Make this your best year yet: Five commitments as an agency leader

Make this your best year yet: Five commitments as an agency leader
Written by: Karl Sakas

Want this to be your agency’s best year yet? Raise your right hand and repeat after me…

  1. I will focus my time and energy on my best employees, not my worst employees.
  2. I will focus on my agency’s best clients, and fire our worst clients.
  3. I will make my agency’s marketing as good as our clients’ marketing.
  4. I will put on my own oxygen mask first.
  5. I will create and follow a personal strategy as an agency leader.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Five Commitments for Agency Owners & Managers

Ready to keep up the momentum—or overcome past challenges? Make these five commitments to create a better year for yourself and your agency.

#1: I will focus my time and energy on my best employees, not my worst employees.

Your best employees make your life easier and propel your agency forward. Your worst employees slow you down—or pull you backwards. Commit to building a team that’s 100% New Rope, not Wet Twine.

Use employee coaching to help people achieve more. They can’t succeed if you always jump in to save the day. This includes committing to become a better boss.

Encourage employees to share feedback with you, and be cautiously optimistic when you promote first-time managers. When someone’s consistently struggling, put them on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) instead of just hoping they’ll improve.

Get my book Made to Lead: A Pocket Guide to Managing Marketing & Creative Teams. It’s filled with 31 bite-size tips. Most people read it cover-to-cover in 20-30 minutes, and then refer back when they need it.

#2: I will focus on my agency’s best clients, and fire our worst clients.

Your best clients make you love coming to work—and your worst clients make you hate the world.

When it’s your own company, life’s too short to work with bad clients. Plus, keeping bad clients is bad for employee morale—you’re telling them the toxic revenue is more important than their happiness.

Don’t put up with clients who disrespect you—the clients who don’t pay on time, or who refuse to pay an initial deposit.

Use my free Client Ranking Matrix tool to help you decide which clients to grow vs. which to fire. When it’s time, here’s how to fire clients as smoothly as possible.

Your and your team can use Warmth & Competence to show clients you care. You can also show them love by becoming an expert in their industry.

#3: I will make my agency’s marketing as good as our clients’ marketing.

Don’t have time for your own marketing? Stop blaming the “Shoemakers Kids” problem. As Joe Pulizzi reminded me, clients judge agencies on their self-marketing.

If your agency were your client, what would you do? Long-term, it’s about committing to an Inbound Branding marketing strategy. This includes specializing by client-vertical—here’s why and here’s how to do it.

Want a quick[er] fix? Make a simple yet powerful change to your homepage. At a loss for options? Here are 50 ways to find sales leads.

At least once a year, review your best clients—you may find your ideal target market has shifted.

#4: I will put on my own oxygen mask first.

You spend a lot of time worrying about other people—you need to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. As an agency consultant, I’ve “ordered” clients to take the day off, assigned a client to go to the beach, and advised clients to shut off their email for “heads down” time.

Commit to bringing in sales to fix your Client Concentration problem. Being over-dependent on a gorilla-sized client is an enormous source of stress, especially if circumstances change and they decide to fire you.

Be realistic about your own time. For instance, when you go to a conference, block-in prep time beforehand and followup time afterwards. Find ways to combat yak-shaving and bike-shedding, and commit to fighting the email flood.

Compare your weekly workload to what’s typical at other agencies, and pause to celebrate what’s going great. No one else is going do it for you.

#5: I will create and follow a personal strategy as an agency leader.

If you don’t know where you want to go, you will get pulled where everyone else wants you to go. Write an Advance Retrospective for the coming year—it’ll help you know where you want to go, so you can work backwards.

Self-awareness is important; so is taking action to fix recurring problems. For instance, do you keep getting sucked into every decision? Get your team structure right—and give employees swim lanes so they can decide more things without out.

You shouldn’t be the “answer person.” Make yourself “needed, but not necessary.”

Want to do more public speaking this year? Get my book The In-Demand Marketing Agency: How to Use Public Speaking to Become an Agency of Choice. I share how to pick a topic, how to get speaking gigs, and how to maximize follow-on business.

Get my support this year

Know where you want to go, but not sure how to get there? Need someone to talk to or an objective sounding board? Want perspective on what other agencies are doing?

I can help. My team and I can recommend next steps—or refer you elsewhere, if we’re not the right match.

Ready for your year to be great? Let’s make it happen together—contact me today.

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