of Digital.



It’s always great to have a bureau man here, you know, you’re, I feel like you’re about ready to investigate us. Is that, is that what you’re gonna do, Carl?



Carl Smith: Well, I do know some things we need to discuss, Chip, about your personal and business finances. It looks like things have been co-mingling



Chip Griffin: Well, yeah, no, fortunately, that hasn’t happened to me at any time recently because I have been in the game a long time and I know how to do it properly, so you’re not going to get me on that one, Carl.



Maybe something else who knows. Anyway, Carl, it is absolutely great to have you here. The last time we spoke on this podcast was shortly after these times began right after everything shut down and it changed everyone’s business quite a bit. And and so one of the things we’re going to talk about today is how your business has evolved and what that means for the larger agency community.



Carl Smith: Yeah, for sure. And thanks for having me back Chip. I know that last time when I was on, I mean, I got pretty aggressive and rude with you and I just, first of all, if you haven’t watched that episode, go back and watch it. You’ll see I was in a bad place. Watch all of the previous episodes. They’re all wonderful.



Yeah, so we spoke,]]>
Chip Griffin 30:07
Growing an influencer marketing agency (featuring Jess Phillips and Dylan Conroy) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/growing-an-influencer-marketing-agency-featuring-jess-phillips-and-dylan-conroy/ Tue, 01 Feb 2022 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=14752 In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jessica Phillips, CEO/Founder of The Social Standard, and that agency's Chief Revenue Officer, Dylan Conroy, discuss their approach to growing the business.]]>

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jessica Phillips, CEO/Founder of The Social Standard, and that agency’s Chief Revenue Officer, Dylan Conroy, discuss their approach to growing the business.

The conversation focuses on the journey from founding through the pandemic and into the future.

Many agency owners think about having someone dedicated to business development in their small agency, but fewer have done it successfully. This episode takes a look at why Jessica and Dylan believe it has worked well in their case and what lessons it might provide for others.

Resources

Chip Griffin  

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And I am delighted to have with me today two people who’ll be able to talk about agency world and specifically influencer marketing in the agency world, Jess Phillips, the founder and CEO of The Social Standard, and Dylan Conroy, the CRO of the social standard are here with me today. Welcome to the show.

Jess Phillips  

Thanks. Glad to be here.

Dylan Conroy  

Yeah. Thanks, Chip, really appreciate you having us on.

Chip Griffin  

I’m delighted to have both of you here, particularly because influencer marketing has taken on such importance in the last couple of years. But before we jump into the conversation, I’m going to have each of you just share a little bit about yourself with listeners. So, Jess, why don’t you go first?

Jess Phillips  

Sure, yeah. My name is Jess, I’m CEO of The Social Standard. So I started The Social Standard about seven years ago, and wanted to stay in the influencer marketing, because my previous company, which was also an influencer marketing company, I ran that for about three years. And then we ended up selling that to the New York Times. And that was really sort of the, I say, at the very beginning of influencer marketing, it felt like something that was going to stick around for a while. So I said, Alright, I’m going to see if I can do something even bigger and better the second time around. And that’s, that’s where The Social Standard came from. That’s what we call it The Social Standard. Our goal is to set the standard in the influencer marketing space. And we’re always striving to do that. So, um, yeah, it’s been a wild ride the last seven years. But it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of good growth, a lot of amazing clients, a lot of amazing influencers. And the industry is taking off even more, I think in the last few years than any anyone could have ever anticipated. So it’s a super exciting time to be there. We’re having a blast, running, running all the influencer campaigns coming up with incredible creative and growing a tremendous amount.

Chip Griffin  

I love you describing it as a second act and trying to top your first act. That’s

Jess Phillips  

Right, I think the second time we do it intentionally. So.

Chip Griffin  

Absolutely. Dylan?

Dylan Conroy  

Yeah. Thanks so much Chip. So yeah, I’ve been in the revenue side media sales side for about 11 years. But I’m not one of those guys that have jumped around a bunch of places. I really only have two companies on my resume, one I started as the very first salesperson at Channel Factory, led their West Coast Division and launched the Chicago office, pretty much everything having to do with that company except the East Coast, New York market. And I was kind of like the Navy SEALs like startup guy within a startup. So they had me, we were doing a lot of YouTube media sales. And this is when influencers and MCNs, especially YouTubers, were just kind of popping up and they said, well, Dylan, you’re starting to like package these deals with influencers on top of the media buys and branded content. And those are performing really well. So why don’t you kind of maybe launch a division that specialized in that, and did that didn’t really see it as the place where my influencer marketing career was gonna take off and checked around and see what was going on and got introduced through a big recruiter, event called Venture search, put me in touch with Jess and decided to, you know, go do the startup thing, again, came on as employee number three. And now we’re, you know, in our sixth year working together as a great partnership. And it’s just been such a pleasure to learn from her and to get to support the company on the revenue side. So

Chip Griffin  

Right, and I’m looking forward to learning from both of you over the course of the next 25 or 30 minutes. And and as we do that, one of the things that I always like to talk to agency owners about is why they decided to take that leap into entrepreneurship. And so Jess let’s start there, if we can talk about, you know, you had just been through the experience of selling the agency where you were, I think the number two at to the New York Times you you’ve clearly had success, you now had to choose, you know, what am I going to do next? And with that kind of experience on your resume, you can to some extent, write your own ticket, what made you decide that you were going to start your own agency at that point?

Jess Phillips  

Yeah, I think once you get a taste of that freedom in terms of what you can actually create from nothing, you either love it, or it scares you to death. And from here, I loved it. It was a no brainer, honestly, to go right back into it. When I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur, myself and kind of getting that stepping stone with Hello Society, my previous agency, it just opened so many, so many doors just changed the way that I thought maybe, you know, this is this means the future of marketing. There’s no way I can look away from this.

Chip Griffin  

And and Dylan, you had talked about the fact that you didn’t have a lot of companies on your resume, which is unusual for someone on the sales side, right? I mean, most sales experts tend to move through a lot of different companies because it’s sort of how you climb the ladder. You know, why have you remained, you know, with just a few is it? Is it just the passion that you have for those particular businesses or something that you see long term play or talk to us a little about that. So that’s an interesting…

Dylan Conroy  

no, totally. Well, you know, to be completely honest with you, I think a lot of salespeople move around and have a lot of notches on their belts, because they’re not great salespeople. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of salespeople who can interview their way into a company, because they’ve got that resume, and they talk about the relationships they can bring to the table. And unfortunately, that just hasn’t been my experience. On the sales side. When I got into management and started hiring expensive media salespeople, I always was more excited about the person that had the X factor that I felt I kind of brought to the table as a young person in the media sales space with really no background in my 20s. You know, I came in to Channel Factory not even knowing what a media agency was, you know, so I just started emailing people that I knew at brands, and then I would get introduced to companies like Starcomm and Digitas and be like, Okay, I’ll figure this out. And then you just kind of learned by osmosis by getting out there in the space. But you know, for me, I was very successful at Channel Factory and coming in with Jess pretty quickly with a landing Channel Dactory. Within six months, I closed a Star’s business, and also Nestle. And those became really big accounts of mine and I became the top producer at Channel Factory for the years that I was there. So all the some of it was golden handcuffs. But some of it was also just the fact that I really love learning and going like what I would call like a mile deep in my vertical rather than, you know, trying to gain all this different experience in a bunch of different aspects of the media sales space. But you know, my background, I went to film school, I thought it was going to be a screenwriter at one point in I developed reality TV, and worked in traditional entertainment. And what I always loved about the influencer side, you know, the media side was, it was a fun enough, you know, it’s fun, being able to go to cool conferences, and entertain clients and talk about cool things that were happening on YouTube. When we get down to media. At the end of the day, you’re talking about boring things like impressions and click through rates and, you know, quartile view through and a lot of metrics and stuff like that. But what I was really passionate about was the storytelling. And I felt like influencers was influence influencer, marketing and branded content was the closest place you could get to, to have a conversation with clients about all those important things that are, you know, KPIs around, you know, digital that brands care about, you know, reach impressions, engagement, and then getting into working with direct to consumer brands, like, what can you actually do to drive the bottom line for sales? But it was also about the creative, what are the influencers are going to create? What’s the brief, it felt to me, like the closest thing you could do in media sales and get to have a creative sell and conversation with clients versus just talking about their media buy? And yeah, so I, you know, working at Channel Factory, Tony Chen is an amazing person, you know, I started working for him when he was 19 years old. So he had just graduate who, you know, couldn’t even go to a bar, he had just graduated college. And, you know, a lot of people have graduated from the school of Tony Chen. You know, there’s a lot of companies out there, like Strike Social, and Naam, and Video Amp, that all spun out of Channel Factory, but there’s a culture that, you know, kind of drove people to want to get out and go do their own thing. When I started working with Jess, you know, it was just a night and day component from, from, from culture, you know, the culture has been so good. And I think that’s, you know, we work hard, we play hard, we get our work done, but it’s also about, you know, life balance and staying, stay staying well mentally, you know, like, we know, we work in the agency space, but I always found it fascinating that Jess left private equity to come over to the influencer marketing world or the agency world for quality of life, and you don’t usually hear anybody coming to our industry for quality of life. Yeah, you know, culture culture is I think, more important than, than ever, especially in the day of, you know, COVID and remote work and all these new things that we’re dealing with. So yeah, you know, I’ve had some interesting offers from time to time but I’ve never found a reason compelling enough to to leave what I started with Jess and you know, we have a vision of what we want to do, whether that’s an exit or you know, creating a long term business and I’m in it to win it and and I just like, you know, I’m very loyal, I guess to a fault. So

Chip Griffin  

Excellent. That’s great. So just let’s talk about influencer marketing little bit and you mentioned that you had gotten in early on at least the trend as it is crafted today. First, I’m curious you know, how is influencer marketing today different than celebrity endorsements and some of the things that, you know, those of us old timers might think about in terms of, you know, what we did you know, 20, 30 years ago?

Jess Phillips  

Yeah. Well, it’s interesting that you bring up that sort of parallel, because when you’re in a space that is new and growing, you know, I always say like, how do I explain this to my mother, my grandmother, or what I do, and anytime people don’t understand influencer marketing, I say, look, it’s you know, Michael Jordan and Sprite commercials. That’s what we’re doing. It’s just a different format. Right. And I think, for me, there are two there are two big things that are that are pretty different than like a celebrity endorsements. So one is now the influencers own their audience size. So when it you don’t have to create the commercial, put it up on television, to get the audience, you don’t have to buy the creative and the audience separately you buy them together. And the second part is the creative. So the influencers are, you know, they’re creating their own content from scratch, we don’t have to send a production crew out to film them, give them a script, you know, have a minder there to make sure that they’re show up on time, all that sort of stuff. These guys are content creators, first, right, influencers second. I think the influencing part comes because they build a connection, and a very loyal following from their audience. So that’s, that’s how I would say it’s primarily different. I actually think what you’re seeing now is a lot more traditional celebrities and athletes figuring out how to become influencers and content creators. So we’ve almost done a 180.

Chip Griffin  

Right. And how do you handle brands, clients who are concerned about the the level of control over the detail, if you will, because, you know, this is this is something I’ve seen over the course of my career, and it’s improved in recent years, but clients have always wanted tight control over every word, every angle that their product is shown from. And obviously, when you start working with influencers, you often have approval rights and things like that. So you can, you know, have have a greater degree of control than you would on the editorial side, but there’s still an element of putting it into someone else’s hands, how do you manage that expectation with clients? And how do you manage it with the influencers themselves? So that they feel respected? if you will?

Jess Phillips  

Yeah. And I think, you know, if it’s definitely a meeting of minds, right, it’s not one person’s message is more important than another person’s, but or brands, companies, whatever it is, but I think, if you, if you look, maybe even, they’re still kind of having a little bit of trouble with that, I would say up to five years ago, but brands have figured it out. And I think that they figured out that look, influencers increase top line, right? And if it’s working, why would you why would you not do it? Right? I mean, it’s like you can’t you kind of you no longer can depend on primetime TV, to reach an audience, you’ve got to go where your audience is and your audience lives on social, and they want the content that the influencers are creating. So you have two options, right? One, you can do paid content where you can control the messaging completely. Two, you can partner up with an influencer. And they’re going to help tell your message through their own style and their own process. And both are, I think, equally valid ways of marketing. But you have to do both, you cannot just show up and do one, or it’s not gonna be effective.

Dylan Conroy  

Yeah. And I think what a lot of what a lot of clients who, you know, think about the idea that, Oh, I’m just going to let the influencer have creative freedom, sometimes they think that’s the best way to have a great campaign. But what I’ve actually found is, you know, even working with some of the biggest creators in the world, like we did a campaign with Adobe and Casey Neistat. And I think Adobe, you know, Adobe was like, oh, Casey, you know, we trust you, you just go do your thing. But at the end of the day, when you allow so much ambiguity, or too much freedom, or you don’t actually, as a client, tell the influencer, what your goals are, what are the key messages you’re trying to get across influencers actually do like being put in a box to the effect that you give them some type of a world in which to execute around. So writing a great brief that says, you know, this is what we’re trying to accomplish with this campaign? These are our key talking points. This is these are the things we want to get through from a marketing perspective. You know, give them the essential do’s and don’ts and then let them take that and translate it to their audience. That’s a way that’s authentic, that’s authentically going to reach them. I think that’s actually where you get kind of influencer marketing Nirvana, right? Where the client actually tells the influencers what they want, but they allow enough creative freedom to where the influencer can disseminate it in a way that their audience will resonate with it with the messaging of the campaign.

Chip Griffin  

And how have you seen the influencer marketing landscape shift over the past couple of years? You know, I know from my own experience in consulting with a lot of agencies, particularly those that were focused largely on events, a lot of them have pivoted to some degree towards influencer marketing because if you can’t get together in person, this is another way to do some of the same kinds of things in some ways, but is that something that you’ve seen generally Is it is it staying or you know, as people start to get to more in person things. You know, do we do we shift back away from from that or I don’t know. I’m curious what your take is on the landscape.

Jess Phillips  

You want to take that, Dylan?

Dylan Conroy  

Yeah, for sure. So I was just having this conversation about an hour ago before we jumped on to the phone because we have an a client, we have a client named, I am not Shane. That’s his handle on social. But he’s not just an influencer. He’s actually an aspiring pop artist. So his management sent me over a link to a online set that they’re playing on January 29, on a platform called Veep, which is basically a direct to consumer streaming platform for musicians that host live shows. And part of what we wanted to do to create some goodwill in our agency community, we have a newsletter that goes out to about 44,000 brand and agency contacts. And we decided to send it out to our network and see if anybody wanted to attend the show. And surprisingly enough, my inbox is flooded this morning with agency and brand people that are willing to log into a virtual concert at noon on a Friday. So I agree with you, I think, you know, events or what I would call, you know, scheduled activations, where they happen live in a in a place in time, whether that’s happening in the real world, or whether that’s happening in the virtual world. Whether it’s you know, happening in the metaverse on games like Fortnite or Roblox I think there is a huge demand for consumers to want to kind of tune into things on an appointment scale to kind of create community. But I agree with you, you know, we were very bullish as an agency wanting to come back to experiential during kind of the first decline of COVID. Obviously, this most recent surge with Omnicron has made a lot of things challenging. You know, we had activations planned at Sundance Film Festival this year, that didn’t happen. CES looked a little bit like a graveyard this year, you know, when you saw the pictures, it was like, wow, there’s nobody there. But a lot of people tuning in on social and a lot of people tuning into the live the live streams of what was happening at CES. So I think, you know, in a little bit of a long answer to your question, I think, event marketing or appointment viewing or live streaming at a certain time and leveraging influencers to get the word out or to be your featured talent, I think there’s still I think, I think behaviors that change towards virtual are here to stay. And even when COVID is no longer a concern, I think that behavior has already been engraved into our culture that, you know, people want to have the flexibility of doing things in the virtual world and in the real world. So I think it’s a staying trend that’s going to be around for a while.

Chip Griffin  

And the influencers that your clients are working with, are you seeing a concentration on particular platforms really spread out and dependent upon, you know, who they’re trying who the brand is trying to reach? You know, talk to me a little bit about what you’re seeing from a landscape from a platform standpoint, and, and the kinds of influencers that are most in demand today?

Jess Phillips  

You know, I think that that’s an interesting one, right? Because we were actually having conversation about this other day. But if you look at how things have changed, I think right before, right before we had kind of overall COVID shut down stuff. I was sort of getting this itch that something needed to come up. Because you know, at that point, we were Youtube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, like those platforms had all been around for so long. And it just felt like the industry was ripe for something new to come along. Right. I think Twitch was probably the last big platform and Roblox obviously they’re, they’re coming up as well. But TikTok really took off. And we’ve seen like a tremendous amount of growth on that platform, a tremendous amount of interest. And I think a lot of that’s driven from video consumption trends. Everybody wants to do video consumption, I think that ties in nicely with live streaming, too, right? And all these sort of digital events as people want to get online, and they want to see movement, it, it reflects more of what is in real life than a simple photo would reflect. And so we’ve seen tremendous amount of growth in TikTok. We’ve also seen platforms like Instagram and YouTube and where they’re coming up with their own version of real shorts, whatever it is, you know, spaces, all this sort of stuff to try to copycat what TicTok is doing and no one’s really done it super successfully. I’d argue Instagram probably done it the best as far as a copycat product, but we’re seeing a lot of competition in the platform space. And then you’ve also saw, you know, have Clubhouse which was very, very hot ticket for a while. That sort of died down pretty quickly, but I wouldn’t necessarily write them off just because audio has been another another big trend that we’ve seen, you know, a lot going on. Spotify is doing some really great work in the audio space, especially with podcasts. So I would say in the last two years, it’s been TikTok and it’s been podcasts that we’ve seen pop up probably In the most impressive ways, and everyone else seems like they’re just kind of clamoring to figure it out.

Chip Griffin  

And, you know, since I’ve got both of you here, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about the dynamic of having an owner and someone who is focused on revenue at a senior level, because this is, this is sort of the dream of a lot of small agency owners that she’s, you know, I want someone in house who is focused on business development, who can, you know, be my partner in that or even take the lead on it so that, you know, that’s not the main thing I’m doing, because maybe I started the agency, because that’s not what I want to do. And obviously, Jess, I’m not sure whether that’s what you that was your reasoning behind it all? I’ll be curious to hear that. But I how that works, I think is going to be interesting to a lot of listeners, because a lot of them have tried hiring someone to do business development and have been unsuccessful. So Jess, why don’t you first talk about why you decided to go down this path. And then Dylan, perhaps you can talk about, you know, what makes it work?

Jess Phillips  

Sure. Sure. So I think if you go back to my time, at my previous agency, I actually ran sales for them. So I was did a few things, but sales was a big part of what I did. And I saw the success with which we could grow very quickly in this space with someone and you know, with with a sales team, effectively, it’s definitely not your traditional agency model. But I think you’ve got to look for the right person to lead this because I think what, what’s so powerful about Dylan, his experience, and his approach is that he is equal parts sales and business development. He’s an idea guy, he’s not just out there kind of trying to sell whatever, you know, product or new division or new feature we’re selling. He’s got ideas, he brings them to the table, and it works really well. So he functions as sort of like this business development, creative and sales. And I think that’s exactly how I or any owner would approach it. Anyway, you’re, you’re there to solve client problems. And so how do you do that? And how do you do it fast, especially in an industry like this, you have kind of two, two sides of the coin with influencer marketing, you go out and we represent a whole bunch of influencers and that’s where inbound comes in, or you’ve got to go out and make it happen. To me going up, make it happen, making it happen was a much more interesting prospects just because of where we were at in the cycle of influencer marketing. And I think it’s proven to be a very good model. We’ve had some, we’ve had some good learnings, I would say, Dylan over the last couple of years, but it works really well if you can find the right team.

Dylan Conroy  

Yeah, totally. And, you know, from my perspective, what was most important for me to do is to free Jess up so she didn’t have to be the primary driver of the revenue of the agency, which I know a lot of founders are. So what’s awesome is I can still always depend on Jess for, you know, 20% of our total billings, just by her nature, she’s gonna network her way, and there’s some amazing accounts, and she’s gonna have some really exciting conversations throughout the year just by doing what she does. But at the end of the day, she doesn’t have to be responsible for it anymore. And it allows me to go out there and be the one you know, at the beginning, I was the, you know, pretty much started from the ground up, you know, sending out as many emails as I could, and going to as many conferences and touching base with people on social media until we got a nice stable Rolodex of clients that kind of kept the lights on and allowed us to then start to hire out, you know, we did go we did kind of go the traditional, I would say, like, multi channel network, influencer marketing, platform, play and try and build out a media sales team originally, you know, kind of going maybe the, the direction of some of the platforms are some of the influencer marketing networks. But what we found pretty quickly is that, like I mentioned a little bit in the beginning of our intro, you know, those high level set those high level media sales, guys with the big salaries and the big books of business, they just didn’t kind of, you know, convert for us. What happens for us sometimes is, you know, we’ll have to dance with the client for a year, you know, before they come on, you know, we might they might see one of our newsletters and jump on with, do a couple of pitches. And we’ll pitch some programs that might be a year before the first time we talked to them before the business comes in. So what we’ve specialized in in building out our sales team, under me is that I’m really the only senior person on the team. And a lot of our sales team is Junior folks. So folks that are coming in one to two years of experience either in sales or marketing. And I’m getting fresh canvases that I can kind of train from the ground up that don’t have a lot of bad habits and don’t have a lot of preconceived notions of what sales means in the media sales space. It’s been really interesting to have to do this, you know, in COVID, where we don’t have the luxury of taking people to Lakers games and buying them fancy dinners and coming in and doing the lunch and learns. So what I found is, for the very first time our agency has had to actually drink our own Kool Aid. You know, we’ve had to go out there and do all the things that we’re telling clients to do. So we now invest heavily in our own social media marketing, you know, we actually do influencer marketing as an agency, we pay influencers to do events with us. We buy media, you know, we spend, I would say, you know, high five to six figures on media to try to drive inbound, we have a newsletter and email marketing campaign that we invest heavily in. So now a lot of our business development is driven by inbound, which is exciting, that we’re able to kind of have a little bit of a poll strategy versus a push strategy, where we’re always out there banging on the doors. And it’s been really exciting to be able to see that. And I think a lot of times, you know, clients can feel a lot more comfortable working with us, because they look at what we’re doing. And they can say, Oh, well, if they’re doing work that, that that’s that good for their agency, imagine what they’re gonna be able to produce for us as a paying client. So

Chip Griffin  

and I love that you bring that up, because I always encourage agencies to treat themselves as a client and make sure that they’re applying, you know, their own knowledge to promoting themselves. And, and part of that’s because it’s a good way to do business development. But part of is, it’s also a good way to learn as an agency, and you can start experimenting with new platforms, tactics and things that you can do in a less risky way when you’re doing it on your own behalf as opposed to a client. So there’s just so many benefits, if you treat yourself as a client. So I love that you brought that up.

Dylan Conroy  

You know, Jess, Jess and I are both podcasters, too, you know, I think everybody should have a podcast, in my opinion, everyone’s a creator, everyone has something to offer and knowledge to, and I’ve gotten such bigger meetings with people that I’m way under qualified to be in a room with, they’re totally willing to jump on a virtual setting or do a live podcast, talk to you for an hour, it forces you to do your research ahead of time. So you can have an impactful show, and then your entire network gets to benefit from it.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you call someone up and say, Hey, I’d like to spend an hour telling you about, you know, my own business, nobody’s gonna listen to you. If you say, Hey, will you hop on for an hour long podcast, most people will say yes, so it is a great way to open doors, it’s a great way to learn. I’ve been podcasting for 20 years and love it for all sorts of different reasons. So as we’re wrapping up our time here, I guess I’ll ask each of you just to look into that crystal ball. And we’ve talked a little bit about what the future holds. But, but tell me what you think the future holds, particularly in the the portion of the agency industry that that you all are involved in?

Jess Phillips  

Yeah, that’s, that’s always a tough one. Because it’s, it’s growing. And also, my general philosophy is, let’s not make predictions here, because you have a good chance of being wrong. But what I do know is that we’re seeing…

Chip Griffin  

No problem,we’re not recording this or anything. So nobody will be able to go back and look and see what you said. No, but just between us,

Jess Phillips  

we’re, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of growth in this space, I think, you know, we’re really sort of just getting started, especially with everything going on with, you know, the cookieless world that we’re all sort of headed straight for influencers are going to provide a lot of solutions to a lot of different pain points that marketing is going to experience. So I foresee the growth happening a lot here. I also think we mentioned earlier with a lot of the behavioral patterns that are now instilled in all of us about spending a good chunk of our time in the digital world. That only bodes well for influencer marketing. And just, you know, just this content machine, that we all seem to be part of that brands cannot create content that’s interesting enough, quick enough and relevant enough, and the influencers continue to solve all these problems. So for me, I think we’re only halfway through the entire journey. So I see a lot of big stuff. And I would tell you know, anyone who’s listening, if it’s any PR agencies, brands, small companies, if you’re not doing influencer marketing, you need to get on it. Because it just gets harder and harder to do. You need to establish those relationships with creators and just start figuring it out now, because today is, you know, you should have done it yesterday, but we’re here today, we can help you do it now. And it’s just gonna be so impactful for the overall long term growth your business.

Dylan Conroy  

Yeah, and I’m super excited about what this year has to bring for influencer marketing in general, from just the opportunity perspective. You know, we saw a kind of this world get wrapped up and rolled up and acquired pretty big during the MCN craze of like, the full screens and the maker studios that were all getting bought by big companies like Verizon and DreamWorks and others. And you know, all of those MCNs are either been kind of absorbed into those companies no longer exist or they’ve gone away. I see the same thing happening with all the venture capital that was poured into these influencer marketing platforms that have created, you know, some solutions plus activation and tried to be like all things to all people but just ended up being kind of a cog that messes things up in the middle. I think there’s going to be constriction there, and you just don’t see a lot of exits happening in that space. So I I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for companies like ours that have focused on creative talents and some of the more less technical components but also have invested in great partnerships with the Saas companies that do only provide the pipes for influencer marketing. So we like to call ourselves tech agnostic. We have great relationships with companies like Grin if you are a direct to consumer company with a Shopify account, or if you’re a Fortune 500 company, you need a great influencer marketing CRM, you know, crater IQ is a great solution. And we’re certified and we work with all those guys. But I think a lot of these companies that kind of came in and tried to do all things for all people in the influencer marketing space are going to feel some pain this year. We’ll see how we’ll see if it how it goes. But I think it’s a great year for growth, great year for companies that are ready to expand capabilities in this area. And you look, you know, if you haven’t built ins in house capabilities, I saw a great infographic of like the holding company is the big shark. And then there’s a shark with like many fish that’s making up the other shark. Like we partner with smaller agencies or agencies of equal size of ours that have different capabilities, such as PR and creative and media buying all the time. You know, if you don’t have these capabilities, let’s go out and win that business together. Because we’re strong small agencies that partner together, I think are just as strong as big holding company relationships. And we’ve definitely proved that proven that inside of some of our key accounts.

Chip Griffin  

That’s great. Well, if anybody who is listening is interested in partnering or learning more about you and The Social Standard, where can they find you all?

Jess Phillips  

Yeah, I would say you can check out our website where Sostandard.com or you can find us on any of the social media platforms. Or if you want to hit us up on email, just check us out at partner@sostandard.com.

Chip Griffin  

Fantastic. Well, I’m really happy to have had you with me today. I know you’ve created great value for listeners. Again, my guest today have been Jess Phillips and Dylan Conroy of The Social Standard.

Dylan Conroy  

Thanks, Chip. 

Jess Phillips  

Thanks, Chip.

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In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jessica Phillips, CEO/Founder of The Social Standard, and that agency's Chief Revenue Officer, Dylan Conroy, discuss their approach to growing the business.





In this episode of Chats with Chip, Jessica Phillips, CEO/Founder of The Social Standard, and that agency’s Chief Revenue Officer, Dylan Conroy, discuss their approach to growing the business.



The conversation focuses on the journey from founding through the pandemic and into the future.



Many agency owners think about having someone dedicated to business development in their small agency, but fewer have done it successfully. This episode takes a look at why Jessica and Dylan believe it has worked well in their case and what lessons it might provide for others.



Resources



* The Social Standard website* The Social Standard Podcast* The Social Standard Twitter* Jess Phillips on LinkedIn




View Transcript
Chip Griffin  



Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And I am delighted to have with me today two people who’ll be able to talk about agency world and specifically influencer marketing in the agency world, Jess Phillips, the founder and CEO of The Social Standard, and Dylan Conroy, the CRO of the social standard are here with me today. Welcome to the show.



Jess Phillips  



Thanks. Glad to be here.



Dylan Conroy  



Yeah. Thanks, Chip, really appreciate you having us on.



Chip Griffin  



I’m delighted to have both of you here, particularly because influencer marketing has taken on such importance in the last couple of years. But before we jump into the conversation, I’m going to have each of you just share a little bit about yourself with listeners. So, Jess, why don’t you go first?



Jess Phillips  



Sure, yeah. My name is Jess, I’m CEO of The Social Standard. So I started The Social Standard about seven years ago, and wanted to stay in the influencer marketing, because my previous company, which was also an influencer marketing company, I ran that for about three years. And then we ended up selling that to the New York Times. And that was really sort of the, I say, at the very beginning of influencer marketing, it felt like something that was going to stick around for a while. So I said, Alright, I’m going to see if I can do something even bigger and better the second time around. And that’s, that’s where The Social Standard came from. That’s what we call it The Social Standard. Our goal is to set the standard in the influencer marketing space. And we’re always striving to do that. So, um, yeah, it’s been a wild ride the last seven years. But it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of good growth, a lot of amazing clients, a lot of amazing influencers. And the industry is taking off even more, I think in the last few years than any anyone could have ever anticipated. So it’s a super exciting time to be there. We’re having a blast, running, running all the influencer campaigns coming up with incredible creative and growing a tremendous amount.



Chip Griffin  



I love you describing it as a second act and trying to top your first act. That’s



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Chip Griffin 32:47
Creating winning new business strategies for your agency (featuring Shannyn Lee) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/creating-winning-new-business-strategies-for-your-agency-featuring-shannyn-lee/ Tue, 02 Nov 2021 15:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=10670 In this episode of Chats with Chip, Shannyn Lee of Win Without Pitching joins to talk about how agencies can step up their business development game.]]>

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Shannyn Lee of Win Without Pitching joins to talk about how agencies can step up their business development game.

Agency owners don’t need to be sales-y to generate new revenue, and Shannyn shares some of her best advice on finding the right prospects to work with you and your team.

Resources

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 the Small Agency Growth Alliance or SAGA. And my guest today is Shannyn Lee, she is the managing director of Win Without Pitching. Welcome to the show, Shannyn.

Shannyn Lee 

Thank you, Chip. I’m happy to be here, I think we’re gonna have some good fun.

Chip Griffin 

I am certain we’re going to have some good fun. And hopefully, we’ll be able to share a few useful tidbits along the way for our listeners. But before we jump right into the conversation, why don’t you just share briefly a little bit about yourself? And when without pitching?

Shannyn Lee 

Sure, yep. Happy to. So I’m the managing director at wind without pitching. And we focus on sales training for creative professionals. And so our mission in life is to just make selling more fun, help people be more confident in the sale and provide some frameworks to really guide better conversations around talking about money and decision makers, and how can I create value for this client and tackle issues around pricing. So the whole goal is just to make it more enjoyable and let those clients of ours out there have more control in the sale?

Chip Griffin 

And, you know, I think that in the agency space in the creative world people, for the most part, not all of them, but for the most part, they view business development as more of a necessary evil than something that they are passionate about most, I think would tell you they prefer the creative side, the problem solving side, the working with clients. But it turns out, you can’t have a business without new business.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I think selling is noble. And I think it’s quite fun. And I think if you approach it from the perspective of I am here to help, and I want to figure out how I can create the most value possible for you, Miss client, it completely changes your perspective on what it means to sell. Because it really becomes this idea of a conversation and not a presentation and really digging into what’s the desired future state, what’s the vision? What are we going to measure what’s most important to you? And it just unlocks a different level of sophistication and a different level of depth that you can get into with people when you approach it that way?

Chip Griffin 

Absolutely. And I think, for me, at least a lot of the clients I work with, they come to sales, thinking about it the wrong way they think about it sort of is, you know, all I gotta do sales, and they start thinking about like the car salesman or something like that, where it’s, you know, it’s really a sales process. And it’s all just designed to get you to buy no matter whether it’s a good fit or not. And really, I always tell them that the business developed, particularly the agency world is much more about matchmaking. It’s trying to figure out, Is there a fit between what the client needs and what you do? Well, and if you think about it in that way, it’s, I think, a much more natural approach for most agency leaders.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, you’re right, I wish that we could maybe that should be a goal that we replace that image of the slick car salesman with that of the expert practitioner in the sale. And really, I think people have all this baggage that they bring to it. And this idea of a bad sales situation they were in and they just kind of lump it all together. And so a lot of times, the first thing we really need to do is shift mindset and behavior and kind of understand what motivates people to go a little sideways in the sale or feel uncomfortable in the sale.

Chip Griffin 

And unfortunate, I think there are I mean, there are folks like us in the agency world who give I think bad advice when it comes to to selling and they talk about things like the one call clothes and things like that. I mean, to me that the whole concept that someone would buy an agency services off of a single call is just bonkers. So I mean to me, you should just disqualify anyone who talks about a one call close.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, it’s ludicrous. I mean, that first call always has to be in our mind about qualifying right doing that matchmaking? Is this a good fit? Should we even keep talking right, and then begins a series of two or three more conversations that really result in deciding if you’re going to work together or

Chip Griffin 

not? Right. And it’s not just it’s not just figuring out if you’re a good fit for the client, it’s figuring out if the clients a good fit for you. And I think that that most agency leaders sit there and just say, I just I need to get revenue in the door. So I’m just trying to figure out how I can sell this person what they’re looking for. But you need to figure out, are they? Are they the kind of person who’s going to be satisfied with the results that you produce? Do they work the same way you do? Do they do they think in such a way that you’ll have a good relationship between their team and your team? I mean, all these things are really important factors to consider.

Shannyn Lee 

They’re super important and you bring up such a good point that we on the agency side need to be demonstrating as much selectivity as that client is when they’re sizing us up. And we need to signal that from the beginning. I want my clients to go into those conversations and say, hey, it’s wonderful to hear from you, Miss client. I’m really excited to learn more about what’s going on. We do things A little differently. And so it’s important to us in this first conversation that we understand if we are both a good fit to work together. So I have some questions for you just like I’m sure you have some questions for me. And then we’ll decide at the end, hey, does this add up? Should we keep talking? Demonstrating selectivity is a way to gain power in the sale early and create some healthy tension, not make it difficult, but create some healthy tension to really understand if that fit exists or not?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, and it’s, I mean, it helps make sure that you’ve got a good sales process going, right, because it’s helping to show that level of expertise and desire on your part. But it’s also useful, because the last thing you want is a pain in the butt client that unprofitable that your team hates the Jews wake up every morning, so half god, hope I don’t have to talk to them today. You know, in too many agencies are struggling with that.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, you you have to be so mindful of setting your team up for success, the team that’s going to execute and take care of that client once you win them. And so really, your job is so important in the sale, to be seen as the expert to lead in the sale, because that’s what sets your team up to do their very best work and be viewed as the expert and not the vendor. So we have to think about the whole lifecycle of the firm, right? When we’re in the sales scenario, it’s a big and important job.

Chip Griffin 

And a lot of it comes back to agency leaders not wanting to hear or say No, right? You just, I mean, it’s it’s goes with every aspect of businesses, not just in business development, it’s also in the client service side. It’s why so many agencies go way beyond their scopes, because they don’t want to have to say, No, that’s, that’s not really what you’ve already paid us for, we’re going to have to negotiate a different version of the statement of work or something like that. And so if you’re not willing to hear no or say, No, you’re gonna end up with a lot of bad client relationships.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, it’s, it’s true. And I when I was speaking earlier about motivations, it’s important, you know, to understand what motivates you to do those things in the sale? Not Want to say no. So for example, you might be somebody that’s motivated to be liked, right? You want to please everybody, you want everybody to like you. And so saying, No, is hard, because it feels like then you’re not being helpful. Or you might be somebody that has a high competitive drive, and you just want to win. And so saying, No, is not an option, because it doesn’t get you to that when. And so when you can kind of get in touch with what are my motivations that cause me to behave like this. That’s where the behavioral shift can really start and some of the deprogramming right to, like get you out of those habits and think about things a little differently the next time around in a sales conversation.

Chip Griffin 

So how do you develop those healthier habits when it comes to business development.

Shannyn Lee 

So it begins with understanding the motivators saying, let’s name it, if you’re a person that has a high affiliation score, which means you need to be liked. Let’s talk about the whys behind that, let’s kind of unpack that a little bit. And let’s recognize it and then put it aside. Okay, we’ve acknowledged it. And now let’s look at bringing some frameworks to bear that keep you focused and keep you disciplined in these conversations. So you’re not as you know, likely to fall back on bad habits. And what I mean by a framework is, for example, the qualifying conversation framework. And when we’re teaching this framework, we’re helping people to understand the five or six things they need to get done in that qualifying conversation. And we’re asking them to kind of stick to a script, not like a word for word script, but kind of a set of quadrants, right, like So first, I want to understand what that client’s desired future state is. So there’s a question to, to get to their wants beyond the need that they came to me for. And then I’m going to move over to that quadrant, where we uncover who are the decision makers involved? Who’s the team that’s going to decide on your end? And what’s the process? And once you’ve worked through that, we’re going to talk about money, right? And just get a sense of, are we on the same page with the level of investment. So there’s some things like that, that have to happen. And each of the conversations that happen in the buyers journey, qualifying value closing, and we bring these frameworks to each conversation. So it brings clarity and focus and discipline and it helps you to stay on track and not feel like each sales call is a brand new, clean slate right that you just kind of sure where to direct it towards. So those are the things that start to help shift that behavior.

Chip Griffin 

I love that you’ve framed it around conversations. Because I think I think that’s lost on a lot of people when they’re doing business development and they think through okay, here are the things that I need to do I need to to be able to qualify them but it’s not so much a conversation. It’s more of an interrogation. I need to make sure you have budget, right. I mean, I love this this fascination that agency owners have about trust. to figure out what’s the budget of the client? Yeah, it’s sort of an interesting conversation that you want to make sure that you know that someone’s not shopping for a Yugo when you’re selling a Ferrari. Sure. But beyond that, I think trying to nail people down to a particular number is nonsense, because then you come up with a solution that’s based on whatever number they throw out, because you want to win the business may not be the best solution. So So yes, make sure they’re in the same, you know, league, if you will, yes, what you’re selling, so don’t waste anyone’s time. But but don’t obsess over it. Instead, have this conversation and really try to tease out from them, what they’re looking for what you can provide.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, that’s exactly right. And you’re so spot on in that early conversation in the sale, like, let’s just get on the same page, because likely, you’re not talking with the entire team, that’s going to make the decision. And it’s also likely that it might be a middle manager gatekeeper, that isn’t, like in charge of creating future value, right. So they aren’t as apt or have the ability to understand what that means. And you want to have that investment conversation that what are the funds allocated conversation, when you’re talking with more of the senior team that’s part of, you know, charged with creating future value for the organization. That’s the more appropriate time. So you’re right, let’s just get on the same page. Let’s have a conversation, and see if this is a fit. And then let’s decide what makes sense as the next best step here.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I think the other helpful thing about thinking of it as a conversation is it changes the dynamic because a lot of agency leaders in my experience are are itching to get out there and share their credentials deck, and go through all of their capabilities and explain to you all of these things that they can do before they even really begun to understand what your challenge is.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah. So when without pitching lands, our ideal is that you’re well positioned, which means you’ve done a good job of deciding who you help and how you help them. And it’s communicated through your website and your thought leadership so that coming into it, people have a sense of who you are and who they’re talking to. And there are some things you want to do to make sure that that flip has happened, that they see you as the expert, and don’t see you as the vendor. But quickly, you want it to be all about them. That prospect should be doing more of the talking in those early conversations, and you should be doing more of the listening.

Chip Griffin 

And that if I had one piece of advice in business development, I think what you just said is that the piece of advice I would give is shut up and listen. Yes, it’s done, you’ll be amazed at what you will learn.

Shannyn Lee 

You’re so exactly right. And that’s the whole point, if you can embrace that superpower of silence, you’re gonna learn so much. It’s incredible, right? And the minute you start talking, is when you give concessions or start filling the void with unneeded stuff, right? That’s just like, shuts everybody down on the other end of the line.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And it’s just I think that for whatever reason, agency folks are conditioned to think, Okay, I’ve got to show you my capabilities deck, and then I’ve got to, once I’m done with that, then I’ll give you a proposal. And then we’ll negotiate the contract after that. And that’s not the way that this should go at all. And that’s that’s one of the many things I love about the wind without pitching manifesto, which, by the way, is an excellent book. And if you haven’t read it yet, you should read it.

Shannyn Lee 

Thanks for that. You’re welcome.

Chip Griffin 

And that’s not just because I mean, this is actually a book that I’ve had on my shelf for many years. And I’ve read many times, because, I mean, there’s a lot of good concepts in there. And I think that, that it’s really about helping to reset your mind about how you go about business development. And it’s so valuable for agency folks so that they don’t get trapped in this, this method madness of just, you know, checking each little box and assuming that if I, if I check the capabilities box, and I do the proposal, and I do all these things, all of a sudden business is going to come in, it’s not.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, I think that we lose ourselves in these sales conversations and go into sales robot mode, and it feels yucky and dismal. And it feels like a vendor, when in fact, the audience we’re speaking to has the most amazing set of superpowers, I think in the world, and they come at it with so much empathy, and was such a desire to help and if we can release that sales robot mode and show up as ourselves and let people see right, who we are and what we have to bring to the challenge and just have that conversation like we’re talking about, that’s when it becomes so much more fun. And that’s when the real wins happen for what you’re able to unlock in terms of how you might be able to solve these challenges these clients are up against, they come to us equally as nervous because they got a big mandate sitting on their desk that they have to fulfill for their organization and they need that expert to be their ally and to reassure and to help.

Chip Griffin 

Right and I think we lose that too because we have To remember that that business development is not between two logos. It’s between the people on each side. And so you need to understand the motivations not just of the client organization, but your actual client contact, who the decision makers are who the people you’re working with every day, and what’s motivating them. And I mean, I have a particular example that I remember from an agency I was working with a number of years ago. And they were they were producing results, the team was saying, on the client side, this is great. Then they got to the review at the quarterly mark with the senior executive who hated the work. And it turned out that the reason why was because that senior exec was being bonused, based on some of the data being produced by the agency, the agency didn’t realize it, and it wasn’t going to help this executive get their bonus. If you tease that out earlier in the relationship, I’m not saying you want to manufacture incorrect data, but you can at least think about how you’re going about it to drive towards that objective, or say, hey, we can’t do that, right? I know, this is what you’re expecting, we can’t actually do that and be successful.

Shannyn Lee 

So we have this thing called the magic question. Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach created this question. And we ask everybody to ask this question in the first qualifying conversation, and I asked it in all of my qualifying conversations as well. The question is, you and I are sitting down three years from today, and you’re really happy. What’s happened in those three years to make you so happy? The reason for that question is to allow somebody to vision and to think about the future. And they’re likely going to start out talking about the organization’s goals and desires, but they will begin to bring their own desires and goals and, and hopes into the into the equation when they’re answering that question. And if they don’t, then it is to your point ship, like, we have this opening to say, this is fantastic. Thank you for sharing your vision, I have a better sense of why, you know, you came to me, maybe it was for a website. But what you really need is something beyond that to achieve this vision. Are you willing to share like, personally? What’s in it for you? Right? Or what’s important to you in this vision? And that’s when you may learn those things like Well, honestly, I want to move up in the organization, or I have a bonus tied to the outcome of this initiative. Okay, fantastic. Let’s talk about that. Right. So there’s these emotional contributions to value that we want to uncover as well. And we have to be delicate, right? When you’re talking about people’s personal wants and goals. But it is so important to get to that because that’s, that’s exactly why you’re there to help. Right. And you may, in fact, be very well equipped to really help them achieve that that vision and get their bonus, get their promotion, get that mainstage talk that they’ve been hoping for it the big marquee conference every year. There’s a lot we can do. You know,

Chip Griffin 

I think the other thing is to ask them questions about what are their past experiences in that area. So either agencies like yours, or work that they’ve done in house that similar to what what you would be doing, because that helps you understand, you know, what some of their pressure points are, what they things that may be, should be red flags for you, right? I mean, if they’ve gone through three agencies in three years, dig a little deeper, to find out why that has happened. And you know, maybe you still want to take on the business. But maybe you’re anticipating this is going to be a one year relationship. And so you can plan accordingly.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, that’s smart, right? Like trying to figure out if this fails, why? Let’s dig into that for a minute. Right? If if we get to the end of this, and the CEO isn’t happy? Why. So looking at that post mortem set of questions is so important.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. And success is important to him. And I know I’ve dwelled on the negative there, but the, you know, understanding done in the past that was successful, because that’s what you’re gonna be measured against. Right? Yep. So, you know, if they had a Superbowl ad that you know, that that knocked it out of the park in the past, and they love that, well, first of all, why are they looking for a new agency, but we’ll set that but but but assuming they’ve got something like that now, this is the yardstick you’re being measured against? Can you live up to that expectation? Or not? And and if not, then at least make sure that they are clear that that’s that bar is is not a realistic one that they just, you know, caught lightning in a bottle.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, exactly. Yep. Setting expectations. Yep.

Chip Griffin 

So now, you said something important a little bit ago about positioning and expertise. And I think this is, this is really critical to how agencies can do a better job of selling without feeling like they need to be selling. Right. And it’s something that I think a lot of agencies don’t get right for one reason or another. There may be, you know, when they hear positioning, you know, they think of these things where you’re supposed to niche down and, and so all of a sudden, now I’ve got, I’ve got so small an audience, I have taken off prospects off the table, I’m fighting to get a big enough pipeline as it is, you know, expertise. I don’t I barely have enough time to service my own clients, let alone be out there and doing thought leadership and things like that. So, you know, how do you address some of those concerns that the agency folks have when you talk about about positioning and expertise.

Shannyn Lee 

So the fear of niching down or specializing is, it has a lot to do a sacrifice, right and fear of missing out. And really, what we want people to be thinking about is this idea of like competence and deep competence in an area of expertise. And it doesn’t mean you have to go so narrow, that you’re really walking away from a viable market, we still want it to be a viable market that you go after. But we want you to feel like you can pick the phone up and say, Hey, this is who I am, these are the problems we solve. We’re better at it than anybody and be really specific and have a wedge to get in the door with that may, in fact, turn into a broader conversation. But you need to be seen as meaningfully different. And that happens through the act of specializing. But specializing could mean a vertical, right specializing could mean and demographics specializing could mean anything from like, lifestyle, or perspective, like there’s a lot of ways to specialize. So it doesn’t, it doesn’t equate to walking away from work and leaving work on the table, it really allows you to be seen as meaningfully different to have more power in the sale to do better work to charge what you’re worth. And to have a targeting exercise that feels a lot easier. You know exactly who you want to go after and what you’re going to say and you’ll be heard on a different level. And when it comes to producing thought leadership, that should become easier to because it should become clear, the many things you know about that you can be producing thought leadership around, versus stabbing in the dark at a lot of more generalized topics.

Chip Griffin 

Right, and I think so on niching down, I think that the the fear is you say as unfounded, right, I mean, that if you develop this, this specialty, this expertise, it actually makes it easier, not harder. I think that part of it is just that the terminology scares people off. So I always like to try to talk about finding focus, because you make a great point that it doesn’t have to be about just an industry vertical, which is the first thing everybody thinks of Oh, wow, I want to just do work for automakers the rest of my life, you know, you don’t have to. And and again, going back to the whole notion of that it’s not two logos working with each other, it’s two people, part of finding focus can be the kind of people that you’re working with at your client. Right? That’s, that, to me, is a critical component. Do you work better with a first time CMO or an experienced one? Do you work better with a client who has worked with agencies before? Or you’re their first agency that, you know, where are they in their lifecycle, their growth cycle, all of those things are components, I think of defining your ideal client in such a way that you’ve got some focus, and you’ve got some direction, so that you can develop that expertise.

Shannyn Lee 

Yeah, exactly. It’s it’s really about, you know, who do you want to show up and help each day? And when you’re in these conversations, do you want to have to battle to go into convince mode to really convinced somebody, you’re the best for the job? Or do you want to be able to say, look, this is our ideology? This is how we think about things. Let me first Have you read our hero piece without pitching manifesto, for example. And if you’re on board with our ideology, let’s keep talking. If not, that’s okay. It just means we’re not a fit to work together. I want clients to be selected for those sorts of things, not because of culture fit, or because I did a good job convincing you of something, you want to go in and feel deeply sought after for that expertise that you have that it’s hard to find elsewhere.

Chip Griffin 

So this notion of being helpful, I think, is an important one. So I’d like to tease that out a little bit more. And I think that when people hear things like thought leadership, and you know, to demonstrate their expertise, they think I need to think these big thoughts, and I need to, you know, I need to have some unique take. And and I don’t think that’s correct. But I’m interested in your take on that is that if you’re creating content, if you are working with prospects and being helpful, is that enough? Or do you really have to sort of, you know, plant a flag and say that there’s a whole new way of doing it.

Shannyn Lee 

I think that it’s more about when we think about a whole new way of doing it. I think that’s a tall order, right? I think that the way you want to think about it, and I’ll give you the story of an example of a client that I have, he runs a public relations firm out of New Orleans and his expertise is doing business in the Gulf South. He knows the Gulf South better than anybody and he’s born and raised there. He’s been through all of the traumatic, you know, hurricanes and weather events and chose to stay and he has the ability to talk about how people move about their day and make decisions in the Gulf South. So if you’re somebody who wants to do business in the Gulf South, or you’re here and you want to increase your footprint, you’re dealing with public relations challenges, go to him right because he’s going to understand what the day to day is like on the ground and so when he thinks about creating thought leadership, it’s a lot of storytelling, right? We needed this initiative passed in this parish. And so what did we have to do to work with the city council there and bring consensus amongst the neighborhoods, to really get this past to do whatever we needed to do help the schools or whatever it was. So it’s not that we’re inventing a new way of doing something, it’s that we’re deeply expert in a market like the Gulf South, and so we can help you move and operate and be seen with credibility, right? That’s the kind of thought leadership we’re talking about developing. And sure, maybe you have a new novel idea to Account Based Marketing or something like that, I don’t know. But it’s really more about what do we do day to day to get this work done at the highest level and bring the most value. And then maybe, sure, there’s some thought leadership that sees you kind of ranting and raving or tackling bigger topics, but it’s more about, like the day to day you’re doing to get the results for your clients and, and your lens that you look through that helps you deliver on that.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And, and I think, you know, the notion of being able to share that expertise and be helpful, that should come relatively easily to most agency leaders, right, because you’re just talking about the stuff you already know. I mean, it’s the kind of stuff that if you were talking with another agency owner, you would just you know, you just fall right into the groove and you start talking about you don’t, you don’t have to put on some, you know, false persona, you don’t have to develop, you know, some whole brand new way of thinking you just need to be helpful and sharing what you already know, and the things that you already like to talk about.

Shannyn Lee 

Yep, you know, your clients challenges, you see the common problems, you know, what the patterns are right? Like, and you know, how to tackle those and overcome them. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what you want to be out there sharing and discussing.

Chip Griffin 

Right? So if I’m an agency owner, and I’m struggling with business development, and trying to think about how I get out of my rut, right, maybe I’m, I’m generating an okay amount of business, but I really want to grow, you know, what are the what are the key things that that you would say that they should focus on first, in, you know, breaking out of that rut?

Shannyn Lee 

I think first you have to take a look at positioning. And positioning in our mind is fundamental business strategy. It’s not like a linguistics exercise. So you really have to take a look at what are you deeply expert in? And are you too generalized, right? Are you too much of a general firm, and that’s causing a challenge for you in the sale? That you’re not winning? Because you’re just not seen as meaningfully different? So start by taking a look at positioning. Next, how are you marketing yourself? Are you proactive? And are you consistent and getting the good word out about the work that you do? That’s sometimes part of the equation, like you’re just not talking to enough people or talking to them consistently. So that might mean building more of a following. And then the other thing that comes up is just behavior in the sale. And having an understanding of showing up in the sale, and being that expert in guiding the conversations, like we’ve been talking about what you need to get through to decide, Is there a fit? And what can we do and what’s important to measure? So, you know, when people come to us, it’s like, in one of those three areas, there’s a positioning challenge, there’s a sales process challenge, or maybe there’s a marketing challenge. So it’s, it’s kind of identifying what are the challenges, and maybe they’re all three, that’s okay. But like, let’s start with the one that’s gonna set us up for success and the other two, and a lot of times that’s positioning.

Chip Griffin 

I think that’s, I mean, you’ve offered tons of great advice over the last 30 minutes. But I think in particular, you know, those are sort of nuggets to take away at the end are particularly helpful. But if someone would like to learn more about when, without pitching or, and how you can be helpful to them as they continue on this business development journey, where can they find you?

Shannyn Lee 

The best place to go is our website, when without pitching.com. And you can dig into thought leadership, you can dig into different product offer offerings, and there’s lots of ways to connect with us through the website. So I would go there first,

Chip Griffin 

I would absolutely encourage that. And as I said earlier, I would encourage you to read the book as well, because there is so much there. And I think that the whole idea of just changing the mindset around business development is so valuable. And so Shannon, I really appreciate the time that you’ve taken today to share some of your insights with other agency leaders. And I look forward to continuing the conversations with you in the months and years ahead.

Shannyn Lee 

Thanks, Chip. It was great to be with you today. Thanks for having me on.

Chip Griffin 

And thank you all for listening, and I will have you all back here next week.

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In this episode of Chats with Chip, Shannyn Lee of Win Without Pitching joins to talk about how agencies can step up their business development game.





In this episode of Chats with Chip, Shannyn Lee of Win Without Pitching joins to talk about how agencies can step up their business development game.



Agency owners don’t need to be sales-y to generate new revenue, and Shannyn shares some of her best advice on finding the right prospects to work with you and your team.



Resources



* Win Without Pitching* Shannyn Lee on LinkedIn




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



Chip Griffin 



Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin, the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance or SAGA. And my guest today is Shannyn Lee, she is the managing director of Win Without Pitching. Welcome to the show, Shannyn.



Shannyn Lee 



Thank you, Chip. I’m happy to be here, I think we’re gonna have some good fun.



Chip Griffin 



I am certain we’re going to have some good fun. And hopefully, we’ll be able to share a few useful tidbits along the way for our listeners. But before we jump right into the conversation, why don’t you just share briefly a little bit about yourself? And when without pitching?



Shannyn Lee 



Sure, yep. Happy to. So I’m the managing director at wind without pitching. And we focus on sales training for creative professionals. And so our mission in life is to just make selling more fun, help people be more confident in the sale and provide some frameworks to really guide better conversations around talking about money and decision makers, and how can I create value for this client and tackle issues around pricing. So the whole goal is just to make it more enjoyable and let those clients of ours out there have more control in the sale?



Chip Griffin 



And, you know, I think that in the agency space in the creative world people, for the most part, not all of them, but for the most part, they view business development as more of a necessary evil than something that they are passionate about most, I think would tell you they prefer the creative side, the problem solving side, the working with clients. But it turns out, you can’t have a business without new business.



Shannyn Lee 



Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I think selling is noble. And I think it’s quite fun. And I think if you approach it from the perspective of I am here to help, and I want to figure out how I can create the most value possible for you, Miss client, it completely changes your perspective on what it means to sell. Because it really becomes this idea of a conversation and not a presentation and really digging into what’s the desired future state, what’s the vision? What are we going to measure what’s most important to you? And it just unlocks a different level of sophistication and a different level of depth that you can get into with people when you approach it that way?



Chip Griffin 



Absolutely. And I think, for me, at least a lot of the clients I work with, they come to sales, thinking about it the wrong way they think about it sort of is, you know, all I gotta do sales, and they start thinking about like the car salesman or something like that,]]>
Chip Griffin 30:24
How agencies can manage the new work landscape (featuring Miles Everson) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/how-agencies-can-manage-the-new-work-landscape-featuring-miles-everson/ Tue, 03 Aug 2021 13:12:08 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=10468 What do workers want? What do businesses need? How do you find that intersection?]]>

Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners, joins Chip to talk about the challenges that agencies are facing in this new era of work — and how they can find success while mitigating risks.

This conversation explores important topics like hybrid work, contractors versus employees, the new outlook that many employees and employers have after a year of remote work, and more.

Opportunities abound for agencies that are prepared to adapt and innovate, but risks remain and it is important to understand how to balance the two.

Resources

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

Chip Griffin 

Hello, and welcome. I am Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am very happy to have with me someone today who can help talk about the future of work, particularly the future of work in agencies from both the employee perspective as well as from the employer perspective. So welcome to the show, Miles Everson, the CEO of MBO Partners.

Miles Everson 

Very good, thanks, Chip. I’m glad to be here today as well. So this is an important topic for businesses throughout the United States. So

Chip Griffin 

it’s an absolutely vital topic. And and almost every, frankly, business owner, let alone agency owner is having conversations about this right now, trying to figure out, you know, how are they going to reshape their team reshape how they do work going forward? Are they if they were in office full time, before the pandemic? Are they coming back entirely full time now? Is it going to be some hybrid thing? Or are they just gonna say, you know, forget about it, I don’t want to lease anymore, we’re gonna go all remote. You know, there’s so many factors that go into this. And it’s not just about, you know, what you want to do? It’s what’s feasible within the environment? And how do you navigate all of the, you know, the pitfalls that are out there. And that’s something that I think that you can speak to quite well. So, before we jump into some of those topics, though, can you tell me a little bit more about yourself and MBO partners?

Yeah, I’m happy to. So I’ll start with myself, which is, I joined MBO two years ago as the CEO, delighted to be here. Prior to that, I spent 30 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers. And last finished running the global advisory and consulting businesses, where obviously, we had a lot of human capital, and a lot of services and clients that we sold work to and help, you know, create value. Here at MBO partners, what we’re doing is we’re making it easy for independence. And I say independence, it’s it can be small businesses, as well as individuals, solo entrepreneurs, do work with very large companies. So I think of us as we are an enterprise gateway solution, we help enterprises make it possible for lots of people in their organization to do work with these independence. So that’s, that’s what it’s the company’s been around for 25 years. I’m delighted to be here. And you know, we’re doing our best to try to help make that work easier for the independence and the enterprises.

Chip Griffin 

Great, well, I think that’s a, that’s a great setting of the table for the conversation that we’re going to have because a lot of agencies are interested in hiring more independence for their teams, historically, agencies, particularly small ones, have relied upon independence in order to to supplement their teams, and to develop the expertise they need. But we’re in an environment now where it’s becoming more challenging to do that, you’ve got some states like California that have really clamped down on the rules on how you can qualify as an independent contractor, you’ve got a lot of states who are, you know, trying to do more in terms of tax grabs, for any kind of presence that a business may have in their state. And so at the same time that owners are looking for flexibility, particularly coming out of the pandemic, they’ve got to figure out how do I do this and not come across some trip wire that’s going to increase my taxes, or get me into trouble with some government agency? So is it is it First of all, is my characterization accurate? Is it is it more challenging from a regulatory and legal standpoint than it was, say, 10 years ago?

The piece of it that’s more challenging regulatorily in my view, is it’s the worker classification regulations, right? So you know, and so, what, what you can have is still people are classified, that they need to be an employee, but that’s where they can be an employee of, for example, we have a payroll company, so will w two, um, so the agency doesn’t have to. So from an agency perspective, you can have both 1099 and W two for worker classification, and still be able to access a large pool of independent talent. And that’s, that’s the value of what we’re doing, or at least one of the big pieces of value.

Chip Griffin 

Right, so that so basically, what you’re doing is you’re taking away the headache of trying to figure out how to navigate all these different systems and sort of allows the agency owner to focus on the substance of the work, and you focus on the bureaucracy of the work for lack of a better way of describing it. That’s right. That’s exactly right. That’s what we’re doing. So because of this, you’re obviously working with a lot of employers, a lot of employees, you know, let’s let’s take a moment and pull out that crystal ball. And as you’re looking into the future, what is the future of work looking like for agencies, what do you see coming down The pipeline, that’s that’s important for agency owners to be considering as they’re determining their own structures in the years ahead.

Yeah, well, let me start with just some some kind of context, I’ll say factual data points that are important. So these are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you work in the United States today, and you’re under 45 years old, you’ll change companies every 4.1 years. If you’re under 35, you’ll change every 2.8 years. So I would actually think could make a pretty good case that the velocity of a rotating workforce is happening in the full time workforce as well. And so what that means, from my perspective is every company or agency has to have, you know, the muscle, if you will, to be able to deal with a higher velocity of change in their workforce and what they historically would have thought of, and then you kind of add to that what’s happened, you know, let’s, I think it’s, you know, the COVID pandemic effect is 46% of white collar workers say they’re going to change jobs in the next 12 months. That’s an astronomical turnover rate for any company. So I look at it and say, by definition, if you’re going to be really accessing the best talent on the planet, you have to have multiple channels, in terms of where you get that talent from, and an important channel is the independent worker, because more people today choose to be independent, that are forced to be independent. And that’s it. It’s just such an important context to have. Right?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. And I think that’s I think one of the challenges is that the government’s don’t seem to recognize that a lot of workers want to be independence, right. They, they see being independent as as a threat. And part of that is because some of the structure that’s been built into the system, as far as, you know, tying, you know, a lot of social benefits to your actual employment. And, you know, we can have those debates, I suppose another day, but because of that, that it creates that tension where you’ve got workers who want that freedom, that independence, and yet, you know, government that sees that as as a bad thing in the guise of trying to protect those workers.

Yeah, so I, this is actually a really important point, Chip, I think, in the political circles, Far too often. All independents are kind of painted with a single brush, if you will, saying there’s gig workers, they’re freelancers or independent. And I think there is a very demonstrable difference between somebody that is working as a temporary worker, and as an unskilled labor, and is getting taken advantage of, if you will, by the big guy, versus people with college degrees, that can earn six figure incomes, you know, high five figure incomes, and can make those judgments for themselves. And so the regulation needs to get pointed towards what is the real objective that’s trying to be done, because I think most people would say, we should make sure that there’s some type of, you know, rails of safety, if you will, for that little person that could get taken advantage of the college educated people can make their own choices as to what they want to do.

Chip Griffin 

Well, and I think, you know, one of the other things we’re seeing from a freedom perspective, I know is something that you’re particularly passionate about looking at it. And that’s the whole concept of the digital nomad. And so so can you, can you take a little bit of time just to explain what a digital nomad is, and how that’s going to change the nature of work?

Yeah, so digital, first of all, digital nomad is somebody that is not only working remotely, but they’re not they’re working remotely from multiple geographic locations. And so I’ll start with, you know, again, the COVID pandemic accelerated company’s willingness and ability to work with a remote workforce, right? 15 months ago, there was, you know, hesitation to embrace a remote workforce for many, many companies, and then all of a sudden, if there were 100% remote, so that accelerated what I believe was an inevitable change anyway, but you know, it pushed a decade into a year in terms of duration. And so once you get to the point where you say, okay, it’s okay for people to work remote, then the worker can start to choose where they want to spend their time and, and work and so, you know, if you look at what what’s happened between 2019 and 2020, so we don’t have the 21 data yet, but there was a 49% increase in digital nomads. Again, it’s significant increase. So there’s, there’s 10 point 9 million of them in the United States today. That are, that’s their primary residence. Interestingly enough, 6.3 million are those are full time workers, that is up 96% from 2019. So basically doubled because of COVID. Right. And, and so, but when you look at it, and I think this points to the what they’re much deeper macro trend that existed before COVID was present, which is digital nomads, 90% of them have higher job satisfaction. And when it comes to income satisfaction, 76% say that they’re satisfied with their income. So you think of the, you know, a happy, secure workforce is part of what you want. And, and I think we’re seeing that, that’s, that’s coming to bear out, as we see people that are choosing to work as these digital nomads.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, and the last year really did accelerate this right. Some people, you know, for a variety of reasons, chose to pick up and temporarily work from somewhere else. Maybe it’s because, you know, if the if you’re going to be trapped at home, you’d rather be, you know, trapped at home on a lake or an ocean or in a mountain area. You know, maybe you went to spend time with family because they needed some help in the evenings. And so you could work during the day and help out. There’s all sorts of reasons that the people chose to do it over the last year. But But what you’re saying is that that’s that’s not a blip. That’s a trend that’s going to continue.

Yes, it’s absolutely a trend. You know, one of the predictions that I have about the future, and I think it started already, Chip, which is the balance of power, is going to accelerate towards the worker in the in the in the power between a company and the worker, because Good work. One thing is there scarcity of qualified workers in the hottest skill areas to begin with. But secondarily, when you have a liquid market, if you will, for a demand and supply can find itself more easily. The best providers are going to they choose who they work for, because they have a wide variety of choice. And that’s that that’s definitely accelerating. And you see that amongst, you know, entrepreneurial people that choose to go be independence.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, and, you know, right now, I think we would both agree that it’s a it’s a very talent friendly market, right. So, you know, there is there, there are a lot of agencies I know, out there looking to hire, and they’re having a very difficult time finding folks because, you know, people can be choosy right now. And so they’re choosing to be choosy, if that makes sense. And our, our mutual friend Karen Swim has has chimed in here with I think, what’s a good point, which is that flexibility creates satisfaction. And she says, she says it’s ridiculous that more companies don’t understand this. And I do think that, you know, flexibility is something that, frankly, both sides can value in this equation, both the employer and the employee, I guess the the question that I have, when it comes to flexibility is if you’re an employer, and you say, you know, look, I, I’m fine to have digital nomads, I don’t care if they work remotely, I don’t care where they’re working from, I’m just looking for the quality of work. Is it enough to say that, or do you need to be, you know, considering other things when you’re coming up with your own policies, as an agency business?

Yeah. So this was the the heart of a thought leadership piece that we put out last week in the Harvard Business Review, which addresses how companies need to think about digital nomadism. And a big piece of this is you need to know where your full time employees are working. Because I think it’s a less of an issue for small agencies, just to be clear. But for some large companies use in particular, you could end up with multiple people working in a jurisdiction, and they trigger tax residency obligations. And they’re going to go to the company to collect those taxes, not the individual. Right, because it’s easier. It’s the deep pockets approach. So that’s, that’s what’s that’s what’s going to happen. So having a policy, and then making sure you know, where people are physically working, as opposed to assuming they’re working at the location that is their residence on file.

Chip Griffin 

Right. Right. When and it’s something that you need to work with your team to help educate them about to write because, I mean, I can imagine a lot of employees might say, Sure, you know, I live in New Hampshire or Florida where there’s no income tax, and, you know, so I’ve got some some address there. And, and so it’s not really in my interest to tell my employer that I’m actually you know, working from Manhattan or Los Angeles or somewhere with a higher tax burden, that’s not going to just affect my employer, it’s going to affect me too. So So how do you navigate that and, and make sure that you’re helping your employees be in compliance as Well,

yeah, well, I mean, awareness is an important point on this one, because I don’t think, you know, there’s probably there’s not a sufficient awareness is what I’m saying on the Natalie’s. And by some employers as well of what the potential downside issues are. Now, I will say that, you know, our belief is that the workstyle, that fits into the lifestyle back to this flexibility point that Karen was making a few minutes ago that will outlast if you will, the regulatory pressures and issues, people will learn how to deal with the regulations, they’ll comply. And so I don’t see the regulations as having sufficient power to change, you know, what a mass of very large mass of people want for their lifestyle and work style. So that’s, that’s going to happen regardless. And, you know, so what, when I think of this, if I go right back to the staffing agency, I think, you know, a lot of the listeners may be today, I think you got to get beyond thinking about this as a compliance matter. And think about it is how do I really optimize my total workforce. And that starts with really thinking of your workforce as being broader than your full time employee base. Because I would argue that by definition, if you’re not looking beyond your full time workforce, there’s no way you can have confidence that you’re getting a look or access at all of the, you know, great talent that’s out there and is available.

Chip Griffin 

And I think that’s a great point. I mean, you know, at the end of the day, and I always tell my clients is you can find a way to navigate whatever regulatory tax and legal structures exist around you, right, you need to figure out what is best for the business, and then work with your professional partners of various kinds to make sure that you’re, you know, at least mitigating the risk. But it’s, it shouldn’t be an obstacle in itself, to doing what you want and what your team wants. But so now, so now, let’s pivot a little bit at how you actually manage this as an employer, how do you get the most out of your team, when you’re, you know, when you’ve got people who are, you know, you’ve got some digital nomads on your team, you know, you’ve got, you know, maybe some in office, people in your team, you’ve got people working different time zones, you’ve got, you know, you’ve got a mix of full time, part time and independent contractors, how do you do that, as a manager and figure out how you get the most out of them? Does it change the nature of communications with your team,

it changes the nature of communications, you know, touch on that, but it also changes, I believe, how companies think about the way they run their business, I’m saying from an operating model perspective, and I, I see us moving at a greater pace, that at going after a project outcome based operating model versus an org chart, based operating model. So it’s a bit of adopting, you know, I’ll say loosely, agile type concepts that have been used for systems development, into how you think about value creation in your companies all together, which is, I’m going to get the right deep niche skills that I need for a particular outcome I’m driving towards, I may not need those skills full time all the time. And that’s why you tap into the independent workforce to get the skills you need. But your internal, again, your organizational muscle that you need, is not just how do I manage a bunch of people that report to me every day, regardless of what I have? I’m doing, but how do I bring together teams? How can I form teams quickly? How do I get those squads or pods of people to produce very well, by the way, some leading companies have been doing this for three years. And it makes you more agile and more nimble. And doing that. And so, I see that as is a really important component of how you think about this going forward. And then I know I forgot your first point, Chip, what was your first question?

Chip Griffin 

So does it change the nature of communications with your dog?

Yeah, thank you. Yeah. So one thing that COVID pandemic did, is it made for a number of industries, you know, health provider industry, and for the education system, going from synchronous to asynchronous interactions. And so I think what we’ll see for the next five to 10 years is even more asynchronous communications occurring. So think of it as anywhere where today you think it’s got to be synchronous. You have to challenge yourself and say, Well, why couldn’t this be an asynchronous communication? And just to be clear, maybe synchronous is the interaction is happening at the same time and asynchronous is it happens at different times. A great example would be interviewing people. You don’t need to interview people. synchronously, you can do asynchronous interviews. And because there’s a fair bit of support out there now that asynchronous communications drive up productivity drives up happiness, because it gives people more of the control of when they’re interacting and with whom they’re interacting. And so that’s better than, you know, having to do everything at the same time. So, flexibility? Yeah, I

Chip Griffin 

think it’s, it’s finding the right mode for the task at hand, right? Because there are some times where, you know, asynchronous can can slow things down, right? where, you know, if you, if you and I were to spend 30 seconds, just going back and forth, you know, we could probably solve something just like that. But there are a lot of times as you point out, where asynchronous can be much more convenient, because if I’ve got a kid crying a dog barking, I’ve got to run an errand, you know, I’ve got the flexibility as a worker, to to address that in in a way that fits within everything else that’s going on in my life, which makes me happier, more productive, and all that. So trying to try to find those mixes, I think is something that a lot of organizations are going to have to continue to feel their way through in the years ahead, and probably some tools will have to continue to be developed in order to, to make some of these processes as smooth as possible.

Yep, completely agree. I mean, look, look at the profound effect that email and online collaboration tools have had, which most often that’s a synchronous communication, I think what happens is some people try to use it as synchronous, and they get, you know, sucked into their keyboard for eight hours a day. Which is, which is a little different. So I think the workforce and companies will have to get better at what means of communication are we using when? and for what purpose? And when done properly, it can drive up productivity of the workforce.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. And I think it is going to require a mindset shift on on everyone’s part to understand, you know, what kind of tool you’re using? And is it right for the task? Right? So, you know, to me, you know, texting is much more of a synchronous communication mode, right? Because there’s, there’s not typically, it’s one of the reasons why I discourage my clients from using it with me, because, you know, it’s hard to flag things for follow up, you know, you lose track of things. Whereas email is great for asynchronous, because, you know, you can, you know, flag things, file, things, organize things and make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. But trying to try to make sure that you’re not using an asynchronous tool for synchronous, or vice versa, is a learned skill and something that I think folks are gonna have to spend some time with as well. Yeah, I completely agree. So, so if I’m, you know, if I’m sitting here as a as an employer with, you know, let’s say, you know, maybe, you know, a 20 person team, and I’m trying to figure out, Okay, what what does all this mean, for me, though, right? You guys have talked about some some great high level concepts and things I should be thinking about, but, but realistically, is there anything that I should be going out and doing in the next, you know, 612 18 months to make significant changes to my business? Should I only do it if I, if I feel the need? I mean, talk to me a little bit about what, you know, what’s your practical advice for that small employer is?

Yeah, so I think they need to be factoring in what? witnesses from a strategic perspective, what percent, or number of people do I want to be independence is a part of my total workforce. And I say this, because if you wait until you need it, you’re going to be behind the eight ball, so to speak. And, you know, so there’s a number of specific use cases. So when when you have a strategy for embracing an independent workforce, you may have great talent, that’s a full time employee, and they come to you and they say, I don’t want to work full time anymore. Well, it gives you an option to keep that person engaged as a potential independent to work periodically with you. Okay? Another use case is if there’s really 46% turnover, you’re going to spend all your time interviewing, instead of having a pool of, you know, virtual specialists, if you will, that you’ve built up that you have access to. So that’s where we’re spending a lot of our time now is building virtual benches of talent for our enterprise clients, that in their heart skills areas, okay. And then the other is, if you want the flexibility to lean into growth, without incurring the upfront fixed cost of hiring people and putting them on the, you know, on the bench, so to speak until you find work. Having a pool of independents that are available to help you drive your growth agenda is a lot less expensive way to drive growth than relying on only a full time workforce. I’m not saying that there’s not a place for full time workers. there absolutely is. But should you be targeting 25 30% of your workforce or more maybe even to be independent? Absolutely.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I mean, I personally think a good rule of thumb for agencies given the nature of work is to you should have a percentage of your workforce as independence at least as large As your largest client is the percentage of your revenue, so if you’re, if your largest client is a quarter of your revenue, then at least a quarter of your labor costs should be independence, because that gives you the flexibility should, you know something really bad happen to make more intelligent decisions, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have to do any layoffs in those cases, but at least you’ve got some portion of the workforce that that’s automatically more susceptible to being flexed. And it gives you that that breathing space, if you will, to make more strategic decisions in those moments, as opposed to the panic ones, that so often I’m sure you and I have seen businesses make.

Look, that’s part of the reason independence choose to be independence, you know, the best independence will have five, six clients that they work for regularly. And they view it as risk diversification. Because if they one company, you know, has a problem, they have five or that they can go, you know, do work with. And, you know, I’m saying that that’s, that’s a risk mitigation strategy. But it’s also obviously they they get to choose who they work for, and the type of work and projects that they work on. So it’s bad to if you want access to great talent, you’re going to have an independent strategy, by the way, most of these independents, because they’re independent by choice. They are inherently more entrepreneurial. And so what’s wrong with having some entrepreneurial spirit embedded in your workforce?

Chip Griffin 

What do you see, it’s not just entrepreneurial spirit, but one of the things I preach communicators need to have more business acumen and, and you know, independence, simply because they have to do things like you know, file business tax returns, and, you know, set themselves up properly. And those kinds of things they start to develop, even if they don’t want to, even if they’re not inclined to they have to start learning some of those basic business concepts that will serve them well as they’re serving clients down the road. Absolutely. So miles, I mean, we’ve we’ve really just scratched the surface here. I suspect we could go on for two or three hours. But do you have any, anything that we didn’t touch on that you think would you know, people would benefit from from hearing this moment before we wrap up?

Yeah. So the first thing is, I’m going to go back to the digital nomads, right? So we just did recent research on this. And there’s 64 million adults in the United States today that believe over the next three years, they may become a digital nomad. Okay, that’s a very significant number. And so I think you want to keep your eye on how you will deal with digital nomads in your workforce. And that’s both full time and independent. Okay, so the second is, we see the the number of independents over the next five years, growing at two and a half times the rate of the full time workforce. So by 2025, well, over 50% of the people in the United States will either be an independent or will have worked as an independent. And that’s pretty profound. And then the the third item I would highlight here is in the independent workforce today, 16% of that workforce is made up of the the gen Z’s and the Gen. Z’s are predicted to be the most entrepreneurial group of workers that are coming into the workforce. And so what I’m pointing to here is, historically, the independent workforce intended to be a bit bolder than the average age of the workforce in full time. We’re seeing a shift on that. And so if you’re even thinking about how do you how do you pipeline for the next four or five years, access to the right talent? Again, if you want the, you know, that generation of talent working with you, you’re going to you’re going to have to embrace the independent workforce, they also change jobs every 2.8 years. Right?

Chip Griffin 

So, a lot to think about here. If people you know, would like more of your insights or they’d like to learn more about MBO partners, where can they get more information?

Yeah, well, they can go to MBO partners website, which is on the screen here, which is MBO partners COMM And they can reach me directly at Myles at MBO partners. COMM is my email. So I’d love to hear from folks. So thank you. Well, miles, I

Chip Griffin 

really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. You shared a lot of valuable insights, things that people are thinking about today and given a lot of food for thought. So I I do appreciate that and I appreciate everybody who tuned in either live or is listening now on the podcast feed, and I look forward to having you all back with me on a future episode. Excellent.

Miles Everson 

Thanks, Chip.

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What do workers want? What do businesses need? How do you find that intersection?





Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners, joins Chip to talk about the challenges that agencies are facing in this new era of work — and how they can find success while mitigating risks.



This conversation explores important topics like hybrid work, contractors versus employees, the new outlook that many employees and employers have after a year of remote work, and more.



Opportunities abound for agencies that are prepared to adapt and innovate, but risks remain and it is important to understand how to balance the two.



Resources



* MBO Partners




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



Chip Griffin 



Hello, and welcome. I am Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am very happy to have with me someone today who can help talk about the future of work, particularly the future of work in agencies from both the employee perspective as well as from the employer perspective. So welcome to the show, Miles Everson, the CEO of MBO Partners.



Miles Everson 



Very good, thanks, Chip. I’m glad to be here today as well. So this is an important topic for businesses throughout the United States. So



Chip Griffin 



it’s an absolutely vital topic. And and almost every, frankly, business owner, let alone agency owner is having conversations about this right now, trying to figure out, you know, how are they going to reshape their team reshape how they do work going forward? Are they if they were in office full time, before the pandemic? Are they coming back entirely full time now? Is it going to be some hybrid thing? Or are they just gonna say, you know, forget about it, I don’t want to lease anymore, we’re gonna go all remote. You know, there’s so many factors that go into this. And it’s not just about, you know, what you want to do? It’s what’s feasible within the environment? And how do you navigate all of the, you know, the pitfalls that are out there. And that’s something that I think that you can speak to quite well. So, before we jump into some of those topics, though, can you tell me a little bit more about yourself and MBO partners?



Yeah, I’m happy to. So I’ll start with myself, which is, I joined MBO two years ago as the CEO, delighted to be here. Prior to that, I spent 30 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers. And last finished running the global advisory and consulting businesses, where obviously, we had a lot of human capital, and a lot of services and clients that we sold work to and help, you know, create value. Here at MBO partners, what we’re doing is we’re making it easy for independence. And I say independence, it’s it can be small businesses, as well as individuals, solo entrepreneurs, do work with very large companies. So I think of us as we are an enterprise gateway solution, we help enterprises make it possible for lots of people in their organization to do work with these independence. So that’s, that’s what it’s the company’s been around for 25 years. I’m delighted to be here. And you know, we’re doing our best to try to help make that work easier for the independence and the enterprises.



Chip Griffin 



Great, well, I think that’s a, that’s a great setting of the table for the conversation that we’re going to have because a lot of agencies are interested in hiring more independence for their tea...]]>
Chip Griffin 30:42
Managing your agency’s financials for better results (featuring Chris Hervochon) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/managing-your-agencys-financials-for-better-results-featuring-chris-hervochon/ Tue, 08 Jun 2021 13:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=10278 Understand how to increase your profits through improved reporting]]>

Chris Hervochon, a CPA with extensive experience working with small agencies, shares his advice on how to manage your business more effectively by understanding and using your financial reports.

Resources

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Understand how to increase your profits through improved reporting





Chris Hervochon, a CPA with extensive experience working with small agencies, shares his advice on how to manage your business more effectively by understanding and using your financial reports.



Resources



* Chris Hervochon CPA
]]>
Chip Griffin 30:15
Finding relevant journalists and influencers (featuring Samantha Deeks) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/finding-relevant-influencers-and-journalists-featuring-samantha-deeks/ Wed, 14 Apr 2021 21:05:19 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=9494 Chip Griffin and Samantha DeeksUsing software to build better relationships]]> Chip Griffin and Samantha Deeks

In this episode of Chats with Chip, Samantha Deeks of PRgloo talks about finding and reaching out to influencers and journalists who can help your agency’s clients.

Samantha explains why she founded PRgloo and looks at the journey they have taken. She also takes a look into the future — both of her product and the industry.

The conversation focuses on the need to avoid PR spam and instead build real relationships — and how effective tools can help advance that goal.

Resources

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Using software to build better relationships





In this episode of Chats with Chip, Samantha Deeks of PRgloo talks about finding and reaching out to influencers and journalists who can help your agency’s clients.



Samantha explains why she founded PRgloo and looks at the journey they have taken. She also takes a look into the future — both of her product and the industry.



The conversation focuses on the need to avoid PR spam and instead build real relationships — and how effective tools can help advance that goal.



Resources



* PRgloo* Samantha Deeks on LinkedIn
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Chip Griffin 30:17
Running an experiential marketing agency in 2021 (featuring Dan Hirsch and Deb Lemon) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/running-an-experiential-marketing-agency-in-2021-featuring-dan-hirsch-and-deb-lemon/ Wed, 31 Mar 2021 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=9363 What has changed and what does the future look like?]]>

It’s no secret that the pandemic has disrupted the experiential marketing space. In-person events evaporated almost overnight. Even today, large-scale events haven’t resumed and the future remains uncertain, albeit more hopeful than a year ago.

So how did an experiential marketing agency with a long history of success handle the challenge? Dan Hirsch and Deb Lemon, co-CEOs of On Board Experiential (OBE), share their story in this episode.

From what they have done so far to how they see the future, Dan and Deb have lots of perspective to offer other agency leaders. Chip also explores how they make the co-CEO role work — something they both feel isn’t all that special, but it is something that many agencies have tried and struggled with before.

Additional Resources

More About the Guests

Dan Hirsch

Founder and CEO Dan Hirsch throws all his energy into upping OBE’s game. With decades in the entertainment and events industry, he’s got experience to build on. Hirsch started his career in the electrifying world of live music, representing hip-hop giants like Run DMC and Wu-Tang Clan. He simultaneously developed an affinity for the exploding action sports industry. In 1995, he combined his passions to create one of the first snowboarding and music festivals—and OBE was born. Since then, Hirsch has been challenging his teams to match his effort, bringing the same raw excitement that started his career to all of OBE’s experiential marketing campaigns. Today, the agency creates authentic and memorable moments for mega-brands like Facebook, Nike, JPMorgan Chase, Kellogg’s, Activision and Rothy’s. Proudly, OBE has been named to Event Marketer’s “IT” List for the past nine years (and counting), and Hirsch has been featured in the San Francisco Business Journal and honored as a member of Event Marketer’s Executive Roundtable. For four years, he served on the Board of Directors for Worldwide Partners (the biggest independent Marcom network on the planet). As for “down time”—what’s that?! To recharge, Hirsch jumps on surfboards, snowboards and mountain bikes. 

Deb Lemon

OBE CEO Deb Lemon brings straight talk and smart strategy to every client partnership. She believes in the long game: making sure brand experiences add up to real business impact. And she takes pride in building (and leading) the dream teams to do it, thanks to instincts she sharpened as both a marketer and a true brand believer. A former college athlete, Lemon started her career working at a Nike store. Why? Because the brand spoke to her. She never forgot the authenticity of that connection as she rose through the ranks at Nike (Sports Marketing, Events, Brand), where her crowning achievements included activations at four straight Olympic Games and the creation of the Nike Women’s Marathon. At OBE, Lemon now keeps Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Activision, Tesla and, yes, Nike (she’s a lifer) connected to their brand communities. She welcomes every chance to build OBE’s “Work Hard, Play Harder” culture, and she never loses her curious sense of adventure. Did you know? There are only two U.S. states “Fun Debbie” hasn’t hit. Arkansas and Nebraska: get ready. 

]]>
What has changed and what does the future look like? It’s no secret that the pandemic has disrupted the experiential marketing space. In-person events evaporated almost overnight. Even today, large-scale events haven’t resumed and the future remains uncertain, albeit more hopeful than a year ago.



So how did an experiential marketing agency with a long history of success handle the challenge? Dan Hirsch and Deb Lemon, co-CEOs of On Board Experiential (OBE), share their story in this episode.



From what they have done so far to how they see the future, Dan and Deb have lots of perspective to offer other agency leaders. Chip also explores how they make the co-CEO role work — something they both feel isn’t all that special, but it is something that many agencies have tried and struggled with before.









Additional Resources



* OBE Website* OBE on Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter



More About the Guests



Dan Hirsch



Founder and CEO Dan Hirsch throws all his energy into upping OBE’s game. With decades in the entertainment and events industry, he’s got experience to build on. Hirsch started his career in the electrifying world of live music, representing hip-hop giants like Run DMC and Wu-Tang Clan. He simultaneously developed an affinity for the exploding action sports industry. In 1995, he combined his passions to create one of the first snowboarding and music festivals—and OBE was born. Since then, Hirsch has been challenging his teams to match his effort, bringing the same raw excitement that started his career to all of OBE’s experiential marketing campaigns. Today, the agency creates authentic and memorable moments for mega-brands like Facebook, Nike, JPMorgan Chase, Kellogg’s, Activision and Rothy’s. Proudly, OBE has been named to Event Marketer’s “IT” List for the past nine years (and counting), and Hirsch has been featured in the San Francisco Business Journal and honored as a member of Event Marketer’s Executive Roundtable. For four years, he served on the Board of Directors for Worldwide Partners (the biggest independent Marcom network on the planet). As for “down time”—what’s that?! To recharge, Hirsch jumps on surfboards, snowboards and mountain bikes. 



Deb Lemon



OBE CEO Deb Lemon brings straight talk and smart strategy to every client partnership. She believes in the long game: making sure brand experiences add up to real business impact. And she takes pride in building (and leading) the dream teams to do it, thanks to instincts she sharpened as both a marketer and a true brand believer. A former college athlete, Lemon started her career working at a Nike store. Why? Because the brand spoke to her. She never forgot the authenticity of that connection as she rose through the ranks at Nike (Sports Marketing, Events, Brand), where her crowning achievements included activations at four straight Olympic Games and the creation of the Nike Women’s Marathon. At OBE, Lemon now keeps Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Activision, Tesla and, yes, Nike (she’s a lifer) connected to their brand communities. She welcomes every chance to build OBE’s “Work Hard, Play Harder” culture,]]>
Chip Griffin 27:34
How finding focus drives agency growth (featuring Max Borges) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/how-finding-focus-drives-agency-growth-featuring-max-borges/ Tue, 06 Oct 2020 18:52:48 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7684 Getting away from an "anything for money" mentality to build a business that works for you]]>

Chip is joined by Max Borges of the appropriately-named Max Borges Agency who talks about the evolution of his agency, including how he got started with no PR experience.

When he got started, Max was like many agency owners: he did anything for money. Over time, he got smarter to build an agency that worked for him.

Max discusses how he found focus for his agency and the difference it made in driving growth. He also shares the reason why ex-salespeople make great media relations professionals.

Finally, Max offers practical advice on how agency leaders can improve their websites to attract the right clients — and scare off the bad fits.

Resources

Transcript

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

Chip Griffin 

And welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And I am very pleased to have with me today, Max Borges, the CEO of the appropriately named Max Borges Agency. Welcome to the show, Max.

Max Borges 

Hey, Chip, great to be here.

Chip Griffin 

So I’m going to guess you spent a lot of time Wargaming the name of the agency and, and figuring out the different permutations. Right? Right, exactly. Well,

Max Borges 

look, if if I knew how successful the agency was going to become, I probably wouldn’t have named it after myself. But if things worked out,

Chip Griffin 

you know, they tend to, and I know other entrepreneurs who have had agencies or consulting practices where they have fought the same thing. But you know, hey, at least people know who the big shot at the agency is. Right? Right. So tell us a little bit about the the max borders agency.

Max Borges 

So max board, this agency is the only agency in the country, probably in the world that is 100%, focused on doing PR for consumer tech companies. So it’s kind of a double niche, it’s PR, but it’s for consumer tech companies. And it’s that focus that really enabled a lot of the things that make our company very special. And we’re 50 employees, almost $10 million in revenue. And we’ve been around for 18 years.

Chip Griffin 

Fantastic. And so 18 years ago, why did you decide to start an agency?

Max Borges 

Actually, I didn’t, I was, I was looking for a job. And I sent out over 100, resumes couldn’t get anybody to hire me. And I had one company, where, you know, I knew someone there and they threw me a bone and gave me a kind of a consulting gig working from my little crappy apartment. And that became my first client. And from there, I thought, Oh, this isn’t taking all day, and it actually pays pretty good. Maybe I can get another client. And so I did that. And then I hired some part time help. And then I got another client and just, you know, and I call that the AFM stage of my business, because it’s the anything for money stage, I would basically do anything anybody would pay me to do. And but, you know, with a purpose, and that purpose was trying to figure out ultimately, you know, what were we going to be and what we were going to do when we first started, I was doing a lot of like special events work and advertising work and things like that. Even in the first few years of business, I didn’t realize that we were going to eventually become a PR agency focusing on consumer technology.

Chip Griffin 

I think your story is, in some ways, not dissimilar for many agencies, you’re sort of an accidental agency owner. But that’s how I got into the game myself. I was in politics, I was unemployed. But instead of saying I was unemployed, I called myself a consultant. And lo and behold, I accidentally built my first agency. But there is from what I understand of your background, a slight difference in that you don’t really have a background in PR prior to that,

Max Borges 

right? I have no no PR experience. And I never worked at an agency. And in fact, I never even went to college, I’ve always been kind of an entrepreneurial person and tried starting lots of different businesses. And it’s interesting, because I’ve, in the past, I’ve always tried starting businesses, this is the first business I didn’t actually try to start, it just kind of happened accidentally. And it’s one that I was able to build into something, you know, truly successful.

Chip Griffin 

But that’s a great point, too, because I think that it’s very difficult to force entrepreneurship. And so you really do need to find the right fit at the right time. And, and that’s not always something that you can set out, say, okay, by this date, I’m going to start a business.

Max Borges 

Right. And I think the other advantage that I had, and the thing that I learned from my experience was that, because in this particular case, I didn’t really have a plan. It allowed me to be a little bit open minded in what direction we were going to go over time. And so you know, in the past, anytime I, I started a business, I had a very specific idea specific goals specific plan of what I was trying to accomplish. And I think that probably handicap me from being flexible enough to adjust and to pivot as necessary as the business grew. But with this agency, what I was able to do is kind of look at the different clients that we started working with, and seeing which ones were more successful, which ones were easier for us to work with. And ultimately what ended up happening is about four years into it, I had, I don’t know, eight employees, 10 employees and maybe 10 or 15 clients. And we were doing almost a million dollars worth a year worth of business, which wasn’t bad, except I was going crazy. It was just so busy. And I had so many things going on, and I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to scale from that point on. And so I remember one night in frustration You know, going home and sitting at the kitchen table, and just making a list and this was based on, you know, I was reading a good to great by Jim Collins, I was reading straight from the gut by jack welch and Rockefeller habits by Vern harnish, three really good books that both had the same message, which was figure out what you can be the best at. And so I went home that night, and I made a list of all of the clients who were happy, and who weren’t requiring me personally to kind of jump in and save the day all the time. And then a list of the clients that were requiring my help. And what I realized, is that much the list of clients that didn’t need me at all was about 70% of our clients. And they were all consumer tech clients that we were doing media relations for everything that wasn’t consumer tech, media relations, we was requiring my input and my help. So I was spending 90% of my time on 30% of our clients. And I realized, if I could just not work on that 30% of the clients, I would be, I’d have nothing to do, but I still have 70% of my business. Well, what that would do is it would allow me to focus on getting more of those kinds of clients. And so I’ve shifted my focus toward business more toward business development, and toward getting more consumer tech clients. And I also realize that if we focus just on consumer tech Media Relations, that we could be, we could become the best in the world at it, because we’d already figured out a few things that were pretty cool. One of the things that I figured out very easily very early on, was that if I hired salespeople to do Media Relations, they were way better at it than people who went to communication school, because nobody that goes to communication school goes there thinking I want to bang the phones all day calling up, press, right. It’s not their goal. And so but you hire sales people to do a media relations job. And it’s like shooting fish in a bucket for them, because they’re used to going in and closing a deal where they have to get paid. Now, they’re just basically sending free product samples to media in exchange for coverage. That’s easy for them to do. And that’s what it is that we learned early on. And so I hired salespeople in the beginning to do the media relations work. And they were generating tons of press coverage for our clients and doing a great job with it. So I thought, Okay, this, this is working. And this is this is really cool. So if we can just focus on the media relations, we can put a lot more systems and processes in place, I know you talked a lot about putting systems and processes in place. And that’s a whole lot easier when you have a focus than if you’re a million different things, because it’s kind of hard to system systematize a variety of different things. But when you’re doing the same thing over and over again, for every single client, it’s a lot easier to put those systems and processes in place. So I realized that by focusing that I was going to be able to build an agency that that that could one day be the best in the world at what it does. And today, that’s exactly what we are.

Chip Griffin 

There’s a lot I’d like to explore there. But the first thing that jumps out at me is this notion of hiring salespeople to do pitching, I think it’s a really interesting insight. What does it take to to convert a salesperson or traditional salesperson into a media picture? Is it does it take a lot of coaching? Do they really fall into it naturally? You know, talk a little bit about that, because I think this is going to be a new concept to most listeners.

Max Borges 

Yeah, it didn’t take much at all. Because, you know, with, especially with consumer tech, the product was the idea was the pitch. So you didn’t have to come up with a creative way to present the product, because the product was the creative idea. So all you really had to do was write a very, very basic press release, talked about what the product was. And then the real job was calling up tons of media. And with my employee number two, was a guy named Ted Miller. And he was, you know, really a sales guy at heart. And he was the guy who really helped me discover that salespeople could do a better job at Media Relations than communications. People could. And, you know, I remember the first time we got a PR client, and he said, Well, what do I do, I said, just go to Barnes and Noble. And look at all the magazines and the mastheads figure out who the you know who the people are writing about this kind of product, write down their name, write down their email address and and get their phone number, contact them, send them samples and ask them to write about it. And that’s what he did. And six months later, we had a huge fat book of clips and the client was thrilled and we got a raise and we leveraged that success to get more clients and more clients and more clients.

Chip Griffin 

I mean, it really makes a lot of sense because the process is very similar and you can just as easily Use tool like Salesforce or something like that to track your media outreach. So if you can use the same tools that a salesperson would use, why not actually use people who have sales training? You know, for that kind of process?

Max Borges 

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, back then we didn’t even have Salesforce, because that was back in, like, 2003. So we just used Excel. And, and, you know, it’s, it’s not rocket science, you know, it’s, it’s really not that that difficult if you’ve got some common sense and, and you’re organized and detail oriented, and, and this particular guy was all those things. And so I use that as the model for hiring, you know, additional people from that point on.

Chip Griffin 

Now, what’s the dynamic for the people on your team? For those who have a sales background versus those who have a more traditional communications background? I mean, in in a normal enterprise environment, sales and PR, have a fair bit of tension, shall we say? But you’re as an agency where everybody’s on the same team? Have you found anything you’ve had to work through there? Do they learn from each other? Talk to me a little bit about that?

Max Borges 

Yeah, good question. You know, as we’ve evolved, and, you know, this was, it’s been now 18 years since I started the agency. And as we’ve evolved, you know, we’ve hired and move toward hiring more communications people, because, you know, having sales, people doing Media Relations, really helped us have a competitive advantage early on when we needed it. And when we were small, and, and needed a way to be able to beat the bigger guys. But as we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve hired more communications people, and then just train them on how to do the media relations properly. And that’s worked out for us, we have now that the only pure sales people that we have on our team are in the business development department, because we have a dedicated business development team, that all they do is bring on new business. And and those are those are sales people. And, and yeah, over the years, we’ve had a little bit of tension, you always have that tension between sales and, and the rest of the team because the sales people kind of want to over promise and the and the people that are actually doing the work want to under promise. But, but it’s the I think the relationship right now is working really, really, really well. I’ve got a great sales team who who understand what it is we do and what we can do. And, and don’t, don’t over promise so that we can, you know, have successful relationships after the sale.

Chip Griffin 

Right. One of the other things that you mentioned was the AFM concept, anything for money, which is something that most agencies start with, some never break out of that right. But I know, I know that you’ve believed very strongly in saying no to the wrong kind of business. And you’ve done a nice job of explaining how you came to figure out who your ideal client was, and wanting to get more of that. But let’s talk a little bit about saying no, because that’s, that’s a scary thought to say no to possible business coming in the door. Because most agencies are on sort of a feast or famine rollercoaster at one point or another in their lifecycle. And so there is this tendency to not want to say no, I think particularly Now, given everything that’s going on environmentally around us in the economy and society and all that a lot of businesses are falling back into that AFM concept. But, you know, why do you Why do you believe it’s so important not to do that?

Max Borges 

Well, it’s, I think what’s really important, Jeff, is that you work extra hard to find the right clients, so that you’re not tempted by the wrong clients. And if you sit back waiting for business to come in the door, versus going out and finding the business that you want, then you’re going to be tempted all the time to sign the wrong business, because you’re going to be in a position where you’re saying no, too often. So yes, you do want to say no to the right to the to the wrong business. But you also want to put yourself in a position where you know, the kinds of clients that you want to go after because it fits into your niche, and it fits the profile that you’re looking for as being a great client. And then you go out and find those clients, whether that whether you do that yourself, which you probably would in the beginning as the agency, owner and founder. But over time, it also allows you in that focus facilitates the ability to hire a biz dev person who can go out and find those kinds of clients to pick one of the challenges that a lot of agencies have with business development people is because they don’t have a focus. The only person who can sell the agency is the founder because the founder is really kind of creating an offering for every new person that they talk to as opposed to having a set Offering, that’s, that’s made, especially for certain kinds of companies, that then you can hire a biz dev person to sell on your behalf. And, you know, we’ve gotten to the point, and this happened years ago, where my biz dev team is better at selling my business than I am. And, and, and I remember the day that that happened, because I was I was I walked into one of my biz dev people’s office, while they were on a conference call, and overheard a prospect telling the biz dev person that, that they, they hope that they would keep dealing with that biz dev person, rather than deal with me because they liked that person better. And that was like, Oh, that’s great. Good. So, um, so I think that that that focus, you know, focus is, is really just the catalyst that facilitates so many important parts of what, what I call an autonomous agency, which is an agency that essentially can run itself one day, and that can really grow. But yeah, it is, you know, going back to your question about saying, no, it is important to know that when you say yes to the wrong client, you are inviting a lot of heartache into your business, and there’s a huge opportunity cost that goes along with that. And you’re inviting complexity into your business. And you really have to, you’ve got to hate complexity, you really want to keep it simple. And, and by having the wrong client, then you’re bringing in the, the need for you, as a business owner, to have to be involved to make sure that that client is successful, because maybe your team doesn’t know how to do it. And one thing that I always like to say is, don’t sign a client that your team can’t handle. Right, right, if you find yourself in the pitch thinking, I’m going to have to be involved, or I’m going to need to promise this client that I’m going to be involved in order to get the business. And that’s the wrong business for the long term for you to build, you know, a larger agency. And that’s assuming you want to build a larger agency. And I know you’ve spoken lots about deciding whether you want to be a freelancer, or whether you want to be an agency owner, but I’m speaking to people that want to build an agency that does millions and millions of dollars a year in business, but doesn’t kill you. And that one day, you can maybe sell that agency. If that’s what you want, then you’ve got to focus on only signing business that your team can handle.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And I think it’s important to focus on something that your your team more or less is currently compiled can can handle to right because I work with a lot of agencies, and I’ve been in agencies where, you know, you aim for the stars, and you’re trying to bring in that giant whale client that is so much bigger than anything you’ve ever done before. It’s much smarter to grow gradually and gradually increase the size of engagements, even though it can be really exciting, it’s a sign that half million or million dollar contract, if you’re sitting in that pitch meeting, going to your point, if you’re thinking GC not have to hire three more people for this. And for more people for that, you know, hit the brakes, because it takes a while to bring those people on and get them into your system. So the likelihood that you make a good first impression with that client is going to be much lower.

Max Borges 

Yeah, I agree. 100%, I think it’s very, very difficult to build a business where you’ve got to hire a few people, every time you saw a sign an agent, a new client. Not only that, but it puts you in a position where those big clients, then they kind of own you, whether you like it or not, because if they let you go, you know that you’re gonna have to fire some people, you’re gonna have to downsize, like, it’s going to hurt your business. And you want to try to scale up with the most number of small clients as possible. And some people go Wait, that sounds like a terrible idea. Why isn’t it easier to have more less big clients and more small clients? It is if you’re all over the place in what you’re doing. But if you have a very narrow service offering, if you’re really servicing a niche, with with a narrow service offering, then you can handle and you can systematize working with lots and lots and lots of smaller clients that then if one of them goes you know, you don’t lose sleep over, you know, at night, and I can say that, you know, in the first few years, when we were small, of course, every client’s a big part of your business because you don’t have that many to start with. But after being you know, five years in maybe when I had 2025 clients, then I didn’t worry about it because it was you know, one client would go and other client would come in and and it was just Part of business it was, you know, it was like any other business where customers come in and out, and you don’t worry too much about it. But if you have a client that’s 2030 40% of your business, that’s not a good way to live, because then they’re going to start dictating what your business does, how it works, you know, and, and, and start causing you all kinds of stress, you don’t want

Chip Griffin 

not just stress, but it also kills your profit margins. And, and one of the things that you’ve described by being a specialist by having focus, you’re not only able to serve your clients better, because as you say, you’ve made some observations about what works and what doesn’t in that in that niche that you’re in. But it also allows you to become more efficient, and way more efficient. If you guys throw that all away by bending over backwards for your well, clients. You’ve lost all that ground you’ve gained. Oh, yeah,

Max Borges 

yeah, way more efficient. And we’ve been, we’ve been far above, you know, industry average profits for our entire, you know, 18 years of business. And, and a big reason for that is because we’ve been able to put systems and processes in place that allow us to deliver greater value with less effort. And that’s the key, it’s not about charging, more or less, it’s about being able to accomplish more with less,

Chip Griffin 

right. Now, you also made a good observation a few minutes ago that I wanted to circle back to because you said that you don’t want to be in a position where you’re having to say no, too often. And I think that really comes down to making sure that the public or your target audience understands who your ideal client is and who it isn’t. Because Ideally, you should be naturally attracting people who are good clients and repelling those who are not. So So talk to me a little bit about how you do that, because I think most agencies, they’re so focused on communications and marketing for their clients that they don’t think about it for themselves, you know, how have you managed to, to create an image for the max Borgias agency that says, These are the clients that should be coming to us?

Max Borges 

Yeah, well, like I said, it took us four years to figure it out. But, you know, we figured out that we could do something special for consumer tech clients in the PR area. And so we focused on that. And so then we started focusing all of our messaging on our website, you know, to say, we’re 100%, consumer tech focus. So clients know, when they come to our website, if they’re a good fit for us, we make it really clear. And this is a big problem with a lot of PR agencies, you go to their website, and you don’t really know who they’re speaking to, it doesn’t feel like they’re speaking very, very specifically to you. But I assure you, if your consumer tech company, and you come to my website, you’re going to feel like we’re speaking to you. Because that’s all we do. Like, we know your industry, we know your business, and you’re going to feel a connection, and you’re going to feel like, Oh, these guys, these guys feel my pain, they know what it takes for me to succeed. I want to work with these guys, where if you were, say, a company in fashion, or entertainment, or a restaurant or hotel, and you came to my website, you’d immediately like, leave, and go, I’m not gonna call these guys because they’re not right for me. And so it over time, what happened was kind of a self selection process, where people just knew that we weren’t the right agency. So we didn’t have people coming to us that were bad or bad fits and saying, Hey, will you work with us, we really want to work with you, like a hotel is not going to want to work with us, because it’s going to be very clear to see. And then from a biz dev standpoint, you know, we’re we’re going out and, you know, we go to CES, we go to the consumer tech shows, we go after consumer tech companies, and we make sure that our business people know exactly the kinds of clients that we can do great work for. And that’s what we focus on. And you know, every once in a while something will come up that’s maybe a little bit out of our sweet spot. But as long as it’s one foot in our sweet spot, and one foot out, we can learn something from it. But it still allows us to use our expertise, we might take it but that’s even that is few and far between. It’s, it’s it’s really you you’ve got to be disciplined in your commitment to focus on whatever niche you choose with the idea and the knowledge that that is going to reduce complexity in your business. It’s going to allow you to strengthen your value proposition. It’s going to allow you to attract staff that want to work in the area that you are focused in, it’s going to allow you to attract clients that want to work with you. Like all these things work so synergistically and so beautifully, that as long as you’re you’re pushing and you’re working, you know in a disciplined way toward that it comes together in a way that’s really quite magical.

Chip Griffin 

I think that’s fantastic. And I think anyone who’s listening if they’re thinking about their own an agency’s website, go take a look at your website, rewind, listen to the last couple of minutes and see if your website passes that test. Because I know when I challenge agency leaders on the vagueness of their websites, they always say, well, we’re afraid of scaring people off, we want to have the conversation and see if they’re fit. And what I always tell them is, you should be scaring people off with your website. It’s it’s one of the first steps in the qualification process, you should be spending your time more profitably than dealing with bad fit clients that know they’re bad fit clients right out of the gate. So

Max Borges 

Well, I think the big The first problem there, if they’re saying that they’re afraid of scaring people off, they’re still in the AFM stage, there’s AFM in the anything for money stage, there needs to figure out how to get out of that stage and figure out what they’re going to focus on. before they can even do that. And so, yeah, that would be the first first step they need to start thinking about.

Chip Griffin 

But I think, you know, one of the the other things that I wanted to explore a little bit with you, as I know that you have, you have really given a good definition to or good context to why people fear failure. And it’s, you say it’s not because they fear failure, it’s because they are afraid of looking stupid, I think that feeds into the AFM concept, but it feeds into a lot of other things that that we do, whether it’s in what we’re doing professionally for clients, or building our business, or even in our personal lives. So, so talk about that insight, because I think it’s really spot on.

Max Borges 

Yeah, well, you know, I, I always ask people, would you rather be smart or rich, and I’d rather be rich, then, you know, people think that I’m smart, if I have to make the choice between the two, right? So but a lot

Chip Griffin 

of people ask just people,

Max Borges 

well, if you can be both, that’s great, but, but you know, don’t let being smart get in the way of your being rich. And, and, you know, you’ve got to be willing to make a fool of yourself every once in a while, if you’re going to take a risk, if you’re going to challenge the status quo in some way. I mean, I had plenty of people, over the years, challenge what I was doing with my agency, and the way that I was approaching it, and, and, and I just didn’t care, I thought I was onto something, and I was going to stick with it. And, and, you know, I knew I was gonna have a successful business, and I didn’t care if people laughed at me or, or made fun of how I did it. It worked for me, and, and I stuck stuck to it. And I think that’s really important. But it’s also important, and this gets into a lot more, you know, kind of a personal side of this thing. But you know, you have to look at the people who are really close to you, you know, your spouse, your your family, you know, and and go, you know, am I afraid of what they’re gonna think of me. Because that can have a real impact on the decisions that you make. And sometimes you don’t even realize that that’s impacting you, and impacting the choices that you make and the risks that you take. But I think that trying to be aware of how those things affect you. And then, and then, you know, working around that so that it doesn’t limit the choices that you make, and the risks that you take, personally, will will help you.

Chip Griffin 

Where you’ve offered a ton of great insights here. And you’ve also shared a number of additional insights in a book that you came out with not too long ago. So before we wrap up here, why don’t you share a little bit about about that book?

Max Borges 

Sure, can I am I allowed to say the title of the book, go for it, how to be fan freaking tastic. And it’s available on Amazon, probably easier to find it if you just search for Max borgess author, and it’s about 120 really, really cool quotes about how to make your life. Great. And what it says on the cover is 100 plus pages of practical advice on how to stop sucking at life and start being fan freaking tastic. So people will check it out. It’s only five bucks on Amazon. It’s really cool book and people seem to really like it so far. So thank you, Chip.

Chip Griffin 

Fantastic. And if folks want to learn more about you or the max Borgias agency, where should they go?

Max Borges 

Well, they can go to Max borgess agency.com. That’s probably the best place to look me up on LinkedIn. And yeah, check out the website, and you can see what a focus website looks like.

Chip Griffin 

Fantastic. And I encourage you to do that and go back and re listen to that segment of this interview, because I think it is great advice for any agency looking to improve the quality of their own website. So, Max, thank you for all the insights that you’ve shared today. It’s been a great conversation, and I know listeners have gotten a lot out of it.

Max Borges 

Thank you, Chip.

]]>
Getting away from an "anything for money" mentality to build a business that works for you Chip is joined by Max Borges of the appropriately-named Max Borges Agency who talks about the evolution of his agency, including how he got started with no PR experience.



When he got started, Max was like many agency owners: he did anything for money. Over time, he got smarter to build an agency that worked for him.



Max discusses how he found focus for his agency and the difference it made in driving growth. He also shares the reason why ex-salespeople make great media relations professionals.



Finally, Max offers practical advice on how agency leaders can improve their websites to attract the right clients — and scare off the bad fits.



Resources



* Max Borges Agency* How To Be Fan-f*cking-tastic!* Max Borges on LinkedIn



Transcript



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



Chip Griffin 



And welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And I am very pleased to have with me today, Max Borges, the CEO of the appropriately named Max Borges Agency. Welcome to the show, Max.



Max Borges 



Hey, Chip, great to be here.



Chip Griffin 



So I’m going to guess you spent a lot of time Wargaming the name of the agency and, and figuring out the different permutations. Right? Right, exactly. Well,



Max Borges 



look, if if I knew how successful the agency was going to become, I probably wouldn’t have named it after myself. But if things worked out,



Chip Griffin 



you know, they tend to, and I know other entrepreneurs who have had agencies or consulting practices where they have fought the same thing. But you know, hey, at least people know who the big shot at the agency is. Right? Right. So tell us a little bit about the the max borders agency.



Max Borges 



So max board, this agency is the only agency in the country, probably in the world that is 100%, focused on doing PR for consumer tech companies. So it’s kind of a double niche, it’s PR, but it’s for consumer tech companies. And it’s that focus that really enabled a lot of the things that make our company very special. And we’re 50 employees, almost $10 million in revenue. And we’ve been around for 18 years.



Chip Griffin 



Fantastic. And so 18 years ago, why did you decide to start an agency?



Max Borges 



Actually, I didn’t, I was, I was looking for a job. And I sent out over 100, resumes couldn’t get anybody to hire me. And I had one company, where, you know, I knew someone there and they threw me a bone and gave me a kind of a consulting gig working from my little crappy apartment. And that became my first client. And from there, I thought, Oh, this isn’t taking all day, and it actually pays pretty good. Maybe I can get another client. And so I did that. And then I hired some part time help. And then I got another client and just, you know, and I call that the AFM stage of my business, because it’s the anything for money stage, I would basically do anything anybody would pay me to do. And but, you know, with a purpose, and that purpose was trying to figure out ultimately,]]>
Chip Griffin 30:14
Creating new lines of business for your agency (featuring Annelise Worn) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/creating-new-lines-of-business-for-your-agency-featuring-annelise-worn/ Thu, 17 Sep 2020 00:37:32 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7493 Annelise WornAnnelise Worn joins Chip on this episode to talk about how she has built a business that meets her unique needs and allows her to maintain a passion for what she does. She took her agency and created a whole new source of revenue to complement the traditional business. Annelise takes you along on the...]]> Annelise Worn

Annelise Worn joins Chip on this episode to talk about how she has built a business that meets her unique needs and allows her to maintain a passion for what she does.

She took her agency and created a whole new source of revenue to complement the traditional business.

Annelise takes you along on the path that she followed — and why she made the choices that she did.

If you have ever thought about how to create new revenue streams for your own agency business, you will find a lot to learn from Annelise.

Resources

Transcript

Chip Griffin 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin and my guest today is Annalise Warren. She is an agency CEO. Welcome to the show, Annalise.

Annelise Worn 

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

Chip Griffin 

It is great to have you here and I appreciate you accommodating the recording schedule because you’re all the way on the other side of the world for me, you are in Melbourne, Australia, I believe. Correct?

Annelise Worn 

Correct. Yes. The city of lockdown at the moment but yes.

Chip Griffin 

Well, I think most of the world is locked out at this point or at least should be but we’ll we’ll save all that for you know, someone Oh, yeah. So, so So tell me a little bit about yourself. Emily’s?

Annelise Worn 

Yeah, great. So yes. My name is Annalise and I live on the coast of of Melbourne. So my husband and I started a marketing agency about three and a half years ago. We I was we were living in the city and we had two kids and we knew we wanted more I had a busy job that that I liked. But moving down to the coast where we grew up would have meant like a two hour commute each way. And the kids would have been asleep when I left and was like when I got back and that’s not what I wanted. So and also my husband’s is a carpenter was a carpenter. And we wanted him to build a house. So we knew he would have to retrain, because he couldn’t be building someone else’s house at the same time as as building ours. So my background was marketing. And he’s was carpentry. So we started a marketing agency for for home builders and trades about three and a half years ago. And that’s where the journey started.

Chip Griffin 

Well, that that is a great place to start the journey and it ties back neatly to where I’d like to start the conversation because the tagline on your site is discover the profit and freedom you started your business to achieve. And so, just as you’ve gone back to your beginning, it sounds like you go back to the beginning with your clients.

Annelise Worn 

Yeah, we do so then what happened as we build the built the business for the the marketing agency was that I spoke to more and more mothers lac Mae, who wanted what I had created what we had created, which was a successful business that we could work from home around the kids. And at the time, as as we were growing the agency, I was doing some freelancing for the different coaches and things doing Facebook ads. And I knew just from that, that it wasn’t an achievable price point. For a lot of the women I was speaking to who just wanted an extra, you know, thousand bucks a week to help their family kind of thing like those with their with their business model, it wasn’t going to be achievable. And so I started the marketing Mentor Program, which gives give small business owners access to our agency team to help them DIY their own marketing. So now that’s where I split my time. Is the agency which is a full service but only construction and then we have the marketing mental program, which is for all small business owners. And what we find is that when a lot of people are getting started and I guess we could have easily slipped into this trap was that you stop you, you start your business because you want to, you want the profit and you want the freedom and then you end up working like 100 hours. Right? The worst boss in the world which is yourself. And you know, you really lose sight of that. And so we find that with, with our clients, and so through the marketing Mentor Program, try and move them back to that and help them structure their business in a way that is is going to get them the dollars that they need for the lifestyle that they They want without having to kill themselves and like, we know it’s business it doesn’t. It’s not all roses and there’s not some quick formula that’s gonna make it all click into place really quickly. And there’s going to be periods when you’re launching or when you’re doing, you know, like sprints in your business that are going to be crazy peasy. But I think to, to structure things around that in a way that works for you so that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and you know what you’re getting yourself in for and it’s not just hours, like days upon days of, you know, working till 2am, waking up at 6am.

Again, can

Chip Griffin 

get the experience of most entrepreneurs at one point or another in their careers.

Annelise Worn 

Yeah, and sometimes you need like, there’s a time and place for that, but you can’t. That’s not sustainable. And for us, we started the business because I didn’t want my kids didn’t care all the time. So for us that has been really important and it was to be honest, a little Bit disheartening at the start like maybe six months in, when I was when I realized that all the people had started, you know, this journey with we’re kind of going leaps and bounds ahead. But I had a little baby and I was like, oh hang on, that’s okay I need to not compare myself to what everyone else is doing. And if our business grows slower, but we’re living the lifestyle we want which is like, you know, hey, it’s Wednesday afternoon and it’s a beautiful day let’s go down the beach, then that’s okay and be kind of like all but when the business gets to this level, then we’ll do this. I think that’s like it’s a trap in, in business and in life. But to kind of be happy with where we’re at now I’m like, Well, yeah, we like we still have a house isn’t built and yes, but we have three children sleeping in one room while we building our house that’s taking forever.

Chip Griffin 

It always takes longer than you then you imagine whenever you are building or remodeling, right?

Annelise Worn 

Especially when it’s like, you know It’s your husband who’s building it. And he’s trying to help the family build that business and build the house. It’s like, right, it’s, it’s the juggle. But we made the decision to kind of be happy with where we’re at now going well, we’re living where we want to live, like, it doesn’t look exactly like what we wanted. But we have the freedom, we have the flexibility to structure our days how we want. And so we should.

Chip Griffin 

And finding that balance and the freedom and trying to figure out how everything works is something that a lot of agency owners are doing even more so today, given the challenges that that we’re all facing. And, you know, a lot of folks have kids who are not able to physically go to school, they’re doing remote learning here in the United States. And so that creates a whole separate set of challenges. And so I think, you know, your focus on trying to figure out how to make the business work for you is is is really vital.

Annelise Worn 

Yeah, at the moment that that’s like, just out the window really, isn’t it? We’re homeschooling as well. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s a whole In the challenge trying to homeschool a seven year old while you’ve got a five year old and a two year old in the house, right like, it’s like a full full time jobs it’s actually

Chip Griffin 

I’m fortunate I have teenagers so I can teach teenagers bring their own set of challenges, but it’s it is very different from from having the younger kids. You know, one of the things that that that also strikes me about your story and your progression is that you’ve done something a lot of agency owners have at least thought of which is starting another lane to the business so that there’s another revenue stream. And in particular, you know, helping folks who are more on the DIY side so more in an advisory capacity as opposed to the the hands on done for you side of things. So, so talk to me a little bit about how that works and how you balance the two because the way that you do done for you and the advisory is you know, it’s very different and it’s pulling you in different directions I imagine

Annelise Worn 

it it is very different and it is almost like a completely other business. While it is really, it just utilizes the experts from from the agency. So, it, it happened for me. After working a few years in the agency, I was able to put in a business manager. And so then that pretty much runs itself like I like to be client facing because I like to know what we’re doing. And you know, we’re pretty selective about who we bring on board and all of that. So, but really the day to day of that runs itself, and I put my energy into marketing and being the face of the marketing Mentor Program. Gotcha. So it’s

Chip Griffin 

more or less runs itself. Is that is that fair? Or is that too too too much?

Annelise Worn 

runs itself outside of me is so so yes, yeah, the agency runs itself mostly. And a lot of that now is referral based based on like the networks that we have. Set up. So we don’t do a lot of advertising for the agency. But we do do a lot of advertising for the Mentor Program.

Chip Griffin 

Gotcha. And it sounds like the the mentor program serves an entirely different audience. So it doesn’t serve in any ways a feeder to the agency, right?

Annelise Worn 

Yes, and no, sometimes sometimes it actually, it can. Yeah, it can, because sometimes they’ll, they’ll realize that they don’t want to do certain elements. So they’ll DIY the majority, but when they need a new website build, they’ll handle that, or they’ll handle Google ads, and they’ll manage the rest themselves. So So sometimes it can, but that wasn’t the intention. The intention was actually that I didn’t want to hire any more staff, because, like keeping in mind, the balance of what, you know, with the kids and all of that. So I made the decision that we were big enough. And I was like, Well, how could I now grow my revenue with The stuff that I have, right and, and these model really works in line with that. So.

Chip Griffin 

So tell me a little bit more about the mentorship program and how that works.

Annelise Worn 

Yeah, sure. So it’s a 12 month program, but sometimes will we’ll shorten it depending on if we’re just doing a marketing strategy for someone and helping them implement. So there’s a three month option as well sometimes. And but generally, it’s a 12 month program and I follow the Kelly roaches live launch model to get people into that. So it’s a five, you know, five days of live teaching and then we’ll move into a move into selling for that and we do that every few months. And that works. Amazingly. I’ve got a child coming in sorry. Oh, that’s okay. This worked out but she doesn’t know I want to call up You go ahead.

Chip Griffin 

That is very much 2020

little Ladybug head anyway.

Annelise Worn 

Yes, you can. Sorry. Yeah, her father’s upstairs so she kicked out there. So yeah, so we do so we do that in order to get people in and then it’s we’ve got a call every single day of the week. And then they people can log into the calls. And there’s a different focus for each call, like, you know, might be Google ads on one cold Facebook or paid social and, and other branding copywriting on another. And they get the expert from within the team or, you know, other experts that take that phone call. And then they just come with their questions and they log into the back end of the Google Ads account and tell them what they see. And sometimes it’s pretty brutal. And that’s okay, and we’ve got a library of videos That helped them with the technology side, you know, like adding a facebook pixel, kind of, you know, that side of things, right? Yeah, the stuff that’s a really nitty gritty. And so then in the calls, we can make a few changes, we can say, Okay, look like these click through rates, awful. This is what I would do to fix it. This is how or these are the resources you need to go and look at. And then there’s a Facebook group, and they can post questions in between and get answers. So it’s, it’s a, it’s really great. It works really, really well for both for both parties.

Chip Griffin 

And, you know, obviously, you initially had the idea to find a way to generate revenue outside of just the the selling your hours in the agency from from the time that you thought of it to the time that you actually launched. I mean, how long did that take what talk a little bit about the process that went into actually making that launch reality?

Annelise Worn 

Yes, I started really, really initially mentoring moms who just couldn’t afford market. agency, right? Because Yeah, so it was only focused around moms and it was more, like a bit more lovey dovey a bit more like mastermind D. And we would just meet every week and it was just me and I would, you know, talk to them about whatever it is that they needed help with. And then as the business grew, and I realized, Oh, hang on this capacity for this to become something else. So probably, I started in about March by probably by that August, I had swapped then the model from the lovey dovey model sounds really

Chip Griffin 

helpful.

Annelise Worn 

With a group of moms and friends and friends.

Chip Griffin 

It was more informal and it became more structured.

Yeah. And it

Annelise Worn 

was a lot of like, you know, how are you and like the, the mindset side and really like, by tapping into the, you know, just being a group of moms, basically, that are all trying to grow really small businesses. And so then by August, I had flipped this structure and made it more, yeah, to be a longer program and actually put the parameters that were going to, again, get the profit and the freedom that was going to be viable. Because the the other model, the mastermind model that I’d had, and that price point wasn’t with me doing it old was not viable. Whereas, so we flipped it to be more the word is eluding me, but like more financially, more and more scalable. Yeah, more scalable, more business savvy, like actually a strategic service.

Chip Griffin 

Right. So if if an agency owner is listening, and they’re thinking about doing something similar, you know, where they’re offering some sort of, you know, advice or course or mastermind or something like that, you know, what, what would you encourage them to be thinking about before they take that plunge?

Annelise Worn 

I would say be make sure that you’re dedicated to the long term of it, and I think that goes For anything in business really like, No, we need to be committed to doing it long term if we’re going to give it a good go. And that that 12 month model works really well, because then you’re not looking for new clients all of the time. And when they’re in, they’re in and you can really help them save results. Because, you know, we as business owners, as agencies, it’s fast paced, we’re working with a lot of clients, and we’re in it a lot, but these people in their businesses potentially are not. It’s the mentor kind of capacity, maybe it’s a side hustle, maybe it’s something that they’re building over the long term. Maybe they have half a morning a week to focus on marketing. So they’re not going to get potentially as much done as you as you think that they might get done being an agency. And so that that 12 month allows them to go through that testing phase. Also. They’re probably They don’t have as big a budgets to be testing with Facebook ads and Google ads. So it might take longer to get some like the, to do that testing process to get the data. And so that 12 months works well from both from both ends. What else, it’s a really great model because it’s, it’s simple. If you’ve already got the team to do it, we run it via zoom, we have a platform, you know, the videos are housed on ontraport. But you could house them in a Facebook group, if you really want to you it’s it’s just it’s that accountability, and that that, that accessibility that they paying for because that’s what you know, they can do a million courses. But it’s the accessibility pot that a lot of people who are trying to scale online businesses with online programs don’t want to invest the time in because they don’t want the team or they don’t want to have that face to face. Time Does that make sense? It does. A lot of people are avoiding that accessibility, you know, you can actually talk to me kind of thing, right? It’s a little bit different. But if you’ve already got the team so for me, I take two calls awake, which is two hours of my time. Yeah, and the rest is run with, you know, with this, with this with stuff,

Chip Griffin 

right? As you look to the future, do you do you continue to see the two businesses sort of coexisting with each other? Do you see one overtaking the other? You know, are you taking the learnings from the agency to help the the teachings in the DIY program so to talk a little bit what what the future holds? Basically?

Annelise Worn 

Yeah, so the future holds the agency being just at the nice kind of level that it is at the moment because of where we’re at with you know, really young kids I’m expecting again in December last modulations So for a while, and you know, we’re still building a house to use it. So the agency will just stay kind of where it is. And that will become my husband’s baby once the house has been finished. And then we will move that, you know, we’ll focus more on that he will focus more on that. And the mental program can can grow because we’ve got, we’ve got this team, now we’ve got the structure. So even if, you know if there’s 20 people that log into one call, then we’ll just make another call. And it’s not going to. Yeah, it’s very scalable. So that’s where we’ll be. That’s what we’re focusing on at the moment.

Chip Griffin 

Now, obviously, there’s been in recent years an explosion of coaches, mentors, accelerator programs, all those kinds of things. You know, what, how does yours differ from those, you know, how do you how do you stand out, you know, in a crowded marketplace of these types of programs.

Annelise Worn 

I think for us, it does come back to that accessibility. They have access It’s five days a week and we’re in the we’re in the Facebook group. But also, I don’t know of a lot of other programs that are giving people like, you know, being radically transparent and giving people their strategies and helping them DIY. And actually looking at their data. I haven’t come across a lot that that actually do that. And I think a lot for a lot of people getting started or just starting to explore Facebook ads, that’s really appealing because they want to know how to do it themselves, even if in the future, they want to pass it off. And that really hands on high level of support is is hard to find.

Chip Griffin 

Now, you said that you started out as as sort of the informal moms group is the is the focus still on women owned businesses, or is it is it broader than that now?

Annelise Worn 

It’s broader than that. We actually have a lot of husband and wife teams in there more than more than I had before. And we thought we’d only be service based, but we have ECAM in there as well. So we just have had to expand the team so that we can support them and actually, actually helped them properly because that was not my area of expertise. Yeah, so it is broad now. And again, to find those specialists with technology, we can go worldwide, so it’s great.

Chip Griffin 

Well, as we’re sort of coming towards the end of our time here, are there questions that I haven’t asked you that I should have?

Annelise Worn 

Oh, I don’t think so. I think we covered it. That was great.

Chip Griffin 

Excellent. Well, if someone is looking to learn more about you, and either your agency or the program, where should they go?

Annelise Worn 

AnneliseWorn.com is the place to go. Oh, look at that.

Chip Griffin 

Excellent. Well, if you’re if you’re watching on video, you’ll see it on the screen and if you’re listening we will include it in the show notes so that you don’t have to hop off the treadmill or wherever you may be and take a note it will be in the show notes for this episode. So, Annalise, thank you for joining me. This has been a great conversation. You’ve offered a lot of great insights, particularly for agency owners who may be thinking of starting additional lines of business and I really appreciate it and I appreciate your time.

Annelise Worn 

Thank you so much.

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Annelise Worn joins Chip on this episode to talk about how she has built a business that meets her unique needs and allows her to maintain a passion for what she does. She took her agency and created a whole new source of revenue to complement the trad... Annelise Worn joins Chip on this episode to talk about how she has built a business that meets her unique needs and allows her to maintain a passion for what she does.



She took her agency and created a whole new source of revenue to complement the traditional business.



Annelise takes you along on the path that she followed — and why she made the choices that she did.



If you have ever thought about how to create new revenue streams for your own agency business, you will find a lot to learn from Annelise.









Resources



* AnneliseWorn.com



Transcript



Chip Griffin 



Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin and my guest today is Annalise Warren. She is an agency CEO. Welcome to the show, Annalise.



Annelise Worn 



Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.



Chip Griffin 



It is great to have you here and I appreciate you accommodating the recording schedule because you’re all the way on the other side of the world for me, you are in Melbourne, Australia, I believe. Correct?



Annelise Worn 



Correct. Yes. The city of lockdown at the moment but yes.



Chip Griffin 



Well, I think most of the world is locked out at this point or at least should be but we’ll we’ll save all that for you know, someone Oh, yeah. So, so So tell me a little bit about yourself. Emily’s?



Annelise Worn 



Yeah, great. So yes. My name is Annalise and I live on the coast of of Melbourne. So my husband and I started a marketing agency about three and a half years ago. We I was we were living in the city and we had two kids and we knew we wanted more I had a busy job that that I liked. But moving down to the coast where we grew up would have meant like a two hour commute each way. And the kids would have been asleep when I left and was like when I got back and that’s not what I wanted. So and also my husband’s is a carpenter was a carpenter. And we wanted him to build a house. So we knew he would have to retrain, because he couldn’t be building someone else’s house at the same time as as building ours. So my background was marketing. And he’s was carpentry. So we started a marketing agency for for home builders and trades about three and a half years ago. And that’s where the journey started.



Chip Griffin 



Well, that that is a great place to start the journey and it ties back neatly to where I’d like to start the conversation because the tagline on your site is discover the profit and freedom you started your business to achieve. And so, just as you’ve gone back to your beginning, it sounds like you go back to the beginning with your clients.



Annelise Worn 



Yeah, we do so then what happened as we build the built the business for the the marketing agency was that I spoke to more and more mothers lac Mae, who wanted what I had created what we had created, which was a successful business that we could work from home around the kids. And at the time, as as we were growing the agency, I was doing some freelancing for the different coaches and things doing Facebook ads. And I knew just from that, that it wasn’t an achievable price point. For a lot of the women I was speaking to who just wanted an extra, you know,]]>
Chip Griffin 22:00
How to become microfamous to help grow your agency (featuring Matt Johnson) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/how-to-become-microfamous-to-help-grow-your-agency/ Tue, 18 Aug 2020 21:30:25 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7279 Raising your profile with potential ideal clients to make sales easier]]>

Matt Johnson joins Chip to discuss his book MicroFamous and how agency owners can apply the concepts to grow their own businesses.

The pair talk about the value of podcasting and where it is headed. They also talk about Matt’s experience in working with businesses to help them become active in podcasting to generate leads, increase their knowledge, and achieve results.

Resources

Transcript

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

Chip Griffin  

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And I am very pleased to have with me today Matt Johnson. Matt is the author of Microfamous. He also has a podcast Promotion Agency, and he’s got his own podcast. So welcome to the show, Matt. Thanks, Chip. I’m excited to be here. It is great to have you here. And before we dive into the conversation, why don’t you share a little bit more about yourself and what you do so that listeners have a base to work off of.

Matt Johnson  

Alright, so short story, we produce and launch podcasts, mostly for the coach consultant kind of independent thought leader market and the agency takes me about 45 hours a week to run so not bad to do do what I want with my own time outside of that which is what gave me the time to write the book and then you know, the rest of us just kind of optional marketing Legion activities like running the podcast and you know, things like that preparing for the future, future books and stuff like that. But five years ago, I was just some dude, we’re gonna have another you know guys marketing agency here in San Diego and I got the chance to step into business. His development and his idea for doing biz dev was to put me on as a host of like Google Hangouts back when that was a thing. And just to kind of nurture the relationships with all their key strategic partners and influencers in the agency. And that went really well, to the point where one of them called me up one day and said, Dude, we should start a podcast together. And that was the that was about as far as that idea went beyond that was just to start a podcast because we thought would be fun. And that was five years ago. And now that podcast is it’s called real estate Uncensored, it’s in the kind of the residential market, and million half downloads and counting and still going strong run a bunch of accolades, a bunch of top 10 lists in that space. It essentially took me from being a nobody that worked in an agency to speaking on stages in the industry and being an influencer and an insider in 18 months. So that’s been

Chip Griffin  

my experience. That’s fantastic. And podcasting is fun. So you know, why not do it? I’ve had podcasts for many years and really enjoy it. And now you’re

Matt Johnson  

wondering, Oh, geez,

Chip Griffin  

well, yeah, I started doing audio back in the 1990s. Actually, before it was even called pod casts and it was a heck A lot harder to to publish things back then. They used to have a little like it was it was like a telephone bug that I had on my phone. As if the record calls. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. and use that to do my telephone interviews. It was it was it was interesting. It’s a whole lot easier today where we can just use zoom stream yard, those kinds of tools. So yeah. Great. So, so earlier this year, you came out with your book micro famous, what inspired you to write the book.

Matt Johnson  

I wanted more ideal clients. That’s the bottom line. Because what I found out like as an agency owner, like the thing that grows the agency is client results, referrals, and then obvious social proof, like in my space, because I’m pretty narrowly niche down. So a lot of times when my prospects would come to me, they look at my page and they look at the the other people that we work with, and they go, Oh, I know them, and I know them and I know them, right. So it’s pretty, pretty easy. Yes, but I wanted more of that. I wanted them to come in with the right expectations. So I wrote a book, basically That was all the things I wish ideal clients knew. And if they believed and agreed with me on these things, it would make them more ideal clients, like the first third of the book is essentially all strategy and the mindset of how do you how do you align a podcast with the rest of your business strategy. So the podcast actually generates a 10 x ROI. Because I’m working with people that look, if you don’t generate any actual revenue, this is a waste of my time I can I can go post on Facebook, if I want to waste time. And so I wanted to like basically strip away all the extraneous stuff and all the confusion and just give my like, Hey, this is my point of view on how do you actually run a podcast that generates a 10 x return to the business and attract the right the right people. And so that was the genesis of the idea.

Chip Griffin  

And I that’s a great point that you need to tie the podcasting or anything else that you’re doing back to an actual business strategy. And and frankly, this is a mistake that I’ve made over the years in part because I like doing these kinds of things, you know, you sometimes do the more out of vanity And enjoyment than you do out of real strategy. But the more that you tied into the strategy, the better the results, you’ll see.

Matt Johnson  

Well, yeah, and it the thing that we lose sight of a lot of times, and maybe not so much in the big company world, but definitely in the in entrepreneur land where I where I run, which is that it’s got to give something back to you. And sometimes that giving back is in the form of money, but also needs to get back into in terms of energy and enjoyment. The problem is when you do something strictly for the energy in the enjoyment, but it doesn’t directly translate into revenue, even the energy you get back from the enjoyment of it starts to fade over time. And so I didn’t want people coming in just for the cool factor of podcasting. And then six months later, they were starting to get burned out on it because they weren’t seeing the results because I knew that that like that arc was going to happen. So I wanted them coming in for the right reasons with the right expectations, the right timeframe in mind, and having all the other stuff in place that they actually got not just enjoyment out of it, but it actually produced return so that they kept on enjoying it and kept on being clients for you know, 234 years.

Chip Griffin  

To see the maximum results, you really need that consistency. And and, you know, persistence over time, right? It’s not something that you can, you know, have overnight success in most cases.

Matt Johnson  

No, it’s not. And I think any agency on our listing is probably identifying, you know, like, if you sell any kind of content marketing, like there’s probably a 12 to 18 month window. I mean, even Gary Vee himself said, he shouted into the void on Wine Library TV for the first 18 months, like no, no single video of his got 300 views more like over 300 views in the first 18 months. Same guy that’s now running a $600 million agency couldn’t get more than 300 views on his YouTube videos. And so I think anybody that sells like a content marketing strategy understands it takes that kind of time horizon. And I think God, I run in the circles where it’s the same decision maker, but when you’ve got decision makers switching out, you better be really secure, that they’re that that company is getting a return.

Chip Griffin  

Right. Now you advocate podcasts as a way to get micro famous, but yet you wrote a book about it. So So book versus pod Do you need both? You know, talk to me about that a little bit?

Matt Johnson  

Yes. There’s a chapter in the book about that now, first podcast. And I love this discussion, because I think in a lot of cases, the podcast should come first. And I don’t say that selfishly because I, I, I kind of didn’t do it necessarily the right way around. I jumped into like a podcast, and then then we did all kinds of other stuff. But like Seth Godin basically said, like somebody asked him, like, when’s the best time to start a blog, if I want to promote a book, he’s like, well, then the best time was two years before we launched the book, the next best time is today. And to me, that’s what like podcasting is the new form of blogging if you want to build and nurture an audience that then you can launch something too It’s better to have started a podcast two years ago if you don’t have one now start one today. So you can start building and nurturing that audience so that when you do have a book, you have a group of people to launch it to. So thankfully, I had that with my own and was able to launch it and and through all the relationships I’ve built up with the with the podcast guests that I had, I had a really Really good kind of strategic referral partner and early advocate early readers kind of group that I was able to reach out to. So immediately launched and hit like number one new release and number one in a couple of different categories and got some really great reviews and that that fed into my landing page for the book looks really good because it’s got a whole bunch of really great reviews from prominent people that people in my world will know. And it all came from doing the podcast first and then launching the book later. So that’s that’s the best recommendation that I can give based on all that I’ve seen in people doing that world.

Chip Griffin  

So it’s not too late to start a podcast, we’re out oversaturated at this time.

Matt Johnson  

Now and you know, this, it’s, you know, there’s like, what, 900,000 podcasts or something? What, what is there 100 and 50 million WordPress blogs. To me through this, the sky’s the limit, and one of my recent guests put it really well he just launched like this random podcast in Canadian politics, and it took off and gets like $50,000 a month. He says it’s all about finding the crack in the market. Somewhere out there. There’s an audience that is underserved and neglected. And if you can create a podcast for them, they’ll find you. It’s only a matter of time. And then that podcast has a real legit shot at taking off. And I think that’s still the case today. So for any company out there, if you have, if you have an underserved market, that they’re, you know, it doesn’t matter how many podcasts are in your space right now, there’s always some little pocket of it that feels neglected by the shows that are out there. Right now. Somebody’s scrolling through all the podcasts out there right now, and having to scroll through five or 10 episodes to find one that they like, that’s your person, figure out what they’re finding, and go make more of that.

Chip Griffin  

And the trick is to find that that crack in the market that matches up with your ideal client, right? I mean, that’s exactly that’s really, and I think that’s the mistake a lot of folks make when they start the podcast, they look for the gap in the market. They look for the maximum number of eyeballs, but they lose sight of their ideal client.

Matt Johnson  

Yeah, and that’s exactly what it is. They start by looking at where the audience is, and they they don’t keep an eye out for who their ideal client is. Yeah, and I talked to somebody the other day, who runs a podcast and they get, you know, 20,000 downloads a month pretty respectable for a business podcast. And, but it has no connection to his business. He did exactly what you said, he started a podcast that took off. And he has listeners, and now he’s trying to figure out okay, well, how do I get to promote my core business? Or how do I need to come up with something to sell them. And that’s a really not fun place to be in because then you feel like if you if you transition things, you’re letting your audience down. If you try to sell something that doesn’t isn’t a good match for them. you’re you’re you’re shortchanging your business because you’re spending time marketing something that isn’t tying in your business. Like it’s just, it’s a really weird position to be in to have like an audience of people that doesn’t buy the very core thing you sell. So yeah, always start with your ideal clients figure out where their crack in the market is, where are they being underserved in the podcast world, and that’s, that’ll lead just the right place a lot faster.

Chip Griffin  

Right. And most podcasts, at least in the b2b space, don’t need a million downloads to be successful there. They would do i mean frankly, a few hundred, maybe fine as long as it’s the right few hundred.

Matt Johnson  

Well yeah, I mean, I’ve got I’ve got friends and clients who are all in this really one interesting niche in real estate, where you have like team leaders and independent brokers and you know, there’s, I mean, the total addressable market is 10 to 15,000 people and all of those friends of mine run multi six and seven figure businesses selling to that tiny tiny market, we’re talking about two people’s worth of Facebook friends is your entire is your entire target market. And and they’re charging, you know, Grand 1500 a month these are not small price tags for like individual solo businesses and and they will they all run seven figure businesses selling to that tiny market. And so I think we way overestimate how many people we need to be consuming our content in any form. And in order to actually get sales. And I think more than that, it leads us away from the very ideas that would actually would generate sales. You know, I think that quest for more listeners more audience just for the sake of it leads us away from a very polarizing idea. really sharp, clear and compelling idea that gets people in the door and gets them off the couch and taking action because it’s just too broad. We’re trying to reach too many people. So we ended up saying something that isn’t all that compelling to any one of them.

Chip Griffin  

Now, if I’m an agency owner, and I’m thinking about starting a podcast, you know, what, what should I be thinking about as far as format? And obviously, I need to be thinking about my ideal client. But how should I be thinking about format frequency? You know, what advice do you give people when they’re first getting started?

Matt Johnson  

So in the book, I talked about the weekly podcast formula, that’s where I’d start is interviewing two people a month from like a cold, cold audience. just build your network interview the other influencers in the space? Do one episode with a successful guest or client as a guest. And then one episode versus you speaking to the audience. If you do that, you’ll be fine. The question is really for the agency owner that’s running a podcast what’s the goal with the podcast and to me? There is like an agency on our can have two levels of expertise. You can be an expert in what you do. for clients, and that’s great. That’s also like table stakes. Like, if you’re not an expert at what you do for clients, like you just get out of the game, you know, you’re in trouble. You’re in trouble. That’s what they expect. Like that’s, that’s that’s the barrier entry. But what I noticed from from my background like being like, I’m coming from the real estate space, like I was in real estate, I read all the books, I knew who the coaches were, I jumped on and I hosted the podcast and I became an expert in what my clients did to the point where I could speak at their events, not about what I did, I could speak at their events about what they do. That’s a whole different level of expertise. If I was an agency owner, looking to start a podcast and expecting it to generate business, that’s what my goal would be is I don’t want to just show that I’m an expert at what I do. I want to show that I’m an expert at what you do, Mr. client, you know, that’s what that’s what my goal would be is I want to learn and soak up as much as I can about the industry. I want to share my opinions on where the industry is going. And I want to show that I’m not just an expert in what I do, but I’m an expert in what my clients do, because that’s a whole different level of trust when they know that you’re an expert in what they do. And you really deeply understand their business, when you come to them and you say this is the marketing strategy I recommend for you, there is a completely different level of respect that goes along with that.

Chip Griffin  

And if you plan your podcast, well, you can you can do all of these things, right? You can reach your target audience, you can use it to build your network. And you can use it to learn by bringing on the experts that help you understand the industry that you’re serving even better.

Matt Johnson  

Yeah, hundred percent couldn’t said about myself.

Chip Griffin  

And I think that that that’s, that’s an often overlooked part, but the ability to use it to build your own expertise. So it’s not, it’s not just because if you’re there, and you’re asking questions that you’re curious about, those are the kinds of things that others in your audience are probably going to want as well. And I think that, you know, too often, you know, folks are thinking about the podcast as a way to showcase their own expertise, when in fact, curiosity may be a better way to lead.

Matt Johnson  

Well, when you’re when you’re a deep thinker, if you’re a strategic thinker, your version of curiosity is going to get Deep strategic thinkers attention right now if you’re if your tactics first person and your version of curiosity is to skim along the surface and ask them just kind of what they’re doing that’s working right now, then that’s not going to get you a lot of respect. So it depends on the circumstances. But yes, if you’re if you’re a deep thinker, and you really pay attention to what’s going on in your industry, and your your curiosity leads you to really deep, interesting questions, and the audience is going, like, and you may not have the answers, but man, that guy’s really smart, because he’s asking questions that even the question themselves, I wouldn’t have thought to ask that. And that’s where that’s what I noticed when I was doing my very first rounds, like when I was just doing Google Hangouts, is that I would sometimes throw the guest off with my question, because they’d be like, Huh, I’ve actually never I’ve never thought about that before. That’s a really interesting way to ask that question. It was because I was doing all that deep thinking behind the scenes, just like trying to trying to soak up as much as I could about the industry and learn myself. So then yeah, I would come with curiosity questions, but they were deeper questions than just the You know, most people would ask them, and so that got their attention and got the audience’s attention. So then they would come back to those shows and they would go, they would know this is a place for really interesting and different perspective that not everybody else shares because he’s asking really different questions. To me. That’s why Tim Ferriss podcast took off. It isn’t just he’s talking to all these high performers, you can get down on any random podcast now is the fact it’s Tim Ferriss questions. That’s why you show up because Tim Ferriss asked different questions. They’re deeper, different, you know, perspective questions. So yeah, like if you’re going to do interviews, like that’s what you want to do you want to be that guy. You want to be Tim Ferriss

Chip Griffin  

and work just four hours a week to all ironically, he doesn’t work just four hours a week, but we’ll exactly pretty good. All right, well, we’ll save that debate for another day. So, you know, where do you see podcasts headed are, you know, obviously, particularly during, during these times, as everybody likes to say, you know, there’s been an explosion of video, everybody’s doing it. There’s more live streams. Do you see Do you see video overtaking podcasts? You see them complementing each other? Do you see what’s happening with podcasts? Do you think over the next couple of years?

Matt Johnson  

Well, I think complementing is a great a great way to put it. Because I think the I think it’s always headed in this direction. And and we’re I think we’re just seeing an acceleration of trends that were there, which is that companies, individual thought leaders inside companies or people like me that I’m the thought leader for my agency, we’re going to end up having a show quote, unquote, like you have a show Chats with Chip. And that show can be consumed on video. So you can get on YouTube and various other places or you can go and consume it on audio, but really, it’s the the entity is as a show, and then there’s just different ways to subscribe and syndicate and distribute the content. So to me, that’s kind of where it’s heading. I’ve already split my podcast into two. So I’m experimenting with kind of like a dual podcast strategy where there are two different feeds one for all of my guest episodes, one for all my solo strategy episodes. So each feed is a little bit more focused and if people stumble onto any one of them is a little bit more crystal clear what they’re going to get out of the show. So I think we’re going to see more of that. drift, the SAS company that does like chat bots and things like that. I was talking to somebody that referred me over to them and told me like, just Hey, look, these, these guys are doing podcasting, like at a company level really well. And if you go look at the podcast page, on their website, they’ve got five different shows, hosted by five different people inside their organization, on each different level of their service appealing to a different buyer persona. So that’s kind of where I see things going is, you know, converging towards the main thought leader having a show and then potentially having multiple different sub shows or sub podcasts within your overall content strategy that hits different buyer personas with different types of content.

Chip Griffin  

Now, we’ve focused a lot of our discussion so far on interview style podcast, but we’ve touched on the solo shows and you just mentioned that you have the two different feeds. What’s your advice to someone who says Look, I don’t know I don’t want to deal with all of the hassles of scheduling guests and all that because it does it that takes time. So maybe I just want to go the solo route, you know, what advice do you have for someone who wants to be doing solo podcasts?

Matt Johnson  

I think for some people, it’s exactly the right thing. I would call that a teaching podcast. And if your goal is to build authority and make a reputation for yourself, I think that’s exactly what you should do. I started by mixing I solo pod, like solo podcast episodes into my overall show, because I wanted the value of the networking along with it. And so you can absolutely do that. But yeah, if you don’t want to bother with the guests booking don’t do it. I mean, just really focused on making really great shareable content that shows your authority and credibility in the space. And yeah, it’s a heck of a lot easier to run to run that. I mean, I would say for our for our clients. Like if you’re a busy thought leader, it is a lot easier to jump on and have a conversation with somebody else, to her to record content, if that makes sense. And if you get the right guests You know the the the hassle of scheduling them is more than offset by the enjoyment you have of having a conversation like this is like conversations like these are fun if we’re talking about stuff that we’re both excited about. And it does allow you to create content faster, quicker and easier with a lot less mental load. So that’s why I typically will tell people like do a blend of it instead of trying to do it. So episode, podcast by yourself. Because if you’re a perfectionist, you’re gonna get into like scripting out your episodes word for word, like you’re gonna go way down the rabbit hole and you might find you just never run your podcast. That’s the one caveat to that.

Chip Griffin  

Right when and that begs the question, do you need to be a perfectionist or people? You know, what are people’s expectations when they’re listening to podcasts in the b2b space these days?

Matt Johnson  

No, I think perfectionism gets in the way a lot more than it helps. I think what you shoot for is consistent excellence, but not perfectionism. You know? So So you and I are running different gear. Your gear is probably more expensive than mine. But mine is good enough for my purpose. good solid webcam, right but I’m not running a DSLR camera, the microphone, I’m recording To is under 100 bucks on Amazon. And I have this mop this microphone for a very specific reason, which is that it doesn’t pick up all this other stuff. So I don’t need to be in NPR studio to sound good. I can take this microphone to the, to a hotel room or even out to my car if I need to. And I can record an episode and the sounds identically the same. Is there a podcast episode or you know, like a microphone that could conceivably sound better in specific situations? Absolutely. But not from my life as a coach consultant thought leader agency on it right. So just Yeah, you got it. But yeah, that’s that’s why buying the most expensive gear and being a perfectionist on certain things ends up shooting, you know, shooting in the foot potentially.

Chip Griffin  

And I love that you use the phrase good enough, because that’s, it is an important bar that that people should be shooting for because it needs to be good enough that it’s listenable, right, you don’t want something that’s just oh my God, I’ve got to crank my volume up all the way and even then I’m still straining to hear there’s so much background noise. It’s distracting, but it doesn’t have to be NPR quality or, you know, broadcast quality?

Matt Johnson  

Not at all, no, especially in the podcast world. It’s it’s really more about a base level of audio quality. And then what’s your content? If your content speaks to me and your audio isn’t annoying, then then I’m going to listen.

Chip Griffin  

Now in all of the work that you’re doing for clients and helping them put together their podcasts, are there. Are there trends that you’re seeing in there in the data that you’re looking at? Are there certain types of shows that work better? Not necessarily for industries? But you know, are there other formats that are working better length? You know, are 20 minute podcasts better than 40 minutes or 60 minutes? Or is it really irrelevant?

Matt Johnson  

Yeah, I am

seeing Justin I’m sure you’re probably seeing this too. Just an overall downtrend in people’s attention spans and my personal belief on it is that a lot of people in a lot of spaces now if they’ve been paying attention to podcasts at all, they kind of have their favorites. So now the new podcasts that are coming out, you’re you’re essentially competing for existing podcast listeners and you’re trying to get them to shift some of their minutes away from listening To the Joe Rogan’s and the entrepreneurs on fire over to yours. Okay, so it’s like, right? Well, it’s a lot less of a commitment for them to listen to your 20 minute episode than your three hour episode. And I know people that want to do like a Joe Rogan style podcast in their industry niche, and I have to, like, walk the expectations back, because it’s a lot easier to get somebody to take a chance on you, and a new podcast if you’re not asking as much from them, and you don’t take a half hour to warm up to get to the good parts. Right. So I just think, yeah, you know, shorter attention spans. So over on my, on the micro famous podcast, which is my solo strategy, so I try to keep all my solo episodes to around 15 minutes. So I typically don’t cover any more than three bullet points in strategy episode. It’s about you know, what I think most people can handle and what I can get across clearly in 15 minutes, and then it’s on the next episode, so I’m not asking too much of them to listen to my dulcet tones, or for longer than 15 minutes. So yeah, so shorter attention spans. I think that’s the biggest thing I’m saying.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah, and, you know, my approach generally been to try to keep podcasts under 30 minutes because that’s that aligned with commutes pre pandemic doesn’t align to the amount of time someone will spend on the treadmill or the exercise bike or something like that.

Matt Johnson  

I put out I put out that question, though, to my to my email list the other day, and I got one person that said, Why I really like when they’re about an hour and a half long hour and 45 because that’s how my evening walk is like, well, you are, you are in the minority buddy.

Chip Griffin  

I don’t know who else is walking hour and 45 minutes, I was gonna

say, That’s a long time to walk. That’s a long time to listen to a single podcast. But right. So we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the content itself and the format. And but what about I mean, you can’t just create the podcast and expect that people will show up. So what about the promotion side of the podcast? What advice do you have for folks if they’re getting started and they’re trying to build an audience?

Matt Johnson  

So the biggest thing that I run up against it’s probably I would say that is a misconception is that the shiny objects do it right, the audio grams where you see the little waveform or the video clips of the Gary Vee style video clips and stuff like that. And those things all help They can’t hurt, a little bit of visibility never hurt anyone. But 60% of all podcast growth comes from word of mouth. Like that’s the dirty little secret in podcast growth. So the question is, Are you are you creating a show that your ideal clients will love and tell their friends about because if not, everything else is that much harder. But then if you do create a podcast that your ideal clients will love, well, then it’s just a matter of getting that message to them. So that so it becomes a different challenge. And the first place I tell people is go get featured, right. So there’s a whole ecosystem of podcasts in your space, most likely, there’s other places where your ideal clients attention is go there, pitch yourself as a guest so that you can speak to your ideal clients and they find out you host a podcast and I’ll come check it out. So if you’re not doing that, like if I have clients that they want to grow their show faster, and they’re not getting featured, my first question is who on your team could be pitching you right now because I’ve got the training forum, just give me somebody and in turn a VA, I don’t care who it is. Just give me somebody that I can give them the training so that you can have five to 10 pitch emails going out. every couple of weeks to get you featured on podcasts. Because if you’re not doing that, all the other things like the audio grams, and you know, throwing out another post on Instagram that reaches 10 people, it’s just not going to move the needle.

Chip Griffin  

I think the other thing about podcasts that a lot of folks overlook, they think about it in terms of lead generation and marketing and thought leadership and that sort of thing. But it actually can help with the sales process itself, right. Oh, yeah. I mean, particularly for anyone selling expertise. And obviously agencies are selling expertise, someone who has listened to your podcast, they feel like they know you more. And so at least in my experience, it dramatically shortens the sales cycle. When you’re talking to someone who has seen or heard you speak before.

Matt Johnson  

Yeah, and and I couldn’t have said it any better than than that phrase, it shortens the sales cycle. So I won’t elaborate on that part. But there is a funny story. Just to piggyback off of that. I was speaking at an event A couple of years ago, it was in kind of that same niche where I spent a good chunk of my time. And I was in between sessions hanging out with a client who was also speaking at that event. And somebody came up to me. And there’s always been an inside joke on my, in my real estate podcast about how I have like a fake wife and three overweight kids like that was we would roleplay through sales scenarios, and my co host assigned to me a wife and kids. So this random person came up and said, Hey, man, how’s the house? Julie, how’s the how’s the wife and kids? And it’s amazing how much like when people listen to a podcast over time, they get the inside jokes, right? They understand and they listen, they get to know you, they know a little bit about your life. They know. They know that you know, but like that’s not a real wife and kids and all that fun stuff. And that doesn’t happen very often in the business world. Like you don’t get that kind of relationship. If I ran 20,000 Facebook ads in front of them, you know that you can only get fat from that from spending quality time with somebody with your voice in the air. And so, yeah, to me, that’s the that’s a combination of the most effective part and and the most fun part is building the relationships with People listen.

Chip Griffin  

I remember I was at an event in I think it was in Boston about 10 years ago. And I was having a conversation with somebody in a marketing event. And I heard someone behind me say, Hey, I know that voice. And so someone I had never met before, but but they recognize my voice for my podcast. And so that’s a moment to say hello. So that you really you really can, particularly when you’re focused on a niche audience, which is what most b2b podcasts would be doing, you’re able to have that kind of an impact much more easily than if you’re, you know, pursuing mentions in the Wall Street Journal or something like that, which are great for vanity but don’t tend to do all that much for the bottom line.

Matt Johnson  

No, they don’t. They’re they are great for vanity and for credibility. But yeah, as far as building relationships with people, I mean, there’s just there’s no place like podcasting where you get to spend 20 3040 minutes with somebody. There’s just no other form of marketing where people are actually looking for solutions and spending that amount of time. I mean, maybe they’ll spend five minutes reading your white paper, but not much not beyond that. Somebody told me the other day, that the average length of a business book that people actually read is to page 18. Which immediately wanted to make me throw, throw my book across the room in frustration, but but I get it. You know, we’re all busy. But yeah, that’s that’s why we have podcasts. Yeah.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah. And that’s actually probably a good place to end up because most business books are, are really magazine articles run amok. So I guess if you get to page 18, that’s about the length of a good long, you know, business magazine article, right?

Matt Johnson  

Oh, that’s hilarious. Business article run amok. I’m gonna steal that. That’s awesome.

Chip Griffin  

But in any case, if someone is interested in learning more, they’d like to get the book they’d like to listen to the podcast, where should they go?

Matt Johnson  

easiest places get micro famous calm, because the links

out to everything is there. If you are a reader, first of all, I love you. Thank you for keeping the written word alive. But if you want to get a physical copy of the book, we do the whole free plus shipping thing. You know how the drug goes. So just go to micro famous book calm and get that there.

Chip Griffin  

Great. Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time, Matt. It’s been a great conversation. I think you’ve given lots of really practical advice for agency owners. So,

Matt Johnson  

thanks, Chip. I appreciate it.

Chip Griffin  

Great. My guest today has been Matt Johnson, the author of Microfamous.

]]>
Raising your profile with potential ideal clients to make sales easier Matt Johnson joins Chip to discuss his book MicroFamous and how agency owners can apply the concepts to grow their own businesses.



The pair talk about the value of podcasting and where it is headed. They also talk about Matt’s experience in working with businesses to help them become active in podcasting to generate leads, increase their knowledge, and achieve results.









Resources



* Pursuing Results* MicroFamous* Matt Johnson on LinkedIn



Transcript



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



Chip Griffin  



Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And I am very pleased to have with me today Matt Johnson. Matt is the author of Microfamous. He also has a podcast Promotion Agency, and he’s got his own podcast. So welcome to the show, Matt. Thanks, Chip. I’m excited to be here. It is great to have you here. And before we dive into the conversation, why don’t you share a little bit more about yourself and what you do so that listeners have a base to work off of.



Matt Johnson  



Alright, so short story, we produce and launch podcasts, mostly for the coach consultant kind of independent thought leader market and the agency takes me about 45 hours a week to run so not bad to do do what I want with my own time outside of that which is what gave me the time to write the book and then you know, the rest of us just kind of optional marketing Legion activities like running the podcast and you know, things like that preparing for the future, future books and stuff like that. But five years ago, I was just some dude, we’re gonna have another you know guys marketing agency here in San Diego and I got the chance to step into business. His development and his idea for doing biz dev was to put me on as a host of like Google Hangouts back when that was a thing. And just to kind of nurture the relationships with all their key strategic partners and influencers in the agency. And that went really well, to the point where one of them called me up one day and said, Dude, we should start a podcast together. And that was the that was about as far as that idea went beyond that was just to start a podcast because we thought would be fun. And that was five years ago. And now that podcast is it’s called real estate Uncensored, it’s in the kind of the residential market, and million half downloads and counting and still going strong run a bunch of accolades, a bunch of top 10 lists in that space. It essentially took me from being a nobody that worked in an agency to speaking on stages in the industry and being an influencer and an insider in 18 months. So that’s been



Chip Griffin  



my experience. That’s fantastic. And podcasting is fun. So you know, why not do it? I’ve had podcasts for many years and really enjoy it. And now you’re



Matt Johnson  



wondering, Oh, geez,



Chip Griffin  



well, yeah, I started doing audio back in the 1990s. Actually, before it was even called pod casts and it was a heck A lot harder to to publish things back then. They used to have a little like it was it was like a telephone bug that I had on my phone.]]>
Chip Griffin 29:54
Spinning off a SaaS business from your agency (featuring Chris Dickey) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/spinning-off-a-saas-business-from-your-agency-featuring-chris-dickey/ Tue, 11 Aug 2020 19:24:26 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7255 What it takes to get a second business off the ground without neglecting your agency]]>

Many entrepreneurs have thought about creating a new business alongside the agency that they already own. That’s exactly what Purple Orange Brand Communications founder Chris Dickey did when he started Visably, a software-as-a-service business that marries public relations with search engine optimization (SEO).

In this conversation with Chip, we hear Chris discuss the journey he has taken over the past decade and where he sees things headed. He offers practical suggestions for other agency owners who may be considering starting a second business to complement their current revenue streams.

Resources

Connect with Chris at Visably

Transcript

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

Chip Griffin  

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Chris Dickey. Chris is the founder and owner of Purple Orange, and also the founder more recently of Visably, welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris Dickey  

Hey, thanks for having me.

Chip Griffin  

So, before we started recording, we were talking about where we live. I’m in New Hampshire, you’re in Wyoming. And I’m curious what brought you to Wyoming?

Chris Dickey  

Wyoming man. It’s like such a funny state. It’s the shape of a credit card and I just pointed the top right hand corner like that’s where I live. Anyhow, no, I came here I was I had a wonderful position as a marketing director for a climbing magazine called alpinist. And so I did mercury in circulation for alpinist here in the Tetons, and that kind of was a fantastic experience, both in publishing and in circulation. And then from there, I went into agency work and worked for a handful of large and small agencies ended up with Carmichael Lynch And then after that, I started my own agency, and I started my own agency in 2009. And so here we are today and we’re still kicking, you know, through through a recession through pandemic. And here we are.

Chip Griffin  

I was gonna say so you you started coming out of the great recession or you

Chris Dickey  

realize the beginning, really? Two Windows is 2009. Yeah. So

Chip Griffin  

and then and then now obviously, you know, I don’t want to say bookended because I’ve suggested It’s over. It’s not. It’s not.

Chris Dickey  

We’re, we’re still we’re still standing strong. And actually, I we just kind of as of this week, I think we’re, we’re at over 100% of revenue pre pre pandemic, so the agency is doing well.

Chip Griffin  

That is that is great news. And certainly I’ve heard from a lot of agencies in recent weeks that business has been starting to pick up again, bounce back, you know, we’ve started to see the pipeline’s growing and now we’re starting to see the revenue flow behind it. So it’s great to hear that you’re at that point. So obviously, you know you’ve had a 10 year journey. In the agency, first of all, you know what, why did you start an agency and particularly in the midst of a recession? What was your What was your motivation?

Chris Dickey  

Well, you know, I’ll be honest, I think Carmichael Lynch, at the time was thinking about closing their Jackson Hole, Wyoming office, I saw some of the writing on the wall. It was a recession. And I was I was a young, a young guy that I guess I still am, but I was younger back then. And I just thought to myself, you know, I think I have what it takes to do this. I think I have the contacts, I definitely understand the practice well enough. And we’ll just see if I can get some clients and so I really had nothing to lose. I didn’t want to leave Jackson Hole at that time, I was going to have to, you know, to pursue a professional career. So I just opened up, you know, it, I just hung my hung my sign on the door and kind of wait and see what happens.

Chip Griffin  

And I think that that story is pretty similar to probably what a lot of listeners have experienced it, you know, life sort of nudged you in that direction. That particular time and was probably a little bit younger than I expected. But it ended up working out great. And it’s been it’s been a fantastic ride. And then, you know, being part of an agency and I think, you know, we’re, I’m,

Chris Dickey  

I’m probably at the, the older end of the millennial generation.

And so, my, my,

you know, particularly my generation, and my age group, I’m like 39 years old, we were probably the first people to grow up with computers in our classrooms. And we were the very first people to grow up with computers in our homes, these young children, and that has a generational impact on how we approach problem thinking or, you know, problem solving and everything else. And I think, you know, it really pushed us as an agency to think about what’s coming up, we saw the writing on the wall with metal publishing is changing. I was a marketing director for a publisher I saw changing and you know, it was going digital. We all know that. I mean, my God, it’s completely changed in the last 10 years but trying to look around the corner and understand what was sticking for our clients was really what led me to the journey that became visibly.

Chip Griffin  

And so tell me about the the services that you offer as an agency and, and you know, why those

Chris Dickey  

specialties so the agency’s name is purple orange, we’re a boutique agency, we’re based in Jackson Hole Wyoming. It stands to reason that we would represent outdoor and active lifestyle, consumer brands. A lot of the stuff that you might find at Rei or you go skiing with we work whiskey brands and apparel brands and rain jackets and tents and stuffing mostly stuff you play with. kayaks, in so it was it was a really fun industry to be in. It kind of aligned with my personal passions. And then we just developed a really strong niche and expertise in this in this one particular area. We actually don’t have any clients in the State of Wyoming, but our clients love that we’re based here. They love visiting

Chip Griffin  

And now prior to the pandemic, were you a virtual agency? Or did you have an office or?

Chris Dickey  

We have an office? I’m in the office right now. And we are.

There’s five of us at the agency. We handle about 12 clients. And, and yeah, we’re all in Jacksonville.

Chip Griffin  

And now, I guess what a year or so a little bit over a year ago, you decided to spin off a software company, which I know is something that a lot of agency owners have thought about coming up with some sort of a product spin off so that they’re not just selling time. What What led you to start visibly,

Chris Dickey  

right. So that’s, that’s a really good point in that like, as an agency owner, you are really selling time and selling hours and it’s it’s hard to scale. It’s hard to scale an agency it’s hard to scale human human work because it’s it’s so tied to the human that’s doing it you can just replicate that human right you got to train somebody else in and hopefully Do the same work as somebody else, you know, but that’s not always guaranteed. With software, you can scale. And that’s what I think was attractive to me. But more so we know we landed, I’ll just tell you a quick anecdote about kind of my agency experience and client experience. You know, this is I think, 2016 2017 we were crankin at purple, orange, we were winning major national awards for our clients, and they’re in their respective kind of gear categories, if you will, with big gear of the Year awards and things like that from the major publications. In what we what we realized was that some of these some of these big you know, Pinnacle PR hits, if you will, were being overshadowed by other hits that we were anecdotally receiving that were showing up at the top of search. And, you know, it was there’s, there’s there are these vanity placements and we will continue to win them. Because they are special, and they do make the clients happy. And there’s something that you can leverage internally, if nothing else. But how many people that reaching is a great question, especially if they’re not, through traditional, I think circulation models. So what what I realized was that we had, on one hand, a pinnacle PR award, that was the best thing that we could have achieved with the client, you know, in the church, you know, in the in the traditional PR sense. On the other hand, we had some of these blogs that we hadn’t really paid too much attention to were all of a sudden, the very top organic search result, Google for some very highly desirable keyword that the client could never even dream of ranking for with SEO. And so we look at the performance of those two, and it’s not even a comparison. I mean, the hit that’s showing up in search was crushing it every single time. And we started seeing this and we said, How can we be more deliberate about this strategy? How can we win more of these hits in search. And we kind of went down this rabbit hole of identifying keywords and then kind of sorting keywords bucketing them by transactional and informational keywords. And what I mean by that is transactional keywords are keywords that are going to populate a lot of e commerce heads, a lot of sales, a lot of click to buy sort of stuff. That’s not PR friendly, informational keywords, populate a lot of information and learning and research. And that’s very PR friendly. And so we had to figure out how do we do that as an agency? How do we focus in on these informational keywords? Once we do focus in those those keywords? Then how do we build lists? How do we do this auditing process? We look at the search engine results page. We work all the way through it. We identify the brand’s footprint we identify the writers and the outlets that are relevant, according to Google are winning according to Google, and we just prioritize them as an agency. Then you start tracking the SERPs and a surface or a search engine results page. And once we started tracking them and putting a deliberate, more deliberate effort into it, we could actually show the client over time, a progression of dominance across the page. Whereas even though their own website had stood no chance of winning a first first page position, we could we could engineer it use our PR toolbox, so that virtually every organic link on the page was saying by this client’s product, and it was insanely powerful and it was very measurable and it was very tangible in terms of ROI. I think it’s something that us as PR practitioners are always struggling with is how do we measure our work? It’s a pretty soft thing and I think a lot of larger companies are just okay saying, okay, we’re gonna have a PR agency and we’re not gonna build a measure it very well and we’re just waiting Nowhere that we want it. Right.

Chip Griffin  

So it sounds like you very much built the tool to help your team service your existing clients that right away that was first.

Chris Dickey  

It was how do we how do we scale the strategy it was we had presented it for a couple years at a time. It was becoming far and away the most valuable service that we’re providing to our clients. And we were still doing everything else really well. You know, it’s not like we weren’t still winning those like top tier PR placements, but this talk to your PR placements, just had a limited value if they didn’t live beyond the flicker of the moment that they were published. And the thing about searches is that it lingers in front of a really qualified customer for a long time. And you think about audiences and how as practitioners we’re trying to reach the right audiences with our communications or Media Communications. You know, there’s there’s a there’s a massive difference. I realized tween, a magazine subscriber or somebody who is literally like kind of just, you know perusing a website, and somebody who’s typing in a specific search term that’s commercially oriented and then clicks on our product. That’s an active information seeker versus the passive information seeker. And if you can, if you can just reach the right customers all day long, you’ll just see insane ROI on your PR.

Chip Griffin  

Now, before you decided to build this, did you have a background in technology at all yourself? Or did you have someone on your team who was you know, sort of the the technological whiz behind it? or How did you how did you approach that piece of it? I think that’s, that’s a stumbling block

Chris Dickey  

that is a stumbling block and I have no web technical web experience. So the way it started for me was that I was actually a little bit in denial that this tool didn’t exist. And, and I was just like, okay, it’s got to exist marketing, super sophisticated. There’s so Many tools out there, like what’s just demo and demo and demo and try to find it. And even if it’s not perfect, we’ll just kind of cobble together a couple different solutions. And then we can do it. And there was nothing there was there was nothing that was, you know, my question was very simple. It was, where does my client’s brand exist in search, and I wanted to understand all the touch points in the first page of search, not just their website, not just their advertising, everything. And that tool did not exist. And it took me a couple of years to come to that conclusion. And then I started kind of asking some friends who are in the tech industries, like, what do you think about this? Do you have you have you heard of it? Is it is it doable, and everyone thought it was really interesting, never heard of it, and felt like it was achievable. And so we kind of moved down that that funnel. The very first thing for me and this this was this was a bit of just one of those like moments as an entrepreneur, I think like you’re not, you never know when you’re gonna have these moments. I live in Wyoming Wyoming has not does not have a diversified economy, we are heavily reliant on tourism in oil and gas. And Wyoming wants to diversify its economy. So they so they threw out these grants, it was a very limited time offer. And they were like, okay, we’re gonna throw out grants to anybody who wants to start a technology company, Wyoming. It just happened to coincide with when I was having these like, kind of serious thoughts about how maybe making some software. And so we just kind of slapped together a business plan, threw it out there, and we won the grant. And that’s right. That became our seed that was like, kind of a risk free way of pursuing this thing and hiring some people and going down this pathway and seeing if we could produce an MVP product. And then from there, we did and we were able to file patent for it and share it share with some investors and they thought it was pretty interesting and then won a second round of more substantial funding. And now we’re here where it We’re doing tech in Wyoming.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah. And now you mentioned that you had, you’d hired a team with some of that seed money. Did you? Did you use any of your existing team? Or did you really keep the two entities in the team sort of separate?

Chris Dickey  

It’s a great question. So I did I, the way I used my existing team, so there are two separate companies there, I have not muddled the books there. The way I used my agency was was as the guinea pigs and as the people who would figure out product market fit for us. And so, you know, we like these are real practitioners working on that working on the tool every single day and presenting it to clients and acquiring they’re accountable for the work and to see them kind of work through it and figure out how to use it and what was valuable and what needed to be added and what wasn’t, wasn’t as valuable. That process was really interesting and very helpful for us. was to kind of craft, I think what the product looked like and how it was gonna work.

Chip Griffin  

And so, you know, you’re now I guess what? What stage Would you say that that the visibly is at now, from

Chris Dickey  

where we’re in, we’re still very early. So we started in 20 2019, early 2019. We use most 2019 to develop NDP we won, we were able to get close some funding before the pandemic hit, which I feel very fortunate about. And then we basically just been we hired a proper team that’s full time. And now we’re really running pretty hard. We just released our beta, which is free, anyone can show up and use it. It’s, we we’d love to be able to use it because then we get more feedback on it. And we’re rolling out a pro version of what we are offering this fall and the pro version will be much more kind of enterprise level, really much more helpful for agencies and allow you to really scale a strategy to that too. The level that I wanted it to be scaled to.

Chip Griffin  

Yeah, I guess I was gonna be my next question was is it tailored for in house or brands? Is it is it large entities

Chris Dickey  

SME way the way that this is a way that visibly has evolved it’s a it’s a very has a lot of potential for PR. And it has, I wouldn’t say it’s the future PR, you know, it’s for any brand that had that where search is, is a powerful touch point for a customer. It’s going to be important for that brand. Not every brand search is an important touch point. There’s a lot of brick and mortar operations. There’s a lot of nonprofits that are more regional things like that. But if you’re a national brand and you’re using and search is a great way for people to discover what you do, then visibly is will be a great tool for you. Ultimately, visibly just two things were a listening platform kind of like a talkwalker or rescission or meltwater from that perspective, but we listen within search results. So we specifically are looking for keywords and we’re listening within those keywords and figuring out where your brand exists. Number two, we’re a list building tool. And this is what’s kind of interesting and really powerful for for for PR people is what one of the pieces that we recognize that, you know, as an agency is that, like I mentioned the beginning of this conversation that, that there are these transactional keywords and they’re these informational keywords. And, as, as a PR person, it’s not enough just to just to figure out where your, where your client exists and the you know, at, you know, in a search, what you need to do is clean the extract of a PR hits, and see which ones you want and which ones you missed.

And it shows you your blind spots. And

it also shows you the most relevant writers and the most relevant publications for any given subject in the world. And, you know, it’s like, we spent so much time as PR people developing lists, like so much time, right? And a lot of times it’s like they’re not even that good.

pretty broad don’t come on. We all know that.

Chip Griffin  

There are companies built around this.

Chris Dickey  

I know that. I know that. But, you know, I guess my point is, is that Google is the world’s foremost, search engine has, without question, the most sophisticated algorithm to determine what the most popular content other weapons, sure, and we’re able to essentially harness Google’s algorithm for PR and for list building. And because we’re able to segment those results and identify all the earned media, through by by using machine learning and software, we are able to pull up any number of search results. It could, like, you know, the freemium version that’s out right now, like you can do one at a time and you can we don’t we don’t limit it, but it’s only one at a time. When the pro version comes out. You can do unlimited effectively so you can do thousands of searches. You can could impact thousands of keywords. So you can extract all of those. All of those PR heads out and boom, there’s your media list at least, especially if you’re trying to figure out like, who’s who’s really relevant in the eyes of search engines. Right? So

Chip Griffin  

now, if if I’m listening to this, and I own a PR marketing digital agency, and I’m thinking about going down this path myself, what advice would you offer to an agency owner who’s contemplating the idea of, you know, creating a product or a sass platform or something like that, in addition to the agency?

Chris Dickey  

I think, I think it really has to start with your client’s needs in your in your, in what you want to accomplish for them as an agency. You know, I never thought I was gonna be a tech entrepreneur, like this was one of those like needs that slapped me on the face and I was like, I cannot do it. So I think I think what I would say was that I was a bit of a reluctant entrepreneur and I think that was to my benefit, because I wasn’t, I wasn’t too keen to follow a direction that wasn’t fully fleshed out.

And, and I, I established

the need. And we tested the need with with real life clients, we did this for a pretty good test period of two or three years, and really developed what the practice should look like. And then had a really good sense for what the software should should do.

Chip Griffin  

I think you made a couple of really great points there that are worth listening to, since I’ve also been down this path of having an agency and spinning off a software company. The first is not to force it. If you if you set out and say I’m going to build this platform, but I don’t know what it’s going to do. That’s a mistake. And the second piece is to tie it in to the work that you’re currently doing. So let it solve a problem for you and your clients. And that will help you create a much better product at the end of the day than if you’re trying to create a solution to someone else’s problem.

Chris Dickey  

Yeah, I think So I think there’s people who find, you know, one thing that I think I struggle with, not struggle, but something I’m aware of is is the difference between what’s a product and what’s a feature. And a product needs to be like kind of a core foundational idea that then you can just build out a round. And I think a lot of people come up with features, which are interesting and useful and very nuanced circumstances, but they’re not a product.

And,

you know, understanding the difference between the two is actually pretty important if you’re going to spend this much energy and time and money going down this rabbit hole. Right? So

Chip Griffin  

yeah, it’s sort of like the difference between a magazine article and a book, right? They’re, they’re both great, but they serve different purposes. And that’s the same thing with a with a product like this. You need to go beyond that feature. And you need to build something that’s going to be resilient.

Chris Dickey  

Well, then to one particular case study, I went through your client, but think about how many Clients are going to use this and how many people from different industries are gonna find value with it? And that’s, that’s a hard question.

Chip Griffin  

Absolutely. Well, Chris, this has been really great. I think a lot of folks have been able to take some useful ideas out of this. And as they’re contemplating the idea of doing something themselves, and they’ve, of course, learned about a useful product along the way, too. So if someone wants to try out visibly or they’d like to learn more about you, where should they go?

Chris Dickey  

Yeah, check it out. It’s a B is a B. Li, calm. It’s a play on the word visibility. And it’s just yeah, be visibly calm and we have a beta and it’s free and we’d love to hear from you.

Chip Griffin  

Fantastic. Well, I encourage folks to give it a look. And again, I really appreciate you being with me today, Chris. My guest today has been Chris Dickey, the founder of Purple Orange and Visably.

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What it takes to get a second business off the ground without neglecting your agency Many entrepreneurs have thought about creating a new business alongside the agency that they already own. That’s exactly what Purple Orange Brand Communications founder Chris Dickey did when he started Visably, a software-as-a-service business that marries public relations with search engine optimization (SEO).



In this conversation with Chip, we hear Chris discuss the journey he has taken over the past decade and where he sees things headed. He offers practical suggestions for other agency owners who may be considering starting a second business to complement their current revenue streams.









Resources



Connect with Chris at Visably



Transcript



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



Chip Griffin  



Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Chris Dickey. Chris is the founder and owner of Purple Orange, and also the founder more recently of Visably, welcome to the show, Chris.



Chris Dickey  



Hey, thanks for having me.



Chip Griffin  



So, before we started recording, we were talking about where we live. I’m in New Hampshire, you’re in Wyoming. And I’m curious what brought you to Wyoming?



Chris Dickey  



Wyoming man. It’s like such a funny state. It’s the shape of a credit card and I just pointed the top right hand corner like that’s where I live. Anyhow, no, I came here I was I had a wonderful position as a marketing director for a climbing magazine called alpinist. And so I did mercury in circulation for alpinist here in the Tetons, and that kind of was a fantastic experience, both in publishing and in circulation. And then from there, I went into agency work and worked for a handful of large and small agencies ended up with Carmichael Lynch And then after that, I started my own agency, and I started my own agency in 2009. And so here we are today and we’re still kicking, you know, through through a recession through pandemic. And here we are.



Chip Griffin  



I was gonna say so you you started coming out of the great recession or you



Chris Dickey  



realize the beginning, really? Two Windows is 2009. Yeah. So



Chip Griffin  



and then and then now obviously, you know, I don’t want to say bookended because I’ve suggested It’s over. It’s not. It’s not.



Chris Dickey  



We’re, we’re still we’re still standing strong. And actually, I we just kind of as of this week, I think we’re, we’re at over 100% of revenue pre pre pandemic, so the agency is doing well.



Chip Griffin  



That is that is great news. And certainly I’ve heard from a lot of agencies in recent weeks that business has been starting to pick up again, bounce back, you know, we’ve started to see the pipeline’s growing and now we’re starting to see the revenue flow behind it. So it’s great to hear that you’re at that point. So obviously, you know you’ve had a 10 year journey. In the agency, first of all, you know what, why did you start an agency and particularly in the midst of a recession? What was your What was your motivation?
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Chip Griffin 23:39
Building the agency you want to own (featuring Chris Williams) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/building-the-agency-you-want-to-own/ Tue, 04 Aug 2020 16:00:26 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7222 Chris WilliamsPractical advice to help you enjoy entrepreneurship]]> Chris Williams

On this episode, Chip is joined by Chris Williams. The pair discuss what it takes to create an agency that you are happy to own and delivers the results you want.

Chris talks about how he used to be an agency owner who spent 16 hours a day grinding away at a business that didn’t generate the kind of returns that it should. He explains some of the steps he took to get on the right path for him — one that lets him spend less than an hour a day on agency work. He shares his experience with members of his Elite Agency Inner Circle group on Facebook.

Resources

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, for-profit leadership, and socially responsible market engagement. He has helped creative agencies build wealth and agency owners develop innovative winning strategies. His expertise includes lead generation, creative team building and allowing owners to focus on what they do best. Apart from leading his own agency, Chris hosts a private mastermind for creative agency owners looking to scale and optimize their businesses.

Transcript

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

Chip Griffin
Hello and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin and I am very pleased to have with me today, my friend, Chris Williams, he has a dog and likes to paddleboard. How’s that for an introduction, Chris!

Chris Williams
It is perfect. That’s the best introduction I’ve ever had… my two passions in life.

Chip Griffin
It’s probably the most unusual that listeners have heard on this show. But we were we were talking in the pre show and figuring out how to start the show off and well it just sounded like a fun way to do it. So tell us tell us first about your dog Chris and then you can tell us about the rest of of why you’re actually here.

Chris Williams
So I have a hand-me-down dog His name is blue. I can’t we down dog. What does that mean? The one of the days here in our community lives in a zero lot line down the street from us. And so they found this puppy outside their horse stable and it got bigger than zero lot line. So now we have what looks like a yellow lab but not quite right missing a few brain cells but he’s a sweet boy. He hangs out with me all the time he’s laying here in the studio.

Chip Griffin
You hear you heard it here folks, this is this is something you do not hear on other agency business podcasts.

Chris Williams
We get right to the point of things. This is this is what really matters.

Chip Griffin
Absolutely. So, so it so when you are not paddleboarding or playing with your brain cells, short dog, and mccamey down dog, I guess? What is it that you actually do and why did I invite you here?

Chris Williams
Good question. So, so truly blue and I and the paddleboard spend a lot of time to go we have five kids, Jill and I do we travel a ton. We have a lot of playtime. I work less than 30 minutes a day and most days that don’t work at all. And it’s and we have a growing thriving agency. That’s fantastic. And and what I do is I love figuring out time efficiencies. I’m kind of a geek when it comes to time and how to save time. And so I’ve just used our businesses over the years as a as kind of a lab a place to experiment. On what actually gets the owners time back allows profitability to go up and lets people live their lives.

Chip Griffin
And that’s why we have businesses or It’s why we should have businesses, right?

Chris Williams
Like on the risk of entrepreneurship if you don’t get the rewards Hmm, I wish more folks got the reward. You know, we hear so many people chipping on both just frustrated with, with how, you know, they got into the dream and yet the money and the time freedom just aren’t paying off like they thought and that’s, that’s so needed.

Chip Griffin
So let me drill into this, this 30 minutes a day thing because I you know, I know agency owners are listening and saying, Okay, come on, seriously. 30 minutes a day. Can you really run a business in 30 minutes a day? I’m gonna go out on a limb and imagine that you haven’t always been able to spend 30 minutes a day It took something to get there.

Chris Williams
Yeah, I did. So um, I was it was probably seven, eight years ago, I was working 16 hour days, like we do not making enough money like we do. And I kept hearing about this concept called the four hour workweek by Tim Ferriss write that book. we’ve all read, and none of us had a life change. And so I read it once I was like, That’s crazy. There’s no way and I was like, What if I just did everything he said to do in the book. So everything that applied to me in the book I literally started doing and literally within four months, my income tripled. And my time was cut down to four hours a day when at the four hour workweek yet, but I was like, Oh my gosh, this works. I hired staff just as simple VA structure one or two days to help me with just calendaring and emailing. And then I started delegating more and more and building that team. And and then I started getting into higher ticket sales and started it freed up once you had time freed up all sudden, my mind got freed up and I was able to see opportunities for clients see better ways to sell see places where I could charge more, be more profitable, and it just took off. It just, it just simply works. And I’ve just honed that over the years. By I bet eight months in, I was doing the two hours a day. And then slowly it’s gotten down below 30 minutes a day or a lot of days where I don’t work as I built my team,

Chip Griffin
right? So, like you I read the four hour workweek and and I think that there are a lot of good principles in there that really anyone can apply not just business owners, but any kind of, you know, worker who’s in a leadership role of some sort and can apply. My issue with that book has, in part always been that Tim Ferriss clearly works more than four hours a week, right? He spends more than four hours a week doing media appearances and his own podcasts. So it’s clear to me that while he preaches it, he doesn’t necessarily live it. And so that’s been one of my concerns in people sort of looking and saying, Okay, well, I can be Tim Ferriss and four hours a week. And really, you can become more efficient and you can get down to four hours a week or 30 minutes a day, but you have to be realistic about what you’re going to be doing in that right. I mean, you Can’t you cannot be Tim Ferriss in 30 minutes a day?

Chris Williams
No, no. And Tim admits that in a few interviews I’ve heard him on, I don’t follow Tim very closely anymore. I used to when I was kind of diving into that stuff, but he admits that there’s other things he does now. But his premise was, hey, if you can build the machine that pays for your lifestyle, and manage it in a very small amount of time, then you can be freed up to do things. And since then, he’s built on that. And that’s what I’ve done as well. I’ve built multiple businesses since we figured that out, because all of a sudden, I have staff and I have time. And as entrepreneurs, you know, all of us everybody listening and watching us right now. We’re all crazy brained. We love thinking of 10 new ideas at once. And it gives me It gives me space to sort those out and play with the next idea without having to worry about the bills. It’s like, right, like you get to be an entrepreneur as a hobby. No,

Chip Griffin
right? Yeah. And I think that you know, if an agency owner you know, takes a look at the prints, pulls in that book and maybe they take a look at Built to Sell, which is another great book that helps you think about the systems and processes, right. And I am a systems and processes guy, huge believer that that is how you maximize profitability, you can grow efficiently and you can get to, you know, whatever the amount of inputs you want to put are, whether that’s, you know, 30 minutes a day, four hours a week, 20 hours a week, I mean, maybe even just as a normal 40 hour week instead of an 81. Right? I mean, you know, whatever you want you can get if you’re building these proper systems and processes, tell me move forward.

Chris Williams
Yeah, so true chip, and I love the kind of stuff that you teach because you’re teaching people like like all of us as agency owners, you’re teaching everyone how to be that CEO or CFO or Chief Operating Officer, you’re getting that C suite view of here’s how to run your business not here’s how to do everything in your business, but here’s how to actually be the boss, step back. Let others help you and get systems people processes all that line. ups and make wise financial decisions, all that goes together. And that’s, that’s the beauty of, of people who are entrepreneurs learning from what you’re teaching. By the way, anybody watching listening chip didn’t ask me to plug all this. It’s just the truth. Once you once you learn how to look at your business like a CEO, then all sudden your business changes. And it changes because we change, I found that I was the biggest hurdle I was the weak spot in my business. It wasn’t my staff that I was frustrated with. It wasn’t the problem client I was frustrated with. It wasn’t gonna have enough cash flow early on or working too much. It was me. And when I learned how to be the right boss, the right CEO, then all of a sudden everything started changing.

Chip Griffin
Right? And it’s, I mean, really, it’s about trying to make sure that you are that you’re spending your time wisely. Right. And as you say, you know, not necessarily knowing how to do and getting involved in even worse every aspect of your agency business which I see all the time. So you need to ask yourself, would you pay someone your hourly rate to do the task that you’re doing right now. So if your hourly rate is 234, hundred dollars an hour, whatever it is, and hopefully it’s, you know, at least somewhere in that range, and you’re not, you know, billing out at 50 bucks effectively an hour or something like that. But whatever your effective hourly rate is, would you pay someone to do what you’re doing right now? And if you wouldn’t, you probably shouldn’t be doing it either.

Chris Williams
So true, that’s a great way to look at it. It really is it flips the thing around and lets you measure it actually.

Chip Griffin
I think it’s it’s a it’s a, it’s a framework that allows you to think about where you sort of take yourself out of the equation, right? Because I think that the biggest challenge that any entrepreneur has is it’s it’s hard to look at themselves. And so if you imagine someone else doing what you’re doing, what would you tell them about that?

Chris Williams
Yes, yes, so important looking at ourselves, I’ll just come back and stay on that. Anybody who’s is in this entrepreneurial journey, we are We are the hubs that make it all happen, where the ball of energy that makes it happen, we’re pushing, pushing, pushing. And when we get ourselves, right, we get figured out when we start even incrementally making those small changes, to step up, be better at time management, be better at financial management be better at having those tough conversations with a team member. Those things, man, they just change us and and they change our businesses exponentially.

Chip Griffin
Right? And, you know, look, I mean, in the early stages of a business, you know, you’re gonna have to do some of those things. Right? So if you’re, if you’re in month one of your agency, you can’t apply that same lens, right? Because, you know, chances are you are doing a bunch of things at that point that you wouldn’t pay someone else to do but it doesn’t make sense to just yet because you’re not, you know, cashflow positive yet. But if as you’re growing if you start looking at that, that’s how you get down to you know, your, your appropriate number of input hours per week into each business and or like you, you start starting new businesses, right, so you’re not just limited if you will, by the one thing And so so why don’t we talk about sort of the what you’ve built up? Because, you know, you do agency work, but you do other things, too.

Chris Williams
Yes. So our agency serves surgeons in sub specialties in really unique niche communities around the country around the US, we don’t we listen to. And that’s what our team does. That’s what I spend very little time doing. That. That agency is freakin awesome. It’s so fun to be part of it. And see what our team does is they build and grow surgery groups that are helping communities so fun. And Was that your first agency? What’s the fourth, fourth, fourth, fourth digital agency and before that, I owned a financial advisory firm. So I have a very data driven brain, which is where a lot of this comes from, and sold that in 2011. And, and it’s been been great. So the the fourth agency we’re in we’ve we’ve changed agencies because we’ve shifted and I don’t want to encourage people just to constantly swap brand swap agencies chasing the next shiny object that wasn’t at all. We changed because we were we were doing During the research and seeing there was a niche that we could follow, that was a significant enough shift, where it was better to maintain the products and services we were already offering to an existing agency market, but actually shift and go into this new space in a fresh, clean, new way. So we would either sell the clients or the group to a senior staff member, or to another agency who was going to be able to do that better long term, but we knew we wanted to follow something to be more profitable and more efficient for us. So that’s why we’ve changed. And then since then, we’ve actually taught this model we teach our agency model, and that’s been so much fun. I if there’s anything I do that takes my time right now. It’s teaching I I didn’t know how much I loved it. I you know, right now, it’s, it’s all this COVID stuff bouncing around and anybody with kids like me, we’re figuring out do we have to homeschool What’s going on? We’re horrible homeschool parents, but, but I love teaching us They’re entrepreneurs that it’s like I get to be part of other people’s businesses with out having it’s like having grandkids I think many grandkids yet, but I get to have them over and then send them away and go do great. And I’ll see you in a week, you know, right. Right.

Chip Griffin
So So tell me a little bit more about how you work with agencies. Because I think you’ve you’ve got an interesting model for how you do it.

Chris Williams
Yeah, so we do a an exclusive group. We do not mean exclusively mean we don’t do any one on one consulting. We only work in a group setting. So we take 15 agency owners at a time, and we do this in three groups a year I like to take the summers completely off because I want to hang out with kids but we we tend the dog Don’t forget the dog in the paddleboard. We take three groups a year or 15 agency owners and we take them through a process that allows them to scale up their profit margins and decrease their time our goal in the first section of that were together for a year, everybody starts the group and rolls in through a year. But in the first 12 weeks, our goal with that is to significantly increase typically, most folks in our group have doubled their profit margins, and cut their time in half within 12 weeks. And that’s, that’s not a pie in the sky or get rich, quick, it’s a lot of work. We also have my executive team, teaching their team members how to do that. I’m teaching entrepreneurs, my team’s teaching their team members. So we’re attacking this from all angles. So people who jumped in that group, they gotta be ready to make some significant change. And they gotta be really, really good after it. And then once they get, once they get those metrics hit, then they’re allowed to go into the second phase of our mastermind group, which is where everybody else collects once they finish that first phase of increasing profit, decreasing time because we can build sustainability there’s so much you can do with more resources, time and money, long term to make something just super cool for you and your community or however you want. To use your resources, you know,

Chip Griffin
now talk to me a little bit about the kinds of agencies that do best with this structure and how big are they? How old are they are, you know, what are their specialties? Those kinds of things?

Chris Williams
Yeah, all of these are digital creative marketing type agency. So copywriters, website builders, we have coaches and consultants that that work in a lot of spaces that are in that group. But just so they’re all marketing focused, it could be videographers, photographers, any ad managers, just that whole marketing sphere, anybody who’s connected to pushing their clients brands or products forward, you’re working digitally. Most of them have several years of experience and all of them have to at least have one key staff member, currently on staff. Most of them have several staff members that are either 1099 or employee doesn’t matter as but they have how you got to have help to make this work. If you anybody watching, you’re listening, if you want to actually start changing and growing as an entrepreneur, you Eventually, even though people are messy, and I’m one of them, I can talk about people because I am to. People are messy, but you eventually have to jump that gap and hire a person. That’s the only way you can grow something bigger than you.

Chip Griffin
Right? Yeah. I mean, if you’re not doing that you’re you’re effectively a freelancer, which is fine, right? If you right, you want to be a freelancer? That is, that’s a perfectly viable option. But it’s but the way you approach things as a freelancer are different than if you are looking to build an actual agency business. Mm hmm. And so I think being clear with yourself about what you want, I mean, you know, one of the things that I spend a fair amount of time on when I work with agencies is trying to figure out what does the owner actually want out of it? Because I’m always shocked at how little time they’ve spent thinking about that, you know, they because somebody or accidental agency owners, I mean, right now, I’m sure there are there are tons of accidental agencies being created. The owners don’t even realize that’s what’s happening. They got laid off from somewhere, perhaps. And so they’ve started to do a little bit of freelancing and eventually they’ll be able to start taking on innovation. work that they have to sub some of it out. And, you know, two years later Oh my God, I forgot an actual business here. But what am I doing with it? And and if you don’t if you’re not clear with yourself, you know, are you looking to maximize your money? Are you looking to sell it someday? Are you looking to to have the the 30 minute day 30 minutes a day gig, you know, whatever it is that you want, you can structure the business around it, but only if you know what you want.

Chris Williams
Yes, so true trip that chip and most people are really like kind of vague on that because they get into like you said they’re accidental. They just roll into it all sudden, a year later, they’re an entrepreneur, and inertia takes over. Yeah, but the design is so important and having that end goal. And if you think well, I only know what my end goal is just have the next couple of steps kind of view. And you can start steering the ship. We we think of that early stage of agency ownership when you’re just getting started may or may not have one person and you just really early on, think of it like pedaling a bike. So you’re you have a bike All of a sudden now, that’s a machine. That’s great. You built some processes, you know how to do your workflow, whatever bikes are more efficient than walking. And that process piece is super great. So have that bike, make sure you build your processes, like chip is telling you. And then adding a writer to that bike is like adding your first team member, all of a sudden, you can get off the bike, you can put someone else on the bike, and you can sit back every now and then and watch someone else riding your bike, which gives you that strategy and that ability to see what’s coming and think a little more about the design of what you want to do. And then once you figure out real profitability, you get your numbers right and you figure out how to really sell and how to really chase that market segment that’s going to pay the most. That’s like change, not the bike for a motorcycle, you got a rider now you got a motorcycle, this thing’s going and you’re still sitting over to the side though being that business leader that that chip talks about constantly and you’re able to watch the process. happen and when you can do that you can be so so strategic

Chip Griffin
now the folks who are in your group you know, what would you say are the biggest things that hold them back? I mean is it lack of process is it is it lack of planning is it is it just you know what what is it that’s holding the back? Mm hmm

Chris Williams
yeah, it’s a couple things typically it’s it’s not knowing either how to get the right leads. And that’s usually because they don’t they don’t realize why people are coming to them to begin with. And and that sounds like a well you got to build the know like and trust thing and you got to have a funnel and you got to know know, we build a process and you can too anybody can do this. Building a process not you chipping by listening to building a process of why people come to you and understanding what that is because every bit of communication you have every Facebook post you want to put out there every every client engagement call you have needs to be focused around why people are choosing let them choose you. That’s a process, right? It’s,

Chip Griffin
there is a reason there is you may not realize it, but there is a reason. And by the way, it is not your team. The number one reason agencies always tell me Oh, we get hired because we got the best team. baloney. baloney, because every agency says that, huh? So there’s another reason what is

Chris Williams
if you get hired, all of us get hired, because there’s a felt need, I feel and I don’t logically think, alright, even though I try to be logical, I feel that what’s going wrong or out of my control, or that’s going to get me where I want to go is something you’ve got. And if I feel that you’ve got it, and I can trust you, I will make a buying decision. It’s just that simple. The thing is, most of us as entrepreneurs, we think we know what the client needs, and we probably do because we’re experts, but we don’t realize that 10 steps before they even get there. There’s this little time want that they have. And that’s really all they’re trying to buy. Right? So we offer that to them. And then we can take them where they need to go. So people in our groups, they’re trying to figure out the the real logic behind the feelings that are going on with their market and put a process around that. Then they’re trying to figure out a closing process, something they can lean in on a script or something where they can do it over and over and over and measure what’s working, what’s not working in their closing process. Again, processes are something you can measure. And it’s so important that we have those. And then so it’s getting people in the door, the process, closing them, and then we get into workflow. So people start closing a bunch of deals at a higher profit margin ever great. But now they got a problem. It’s too much work. So we’re designing that proper workflow and bringing in key staff members as we need to, to help with that, really helping them get out of that, that bootstrapping place and into something where they can really just thrive. You know,

Chip Griffin
And I would imagine based on what you do you are you come down on the the pro niching side of the Oh, yeah, debate.

Chris Williams
You know, I hear that debate all the time. But here’s here’s my position on it. First of all, whatever you want to do that makes you happy. Yeah, you. But if you want to have a hyper profitable agency, you need to be really specific about what you do, or who you serve.

Chip Griffin
Or both. Ideally, both.

Chris Williams
Yes. And people argue, well, I I’m really good at websites, but I want to serve everyone. Okay, at least you’re focused on websites. Some people say I only want to serve air traffic controllers, but I do everything they need. Okay. But if you can narrow it down and get both those circles laying over each other, you are going to be in a sweet spot. You’re going to make more money, your team’s gonna be more focused your marketing or focus Your closing rates go up, every process you have gets measurable. It’s insane how predictable it gets. So that’s why I’m a nice guy.

Chip Griffin
I think that people misunderstand niching too, because they immediately think I need to specialize in a particular industry. And it may not be a specific industry, you can specialize in serving a certain kind of organization, it may not be a specific industry, but it may be, you know, organizations of, you know, 10 to 20 employees are my sweet spot who have, you know, no CFO or me as long as you can define tightly, who it is, and you can produce a relatively narrow list of those prospects. You’ve effectively niched

Chris Williams
absolutely, Yep. Yep. Just because we have a certain job title or a certain type of product we we build doesn’t make us necessarily the right niche. You got it. It’s, it’s who there’s, it’s not the thing. It’s not the type of business we serve. It’s the person that’s going to buy from you. That person is your niche.

Chip Griffin
Right. And and I think, you know, I We’ve sort of generalized to say that most agencies I think fails to succeed at the level they could because they’re selling the wrong stuff to the wrong people at the wrong price. And, and so the more that you can figure out those three things, you know, what are you selling? Including why, right? Because, you know, as you said, you know, you have to understand the problem that the clients actually trying to solve, they may come to you and ask for a website. They don’t really want a website, right? They want the results of the website, right? And, and you have to understand what that result is, and that’s going to be visiting it if you don’t understand that you can’t effectively build them a website. Mm hmm.

Chris Williams
searcher just like you and me, we, you know, none of us even though we we sell that kind of stuff and are done for you agency. I don’t want a website. I want clients, right. And if the website is the way to get there, great, but yeah, if I didn’t have to have a website to get clients, I wouldn’t have one right? We just want, right I mean, I don’t really want clients I want cash flow, and I don’t really want cash flow. I want a certain lifestyle. And I don’t really want a certain lifestyle. I want relationships with my family as we experience life. So what we’re really selling is an ability for our client to experience the life they want. And backing it up a website may help. But a website is not the end result. And when we lose sight of that, it’s harder to sell the websites.

Chip Griffin
So you’re saying that your clients don’t simply sit there at night and just kind of you know, stare at their the website that you built and just enjoy it?

Chris Williams
I hope not because when they do, they’re like, mmm, can we change fonts? No. But yeah, you’re right. They don’t they don’t admire that’s not their it’s not their kindergartener graduating from kindergarten. Right, right. Yeah.

Chip Griffin
Our open songs which would you prefer, goes back and forth day by day, it’s gonna make a huge difference. So far too much time gets wasted on on fonts and logos and all sorts of things that really don’t move the needle at the end of Not at all.

Chris Williams
Now, in fact, as an example of a logo thing, so our brand elite agency where we teach agencies like we talked about that logo for that brand, we have intentionally not built a professional logo. Because if you ever look at it, it says elite agency elite is in like a dark slate grey blue agency is in white, and it has a dark slate grey blue box around the word agency. We did that on a Google Doc. And we have used it Forever and always, and we about once a year it comes up, should we go and get a real logo? Maybe like no, we need to keep proving that you can be hyper successful and make a ton of money with a crappy logo you made in a Google Doc, because it’s so important for all of us as business owners to realize it’s who we are as business owners and communicators, not the shiny wrappers we put around ourselves that matter. Right?

Chip Griffin
Right. And how many agencies have come to you and said, You know, I would have worked with you. Except for that logo that just, I’ve never heard that you lost me at the logo.

Chris Williams
No, never heard it. And we asked each of our masterminds Hey, what do you think about our logo in like week six or something like that, cuz we start talking about this stuff. And I like oh, my gosh, it’s horrible. You need so much help with it? I’m like, exactly. And did it change your opinion of what we do? No. Okay. No, move on. Just tell the client don’t work on your logo.

Chip Griffin
Yeah. So as we sort of near the end of our time, together here today, what are you seeing right now in the agency space? How have How have you seen things changing amongst digital agencies? And I think, you know, digital is a little bit different than some other agencies because a lot of digital agencies are actually growing right now because so many folks have had to turn their eye from brick and mortar to digital, but it’s not that’s not across the board. But I’m curious what you’re seeing amongst the folks who are in your Facebook group and that you’re talking to?

Chris Williams
Yeah, so you know, when? early March 2020 whenever you happen to be listening or Watching this early March 2020, when COVID Canada really hit, everybody freaked out, then everybody wondered what was going to happen. And it took probably, at least for us in our experience, and we serve a lot of agency owners again, digital marketing agencies. It took maybe two months for that to settle. Some people were okay, but most people are just scared. And, and now it’s July 21. Now for the past, I’d say six weeks, it feels like to to us that COVID is kind of over emotionally for most of the people we serve in our industry. Now the one exception is if they’re if this marketing or digital agency is serving brick and mortars, like they only served restaurants or only fitness facilities or something. Then they’re having to retool and figure out but most of those have even figured out you know, there’s so much to do for the restaurant tour. In this market. It’s just learning how to communicate in a new way about a new set of needs and planning. To someone who owns a restaurant, right? The restaurants need us more than ever, right? If that’s your market more than ever, if they’re going to survive, and there are ways to help them survive. So I think people have, you know, after several months, began to get their head around that and that is the cool thing about and I’ll end with this chip and you go if you want to, but but that’s the cool thing about being an entrepreneur is, is all of us in this community right now. We get to lead the economy. We get to lead people forward with hope. We get to help someone see the opportunities that are in front of them. as things change, change happens. But the people who actually know how to see that change, take a chance go after a market and help that market grow. That is a gift to society and a gift to grandkids and a gift to every person out there because you’re keeping the momentum of the money you’re keeping the economy going. It’s it’s the little people like us who actually make the big changes and I love love having that opportunity and I know everybody’s watching listening that’s that’s that’s what we get to do it’s the coolest thing ever

Chip Griffin
right? Absolutely is and I really couldn’t have said it better myself so I guess we’ll end on that mic drop moment

Chris Williams
it’s mics are too expensive dropping mics it’s rare that

I get to have an episode you know packaged up just that neatly at the end I’d like to say it’s by design that I just I knew how to trail the questions just properly did to get us to that point but but thank you for doing that that was that was very helpful. If someone wants to learn more about you Chris or or the the mastermind, where can they find you? easiest thing to do in the world ship we you can follow me on Instagram or on Facebook, I would go to Facebook. Honestly the elite agency inner circle, elite agency inner circle is our Facebook group. I do free q&a in there multiple times a week. And that’s a completely free group. It’s only for agency owners, though that have at least a year of experience. So not just leaving their nine to five need a little bit of experience on your belt and it’ll be extremely relevant because we, we answer questions. If you have questions, we will answer them. Our goal is to make everyone more profitable. So you can make more money work less time. And we do it all completely for free in that Facebook group. That’s, that’s where I invest my free time.

Chip Griffin
Fantastic. Well, thank you for joining me, Chris. It’s been a great conversation. I think that listeners have picked up a lot from it and be able to apply to their own businesses and hopefully they’ll check out your your Facebook group and your other resources. So thanks for joining me. Thanks for having me, Chip. Again, my guest today has been Chris Williams. He has a dog and he likes to paddleboard.

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Practical advice to help you enjoy entrepreneurship On this episode, Chip is joined by Chris Williams. The pair discuss what it takes to create an agency that you are happy to own and delivers the results you want.



Chris talks about how he used to be an agency owner who spent 16 hours a day grinding away at a business that didn’t generate the kind of returns that it should. He explains some of the steps he took to get on the right path for him — one that lets him spend less than an hour a day on agency work. He shares his experience with members of his Elite Agency Inner Circle group on Facebook.









Resources



* Elite Agency Inner Circle (Facebook Group)* Elite Agency Mastermind* Follow Chris on Facebook | Instagram



About Chris Williams



Chris Williams has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, for-profit leadership, and socially responsible market engagement. He has helped creative agencies build wealth and agency owners develop innovative winning strategies. His expertise includes lead generation, creative team building and allowing owners to focus on what they do best. Apart from leading his own agency, Chris hosts a private mastermind for creative agency owners looking to scale and optimize their businesses.



Transcript



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



Chip GriffinHello and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin and I am very pleased to have with me today, my friend, Chris Williams, he has a dog and likes to paddleboard. How’s that for an introduction, Chris!



Chris WilliamsIt is perfect. That’s the best introduction I’ve ever had… my two passions in life.



Chip GriffinIt’s probably the most unusual that listeners have heard on this show. But we were we were talking in the pre show and figuring out how to start the show off and well it just sounded like a fun way to do it. So tell us tell us first about your dog Chris and then you can tell us about the rest of of why you’re actually here.



Chris WilliamsSo I have a hand-me-down dog His name is blue. I can’t we down dog. What does that mean? The one of the days here in our community lives in a zero lot line down the street from us. And so they found this puppy outside their horse stable and it got bigger than zero lot line. So now we have what looks like a yellow lab but not quite right missing a few brain cells but he’s a sweet boy. He hangs out with me all the time he’s laying here in the studio.



Chip GriffinYou hear you heard it here folks, this is this is something you do not hear on other agency business podcasts.



Chris WilliamsWe get right to the point of things. This is this is what really matters.



Chip GriffinAbsolutely. So, so it so when you are not paddleboarding or playing with your brain cells, short dog, and mccamey down dog, I guess? What is it that you actually do and why did I invite you here?



Chris WilliamsGood question. So, so truly blue and I and the paddleboard spend a lot of time to go we have five kids, Jill and I do we travel a ton. We have a lot of playtime. I work less than 30 minutes a day and most days that don’t work at all. And it’s and we have a growing thriving agency. That’s fantastic. And and what I do is I love figuring out time ef...]]>
Chip Griffin 31:20
Producing writing at scale (featuring Vincent D’Eletto) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/producing-writing-at-scale-featuring-vincent-deletto/ Tue, 28 Jul 2020 16:00:49 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7210 Recruiting writers and managing the content creation process ]]>

On this episode of Chats with Chip, Vin D’Eletto of Word Agents joins the show to discuss his experience building an agency focused on providing writing that drives SEO. The pair discuss lessons for how agencies of all types can better manage the ongoing need for content, including recruiting writers and managing the process to deliver quality results for clients.

Resources

Transcript

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

Chip Griffin
Hello, and welcome to the Chats with Chip podcast. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Vin D’Eletto. He is the founder of Word Agents. Welcome to the show, Vin.

Vin D’Eletto
Thanks, Chip. Glad to be here.

Chip Griffin
It is great to have you here. And before we jump into the topics at hand, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself?

Vin D’Eletto
Sure. My name is Vin D’Eletto. I’m the owner and operator founder of WordAgents.com. We’re a content creation agency that specializes in SEO optimized articles. So basically, we take your keywords that you want to rank on Google, and we create really good content around them, that gives it the best chance possible to rank on Google. And that’s what we do. We’ve got about 200 American writers on stuff and we’re growing every day.

Chip Griffin
Fantastic. And what drew you to this Why did you decide to start this agency,

Vin D’Eletto
um, I really got into the SEO affiliate world, building content, revenue generating content websites, and that was back in like 2008 2009 and to fund that generation of those websites, I was freelance, a freelance writer. And I quickly just realized how much demand there was for good content. And it just kind of grew organically from there. I started hiring my buddies, and everybody was helping me out writing. And eventually we just formed word agents in 2014. And it’s really hasn’t stopped.

Chip Griffin
That’s great. And writing is one of those things that just about every kind of agency, you can think of whether you’re PR marketing, advertising, digital, everybody needs it these days, and writers are often good writers, at least, are very hard to find. So I’d like to start there. I mean, how do you obviously you started with yourself, but how did you expand that network? How did you recruit people? And how do you make sure that you’ve got the highest quality writers possible?

Vin D’Eletto
Sure. So you know, there’s a delineation between types of content. So you know, old school PR agencies, they know all about branded content. That’s not what we do. We specialize in SEO Content writing for the internet. So there’s a very special way to do that. And we look for very special character traits for those types of writers. In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error. Right? You know, I had I on boarded a bunch of writers that were just not the right fit. But through refinement of our process. We have a down to a science now. And basically what we do is we have all sorts of different outlets where we can obtain freelance writers from whether they’d be classified job boards, we have relationships with universities, and we get honor students from from English departments. Sometimes we actually just see a good blogger that wrote a great article, I might just email them and ask if they’re looking for more work. So it’s from a slew of resources that would that we obtain, I would say the applications themselves and then they enter our hiring system, where we have several levels of hoops to jump through to see how interested they are are actually working for us. And once they get passed through that vetting phase, then they’re in a 90 day probation period to show that they can be consistent in providing the quality that we expect. So it’s really just a giant funnel that we’re putting everybody into. And the ones that come at the bottom are the ones that stay on our team for the long term.

Chip Griffin
I’m sure some of the more of the old timers like me who are listening, you know, when they hear something like, you know, writing for SEO, they think of the old days where it was, you know, content Mills churning out low quality rubbish on low traffic sites that were just there purely to feed links to the search engine. So obviously, that is not what SEO writing is today. So but why don’t why don’t you Why don’t you explain a little bit more clearly what the what SEO writing is and the service that you’re providing where that content goes? Sure.

Vin D’Eletto
Everything you just explained is exactly what I experienced when I joined the digital marketing world back in 2008. You could really just put up anything and you could possibly see success and make lots of money, right? But what what agents does and what SEO content really is, and in today’s environment, you got to write, both for the search engines and for people. So what we say we do is we create human friendly SEO content. Seo content itself has that bad stigma. And we’re trying to get away from that. It’s not going to be as in depth as a branded piece of content where the writer like really knows your company, your voice or style, and it’s going to write in that vein. What we’re doing for SEO content is we’re looking at the keyword you want to rank for. And then we’re going to learn the intent that the searcher that’s using the keyword to find your article has and then we’re going to create the article around that intent. So whether that’s the intent being on what stage they are in the in the sales funnel, or the just the intent of their search are they just learned starting to understand this topic, or do they have some knowledge and are looking to further their education on the topic? So these are questions that we ask ourselves when we’re preparing to write an article. So we can answer the intent of the reader while also optimizing it. So it still ranks well for that for the target keyword.

Chip Griffin
Right. Yeah, that makes sense. And obviously, in the old days, you know, when Google relied, you know, more on, you know, keyword density and things like that. That was sort of what gave birth to these content Mills. And now, as you’ve talked about with intent, I think that’s sort of the key piece, right? Because the Google algorithm and other search engines now focus on are you providing the searcher with the information that they were looking for? Exactly. So yes, you have to think about keywords, but it’s really the quality, right?

Vin D’Eletto
Yeah, it’s all about relevance. Like if you’re not hyper targeting that your article and the information within your article, so it’s 100% relevant to the keyword itself, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and you’re no You’re gonna spend all this money promoting this article, and you’re not really going to get that much traction, because he didn’t do the work ahead of time to address intent and relevance. And that’s good. That’s Google’s whole business model, they need to provide the searcher with the most relevant answer to their question. And as publishers, we need to keep that in mind from from step one.

Chip Griffin
And you mentioned publishing it, you know, is this content that’s generally going on the organization’s website itself? Or is it going on a third party site? Where’s the content that you guys create typically appearing?

Vin D’Eletto
Sure. So basically, branded content is anything that would be news related to the business. Anything else that’s like static content, or content around a keyword is something that an SEO content creator can do for you? Typically, this is your blog. It’s your knowledge base on your website. If you’re an e commerce company, it’ll be your product descriptions and category descriptions. If you’re an SEO affiliate or use affiliate marketing as an income stream, it’ll be those affiliate articles meant to drive revenue through affiliate marketing as well.

Chip Griffin
Now, how do you maintain quality? Right? I’ve managed teams of writers before, and it is challenging because everybody kind of has their strengths and weaknesses and, and every writer has their idiosyncrasies, you know, how do you make sure that you are maintaining the content? What kind of editing do you have? And how, what kind of feedback you’re giving your writers because this is a very complicated process in most cases.

Vin D’Eletto
Sure. Yeah, you’re spot on there. So we have a really kind of it’s pretty tedious quality assurance process, our actual production team, there’s three sets of management eyes on every article after the writer turns in their first draft, and their direct will may return it to them for an initial revision before we deliver it to the client. Just in case if their direct, you know, caught something that was incorrect. After that, it goes through up proofreading phase where we use Grammarly comm to kind of create a baseline for spelling and grammar, because Grammarly comm is is the leading toolset for for grammar, optimization, proofreading on the market right now. So we always guarantee that will score at least 90% or better and Grammarly. We also use a plagiarism tool called copyscape to ensure that our writing is 100% unique, but we will never plagiarize anything or copy paste anything that’s already on the internet. And then after that, we just have standard review periods for writers where we’re constantly reorganizing our weightings of writers. And every time we go through a new hiring session, we typically fire the bottom 10% of our team. And that way, we’re always kind of getting rid of the guys that are no longer up to our expectations. So our team is like this Amoeba that’s always moving and living and changing all The time and and it really requires like 24 seven maintenance.

Chip Griffin
Now, you’ve mentioned a couple of different tools that you use there. But as far as managing the workflow, have you found off the shelf tools that help you manage that workflow? Or have you had to create your own or

Vin D’Eletto
Yeah, we use a tool really slick tool for service providers. It’s called service provider Pro. It’s just a project management slash Help Desk, slash CRM platform that’s built for productize services like word agents, so that those customers customizable project management flow, that we create all the stages in our in our in our pipeline, and it’s pretty much custom to us. So we have that down to a science right now. And we launched on that in April and it’s been very valuable to us and quality a shout out that as a result as well.

Chip Griffin
Well, that’s great. I’m sure that that other folks will want to check that out as well because that is sort of the the the challenge For many agencies is managing these workflows. And yeah, making sure that it took

Vin D’Eletto
me five years to find them and really get it. I went through so many iterations of building my own and using other off the shelf options. This was the closest to my needs, not perfect, but it really propelled us forward once it was implemented.

Chip Griffin
Now, you mentioned the also the writers and the quality checks and all that do you do this? Do you typically have the same writers serve the same client over and over again? Or is it just who’s available at the moment or, you know, other industry specialties? How do you manage that piece of the process?

Vin D’Eletto
For our use case, it’s it’s just the next available writer. We’ve spent a whole year testing out teams of subject matter experts in different verticals. And what we found is, you know, somebody that has a great deal of knowledge on a topic may not be the best writer as well. So you know, we beat our head against the wall trying to build these teams and what we found Going back, you know, generalist writers that are really good at writing for the internet, no SEO, SEO optimization are just as effective as expert level writers.

Chip Griffin
And you what kind of pricing model do you use? Is it per piece is it is a deadline driven how long you have I mean, you talk about your your models that you use,

Vin D’Eletto
it’s actually credit based now, we used to be project based where we would, quote, buy the project, and I just couldn’t scale that way. So now we just have four defined packages at four different price points. The bigger the package, the bigger the volume discount you get, but you’re just purchasing credits. And then you use those credits to order articles. Got your

Chip Griffin
intro, the credits, are they word based? I assume word based.

Vin D’Eletto
Yeah. So basically, you know, our smallest package is for 1000 words and our largest packages for 20,000 words.

Chip Griffin
Gotcha. Okay. And one of the things I do know is that you work with agencies and obviously a lot of listeners most of the listeners of this show Are agency owners or executives? And so, you know, how do you work with agencies? What kind of model do you have? Do they they come to you and say we’ve got a bunch of clients? Is it more on a per project basis? How do you typically work with other agencies?

Vin D’Eletto
most agencies just load up on credits in our system? You know, we don’t provide bilanz for writers or anything like that everything we do is ghost writing. So we don’t really need to launch a white label service, because it’s going to be the same for everybody. But yeah, we have I think something over 20 agencies that are recurring at this point, and all they do is they just buy credits and they place their orders for their clients. And they have all the their content fulfillment done for for a month, each month, every month.

Chip Griffin
And how do you find agencies to work with obviously, you’re an agency yourself, but, you know, typically, there’s a difference in working with agencies versus companies directly. What you know, what have you experienced there, if any differences?

Vin D’Eletto
Yeah, we have a few different marketing vehicles. I think came up in the SEO world a lot in the online forums in the Facebook groups. So I have a little bit of a following in that world. So a lot of the SEO agencies just know about us already. And they just come to come to us as a referral. But for agencies outside of the SEO world, we’re doing a lot of LinkedIn prospecting. We’re doing Facebook advertising. And we’ve got a nice email marketing, funnel setup, target targeting agencies directly. And that’s been successful so far.

Chip Griffin
Now, how has your business evolved over the years that you’ve been in business? You obviously Google is constantly changing its algorithm? I assume you have to be responsive to some degree to that at least. But you know, what, what what other shifts Have you seen in the business over the last few years other than Of course, what’s going on right now around us, which is especially animal Yes.

Vin D’Eletto
So I also own another company. It’s a publishing company where I maintain a bunch of these rights Generating websites. So I walk the talk, I don’t just just sell you this stuff, I actually do this stuff as well. So I’m always personally updating our internal best practices for SEO optimization, just because I know what works right now. But other than that, it’s really just been my growth individually, understanding the business world and really how to operate an agency. I started as a sole Prop, and then I had some buddies helping me out, then we were, you know, a bespoke boutique agency offering project based, and now we’ve kind of reached the next level where we’re a productized service. That’s, that’s very streamlined. And we really know where we exist in the ecosystem. And we really target everybody,

you know, within our environment.

Chip Griffin
And, you know, I jokingly referred to our current environment because if you don’t laugh, your cry How has that impacted the space that you’re in? I mean, Have you seen an increasing demand for content has it? You had the kinds of clients that have been coming to you shifted? You know, what, what kind of insights can I offer, there

Vin D’Eletto
are larger agencies and mid market and enterprise clients, it got a little scary, just because they didn’t know how to address their budget with the pandemic. But as things kind of got less scary, they just they opened up again. So we didn’t take too much of a hit. But we definitely saw an increase in like service phone calls and, and shifts and budgets and plans for 2020. But it kind of seems like everything is starting to normalize again.

Chip Griffin
And as you know, we looked in the rearview mirror, but now let’s look ahead, you know, what, what do you see on the horizon? You know, how do you see your business evolving or the overall SEO content industry evolving? Ah,

Vin D’Eletto
well, fortunately for us, I think a lot of businesses realized that they were deficient in digital marketing. So now as a result of the pandemic, all these Bigger agencies that weren’t doing a whole lot of SEO or content marketing. They’re implementing that because they don’t know how long this pandemic is going on. And some of the real world marketing vehicles may not be as effective, where digital marketing is going to be effective during a pandemic like this. So that’s the biggest change that I saw. As far as the SEO landscape. You know, if Google is just being Google, I don’t think there’s any effects to SEO as a result of the pandemic. It’s just, you know, we’re always fighting with Google. And that’s just something we do every day anyway. So it’s no change that

Chip Griffin
right right. Now, you’ve mentioned that you are you you started out as a freelancer, and it sort of has mushroomed from there. I think that’s an experience that a lot of agency owners have. Most agency owners didn’t come into it saying, Hey, I’m gonna build this great, you know, big enterprise with, you know, 200 team members and all that kind of stuff. You know, what do you wish you had known when got started that you know, today? I mean, what would you go back and tell yourself at the beginning,

Vin D’Eletto
I mean, I had a pretty wild youth growing up and and I didn’t have the best education. So I certainly would have enjoyed a nice MBA in my pocket before I started any business. But I think a lot of people would have wished the same thing. I think the biggest thing is that I learned is that you know, a single deal, whether it’s success, success or failure is not the biggest thing in the world, you’re going to have lots of deals on your plate and whether one one great, you shouldn’t let that you know, grow your head too much and no one was a big failure. You shouldn’t let that discourage you too much. Just Just keep chipping away and you know, the more you chip away, the bigger your book of business will grow. And then you can, you know, rely less on single deals at that point.

Chip Griffin
Now, I like that you had mentioned that you have some publishing site already. Some content sites as well as your agency, because, you know, one of the things that I’m a big advocate of as someone who has started many companies myself is having, you know, places where you can experiment with some of your core services and, and really, as you say, you know, walk the walk. So, you know, what advice would you have for folks who are thinking about, you know, starting a an additional business alongside their agency or, you know, experimenting with some of their services in a different place?

Vin D’Eletto
Sure, I would say, first and foremost, in today’s Google and SEO world, starting something from scratch and boots, and bootstrapping, it is not as easy as it was in 2010. So what I would suggest is if you’re gonna start a side business to kind of test things or to supply your business model to make sure that you’re walking the talk, is trying to buy an existing business and and let them kind of deal with all the headaches of bootstrapping, from scratch. Even if it’s just a small business, you don’t get to spend You know, six figures on it, maybe if it’s been 30 to 50 grand, just so you got over that initial hump, because it really takes a long time to get over those initial stages. And if you want to just use this as a side business to kind of test out your theories and your services, you’re going to do yourself a disservice by kind of just spending a little bit of money to get a semi established business, so you can really just get down to business right away.

Chip Griffin
I think that makes a lot of sense. Well, then this has been really helpful. You’ve offered a lot of practical suggestions for folks, if they want to learn more about you or word agents, where can they go online? Sure.

Vin D’Eletto
You can always reach me at Vincent@wordagents.com by email. You can visit our website, wordagents.com, and I’m also on Twitter @WordAgents.

Chip Griffin
Fantastic and we’ll include links to all of those in the show notes that go along with this episode. I really appreciate your time. here with us Vin again, my guest today has been Vin D’Eletto, the founder of Word Agents.

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Recruiting writers and managing the content creation process On this episode of Chats with Chip, Vin D’Eletto of Word Agents joins the show to discuss his experience building an agency focused on providing writing that drives SEO. The pair discuss lessons for how agencies of all types can better manage the ongoing need for content, including recruiting writers and managing the process to deliver quality results for clients.









Resources



* WordAgents* @WordAgents on Twitter



Transcript



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



Chip GriffinHello, and welcome to the Chats with Chip podcast. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Vin D’Eletto. He is the founder of Word Agents. Welcome to the show, Vin.



Vin D’ElettoThanks, Chip. Glad to be here.



Chip GriffinIt is great to have you here. And before we jump into the topics at hand, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself?



Vin D’ElettoSure. My name is Vin D’Eletto. I’m the owner and operator founder of WordAgents.com. We’re a content creation agency that specializes in SEO optimized articles. So basically, we take your keywords that you want to rank on Google, and we create really good content around them, that gives it the best chance possible to rank on Google. And that’s what we do. We’ve got about 200 American writers on stuff and we’re growing every day.



Chip GriffinFantastic. And what drew you to this Why did you decide to start this agency,



Vin D’Elettoum, I really got into the SEO affiliate world, building content, revenue generating content websites, and that was back in like 2008 2009 and to fund that generation of those websites, I was freelance, a freelance writer. And I quickly just realized how much demand there was for good content. And it just kind of grew organically from there. I started hiring my buddies, and everybody was helping me out writing. And eventually we just formed word agents in 2014. And it’s really hasn’t stopped.



Chip GriffinThat’s great. And writing is one of those things that just about every kind of agency, you can think of whether you’re PR marketing, advertising, digital, everybody needs it these days, and writers are often good writers, at least, are very hard to find. So I’d like to start there. I mean, how do you obviously you started with yourself, but how did you expand that network? How did you recruit people? And how do you make sure that you’ve got the highest quality writers possible?



Vin D’ElettoSure. So you know, there’s a delineation between types of content. So you know, old school PR agencies, they know all about branded content. That’s not what we do. We specialize in SEO Content writing for the internet. So there’s a very special way to do that. And we look for very special character traits for those types of writers. In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error. Right? You know, I had I on boarded a bunch of writers that were just not the right fit. But through refinement of our process. We have a down to a science now. And basically what we do is we have all sorts of different outlets where we can obtain freelance writers from whether they’d be classified job boards, we have relationships with universities, and we get honor students from from English departments. Sometimes we actually just see a good blogger that wrote a great article, I might just email them and ask if they’re looking for more work.]]>
Chip Griffin 20:47
Building successful partnerships between agencies (featuring Jeremy Jackson) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/building-successful-partnerships-between-agencies-featuring-jeremy-jackson/ Tue, 30 Jun 2020 17:00:55 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7116 Paving a two-way street to better collaboration and more profitability.]]>

Chip and Jeremy Jackson of Shift Lab discuss the agency partnership model and how it can be used as a tool for growth. They go over the benefits of partnerships for specialized agencies as a way to compete more effectively for business opportunities.

They also talk about how designers and developers can mesh together on a project, and some of the challenges they’ve faced in the past trying to sync up teams with different backgrounds and perspectives.

 

 Resources

About Jeremy Jackson

As the founder of Shift Lab, Jeremy focuses on projects that couple excellent design and technology, resulting in beautifully-designed digital products for clients as wide-ranging as Google, Comcast, Microsoft and BreastCancer.org. Jeremy has worked in product development, UX, graphic design, and development for the web since the mid-’90s and was previously Director of Technology at Method. Jeremy can be reached at jeremy@shiftlab.ny.

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Jeremy Jackson. He is the founder of Shift Lab. Welcome to the show, Jeremy.

JEREMY: Thanks for having me, Chip.

CHIP: It is great to have you here. And I’m looking forward to an interesting conversation. But before we dive into the topics at hand, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself in shift lab?

JEREMY: Sure. So as you said, I’m the founder of shift lab. We started the company back in 2012. So we’re now kind of entering our ninth year. My personal background is both in technology I started developing for the web in the mid 1990s, and then went to school for graphic design. So you know, I think my kind of niche in this industry is really being able to bring this design and technology focus together into an agency model.

CHIP: And you know, and so that’s one of the things I want to talk about is you know, how you bring those together. And in particular, I know that you partner with a lot of other agencies on projects. And I think it’ll be interesting to explore a bit, just you know how those partnerships work, because a lot of agencies may informally use partnerships, but I think they can be a real growth in capabilities and a tool for agencies to leverage.

JEREMY: Yeah, I mean, that that’s kind of been the model for me and in my thinking, and starting this agency, where, you know, we see this sort of boom, towards this smaller agency model. And with that comes, you know, a large degree of specialization. So, maybe you do only design or maybe you do only development, which is, you know, what shift lab does, and, you know, you need to reach out to partners to extend that specialization and essentially become full service. And that’s really been, you know, very much our model where we we want to create meaningful partnerships with other agencies to extend their capabilities and and work in truly collaborative ways.

CHIP: And did this movement towards partnerships. Is it something that you did strategically or is it something that just sort of came together because You know, someone came to and said, Hey, you know, we do design work and you do some dev work, you know, talk to me a little bit about how that that started to take place for your business.

JEREMY: Sure, part of it was a hypothesis for sure. And and the other part was a bit of strategy where, you know, I was working with a product company called method in New York City. And, you know, I think what made me a good fit for companies like that was that design and development background that came, you know, that I bring to the table. And that really helped me to, like start to figure out like real processes in how designers and developers really should work together. And you know, I think, you know, probably many of us who have built digital products have seen this sort of like butting of heads of designers and developers or you know, things getting flubbed in development phases and handoff and things like that, and, and I was able to really figure out processes for creating real collaborative and iterative processes that i thought that i could take and transfer into an agency of its own, because I felt there would be an appetite for that in the industry. And you know, what I’ve proven over the last eight years. I think that’s true. That, you know, people are tired of kind of just backing up a bit. I mean, I think like, it’s kind of amazing how different have a mentality design and development is, but yet they must exist together to actually be able to launch any.

So, you know,

I really think that there was there was definitely an appetite for, for solving that. And that’s really what the premise of creating the agency was all about.

CHIP: And I would imagine the fact that you have experience with both design and development is particularly helpful. I mean, I’ve run teams of designers and teams of developers and teams that have had both and while they often butt heads, because they have, they have different motivations, shall we say? But they, they share similarities in that they are very creative. in their own way, and they tend to be they have their own ideas, shall we say? Right. So I think that the fact that you’ve got some experience on both sides must help you navigate that. Right?

JEREMY: Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s, I’ve seen over the years, like, you know, designers being like, hey, the developers didn’t really implement this to our vision, like, and kind of, under this guise, that maybe they’re lazy, right. But I actually what I’ve learned over time, is that they literally just don’t see those details, because they haven’t been trained to do so. So you, you know, and then I mean, of course, like, in some cases, yes. You know, designers developers serve different masters. But that’s not the crux of the problem. In my experience, it’s really, you know, creating this culture that, you know, design thinking is critical to creating, you know, a well crafted digital product and also technology and architecture and all that stuff that kind of happens behind the scenes is equally important. So I think it’s kind of like this shared respect and mentality that you bring into that process. And then of course, making sure that you’re building into the time your process to like, make sure that both sides points of view are being heard and having time to respond to that. That’s, that’s, you know, I think we’re really where the rubber meets the road. So, and then I think like my personal background in having, you know, being able to do this right brain left brain thing that I bring into the process, like, you know, gives me a seat at the table with the designers and gives me a seat at the table with the developers and kind of sort of helps me make sure that that that process, the wheels are greased, so to speak, and that the process runs smoothly, and that all that stuff is being accounted for.

CHIP: Right? Well, and the fact of the matter is it the more that you can speak the language of each side and you can understand what’s driving them to where they’re going, that you know, that helps you sort of navigate that and find the best solution to go forward.

JEREMY: Yeah, and simply put, I mean, I I usually just say, Hey, you know,

design in the absence of development is sort of boring. Listen, and the inverse is true, right? And I just kind of leave it at that. And I think both sides like, yeah, we get that. Yeah.

CHIP: Now Now obviously, it’s challenging to work with both sides when it’s all under one roof. But now you’re talking partnerships where you work with design firms. It’s so how do you how do you work that through? Is it just the design for firm drive things? And the developers tend to do more of the implementation? Is it a true partnership? You know, talk to me a little bit about how you work with other agencies.

JEREMY: Yeah, we’ve seen it work every way over the years.

CHIP: Not work some ways, right?

JEREMY: Yeah, sure. Sure. I mean, so I mean,

I think overall, the

the biggest thing that we need alignment when we take on a project is really process because that’s the thing that guarantees the predictability and the quality in the final product, right. So without the process, the wheels really fall off the wagon. And if you go in and you’re trying to force a process and somebody who doesn’t want it, it just doesn’t work. So that’s the main thing that that we look for. When we look for

partnerships with direct with

businesses or with other agencies is making sure that we all understand how we’re going to get there. And the second thing really is, especially in an agency agency model is really understanding what the roles are. You know, what we found doesn’t work is like shared responsibilities with Project Management, right? Or like project management by committee doesn’t work. So you really do need to designate people and make sure that the roles are very clear. And then what I found too, where, you know, maybe we’re being contracted by let’s say, a design firm, who has already been working with a client of just asking directly, hey, what, what role do you want us to serve here? Do you want us to take over all tech conversations? Do you want us to be a silent partner do like, you know, we’ve worked on all of those different models. And I think, you know, the biggest thing is just that transparency and setting up the boundaries and what the roles and responsibilities are from the jump.

CHIP: Yeah. And I think you’ve made a number of good points in there. The process one is important. I think even even when it’s just an agency and a client, a single agency and a single client, your process matters. But certainly once you start bringing multiple agencies into the mix that matters, but I, I really like what you’re saying about roles, because one of the things that I always tell my clients is if you have more than one person in charge, nobody’s in charge. Right? And so you know, you need to just doesn’t matter who you pick to some degree, you just need to pick one person. So that, you know, everybody knows that that’s who you work through on on a particular process.

JEREMY: Yeah, I think

we there are many, I think technical agencies out there that are basically like, Hey, you hire us that we just like we’re chameleon in your process. And I found that that just doesn’t work for us. And one of the reasons it doesn’t work for us is that we typically do pretty complex builds, we’re doing things that are really unique to the businesses and things like that. And then once again, like back the process, it’s like that is the thing that guarantees the outcome. So

you know, making sure that everybody drinks that Kool Aid

Well, the Agile side is super important.

CHIP: Right? Now you talk to about the sort of communication with the client and and how you do it different ways. You know, sometimes it may be where you have direct communication with the client, sometimes you work a little bit more behind the scenes with the other agency. Do you see a difference in how those work? Or can they all work as long as you’ve got a good process in place?

JEREMY: I think they can all work.

I think that for smaller agencies and ones that specialize sometimes we do to get disqualified because it’s a multi agency partnership. So we get disqualified from some opportunities because, you know, sometimes businesses just as they say, like one throat to choke, right, they don’t want to be dealing with the risk of having multiple agencies. I see that becoming less and less of a concern in recent years, but it still does pop up from time to time. So sometimes we are sort of faced with this you know, invisible partnership and and while it could work It sort of ignores the fact of why you brought on a technical agency in the first place, right? And it’s because you don’t have that expertise. So if you’re really trying to pass through these conversations, it, especially when you’re talking about really detailed and technical matters, that you’re not well positioned to, to talk about, it is a little bit of a strange relationship. Um, the ones where we think it really does work best is kind of this triangle where it’s, it’s the technical team, its design agency, and it’s the, you know, the business, the stakeholders, and and we all have to work together in a transparent fashion. And I think, in a certain degree, like all of these groups serve slightly different masters, right. They have different areas of expertise, and they care about different things. But if you’re able to create this culture and working relationship on transparency and communication and accountability, you know, things work really well. And I think that everybody’s needs are well known and You know, you can communicate them clearly and really check all the boxes and make sure that everybody’s happy. And that’s what it’s all about.

CHIP: Now, we’ve talked a bunch about the client service aspect of working with another agency. Let’s talk about the business side of it. Do you? Do you typically have your own contract directly with the client? Does each agency you know, work directly with the client or, you know, just one end up being a sub to the other? How does that work?

JEREMY: It works. Anyway. I mean, we, I don’t even

I would say contracting directly with the business is probably the most common use case. But it is definitely not uncommon for us to contract under an agency and things like that. We’re happy doing either as long as like I said, the parameters are set up for success.

CHIP: Right. And do you the agencies that you partner with? Do you have independent arrangements with them or their referral fees? Do you have your own sort of mutual agreement or is it really just sort of an ad hoc kind of approach to to winning business?

JEREMY: It does. It sort of runs the gamut. We have talked about referral fees over the years with a few agencies, but none of that stuff has really ever come to fruition. In some cases where somebody partners with us, maybe they mark our fees up, we wouldn’t really know. But yeah, I think in most cases, it’s sort of ad hoc. And people come to us most commonly when, again, they have like a really specific business case that they need to solve, where they need to use technology to challenge some, or to solve some scale problem, or unique business challenge that, you know, is, is preventing the growth of the business. So in those cases, I think it’s really our process and the way that we think about things that wins this the work, right, we usually come in and we try to make sure that we’re like, hey, try to make people feel like they can really trust us that by illustrating that we can solve their problem from A to Z. Right? And maybe Making sure that like, hey, these guys have a plan, they know how to approach this. Um, so that’s really what wins this business of more than any other kind of specific arrangement that we have with with any organization.

CHIP: Now, let’s talk a little bit about some of the kinds of projects that you all work on what kind of development work do is it? Is it web sites is an Apps is a web applications, you know, talk a little bit about that, if you could,

JEREMY: sure. It’s all those things. We do plenty of like content, manage websites, and things like that, you know, responsive websites, we do those that was what I might consider a bread and butter projects when we first started and our first few years and then we sort of, you know, scaled up and extended out to far more complex things, e commerce systems, specifically e commerce systems that have very specific logistics challenges. So you know, we work with a bunch of different e commerce stores where you know, there’s drop shipping from all these different locations or things are built already. You know, things like that and and those projects become more about helping that team scale better, right? How do they scale their business and and we’re, we’ve become really adept to it coming into upstart businesses, and helping them look at their business model, and figure out where their scale challenges will be as they grow. And then the idea is to make an MVP type investment, get it out there and then stay ahead of that scale curve. So that they can grow on schedule. That’s been you know, something people reach out to us time and time again for and then we’ve been taking on a lot of, you know, very, very interesting work in the last two or three years. That is more in the healthcare space. So patient, advocacy groups, using machine learning technologies to help patients get better access to, to care by using, you know, some of their medical data or diagnosis, history. To connect them to clinical trials or you know, resources that will help them learn more about a rare disease or what have you. And we’ve been working with genetics lab in Europe to to help them process genomics data, and use machine learning tools to create reports. And you know, to help advance the science in the lab to really get better insights on this huge massive data that they have from from all this genetics, the genetics kits that they’ve sent out,

CHIP: right. Now, let’s talk a little bit about your team. And obviously, most agencies have have experienced change and how they work with their teams in the last few months. I’m not sure why I think things have been pretty quiet in the world around us. But, but let’s talk a little bit about the team. You know, I know you have multiple locations, you know, how is your team set up? You know, how was it set up? I suppose. And then how is it set up today?

JEREMY: Yeah, so you know, we’re about a 20 person team right now. And our headquarters is in New York City. And we opened a second office I would say about four years ago in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So we’re all on the East Coast, we’re all in the same time zone, you know, a couple hours away. And one of the things that we did from the, from the start of the company was we did this remote work Mondays and Fridays, we’ve always done that. So 40% of our time, we’re working remote anyway. And I’d say, between having the two separate offices, and this culture of remote that we’ve had since day one, we’ve really kind of just business as usual, in a lot of ways in terms of our internal working relationship, you know, through the, through this COVID situation, which is, you know, I know a lot of agencies that are now like struggling to deal with the economic damage, right, but also trying to figure out how to work together at the same time, and that that must be really difficult. So I’m grateful that we don’t have to deal with that.

CHIP: So, obviously, the fact that that you were set up that way has has helped in a time like this. But how does with a distributed team and you know, working part time in the office and part time remotely, even before this, how does that work when you’re partnering with other agencies? Have you have you had to? Do you do a lot of in person meetings with the agencies, your partner there? Is that all always been remote?

JEREMY: Yeah, we’ve done we do in person meetings when it’s convenient. I wouldn’t say that it’s a critical aspect to how we work. just illustrate that point, I think, probably 40% of our businesses in Silicon Valley. So you know, I mean, I visit there regularly, but it you know, again, remote is just a huge, huge piece of the puzzle in terms of how we work in general.

CHIP: And so do you have, I would imagine you use a lot of collaboration tools to make sure that you and the other agencies are staying on track, do you? I mean, does it one of those things where you have one project management tool that everybody kind of shares, do you does each agency have their own and then you see In meetings, you know, talk a little bit about sort of the mechanics of x. I know a lot of folks are, are always interested in trying to figure out the best approach to project management. When they’re working with others.

JEREMY: Yeah, we have a suite of tools that we use, you know, a lot of the usual suspects. I don’t know that anyone has any project management tools. We’re like, Hey, I love this. But like,

CHIP: but you just have ones that you hate less, right? That’s the one that you pick.

JEREMY: The pick your poison scenario, right? I mean, we use Usual Suspects zoom Slack,

right, just for day to day, femoral communications,

right. And

for decision documentation, things like that. We use Confluence for, you know, managing our development process, we use JIRA. And then, for client communications, we often use Basecamp. Just as a replacement for email to make sure that people aren’t getting left off of, you know, cc lists or anything like that. That makes sure that everybody has equal access to all the information. Right now. We have a an easily searchable record.

are, you know, any of that

CHIP: stuff? So find the most current version if you’re using Basecamp versus email where it’s like, what was it the June 10 email or the June 6, email was the most recent?

JEREMY: Yeah, it’s like, you know, with all this stuff, and in anything, I mean, even a project with just a modest level of complexity, it’s really hard to build it. And there’s just a lot of conversations and a lot of decisions that need to be made to get it out in the world. And I think I have a pretty good memory, but like, it really tests you, when you’re, when you’re getting in, you’re like, Hey, I remember having this conversation three months ago, but what was the outcome? You need to have a place to search for that and make sure these conversations just don’t die? Or you just wind up having the same conversations over and over again,

CHIP: right. Now at this point? Are you have sort of a suite of other agencies that you typically work with? Are you consistently adding to the roster? Are you are you out actively looking for more agencies to partner with?

JEREMY: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. We, I think it’s really fun to find new agencies to work with and it’s, I mean, it’s challenging to to you To create working relationships with people, we have many agencies that we just partner with over and over and over again. And one thing that I think is really interesting just about the industries, like the difference between the design and the development industries, is that, you know, the relationships are totally different, right? Like, like a design agency would become in may come in and be asked to solve a problem. And once that problem is solved visually, their involvement kind of fizzles out, right, at least at least from a full time perspective. Sure. But the timeline on a on a technical relationship is much longer. So in that regard, I think it makes sense to have you know, two different business models for and keep them separate if you don’t want to become a full service agency. And so sometimes what might happen as an agency comes to us and we contract through them and then for the longer term effort or maintenance or you know, whatever, then the contract may shift over to us and then the relationship might be like, Okay, well, they have a designer To ask, we go back to the agency, and then we pull them into our contract. So it’s really symbiotic relationship for a lot of agencies we work with, and I think that we found a way to really make it work very well. On both sides of the table.

CHIP: I think you make a great point there about, you know, how technical relationships, you know, tended to be more ongoing, particularly these days. I mean, I was involved with development work 25 years ago, and it was very different in the late 90s, where you would typically build something and then you know, sort of it’s fire and forget almost, but now, a lot more of the development work is ongoing, because expectations from users or clients, or the companies that agencies are working for, just expect to continue to evolve the product over time.

JEREMY: Yeah, and I think we look at like, you know, over the past 20 years of web work in agencies and things like that. You see this. This kind of boutique agencies small specialized agency model is kind of born out of this idea of, you know, these, these, many early agencies were design firms. And then, you know, the web came, and they started trying to become full service. And they needed to hire way more developers than they had designers. Right, right to fulfill that work. And then all of a sudden, they’re a tech company, but they never wanted to be. And so I think, again, the specialization that we’re seeing makes a lot of sense in that regard to where when, and then you look at the difference in the business models and and, you know, the areas of expertise that you need and the leadership that you need to support a full service team like that. It’s a it’s a much different thing than what the original vision was for the for the company.

CHIP: And as we look to bring this conversation to a close, you know, one of the things I think would be interesting to hear from you is, what are the characteristics of a good agency partnership, you know, so when you’re when you’re looking at someone to partner with, or someone comes to you proposing a partnership, how do you how do you evaluate them? What things are you willing Looking for in those other agencies to know that it’s going to be a good relationship?

JEREMY: Yeah, for me just to boil everything down for me starting shift lab was just simply about doing good work with good people. And, and that I try to, you know, really make that continuous part of our ethos year in and year out. And, and so what we want to do is just build beautiful products, and we want to partner with people who are very talented. I think as a company we love really good conceptual design. And so if there is an agency out there that is doing that type of work, like we want to know you. So that is kind of the main thing is like, okay, like, Are we going to get to build something interesting with this group? And if the answer is yes, we’re eager to explore it and then you know, all the things that I talked about from process and things like that earlier, totally apply, right, those are, those are follow up parts of that conversation to make sure that there’s a good healthy fit You know, because these the collaborations and healthy collaboration doesn’t happen by accident. It really needs fix. It takes a village.

CHIP: Thanks work. Absolutely. Well, great. Jeremy, this has been a great conversation. If someone wants to learn more about you, or shift lab, where should they go online?

JEREMY: Well, we get started our website, Shiftlab.co.

We post work and, you know, industry thoughts and happenings. And we’ve been doing this talk to a leader series where we do q&a with interesting people. And, you know, there’s links to all our social media on our website, so the great place to start.

CHIP: Fantastic. Well, great. I really appreciate your time. You’ve had some great insights for agency leaders. Again, my guest today has been Jeremy Jackson, the founder of shift lab.

JEREMY: Thanks, Chip. Thanks for having me.

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Paving a two-way street to better collaboration and more profitability. They also talk about how designers and developers can mesh together on a project, and some of the challenges they’ve faced in the past trying to sync up teams with different backgrounds and perspectives.
 



 Resources

* Connect with Jeremy on Linkedin and Twitter
* Shift Lab website

About Jeremy Jackson
As the founder of Shift Lab, Jeremy focuses on projects that couple excellent design and technology, resulting in beautifully-designed digital products for clients as wide-ranging as Google, Comcast, Microsoft and BreastCancer.org. Jeremy has worked in product development, UX, graphic design, and development for the web since the mid-’90s and was previously Director of Technology at Method. Jeremy can be reached at jeremy@shiftlab.ny.
Transcript
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Jeremy Jackson. He is the founder of Shift Lab. Welcome to the show, Jeremy.
JEREMY: Thanks for having me, Chip.
CHIP: It is great to have you here. And I’m looking forward to an interesting conversation. But before we dive into the topics at hand, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself in shift lab?
JEREMY: Sure. So as you said, I’m the founder of shift lab. We started the company back in 2012. So we’re now kind of entering our ninth year. My personal background is both in technology I started developing for the web in the mid 1990s, and then went to school for graphic design. So you know, I think my kind of niche in this industry is really being able to bring this design and technology focus together into an agency model.
CHIP: And you know, and so that’s one of the things I want to talk about is you know, how you bring those together. And in particular, I know that you partner with a lot of other agencies on projects. And I think it’ll be interesting to explore a bit, just you know how those partnerships work, because a lot of agencies may informally use partnerships, but I think they can be a real growth in capabilities and a tool for agencies to leverage.
JEREMY: Yeah, I mean, that that’s kind of been the model for me and in my thinking, and starting this agency, where, you know, we see this sort of boom, towards this smaller agency model. And with that comes, you know, a large degree of specialization. So, maybe you do only design or maybe you do only development, which is, you know, what shift lab does, and, you know, you need to reach out to partners to extend that specialization and essentially become full service. And that’s really been, you know, very much our model where we we want to create meaningful partnerships with other agencies to extend their capabilities and and work in truly collaborative ways.
CHIP: And did this movement towards partnerships. Is it something that you did strategically or is i...]]>
Chip Griffin 25:36
Getting agency business development right (featuring Dan Englander) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/getting-agency-business-development-right-featuring-dan-englander/ Tue, 23 Jun 2020 16:12:06 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7097 Dan EnglanderPractical advice to help you grow your agency in challenging times]]> Dan Englander

On this week’s episode, Dan Englander of Sales Schema joins Chip to talk about approaches to business development that are working for agencies today. The pair discuss what’s working, what has changed, and what lies ahead.

Resources

About Dan Englander

Dan Englander is the CEO and Founder of Sales Schema, a fractional new business team for marketing agencies, and he hosts The Digital Agency Growth Podcast. Previously Dan was the first employee head of new business at IdeaRocket, and before that, Account Coordinator at DXagency. He’s the author of Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint. In his spare time, he enjoys developing new aches and pains via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Dan Englander. He is the founder and CEO of Sales Schema. Welcome to the show, Dan.

DAN: Thanks, Chip. Appreciate it. It is

CHIP: great to have you here. And I think the topic that we’re about to discuss is one that’s on the minds of many agency owners. Because whether you’ve been negatively impacted by what’s going on currently or positively impacted, or it’s still the status quo, you probably are out there looking for new business. And that really is your area of expertise. So before we dive into that, Dan, why don’t you go ahead and share a little bit about yourself?

DAN: Yeah, of course, Dan Englander again, and I’m CEO and Founder and Sales Schema. My background is in the agency space, kind of first working on the account side for a boutique social media agency in New York and I was basically like an accounts ground like I would just pitch stuff all day that most most of it was rejected. I worked on like monster cable and big 10 network and Marc Ecko and companies like that and then moved on to Basically a new business role in the animation studio and other creative services. And we were selling into selling into enterprise. And I was in a split sort of, you know, the classic split client service sales role. And I didn’t really like identify as being in sales, I thought it was dirty, and I didn’t like take pride in it. And eventually, my boss, who I was pretty close with was like, do you want do you want training? You want to figure this out? And I was like, yeah, this is kind of a big part of my income and the future of this business. I should probably figure this out. So we got training. got really good. I mean, I got decent at it. I got lots of calls and learned a lot. I tried everything under the sun eventually, you know, not just for me, but we had a really strong offering and animation we did well, you know, grew from essentially zero to seven figures, eventually 116, fortune 500 and all sorts of other braggy stuff. And then, you know, I took that Tim Ferriss red pill. You know, when traveled Asia I self published some books, got some consulting clients and eventually, you know, focused on the agency space because that’s what I knew. And because Came what we are now, which is sales schema. And in a nutshell, we’re a fractional new business team exclusively for boutique agencies, which is a fancy way of saying, we get meetings for our clients, we keep the pipeline full. And our philosophy is that it’s better done through a fractional team as opposed to having to hire and train somebody in a skill set that our clients don’t always know, in in so far as getting beyond the kind of feast and famine dynamics of relying on referrals and personal networks alone. So that’s, that’s kind of where we are now.

CHIP: Right. And I think that’s a it’s a great jumping off point for the conversation because most agency owners didn’t come to it from the perspective of saying, hey, I want to be a salesperson. Anytime you own a business and particularly a professional services business as the owner, it’s kind of your job to be out there constantly prospecting and closing business. So you know, as you are thinking about how to do that effectively, obviously one solution is that you are doing it in the way that you’re doing or you’re doing it fractionally which I think makes a ton of sense, because if you’re an agency owner who has no aptitude or interest in sales, you still need to get it done. And as you say hiring is a real challenge. But if I’m, if I’m sort of, you know, running my own agency, and I want to be thinking about doing sales for myself, because even even in our fracture world and agency still need to be involved, right? I mean, you don’t, you don’t come in and completely supplant all of the sales activity, I assume, right. Must be working with the owners.

DAN: Correct? Yeah. And I think that’s a really good point that, that we encounter, you know, relatively often where we get you know, an owner or like a creative and they’re looking to offload sales because they hate it. They hate the rejection, they hit the work, and I get it, it can be tough, but it’s pretty it’s like the Peter teal line, like look around you. Do you see salespeople? If not, then you’re the salesperson sort of situation like, you know, the process of selling a complex service in the agency space is pretty much an in house thing like that’s, I’m not going to say never, but it’d be very difficult to do that through an outsource. model, you know, it’s going to take somebody really getting to know your offer getting trained on it. Oral philosophy, those that the top parts of the pipeline, teeing up stuff is probably not best done by the person who needs to be building relationships, creating proposals, and that sort of thing. It’s better done through division of duties. So that’s where we come in. And I think that, you know, a lot of a lot of the times our clients are, are thinking of it the same way, but they’re kind of like trying to hire the driver before they have the car. So they’re going from, alright, I’ve gotten all the business for years on end from referrals. And now I’m going to hire a salesperson to go out and get business and hire them, push them off into the cold and often doesn’t work, you know, as opposed to kind of building the machine first and getting used to just, you know, having a system that’s getting those relationships built or teed up to plug somebody into so that’s kind of kind of how we like to think about it.

CHIP: So let’s talk about the the way that you work with agencies is your focus primarily appointment setting, do you take people further down the funnel of a mat, you know, talk a little bit bit about how you fit into the puzzle.

DAN: Yeah, for sure. So yes, our main focus is appointment setting, and basically living linear clients know what we’re seeing in the market and then building, you know, building that strategically, I think the thing that’s changed since we started the business is that it’s moving much more towards specialization, both for our clients and in terms of how we do the process and less and less automation. So there used to be a time where you think you really could just buy a list and play a numbers game and then spit out leads from it, I think those days are, are long overdue for a lot of different reasons that I can go into. So it takes us you know, really having to be more of an extension of our clients teams to understand new stuff they’re doing, which is kind of like the fuel for the outreach we’re doing. Understand the market, which we’re good at, because you know, we only focus on marketing leaders in the agency space, and so on. So that’s the main thing like in addition to that, a lot of what we’re doing is honestly an exchange of what we’re doing right now is getting our clients plugged into the right audiences. So getting them on podcast publications, and our whole thing is like, it’s just such an untapped opportunity. Because there’s, there’s so many entities that have done all the hard work to build audiences. And very few agencies are doing the work to get on these places, you see lots of authors and consultants and gurus like me and you right, like, like blabbering. But but not as many of the people that are actually doing really compelling work. And I think that there’s a lot of just head trash that’s, you know, pervading the agency space where they’re like, well, I can’t tell the story. It’s proprietary, and like, you could tell a version of the story or, you know, whatever, you know, just, I’m not used to it. I don’t feel like it or whatever the the excuses, but that’s our whole thing is that you might as well start by plugging into the right audience. So we also do a lot of training and support around regeneration. That’s that’s kind of what we’re thinking about.

CHIP: Yeah, I think that makes sense. And, you know, one of the things I’ve noticed with agency owners I’m curious if you see it the same way, which is that You know, whenever you start talking about sales to them, they immediately start thinking cold calling. Right? That’s that seems to be like the instinctive response, ah, cold calling. I don’t want to do it. But what you’ve said is that there really is a lot more to sales than that. Right. It’s, it’s about, you know, getting out there being in the right places. Yeah. You’re demonstrating, you know, thought leadership and expertise and all so there’s a lot of different pieces to the puzzle.

DAN: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think that Yeah, again, people’s first thought is Glengarry Glen Ross, like some sort of boiler room where you’re just kidding, you know, dialing for dollars and getting rejected all day. And I think the way that outreach is moving is kind of becoming more like a digital networking sort of dynamic, right? So, okay, you might not know the person you’re reaching out to, but if you’re specialized, you know, you probably know people they know, you probably are referencing work in their field reaching out to CPG. you’re referencing work you’ve done in CPG referencing details that show that you’ve done a little bit of homework, and now like this This thing that you’re asking for this call, I guess it’s cold and that you don’t know them. But it’s not that cold, cold, it’s pretty worn at that point. So, it’s not easy to do that. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It takes work, it takes a strategy it takes optimizing it to get to the point of being able to do this at relative scale. And that’s, that’s a lot of what we’re doing. But I think that, you know, I think people have fears of like, if we do this wrong, we’re gonna destroy our brand forever with the people reaching out to you. And I just haven’t seen that happen yet. Like, with with the campaigns we do, and I’ve definitely seen bad cold emails, as we all have. But I haven’t seen those fears get realized with my own eyes yet so. Right.

CHIP: And I think, you know, one of the things that I’m hearing from you too, is that, you know, you need to be thoughtful about how you’re going into these conversations. It’s not calling someone up and saying, hey, let’s get married, you know, become my client that you know, it’s, it’s really thinking about, you know, that networking element, how can you find ways to work with them and Sort of begin to build the relationship.

DAN: Yeah, exactly. And just to get, you know, maybe maybe more lofty or philosophical and I go on a tangent, I’ve been thinking a lot about what marketing is, is ethical, right? where somebody I was reading a slate star Codex and Scott Alexander, which is a great a great blog, and he made he was making a point against paywalls on news articles, right? It really clicked Beatty headlines, and the whole the whole the whole like, first principle was, you know, in a capitalist system, you you put out, you put you put stuff out there and you say, here it is, you want to buy it or not, but in a clickbait situation, somebody is exposed to something that they may or that they didn’t even go into that day knowing that they want it they’ve created a need for something and pulled somebody into that. So so I was in total agreement with this dynamic because it’s it’s like does that ethical does that work? And then I started thinking about it and I’m like, what, what sort of effective marketing doesn’t involve some sort of interruption there really isn’t much there, as opposed to organic referrals. That’s the only thing really, and those are great. But you know, obviously, that’s not enough to sustain almost any business aside from Apple and dynamic companies, even those companies have to market to an apples interrupting me with a billboard or an ad or whatever it might be. So, you know, I’m not sure like, I’m not sure what the rules are, what they should be, I tend to think that if you’re making a targeted list of about 100 people, and you’re doing your homework on them, and your contact, asking them through email, or phone or LinkedIn or whatever, that’s a whole hell of a lot more ethical than what programmatic advertising is doing right now. Does that make it? Okay? I don’t know. You know, I don’t know what the rules should be. I know what the rules literally are, legally, but then we’re obviously always in compliance with that. But I think a lot about this, you know, in terms of how we should operate as marketers and what’s okay and what’s not and, you know, sort of evolving question, I guess.

CHIP: No, I think you’re absolutely right. And it is, I mean, obviously, you know, in the agency space, agency owners are already thinking about that in terms of what they’re doing on behalf of their own clients. But I think it’s just as important that they think about it on behalf of themselves and where and how they are doing, you know, their marketing, their sales, their outreach, their networking, and, and it’s, it is certainly an evolving area. So I it’s, it is something I think more folks need to give thought to.

DAN: Yeah, yeah. And I don’t know. Yeah, again, what the right answers are, but we’re, I mean, for us, you know, in response to, to all this crisis, what was what it sort of compelled us to do is move more towards more targeted campaigns, and it sort of just accelerated trends that were already in motion for us, I would say. So, you know, we’re doing research on companies for a lot more research than we used to do. Like, we don’t want to be contacting companies that are laying off a bunch of people if we are if we are contacting them, we’re doing it in a bunch of different way, right? And, and so on. So that’s kind of how we’re thinking about it.

CHIP: But it’s it’s I think it’s particularly challenging right now. Because, you know, in some respects, you do have to be careful that you’re not taking advantage of companies that are having problems. But at the same time, agencies have a lot of valuable solutions that that can be beneficial to businesses that are struggling right now. And so trying to find that delicate balance of, of offering something that’s useful to them, and that they may be looking for, while not looking like you’re taking advantage of, of their difficulties.

DAN: Exactly. And we’re, you know, I sometimes feel like we’re a little bit like radio operators in a war, like, we get lots of chatter, and we have to kind of make sense of it. Because we’re not we don’t get the whole picture ever. I don’t know if anybody does, but that’s, that’s what we’re seeing a lot of is there’s things that have surprised us, and you know, like, we had a client in the event space, and we got the meetings with hp, Google, Microsoft, I want to say Lenovo, you know, one to two week period, and this was you know, in person events and that’s because it’s not like these cards, are saying, okay, we’re just going to cut off all in person events forever, they’re like, we need to find a way to replace this with something else, you know, be digital be at some way to think about this. So there they are looking for people that understand those dynamics. And, you know, just because a company for example, focused on in person events, they still It doesn’t matter if it’s digital, it’s still humans, right? It’s still the same, the same cues, the same sort of understanding about what’s compelling and what’s not. So, you know, I think even the places that are seemingly wiped out or hurt, at least on that from the outside looking in, or actually might be the best place to help to Rubicon who you might know as well was talking about his his clients that are focusing on restaurants are actually like their phones are ringing off the hook, you know, there’s, there’s more places for them to help so I don’t know if you know, I don’t want that to be like a glass half full platitude because I do think that it’s really tough but I do think that this is a horse that dead horse are always beating, but the agencies that are specialized are the ones that are receiving when right now, I’m not sure if or when that dynamics can change.

CHIP: Yeah. Well, let’s let’s tuck into that a bit, because you’ve mentioned mentioned specialization a few times now, and I agree with you that I think that is important. And there are different kinds of specialization that agencies can do, right. So you can specialize in terms of the services you’re offering. You can specialize in terms of geography, you can specialize in terms of industry verticals, you know, what are you seeing, as far as the most successful country? Do you really need to kind of have a mix of all three of those or more?

DAN: Yeah, it’s a good question. And I think it’s easier to figure out, you know, what, what doesn’t work and to figure out every way it could work, and I used to work let’s talk about that. Yeah, I think what doesn’t work is the day trader approach where people are like, okay, what’s hot right now, you know, what’s what can I sell it to you right now.

CHIP: And there’s a ton of that right now. Right? I mean, if your client base is anything like mine, there are a lot of folks who are saying, you know, what, what should we be pivoting to? What industry should we be focusing on there? You know, that are resilient. Right now or that need help? And that’s, that’s a mistake in my mind.

DAN: Exactly. Because it’s like, if you’re asking that question now you’re way too late, you know. So I think the best starting place is to look at where you can be useful, as opposed to what kind of work do you want to do? We hear that a lot, too, where it’s like, you know, we want to work on stuff we’re passionate about, like, we want to work on stuff that gets us up in the morning. I’m like, Yeah, I get that. That’s, that’s great. But that’s not how markets work. markets work in terms of usefulness, right. And hopefully, you can start with the usefulness and then work backwards and become passionate about helping people, you know, be useful to people. So I think that that’s, that tends to be a mistake. So that’s the main thing and you know, I used to frame this in terms of niching. And I think specialization is a better way to think about it because there are exceptions. You know, there’s there’s a social a social media agency that we were talking to maybe a couple months ago, and they work all across the whole consumer sphere, but they They have worked with so many humongous brands right and done really incredible work and have incredible case studies that they can flex a little bit more and kind of get away with it and work with a wider breadth of people but that’s not most agencies. I think most agencies the clearest cut ways by some version of verticalized. And that might not be saying, okay, we only work with CBG might be saying, we work with Drew McClellan causes connective tissue, which I think is a great way to think about this like, might be healthcare and, and banking and high compliance areas or something like that. It might be a through line between a few different areas. But then, but then from there, like we talked to agencies that have that, but then they’re afraid to flaunt it, you go to their site, and it looks like just a Noah’s ark of work. So I think, you know, it does take the risk and the courage to put up that shingle to say, this is what we do. And I think that that’s the next step that people need to take now.

CHIP: Yeah, yeah. And I agree. I mean, I think that you You need to be very clear about what it is that you do. And I agree with Drew about the connective tissue concept. You don’t want to be doing, you know, three different targets that are completely unrelated because then it becomes very difficult to tell your story. And in fact, I was I just had this with an agency that I was talking to recently, and I went to their website, I actually, I thought they had been hacked. Because on the there was an item on their their pulldown menu on their website that just seemed like it was out of left field and had nothing to do with the rest of what they were doing. And so I talked to the agency owner, and he said, he said, No, no, no, that’s just one of our areas of specialties. I’m like, Well, it looks like someone hacked your site, because it’s so far afield from everything else that’s there. Yeah. Yeah. So you need to be able to tell that story in a consistent way.

DAN: Yeah. And that’s, I get that like, as you know, the guy running running a company. It’s really easy to have a whim one morning and just throw a grenade of chaos and your agency. got this idea. We should make masks now. You know,

CHIP: frankly, most of us as business owners have done that at one point or another, and so I will fess up to that I have done it. And my apologies to all of my former staff members

DAN: probably done it this hour, you know,

I get it, I get it. But But yeah, it’s it helps to have somebody that’s like, what are you doing right now?

CHIP: Now, the one interesting thing that that you said was, you know, that that you didn’t, the agency owners who said, You know, I want to do something I’m passionate about that, that sort of conflicted with, you know, finding the right markets to be in and I want to dig a little deeper on that because I’m, I’m personally of the view that you need to kind of have both you need to have a market that works. But you need to have something that you are passionate about. Because if you if you hate what you’re doing every day, even if you’re generating revenue doing it that’s not sustainable. So I’m, I’m curious to dig a little bit deeper on that and, and understand more about, you know, what you’ve seen with the clients you’ve been working with?

DAN: Yeah, I think that’s really fair. I think it might be an order of operations thing, you know, so I don’t think it’s it’s mutually exclusive. Passion, I do think you’re right. If you hate it, it’s definitely not going to be sustainable. But then there’s different decision trees or decision limbs, right? So so maybe that means you paid it, you’re hiring somebody to do it that doesn’t hate it, or you’re selling your agency or whatever, but right, you know, Nothing happens without you fitting in, like a puzzle piece into into the market and being useful. And so that’s, that’s kind of how, how I would think about it. And I think that, you know, it could be that there’s ways that you can go deeper into the same market or whatever, it doesn’t have to be verticalizing could be with technology that you’re serving a wider market, but doing something more specific for them. But But I think that that what we’re seeing to work is like you know, if you are if you are specializing, maybe you can innovate more with what you’re doing for those clients, right and do and do more of what does interest you are what you think you what you think would be helpful, just as long as you have you’re hedging your bets, so might be that a percent of your work is this specialty stuff that pays the bills, and then you have a skunkworks project. That’s the real the stuff that gets you up in the morning. And then if that happens to work and pays the bills, too, then you’re in even a better place. Right? So that’s kind of how I, one, you know, mental model for

CHIP: approaching it. Yeah, I mean, I sort of with my clients, I try to think of it as sort of a Venn diagram where you have, you know, a circle for passion, a circle for expertise in a circle, a circle for marketability. And so it’s where those three intersect you if you give up on any one of those three, and I’ve seen it you know, someone you know that someone’s really passionate about a certain industry, but they’re not interested in the services or they’re passionate about an industry but they don’t have the expertise to deliver what they’re, they’re trying to deliver. You know, you need to have all three of those. Yeah, any lack of any one of them is going to cause it to fail.

DAN: Yeah, I agree. Mostly, I just think that maybe the passion bubbles a little bit should be a little bit smaller than the others because the password bubble will should should work on its own if the others are there. It tends to work on its own. And if the others are there, you know, so that’s that’s part of it. Yep.

CHIP: Fair enough. So, I mean, let’s say that I’m a typical agency owner, and, you know, my business has been getting by on random referrals over the past, you know, number of years and, and now I’m sitting there saying, Okay, I need to put together a proper sales program, you know, what are the first steps that I should be thinking about to build a real sales operation as opposed to just, you know, whatever phone rings? I answer it?

DAN: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think it’s, it’s all about specificity. Right. So that’s the first thing is thinking about the who and moving from first person to second person. So a lot of agencies tend to be, you know, frankly, self absorbed. And I get that, you know, like, that’s, that’s kind of the way these services were sold for so long was sort of this pick me sort of way. But I think that that has to change. And a lot of it is like, you know, I’ve just I just did a group training with a bunch of agency owners and a lot of The stuff that we’re moving towards was, you know, using getting names and faces in front of you, when you’re coming up with these campaigns, regardless of what you’re doing without getting into the nitty gritty, it could be whatever outbound inbound, writing a blog post, writing a cold email, whatever it is, but actually having the names and faces of the people you want to talk to you in front of you, their industries, their titles, what they’re doing, so that you can figure out, you know, who you’re reaching out to, and what you’re up against. And I think that the source of those names or faces, it’s best to start with where you again, where you’re most useful, where you have the strongest case studies and that sort of thing. So from there, I could go way further into the into the forest of building a sales strategy. I think that’s probably the best starting starting place. Yeah.

CHIP: Well, this has been a great conversation. I think you you shared a lot of good tips for folks and, you know, hopefully things that they can start to use to, to work to improve their own sales operations or start their their sales operation if they’re at that mode with it. Their business. But if someone’s interested in in more resources, learning more about sales schema, where should they go?

DAN: Yeah, for sure. So we just did a webinar that is to put up there for people. It’s called, basically how to sell agency services and uncertain times, which, frankly, I know is a little bit of a click Beatty title. Because I was getting kind of sick of the uncertain times things because, frankly, times have always been uncertain. But, but anyway, that’s what we called it because we can’t help ourselves. And we

CHIP: call it something. Because I’m in the same position. You were, you know, you call it the current crisis. Do you refer directly to COVID-19? You refer. I mean, it’s just it gets very confused, but you need to have something so I say to people just get over it.

DAN: Yeah, exactly. But but in short, it’s kind of like what, how we’ve how we’ve approved about approaching campaigns over the last six weeks and how we’re planning on moving them so it’s all about you know how to set up cold email, how to do outreach, do planning. So that’s a sales schema.com slash crisis. prospecting, one word, basically.

CHIP: Simple enough. Well, Dan, this has been this has been very helpful. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to share with the audience. And again, my guest today has been Dan Englander, the founder and CEO of Sales Schema.

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Practical advice to help you grow your agency in challenging times


Resources

* Connect with Dan on LinkedIn
* Sales Schema website
* Sales Schema on Facebook

About Dan Englander
Dan Englander is the CEO and Founder of Sales Schema, a fractional new business team for marketing agencies, and he hosts The Digital Agency Growth Podcast. Previously Dan was the first employee head of new business at IdeaRocket, and before that, Account Coordinator at DXagency. He’s the author of Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint. In his spare time, he enjoys developing new aches and pains via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Transcript
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Dan Englander. He is the founder and CEO of Sales Schema. Welcome to the show, Dan.
DAN: Thanks, Chip. Appreciate it. It is
CHIP: great to have you here. And I think the topic that we’re about to discuss is one that’s on the minds of many agency owners. Because whether you’ve been negatively impacted by what’s going on currently or positively impacted, or it’s still the status quo, you probably are out there looking for new business. And that really is your area of expertise. So before we dive into that, Dan, why don’t you go ahead and share a little bit about yourself?
DAN: Yeah, of course, Dan Englander again, and I’m CEO and Founder and Sales Schema. My background is in the agency space, kind of first working on the account side for a boutique social media agency in New York and I was basically like an accounts ground like I would just pitch stuff all day that most most of it was rejected. I worked on like monster cable and big 10 network and Marc Ecko and companies like that and then moved on to Basically a new business role in the animation studio and other creative services. And we were selling into selling into enterprise. And I was in a split sort of, you know, the classic split client service sales role. And I didn’t really like identify as being in sales, I thought it was dirty, and I didn’t like take pride in it. And eventually, my boss, who I was pretty close with was like, do you want do you want training? You want to figure this out? And I was like, yeah, this is kind of a big part of my income and the future of this business. I should probably figure this out. So we got training. got really good. I mean, I got decent at it. I got lots of calls and learned a lot. I tried everything under the sun eventually, you know, not just for me, but we had a really strong offering and animation we did well, you know, grew from essentially zero to seven figures, eventually 116, fortune 500 and all sorts of other braggy stuff. And then, you know, I took that Tim Ferriss red pill. You know, when traveled Asia I self published some books, got some consulting clients and eventually, you know, focused on the agency space because that’s what I knew. And because Came what we are now, which is sales schema. And in a nutshell, we’re a fractional new business team exclusively for boutique agencies, which is a fancy way of saying, we get meetings for our clients, we keep the pipeline full. And our philosophy is that it’s better done through a fractional team as opposed to having to hire and train somebody in a skill set that our clients don’t always know, in in so far as getting beyond the kind of fea...]]>
Chip Griffin 24:59
How agencies can use LinkedIn ads to grow their businesses (featuring Anthony Blatner) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/how-agencies-can-use-linkedin-ads-to-grow-their-businesses-featuring-anthony-blatner/ Tue, 09 Jun 2020 14:13:17 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7075 Anthony Blatner - LinkedIn advertisingTips to find and engage with prospects on the largest B2B social networking platform]]> Anthony Blatner - LinkedIn advertising

In this conversation, Anthony Blatner of Modern Media explains how agencies can use advertising on LinkedIn to grow their businesses. Anthony offers practical tips on how agencies should think about LinkedIn advertising from the perspective of building a pipeline of prospects and increasing revenue.

Resources

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Anthony Blatner. He is the founder of Modern Media. Welcome to the show, Anthony.

ANTHONY: Hey, Chip. Thanks for having me.

CHIP: It is great to have you here. And I guess before we get started, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself and modern media?

ANTHONY: Sure. So me in modern media, we specialize in LinkedIn advertising and b2b lead generation. Through the years, we’ve not in my career, I’ve done a whole lot of different marketing. And I kind of come at it from the software and tech world, where I got started helping build software and build apps. And naturally seem that those apps after you launched it, they needed marketing, so we got pulled into that direction afterwards. I can talk more about a lot more about that, but that’s what got me into the marketing world and then doing various forms of marketing. With my background, it always ended up being b2b and Like, more enterprise tech, so just find me on LinkedIn over and over again with the best platform for a lot of projects.

The last few years, we’ve solely focused on LinkedIn advertising.

CHIP: And so LinkedIn obviously, I think most listeners to this show will have accounts on LinkedIn. Some of them probably use it quite actively, some of them probably set it up and forgot about it. Maybe they’ve maybe this is even a good reminder to go back and at least update your personal information on it if you haven’t, at least done that recently. But, you know, how should if I’m an agency leader, how should I be thinking about LinkedIn? For my business? I mean, is it something that could help me grow my business?

ANTHONY: I yeah, yeah. So so I’m, yeah, I’m sure most people have an organ account. And if you are the average person you probably haven’t used at a time. But LinkedIn is becoming even more popular, especially right now because we’re all kind of forced online with all quarantines and COVID right now. activity on LinkedIn is through the roof. Our rep gave us a graphic that’s like over 2,000%, which is, you know, well, yeah,

CHIP: I can sense just by looking at my own account and the feed that there is a lot more activity. But that’s, that’s an interesting statistic.

ANTHONY: Yeah. So so we can dive into that, like ad performance is really improved, because it’s an auction. So Facebook is for the more eyeballs less, more cheaper the ad cost is, but for the most part, what I tell a lot of people who are like just kind of getting started is, you know, start using LinkedIn from the organic side of just like updating everything and starting your activity on there and connecting with people to the organic side. The thing, I think think about is a lot of times even what I know what I noticed, what I do is like when I’m researching somebody else, you might search for them and their company, and probably the first thing you’re gonna land on is like their LinkedIn profile. So as people are doing research, whether it’s your potential clients researching you, or as you’re hiring and stuff like that people are gonna be researching you So, I definitely found like, you know, when you search for somebody, maybe their Twitter profile shows up, maybe their company page shows up. But you get a lot more info about somebody by looking at their LinkedIn profile, their work history, kind of where they came from, where they live, and then into their activity on LinkedIn. So I’ve noticed I do a lot of my research there and like talking to like, various of the salespeople in our clients, like people are just doing the research there. That’s a good high quality profile. So I always say step one is get dressed up to go to work. These days, we’re all work from home. So getting dressed up means filling out your LinkedIn profile, making sure it looks up to date. People do judge a book by its cover when when that’s all the information that you have about somebody is a LinkedIn profile. So now make it clickable, make it high quality. Make sure it’s all filled out.

CHIP: Right, right. Not you do have to make sure you at least get the basics but I, as you say, I think it’s a great tool for doing research and I very rarely go into a meeting without checking Have someone’s LinkedIn profile to learn about them. If I’m, if I’m doing research on a company, I’ll always look for their executives on LinkedIn, things like that. Because you, you can learn so much about a business or an individual just by looking at their profile.

ANTHONY: Right? Exactly. Like what they put on their website is one thing and like, you know, what somebody was on the website is very, they create that experience, but will you see what from them on LinkedIn, along with their connections and their activity? I feel like you get a much more higher fidelity community picture of that.

CHIP: Right? Well, I also find that you know, LinkedIn that the timeline aspect of it, as far as you know, your own career history, that can help you too, because oftentimes, when you look at someone’s biography or the about page on a website, it doesn’t, it doesn’t give you that same flavor of longevity that you get from looking at a LinkedIn profile. Exactly. So now obviously, your specialty as I understand it, is on the advertising side of LinkedIn, right. So I’m sure you’re very good at the, you know, the filling it out and how you use it to interact but let’s talk about the advertising side. Because I think that’s Something that a lot of folks haven’t given as much thought to it, you know, certainly compared to Facebook or Twitter or Google ads, or those kinds of things where I think people are more used to buying advertising. But you know, there is an opportunity on LinkedIn. I know me personally, I’ve I’ve dabbled in it, I would say in the past, with my various companies, but you know, let’s talk about, you know, what is the state of LinkedIn advertising today? How does it stack up against the other platforms?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so LinkedIn, LinkedIn ads, I’ll give you I’ll give you all the comparisons on LinkedIn, if you ever logged into LinkedIn ads. So say you’re an advertiser, maybe you advertise on Google and Facebook. Those are very mature and advanced platforms. If you log in on LinkedIn, you’re going to feel like you’re in Facebook 10 years ago.

CHIP: kind of expect that going into it. So I saw lap hair when I log in.

ANTHONY: It works wonders.

ANTHONY: I’m getting into LinkedIn. The platform is more basic than like Facebook and Google buts You know, those platforms heavily rely on like AI and the algorithms behind it. What I always say to people is you don’t, you don’t need much AI when you have the perfect targeting. So on Facebook, we usually give it and I have done a large amount of Facebook advertising in my career. So I can help show some comparisons. On Facebook, you usually give like a big audience and you let the AI algorithm go find Who’s most likely to convert, Who’s most likely to purchase, you have to give that big audience for the algorithm to find those people. But on LinkedIn, you have the perfect targeting of job titles, the company size and company industry they want to go after. So there’s very little that even needs to be left up to the algorithm. LinkedIn obviously is a much smaller platform doesn’t have nearly as much data points as as Facebook does. So there is not as much AI available to to rely on for optimization. But you know that right out of the gates, everyone who’s gonna be seeing your ad is going to be in that audience. So LinkedIn, we use it largely for lead generation and LinkedIn. Lead quality is just awesome. So I never forget, like the first account that really kind of cemented this for me. So we had been doing. We’ve done a lot of different types of marketing over the years. And there was one account that we were auditing a client we were bringing on, and they were running the traditional Facebook and Google ads. They are a big data platform, it’s a pretty expensive product. So you need to be a bigger company to have the need for it and to be able to afford it. They were running the Facebook and Google ads, it’s just finding a lot of people on Google we’re searching for a lot of times that people are searching for information like researching data science or best practices, not necessarily like looking to buy this product. So they’re getting a lot of students looking for research or people looking for jobs. And like a lot of the account they were following best practices for like, keywords and like negatives and all stuff like that, but Just finding a lot of those leads were still getting through. And then on the Facebook side of things was people were signing up. But it was more like people who are clicking through because it was an attractive picture or appealing video that kind of grabbed the attention. But a lot of these people was the average, maybe they weren’t professional, but average consumer, for the most part that were just signing up because I thought it was interesting. And when we took him over to LinkedIn, we targeted data science people CTO CIOs at larger tech companies, and just right out the gates, immediately, their sales team was like, these leads are perfect. This is amazing. Give us more of these. Because beforehand, they were they were generating a lot of leads, but as they were calling them it was taking a long time to call and reach out to all these people. And all the conversations were just not qualified not able to buy stuff like that. So that one was just like a night and day picture of like, you know what, if you are a if you need to target a niche audience, a niche decision maker, then LinkedIn is likely the place for you.

CHIP: Right? Well and you know, I remember The old days and I’m sure some listeners are as old as I am and have have been around pre World Wide Web. But I do remember back. Gosh, it was my first PR agency that I worked for back in, I guess was probably 93 or 94. And we had a reporter call and asked a question about something that was going on on the internet. And the senior vice president of the agency came to me and said, you’re kind of a computer geek, can you explain this internet thing to me? And and this was this was, you know, before the, you know, the World Wide Web even became popular, this was actually before it was an email list. That was the topic of that particular article. But in any case, back in the day, we were always interested in getting as highly targeted a list as we could for direct mail, because that was, you know, one of the techniques that you would often use. So I think people back then would have killed for the level of granularity that you can get with LinkedIn. Not to mention the accuracy, right, because when you would buy from a direct mail list vendor, it was out of date. It was a lot of them. The things we’re guesstimates as far as company size or those kinds of things mean on LinkedIn, you have real world real time data that you can tap into.

ANTHONY: Yeah. LinkedIn is always like one of the first places people update when they get a new job or a promotion. Of course you don’t they want to, they want to share that with their network. And, you know, they want to show off like, Hey, I got my promotion, I got this promotion, I got heard of this company. Or maybe they’re starting a company, and they want to post it on there. So LinkedIn. Yeah, the data is very up to date.

CHIP: Yep. So now as you look at LinkedIn ads, you know, what kind of ads tend to work best? As far as lead generation? Are they? Are they ones where it’s specifically targeted at, hey, talk to us about our product and serve product or service or are they ones where it’s, you know, here’s an ebook or some sort of informational educational type piece. Let me talk to me a little bit about you know, what you’re seeing as far as effective tactics.

ANTHONY: Yeah. So most of our most of our campaigns, what we see from most people Depends on the brand. Most companies, unless you’re a major brand, this is probably the first time that there that this prospect is seeing your company, your name and your logo. So it is it is usually a top of funnel strategy of we’re doing lead generation to be able to sign up or interested in starting the conversation. So most of our campaigns are lead magnet focused, which is, which is Yeah, offering some kind of guide or asset of value that the prospect is going to be interested in. That gives them a reason to sign up, it gets them interested. This is again, this is probably the first time that they see your brand name, your name, your company name, so they don’t really have much of a reason to trust you. So you have to start with focusing on on them their problems and the solutions that you can offer them. That’s what gets them interested. So most of our campaigns are focused around the lead magnet, PDF and guided checklist. People are signing up for that, that starts a conversation with them and then it’s important to you know, then, nurture your leads over time of email, recharge We can call out to them and then get a conversation from there.

CHIP: And I’m sure it varies quite a bit depending on who you’re targeting and what you’re offering. But you know, what kind of guidance would you give folks who are looking at, you know, what’s the average cost per lead? You know, what, what, you know, what do you what would you have to be budgeting or thinking about at least before you decided to get into LinkedIn ads?

ANTHONY: Yeah, good question. As LinkedIn is a more expensive channel than then typically like a Facebook. On Facebook, it you’ll usually see, you know, maybe $1 or $2 per click, or audiences. And on LinkedIn, LinkedIn has set the floor for their ads to be a about a $4 50 CPC in the US. So that’s when you’re when you’re starting at like $1, maybe on Facebook, and you’re up to starting at 450 on LinkedIn, as a big jump. So what we see on LinkedIn is visit more expensive platform and resulting cost per lead. We’re usually getting is usually between 30 and 60 bucks per lead. So, you know, usually when I’m talking to somebody, they might be noticing, oh, I’m getting $5 leads on Facebook, but you need to go back and look at your data and see how many of the leads are good qualified leads, right for your company. And that’s that kind of then helps you see your conversion, no sudden LinkedIn, nearly all the leads that you’re gonna be signing up as long as your target rate should be in your target market there. So costs are generally a lot higher on LinkedIn, but your lead quality is usually a lot higher.

CHIP: So if I’m a PR marketing or digital agency, I’m thinking about using LinkedIn advertising to grow my business. So not necessarily directly on behalf of my clients, but to generate more leads for myself. How should I be thinking about it? What have you seen that’s working for agencies or similar types of businesses?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so we use a similar approach for ourselves. We have put together a few different pieces of content.

ANTHONY: I think my favorite ones are

ANTHONY: We have a foundational modern guide to lead generation, which seems to convert very well. And then we have a swipe file for all the, what we did was we took the Inc 5000 fastest growing companies, we broke it down by industry and then took the top companies there, and then went to go look at all those companies and found all their LinkedIn ads. So we made a giant swipe file for all like the LinkedIn ads to the top of the fastest growing companies. They’re useful for like inspiration if you’re looking to go plan out some ads. And then we have a checklist for getting started with LinkedIn advertising. So we run those three lead magnets for ourselves, we get a lot of people signing up or interested in those. There’s a lot to like the positioning of your lead magnet like lead magnet strategy. Like I said, most most people that are advertising unless you’re a major brand, this is probably the first time someone’s hearing about you. So you want to so you want to focus the topic and title of your lead magnet on on their problems in like sushi, you can offer that. So usually it’s focused on something that they might be interested in. So it’s not it’s not like a product catalog, but it’s, it’s it is that checklist for getting started with something. So people were signing up to get our LinkedIn ads checklist, you know, that they they’re interested in, I guess our thinking that’s so smooth, smooth transition into the follow up afterwards of you know Julie’s sending me an email with more information, learn more here and then having sales call out to those leads to offer them to set up discovery call center free consultation. And

CHIP: and, you know, how important is it to be creating lots of different variations doing a lot of a b testing, I mean, obviously, with with some of the other platforms, that’s really important with some, like Facebook, a lot of it’s handled by AI, so you don’t necessarily have to do quite as many. But you know, how does LinkedIn work in that regard? Do you have to create a lot of variety.

ANTHONY: Um, so when we whenever we launch new campaigns, so think about an average client campaign. Wherever wants to start Get Paid, we always do have a split test running for that. And my thought on that, what you just asked is, it kind of depends on how mature the company is and how sure they are of their angles and their offers that they’re gonna be making. for newer companies, we do tend to split test more effectively lead magnets where they might say, Oh, we you’ve seen these three or four perform pretty well, but we’re not sure which is the best. Maybe we’d run all three or four. For the most part, we’re using split testing to see if they’re, if they’re very sure, or our data around their top performer. Maybe we’ll just do one but for the most part, we’re split testing two lead magnets. And kind of the broader structure of a typical campaign. Most most companies have maybe more than one customer segments. So often we are split testing customer segments, and then we’re split testing targeting to those customer segments. What that usually looks like is what testing job title targeting versus maybe function and seniority targeting, or split testing certain types of skills that you might target within there in different groupings of those skills. Maybe different industries are going to target our company sizes. But split test customer segments split test two different types of targeting towards customer segments and then split test two different offers. So your lead magnets to those audiences and then of course will test your ads that are new.

CHIP: And you know, we talked a little bit earlier about how the pandemic and quarantine and all that has changed LinkedIn and more people are going to the site, how have you seen it impact advertising? Has it impacted click through rates? Has it impacted pricing? What what changes have you seen in the last couple of months in that regard?

ANTHONY: Yes, the biggest thing first of all is activity. Um, so there’s a lot more traffic available on the platform right now. When you go to size up your you’re going to start your campaign LinkedIn is going to tell you just like Facebook, estimated number of people in the audience, we’ve seen those numbers have increased as far as like, if there was not anything that might have been rather small, we’ve seen those numbers have slowly increased a little bit. So we usually like to have a minimum of like 30,000 people in a targetable audience to run a campaign to make sure you have enough eyeballs. So first of all, as we’ve seen a lot of traffic is is just the pure number of people coming through the funnel lead volume. And then also, of course, ad costs have improved, because it is an auction similar to Facebook that the more eyeballs that are available, and a number of big companies have pulled back their ads, Ben, so there’s less, less, less people advertising. So that means ad costs are at like a like the all time best that we’ve seen in the last few years. Like I mentioned, LinkedIn has a floor of about 450 in the US per click. We found that we can bid pretty much down to that floor and we’ll be getting we’ll be spending our budget

CHIP: And what about the quality of the leads that you’re generating? Has that shifted at all? You know, I know one of the things that we’ve seen in some other media is that, you know, the different people are interacting with some of these platforms that might otherwise so senior executives are spending more time on LinkedIn than they might have been three or four months ago when they were stuck in meetings all day. Is that is that impacting the quality of leaders? It really kind of that holding steady?

ANTHONY: Yeah, good question. Um, I’d say that’s held steady, because who’s out who’s always good lead quality and hasn’t decreased? So I’d say that’s, that’s held steady.

CHIP: Mm hmm. And so if I’m, if I’m thinking now about getting into LinkedIn advertising to help grow my agency, or regrow my agency, depending on how I’ve fared so far during quarantine, you know, what, what should I be thinking about? First? It should I first be thinking about that lead magnet, you know, what do I need to be thinking about in terms of overall budget? I mean, can I can I get in with just a few hundred bucks a month and see what happens? Do I need to, you know, have a larger amount to really be able to test it, you know, What what are the key things you would advise me to think about as an agency leader?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so as an agency leader, I’d say first of all, is, number one, make sure your niche is on LinkedIn. And I am always surprised sometimes when somebody gives me a very, very narrow niche, how many people I am able to find. But that said, sometimes people will say, Oh, I need these very specific people with these very specific skills, and there might not be that many out there. So number one, make sure your niche is on LinkedIn. If you’re a digital agency, and you’re serving any kind of common industry, then they probably are. So number one, get on there, make sure your audience is available. Number two is think about what it is that you can offer them. Think about what your lead magnet is going to be some kind of getting started guide, some kind of checklist, maybe a webinar, and then as far as budget. So if you’re running an agency you’re probably pretty familiar with advertising on LinkedIn is a self serve advertising platform. You can take the budget to wherever you want. It’s minimum $10 per day, minimum, CPC is about 450.

ANTHONY: So we’re gonna play with

ANTHONY: that when we run a client campaign, you know, just so that we have enough data get full performance out of it. You said the minimum is 3000 a month.

CHIP: And I mean, out of curiosity, what took you to LinkedIn is the place to focus on versus I mean, there’s obviously, you know, tons of things in the digital advertising space that you could focus on. So what, what was it that really attracted you to LinkedIn?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so it’s not the probably the more backstory is I originally started so I kind of come at it from the b2b. I’ve been in the b2b tech world for a while. I think just that industry lends itself more to a platform like LinkedIn versus, say, Facebook. My background is I got started by doing e commerce consulting for IBM, where I go out to big, big companies, help them build the e commerce stores. And then I started a mobile app development agency where we’re building mobile apps for different whole variety of different companies. And I think just being in the tech world, and like largely in the b2b space, most of those target audiences were better found on LinkedIn versus like a Facebook, like that big data platform that I mentioned. You know, like the data scientist, sure they might have been on Facebook and wanted to kind of find like a needle in the haystack there. Whereas on LinkedIn, you can target just those people and not worry about getting all these other leads and people signing up and not worry about wasting the time trying to call them all. So LinkedIn, it’s all about the lead quality there and you know, if you have an offer that you’re looking to just target all business owners then then Facebook might be a better channel for you, because you can target that on Facebook, but when as you are niche into if you wanted business owners real estate, then then you’re starting to get more niche. If you wanted business owners for HR companies or or accounting firms then you’re getting more niche

ANTHONY: That’s when you want to use a platform like LinkedIn.

CHIP: Right? And I would imagine, too, if you have, if you know, the particular titles, you know, you’re trying to reach CMOS or VPS, or something like that. LinkedIn really lets you get in with that granularity much better than a Facebook where you can. Facebook lets you generally target by industry or by small business owners, things like that, but doesn’t really give you that same title precision that Lincoln would give you. Right?

ANTHONY: Exactly. So kind of advice to agencies is like if you’re at your client accounts are needing to target that niche decision maker then, I’ve talked a lot of Facebook agencies that are advertising, maybe the b2b tech companies or like niche companies on Facebook, but it’s really like finding a needle in the haystack at that point. You have to like sift through a whole lot of leads to find the good ones. If you’re working on it to have account, I’d say check out LinkedIn and the targeting options there and see if that’s gonna be a better option for you, your client.

CHIP: And if you were to pull out your crystal ball look into the future. And we know how good crystal balls are right now we were joking before we started recording here that neither one of us had had accurately predicted the way 2020 would go as far as a pandemic and lockdown and all that. But if you were to look into your crystal ball and and look ahead to the future of LinkedIn advertising, you know, how do you see that evolving over time? Which, you know, what are your thoughts on that?

ANTHONY: Yeah, that’s a good question. So we we have seen Facebook or LinkedIn does tend to follow Facebook a lot of ways. Facebook is a more mature, more advanced platform of people on it. We’ve seen so many different types of ad units and functionality on Facebook. LinkedIn has taken a lot of steps in that similar direction. So for example, you know, Facebook has Facebook Lives. LinkedIn now has LinkedIn lives, Facebook groups, Facebook events, LinkedIn just released events. Some of these rights on event like oh, it’s just now being released, but LinkedIn events have just been released in the last few months. So you can now create events Around, say webinars or product launches or something like that. And what else just recently, holes just came out? a new type of ad unit just came out, which is called sponsored messaging. These these are more like a chatbot like experience in a messaging ad unit. Leads always have like the sponsored in mail, which is kind of like an ad that’s sent as a message to your prospect. Right? Well, I get it, I get a ton of that.

CHIP: A lot of it not very good to be honest with you. If

ANTHONY: you’ve ever logged into LinkedIn, you bet you’re probably your third one down is probably a sponsored email right now, even if you only have a couple messages. Yeah, you probably have one now. But these new sponsored messaging ones are now more of a chat like experience where you can start the ad by offering a few different options where somebody can select you know, maybe you have a few different offers or it’s kind of a Choose Your Own Adventure like experience and ad unit. So those, those are pretty new. So, you know, things that I’m excited for coming up in the future is going to be more more around video on LinkedIn, and then getting add functionality around a lot of these new features that have been released, say, events and holes and stuff like that.

CHIP: Hmm. Well, great. This has been extremely helpful. And I’m sure that listeners have gotten a lot of little nuggets that they can apply to their own businesses, their own agencies. But if someone wants to find out more about you, Anthony, your modern media, where should they go?

ANTHONY: So you can find me on LinkedIn. I think I’m the only Anthony bloatware on there. Looking on there, send me a send me a note. And then you can reach me at Anthony at modern media.io is my email and our website is modern media.io. If you’re looking to learn more about LinkedIn advertising in general, or the elite types of lead generation funnels that we’re doing, we have a number of blog posts that if LinkedIn ads, best practices and some walkthroughs about how some of these funnels work. So feel free to go check those out. And then actually, questions.

CHIP: Right well thank you again. My guest today has been Anthony Blatner, the founder of Modern Media.

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Tips to find and engage with prospects on the largest B2B social networking platform
Resources

* Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn
* Modern Media’s website
* Modern Guide to Lead Generation
* LinkedIn Advertising Strategies Facebook Group

Transcript
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I’m your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Anthony Blatner. He is the founder of Modern Media. Welcome to the show, Anthony.
ANTHONY: Hey, Chip. Thanks for having me.
CHIP: It is great to have you here. And I guess before we get started, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself and modern media?
ANTHONY: Sure. So me in modern media, we specialize in LinkedIn advertising and b2b lead generation. Through the years, we’ve not in my career, I’ve done a whole lot of different marketing. And I kind of come at it from the software and tech world, where I got started helping build software and build apps. And naturally seem that those apps after you launched it, they needed marketing, so we got pulled into that direction afterwards. I can talk more about a lot more about that, but that’s what got me into the marketing world and then doing various forms of marketing. With my background, it always ended up being b2b and Like, more enterprise tech, so just find me on LinkedIn over and over again with the best platform for a lot of projects.
The last few years, we’ve solely focused on LinkedIn advertising.
CHIP: And so LinkedIn obviously, I think most listeners to this show will have accounts on LinkedIn. Some of them probably use it quite actively, some of them probably set it up and forgot about it. Maybe they’ve maybe this is even a good reminder to go back and at least update your personal information on it if you haven’t, at least done that recently. But, you know, how should if I’m an agency leader, how should I be thinking about LinkedIn? For my business? I mean, is it something that could help me grow my business?
ANTHONY: I yeah, yeah. So so I’m, yeah, I’m sure most people have an organ account. And if you are the average person you probably haven’t used at a time. But LinkedIn is becoming even more popular, especially right now because we’re all kind of forced online with all quarantines and COVID right now. activity on LinkedIn is through the roof. Our rep gave us a graphic that’s like over 2,000%, which is, you know, well, yeah,
CHIP: I can sense just by looking at my own account and the feed that there is a lot more activity. But that’s, that’s an interesting statistic.
ANTHONY: Yeah. So so we can dive into that, like ad performance is really improved, because it’s an auction. So Facebook is for the more eyeballs less, more cheaper the ad cost is, but for the most part, what I tell a lot of people who are like just kind of getting started is, you know, start using LinkedIn from the organic side of just like updating everything and starting your activity on there and connecting with people to the organic side. The thing, I think think about is a lot of times even what I know what I noticed, what I do is like when I’m researching somebody else, you might search for them and their company, and probably the first thing you’re gonna land on is like their LinkedIn...]]>
Chip Griffin 28:02
A reality check for agency owners (featuring Brad Farris) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/a-reality-check-for-agency-owners-featuring-brad-farris/ Tue, 12 May 2020 17:21:53 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7034 Brad FarrisMistakes to avoid and opportunities to seek as agencies navigate the current environment and look to the future]]> Brad Farris

The Covid-19 crisis isn’t just a bump in the road for PR and marketing agencies. If you’re hoping to weather the storm and see a return to normal later this year, you’re likely to be disappointed.

At the same time, there are plenty of opportunities for agencies that look to innovate and adapt. Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors joins Chip to talk about what agencies should be doing right now.

The pair emphasize the importance of not thinking about the present as a “new normal” and instead looking ahead to what will become the norm in the months and years ahead. We’re all still feeling our way forward and taking it day by day right now, but eventually we’ll come out into a changed environment that agencies will need to handle to secure clients and execute campaigns on their behalf.

Resources

About Brad Farris

Brad Farris guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Brad is a speaker and author. Brad is passionate about business and helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money and enjoy life more.

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast. I am your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Brad Ferris with Anchor Advisors. Welcome to the show, Brad.

BRAD: Thanks. Glad to be here, Chip.

CHIP: It is always good to talk to you. And today we’re the subject is reality check. We’re going to give a reality check to agency owners to help them understand what’s real and what’s not in the current environment, or at least what you and I think.

BRAD: Yes, right. As much reality as you and I are in.

CHIP: Well, yes. And then we could debate that I’m sure that my kids would challenge me on whether or not I’m living in reality, or they are but

it is what it is. That’s right. But I think the you know,

and I don’t want to make this a depressing episode, because I think there are there are a lot of good things that will come out of what’s going on for sure. At the same time. I think there is still a lot of destruction to be done. Yes. Yeah. And I think it’s important for agency owners to consider that as they’re making their plans over the next you know, Few months and then even starting to pretend to look beyond that, although the uncertainty is so great, who really knows? I mean, if you had said eight or 10 weeks ago that this is where we were going to be today, we’d have all laughed and said, Oh, my God, yeah, okay, you’re

BRAD: right. I mean, their lives are taking out all their middle seats, right?

CHIP: Well, and nobody’s on them anyway. So I’m gonna take out a bunch of rows, and nobody’s gonna notice any difference. It’s, I mean, it really is, you know, and we say this a lot these days. But you know, none of us have ever seen anything like this, nothing like it. And as a result, it makes planning more difficult. Yeah. But, you know, you and I are talking to lots of business owners and trying to help them sort things out. We’re trying to figure things out ourselves. A lot of it’s guesswork. But, you know, you and I have both been through previous economic downturns, which, while not exactly like this, do give us some hints as to what to expect when you’re running a business, whether that’s 2001 or 2008, both of which were severe, but you know, different This, this is even more different in more severe.

BRAD: Right? I mean, I think that what I’ve been saying to people is there are lots of different viewpoints but what you can’t do a standstill, right, right, you can’t just wait and see how this is going to go.

CHIP: No, if you think you’re just gonna wait out the storm and and put down your umbrella in two or three months and get back to to normal, whatever that is, you’re sorely mistaken. Well,

BRAD: yeah, that’s this is the reality check. We’re here for.

CHIP: So, so tell me I mean, you know, what, what, what are you seeing now? And what do you see happening? particularly as it relates to small businesses, small agencies in the not too distant future? What’s your take?

BRAD: So everybody’s functioning pretty well at home. I mean, that’s been my experience with my clients. There aren’t major disruptions, people were able to work effectively. I would say that a lot of people are working in the 60 to 70% Capacity range in terms of their ability to get work done because they’ve got little people under their feet or, you know that there is just a more complicated way of working from home, but everybody is functioning. Would you agree with that?

CHIP: Yeah, I would agree with that. I don’t think, you know, I know a lot of agencies that had most of their staff in the office were concerned that this would, you know, cause productivity to plummet? And I don’t think we’ve seen that I certainly think there are challenges, particularly for folks who have kids at home. Yep. You know, that is that is a serious challenge and requires some some good care and thinking from a leadership perspective when you’re managing them. And and some folks, you know, particularly the, the younger workers just don’t have good work from home setup. You know, if you’re, you know, 25 years old and living in New York City, you probably don’t have a home office, right. You know, you’ve probably got a roommate. These things make it much more challenging to work from home, but it hasn’t killed productivity. It’s just created a new challenges. Sure.

BRAD: Yeah. My daughter lives with three workers. mates and they’re all working from home now. So they like have a sign up for the dining room table.

CHIP: Yeah, and it you know, it certainly is challenging. I think that you know, for those folks who are sitting there right now and talking about how this is proving that the remote work model works, and so basically all agencies, agencies should become virtual. I think that’s a mistake. Because there are a lot of workers who can’t or don’t want to work from home permanently, even though they’re finding a way to do it. Now.

BRAD: I think it’s important to look at both sides of that chip. On the one hand, I had a CEO who said to me, you know, for 10 years I’ve been I had this list of reasons why we couldn’t work remotely. And the last two months, we’ve overcome all those. Right, right. And so, for those people that felt like, we could never do it, you know, their minds are being changed. Then the flip side, like you’re absolutely right, there are a lot of people who are like, okay, now I’ve tried working at home, I don’t want to do it anymore. And we need to think about those people. There are people that don’t have a good Instead of at home, they have kids at home, whatever it is right? And and those people need to find a way to get back to an office.

CHIP: Yeah. And the reality is the the new normal whenever we get there and I don’t call what we’re in right now is the new normal, I call it the new abnormal. We’ll eventually one day get to a new normal. We don’t know exactly what it’ll look like. But I think the likelihood is from a work perspective, it’ll be some sort of a hybrid model where businesses will have some employees who work in the office and some who work remotely. But frankly, that’s no different than larger businesses that have multiple offices. That’s right. You know, I mean, if you can work with in a in a business that has an office in New York and Boston, you can work in one where there are people in the office and people at home.

BRAD: And I also think that if you’re pondering getting rid of your lease, you could pay for co working for 20 or 30% of your workforce and still come out ahead, right. And so, people still have to commute they might, they might have a co working place on the east side, another one on the north side and wouldn’t go to the ones that they want to go to And still have everyone have a better situation and still be effective.

CHIP: Right? Now, of course, the challenge is most businesses that have commercial space have leases that are not all that easy to get out of. Yeah. And and you know, commercial leases in particular are nothing like residential leases in most places. And so and commercial real estate, you know, owners are in a position where they are, they’re going to see a lot of pressure. So they’re going to have to try to keep as much of their own revenue as they can. Right.

BRAD: So I’m curious, what are you hearing from your clients in terms of landlord flexibility?

CHIP: It’s completely dependent upon the individual landlords and what the situations are, I think, in general, I would characterize it as the, the, when you’re dealing with smaller landlords, they’re willing to work with you a little bit more, the larger you know, more commercial enterprises tend to be more sticklers for their leases, but that’s not that’s not 100%. You know, there is a lot of variation and and I’ve been encouraging business Saunders to do if they’ve got commercial leases is start talking as soon as possible. Yeah with the landlord’s try to figure out what you can do because, you know, while they want to be sticklers for their leases, they also know there’s going to be pressure on their industry. So they they would rather work with you, in all likelihood to get you to stay at least 50% as opposed to not at all.

BRAD: Yeah, the two, the three reactions that I’m hearing, I am hearing some landlords who say, Okay, what if you paid me 75% of the rent for the next four months? And I’ll take the other 25% out of your security deposit. And then four months from now, let’s talk about where things are. Yep. Which I felt was that was a very reasonable approach from for a couple of landlords or I heard I have heard a lot of go pound sand, you’ve got a lease, right? And I don’t think that’s gonna go well for those guys. And I have heard some landlords who are saying, Yeah, I’ll just extend your lease, you know, like we can, we can either. You can skip payments for a couple of months in real estate. Then the lease on the back end. Or if you want to negotiate a longer lease, we can talk about a reduced rent. Like they’re trying to get people locked in sooner, which I think is smart on their part.

CHIP: Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s why, you know, in all these situations, whether it’s a landlord or any other kind of business relationship, the sooner you start the conversation Yeah. And and the more willing you are to be flexible, the more willing that they’re likely to be. So you know, if you come in guns blazing, and say, you know, we’re just walking away from this lease, we’re done with this, you know, we’ll fight you however hard we have to, that’s probably not going to go over that well. But at the same time, you know, your businesses is probably hurting. And so if you go to a landlord and say, Look, here’s the deal, I can’t afford the rent that you know, that I’m paying you, we’re not able to even use the space. Can you work with me? Most of them at least we’ll have the conversation. And you can see where it goes. So it’s it’s like anything else. You’ve got to be, you know, open minded and proactive in your communications.

BRAD: So those agencies that are trying to get people back in the office, what do you what are the things that you’re thinking about that they need to do in order to make that safe for everybody and give people the confidence they can come in safely?

CHIP: Yeah. And that I mean, again, I would start with communications. I think that the biggest thing here is that you as an owner earlier, shouldn’t be making this decision on your own. You need to talk with your team, you need to understand what their concerns are, what their comfort level is, with coming back, it’s probably you probably need to start with some sort of a hybrid model where you give flexibility and you say, okay, we’re open, but it’s optional. You know, if you’re ready to come back, great. If you’re not, we understand we’re gonna work with you. Because there’s a lot of things that go into this.

BRAD: Listen, I have room for X number of people to come into the office, if you’re interested in talk to me, right, but you may not be able to have everybody in there and still maintain good distance with people and so maybe maybe you can only have half your team in the office, but but making that available for the people that want it.

CHIP: Yeah, and that’s a great point. I mean, you know, what, what are you seeing as far as folks looking at how they’re either Going to reconfigure their offices or change office policies. I mean, that’s, that’s something you have to be thinking about right now.

BRAD: It’s really a mix a bunch of guys went out to Home Depot and bought plexiglass and they’re, they’re putting up partitions, you know, kind of Renegade partitions. What I’ve heard is the major tech companies have bought out all the partitions from the big furniture dealers, so you’re not going to get anything from the furniture dealers. Other people were just saying, you know, we’re going to go every other desk, and nobody visits anybody the desk, if you want to talk to somebody, you call them on the phone. Right, you know, and so with different ways to do distancing. Now, the big questions are really the shared spaces, conference rooms, lunch room, bathrooms, what’s your policy for cleaning where we’re, you know, a lot of people have their offices cleaned once a week, right? You got to have your office cleaned every night now.

CHIP: Well, and not only that, but you know, and I wrote an article and I said, Something that like, you know, in the old days, we basically, you know, look to see if the trashcan was empty the foods laid up in the break room and, and there was, you know, not too much dust on the window sill, right? You know, now I think businesses are going to have to hold their cleaning services to a higher standard, which probably means more money, and and, frankly, are some of the cleaning services that folks are using now even capable of doing the proper disinfecting that you’re going to want to see in your office. I don’t know. I mean, that’s a that’s a tough one. And if you’ve got to share your bathroom, that’s something else you got to talk to your landlord about is how are they keeping the bathrooms safe? bathrooms, elevators, you know, all sorts of shared facilities in you know, depending on where you’re at, but even small cities tend to have, you know, a lot of shared spaces in commercial real estate.

BRAD: In in. In the trivium. This morning, Chicago Tribune, there was an article about how people are thinking about elevators and they’re talking about having assigned spots for people to stand facing the wall. So you’re in spot seven, you’re in spot nine and there only nine people who can get on the elevator at a time. And I think that’s gonna be pretty hard to get people out of buildings.

CHIP: Oh, it’s gonna be a massive challenge. I mean, how many times have you been in an elevator in in a big building where everybody’s packed in like sardines, for sure. And even then you’re waiting forever for an elevator? Yes. If you all of a sudden say, you know, we can only have like four people in the elevator at once. I mean, it’s almost impossible to go into that building.

BRAD: What what are you seeing people do in terms of pee pee? Are people doing gloves masks?

CHIP: Everyone bring their own? It’s all I mean, you know, obviously a lot of local jurisdictions are starting to require masks that we have here in the northeast. And so I think that that masks will be sort of a standard feature. My instinct is most people will probably end up having their own mask as opposed to their employer, providing them I think employers though, are going to have to be thinking about providing hand sanitizer and, and things like that which is frankly difficult to obtain right now.

Unknown Speaker
maps are difficult

CHIP: to obtain to match All masks are becoming easier because we’re actually, you know, one of the things you know, as we talked about not being just that Debbie downers here, you know, masks are the kind of thing where some brands have started to come up with branded masks. And they’re seeing an opportunity in this to, you know, to make designer masks, if you will, or those kinds of things. I know, I’ve ordered one that has referee stripes on them because I if I can’t be out refereeing and umpiring sports, you know, at least I can have referees stripes on my mask. I saw

BRAD: Disney did a baby Yoda mask, which was kind of cute.

CHIP: Yeah. And I think I you know, I think that that everybody who’s running a business right now needs to look for the opportunities, yes. And not being opportunistic and taking advantage of people but not any legitimate opportunities where they can, you know, meet a need and hopefully help their own business in the same process.

BRAD: I was talking to a business owner this week, and he, he had found a company that made high school band uniforms that had pivoted into making masks. Yeah. And he got masks that had his company logo on them, and he mailed them to all of his employees. And I thought that was a pretty, pretty nice thing.

CHIP: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a here in New Hampshire, there’s a hockey equipment manufacturer that switched over to making PP plastic face shields, because they have all the equipment and materials to do it. So, you know, people should be looking for those kinds of things, you know, if you’re, if you’re in the agency space, you need to be thinking about what it is that your clients need, what and what’s gonna, you know, what do you see changing in those industries in the next couple of months? Start thinking ahead, start thinking how you can meet them, you know, where the puck is going, so to speak around the hockey analogy, as opposed to just you know, chasing them down the ice.

BRAD: So this is an interesting question. What I’ve been saying to people, because a lot of my clients are saying, you know, we’re busy, we have work, everything’s fine. And I say, right, but where’s your next piece of work coming from? How does someone decide to hire you that didn’t know you before the shutdown?

CHIP: Right. And I think at least what I’m seeing, particularly with my clients is they are still closing business, but it tends to be business that was already in the pipeline. Yes. I have seen almost nothing for Anyone that it has developed within the last two months fresh it with the exception of some of the I do work with a couple of crisis firms that are different, right now let’s put a wall up, we’ll talk about them separately. But you know, the vast majority are pulling in business that was just sitting idle in the pipeline, and now people have a chance to focus on it. So that’s, that’s a real problem.

BRAD: Yeah, I, I’ve pushed my clients to call everybody that’s in the pipeline and every client they’ve ever worked with in the past. So that’s gonna be your shortest path to cash is those people that that you’re already talking to or that have talked to you before?

CHIP: Right. And I think it’s also important that agencies don’t assume that the clients that they have now that haven’t gone away, are still sticking with them. Right. You know, there is there is still more damage to be done. There are still more layoffs to come. There are still other shoes to drop in all likelihood. So don’t sit there and be comfortable and say Well, look, I you know, we weathered the storm with these clients, they’ll stick with us now we just need to fill in, you know, for the business. We lost. That’s, that’s not a good winning scenario.

BRAD: Well, I think that’s the other thing about calling all your past clients and everyone in your pipeline. What I’ve been talking to people about is that your clients are on a journey, right? They’re going from point A to point B. And they’re hiring you because they believe that you can get them to point B faster. Hmm. But whatever their point B was in February, is probably not their point B right now. So we need to find out where it is that they’re going, how is their journey changed through this process so that we can get on with helping them to get to wherever their new point B is,

CHIP: right? And have you seen your clients reluctant to engage in these conversations reluctant to do business development? And those sorts of things? Are they have they needed some prodding?

BRAD: There’s a lot of people are like, well, I don’t want to be that guy. And I said, well, Don’t be that guy. Just be you and reach out to people and say what’s going on? But again, I do think people are reluctant. They’re like, I don’t want to bug them and I don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to be asking him something in a difficult time, like, just just call and say hi and be a human. Right.

CHIP: Yeah, I think I think we we miss that a lot in business generally, which is the concept of being human. And, and it’s, it’s difficult. And I, you know, and I have seen a lot of people criticize various businesses for their, you know, sales and marketing efforts, you know, being tone deaf and that kind of thing. And my advice to everybody is, take a deep breath, that there are a lot of people out there trying to figure out how to do things right, right now, don’t assume that they’re being evil, right? Don’t assume even that they’re idiots. It may just mean then some of it comes from desperation to I mean, there are businesses that are really hurting, they’re going to push extra hard because they’ve got to try to figure out a way to put things together. So you know, we all need to give each other a little bit of that, you know, extra space to figure things out right now.

BRAD: Now, I’m just curious chip. How many email newsletters Have you gotten in the last week that your thought I don’t even remember when I would have gotten on this You know, I haven’t seen this newsletter in six years. So

CHIP: it is safe to say that there has been an explosion of, of email that, that I did not realize that I was I was subscribed to.

BRAD: And while I’m a huge fan of email marketing, that is not like to me that’s in the category of we don’t need to hear about how great your your your agency is right now. Right?

CHIP: Right. And I think to the extent that you are sending things out, don’t don’t tell me what you do. Don’t tell me about your services. Give me something useful. Give me something I can use. Figure out what it is that people want to know and either create that content curate that content, but somehow find a solution. You know, we don’t we don’t really care about what your business processes are. We don’t care about you know, what it is that you could do for me just actually helped me right now.

BRAD: Tell your clients stories, tell it tell about a client that you know, that is having challenges and what they’re doing about it tell about a client who has his overcoming cap challenges and what they’re doing about it. Talk to me, right? If I’m your client, then those stories probably relate to me. Right?

CHIP: Or ask questions. Yeah. And I know you do this a ton in your emails, ask what you know, what, what are you seeing? What are you thinking? And, and that’s actually a great way when you’re working through your list of contacts to talk to just ask them what they’re seeing. I mean, I have so many calls each week where I’m just calling someone up and saying, Hey, you know, what, what are you seeing? What are you hearing? And it’s sort of like the old days, I you know, 30 years ago, I got started in politics. And so, you know, everybody always called around to sort of see what the scuttlebutt was, but that but now that’s useful from a business perspective, even more so than it normally is. Because, you know, things are changing so fast.

BRAD: Well, it also makes you useful, because now you’re the hub of information. So, people want to talk to you about what are you hearing from your other clients?

CHIP: Right. And, and I and I think that, you know, we we often overlook that because we’re, we’re sitting there and we’re so fixated on how do we, you know, move leads through the pipeline. How do we generate generate revenue. And it’s, you know, at this point, it’s so much about information gathering, because the the likelihood is that, you know, it’s going to take longer to close business now, yes, than it was six months ago. And I think, you know, we have to keep that in mind that that folks are going to be a lot more cautious as they move forward and even can here’s my favorite, favorite pet peeve. And I’m curious what you’re seeing. But one of my favorite ones right now are all these agencies who are telling me Well, you know, we haven’t lost any clients. We’ve got a bunch who paused. Yeah. You lost those clients.

BRAD: They’re no longer paying you.

CHIP: They’re not paying you. You’ve lost them. That’s there’s no guarantee that they’re coming back even if you have a contract. I mean, I think one of the things folks are seeing in this process is their contracts are not worth the paper they’re printed on right because when when you know, big company calls you up and says, Hey, we’re not sending you the next check. What do you do just sit there and you know, banging on the table saying, hey, when my money it doesn’t work, or you do your corner?

BRAD: I mean, there’s that all

CHIP: right. And so I think that you know, everybody needs to be realistic about that you need to focus on re winning that paused business and not treat it as

BRAD: yes definitely coming back. And if somebody is going on pause, say yeah, okay, I’m not gonna charge you but let’s get together every other week and just have a high level strategy call like yeah keep in touch with them so that you know what they’re thinking about what’s going on to them

CHIP: right and and even your existing clients make sure that particularly he was the principal, you know, or or an agency leader you can’t rely on your team to be having all the day to day communications you need to involve yourself so that you can read the tea leaves and frankly, you can just say to them hey what you know what’s going on in your business so that you get that early warning and find out you know, whether or not they’re feeling pressure and and thinking about possible change because you don’t want to be blindsided by it, particularly, because so many agencies have now taken the PPP money. they’ve they’ve held off on letting staff go because the PPP is dependent upon them not laying people off, right? And so, you know, you need to be thinking about and looking ahead, so that you don’t end up in a situation where the PPP money runs out, your client then leaves. And you can’t really take care of your employees properly as you have to let them go.

BRAD: Yeah, it’s it’s interesting.

The SEC, I would love to do a psychological study on on what how people felt about the PPP because certainly it was designed to help people keep your staff and if you if your staff is busy and you you have a reasonable expectation that they’re going to be busy two months from now, you should do that 100%. But if I have to let staff go if I don’t have an economic case for keeping people on, it just means that I have more of a loan and less of a forgiveness. I mean, I would the mental. The mental question I’m asking myself is, is it likely that it’ll be easier for me to get staff later in the year or cached later in the year

CHIP: Well, I think the easy answer to that is staff.

BRAD: Exactly. So I the one thing that I want to hold on to is the cash Right, right.

CHIP: So here’s here’s what I’ve been advocating and it obviously is very dependent upon individual business situations right so but But what I’ve been advocating is that agencies should be taking the PPP money and using it essentially to fund severance for employees so treat it so give them garden leave. So instead of letting them go and forfeiting your your loan forgiveness, you say look, you know, the PPP money runs out on x date. And so that’s when we’re going to part ways from from now until then, I’m going to keep paying you with this money. But it’s, you know, to give you a soft landing, because if you wait until the end, you may not have the cash to give them a decent severance to help them have a soft, so tell them that. I mean, if you’ve lost 30% of your business, and you haven’t laid anyone off because a PPP, that’s insane. That’s insane because that 30% revenue isn’t just going to come back on All of a sudden in the fall, if you need to be contracting your size and getting more nimble, and it sucks to say it, and I’ve, I’ve had to do layoffs before. They are not fun. I mean, I always say I like to fire people if it’s for cause, but I hate to lay people off.

BRAD: Oh, it’s terrible. It’s awful terrible. But but I think we have to look at if we if we bet that everything is coming back. And it does. That’s great, right? But if we if we bet that everything’s coming back, we hold on to our staff and it doesn’t, then we might lose the whole agency. Right? Right. The flip side if we bet that things aren’t coming back and we lay people off now and it does come back, well, it’s gonna take us a little bit longer to scramble around and we might lose some of the upside. But if we bet that it’s not coming back in it doesn’t well we get to live to fight another day. So I want to I want to value survivability above you know, recovery,

CHIP: you have to because otherwise you’re doing a disservice not just to yourself as the business owner, but To all of the other employees, right, and and so, you know, an agency that’s holding on to 20% of their staff and not laying them off because they don’t want to hurt them, maybe hurting 100% of their life plus themselves in their own families. Yeah, it’s just it’s it is it is short sighted thinking. Yeah, too. And I, I’ve never talked to someone who’s had to do layoffs, who didn’t say and myself included, who didn’t say, I waited too long. sooner, but not a single person said I laid off too soon. A single one. Yeah. In February,

BRAD: they say I regretted laying those people off. No,

CHIP: it’s just I mean, that is reality. And look, even even if business does come back. agencies in particular need to have a more flexible business model. And to the extent that they can work within the restrictions on independent contractors and Eb five and all that kind of stuff in California. If you can come up with a more flexible implementation model. You’re going to be in better shape not just coming out of this but for the long haul.

BRAD: That’s right. Yeah.

CHIP: So are there other other things that you think that that agency owners should be thinking about right now that you just kind of like to shake them and say, Hey, you need to understand this. What have we missed here?

BRAD: Well, I, we covered the big three to me, which is, how are you working effectively as a team? What are you doing from a new business perspective? And what are you doing about preserving your cash so that you can survive for the long run? I think that the last one probably would be just making sure that through all this, that you as the owner are maintaining your mindset that you’re you’re taking care of yourself so that you have the energy and the optimism to go through this. So that you can continue to pivot and make changes as the world changes. We’re not done changing. And so if you’re exhausted now, you need to find a way to take care of yourself because we’ve got, you know, another half or three quarters of the game. Yeah,

CHIP: I think that’s absolutely right. And and we don’t know what the rest of the game looks like even we, you know, it’s, it’s different from a sporting event where, you know, you know, how many innings or how many quarters are and, you know, we don’t really know. I mean, I think I think to me, that’s the thing that’s the most difficult, difficult about the current situation is the level of uncertainty. Yeah, even in 2001 2008, there was a little bit more certainty out there. You mean, you could sort of figure out a path forward now, you know, there are so many restrictions economically, logistically, it’s, you can’t figure it out. And I think that is probably the most challenging thing from a business operators.

BRAD: I agree with you businesses hate uncertainty. And so that uncertainty is really hurting us and you know, you use the term new normal. Earlier in the conversation. I’ve actually banned that from my vocabulary because I don’t know that we’re gonna know when we’re in normal. I think whatever we’re in right now is is normal for today. And so Waiting for a new normal or some breakthrough or some certainty, I think is gonna be really painful come into the year. So let’s look at where we are now and say okay, this is what we have to work with, let’s work with it, knowing that a month from now it could be totally different.

CHIP: Right? And to jump off of your point about focusing on your own well being, I think, you know, part of that is the the personal side, you know, making sure you’re getting sleep and exercise and, you know, needing not too unhealthy at least, you know, we’ll set a reasonable bar here because I think it’s fair to say most people have slipped a bit in quarantine.

BRAD: Yeah, my eating is okay, it’s this the drinking that’s the problem.

CHIP: Well, there you go. So, but but i think that you know, a piece of that, too, is spending some time making sure you’re carving time out from a business perspective to think about the opportunity and look to what you can make of the future because I if you get too buried in the survival aspect and in the day to day, it’s not You don’t Free your mind up and most agency people are creative in some fashion, whether it’s with words or images or code or, you know, something. And so, so making sure you have an outlet for that creative thinking is good for your health, I think as well as for your business.

BRAD: You know, somebody’s been thinking about the kind of jumps off on that point is that when we get to go back to the office, I think one of the temptations of going back to the office is going back and saying, Oh, good, everything goes back to normal. No, and, and one of the beauties of being out of the office is that we’ve been really innovative, right, that we’ve, we’ve changed a lot of things. We’ve tried a lot of things we didn’t think that we could try. When we go back to the office, we need to preserve that innovative experimental outside the box thinking because that’s what’s gonna get us through,

CHIP: right. And I think we are all learning useful things during this as painful as it maybe in the short term. I think we are all learning things we’ve accelerated, you know, some trends Like using videoconferencing, which you know, while people talk about being, you know, zoomed out or whatever, I get it, but at the same time, it’s so much better to be able to have a video of someone than a telephone of plain old girl phone call. So if

BRAD: this was six years ago,

CHIP: or even six months ago, I had a hard time getting people to turn their video on in zoom. Yeah, and it was it was it was really, really annoying to me. Because as someone who works from home, it’s nice to have that, you know, contact with people, and, and even doing things like this recording a podcast, it’s so helpful to be able to see each other because, you know, particularly in a group conversation, you can kind of pick up on who wants to speak next. Whereas when you’re doing a typical audio conference call everybody just stomping all over each other. Not that it doesn’t happen on zoom, but it happens less.

BRAD: So can I put you on the spot chip? You bet. What’s one tool that you’ve started using in the last two months that you’re like, I’m never going to stop using this other than the

CHIP: the big one for me is probably V max What’s that? It is a it’s a video production tool. Oh wow. Because one of the things that I have been doing more of during quarantine is is video and I’m looking to expand into that even further. And and this is actually something I just found in the last couple of weeks. And it really makes it easy to do good looking video productions on the fly. It’s designed for either live streaming or recording. And it just I really like In fact, I I almost tortured you into doing this as a V mix session. But I’m still I’m still working through some of the kinks and having guests on it.

BRAD: Well, I’m gonna check that out because that I’m doing more video as well. But the tool for me is mural. Have you ever used mural.co? I have not. What does that do? It’s a it’s a infinite whiteboard product. Okay, that that feels very much like you’re standing up in a wall with sticky notes and markers and all those tools and it’s really helping me to get a group of people to focus on working together collaborating on a project. And yeah, they’ve got some nice, like customer journey maps in there and personas and all those kind of tools. But you can also just take a blank whiteboard and stick sticky notes all over it. There’s voting, so you can vote on the sticky notes you can. So it’s a really nice tool for group collaboration.

CHIP: Yeah, and that sounds I’m definitely gonna check that out. And I but I think this touches on one other thing, and I and, and I apologize to all your listeners, because I always keep these shows under 30 minutes, but I just, I can’t help

BRAD: man,

CHIP: right through it. And the beauty is there are no rules here. We get to do what we want, because, well, I control the microphone on the record button and all that kind of stuff. But, you know, I think you’ve touched on something really important here, which is trying to think about how people collaborate and get together. Yep. Particularly until we have the ability to congregate in groups again. And I think that thinking creatively about how you can use use tools Like this neural product or Yep, other things happening to you, there are a lot of events that have been postponed, in fact, just about every event that’s right, postponed, right? A lot of people are replacing the in person event with a virtual event where it’s basically the same schedule.

BRAD: Yeah, ah,

CHIP: that doesn’t work. No, does not work does not make me sit in front of a computer for one or two or three days and just watch keynotes. No, not gonna do it. Nothing.

BRAD: My clients said, right? What’s the difference between a virtual conference and watching TV?

Like, oh, that’s, you’re stabbing me in the heart right there, man. That’s, that’s a good one.

CHIP: Well, watching TV, you can change the channel. Well.

But, but, you know, I think that but while it’s bad, particularly for those folks who are focused on events, either because it’s what they use for their own business, or they’re an agency that uses events with clients, it creates an opportunity for those folks who are thinking this through and saying, How can we do it differently? Yes. And it starts with asking the question, Why do people even come to this event anyway? Yeah. And I’m going to clue you in. It’s not because of the content. Right, right. People do not go to conferences, solely because they can sit through these sessions. In fact, if you go to sessions at conferences, you will see that a lot of them are not very well attended that

BRAD: Hall,

CHIP: they’re standing out in the hall. I mean, it’s, you know, I’m involved with some higher education work, and I was having a conversation with a university leader recently. And I was talking about the, you know, the fall semester, and, you know, a lot of colleges are trying to figure out are they going to be doing online learning still in the fall, or can they do something and I said, I said to them, point blank, I said, why would someone pay $65,000 a year to do online classes, particularly for undergraduate now graduate, you know, it is more about the coursework generally, but undergraduate it’s about the experience. Just go into the party just go into the sporting events. It’s, you know, living in the dorm, all these things that you don’t get through online, why would you pay that? It’s just it doesn’t make any sense to me.

BRAD: I have had parents say that exact thing to me. If we’re going online, I’m not paying 40 grand for my kid to do online learning,

CHIP: right? And unfortunately, so I have a high school senior, my oldest son is 18, and graduating in, I guess, just a month or so here. And so he was in the process of trying to figure out where to go to school. And so we had this conversation and we were talking about, do you take a year off and sort of see what’s going on? Or, you know, and And fortunately, one of his schools that he was accepted to was Southern New Hampshire University, which is, in addition to having the on campus experience has been a leader in online education. And they actually decided that for freshmen, they were going to give them the freshman year for free.

BRAD: Oh, that’s great. So sense Actually,

CHIP: yeah. And so it may not have been his first choice school generally. Right. But because it’s free. He gets to the bank a year of credits, no matter what happens. He knows that if they’re doing online only, it’s an institution that is familiar with how to write. Because frankly, that’s part of the problem in a lot of institutions of higher learning, have pockets of online learning that they’ve done. But I mean, I know one of the universities I’m really familiar with has three or four different applications they use in different. I mean, you got to have some

BRAD: elementary school has like five different ways that teachers are sending assignments to my fifth grader, and I’m like, you know, this is more than I can manage much less him.

CHIP: Yeah, and I can’t imagine I know a lot of people have elementary school aged children. I can’t imagine how you do or how it’s really even useful and productive. I mean, my kids fortunately, they’re in high school. Yeah. So online learning is, you know, not that difficult for them. My 15 year old has actually added a third computer monitor to his computer so that he can play fortnight and take classes. So Boris Yes,

BRAD: yes. Yeah. So as you do as you

CHIP: do, I mean, that’s that’s ingenuity and, you know, part of me wanted to say I keep believe you’re doing this, on the other hand, he was creative enough to figure out to do it. So, you know, points to him and it’s quarantines, all the rules are out the window. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. But anyway, I don’t want to run too far over here. Yeah. So this has been a great conversation.

BRAD: I really appreciate it Chip. It’s been fun and let’s keep in touch because just the conversation that you and I had earlier, like there’s information that you have that I don’t have and I have that you don’t have so we will absolutely be talking and once I’ve got my my videos, skills knocked down, we’ll have you on for a live stream. And that sounds fun.

CHIP: And we’ll take some questions from the audience. Maybe if we can get real time so we’ll, we’ll have some fun with that. But in the meantime, if somebody would like to find out more about you or your podcast or your business, where the heck should they go Brad,

BRAD: anchor advisors comm is the is the best place to find me and if you’re interested in seeing where you are in terms of what the next steps are, you are for you to grow your agency if you go to anchor advisors.com slash Growth bash phase. There’s an assessment there that can help you to see kind of what the next things are you need to focus on.

CHIP: And you also have an excellent podcast that’s even more high energy than we were today, which was for folks listening to this podcast, that’s normally a little bit more NPR style. I think, you know, they’re gonna sit there and say, Oh, my God, more high energy than this one. Yeah, yeah. So So where can they find that was breaking

BRAD: down your business comm is our podcast called breaking down your business, Jill Salzman who has a ton of energy and brings it out to everybody around her. She and I partner on that podcast and it’s, it’s a, it’s like part cardstock part of a business Doc, and part of my morning Zoo to morning zoo.

CHIP: But it is great, and it is one of the podcasts I listened to every week. So we’ll include links to all that in the show notes for you all so that I would say if you were on your commute while you’re not on your commute, but if you’re on the treadmill or you might be walking the dog, you might be walking the dog you know with a face mask. appropriately Distort and all appropriately. We don’t want to encourage any bad behavior by this podcast. So with that, I thank you all for listening, Brad, I thank you for being the guest today. It’s been fantastic and we’ll be back with another episode real soon.

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Mistakes to avoid and opportunities to seek as agencies navigate the current environment and look to the future At the same time, there are plenty of opportunities for agencies that look to innovate and adapt. Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors joins Chip to talk about what agencies should be doing right now.
The pair emphasize the importance of not thinking about the present as a “new normal” and instead looking ahead to what will become the norm in the months and years ahead. We’re all still feeling our way forward and taking it day by day right now, but eventually we’ll come out into a changed environment that agencies will need to handle to secure clients and execute campaigns on their behalf.
Resources

* Anchor Advisors
* Breaking Down Your Business podcast
* Brad’s email list
* Brad on LinkedIn | Twitter

About Brad Farris
Brad Farris guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Brad is a speaker and author. Brad is passionate about business and helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money and enjoy life more.
Transcript
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast. I am your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Brad Ferris with Anchor Advisors. Welcome to the show, Brad.
BRAD: Thanks. Glad to be here, Chip.
CHIP: It is always good to talk to you. And today we’re the subject is reality check. We’re going to give a reality check to agency owners to help them understand what’s real and what’s not in the current environment, or at least what you and I think.
BRAD: Yes, right. As much reality as you and I are in.
CHIP: Well, yes. And then we could debate that I’m sure that my kids would challenge me on whether or not I’m living in reality, or they are but
it is what it is. That’s right. But I think the you know,
and I don’t want to make this a depressing episode, because I think there are there are a lot of good things that will come out of what’s going on for sure. At the same time. I think there is still a lot of destruction to be done. Yes. Yeah. And I think it’s important for agency owners to consider that as they’re making their plans over the next you know, Few months and then even starting to pretend to look beyond that, although the uncertainty is so great, who really knows? I mean, if you had said eight or 10 weeks ago that this is where we were going to be today, we’d have all laughed and said, Oh, my God, yeah, okay, you’re
BRAD: right. I mean, their lives are taking out all their middle seats, right?
CHIP: Well, and nobody’s on them anyway. So I’m gonna take out a bunch of rows, and nobody’s gonna notice any difference. It’s, I mean, it really is, you know, and we say this a lot these days. But you know, none of us have ever seen anything like this, nothing like it. And as a result, it makes planning more difficult. Yeah. But, you know, you and I are talking to lots of business owners and trying to help them sort things out. We’re trying to figure things out ourselves. A lot of it’s guesswork. But,]]>
Chip Griffin 40:00
Meeting the HR challenges of agencies during the Covid-19 crisis (featuring Patrick Rogan) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/meeting-the-hr-challenges-of-agencies-during-the-covid-19-crisis-featuring-patrick-rogan/ Thu, 30 Apr 2020 14:06:28 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7021 How to support your team while continuing to move your business forward]]>

Agency leaders and their employees have fresh worries during the Covid-19 crisis. In addition to the usual human resources challenges any business faces, agencies must deal with a new wave of concerns.

In this conversation, HR consultant Patrick Rogan joined Chip Griffin to discuss how to handle a range of challenges, including:

  • How to communicate with agency staff right now
  • Handling furloughs, layoffs, and other changes
  • New paid sick leave and FMLA requirements
  • HR planning in a time of uncertainty
  • Issues to consider upon reopening offices

Resources

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to the first ever live Chats with Chip episode. I am your host Chip Griffin. And I am joined today by Patrick Rogan of ignition HR. Welcome to the show, Patrick.

PATRICK: Thank you Chip. Happy to be here.

CHIP: It is great to have you I believe you’ve been a guest before, although not on a live edition because this is our first ever live edition. So this will be going out as an agency leadership TV episode on the agency leadership website and also out on the Chats with Chip feed. So you may be seeing or hearing this in one of those places. If you are here alive, feel free to use the q&a function in at the bottom of your screen to submit questions. And we’ll try to get to those over the course of our conversation. But we’re going to be spending some time today talking about some of the HR issues and challenges that agency leaders are facing right now because Patrick, I don’t know about you, but I hear there’s something going on out in the world. It’s not quite status quo.

PATRICK: Yeah, things are a little bit different.

CHIP: Being under house arrest is certainly an interesting environment is not exactly how I plan for 2020. I’m, I don’t know anybody who did have this in their strategic plan for the year. But we all are making the best of it. And obviously, in the agency world folks have a lot of challenges. Fortunately, you have a lot of expertise in HR challenges in the agency and professional services world. So I am very pleased that you’re able to join us and talk through some of those challenges that everybody has.

PATRICK: Sure.

Communicating with your employees

CHIP: So, I mean, let’s just let’s dive right in. And, you know, as we look at what’s going on right now, to me, the first thing is communication, right? Because, I mean, everybody’s concerned, you know, owners are concerned, leaders are concerned employees are concerned, their families are concerned. And it’s it’s multifaceted. And so, you know, to me, one of the most important things as a leader in any organization is to be communicating effectively, right. So you know, what, what communications challenges or things should that folks be keeping in mind With their teams, so not externally, but with the actual Yeah,

PATRICK: yeah. So I think you really hit it on the on the headship when you said, communicating effectively, I would add to that communicating frequently as well. And I think when we think about the audience that we’re communicating to the default is as broad an audience as possible. So lots of times we think about the people who we have on our normal team that maybe we have weekly calls or a couple of weekly calls, or we’re talking about projects that we’re working on and deliverables that are due and that type of thing. But sometimes there are other parts of the organization, maybe there’s some part time employees or maybe there’s some consultants and we’d like to bring them into the fold is a little bit as well too. It kind of gives them a sense of belonging. And that’s an area where I think a lot of organizations are doing a much better job.

CHIP: And, and I think the one on one communications are particularly important to write because a lot of folks won’t share, you know, their real concerns. If they’ve got peers sitting next to them. They really need to have that opportunity with their supervisors to be able to share what’s really on their minds.

PATRICK: Yeah. And I think being able to have those one on one, particularly as it relates to feedback is really, really important. And feedback. Obviously, there are two sides of feedback, right? So there’s a positive feedback, hey, you did a great job on this. And there’s constructive feedback in terms of, hey, this could be a little bit better next time when we do this. Why don’t you try it this way? Both of those avenues, I think resonate really, really, really well with employees and now more than ever, because people are, you said it earlier where it was a little bit more galling, a little bit more stress in the background, we need to work a little bit harder to keep those relationships going as business owners.

How transparent should you be?

CHIP: And you know, I think one of the things that employees tend to notice are clients who go away. And the data seems to suggest that somewhere in the neighborhood of about 80% of agencies have lost revenue as a result of what’s been going on the last six weeks or so. So almost every agent See employee no matter what space they’re in, has seen some loss of clients. And so that makes them worry about their own jobs and the future of the business. How transparent should agency owners and agency leaders be? And how do they find that right balance of, you know, not lying to the employees, but still trying to reassure them?

PATRICK: Yeah, I think I think being as honest as possible is key. And I think acknowledging the fact to employees that there are unknowns, and depending upon which way those unknowns go could have an impact on the size of the organization going forward, and it may impact some individual jobs. I think it’s okay to go ahead and get that out. When you say that though, I think it’s important for employees to understand that as business owners, we have a specific process that we’re going to be going through and that when we have to let go staff it is the last possible resort, because there’s a tendency, my experience when when there’s a lack of emotion, Employees are going to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps. And almost always, those imaginations will be far more negative than reality. So the more we can do to kind of help them understand exactly what the situation is, what the next steps are, what the process is going to be, approximately, when we think people are going to be able to find out, it just helps remove a lot of the stress and it kind of alleviate some of those grand imaginary things that employees will dream up by fact, or at least as much information as we can give them.

CHIP: And I like how you underscored you know, being honest and not necessarily sugarcoating it. Because I hear there is a tendency for leaders owners to say, you know, don’t worry about it, everything’s gonna be okay until the last possible minute and then they’re like, Okay, well, crap. Now we’ve got now we’ve got to cut costs. So it tends to come more out of the blue from employees in that

PATRICK: scenario, right? Yep. So

CHIP: and I think, you know, having run businesses and seeing Both 2001 and 2008. And I know you’ve seen those as well, you know, my general experiences that most businesses Wait, particularly in this space wait far too long to make headcount reductions, because they, you know, that they just keep hoping that they can find a way so that they can avoid that very unpleasant outcome that, you know, nobody wants to have happen.

PATRICK: Yeah. And I think while you’re taking the steps to make those decisions, very difficult decisions that have to be made. I think it’s also important to look at your talent needs from a broader perspective at the same time. So yes, maybe a difficult decision has to be made, but since I’m looking at my talent anyway, a good question to ask yourself is, well, do I have the right talent Now to begin with, right? And are there areas where I should perhaps broaden it a little bit, or maybe, even though these are very difficult times? Maybe there’s some talent that I have access to that I wouldn’t Normally, and maybe in this case, I should take a hard look at that. So it’s not all negative, there might be some positive things here too. And I think looking at that glass sort of half full can be really, really helpful right now, given certain situations. Does that make sense?

Finding opportunity in the turmoil

CHIP: It absolutely does. And one of the things that I’ve been saying for the last several weeks is that rahm emanuel is someone you should listen to, and not necessarily politically, but but one of the things that he famously said during the 2008 economic crisis or shortly thereafter was never let a good crisis go to waste. And I, you know, I, it’s harsh, but I agree with the sentiment because you need to take advantage of this opportunity. If you do need to make staff changes to take a look at the whole picture and say, as you’ve said, not necessarily just what do you need to cut? What do you need what you know, what, what could you add? How do you restructure overall and so, so taking a much more broad creative view is a smarter approach than just saying, okay, you know, my bean counter says, I need to cut you know, 25,000 in costs. Let me just go Find those 25,000.

PATRICK: Right? Yeah, being a little bit more strategic about that process is really important right now.

Deciding how deep to cut

CHIP: Yeah. And if you are someone who is in a position where you unfortunately do have to cut staff, and how, how should you go about figuring, I mean, we’ve talked a little bit about figuring out what you need for the future. But you know, it, should you factor in how long someone’s been with you. It should just be skills based should just be positioned based, should you remove people who, you know, they were working on certain clients that went away, you know, what, what advice would you have for folks as they’re thinking through how to, you know, make these difficult decisions? Well, you know,

PATRICK: looking further along in the process, Chip, one of the things I always recommend when, let’s say we’ve gone through everything that you’ve just described, and we’re actually having a conversation with the employee, and we’re saying, you know, unfortunately, we need to have a difficult decision based upon a variety of reasons that that have impacted the business we have to eliminate your position and this is what that means. So The variety of business conditions are the things that you have to think about at the beginning of that process. So certainly, there’s someone skills and your need is the organization, the business, the projects, you know, what are the needs, you weigh them all together. And then ultimately, you have to make a decision that’s best for your business. And then you have the communication later on in the background. Just keep in mind, there are certain factors that are not appropriate for considering and they’re the normal things but I always like to mention them. So some of them are federal law and regulation related, some are state law and regulation related but race, color, creed, age, you know, all those things cannot be a factor. Someone who’s out on pregnancy leave being a factor in deciding whether to let someone go illegal can’t do that. So just kind of keep those in the back back of your mind. Keep it strictly to the business, you know, look at what your organization needs, now. Future? And how long can you make it with the staff that you have? Those are the primary factors you should be looking at. And things are going to work out just fine.

CHIP: And I think, you know, you’ve highlighted something really important there, just to make sure that you’re in compliance anytime you’re making staff changes like this. You know, particularly because you know, folks are, it’s a stressful time, you’re, if you’re letting people go, now you’re putting them out into a very difficult job market, because we’ve seen what has happened with unemployment numbers in recent weeks. So if this is not like, you know, you’re just, you’re the only one affected, they’ll have a fine time landing on their feet somewhere else, it’s probably going to be a while before they get picked up somewhere else. So you want to make sure that you’re not inadvertently stepping in something, or deliberately stepping in it because you’re a little little rash. So talking to an HR consultant, or legal counsel, or those kinds of things, I think is particularly important before you undertake layoffs.

PATRICK: It’s time well spent. I mean, there’s so many state and local laws now that are different You know, that impact little things you wouldn’t normally think of like, for instance, in some states, if you terminate an employee and their employment, you have to give them their last paycheck on the day you deliver the news. In other states, it could be a week in other states, it’s the normal pay cycle. So little things like that. It’s just good to get a little outside help to make sure you’re on the straight now there,

Different approaches to cutting staff costs

CHIP: right now, that makes sense. And there are there are different ways that you can to your point there about having to give that last paycheck, there are different approaches that you can take to this true to you could you could use a garden leave for example. And maybe that’s concept we should explain, but you could furlough people there are you know, you can do pay cuts. I mean, there’s there’s a gazillion different ways that you can cut costs. Let’s talk through some of them because, you know, they have their pros and cons, since I mentioned garden leave. But why don’t you explain what garden leave is, and I think it’s particularly relevant in this scenario because of the payroll Protection Program. right because that’s, that’s Basically encouraging employers to keep people for a period of time, right. But if you’ve lost a lot of business, you may be sitting there saying once once that money is up, I don’t have the money to keep paying you.

PATRICK: Right? Right. Well, you have a number of different options. One is, you can you can cut back on an employee’s hours, you can put them into part time status. In most jurisdictions, if it’s at least 30 hours a week, they can still be full time status, but you’ve cut some of the costs out so they’re able to keep their benefits, that’s one option to consider another option, we talked about it before, maybe you can afford to continue paying for benefits. So you want to furlough them for a period of time. That gives them some cushion, but sometimes that’s not even doable, either. And, you know, depending upon the impact on the business, then maybe you just have to do a reduction in force. In which case, you know, unfortunately, that’s the least a bit advantageous to the employee but who knows, when business comes up, you could certainly bring them back on down the road. So there are a number of different options that we have. I think the best thing to do is kind of look at your business situation first, and then figure out what can we do in terms of having the right talent to get you what you need to do to get your job done.

CHIP: Right. And it will vary a little bit from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, what the pros and cons are, because furloughs, for example, the rules can vary substantially from state to state, as far as you know how that gets treated from an unemployment perspective. For the most part now, in the midst of this current crisis, furloughs are being treated in such a way that you can get full unemployment benefits, but it may vary for your particular area, and you want to look at that you obviously want to look at, you know, what the impact is with your insurance policies. And you know, are they are they okay with you taking that approach? So make sure that you’ve crossed the T’s and dotted the i’s here so that you don’t think you came up with a great solution only to find out the hard way that you didn’t? Yeah, yeah. And

New paid leave requirements for small agencies

PATRICK: then you also, you may have some employees who are going to have to To go out on a sick leave, and under the families first Coronavirus response act FCRA. You know, you have some relief as an employer, if you have under 500 employees, so you’ve got 80 hours that you can get. You can provide leave to employees if it’s related to Coronavirus largely that you’ll be able to get a payroll tax credit down the road. And then after that,

CHIP: but importantly, you have to pay them now. Right. So you have

PATRICK: to pay them now. But then you get a payroll tax credit down the road. I know

CHIP: for some agencies, that’s been an issue. Yeah. Because because the money comes out of their pocket now, but they don’t get the tax credit until later. Right. It was. I’m not sure that when Congress passed that they thought it out quite as well as they should have from a cash flow perspective for a hurting business. Right, right. Because because it’s a fairly generous policy if I recall correctly, you know, for example, Simply having to take care of the kid who’s out of school, I believe will qualify you as being able to take paid leave.

PATRICK: It does. And it’s up to $510 per day, per employee up to 80 hours per sick leave. And then there’s also for that same conditions skip, for family medical leave, you get an additional 12 weeks of paid leave. And that’s up to $200 a day. So it is, you know, and if you can manage the cash flow, you do get all that back. You know, you just, it’s just going to take, obviously, a little bit of time.

CHIP: Right. And I think it’s it that is one of those things that a lot of agencies aren’t even aware of an obligation for Fortunately, I think for them, most of their employees probably aren’t aware either. So they’re not asking for it. Right. But but it’s still you know, it is something important to be aware of, because it can have a real impact on your business, particularly as a small agency.

PATRICK: So one thing first small agencies also to consider chip is that in some cases, you know, we talked about the cash flow. But in other cases, if you have a very small agency, having an employee out for two weeks of sick leave, and then 12 weeks of FMLA FMLA leave may be critical to the business. So there are rules for organizations with 25 or less employees where if there’s a significant impact on the business, then you cannot, you can elect not to provide this benefit to employees. So no one wants to be in that situation to, to, but legally, they did that for a reason. Because for smaller organizations, you know, you could very well go out of business if you have a key stakeholder who’s not going to be able to hold up there and of the work that needs to be done. So that’s another thing that you know, people should just keep in mind they have it’s an option.

Across the board pay cuts

CHIP: Yeah, I mean, I’ve run small businesses with less than 25 employees. I’ve had people go out on it, even unpaid leave and that can be very damaging. You’re to the business for an extended period of time. So, you know, it’s certainly something to be aware of getting back to the, you know, it reducing costs as it relates to staff. You know, what, what’s your view on across the board pay cuts in an organization? Is that? Is that a good idea? Is it something you should ask first you just do it unilaterally? Should you only do it if someone comes to you? What, you know, what’s, what’s your thinking on that?

PATRICK: So, I’ve seen it done a couple of different ways. The ones that have resonated the best with me, is on a sliding scale. So that your higher income employees have a larger percent than lower income employees there. There are different ways to do it. The thing is, there just needs to be consistency with the methodology. As long as there is I think it’s I think employees appreciate it. You know, if it keeps our job, it keeps our benefits. I think it’s worth consideration, but it can be a little tricky. Yeah.

CHIP: Yeah. And I’ll be honest with you, I’m not generally a fan of across the board, pay cuts. I think you know, executive teams. Just want to take one yeah as sort of a morale boost in conjunction with some reductions in in headcount. That’s fine. I’m, but I’m not I’m not a huge fan of across the board pay cuts, because they, they’re not the kind of thing that really can last. But unfortunately, usually once they go into place, they don’t they don’t disappear for quite some time. And, and so it can be real damaging to morale over time.

PATRICK: I agree that the only time I’ve seen them work well is when there is a true time sensitive, specific Yes, period. And then at that point, then it goes back. But But we can’t say that with the situation that we have. Now. How long do we know this is going to last? Your guess is as good as mine?

Reduce staff once if possible

CHIP: Right? I mean, that’s what that’s and I’ve said, I think that’s the biggest problem with the current scenario is the uncertainty over what’s happening. And, you know, even in some of these past recoveries, you could put a plan together and say, okay, you know, here’s, here’s how we’re going to work our way out of it. Here. You know, we don’t even know when the circumstances are going to change for most of us. So it’s up It’s very, very challenging to plan. But let’s say let’s say we, you know, we’re going through if we do decide that we need to reduce headcount. So whatever number of employees, you know, what is your guidance? Should I should I rip the band aid off and do it all at once? Should I, you know, if I know, like, I have to do 10 employees, do I do that now? And then kind of say, Okay, well, you know, in two or three weeks, I’ll figure out if I need to go further. You know, let’s talk through a little bit sort of how you do it strategically big picture. And then I want to talk a little bit about how you handle the individual meetings themselves. For sure, an important topic that most agency owners just don’t have to deal with. Yeah,

PATRICK: yeah. So we talked a little bit earlier about the importance of understanding the business reasons why you may need to make a change in your staffing and I think the more analysis and time you put there, you’re going to get good results in terms of how this ends. But in general, I recommend if you can have one action that involves staff over a very long period of time, that is the best part. goes. The last thing the most demoralizing thing for staff is if you have one person, their positions eliminated one week, and then three weeks later another one, it becomes death of 1000 cuts, and it just becomes very kind of morale. A real real morale downer in the workplace and employees just kind of hate it. So I would say, do your analysis up front, you know, get your get your numbers where they are figure out you obviously you have to make some assumptions, make the assumptions, make a call, and then you know, you can at that point honestly say to him, Please, listen, I’m fortunate we’ve had to take this action. These are the positions that have been impacted. Unfortunately, the as of this date, these individuals are no longer with the organization, we’re going to do all our best to help them land somewhere else. We’re confident and hopeful that we won’t have to make this decision again in the future. But based upon what we can see right now, these are all the actions we’re going to take. You can say that with an honest face, and that’s going to go a long way with sass. A little bit more comfortable in very uncertain times.

CHIP: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely great advice. Because you really don’t want to be in that situation where you are just kind of you keep cutting away at the confidence of the team. And everybody’s wondering, you know, is today the day that I go, you know, so the more that you can take care of it all at once, at least given what, you know, obviously, unforeseen circumstances happen, but based on what you know, today, so, you know, my advice is typically cut a little bit more than you think you really need to Yeah, you know, it’s it’s better to err on the side, particularly right now, because there’s, there’s a lot of talent that’s out there now, unfortunately, unfortunate for them, fortunately for the employers, right. So you know, you’re going to have a much easier time adding people back than you are a few you know, you let 10 people go now and then you find out you have to let two people go in a month and three people go after that. That’s just, you know, overestimate what you need to trim in order to be healthy. And I think you’ll be in a better position and I know it sounds almost heartless to say it, but it’s it You have to as an owner, as a leader, you need to think about the survival of the organization first, right? Because if you do something to protect a small number of employees, you may end up harming the whole employee base by your your inaction today.

PATRICK: Yeah, you know, it’s it’s a much easier decision and a much easier process to go through to let 11 employees go this week. And two weeks later, offer one of those employees a job back, then they’ll let 10 employees go this week, and then two weeks left, one more go. That that’s devastating.

CHIP: Right. And I think you know, agencies really need to be thinking about this because they have by and large lost revenue, they are by and large, at least trying to get the PPP money right there. You know, so they’re in a position where they’re, they’re not letting people go now because that’s the condition of getting loan forgiveness that or not, yeah, you’re smart to hold on to those people. But you also you don’t want to wait until the VPP money runs out to then decide that you need to reduce headcount. Take advantage of the this breathing room that the VPP is giving you, and make the appropriate changes, let people know, you know, you 10 people, when the PPP runs out, we’re going to have to let you go. So you’re basically using the government’s money to pay them their severance in the form of a garden leave type situation, right? You know, you’re, you’re, you’re being as gentle and as kind of those employees as possible, right, not putting the business in a bad place by waiting to the last minute to deal with it.

PATRICK: Yep. Yeah. And, and by being flexible like that, you will open yourself up to a little bit of risk, because if an employee knows they’re going to be leaving, eventually, maybe they check out a little bit earlier. That’s a risk. But you know what everyone else saw how fair you were correct. And, and that counts for a lot as well, too.

How to handle layoff conversations

CHIP: Absolutely. So now let’s talk about the the meetings themselves and I, you know, I’m sure we could do probably a whole hour you know, with guidance on, on how to actually have a layoff type meetings with individuals. But, you know, let’s talk about some of the basics. You know, is there is there a better time of day day of the week to do it? You know, if you’ve got multiple people to lay off, and not enough team members, not enough leadership team members to actually perform those actions, and how do you sequence it? And, and obviously, it’s a little bit different now because nobody’s in an office for the most part, right. So normally, you have the issue. Everybody’s in the office, everybody can see. Right now, on the one hand, you don’t have that, but you do have everybody will, you know, instant message each other right away or texted well, right away. So how do you how do you handle the meetings themselves?

PATRICK: Yeah. So it’s important that they be handled First of all, as professionally as possible. You generally want to be brief, don’t apologize. The situation is a situation. You know, we need to have a difficult decision. We’ve reviewed we’ve talked about it in our meetings all along. We’ve had some challenges on the business side, and as a result of that, your position is being eliminated. As what or maybe not what we’re going to be maybe we can help you out placement or whatever going forward, you kind of lay it out, you give a pause, you let them kind of digest. Keep in mind that how an employee respond to that piece of information

PATRICK: is probably going to be a surprise to you. Because it’s not often that you’re going to see that employee with that amount of stress, and how people operate under stress that there’s normal style of behavior. There’s stress style behavior, you never really know what that’s going to be. So keep in mind, the employee may be shocked even though there should be no surprise everyone knew this was maybe going to come it could it nine times out of 10, the employee is going to be shocked. Sometimes they’re going to be mad.

PATRICK: Sometimes they’re going to be like, so what are you’re saying, I mean, I have this project, I’m working on it like they’re in it’s called denial. Well, you kind of have to make sure they really understand and be supportive. Let them know what next steps are. And you know, it should really be about a five minute conversation.

CHIP: And you should have all the paperwork ready, right going into it. You shouldn’t. This is not something where you have the conversation, then you get the paperwork together afterwards, you should have it. I mean, obviously, it’s not gonna be in person again, but you know, you’re emailing it to them during the conversation during the conversation, you should be sending them a letter that outlines everything that you’ve just discussed.

PATRICK: You mentioned timing, always better in the morning. Think about it from the employees perspective. As soon as I find out that their position is ending, they want to look at finding their next position, if you let them know at five o’clock in the afternoon, they can’t call any headhunters, you know, they can’t call their network everyone’s done for the day, you know, make it early in the day, early in the week, just and

CHIP: now they can’t even go to the bar.

PATRICK: Yeah, that’s right. Oh, wonderful. Then you’ll get a really nice email. And then if it’s going to be multiple individuals, just do them is you know as in as quick a time period as you can obviously text messages are going to start flying. There’s nothing you can do over that you really have no control over that situation it sort of is what it is. But you want to get the word out there as quickly as possible. They’re going to have to be like this conversation right here, either zoom or whatever means you have of connecting with people. That’s that’s the only way we can connect right now. But

CHIP: certainly, I mean, since you can’t do it in person, which is always preferred radio video is the next best it is as opposed to just you know, a phone call or something like that. And by all means, never do it by email or text, or no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no matter what it takes, get them in a voice to voice situation. It’s a lot easier now to do that, because all conversations are taking place that way, right. But you know, don’t don’t think you’re getting the easy way out by doing a mass email or something.

PATRICK: So impersonal and you know, it’s organizations still do that. And it blows my mind. Yeah. Because it is just not the way people like to be.

CHIP: Well, I mean, people people, generally speaking don’t like to fire people. They certainly don’t like to lay people off, you know, particularly if they’re, it’s through no fault of their own. So it’s, it is challenging, I get that. But that’s that’s not an excuse. Okay, so we’ve had the meeting with the individuals, you know, now we should bring the whole team together, right and share with zactly, what’s taking place on it, it’s done that we’re, you know, we’re not going to keep going,

PATRICK: right. And that should be done in a video conference, if at all possible, because you want to let everyone have the message at the same time they need to see in your eyes, when you describe the process that you went through to make those decisions. They need to see in your eyes that you really did, like, reading doesn’t really cover, you know, and they and they need to know whether you’re sincere or not about you think that this is where we need to be from a staff perspective, or I just took a stab in the dark here. Maybe we’ll be having this conversation again next week. Hopefully not. Right. So keep in mind when you’re having that conversation, you may get some anxiety from your other staff because obviously what are they going to be wondering what’s this going to mean for me right now? workload going to increase it’s a is it going to double is my position now in jeopardy, you know, keep in mind, they’re going to have all those thoughts flying around in their head and you want to do your best to kind of calm things down and set them at ease. You know, there’s going to be a little bit of survivor’s remorse, you know, in in in that conversation, there might be a little bit of shock. As much as you think that people should understand these things are coming. The reality is, it’s always going to be a surprise.

CHIP: Right. Right. And I think it’s particularly important to to make sure that in your messaging, you’re respectful of the employees that you’ve had delay. And unfortunately, this is a lesson that gets lost quite a bit because I think there’s a tendency for some managers to overcompensate and say, Look, don’t worry about it. We’re going to be okay that, you know, they were our lowest performers anyway.

PATRICK: Oh.

CHIP: And actually, I just saw this earlier this week. a holding company executive, publicly said publicly said the People were letting go our lowest performers. I mean, it is the absolute worst example of management that you can set ever, because now anybody who’s let go from that agency, it looks like they’re just terrible employees. So that’s and the reality is layoffs typically are not that even most run of the mill terminations in good times are not necessarily that they were low performance. It may just have been the wrong fit for Yes, absolutely. And so I think you really need to go out of your way to be respectful because, first of all, you never know where those employees are going to end up, they may end up at a potential client of yours in the future. So sure, you don’t want them to bear you ill will but more importantly for the rest of your team. If you start bad mouthing, departed employees, they’re going to wonder what you say about them.

PATRICK: The character of an organization is determined by how you handle the situation when times are tough. So the conversation you have with that employee is going to be leaving the conversation you have with your staff. They are all definitions of the character of your organization. Little bit of pressure. But I think it’s important to recognize that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Performance management amid the crisis

CHIP: Yep. All right. Well, we’ve we’ve talked enough about sort of the painful things that you have to do with employees to reduce headcount and costs. Let’s talk about some of the other realities that we have in our organizations from an HR standpoint right now, one that comes to mind is performance management of your team. Yeah. And, you know, because they’re, their KPIs are probably out the window. And I likelihood, you know, every whatever goals you set as an organization or with your individuals back in, you know, November, December of last year, odds are people aren’t going to be able to hit them, right? Depends on exactly what they were, but chances are, it’s gonna be difficult to hit them. You know, people are now working remotely. So you know, the way that you manage has changed a bit. So let’s, let’s talk about some of those challenges. Let’s start with, you know, sort of the basics of performance management goals, objectives, KPIs, how should you look to it, should you throw them out and start over, should you Say look for right now, we’re just focused on getting through month to month and you know, we’ll give you a continuous feedback, but we’re not going to worry about specific objectives, how you How would you handle that?

PATRICK: So the process part of performance management, I’m advising my clients take a breather on that, focus on lots of communication, lots of feedback, you know, making sure that things are getting done the way they need to be done the the old fashioned way, I think, you know, focusing on competencies and mid year reviews, and year end, appraisals and all those kind of things, which there’s a whole school of thought in terms of how much value they add anyway, but I really wouldn’t focus on those process things right now, I would focus a lot more on the communications, I think that’s where their value is going to be. And I wouldn’t get too hung up with some of those things. Certainly, at the end of the day our employees have to perform, but we need to recognize as managers, that there’s a lot more Non work related information we’re gonna hear dealing with our employees and we’ve ever heard before. And we might as well just get used to that, because that’s just the way things are for a while and you know what, it’s going to get better. But when we get into the whole Well, you know, KPIs where we have that it’s like, really, I’d recommend just put that off to the side for a little bit. I think it’s probably not what we need to focus on right now.

Being a manager of a suddenly remote workforce

CHIP: I think that makes it makes a lot of sense. Take a deep breath and focus on the things that you can more or less control, which is very much short term right now. Yeah, not get wound up over some of that. That other stuff. As you look at traditional managers who are now having to manage a remote workforce, and a workforce that’s used to coming into the office, now working from home and not only working from home, but working from home where, you know, the kids are probably cooped up with them in many cases, or for younger employees. You know, they’re there with roommates. We’re also working remotely in a cramped living room. setup in a department? Yeah. How, as a manager, how should I be looking at managing the the day to day performance of my team? You know, what tips would you have for someone who’s had to shift to this new role?

PATRICK: This is kind of tricky chip, because I really don’t believe in a cookie cutter approach here. I mean, in general rule of thumb, we should be communicating more than we generally would because of the situation as it is right now. I get that don’t leave people out. Make sense, but everyone has jobs to do and work that needs to be done. And if we’re on the phone all day on conference calls, how are we going to get anything done? You know, it’s kind of a catch 22 there. The other thing that complicates it is when we look at our employees, depending upon the individual there are going to be different needs with human contact, and some employees you know them they want to chit chat, you know, they want to socialize and they’re stuck in a in a house maybe by themselves and the more interaction they Have the better. So with some employees on your team, maybe you have a little bit more interaction, because you know, that’s what they need. Other employees are really focused on just getting the job done. You know, they want to minimize the conversation because they’re working on something they want to get it done. They want to get it done, right. So give them a little space, like maybe they don’t need to participate on all the calls, maybe they can, you know, and have some one on one conversation with them. Because you know, when working with them, that’s going to kind of resonate a little bit better for them. So from a management perspective, my experience has been, the managers who are best managing teams in the office they’re face to face are just as good managers on remote teams because they have the people skills to know that poor employee a has different needs employee B, and I’m going to adapt to each one of them to get things done more effectively. So managers who are most effective seeing everything getting done and micromanaging every step along the way, are going to have a horrible time with the remote workforce because they can’t see anymore, you know. So right being that first manager I think is going to go a long, long ways and understanding the individual needs of your staff. And your flexibility, I think is really, really important.

CHIP: Right. And I think as we said early on in this conversation, and as you’ve just touched on now, you need to make sure that you’re still having your regular meetings with folks. So you don’t necessarily need to lard up their schedule. But if you if you’re having a regular one on one, with your direct reports every week as you should, right, you certainly need to make sure you don’t let it go by the wayside if you let it go by the wayside because you were in the office and you saw them every day. First of all, tell you even in the office, that’s a bad idea. You should still have scheduled one on ones even if you see someone every day at the watercooler and all that it’s not the same, right, having that schedule, but certainly right now, make sure you’re having those scheduled one on ones, make sure that you don’t let the team meetings go. Because people do need that feel some sort of connection to each other.

PATRICK: You know, I’ve also seen a lot of organizations they’ll do like every other Friday, they’ll do a virtual happy hour, and then maybe they’ll do like Bingo, or I have one client, they have a meditation, I know a yoga expert, who they are in a park. So they’re in an area where they can, they can be in a park for one thing, and they’re just the social distancing. And they can do yoga. Another one, there’s like a, they go to, it’s interesting, they go to a park, and they do meditation in their cars. So they’re in the park setting. And then they have a person talking to them on the phone, you could see the person but you can see the trees and everything. And somehow that works for them. Sometimes you have to be a little bit creative, but those are things I think that organizations are starting to do a little bit more just to kind of help those who are sort of socially starved.

CHIP: Right? And I think finding creative solutions is a good idea at this point in time and, you know, try it and if it doesn’t work, you know, take the feedback and move on. You know, but you know, for the most part you’re not going to cause too much harm with these experiments. But you know, to be careful there, there are certainly lines you can cross right in these experiments, but for the most part, you should be okay. But you The flip side and you talked about I think the managers who are having the greatest difficulty right now the micromanagers, the people who’s just you know that the control freaks who need to know everything that’s going on I’ve seen in some agencies folks are trying to implement new tracking, you know, we haven’t done time tracking before, but we’re going to do it now. Or we increase the frequency of our video check ins just to make sure that you’re you’re there. I mean, that’s a terrible idea right there. This is not the time to put in new big brother type monitoring, or even little brother type monitoring, it’s you need to show that you trust your team in this new environment.

PATRICK: You do and you have to give him space, particularly those who really need this space. So many times that, you know, I get, I get a lot of work where, you know, we have a manager, we have an employee who’s doing now what they were doing before, and the manager wants to help me manage a performance problem because he or she’s not getting the number of reports they now want or there’s something added that isn’t being done. And it’s like, wait a minute,

PATRICK: the same work is getting done now as being done before, right? So why is there a problem

and you know, and you have to kind of like talk them through. And that really is another example of the situation.

Making something a problem that really wouldn’t have been a problem before. And managers need to be adaptable and recognize that and a little bit more flexible on their side and just kind of back off a little bit.

CHIP: And I think the flexibility is important too. Because, you know, folks do have different home situations. They’re, they’re being affected by that differently. People are affected differently by being cooped up all the time. There are some people who are, frankly, even thriving on it that I’ve talked to, they’re like, this is great, you know, I don’t have to really deal with people in person. It’s fantastic. You know, the, but then there are the people who are just out of their minds. Yeah, going crazy. And part of it depends on the jurisdiction and how strict The rules are about, you know, what you can do outside of the home. Right. You know, certainly employees have additional potential challenges. If you If they have health risks or family members in their household have health risks, you know, so how do you support employees through the various challenges that they may be having now that are not necessarily directly performance related, but certainly end up impacting performance over time.

PATRICK: A lot of it is just having the conversation, you know, asking the question, how are you doing? How do you feel about that? What’s your situation? You know, can can we help you? What can we do better to support you? those kind of questions go a long way. You know, but we, you know, as we start to transition back to the office, there gonna be some challenges we’re going to face. And, you know, I think we’re going to need to be asking the right questions of employees without asking the wrong questions. So for instance, you know, if someone has a medical problem that will put them in a high risk category, you can’t ask them if they have a medical problem. But what you can do is you could check every employee’s temperature as they come into the building. I mean, there is no rule of thumb, if you do it consistently, it’s generally going to be okay. If you target certain populations, it’s probably not going to be okay. But we have an obligation as employers to make sure we keep our employees safe. And those are high risk status, you know, we want to pay attention to

Re-opening offices

CHIP: that that’s a great transition to probably the last topic that I really want to make sure we cover which is, you know, going back to the office, because this is, this is very much on the minds of the agency owners I’m talking to right now who have physical offices, and and they’re starting to, you know, as the stay at home rules are being relaxed in a lot of different places. And, you know, it is sort of a hodgepodge. So not everybody who’s listening to this is going to be in the same situation, right? But everybody is sort of at least starting to think about, well, what does it mean to reopen my office and you’ve touched on one important area from an HR perspective, which is being able to put measures in place that protects the whole team so and federal regulators have basically said there is a fair amount of latitude And they’ve issued some guidance that that says that it’s okay to take employees temperatures, it’s okay to ask them, you know, if they’ve traveled to somewhere where there is, you know, a high rate of infection, it’s okay to ask people to stay home if they’ve traveled around, you know, so there’s, there’s a lot of additional leeway that employers are being given. You, obviously, as an agency leader need to think through how much of that leeway Do you want to take advantage of? And you know, what kind of rules do you want to put in place for your own team? Right, and there’s, obviously there’s the, there’ll be the legally mandated things you have to do, but then there’s a whole

PATRICK: wide area of things that you can do that fall within that. So you just want to make sure that you know, you don’t fall into a situation where you’re doing what’s legally required. But you know, reputational Lee, you’ve put your, your team and your organization in a bad space because perhaps you haven’t been taken some of the safeguards that you could easily do simple things. You know, start thinking about personal protection equipment that employees are going to need when they’re back in the office, start thinking about social distancing. You know, the having employees working on the same long table is probably not going to be a workable solution, you know, in the new world with, you know, how do you get that six foot social distance? You know, having some inexpensive plastic barriers up are things that you can do to really protect your employees in this new environment. We don’t have all the answers right now. But as a business owners, we should be thinking about that right now. And getting some of those peepees you know, if you want to start ordering them now would probably a good time to do that.

CHIP: Yeah, it because some of these things are going to take a fair amount of lead time to implement, so you want to start thinking them through. I think in general, I can say most of the agency owners I’m talking with are not they’re not in a rush to reopen their offices, right. nor should they be because for the most part, most agencies can work pretty effectively remotely. You know, there’s no doubt that some of them work better than others. office setting but, you know, if you’ve got the flexibility to delay that, that date, you’re probably better off even though it means you’re paying rent or a mortgage on space that you’re not using, which is I get it, it’s painful financially. But at the same time, imagine the pain if you bring people back too soon and, and end up in a bad situation. I think caution is is very much advised. And the more time that you think through the The more you can put the right solutions in place. And you

PATRICK: should also be thinking about what types of reasonable accommodations if they’re requested by your employees you think you will be able to make which will allow the businesses to get done?

CHIP: Right. And I think the reasonable accommodations are going to be particularly important because it It appears that in most places, schools will not be reopening until the fall, and most most summer camps in most areas look like they’ll be either cancelled or substantially modified, which means anyone with young kids is going to have challenges. Yep, certainly folks who have health issues themselves are again, you know, at risk people in their household that they’re potentially exposing, they may be uncomfortable coming in. So I, I think you need to be prepared for that. But I also think you need to be working now in collaboration with your team to start thinking these issues through. So don’t, you know, don’t sit in your own home, you know, maybe with a couple of other executives or an outside consultant, trying to think through it, engage the rest of your team and talk with them. You know, what, what do you think? Do you Are you anxious to get back to the office? Would you rather wait? what suggestions do you have for how we can make the office a good place? They’ll come up with some good suggestions, but more importantly, they’ll feel involved, you know, tool which will help deal with some of their anxieties? Absolutely. Absolutely. And that involvement

PATRICK: will have a direct relation on their anxiety level being lower, and instead of being a victim, that can be part of the solution.

CHIP: Right. And some of these things, as you said, are going to take time if you’re ordering tea, that’s gonna take some time. Yeah, to get it. If you’re looking at having more Hand Sanitizer around or disinfecting wipes or any of those kinds of things, that’s going to take some time, you may need to spend some time if you’re in a shared office environment, you may need to work with other tenants and landlords to coordinate on your approach to shared areas. Sure. So there’s a lot of things that you really need to make sure that you’re carefully thinking through. So that you, you end up giving the best possible scenario for your team.

PATRICK: Speaking of shared environments, I know there’s some specials going on now with a lot of the vendors in those spaces. So if you feel like you do need to get your employees together in the relative near future, you might want to think about asking what kind of specials I’ve gotten a few calls myself, right.

CHIP: Well, and you should, you should be thinking through, you know, all of the big picture things like things that you never really even think about, like cleaning of your office, right? You need to be talking to whatever cleaning service you’re using, and figure out what what are their plans Right, you know, and if you want to do a deep cleaning or something like that, you know, what is that going to cost? Can you even find people who will do that? I know some agencies are looking right now to secure deep cleaning of their offices before they reopen. And first of all, that’s not cheap. Right? And secondly, it turns out that kind of things and a lot of demand right now. So yeah, you need to be thinking through that. I mean, most of us, you know, we’re, we were happy if someone collected our trash at the end of the day, you know, cleaned up the crumbs in the break room. And, you know, it looked like if they had, you know, maybe dusted once in the last half century. But, you know, now you really don’t have to give a lot more thought to some of those cleaning practices. I think

PATRICK: you are and

you know, where you’re going to have your employees located, you know, the building may may have an agreement they have in place, you know, like as you’re potentially going to go back to your same place or go somewhere else, how they answered those questions and figured out those problems could be a key factor for you in terms of where you want your employees to come back to.

CHIP: Right. And I know a lot of agencies are using environments like we work and, and those organizations have been coming up with their own policies, right? I know they’re in the process of communicating some of those to their, their members. And that may or may not work for you. So you’ll need to figure out, I mean, I was talking with one agency leader recently, and we work had given them some new guidelines for the space that they use, and they’re like, well, that’s just not gonna work for us because we couldn’t get our whole team in. right for us, if, if we’re going to bring people together, we want them all together. So they would have to look at either a substantial expansion or something else. So you need to make sure that you’re you’re talking these things through and, and figuring out, you know, what is the right approach for your team going forward? Right. You know, there are some people who think that this is the this is the advent of everybody being virtual and remote. I don’t think that’s the case. But I think it is certainly going to change the way agencies are approaching, you know, where their team works, how their team works and all that.

PATRICK: As this wrapped up as it says, Spin chip, I think there are some things we can take from this that we can use in the future. So for instance, you know, this conversation that we’re having over zoom, you know, I think there’s a place for this in a little bit bigger prominence than we’ve used in the past. And, you know, I guess it’s been disruptive. But I do think there’s some good things that are gonna come out of this as well, too. We still have a little bit more to learn, but it feels like it’s going to work out okay.

Final words

CHIP: Are there other words of wisdom or things that you think agency leaders should be thinking about? As we’re as we’re sort of going through these disruptive times? You know, what should they be keeping in mind that we haven’t already addressed in this conversation?

PATRICK: You know, the one that sticks out for me and and I say this with my clients and and their employees, when I’m helping them through issues is just take a breath, just relax, you know, understand that the anxiety that you may be having with your employees or in your work situation, Might have its roots somewhere else. And sometimes, you know, just kind of taking a step back, it’s okay to kind of pause a conversation and pick it up. And another day, sometimes after a night’s sleep, it looks totally different. You know, I think everyone’s really trying to do the best I can right now. And, and kind of taking taking the leadership role to kind of step back a little bit and understand a little bit more before kind of jumping to conclusions can be

a good step in the right direction, I think.

CHIP: Yeah, I think the advice to sleep on things is is particularly prudent right now, because we’re all I mean, you know, no matter what level we’re at, in an organization, we’re all feeling some level of stress. That’s not normal. Yeah. And, and so, you know, we need to make sure that we’re making clear headed decisions as much as possible. So, you know, I’ve been advising people it, you know, ideally, you sleep on it overnight, but at least go out and walk around the block if you’re still allowed to do that or Yes, pace around your basement or, you know, whatever. Do something to take a little bit of time to clear your head before you make any important decisions or before you say things that you can’t take back, you know, in the course of talking with whether it’s employees or clients or vendors or whatever, so yeah, you know, I think that’s fantastic advice. Great. Well, Patrick, if someone is interested in learning more about ignition HR, where can they find you?

PATRICK: on email? It’s Patrick at ignition HR comm or by phone, I’m in Maryland. You know, check out ignition HR dot com as well.

CHIP: Perfect. And we’ll include all of that in the show notes for this episode and for this webinar replay. So, Patrick, I really appreciate the time that you’ve taken here to be the first guest on the first ever live Chats with Chip episode. I think there’s a lot of practical advice in here for agency owners as they try to figure out how to navigate the HR challenges in the current environment. And hopefully, it will help them make sounder, clearer decisions in their own businesses.

PATRICK: Well, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

CHIP: Thank you, Patrick.

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How to support your team while continuing to move your business forward In this conversation, HR consultant Patrick Rogan joined Chip Griffin to discuss how to handle a range of challenges, including:

* How to communicate with agency staff right now
* Handling furloughs, layoffs, and other changes
* New paid sick leave and FMLA requirements
* HR planning in a time of uncertainty
* Issues to consider upon reopening offices




Resources

* IgnitionHR

Transcript
The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
CHIP: Hello, and welcome to the first ever live Chats with Chip episode. I am your host Chip Griffin. And I am joined today by Patrick Rogan of ignition HR. Welcome to the show, Patrick.
PATRICK: Thank you Chip. Happy to be here.
CHIP: It is great to have you I believe you’ve been a guest before, although not on a live edition because this is our first ever live edition. So this will be going out as an agency leadership TV episode on the agency leadership website and also out on the Chats with Chip feed. So you may be seeing or hearing this in one of those places. If you are here alive, feel free to use the q&a function in at the bottom of your screen to submit questions. And we’ll try to get to those over the course of our conversation. But we’re going to be spending some time today talking about some of the HR issues and challenges that agency leaders are facing right now because Patrick, I don’t know about you, but I hear there’s something going on out in the world. It’s not quite status quo.
PATRICK: Yeah, things are a little bit different.
CHIP: Being under house arrest is certainly an interesting environment is not exactly how I plan for 2020. I’m, I don’t know anybody who did have this in their strategic plan for the year. But we all are making the best of it. And obviously, in the agency world folks have a lot of challenges. Fortunately, you have a lot of expertise in HR challenges in the agency and professional services world. So I am very pleased that you’re able to join us and talk through some of those challenges that everybody has.
PATRICK: Sure.
Communicating with your employees
CHIP: So, I mean, let’s just let’s dive right in. And, you know, as we look at what’s going on right now, to me, the first thing is communication, right? Because, I mean, everybody’s concerned, you know, owners are concerned, leaders are concerned employees are concerned, their families are concerned. And it’s it’s multifaceted. And so, you know, to me, one of the most important things as a leader in any organization is to be communicating effectively, right. So you know, what, what communications challenges or things should that folks be keeping in mind With their teams, so not externally, but with the actual Yeah,
PATRICK: yeah. So I think you really hit it on the on the headship when you said, communicating effectively, I would add to that communicating frequently as well. And I think when we think about the audience that we’re communicating to the default is as broad an audience as possible. So lots of times we think about the people who we have on our normal team that maybe we have weekly calls or a couple of weekly calls, or we’re talking about projects that we’re working on and deliverables that are due and that type of thing. But sometimes there are other parts of the organization, maybe there’s some part time employees or maybe there’s some consultants and we’d like to bring them into the fold is a little bit as well too.]]>
Chip Griffin 52:58
What does agency business development look like now? (featuring Lee McKnight Jr.) https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/what-does-agency-business-development-look-like-now-featuring-lee-mcknight-jr/ Tue, 28 Apr 2020 15:43:19 +0000 https://www.smallagencygrowth.com/?p=7013 Lee McKnight JrHow revenue generation is changing and what the future holds]]> Lee McKnight Jr

While most agency leaders spend part of their week dealing with business development, that’s what Lee McKnight Jr. and his team at RSW/US focus on all the time. Since he is out talking with and working for many PR and marketing agencies each week, he is in a great position to share how things look right now.

The Covid-19 crisis has certainly shaken up the agency world, and Lee offers insights on how sales and marketing is changing — and how agencies can make adjustments to help their own businesses.

Resources

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Chats with Chip. I am your host Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Lee McKnight Jr. He is the vice president of sales for RSW/US, welcome to the show.

LEE: Thank you really appreciate it. I was very energetic wasn’t well, you know. Wow.

CHIP: Thanks. I’m trying to make up for that energy level here because you know, it’s it’s how we power through these days.

LEE: Totally now, sincerely Thanks for having me.

CHIP: It’s good to be here. It is. It is good to have you. And the topic is a really important one, because you are an expert in business development is what you do. And I’ll let you describe that more in just a moment. But it’s something that agencies really need to be focused on today, even though it kind of hurts to think about it, and it’s not comfortable. But if you’re if you’re not thinking about business development than when we get on the other side of this, you’re going to be in deep, deep trouble.

LEE: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s 100% true, it was. It was never easy to begin with. Right. But I think you I would hundred percent agree. I mean, now especially thinking about these next couple of months, and then and past that how you know how you’re going to accomplish it is pretty important right now.

CHIP: And we will get into all of that. But before we do, who the heck are you? And why are you here?

LEE: Yes, I’m the VP of sales, as you mentioned at our CW us and so we’re an outsourced Business Development Group. We solely work with agencies, PR firms, you know, marketing services firms that that world 15 years in business and for us, it’s, you know, we try to do what is true new business development in the sense of not just getting qualified meetings for our agency clients, which is critically important, but then always trying to ask the question or see how can we get you closer to actually closing the business. So it’s not just dropping a meeting in their lap and walking away. So what we’re trying to do is not just get those meetings, but the kind of a coaching counselor at the same time and try to help them get as far down that door as you know as possible.

CHIP: Right, so so more than just smile and dial

LEE: Very much. So we certainly strive for that, yes, there’s a lot of that out there. And I’m not trying to knock anyone but we’re, we truly are, for a lot. Most of our clients, we are all for all of them, we either are the team, because small to mid sized agencies are typically our sweet spot. But for others, they may have one individual, you know, who’s who’s in that place, or maybe a couple, and they tend to have to do everything from top of the funnel all the way through to, you know, pitching RFP responses. And so in those cases, we’ve become a part of, you know, of their team.

CHIP: And most PR and marketing firms, I would say, are uncomfortable with business development, even in the best of times. So we are now not in the best of times, correct. Um, so, you know, how is that impacting business development? You know, what have you seen changing, you know, recently and I know, you’ve been putting out a lot of great content, which will include links to our thank you in the show notes, because, you know, this is something that you guys have been really looking at closely, obviously, because it’s your bread and butter.

LEE: Sure. Yeah, it’s well, it’s it obviously, it’s a great question and one that, you know, as far as just from our perspective, thankfully, you know, well, first of all to say that it’s interesting because it seems like and I know you can attest to this every, it’s got to be frustrating in many ways, but specifically for new business every week, it essentially changes and agencies need to be thinking about that. And then just in a recent or latest video, which is just yesterday, I talked about the fact that, you know, there are certain things and I’d had a conversation actually with an agency. He’s on the Portland, one of the Federation, they’re not in Maine, but in Oregon, and we were going back and forth on LinkedIn and saying, okay, three weeks ago, when I’m, I can say I did the same thing. We were using language with the words you know, unprecedented, uncertain times unparalleled. We got to stop using those words pretty much because it’s starting to get people, you look the same as everyone else. And not to you know, it’s quite frankly, just a little bit lazy. Really at this point now that that can be tough because usually when you’re using that language, it’s not that you’re trying to be insincere. And in fact, probably just the opposite. But I think Unfortunately, it is almost a week to week thing now. So I think that that’s, that’s the first thing that that we always end with our new business directors is they, you know, they’re working with their agency clients on a weekly basis. Were going over things like that with them and talking about All right, this week. It’s Now thankfully we’re starting to see folks and I think that was part of last week to where we’re seeing states that are starting to reopen or they’re talking about it. So from a new business standpoint, a lot of clients and prospects for agencies they are thinking about, okay, what does this look like in the future you know, and that’s that’s where being a good partner being even a guide, dare I say a friend to your clients and I’m not to be all Kumbaya with that but, but it really is where, you know, you can show your prospects especially. Look, we’ve been helping our clients through the last month. This is how we can help you That’s been what’s really helped, you know, recently, and I think part of it too, and you, you had a blog post that was really good here recently, and one of the things that you had said was, you know, be human. And I’d said in this video, you know, this is where you truly need to be authentic. I do not like that word because it’s become so overused. And I feel like every influencer says that, but, but that’s why I like the way you phrased it better as far as being human, in the sense of this is not the time to try to go in with and it’s never been the time but like, I got an email three days ago, and the subject line was meeting follow up. I had never met this person, there have never been a meeting. Now. I shouldn’t be surprised by that. But I was just like, really now, this is what you’re doing. You’re trying to, you know, trick essentially trick me into. And so things like that just have never worked and they really don’t work now. Yeah, I

CHIP: mean, I think the people who were doing horrendous outreach three or four or five months ago, they took a couple of weeks off, but it seems like in the last a couple of weeks We’re right back to some of the just the really horrible pitching on LinkedIn and unsolicited emails where they try to direct you and make you think that you had a previous conversation or you know, the hyper aggressive you know, what, can we do lunch? What No, we can’t do lunch even if you put virtual and oh my god, come on. Oh, yes. Yeah, I mean, that’s that and and, and it’s, you know, I just I know I just emailed you about this a couple days ago and you’re busy Yeah. Cuz it was a stupid request. Plus, if you look at it and you did any research, I’m you know, I would have absolutely zero interest in what you’re trying to sell me. It’s crazy, but it really is. I think you’ve struck on something good there, which is the that it is changing week by week. And a lot of folks have joked that a week feels like a year right now. But but the evolution is like that because you know, in the in the first week of when everybody was shut down back in March, and it’s it felt like everybody had that shell shocked luck. It reminded me of of running a business after 911 And you know, for a week or two afterwards, people just kind of walked around in a daze for sure. You know, the difference here is and I think that this is what separates it from 2001 2008. Some of the other crises, is the degree of uncertainty. And I did a video recently about the real enemy isn’t the virus, it’s it’s the uncertainty that it’s causing. Yeah. Because if if we had some knowledge of what things were going to look like, even in broad terms, three months, six months, nine months down the road, we could plan for it. The problem is, we really don’t know. And even as you say, with states starting to open up, you know, we don’t we don’t know what that means. We don’t know if it’s going to be successful or if they’re going to have to pull back quickly. And, you know, until we know those things, it’s difficult for us to plan it’s difficult for agencies to plan and it’s really difficult for agency clients to plan.

LEE: Oh, it totally is. And yeah, I would hundred percent agree with you. I mean, the good thing is, and I’ll echo what I think you’d recently have was acquired. Smith on the podcast, and he had mentioned and thankfully we can echo his statement that our clients are still closing business. In the past three weeks, we’ve had several and and in the meetings thankfully are still happening now. Absolutely. are we setting these meetings? Maybe further out? Is it Well, right now we’d love to have this conversation budgets are what they are, they’re frozen, but but we know that they will be eventually but can we start a conversation on how you all might help us and so that that’s been positive. And I agree the LinkedIn selling up just to go back to that, but that’s been that’s like my cause it that is driving me crazy. that’s gotten worse. And I don’t know if it’s just like bots or what it is, but that LinkedIn cold selling and it’s it’s unfortunate because it’s hurting all of us who are trying to use it in a real way. But I’ve had some great over the last three weeks, LinkedIn has been more helpful than it’s ever been. But again, I’m sure like you it’s about trying to reach out and literally Hey, can we help you? And if the answer is no Or if it’s not then Okay, great. Well, you know, it was great to meet you. Let’s Let’s stay in touch and let’s hear some content we’ve been doing. And so I think, yeah, that that that’s interesting.

CHIP: I have to tell you on LinkedIn, I’ve gotten two of the craziest pitches I have ever seen anywhere in the last couple of weeks. One was from someone who is running some sort of a dating program for singles, married,

LEE: saw your homework. They’re good.

CHIP: Yeah. So and I don’t make a secret about that. It’s not like, you know, I’m not one of those people who hides my whole personal life and nobody really knows what’s going right. And, you know, I mean, I don’t talk about it all the time. But it’s, you know, it’s obvious enough to anybody who does some cursory research. And then the second one, ironically, was one about divorce finances. So between the two of them, I’m wondering what someone knows that that I don’t, you know, so I checked in with my wife just to make sure everything was good. And she hadn’t put me on some list. But it’s just it’s really It really is horrendous. And this does. Yeah. Yeah. And I do I and I’ve said this before, I think people do need to give folks generally a little bit more latitude in these times because people are, they are afraid they’re worried about their own well being their own finances. And so, yeah, some people are getting more aggressive because they’re desperate. And so I do always want to give people the benefit of the doubt at the same time. It doesn’t excuse all behavior.

LEE: Yeah, no, I agree. And, you know, I think now one of the things that that I talked about with an agency owner in the last week or so, and I see it every day. One thing that is one thing agencies and PR firms do that they all need to do like now, I think, is when I part of my job is I’m reaching out every day, I’m prospecting myself for our company to bring on agency clients. And so as you might, I’m sure, like, you know, I see a lot of agency sites and LinkedIn, home pages, and I’m seeing far too many that are either on LinkedIn completely blank, or on these agency sites. They mentioned nothing about what’s going on. Right now, and I think it’s very easy and anyone listening, if that’s you right now, just go and have one message that you put up there, or just one sentence on your site. I’m certainly not gonna sit here and advocate, well, you need to be doing about five different pieces of content a day. I mean, that would be fantastic. And there’s tons of firms that are doing that, and kudos to them. I mean, a lot of firms have stepped up and doing a great job with that, but I get it, not every firm is gonna be able to do it. They don’t maybe they’re not comfortable. They don’t have the time. They’re going through a really hard time right now. But if possible, at least so you your prospects can see that, hey, we’re active. We’re helping our clients right now. Because if it’s blank, or on LinkedIn, where all you see is a seven month old posts, and it was like something where you were out doing something or you know, just to be tone deaf in that way is easily fixed. And that was one thing that I’m still seeing a lot of and I hoping you know, I’m trying to tell folks at very least try to try to do that. It’s pretty simple.

CHIP: Yeah, absolutely. And it again, it is it is tough, because they’re, they’re probably fighting fires on many fronts, but at the same time For sure you do need to start thinking about the future and where things are headed. And before we I want to spend a little bit more time talking about that future. But before we do, you had mentioned something that I’ve seen as well. And Carl mentioned, as you, as you indicated, that agencies are still closing business. From my perspective, most of what I’m seeing are things that were already in the pipeline or under discussion, prior to all of this with the exception of some folks who were working in in crisis or helping out some of the healthcare folks who are particularly impacted. But are you seeing new business that that’s come in, you know, the first contact was in the past six or eight weeks? Or is it? Are you also seeing th