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When owners do work below their pay grade

You always hear that everyone in your business should be making the best, highest use of their time. But one of the biggest offenders of this objective are the agency owners themselves.

How often have we found ourselves doing low value administrative work that we could easily have someone else do? Perhaps we do it to “save money” or because it is just easier or because we don’t trust someone else to do it as well as we do.

The reality is that agency owners need to start with themselves in the drive to improve efficiency and profitability. Tracking the things that you do that aren’t as valuable as the hourly rate that you command will help you identify the things that you should delegate.

In this episode, Chip and Gini talk about how to identify these tasks, determine the best candidates to get off your plate, and the impact it can have on you and your business.

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

Chip Griffin  00:00

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

Gini Dietrich  00:04

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin  00:05

and we are going to use our absolute best abilities are our top skills and we are going to earn top dollar from today’s episode. Yes, we are right after this. So today we have a question for you. And it’s a question that Ginni found in her hunt for a topic so that we wouldn’t just sit here for 30 minutes, dead air or our charming banter. We thought we would actually give you a little bit of substance in this episode, maybe

Gini Dietrich  00:46

we’ll see at least three or four minutes. So Darryl Salerno, who is the owner of second quadrants, quadrant solutions, and a big proponent of financial management for agency owners, says, I have presented on financial operations or management skills more than 700 times to more than 10,000 pr professionals. In each session, I asked if anyone is doing work below their pay grade? The response is virtually unanimously. Yes, every time. So the question for you is, are you doing work below your pay grade? Of course, yes, I am. I very much do not like it. But yes. But But my first

Chip Griffin  01:35

question is, if Darryl has given this presentation to 10,000 pr professionals, were they not listening?

Gini Dietrich  01:45

Right? Well, perhaps he asked the question. It’s kind of like when I speak to PR professional and I say, how many of you went into PR because you hate math, and 99% of the room and pulls up their hand. And then we talk about how data and measuring your your work is not math, it’s reading numbers. And so you I try to change that mindset. So perhaps it’s the same kind of thing. He asked the question, he helps people understand that they are doing work below their pay grade, and that needs to change.

Chip Griffin  02:15

No, I guess what my point was simply that if he’s educated 10,000, people are still doing his stuff. And there are just so many PR folks out there agency folks out there who don’t have a good handle on the financial side of things I was. That’s all I was getting at. Derek. Apparently, I you know, I flubbed that one. So

Gini Dietrich  02:38

maybe there’s I don’t, but

Chip Griffin  02:39

there’s the bottom line is that that we all can use more financial education. But the the communications industry generally can really use it. And I think one of the key areas is this very topic, which is, how are you spending your time because as an agency owner, there is nothing that you have more control over and has a greater impact on the business, then your own time, absent too often. We allow other forces to direct us. Yeah,

Gini Dietrich  03:08

I think that I mean, I’m actually going through a process right now where I’m trying to get stuff off of my plate, because I’m for sure doing some stuff that’s below my pay grade. And part of the reason for that is because it was a little slow last year. And you know, I didn’t really necessarily need the help for some of the stuff that’s on my list. And now things have picked up to fold from what it was last year, and I need the help. So I’m actually going through that process of figuring out what I can delegate and get off of my plate, you know, to a mid level manager person on my team, because, I mean, like, I got a text message from a client this morning. That was like, Hey, can you update LinkedIn for me? And I’m like,


No, no, I

Gini Dietrich  03:50

cannot know. Someone here can it’s not me.

Chip Griffin  03:57

Well, I mean, yeah, you probably don’t want to have you doing the technical work. I think that would probably be that. But you know, I mean, that might be the wrong button.

Gini Dietrich  04:10

That does happen where they you know, clients text me that kind of stuff. And then depending on what your clients text, we’ve had this discussion No, like, Oh,

Chip Griffin  04:22

I hate getting texts. Like No, it doesn’t.

Gini Dietrich  04:25

It doesn’t bother me. Oh, I’d rather that than phone calls. So Well, yeah.

Chip Griffin  04:29

Not everything should go into email. Email is Yeah, I can’t keep up levels of email. Yeah, at least allows me to put things into different buckets and I can I can make sure things don’t fall through the cracks texts. They fall through the cracks. Yeah, you’re right. Yeah, cuz there’s nobody somebody has to figure out how you can actually like flag text messages like you can flag emails, some system so that it’s not I have to remember Oh, right. You know, Johnny sent me something. I need to go back. And look, you know, at that particular thread to find it right? And of course, and then of course, there are the group texts, which are even worse, because you gotta remember, did did Johnny send it to me directly? Or as part of this group that went Paxton?

Gini Dietrich  05:13

and search and text is not great? I’ve tried it. No, no. And then I think I will, I will admit, the other problem with texts, with texts from clients is they like to text after hours, which is fine. I also, I still don’t have a problem with that. But to your point, you know, somebody texts me on Saturday afternoon, I might not remember it on Monday morning. I might have had a couple glasses of wine by then. Only only a couple. I’m a lightweight.


Let’s let’s be real.

Chip Griffin  05:45

Okay, well, but so we’ve kind of migrated a little bit off the topic here. But But fundamentally, look, there are there are reasons why you might be doing things that’s ever beneath your paygrade. And it makes sense. Because there are some times where maybe it’s something you just really enjoy, right? There are some people I know, yeah, that there are certain tasks that they really enjoy. And so even if it’s beneath your paygrade, if you get satisfaction out of it, and it’s not, you know, it’s not to larger chunk of your time, it may be okay, right, cuz you have to enjoy what you’re doing. We always talk about that, right? There’s no point being miserable. If you own your own business, right? Go do something else. Right? Right. And there are times where it doesn’t make sense, because it’s, it takes so little time that it would actually take more of your time to manage someone doing it, right. So if it’s, if it’s a 10 minute task, you know, once a month, or even once a week, it may not be worth all of the effort it takes to get it off of your plate, it may be better just to keep yourself. But there are plenty of things that are beneath our pay grade, that we should be getting off our plates, frankly, even if we’re not busy, busy is the great time to focus on it. Because that’s when you’re forced to sort of triage things as you are now. But if you think about it in these terms, if I’m, if I were to get this off of my plate, how could I spend it more valuably? Yep. Right? So that’s not always client work. It might be business development, but just general networking, it might be coming up with a new service line, it might be I mean, there are so many things that you might do with that time, that could be more valuable. So I like you to think of it in terms of what’s the swap that you get. So it’s first you identify the things that are beneath your paygrade. But then you say, Okay, if I were to swap this out, what can I replace it with? Because that delta that differential Yep, is the value that you’re adding to the business. And so when you think about it, in those terms, it makes a lot of the decisions much easier.

Gini Dietrich  07:46

Yeah, I love that. And I think we’ve talked about this before, but one of the things I like to do for myself is create three lists. So the first list is all the things that I’m doing that I love to do, and only I can do. The second list is all the things that I’m doing that I probably shouldn’t be doing. But I enjoy to your point. And then the third list is stuff that I hate, I shouldn’t be doing. We know whatever it happens to be, it’s beneath my paygrade. And then I end up with that last list has to be delegated the middle list, I have to decide, is there something that will have a bigger ROI, if I swap it out. And then the first list, I just I keep that stuff for myself, because I’m the business owner, and I could be selfish. But yeah, in with that middle list, I always look at that. And I really am going through that process right now I look at that middle list, and I go, Okay, if I even though I enjoy this, if I give it up, or if I delegate it, what can I swap it out with that I really enjoy and only I can do. And that’s how I look at it so that eventually, it’s cyclical. But eventually, I’m the I only have one list because it’s all everything I’m doing is stuff only I can do. And that I also enjoy,

Chip Griffin  08:56

right. And you also need to look at things not just through the lens of today, you have to look at through look at it through the lens of where you want to be Yep. Because it takes time to move things off of your plate, it takes time to restructure the work that you’re doing. And so you need to be able to look out on the horizon at least a little bit and say, Okay, here’s where I want to be headed. And so if you’re someone who loves doing client service, you’ll probably map it out. So that that’s still a big piece of your time. 123 years down the road. If you like doing business development, that will be a big piece of it. You can structure your time in the way that you see fit as the owner, you just have to make sure that what you’re not doing is getting covered by someone else, whether that’s an employee, a contractor or consultant, whatever. And so, but you need to figure out what you want. And if you don’t know what you want your day to look like, you’ll never get there because you’re just going to let the wind take you where it takes you.

Gini Dietrich  09:56

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s, you know, look Add it from that perspective and really thinking through what’s and I think we’ve talked about this as well. But what’s the career I want to build for myself? I don’t I don’t want to have an agency because it’s just another job and I’m miserable. But what is it that I want to be able to do in this business? And how do I structured around that. And first of all, you’re be far happier, you’re going to be more profitable, and new business development will be easier, because you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll, you’ll attract the right talent, like all of those things happen, because you’ve created a career for yourself that you actually enjoy doing. I think that’s such a big difference.

Chip Griffin  10:40

Right? When I think that, you know, a lot of this doing work that’s beneath your paygrade comes about, in part, because owners undervalue their own time for sure. And and so if you don’t understand what your real value is, you can’t set an appropriate rate so that you can make that comparison. And you can look at that differential, right? If you are, if you’re an agency owner, and you are, you know, crafting your hourly rate by looking at yourself as a sub six figure employee, you’re making a mistake, and there are a lot of small agency owners out there who do they view themselves as sub six figure compensated employees, and I am not one of them? No, neither am I. And and you shouldn’t be? Right, because even if you’re not making 100,000, yet, that should be on your very near term radar as because I mean, particularly with the way salaries have inflated over the 30 years that I’ve been in the workforce, you know, 100k isn’t what it was, well started. No, I remember my first job, I got 12 $100 a month, and I thought that was fantastic. Whoa, I am making 14 before baby rolling in it. But that was 1991 or two. But anyway, yeah, it’s so so you need to to, to make sure that you’re valuing your time correctly. And you’re setting your lead whether you bill out hourly or not, you’re setting your internally set focused hourly rate effective hourly rate as something that is appropriate that you can then take Okay, and say, you know, if I am, you know, $200 an hour, and I can pay someone to do this for 30 or $40 an hour, that’s a huge difference. That’s a huge swap that I can make. Now, the trick is, if you do that, you actually have to do that higher value work, right? This doesn’t work, if you just swap one, you know, low value piece of work for a number of IPS, which sometimes happens, right? You’re like, okay, because it, you know, it may be you know, I just I hate doing I don’t know, bookkeeping, so I’m gonna pay someone to do that. But then if I take that time, and I do something else that’s administrative. And, you know, I, you know, yes, I’ve gotten something painful off my plate. But I haven’t really made a big financial difference to my firm.

Gini Dietrich  13:04

Yeah, I mean, for me, it’s things like Media Relations, I’m not gonna do Media Relations, I don’t want to do it, I don’t have a passion for it, I no longer have the right relationships to be successful at it. So it goes to my team. So and then I swap it out for it to your point earlier, you know, keeping the PESO model certification updated, and going into schools and making sure that the certification is offered in PR and advertising and marketing programs like that. Those are the kinds of things that I’m swapping out my time for, versus updating a client’s LinkedIn page, which would probably take me 30 seconds to do, but I’m not going to do it.

Chip Griffin  13:42

Right. And you have to look at it in terms of what’s right for you. Yep. And assume that what’s right for you is what’s right for Absolutely. agency owner, right. Yeah, I have always thrived in environments where my schedule is just littered with meetings. I like meetings. I’m sorry. I like I don’t like pointless meetings, because we’ve talked about this previously, you know, but but I like, you know, whether they’re one on one or group, I mean, because you may have picked this up, I like to talk you do like to talk, I do like to talk. And so for me, that’s, that’s a good environment. And I’ve got no problem, you know, sitting through a day full of meetings and conversations. I mean, if I’ve got to be sitting there and doing meticulous detail oriented work, and you know, spell checking this and that. No, I don’t want to do that. I mean, I’ve never done that my idea of writing is you just publish your first draft and you’re done with it. Well, well, you can probably tell, but, I mean, almost every article, I publish almost every article that I publish, I have not actually read. I write it in one go. And I hit send. That’s what I do, which I’ve done it for 30 years. It’s worked out okay for me. It’s fine, right? It is what it is, you know, and we all need to know Understand what our style is where the weaknesses are. And we need to apply that when we’re looking at, you know, whether we’re doing work that’s beneath our pay scale and the kind of work that we do want to be doing. Because once you tie that together, that’s where you start to, as you said earlier, you get happy about what you’re doing, you start generating more money, you start generating more satisfaction. And, you know, that’s that’s everything. Right? That’s everything.

Gini Dietrich  15:25

Right? Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that’s two things. I think that’s a hard lesson to learn that maybe you don’t learn until you have a little bit of experience. Age. Because it certainly was for me, call me old, nobody, I’m saying it was for me to like, I hit 40. And I was like, Oh, wait, I’m miserable. This is not fun. Um, but also, one of the things that I notice happens a lot, a lot, a lot with many of my clients, and it’s both coaching clients and clients that we’re servicing. Women tend to say, Oh, well, I’ll just take care of it. And it’s not a well, that’s not true. In some cases, it is a control thing. And in some cases, it’s a, I don’t want to bother them, because it’s 10 to five, so I’ll just handle it, or I don’t want to bother them, because it’s Sunday afternoon, or, you know, whatever happens to be. And so we put ourselves in this position of being overworked, and doing low value work that we shouldn’t be doing. And in the meantime, our teams are like, what, what am I here for, right? And so you there are a lot of the women I work for this is something I work really hard on coaching them through is while you think you might be helping, and maybe you are in the short term, in the longer term, you’re going to have really an unhappy team members, because you don’t rely on them. And you don’t ask them for things. And then that is translated to you don’t trust them. And whether or not that’s what you what you think or how you feel, that’s the message that you’re delivering. And so that’s why it’s really important as well, not just for your own sanity, and for your own passion and excitement and love of your job, but also for that of your team, because they see you working a ton and they see you’re you’re overworked and you’re overstressed and they’re like, give it give it to me, let me help. And I think that that’s that tends to be a pretty female thing.

Chip Griffin  17:20

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s probably a large chunk of that. I think it’s largely personality driven to those that there are, there are a lot of men with certain personalities who are that way to whatever it is, you know, there are there are plenty of folks who can, you know, benefit from rethinking

Gini Dietrich  17:37

for sure how they’re Hey,

Chip Griffin  17:39

you know, and I do think, you know, a lot of my clients, when they first come to me, they’ll say, you know, I’m overworked. I’m overstressed. I, you know, how do I get control? How do I get? You know, I just I can’t figure it out. And, you know, at the end of the day, it’s not that difficult. Right? It’s, it requires you though, to do a couple of things. The first thing is, you just have to stop doing that stuff. Right? And I know it sounds simple, right? Just, you know, it’s like, you know, I gotta you know, I’m smoking. I know, I shouldn’t smoke, stop smoking, right? How do you get there? Right? Right, right. But But the first thing you have to accept is that you need to stop doing what you’re doing. Yeah, today, because if you if you continue doing what you’re doing today, it doesn’t matter how many more resources you add around or anything like that, that’s not the solution, you need to start with yourself. If you do not rejigger the way that you were spending your own time, you will never be able to reshape what your team’s doing. So that’s step one, start with yourself. The second thing is you got to learn to let go. And we’ve talked about this before, you have to accept that when you delegate things, it’s not going to be done exactly the same way that you do it, it may not even be up to the exact same level of quality. But you know what, it’s probably good enough. And if it’s good enough, you’ve gotten it off your plate, you’ve now got a big win. So stop fretting about getting it to be exactly the way you want it to be. Be happy with it being good enough to get whatever the job is done. And if you if you start thinking about those ways, and then you can start thinking about how do I make the swaps, you know, what are the specific things that I swap, but you need to start with that mindset that first year, stop doing absolutely that stuff. And then you’re going to, you know, let go and then you figure out what you’re letting go.

Gini Dietrich  19:19

When I got married, my mom said to me, I want you to remember one thing if he makes the bed or loads the dishwasher what you know, whatever it happens to do, and it’s not the way you want it done. Just remember he did it. And that’s really hard for me because I’m type A and I’m a control freak. And I know, I know. I’m very OCD and I like things in orderly and Kelly made the bed the other day and it was not the way that I would make the bed and I looked at it and I thought to myself, you’re going to leave this and that was very hard for me. But I left the bed the way he made it and when he got home, he was Like you didn’t remake the bed and I was like, nope, thank you for making it. It’s the same thing like you have to, you have to your point, you have to understand that people are not going to do things exactly the way that you do them. And sometimes good enough. And being finished is great. That’s, that’s what you need to have to be finished.

Chip Griffin  20:22

We have a TV stand in our bedroom. And it’s one of those ones that sort of on the Lazy Susan kinda Yeah, can rotate, because we have little sitting area so you can rotate it, you know, where you want it to be an angle. And so I when it’s when it’s straight on, I like it to be actually straight on like at a 90 my wife just doesn’t care. She’ll just like pulling it back. And you know, if it’s in the same neighborhood is 90. It’s good enough. And so she figured out that that was annoying, because I would walk by and whenever I saw it, I touch it. Just to get it. Yeah. So she would then just walk by and you know, push it out at night. But I finally learned if I stopped reacting if I stopped doing it. That solves the problem. So right.

Gini Dietrich  21:08

Yes, you’re right.

Chip Griffin  21:10

Now I just you know, do it much more surreptitiously.

Gini Dietrich  21:12

Right. When she’s not around. You’re just like, right. It’s like sleeping with the enemy. Do you remember that belief?

Chip Griffin  21:18

No, I’m, I’m terrible with movies. Oh, I have and generally I have no memory of movies that I’ve watched. So yeah, sometimes I’ll watch a movie halfway through. I’m like, Yeah, I’ve seen this one before. Yeah, I do that with remember this plot? Oh, wow. All right. Well, nobody has listened to this episode before because we’re just recording it right now. I mean, I guess in the future you could listen to Okay, yeah. So with that we’re gonna crash land this episode, leadership podcast, but do take a look at how you’re spending your time. Make sure that you’re happy with what you’re doing. Make sure that you are not working on things that are far below your pay grade, if you can. Yes. Yes. With that, I’m going to work on something. Hopefully that’s at least at my pay grade. I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich  22:05

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin  22:07

and it depends.

Thank you for listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast. You can watch or listen to every episode by visiting Agency Leadership podcast.com or subscribing on your favorite podcast player who would also love it if you would leave a rating or review on iTunes or wherever you go to find podcasts. Be sure to check out Gini Dietrich at Spin sucks.com and join the Spin Sucks community at Spin sucks.com slash Spin Sucks stash community. You can learn more about me Chip Griffin at small agency growth.com where you can also sign up for a free community membership to engage with other agency leaders. The Agency Leadership Podcast is distributed on the FLIR Podcast Network, where you can find lots of other communications oriented podcasts. Just visit WWW dot FLIR podcast network.com. We welcome your feedback and suggestions and look forward to being back with you again next week.

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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