What does 2022 have in store for PR and marketing agencies?

No, this isn’t a predictions episode, but Chip and Gini do take a look at the agency landscape as the new year kicks off.

What should agency leaders be considering as they approach the new year? What challenges and opportunities might lie ahead?

As important, what mindset should owners adopt to have the greatest likelihood of success in this environment?

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

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

Gini Dietrich: and I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And just like 2022, we have no idea where this show is going.

Gini Dietrich: We don’t know where 2022 is going, nor do we know where the show is?

Chip Griffin: Not, not a clue, not a clue. I don’t know. We just, we, we decided that our topic today was 2022. That’s it? What does that even mean? It was a little

Gini Dietrich: more thoughtful than that.

Chip Griffin: Only marginally you try to give us way too much credit. I probably get tried to give us too little.

So, so like most things, the truth is somewhere in there, somewhere, somewhere in there. But, but we thought that since this show is going to air, that’d be our first show of 2022. Kind of makes sense to take a look at the year ahead. Now I’m not in the business of prediction, so I don’t really want to do the crystal ball thing, but you know, we maybe can talk about some things that we ought to be thinking about as agency leaders, uh, in the new year.

Um, and I’m, I’m just, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for finally, beginning to say 2022, because I’ve done a number of plugs for 2021 planning in the last few weeks.

Needless to say, if, if, if you planning for 2021 and you don’t get it spot on, there’s something wrong at this point.

Gini Dietrich: Kind of, it’s kind of like back in the day when we wrote checks and you always had that month period where you wrote the wrong, the wrong year in January,

Chip Griffin: I went longer than a month before I

Gini Dietrich: finally, well, I mean, you’re talking about 2021,

Chip Griffin: but yes, I am so glad we don’t have to do paper checks anymore because.

About once a year, I have to do one and I have to sit down and think about, okay, now, how do I, how do I do this? Because usually it’s some, some old fashioned organization that just, you know, you can’t like my, my, my dues for my officiating associations have to be paper checks as they are not set up to do credit cards or electronic transfers or anything like that.

You know, you just have to mail it to the secretary, treasurer, his home address. I hope that it actually shows up in the count properly. Amazing.

Gini Dietrich: Amazing.

Chip Griffin: But so, I mean, it’s, it’s 2022 for listeners, at least. What should they be? Not for us yet. No, we, we still have to, we’re recording this in early December and so we still have to grind out the rest of this year.

Gini, somehow we have to survive a couple more weeks before things slow down. If you’re in listener land it’s 2022. What should you be thinking about?

Gini Dietrich: There’s a couple of themes. Um, as I’ve been working with clients, both from a coaching perspective and agency perspective, and there’s, there are two themes that continue to come out.

One is the great re the great resignation. People are continuing to move. We have one client that continues to have to throw money at people, to get them to stay, which we’ve talked about, I think is a bad idea. Um, cause that only lasts so long, but there, there is still this whole, like how do we keep our employees engaged and wants to stay so that they they’re not joining the great resume.

And then there’s also the theme of burnout and not just burnout out at the employee level, but at the agency owner level too, I’ve had multiple conversations in the last month about burnout and readjusting the agency or restructuring the way that, that, that things are. And we’ve had conversations about this in the last several weeks, too, about, you know, build the agency that fits you and your lifestyle and the things that you want, and then build it around that.

And I think a lot of people. Built their agencies, the opposite. And now they’re saying, boy, this is not what I enjoy. I’m completely burned out. The last two years have crushed me. And how do I, how do I restructure so that I’m happier and not, not so miserable.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. I think, look, if you haven’t taken the time to step back and look at your business and see how it’s aligned with what you want to do.

Yeah. I mean, it’s never going to get any easier. And I know that some of you will silo, you know, the first quarter is always our busiest, you know, we’ve gotta deal with this and that. And we’ve got new kinds of blah, blah, blah, who cares? Stop take, take, take a couple of days, you know, go somewhere, just turn off the email, do something to really think about what’s your running.

And you know, if you’re not happy with it, what do you want to change? If you are happy with it? You know, what, what needs to happen to make sure that you stay on that track, but really think about it because if, if you haven’t done that in the last two years, I mean, you’re going to have to force yourself to right.

I mean,

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And that may be in the, I mean, I, the, I like the idea of, of going somewhere and turning off email and not paying attention, Fincher the social and all that, you know, it may very well be that you do that as part of a vacation or actually taking a vacation and taking some time off and you don’t have to take the vacation to work.

You don’t have to take the vacation to plan, take the vacation, to take the vacation and let your brain refresh and recharge. So that then it becomes more clear to you. ’cause I think we all and myself included, we all work at this frenzied pace and we don’t, then we’re like, okay, I have, I have a team member.

Who’s like, okay, I’m going to take some time off. I’m going to work on this, this and this. And I’m like, no, you’re not. You’re going to take time off. I don’t want you working because I don’t want you to, I need your brain to be creative and your brain can’t be creative if you’re always working. So just take some time off, let your brain.

Because that’s when you’re going to be creative and start to solve

Chip Griffin: things, right? Yeah. I mean, you, you absolutely have to, as I like to put a calm your mind down in order to, you know, to be able to get that clarity of thought, but whatever it takes to, to calm it down, you really do need to be thinking about that bigger picture.

Because if you’re not evaluating the major decisions that you’re making for your agency, in the context of how it impacts you, you’re missing the boat. And you know, now is as good a time as any. You know, take that stock and make sure you’re making those adjustments to right. It, part of it’s figuring out what you want.

But then the second step is how do I make that happen? Because I’ve talked to a lot of agency owners over the last couple of years who, you know, they’re burned out. They’re, they’re not happy with their direction, but they’re not really taking those aggressive, active steps to move to where they want. And if you’re not doing that, it’s just, it’s not going to happen.

Right. It’s not going to happen by accident. It’s only going to happen because you’re intentionally taking steps to make it. So, right.

Gini Dietrich: I have a really good friend who wants to be home more for the kids. And so she’s decided that next year she’s working 8:30 to 2:30, that’s it? I was like, yes, girl.

That’s awesome. But she spent all of this year preparing. She made the right hires. She planned, she started to figure out what needed to be delegated, what, you know, what have conversations with clients. And she was scared to have those conversations with clients and every single one of them was like, good for you.

Awesome. Please do that because that’s important and all of this will still be here and we know that you’ll be a better. Communicator, because you’re doing that. So I know that we all get in this weird place where we’re like, well, clients will get upset or people will leave maybe. But for the most part, people are going to understand because they want that too.

Chip Griffin: They do. And, you know, at the end of the day, if you’re not building the business that you want, it’s not going to be as successful as it needs to be for clients, for team members or any of that. And so, you know, you can sit here and say, I can’t make these changes because it puts so much of a burden on my team or I’d have to let someone go, or I can’t service my clients the way I want to.

You’re only solving for today and you’re not solving for the future. And it’s, you’re going to hit that point of failure at some point. You’re just putting off the inevitable, if you’re not doing that planning. Yeah. And

Gini Dietrich: you have to plan for it. It’s not like you can go, okay, well, I’m only working 8:30 to 2:30 now, and I’m done like that.

That’s that we’ll create some habits and that will create some chaos, but if you plan for it and she, she really did take an entire year to plan for it.

Chip Griffin: And that’s the thing. It takes time, right? So you got to look at these things in increments, right? You can’t, you can’t just say, you know, I, I want to get out of this business.

I sell my agency tomorrow, not going to happen, not going to happen. It takes time doing whatever you want to do. But if you, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. You just have to make sure that you know what the steps are to get you

Gini Dietrich: there. Yeah. And when you bring up selling your agency, I’ve, I’ve mentioned before that I was on the board of a business that sold right.

Literally right before the shutdown, um, And he decided five years out that he was going to sell his business in 2020. And so in 2015, he started to take the steps for, for what that looked like. He hired a president to take over his responsibilities. He that he let the president hire an executive leadership team to start to build the business around them versus around the founder so that when he went to south.

The, the buyer would say, oh, this business isn’t reliant on the agency owner. This business is reliant on the people who are here and it made it a much more successful transfer, but it took five. That’s

Chip Griffin: it five years. Yeah. And it, and it set him up. I’m sure. So that even if he didn’t end up selling, he was still in a better place because of those changes

Gini Dietrich: a lot of time golfing.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. I mean, and why not? Right. I mean, you know, if you can do it and if that’s what you want to do, do it. Right. So, but you need to think through those things and, and, and you will become less unhappy with your business, even if you’re just making incremental progress. Right. So a lot of folks think, you know, well, I need to completely change this.

So I’m not working 70 hour weeks. And I, you know, I only want to work 40 hour, weeks or 30 hour weeks. Well, that’s not going to happen overnight, but let’s say you can work 68 hours instead of 70. That’s still going to feel good because now you’re making progress. And so if you can see the needle move.

It’s going to make it a lot easier to continue forward, as opposed to just saying, you know, it’s Groundhog day today is exactly the same as yesterday.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. It’s just like anything else. And, and many of us are very, very good at taking gigantic projects for clients and drilling it down into manageable executable tactics.

It’s the same exact thing. Take this big thing that you want to do and drill it down into smaller bites so that you can see the progress as you.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And, and I, and I would say focus on the things that you really want. Don’t, you know, a lot of times you get wrapped up in the, you know, I don’t wanna, I don’t want more than a certain number of employees, or I want to achieve this amount of revenue or those kinds of things, but, but ask yourself what you need for you personally, don’t think about the characteristics of the business as much as what you want personally, because then the other things will flow.

I mean, you can have a, a hundred person business that, you know, you only work 10 hours a week on potential. If you’ve structured it correctly, you essentially become an investor slash board chair at the end of that mission. Fine. Right. You know, if you’re getting what you want out of it. That’s great. So focus on what you want to get out of it first.

Don’t, don’t get wound up in these arbitrary metrics that the other people talk about.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And I think I’ve mentioned before as well, but you know, I really thought I wanted to have a global agency with offices around the world and hundreds of employees. Yeah. Big brand names. I got to 30 employees and I was like, this sucks.

I don’t want to do this. This is terrible. And it was because I was focused on the quote unquote success of, of other, the other people had defined, not the kind of success that I had to find.

Chip Griffin: Right. Well that, and I would also argue that it, that you didn’t like 30 people the way you had it structured.

Correct. It’s possible. There’s another structure where 30 people. That’s cool. Right? Cause cause not every 30 person firm is structured the same way and not every owner of a 30 person firm is exactly the same in what they do. And so, you know, just because one vision of something didn’t work for you in the past, or you don’t think would work doesn’t mean that there isn’t a.

That includes that in the future. So be careful about ruling things like that out and focus more on how you want to spend your time, what you want to spend your time doing and how much money you want to make. Those are really the three first things you need to get squared away as an owner, and then make sure that everything else is feeding into that.

Yeah.

Gini Dietrich: I will say that the last two years has sucked, um, for the most part, but there have been some really great things that have come out of it. And I think one of those things. We’ve we’ve as a human race have figured out what’s important. And we have, we, okay. It depends on if you, I was going to say something really bad.

Chip Griffin: I think some people have, I would agree with you that some people have indeed figured that out. Other people may think they’ve figured.

Gini Dietrich: Um, some people have figured out what’s important and. Part of the problem. They figured that out last year in part of the challenge, I think we’re having is that we figured that out and then we’ve allowed ourselves to get back into the hamster race. And now we’re going, well, wait a second. I, I don’t want to do this anymore.

It was okay before, because I didn’t realize that I was on this wheel and I wasn’t getting off, but now I know what it’s like to get off and I know what it’s like to be. For dinner with my family, or to be able to pick my kids up from school or to be able to go shoot basketball games or whatever it happens to be.

I have, I have had a taste of freedom. I don’t want to get back on this hamster wheel. So I think you’re right. If you stop and you think what is it that I want? And what’s important to me and then figure out how to build the business around.

Chip Griffin: The only thing I would, I would add to that is I think you always add, need to add for now at the end of statements like that.

I figured out what I want for now. Yep. That’s fair. Does it can change. And, and, and honestly, some of the things that almost certainly will, I mean, some of the things that we are enjoying now, I mean, like you, I, I am enjoying the fact that I am not on the road every week, which I did for almost 20 years. I traveled almost every single week and I’m perfectly happy.

Not. For now, now that may change at some point. Um, and, and some of that may be because I changed some of it, maybe because the environment changes, who knows. Right. So, so you have to be open to that as well. And I think, you know, I, I think that the generally speaking making predictions is, is foolhardy. I, and I think that the, the one thing that we can say about 2022 though, is that the only certainty is uncertainty.

Um, and I know that sounds kind of silly. But we are, I mean, at least as, as we’re reaching the end of 2021, and looking ahead, there are a lot of big question marks sitting out there for society, but particularly for the agency community, um, you know, over the next six to nine to 12 months. And so, you know, you want to be building something in planning for 2022 in a way that that gives you some flexibility.

And if you, if you know those core, um, objectives that you have, it will give you. The insight into the decision making that you’ll have to make, depending upon, you know, what is the current state of the pandemic? What is the current state of the economy and inflation and all that kind of stuff. Watch the state of, uh, you know, continued technology changes.

I mean, a lot of agencies have been hit hard by some of the changes that have gone on with Facebook and apple and some of that stuff. Right. You don’t know what is sitting out there. Uh, you know, three, four months down the line that may significantly impact your business. And so you want to have some flexibility to address those as they come up.

Yeah, I

Gini Dietrich: would agree with that. Um, there was a conversation in the content marketing Institute, slack channel about 2022 predictions. And it was less about prediction. The answers, the conversation was less about, uh, predictions and more about change. Like everybody’s expecting change, like. Well this year, by the time you hear this, um, everybody’s expecting that maybe they change their job.

Maybe they change their lifestyle. Maybe they change the way their agency is run. But pretty much everybody said change is, is the common theme for 20, 22.

Chip Griffin: And I think, you know, as, as leaders, we’re sending the messages to our teams, how to deal with. And so if, if, as an owner, we’re sitting there saying that, that we kind of want to maintain the status quo and we’re just going to kind of, you know, charge our way through that.

That sends one message to the team. If we send the message to the team that, that we’re willing to be flexible and adapt. You know, they’re going to hear that message and, and they’re more likely to be willing to change and adapt along with you. And so, you know, and they’re also reading our cues as to how happy we are with our business.

I mean, I can, I can almost guarantee you, if you have an unhappy agency owner, you have an unhappy team for sure, because there’s no way that, that it doesn’t rub off on them. Yeah. And, and so it’s, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you’ve got your head straight with what you want and getting yourself to the place you want to be.

And need to be, and that will then help you with some of these other bigger challenges, like business development, like the great resignation, like where does your agency go next?

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, I think just really taking the time to think that through being honest with yourself, really figuring that out and you’re right for now, it’s going to change.

I mean, the way I’ve run my agency in the last 15 years is probably. 15 times.

Chip Griffin: Okay. I mean, that’s the other thing it’s okay. I mean, you don’t want to change it every day, but you know, and I’ve said this many times, you know, we are not Apple. We are not Amazon. Nobody is writing a story when we make a shift in our direction or our logo or our website or our ideal client definition.

Right. So don’t do it every day, but do it when you need to.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, it’s, it’s a, this is the time. Um, everybody’s thinking about it. Everybody’s going through it. It’s not going to be a culture shock. Nobody’s going to be upset with you if they are, they weren’t the right client or the right team member anyway.

So do what’s best for you and they

Chip Griffin: might be upset with you, but who cares? Fair? No, seriously. I mean it, you have to be building the business that you want. Yeah.

Gini Dietrich: Yep. I could not agree more. It’s this is the time. This is the time for sure.

Chip Griffin: Well, hopefully that, uh, that gets everybody off to a good start in 2022,

you know, common theme, but an important one. And, and a good reminder, I think for folks is you’re coming off of all that holiday eggnog. Wine wine for me, wine whatever, whatever your poison was over the break. And you know, this, I’m sure that many of you will be listening to this on your brand new treadmill, Peloton, or whatever.

And so,

Gini Dietrich: Unless you’re my husband who cannot use the treadmill because his head

Chip Griffin: it’s. Yeah, that is pretty awesome. That is that if you have not seen the video of Gini’s husband hitting his head on the ceiling, on the treadmill, You are missing something really fantastic, but I’m just glad that folks will have a chance to listen to us on those things before they turn into clothes racks. Yeah. Um, so, uh, thank you. Uh, enjoy the rest of your workout. And, uh, we’ll see you back here for another episode. I’m Chip Griffin

Gini Dietrich: and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin: and it depends.

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