When agency owners get tired of their business

We talk with a lot of small PR and marketing agency owners who are weary of their own businesses.

They feel overworked, underpaid, and burned out.

What is the cause of this feeling and what can you do about it?

That’s what Chip and Gini explore on this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast.

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 today,

Gini Dietrich 

I can’t wait.

Chip Griffin 

I’m just I’m so, so tired, Gini, I don’t, I don’t know that I can continue. So maybe we should just give up on this podcast. Okay, right after this. You almost threw me I almost didn’t have a chance to come up with an idea. Because, as we talked about, I do not come into an opening with any idea what is going to come out of my mouth? Not a single clue. I hadn’t thought about it at all. So as you’re talking, I’m rewinding in my head, what we’re going to talk about, okay, all right. In the most awkward possible way. Yeah, so yeah. So, so we are going to talk about fatigue, but we’re not going to talk about our own fatigue, although I am tired this week. It’s been it’s been one of those weeks,

Gini Dietrich 

it’s been a year and a half, what are you talking about? A

Chip Griffin 

year and a half, or six months left on our sentence? Or maybe? Hey, let’s not depress ourselves any further. Because we’re talking about your depression today, you the listener, you who are tired of your agency and the business that you’ve got, and you just can’t stand it anymore?

Gini Dietrich 

Yes. So David C. Baker posted on Twitter helped me speculate. Why do you think there’s so much fatigue right now? And I think it’s an interesting question, because of agency owners and their business because there is fatigue, there’s fatigue.

Chip Griffin 

Where are you in business? Right? We all know why we’re just tired too. Are there lots of reasons why retire generally, but weary of the business? In other words, why am I doing this?

Gini Dietrich 

Why am I doing this? What you know, what am I getting out of this? Can I have I built something that I can sell? Or, you know, provide a legacy for or anything like that? Like, I’ve certainly been there? I’ve certainly been there more times than I’d care to admit where you’re just like, what am I doing? You know, should I go back and work for somebody? Because this is terrible. Um, I’ve always managed to get myself out of it, too. But there, I think there are some

Chip Griffin 

what I wouldn’t give to watch you have to work for somebody. Oh, I

Gini Dietrich 

I’m willing to bet it would last maybe 90 days, maybe. And that’s probably being pretty optimistic.

Chip Griffin 

I bet you could make it work a little bit longer. I don’t think I but whoever you were working for would be sweating it the whole time.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, well, there’s a reason I’m out on my own. That’s for sure.

Chip Griffin 

And that’s true for most agency owners, right. I mean, most agency owners are particular, if you’ve been doing it for a while. There’s a reason why. And it may not be that you rebel against authority quite as much as perhaps you and I do, and have a difficult time taking orders from other people. But there’s, there’s probably a reason why you decided to go into business in the first place.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, and I think, you know, most agency owners, and this is a gross generalization, but I will throw myself in there is that we go out on our own because we got fed up with, with the way things that were done, we we do have a problem with authority, which I for sure do. We thought there was a better way of doing things. We were really good at our craft. But we didn’t have a plan for actually building a business like there. There are people entrepreneurs who build businesses and have a plan and most agency owners don’t. We’re just like, yeah, and I’m I count myself in that. I mean, I went on my own on my own thinking I was gonna freelance for a couple of years. And here we are 15 years later.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I mean, it’s it, you know, most people either they come to the business accidentally, or do they come to their business model accidentally, when they’re there, there are very few who have thought it out. And frankly, a lot of those who have thought it out, haven’t really thought it out. They have a plan. But But some of the plans I’ve heard are fairly outlandish from folks just getting started where, you know, I want to build $100 million agency. Cool. Why, like, that’s not how, by when, you know, when when you’re just starting out? Maybe that’s not really what your target should be focused on some, perhaps slightly nearer term goals, because 100 million agency is not something you’re likely to build in five years, no mistakes. aren’t that many of them. I mean, you look at the list, no, dwyers there are very, very few PR agencies that that are at the 100 million dollar level. So but but so having, having no idea what your plan is, can often lead to problems. I think that’s what leads to a lot of this weariness that comes in and by the way, folks, it is weariness not wariness and I get I’ve been so irritated the last year I’ve cuz so many people say, oh, we’re just wary of the pandemic. Well, you may be where you’re the pandemic.

pandemic. Sorry,

Gini Dietrich 

you need to have conject Jacobs Come on it because he just posted an article about, about the the phrases that people get wrong, like nip it in the butt, instead of nip it in the bud. It was on their

Chip Griffin 

patents, you know,

Gini Dietrich 

for all intensive purposes. Yes.

Chip Griffin 

Regardless that they all say, Well, okay, but your regardless, I forget whether it’s odd or Webster, someone has done dead. Yeah, yeah. Someone out of that, which would set me off like, but no, yeah, just because they put it in the dictionary to make the people who use it wrong for good about themselves. doesn’t make it right. So please don’t want to hear anyway. Regardless, let’s move on. Oh,

Gini Dietrich 

um, yeah, I think you’re right that there’s you know, you don’t have a plan, you don’t know what you’re what it is that you’re trying to achieve your your goals are unrealistic, you don’t understand what it takes. And what I see a lot is that agencies grow fairly quickly, especially in the first couple of years, which is great. But the owner has no idea how to manage it. Like, they don’t know how to, they get really, they’re unorganized. And they’re overwhelmed, and they don’t know how to bring it all together. Because there’s no process, there’s no business model, there’s no point there’s no business plan. There’s no plan for growth, and adding people when appropriate. And because of that, things start to implode. And they it starts to weigh down on the agency owner, when, in fact, there are ways to get yourself out of that by being a business owner. And I remember and I’ve probably said this before, but I had a business advisor early on who said to me, You have to decide, you can either be a kick, butt communicator, and that’s great. And we’ll find somebody to run your business for you. Or you can be a kick, butt business owner. And you can hire the experts to do the communications. At the time, I chose that I wanted to be a kick butt business owner, because it was a challenge for me. Over time, I learned that that’s not what I enjoy, I enjoy doing the work, I enjoy being doing the communications work and being an expert, because I’ve, I’ve spent so much time honing my craft. And so because of that, a few years ago, I brought on a right hand person and started to train her so that she could run the business so that I could continue to do what I love. Because I don’t I don’t love running a business.

Chip Griffin 

Right. Yeah. And so, you know, I think that that you’ve really touched on the key here to addressing the weariness that the agency owners may have. And so, you know, I have a lot of clients who have come to me in recent years and said, Look, I’m just I’m fed up, I’m, you know, I’m working too hard. I’m not making enough. Yeah, I’m not doing the kind of stuff I want to do. I just, it’s I want to sell and move on and figure out something else that I can do with my life. And this was even pre pandemic, I think, certainly a lot of people the pandemic has been an additional push for sure. But I don’t I don’t think this is a new phenomenon with agency owners for the reasons that you’ve outlined. The challenge is trying to figure out how do you make the business what you want it to be. So instead, instead of letting the business drive you, instead of making the decisions that you think you’re supposed to make, you need to figure out what you want, and it starts with, what do you want from the business? How do you want to spend your time as an agency owner? How much money do you want to make, think about all those things and then make decisions that drive towards that. And it’s, it’s good to see that we have our junior our junior experts here,

Gini Dietrich 

our junior expert who found my makeup

Chip Griffin 

that is that is special. So those of you in listener land, you’re we’re not seeing this. But if you’re fortunate enough to be watching this video, and of course, you can always find these videos at small agency.tv. Or we’re seeing these nightmare just getting started.

Gini Dietrich 

Yes. And this is why I weary and wary.

Chip Griffin 

Yes, I would be very wary of that if I were, if I were you. But in any case, so so if you start making decisions about the kind of business that you want, you may you may find yourself less desirous of getting rid of it. Right, you may find that you actually enjoy In fact, I’ve seen a lot of my clients go through that transition, where they’ve decided, yes, I am building something that I could sell, but it turns out it’s actually not a bad business once I correct how I’m spending my time and how much money I’m making.

Gini Dietrich 

Sorry, I muted myself because she’s making noise. by love. Goodbye sweepy goodbye. Okay. Nice. Now I have a lipstick. lip on my cheek. Okay? Um, yes, you’re correct that if you get to the point where you can figure out what it is you want, and I think there, there’s a level of being extraordinarily honest with yourself. And being okay with that, like, it took me a long time to admit to myself that I didn’t enjoy running the business that I didn’t enjoy. All the stuff that comes with it, like I didn’t enjoy the HR, I didn’t enjoy the accounting, I didn’t enjoy any of it. And I didn’t even enjoy, you know. And certainly there is still some of this. But Gosh, if you show up for a meeting, and you’re, you have all this stuff going on, as you can see, I’m, you know, have all this stuff going on. And what if somebody on your team is really struggling with the same thing, like you have to almost be stoic and not show any emotion, because then they start to react to that, and I didn’t enjoy that kind of stuff. But it took me a really long time to admit that to myself. And so the point is, is that you have to get to the point where you’re honest with yourself about what it is that you want, and then build the business around that and it’s not going to happen overnight. And you’re not going to be able to just be like, yeah, I’m not doing whatever it is anymore. But you have to say, Okay, here’s where I want to get. And it’s not not unlike the work you would do with clients, right? Here’s our goals. Here’s what we’re trying to get. What’s the plan to get us there? So same kind of thing. be really honest with yourself, what kind of business do you want to have? And is it really $100 million business? Is it a lifestyle business? Is it something where you get to employ a handful of people and really enjoy the work that you do together? Like, that’s up to you? We can’t tell you what that business looks like that that has to come from you. And then you build the plan to get yourself there. Right?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. Because there’s, I always said, there’s no reason to take all the stress and risk of running your own business, if you’re not getting what you want. Right? And and I understand why people complain about their their bosses, their employers, right? When you’re when you have an actual job, right? Because you don’t control a lot of that. When it’s your own business. There’s no right to be complaining about your job because you decide what your job is. Now, this isn’t true. If you’re a freelancer, you got a little bit, you know, a little bit there. But if you’ve built an agency, you’ve got employees, you’ve got team members, you’ve decided how you’re spending your time and how they’re spending their time, right? If you’re not spending your time doing what you want to do, change it. You’re the boss, right? And don’t tell me Oh, I can’t do it. I’m the only one who can do baloney. baloney, right? There’s almost nothing, almost nothing that you as the owner, the only person who can do and, and you and there’s no reason why you can’t make the decision that you’re going to focus on communications or marketing, have someone else do the business and admin side and sales and all that kind of stuff. Or vice versa. Maybe you like maybe you like that, and you’re happy to hand out other stuff. All right. craft the role that you want, start there, and then figure out what the rest of the team looks like. From there. Don’t Don’t let the winds take you there. Go there, because that’s the course you’ve plotted.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah. So you, there are a few things that I think happen. And some of some people said this in response to Baker’s tweet, which were, you know, I’ve built this business, and I’m working my butt off, and I’m working 100 hours a week, and I’m making less money now than I did three years ago. Number one, job. Number Number two is I’m working. I’m working in a business that I don’t enjoy. I’m number three. I’m going by memory here. I don’t have in front of me. But there were there were several reasons that I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. And we’ve talked about this a little bit before, but it’s, you know, you have to you have to get to the point where you’re comfortable asking for what you’re worth. And if you’re making less money today than you were three years ago, there’s a problem there. And it’s probably a pricing problem. And it might be a pricing and a target problem, right. So

Chip Griffin 

those might also be not letting go problem. Right. And not letting go problem. Yeah, because a lot of owners think that they have to be in every client meeting, and that they have to be hands on with everything. Guess what? You don’t.

Gini Dietrich 

I will tell you, I did this experiment. I started saying to clients, I can be there, but it’s going to cost you x more. And I let the clients decide if they really needed me there. Because if they said they needed me there and I was there, they wanted me there right. But if they knew it was gonna cost them more money to have me there. They got to decide, do I really need Jenny there or is the team great? And I would say 98 percent of the time they’re like, no, we’re good.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, I mean, look, we always think the clients care a whole lot more about who’s in manufacturing, they do they do they care about what we’re doing for them, yes, they don’t care. If you or I are in that meeting, they don’t, you know, we always worry, oh, you know, what, if so, and so leaves, we’re gonna lose this client, guess what, you’re probably not going to, nope, nine times out of 10, they’re going to be happy with whoever else you put in that chair, as long as they take the phone calls and do the work.

Gini Dietrich 

And really, that there’s no loss or transition in the transition to they don’t care.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And oftentimes, those are actually good opportunities to make some subtle adjustments with the client to both to improve results for them, but also sometimes to improve your own results by maybe tweaking the processes and becoming more efficient, so therefore, absolutely more profitable. So, you know, we overestimate that we put ourselves in a position where we make it difficult because we start going to those client meetings from the get go, stop, you bring on a new client don’t show up to the meeting, right? Don’t set that expectation that you’re going to be there. If they raise the question. Sure, then you can have the conversation and shoot it. But just our processes this, the team’s got it. I you know, I always told told clients, like, you know, behind the scenes, I’m there, they got me if I need me, but but they’re handling it. And guess what every client was okay with that.

Gini Dietrich 

Every client, every single client

Chip Griffin 

over 20 years, was perfectly fine. Right? Deal with whoever I put in front of them, as long as they were getting what they needed. Yes, it didn’t need to be me. Occasionally, they would ask me to join a particular call or meeting and I was fine. Right? Just do it. Occasionally, you don’t need to do it every day. If you’ve got existing clients, just start fading away, be like Douglas MacArthur, old soldiers never die, they just fade away. So guess what, you just start missing calls periodically. And eventually, they don’t even notice that you’re there. If you’re on the call, just zip it. Don’t say anything. Yep. Let your team talk, they will soon forget that you’re even on the call. So the things you can do to change your role.

Gini Dietrich 

Yes. And I will tell you that I just had an experience, which you’re reminding me of where we were talking to some some vendors for a project that we’re working on. And there were three people from the vendor side on the call. And it was clear that somebody that was not the owner had an expertise, and I wanted to hear from him. And so I said, Hey, can you tell me about this, and the owner kept interrupting. And it really made me mad, I was like, stop, because I need to hear from him. Because I know he has this expertise. But the owner wouldn’t let him talk. And it was. Now I might be more in tune to that because of what because of what we do for a living. But it was a really good lesson for me. You know, if if I’m in a meeting with my team, and they’re being addressed, or they can respond, or they can give the answer, I just need to keep my mouth shut. And that’s exactly what to your point, just just don’t talk,

Chip Griffin 

right? And even if that answer isn’t quite the same one that you would give, or maybe they left a little something out, only time you need to step in, is if it’s really off the rails, if it’s completely 180, from where it should be going, and you need to rescue it or something like that. But But ask yourself before you open your trap, ask yourself, Am I really fixing something here? Right? It’s something that we teach to new sports officials. If it’s not in your calling area, if it’s not your responsibility, if you’re going to jump in and make a call in basketball or help your help your partner in baseball, make sure that it’s needed and that it’s it’s a crew saving opportunity. In other words, it’s so egregious that there’s no choice but to step in. And if it doesn’t pass that criteria, Zipit talk about it after the game sorted out, same thing, right? Give your team feedback afterwards and constructively say, Hey, this is how I would have handled it differently. But even that, you got to be careful too, because you don’t want to undermine their confidence, of course, and the reality is that it doesn’t have to be as good as we would do it personally, it only has to be good enough. And that’s really hard for owners to get past. And it’s one of the reasons why owners are working 100 hours a week, because they’re not letting go. They’re not accepting that they can do more good for their business, by allowing something to be 80 or 90% of what they would do somewhere so that they can spend that time elsewhere. up to an including just getting rest.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, or managing small children at home or managing parents or managing somebody who’s sick or you know, like there are other things to this world that are not working 100 hours a week and it took me a really long time personally to get there. But I will say that even though I’m exhausted in the pandemic is just like it’s for all of us, right? But it has taught me such a great lesson in Guess what, the work still gets done in 40 hours a week and you can focus on other things. Does your should come in and kiss you with her Lou newly painted lips during a podcast? Yes. Does it annoy the crap out of you? Yes. But it’s not the frickin end of the world. And that that I think has been extraordinary for me personally, because it has allowed me to understand that the world doesn’t stop spinning if I don’t work 100 hours a week.

Chip Griffin 

Right? And that’s because you have gotten the clarity about what you want from the business. Yep. And you’ve come up with a plan for how to make that work. Yep. And and it’s, it’s amazing. If you’re sitting there right now saying I am I am weary, I am tired of my agency business, I want to get out, I want to, you know, I want to sell it, I want to pass it on to someone else. And just, you know, being Executive Chairman or something like that. Think about it. Because if you actually get the business situated, so that you can do those things, you might actually be surprised. And you might realize, Hey, this is actually kind of fun. I remember why I did this to begin with. And, and to me, there’s no better outcome than to realize you actually can fall in love with your business all over again.

Gini Dietrich 

And guess what else happens? You make a shitload of money. All of a sudden, you’re like, Oh, I doing all these years? Holy

Chip Griffin 

cow, right? Because the thing is, look, if if you if you don’t like what you’re doing, or how much you’re making, and you’ve got at least a modest sized team, and I’m talking to three people, right doesn’t have to be huge. Anytime that you’ve got that you have enough leverage that you can pull that you can fix both how you’re spending your time and how much you’re making. It may be changing pricing, it may be reassigning the work. It may I hate to say this, and maybe letting someone go, Yeah, right. Maybe Maybe someone has been with you for 10 years, and they’re just you’ve continued to give them raises, but they’re not doing the work that’s at that level. It happens, right, Yun and the business has changed too, right? I mean, agencies today look very different than they did a decade ago. So you may even know we feel loyal to our team. And we should be loyal to people who’ve been loyal to us. At the same time, you need to make the decision. That’s right, not just for your business, but for you as the owner, because again, the reason you have your business is so that it can serve your needs, not so that it can serve someone else’s needs, it needs to serve you first

Gini Dietrich 

100% you’re not you don’t have investors, you don’t have Wall Street to to report to, it should best serve you figure out what it is that you want. And it’s okay. If it changes, it might change five years from now. And that’s okay. Right now figure out what it is that will make you happy. And where you think you can make the most money that best benefits whatever it happens to be and build the plan to be able to get there.

Chip Griffin 

Yep. And we can’t tell you what that is. And your neighbor can’t tell you what that is. And some other agency owner can’t tell you what it is. Only you can figure it out. You would not just show up at a movie theater and let some random stranger tell you which theater to walk into. You’re going to go and figure out which film you want to see. Right. That’s how you’re going to enjoy yourself, not by listening to what other people tell you to do. So by all means, listen to our advice, take in all the different data points that you have. But you need to build the business that works for you.

Gini Dietrich 

Yep. And you will I can speak from experience, you’ll be far happier, you’ll work far less you’ll make more money, and you’ll have better work life balance. Yep.

Chip Griffin 

So with that, we’re going to give you a chance to have a little bit more work life balance and figure out what it is that you want to do with your own business by signing off from this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin  and it depends.

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