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Agency Leadership Podcast
28 minutes | 3 days ago
Taking a sabbatical from the agency you own
Have you ever wished you could take several months — or even a year — away from your own agency? Many of you have been reconsidering your priorities over the past year, so you may be wondering how you can explore other passions or simply recharge your batteries in a deeper way. It’s not easy to take time off from any small business, but especially a small agency where others often think of the firm and the individual as one entity. Taking a proper sabbatical requires great planning, strong processes, and solid rules of the road. In this episode, Chip and Gini talk about some of the things that you should be considering if this is something you might want to do sooner or later. Many of the steps are the same things you should be doing to get your business operating efficiently anyway, but there are a few things unique to stepping away from your own business temporarily.
23 minutes | 10 days ago
Rebranding or repositioning your agency
What should you consider when you are thinking about changing the name or positioning of your agency? First, we look at what goes into making the decision to rebrand. Is it worth the time and hassle? Do you need to rebrand, reposition, or both? Then we consider what goes in to establishing an agency brand, whether that’s the first-time brand, a secondary brand, or a re-launch of the agency.
31 minutes | 20 days ago
Moving agency meetings from in-person to online
Most agencies have faced the need to move in-person events and meetings into the virtual world over the past year. But it has been challenging to do it well. In this episode, Gini talks about how she has taken her agency’s on-site client strategy workshop onto Zoom. She and Chip talk about how you can’t simply copy the IRL experience to video conferencing and instead need to find ways to take advantage of the circumstances to make changes.
23 minutes | a month ago
Subsidizing agency pricing by overworking employees
Agency employees consistently complain about being overworked. Many of us started out in the agency world with our managers expecting us to work 60-hour weeks. This culture of overwork doesn’t come about because owners and managers are sadistic. It’s because too often agencies fail to price their services correctly. If agencies price work fairly, then there is no need for team members to work excessive hours. If agencies set reasonable client expectations, all-nighters should be the exception, not the rule. In this episode, Chip and Gini discuss this challenge and why it is so important for agencies to improve their ability to estimate costs and set prices correctly to avoid burning out employees.
26 minutes | a month ago
Beware of the experts
Chip and Gini are experts at growing PR and marketing agencies. But you should take everything that they say with a grain of salt. No expert has all of the right answers all of the time. Not every piece of advice is a good one for you to take — even if it may work for 99% of other people. When you’re looking for ideas and perspective, experts can certainly help. But you need to evaluate everything through your own lens. How closely does that person’s experience and outlook reflect your own? As a general rule, any time you hear some piece of advice that sounds too good to be true (4-hour work week, anyone?) … it probably is. Even in bad advice you can still take away nuggets, but if you think that someone has the silver bullet to solve your challenge or maximize your opportunity, you’re probably going to be disappointed. So continue listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast to get some wisdom from Chip and Gini. But be prepared to toss it out if it doesn’t make sense for you and your business. And do the same with every piece of expert advice you get anywhere.
34 minutes | 2 months ago
Skinny jeans, delegating work, and leading business development
This episode is a simulcast of a recent Small Agency Talk Show segment featuring Chip Griffin and Gini Dietrich. The show airs at 12 PM ET every Friday on YouTube at SmallAgency.TV. Chip and Gini take a brief detour on the topic of skinny jeans before getting into the meat of the show. They talk about how an agency owner can transition themselves out of day-to-day client work, as well as who should be in charge of business development in a small agency.
29 minutes | 2 months ago
Ideas for agency lead generation
Many agency owners tell us that they can close business as long as they get in the room with the right prospects. They’re confident in their abilities and the skills of their teams. But how do you get those right prospects in the room (or on the Zoom)? That’s what Chip and Gini tackle in this episode.
21 minutes | 3 months ago
Handling inherited activities with new clients
When your agency starts working with a new client, chances are they have some existing activities already underway. They have a way of doing things that you need to become part of — or change to make it more to your liking. In this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast, Chip and Gini talk about what happens when you find something that goes against your strategic and tactical judgement. They look at a real-world example of an agency who found a contractor using a content and social media strategy that seemed nonsensical on the surface. But what might the new agency learn from the existing practices that might help them work more effectively for the client?
30 minutes | 3 months ago
What to do when you are preparing to sell your agency
Most PR and marketing agency owners have thought about the possibility of selling their business someday. But what should you be thinking about today if that’s an outcome you might want to achieve? Chip and Gini talk about some of the things to focus on, as well as the potential pitfalls on the road to a sale. Resources Exiting Your Business the Right Way by Rick GouldFive Ways to Prep Your Agency for Sale (Spin Sucks article by Drew McLellan) Timestamps 0:00 Intro 2:58 Resources 3:50 When to sell 5:25 Earn-out and owner’s role 8:15 Make yourself less essential9:18 Positioning your agency 11:12 Client concentration problem 12:30 Agency finances 19:05 Expect surprises 22:45 Timing of the sale 24:50 Life-changing money? 26:25 Post-sale control 28:50 Outro
25 minutes | 3 months ago
Agency business development approaches that work in 2021
Chip and Gini know that you love to hear about business development. So we’re fulfilling that wish with a look at what agencies can do for business development in the reality that is 2021. Despite continuing challenges, there’s a lot of opportunity to be had. Lots of agencies are getting creative — not just with their clients, but with how they are generating new leads and closing new accounts.
27 minutes | 3 months ago
Handling client complaints about your agency employees
We have all been there. Clients complain about something that your agency is doing. It might be the quality of the work. Or the timeliness of a deliverable. Or something else. When it is about something that we control ourselves, that’s painful — but easier to address. What do you do when it is one of your team members that is the target of the client’s displeasure? Chip and Gini take a look at this very common challenge and offer some strategies on how to make sure that you keep the client happy while also being fair to your own team.
20 minutes | 4 months ago
Do agencies really understand their prospects?
The smart folks at RSW/US recently surveyed agency owners and marketers to understand their outlook for 2021. Chip and Gini dig into the data — and they don’t like a lot of what they saw. They believe there is a significant disconnect between the agencies and their clients. The pair look at some of the highlights from the report, but you can download your own copy from the RSW/US website. Chip and Gini will also be panelists along with Drew McLellan of the Agency Management Institute at the RSW/US Agency New Business Virtual Conference in February. More info here.
26 minutes | 4 months ago
Has the PESO Model become a necessity for modern agencies?
Can you — should you — run a PR or marketing agency without leveraging the PESO Model in 2021? Gini obviously has a bias since she created the PESO Model, but it has since become the standard approach for integrated marketing. It brings together Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media to help organizations achieve their communications goals. In this episode, Chip and Gini talk about why this integration is so important for winning business and achieving results — but also how agencies can achieve the benefits of the PESO Model without having to build out a giant team that has expertise in all of these areas.
24 minutes | 4 months ago
So what is SAGA all about anyway?
Gini noticed that Agency Leadership Advisors rebranded as the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA), so she asked Chip to explain himself in this episode. You’ll hear Chip explain his thinking and how some of the decisions he made may be useful things for agency leaders to consider in the post-pandemic world.
25 minutes | 5 months ago
Using project managers in your agency
Chip and Gini get asked all the time about hiring project managers. When to do it, how to integrate them with the team and clients, and whether it needs to be a standalone role or one combined with other functions. The co-hosts take several questions from the community together to lay out their views on how to effectively use project managers and the pros/cons of different models for the role. Transcript 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 if you’re watching us on video, you can see us right down below. We’ve got our little caricature heads. So underneath and if you’re listening to us, you can’t see that so you don’t think it’s funny. Gini Dietrich But he was padding our heads for a while there, it was kind of amazing. His head also keeps hitting the edge of Agency Leadership Podcast, calm on the graphics. But if you’re listening again, can’t see it. Chip Griffin Right. But but but if you haven’t ever seen us on video, you really should, you should you should go over to Agency Leadership podcast.com, click on one of the episodes. And you can see us in video and maybe what maybe one day we’ll even do this live so that you can chip in with your own two cents while we’re recording. Yes, it would be it would be a vast improvement, I’m sure if we got some input from the audience. Gini Dietrich If we’d be more than a vast improvement, Chip Griffin well, but I mean, right now we get input from our third co host and the hamster. We occasionally get to hear from your dog. Gini Dietrich January 19. January 19, January 19. Chip Griffin Yeah. delusional delusional, delusional. That’s that’s all I have to say is the Gini Dietrich light at the end of the tunnel and you’re not going to ruin it for me. You know, if school January 19, if Chip Griffin you want to believe that they are resuming in person classes on January 19. In Chicago, you by all means I believe it embrace it. Gini Dietrich I’m embracing I believe it happening January 19. Chip Griffin Well, the good news for our listeners here is that we are the as you’re listening to this this is this is right before the holiday break for most of you. So most of you will will hopefully be taking some time off I think I was talking with a client this morning. I think that that more people than usual are going to take time off between Christmas and New Year’s this year then. Then you would usually see I think most people are just spent I know I already spent Gini Dietrich Yeah, I mean, even the this and this is this will make you laugh but for roll your eyes one of the two maybe both. But I’m a morning person I get up at 445 every morning you do to like it doesn’t that’s just what I do. I have slept in the last few days didn’t even hear my alarm. Like that’s not usual. Typical for me at all. Chip Griffin Now what what is sleeping in for you though? Gini Dietrich 645 yesterday, holy cow. Hey, I know. Wow. See, I Chip Griffin consider 6am sleeping in if when I when I open my eyes and I look at my watch and it’s after sex. I’m like, cool. Yeah, something crazy happened. Gini Dietrich Yeah. Oh, really unusual. So I think to your point, everybody’s just done. Chip Griffin Yep. Unfortunately, as as we record this, we still have some time. So while people listening will be coming up on their break. You got Gini Dietrich to get one more episode out of me. Chip Griffin That’s true. Yeah, that is that is true. Although you know where you did decide that we had to not record on Christmas Eve in New Year’s Eve. I did do that. Chip Griffin I mean, talk about slacking. Gini Dietrich You can call me a slacker. I don’t care. I want Chip Griffin I once got a call from a reporter at I think it was six or 6:30pm on Christmas Eve. About what? Chip Griffin It wasn’t even an urgent thing. No, it was it was an investigative reporter for The Washington Post who was working on a longer term piece that he and I had been collaborating on. I was one of his sources. And he just had a he had a question. Well, Soviet, Chip Griffin Soviet I mean, he didn’t celebrate Christmas. So that probably contributed to him looking at it as just any other day Gini Dietrich well, and a day that you can probably get worked on without being interrupted. Chip Griffin Well, there’s there’s that too. And of course, this was back in the time. This was pre cell phones. I mean, this was 30, almost 30 years ago now. And so at that point, my my wife, who was then my girlfriend and said, You’re unplugging the phone. No more of this. It’s Christmas Eve. Gini Dietrich That’s pretty funny. Chip Griffin I once had a Wall Street Journal reporter call me not on deadline at 1am. In the morning. He just he was just he was he was a little a little bit. high strung, shall we say? Huh? Yeah, yeah. So one, I am just, I mean, what we up out of a dead sleep. And it was not a deadline. I mean, I knew it wasn’t deadline because the Wall Street Journal doesn’t have any deadline, right? In the early to mid 1990s. That would have been a one I am. It’s just a return. Yeah. So he just thought that was okay. He did. He was he was an odd duck. I mean, he, I at some point will actually get to the real episode here. But But the first time I met him in person, he came into my office on Capitol Hill. And he perched up on the arm of Mike couch in my office because I was committee staff. So I had my own office, and he perched up on the arm of the couch to like, like a bird. Something it was, it was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Like it Gini Dietrich was he like his feet were up there and he was like perched Chip Griffin Yes, yes. Yes. His feet. Yeah, he was balancing on it and, and, and asking it to the point where since I had I’d only ever spoken with him on the phone. I actually called up someone else who I knew knew him. And I said, I said, Can you just confirm that this is this that I’m not being punked here that I don’t have, you know that I’m not being targeted by someone who’s trying to you know, get me to reveal stuff that I wouldn’t. Whatever. Yeah. Chip Griffin And and he’s like, no, that’s that sounds exactly like and then insert the name. Hmm. Well, I will not insert the name here because this is a you know, we’re publishing this and this is still someone who’s very much around so is he still around? He is not not for the Wall Street Journal. But he is still around. Gini Dietrich is he’s still reporting I we’re gonna Chip Griffin move right along here. Now Jenny? really like to guess You? You? You can you can press me after we hit the stop. I’m recording. But I am. There’s no way I’m going down this path while we’re saving this for posterity. So yeah, you guys. Alright, so enough of this posterity. Let’s let’s get into the posterity of I don’t know, useful information. And the actual topic of today’s episode, which is project managers gonna talk about this, because this is something that came up were in the Spin Sucks community because it’s where all great conversation happens. Or at least a lot of great conversation. Gini Dietrich conversation for sure. It’s actually hopping right now. Everybody’s Chip Griffin got mean, he didn’t quiet it down for a few months there. And now all of a sudden, people seem to have woken up and said, oh, there’s a place I can get my questions answered. Right. It’s kind of nice. Chip Griffin I like it. It is it is great isn’t much great for us on this show. Because it makes it so much easier. We don’t have to think about topics too much, which that’s always dangerous. So since it’s the Spin Sucks community, as always, I will let you kick it off and share more about what the question was. Oh, okay. Well, since I have it open, then I will I will rescue you. Thank you. Chip Griffin So this was a question from someone asking, determining if a project manager should be brought onto the team to help manage workflow across several client accounts as the agency scales and grows. And there were some specific questions, pros and cons of a project manager being part of the team. When does it make sense to hire a project manager? When does that not make sense? Do you prefer to have your project managers internal or client facing? And has any agency used project managers in a self management environment and examples and such anything else that they did not ask? So that’s really a huge landscape that we can pursue. So I guess really, the question is, you know, what are your thoughts on project managers in the agency environment? Gini Dietrich So we have never had an a project manager in my agency, but certainly coming from both an ad agency and a global PR firm we did. Um, this is the first year that I have felt like we needed one. Because a lot of times the project management lies with the account directors and with the leadership team, and it’s too much for me, I can’t it’s it’s becoming too unbearable. So this is so it was an interesting question from that perspective. But this is the first year that I have felt like we’ve needed some somebody to help manage all this stuff, because it’s a lot. It’s a lot, and it’s for some reason, a lot more than other stuff going on. Right? Chip Griffin It’s as you may be able to hear her her students since Jenny is also a teacher now is sitting adjacent, and in a quote unquote, Gini Dietrich class. They’re doing arts and crafts right now. Chip Griffin arts and crafts. Yes, yeah. How we should have an arts and crafts episode of the podcast at some point, we’ll just build that that would be really disastrous, because art was never a good class. For me. Gini Dietrich The Legos or something? Chip Griffin I guess I wasn’t I was never very good with that either. So Gini Dietrich forget it. No arts and crafts episode. Yeah. Chip Griffin So So I mean, I think that project managers it with almost every role that you have within an agency, the answer is it depends, right? Yeah. I mean, it’s, I don’t have my T shirt on today. So I can’t just point to it. But it really does. It depends. You know, what, what your model is, what services you’re delivering what the rest of your team does. There are some kinds of agencies who are listening who you almost certainly could benefit from project manager, particularly if you’re, you know, doing more, you know, digital stuff, web dev, those kinds of things where you’re managing contractors, and you’ve got a lot of moving parts. Those are ideally suited for having project managers who are different from account managers, right? If you’re doing basically straight traditional PR, you may not benefit as much, because you may not have those bright lines where it’s easier to say, Okay, this is the project manager’s responsibility. And this is the account manager, it may be easier to have it all within one. So you need to think through what works and so on. My suggestion anytime you’re thinking about hiring a role, or assigning someone a role internally is to make a list. What are, you know, what are you working on? What are the tasks that are taking time, this is where time tracking is valuable. If you know what you’re investing your time in and you know the pain points you’re trying to solve, then you can figure out what the right solution to that is, whether that’s in house contractor or hire a new employee or whatever. Gini Dietrich Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot. And we’ve had an episode on tools and software to use. And you always make the point that the software or the tool that you use, is the one that you’ll use not. Yep. And I think the project manager is the same way. It’s Chip Griffin as Jenny project manages her student, yeah, well, Gini Dietrich now we know why I need a project manager. Chip Griffin With all respect, you need more than a project manager resolve this. So? Yeah, Gini Dietrich so I think with project managers is the same thing. All right, you know, is it somebody you’re going to use? Do they can you keep them employed full time, they’re not going to be a billable person, it’s gonna be an administrative job, all those kinds of things. Um, we actually have one for a client that we’re working with that she’s internal. And she manages, she manages Monday, which is the software that they use, which I’m glad because I hate it. And then she’ll, she has a weekly status meeting where she says, Okay, here’s everything that’s on the docket. And she manages all of us, and it’s great. I love it. manage the heck out of me, please? I don’t want to do it for you. Chip Griffin Yeah, I mean, absolutely, I am not a good cranes running on time person is, as any listener to this podcast will know, because who knows what day that podcast is actually going to be published that week, because it goes on my list for the start of the week. But I mean, as we’re sitting here recording this on Thursday, this week’s podcast still hasn’t gone out yet. Because I got distracted by other projects, and just didn’t have a chance to take the hour or two, it’ll take to do the editing and publishing and all that kind of stuff. And it wasn’t a priority versus actual client work. Clients Gini Dietrich always take priority, Chip Griffin they really do, which, you know, it’s it’s unfortunate. It’s all your clients listing out there. I’m sorry, but you know, it’s it’s rough that you’re the priority for us, we’d like to be able to do the fun stuff. But that mean, look, I think part of the problem is that that people think that hiring a project manager is the solution to a lot of their problems. But it’s it comes down to what is that person actually doing? Right? I mean, and project manager, account manager, senior director, Managing Director all these titles, they mean nothing. Because if I go to seven different agencies, and I have seven different project managers, they all do different stuff. And so you need to figure out what it is that you’re actually what you want them to do. And I will challenge something you said where you said the project managers are not billable. And I would I would dispute that. Because the if the project manager is actually doing client work, it should be viewed as billable time now, most of the listeners are not actually billing hours anyway. But it should be assigned, it should be tracked towards that project, and it should go into your pricing for that project. It shouldn’t be there Chip Griffin because it shouldn’t be an overhead expense share. Gini Dietrich Because if you are doing it or account directors doing it that would be billable. That’s fair. Chip Griffin Yeah. So So I think it needs to be it needs to be thought of as such, it need to be tracked. As such, I know some agencies will actually charge you a project management fee, which I don’t like just because it seems to me It sends the wrong message. But I understand. I mean, I actually had a an agency who did work for me in a past life. And they were one of the folks who said we charge for project management. And I got what they were saying philosophically that it’s an important part of actually delivering the results that we wanted. At the same time. I think from a client perspective that does come across as your kind of niggling into having me kind of like the old days when we used to charge for a page of a fax or something like that, which was the as I’ve said, I think up before on this show, it’s it drove me mad as a client to get a bill for $1 a page for a fax. I mean, that was just stupid. And so I you know, so you have to be careful with all these things. But from an internal perspective, as you’re tracking it, the time of that project manager that they’re spending to manage a project for a client should be tracked as an expense for that client work and and you should be charging appropriately to capture that do not put it into overhead, because that’s how you start getting into profit margins very quickly. Gini Dietrich Yeah, that’s totally fair. Um, and I I’m the same way on project management you do as a fee you do you have to do it. But I, I learned a very good lesson from a large client who might be fortune three company who I can’t say out loud, but you can surmise. Who said to me, I totally get it. But it should be cost of doing business. So now we just roll it into our fee. I mean, it’s still there. You’re still paying for it, but on a separate line item. Chip Griffin Right. Well This is I mean, this is probably a good topic for a different episode. But agencies often are far too transparent about what’s fair. Just tell them it costs this. Yeah. Right. I mean, and I was just working with an agency a few weeks ago, and was looking through some of their proposals. And they, they gave excruciating detail Hmm. In their proposals, and you know, what things cost and how many hours? And I said, Well, are you billing by the hour? No. Okay. If they go over those number of hours, are you charging more? No? Like, why are you telling me the number of hours it’s going to take them? It’s, it’s, it’s irrelevant? irrelevant? Yes. to it. Chip Griffin And if you’re I said, you know, you’re showing all these individual line items, will you do that individual line item for that price? If they say no to everything else in the proposal? No. Okay, well, then don’t even show it. Because to the extent you show things in a proposal, it should be because it’s an actual menu option that you’re willing to provide. And if you’re not, don’t, don’t break it out. Yeah, keep it rolled, rolled together. And the more that you, the more that you show that stuff, the more that you get into just idiotic conversations with clients, who say, I don’t understand why it would take that long or cost that much to do those kinds of things. And project management is very much the same way they don’t, they don’t really want to know that it’s, you know, people don’t need to know how the sausage is made. They just need to know that it tastes good. Yeah. And so you need to be thinking about all of these things the same way. But you do need to think about what it takes to get that sausage made. And so that’s where the project management comes in internally, and you have to figure out, you know, is a is a body though solution, is it, that someone on your team just takes on that responsibility? Because they’re particularly organized? And that’s a good use of their time? Is it? Is it that you put more systems and processes in place? And it’s not a person? Right? I mean, there’s all sorts of different ways to solve the problem. So but it really comes back to figuring out what is your pain point what problem you’re actually trying to solve? And only then can you figure out is that a resource problem? Or is it something else? Gini Dietrich Yeah, um, it’s funny you say that, because even if you break out the project management fee, in a proposal, or on an invoice, to your point, if you’re not offering that as a standalone menu item, that’s, that’s a really great way to look at it. I actually just had a conversation with a client who said, Ah, we have a client who wants to see our time sheets, and it bites me in the butt every time because they’re like, why did it take two hours to do this? Ah, Gini Dietrich if a client wanted to see my timesheets, I’d be like, yes, there’s the door. Right? Chip Griffin I mean, that’s the thing people don’t understand. You don’t have to do that. Now. There are certain there are certain contracts, you know, if your contracts, things like that, yeah, everything we say there’s always the exception that proves the rule. Yep. But generally speaking, you don’t have to disclose that to clients, and you shouldn’t, there’s no, they need to know what the results are, that they’re getting, and how much it’s costing them. They don’t need to know all the detail behind it. And, and, and project managers, while they can be expensive, if you’re actually using someone as a project manager ought to be because it saves you time and money, right? in some fashion. So yes, it’s an expense on the one hand, but it’s because you’re you’re shifting work from probably a higher priced front end person who’s dealing with clients, to someone who’s probably lesser cost behind the scenes, all I will say good project managers aren’t cheap, right. So, you know, project managers shouldn’t be, you know, someone just out of college that you throw this to, which is one of the things that I say a lot of folks do, will just, you know, let’s throw it on you. I mean, it needs to be someone who understands how to make the machinery work. And it tends to work more so in larger organizations, where you’ve got contractors at different teams internally, and you have to, you’re, there’s someone who’s sort of working across disciplines, in order to solve problems for clients. So if you’ve, if your clients are generally, you know, just doing one thing with you, and it’s, it’s much more vertically oriented, from a service standpoint, project managers aren’t going to serve you as well. It’s when they’ve got some graphic design and some content creation, and some social media and some advertising. Project Managers really excel in those environments. Because they know, this needs, this team needs this before this can happen. And so they can, they can figure out how to work those things through. And they also can help the teams figure out priorities, because every client team always thinks that whatever they’ve got is the top priority, right? So I mean, when I oversaw a graphic design team for a larger agency, as one of my many shops underneath me, I would have people come in and say, Well, you know, this is I need this tomorrow. I’d be like, Okay, Chip Griffin great. But they’re working on this for this larger client, that’s, you know, and it’s for their board or something like that. So that’s going to have to be a higher priority. And so project managers can help sort those things out. So they figure out what a real priority is for the team versus what the priority is for that individual who’s just hearing from the client. This needs to be done yesterday. Gini Dietrich Yeah. And you know, as you’re talking about this, I’m remembering back to my ad agency days when we had a traffic department and lavon. And Marsha, they were, they were in charge of making sure that if you had an ad campaign or a, you know, we did all sorts of events, and, you know, PR stunts and things like that, if you had something like that, that you had a date in mind, and they would work it back. And they would say, Okay, well, you need this for production by this date, or it’s, this isn’t going to happen. And they would give you all of that, and then they would stay on top of you to get that stuff done. Because if you didn’t deliver your part on time, then it screwed up the whole process, right. lavonne and Marcia? Chip Griffin Yeah, and it’s in different kinds of agencies call it different things. ad agencies tend to call it a Traffic Manager. You know, digital agencies call it a project manager, PR agencies probably just call it an account manager and stick someone with the job. Right. So it’s, again, that goes back to titles not really mattering. It’s really the functionality that matters. I will say one of the questions that was asked, should the project manager be client facing or internal? The best project managers I’ve known are not good with clients. Yeah. Because to be a good project manager, you need to be much more methodical logical, more of an operator. And you tend to shy away from diplomacy, because you’ll simply say, you know, that I’ve got, you know, this team has this bandwidth, or this contractor has this bandwidth. And so this is how we’re going to use it. You can’t tell that directly to the client. So so the account manager or the client service team has to figure out how to take what the project manager has told them, and somehow massage it into something that’s not going to make the client say, I don’t care that you have other clients, because the reality is, all of your clients know that you have clients other than them. They just don’t believe that they should matter. Right? Right. Right. I mean, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a, and they’ll and they’ll pay lip service to how we, you know, we know you’re busy, we know, you’ve got other clients, you know, they don’t mean it. No, I mean, they, that whatever it is, they want they want, and they don’t really care what it’s going to impact on other clients. And so the good client service person knows how to try to work through that and make them feel like they are the most special client in the world, understanding that if all of your clients were the most special a, it wouldn’t be true and be, you’d never make money. Gini Dietrich Right? That is true. That is true. I remember when I started my agency, the very first client, I had said, I understand that you’re going to grow this business. And I understand that you will have other clients, but I am your first and I always want to be treated like that. Okay, and he still is Gini Dietrich still treated like our first client. Chip Griffin Well, so you see my smartass answer to that would be well, you know, you’ll learn a lot. And so generally, after the first client, we get better. But if you’re going to always be our first client, we’ll give you that same level of service that we we won’t take into into account all that other knowledge that we’ve we’ve garnered, Gini Dietrich is helped us growth tremendously. Chip Griffin Yeah. And look, I mean, every agency needs those clients. And there are clients who are, who have been helpful to you as an agency, and you’ve got a good relationship with, and you’ll always find ways to bend over backwards for them, and it’s appropriate. But the reality is, you know, project managers help you to figure out how to keep all of your clients as happy as possible. You know, by by keeping all of the trains moving on time. And this is not easy. And the larger you get, and the more particularly as more agencies are adopting this thing that I’ve heard of called the PESO model. I don’t know where I’ve heard of it. But it’s this thing where apparently you use like, paid, earned, shared owned. And, and so that requires a lot of different expertise and, and team members and contractors and all that. And so in order to be able to pull it all together, you need to make all those moving parts fit together. Project Managers can be really helpful in doing that, whether that project manager is full time contractor or part of someone else’s responsibility, whatever, but you need to figure out how to get that done. Gini Dietrich Amen. Chip Griffin And so on that note, I think I’m going to write this episode up as a success because our third co host has been mostly mostly behind the scenes. Gini Dietrich I mean, you can hear but Chip Griffin you can hear Yeah, but you know, I mean, if you’re listening on computer speakers, you might not hear her as much You know, I’ve got earbuds in so I, I obviously can hear her but that’s okay. And when we didn’t see the hamster, the dog didn’t make an appearance. So Gini Dietrich the hamster is about to make an appearance, so we should end it now. On that Chip Griffin note, then, I’m Chip Griffin, and I’m Gini Dietrich, and it depends
23 minutes | 5 months ago
Giving away resources and advice to grow your agency
Many agencies provide e-books, guides, or even free consultations as a way to connect with potential prospects. These giveaways can be a good way to break the ice — as long as you don’t break the bank in the process. Chip and Gini review some real-life examples of things that agencies do and some questions that owners have had for them recently about what to give away and how to promote it. They also examine potential pitfalls along the way. 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 the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin, Gini Dietrich and I’m Gini Dietrich. Chip Griffin And she you got your name right and you got it in the right timing. I am I am so so proud of you. Thank you little clap there. Thank you. Thank Gini Dietrich you curtsy. Chip Griffin And for those of you who are watching on video, we’ve tried to address some of the the video issues that we’ve had with Jenny’s feed. So let us know if this looks better than it has in past weeks. It does to me. It does to me, it seems like she’s a little less pixelated. So hopefully that will be the case when we actually publish. And and because of the different way that we’re trying this week, she can use her fancy microphone. Yes, I can read everything. So even if you’re watching this on video, if you’re listening to this, you hopefully can hear Jenny’s voice in much more professional style tones or something like that. I don’t Gini Dietrich Yeah, something, though, sits tones or something? I don’t know. But yes, I can use my fancy mic now. So yeah. Chip Griffin You know, and it’s fun to experiment. That’s that’s what this technology stuff is all about. We like to try to figure out what the best way is to deliver great content to you every week. But with that, let’s get into that great content, instead of talking about the behind the scenes stuff that you all probably don’t really care about. So So today, we’re gonna be talking about some lead generation tactics for your agency and more specifically, things that you might give away. And what are some of the implications of that. And this comes from two different posts that that we’ve seen recently, about this one was about free consultations that an agency was offering and the other is more about lead magnets and things that you can give away white papers, ebooks, those kinds of things that might serve as lead generation tools for your agency. And so there’s a number of topics to discuss in here. So where would you like to get started with it? Gini Dietrich Um, so I think we should start with the whole idea of providing some sort of free offer. And in this case, the question was, you offer free marketing consultations to prospective clients. And one way you seed your offer is by promoting it within specific targeted groups online, which makes sense. And you include a link to a scheduling app where people can book a meeting time, great, I’ve done that we do that for Spin Sucks stuff. The question then goes on. But a business coach gets a hold of your offer, and they publish it in their private coaching group. And their members begin booking free consultations with you. still kind of great. I think that that the challenge, though I from what I can understand is on your back end, the zoom link isn’t connected properly. So you don’t know why you don’t know which link is being shared. You don’t know which one to fix without checking all 10 these numbers aren’t necessarily the type of leads that you’re looking for. You don’t know the coach who has posted the offer in their private coaching group. You spoke to them once in a completely different context with a different career. The question is, what do you think? What would you do? I think that’s a good jumping off point for this conversation, because there’s a lot in that one couple of sentences. Chip Griffin There is there’s a tremendous amount in that post. And obviously, we don’t have all of the details of the situation. But it was it was something that was posted recently on Facebook by someone we know. And so it was it’s ripe for discussion here. I mean, first of all, I like you, I use free consultations and have in frankly, most of my businesses over the last 20 years, sir, I love them as an offer. Yeah, you obviously need to think them through. And I think that’s one of the things that this particular post flags is you need to think through, you know, who might be coming through that’s qualified, as well as who’s maybe not qualified. And so having some sort of a qualification around an offer, particularly where it’s one that takes your time, right, if you’re, if you’re giving away an ebook or something like that, right, let the world have it. Right. I mean, you know, but if it’s, if it’s something where it’s going to take your time, that’s different, because that’s, that’s a very finite resource that you have, and you need to be really much more thoughtful about how you’re going to allocate it. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I and I think I mean, I think there’s two issues to this question. And one is the technical side of things, which that just needs to be figured out. But the other side of it is, there are there are ways that you can, quote unquote, prequalify people before you get on the phone with them. And one of the ways we do that is through I can’t remember which technology we’re using for this. Hmm. Um, there are there’s a technology that you can create a form essentially, that allows you to ask questions. So, you know, in your case, Chip, you might say, Are you an agency owner, what size is your business? How many employees do you have? You can ask those qualities Find questions. And if they pass, then they can have they get to have the conversation with you. And if they don’t, then perhaps there’s a free offer that you can give them an ebook, a white paper, a webinar, something like that, so that they’re not like, well, that sucks, like, I got rejected, and I got nothing out of it. You can give them something in return for filling out the form, but you’re not going to spend the time talking to somebody who’s not qualified for your offer. Chip Griffin Right? Yeah. And the tool doesn’t matter as much as the process. Right, right. Yeah, there are lots of tools out there that you can use to ask questions, wufu, Ninja forms, web forms, all sorts of stuff that you can use calendly, the scheduling app allows you to put questions in. So there’s a lot of ways you get that information, I think the most important thing is to have the guidelines. So even if you don’t ask the question, just say it. So for example, you know, I might say, free 30 minute consultation for small agency owners. Right. And so even if I don’t ask the questions, you know, presumably, before I actually get on the phone with somebody, I’m going to Google them. And you know, when I see that they’re, you know, a plumber or a carpenter, or, you know, an insurance agent, Gini Dietrich right? Chip Griffin You know, that I just say, Hey, you know, thanks for reaching out, I really appreciate the interest, but this isn’t what I do. And then ideally, you have something else, whether it’s another freebie that you have or referral or some suggestion, you know, I always like to, instead of just saying straight up no to somebody, steer them somewhere. Me to yes, even if it’s fairly broad, you know, I mean, you might even say, you know, hey, you know, the SBA has the score program, and they might be able to help you in your area, you know, I mean, it could be something as generic as that if you really have nowhere else to turn, because that may be a piece of information that they didn’t have. But I think that the first thing is just to be clear about who you’re offering it to. And so ideally, that’s on your website that’s on your form. But even if let’s say you forgot to do that, and you didn’t do that, it’s fine, I think, to reach out to someone after they’ve requested it and say, Look, this isn’t really what I do. I know, I didn’t say it on the forum. I didn’t say it, you know, on the website, but it’s not what I do. And so there’s a better fit for you somewhere else. Gini Dietrich Yeah. And I think you raise a good point about the insurance agencies, because I made that mistake. I said, we we do work with agency owners, and we got insurance agents, not that kind of agents. Chip Griffin I get that regularly. You know, it’s fine. You know, I’m not gonna work with them, obviously, because I don’t even know their terminology. But you know, at the same time, it’s usually pretty clear to them as soon as they get to my site that this is not, Gini Dietrich it’s not the right fit. Yeah, yeah. Occasionally Chip Griffin still fill out forms, and they get down and maybe some of the stuff is still useful to them. You know, I’ve got various resources that frankly, be useful to any business. Sure. So maybe that’s what they’re interested in? Who knows? Yeah. Yeah. And I fine. I’m happy to help people, you know? Yes. Great. My time. Great. Gini Dietrich Yeah. You don’t want to spend an hour on the on zoom with them. But for sure. Chip Griffin Right. Right. And and I think that, that free consultations like that can be a really good thing in the agency space, because no one’s gonna hire you without knowing more about you. Right? It’s because this is a relationship business. You know, it’s not, this is not someone’s buying a tool or a software project or something like that. They’re there. They’re buying you and your team. And so you’re going to have to have these conversations. So to me, there’s really no downside to giving away 30 minutes of your time, because if you can answer all their questions in 30 minutes, and they don’t need anything more from you, they weren’t ever going to be a client anyway, correct? Yes. Because I know, I know, some of the agencies that I talk with say, Well, why would I give away my time they should pay for it? Well, you know, Gini Dietrich I mean, you give it away from him. and business development standpoint, you don’t go talk to prospects without having Right. I mean, Chip Griffin it’s nice to say that, but it’s completely unrealistic. because nobody’s going to if you just sit there and say, I’m really qualified, not really gonna tell you how we’re not going to talk about your situation, how I might fit for it. I mean, who the heck’s gonna hire you? If they hire you? That’s probably a foolish client that you don’t want to have anyway. Gini Dietrich Yeah. And I will tell you, because we do that this is what how we sell, especially my my one on one coaching. And in some of our online courses, as well, it’s how we sell it. And our average conversion is about 20%. So for every 10 calls that I have, we get two clients out of it. Now it’s a significant amount of money. So it makes the it makes worth the time worthwhile. But you’re not going to close everybody, not everybody’s going to be a right fit. But you’re right. It’s it’s relationship building. They may come back later, we’ve had situations like that where people have said, Gosh, I really would like to work for you. I just can’t afford it right now. And they come back a year later because they’ve saved the money. So there there are opportunities and I know you You’re a big believer in this in general just have the coffee meeting. Okay. It’s not that big of a deal. Chip Griffin Right? Well, I mean is as we talked about way back when on one of our earliest episodes, about picking your brain type meetings. And to me like this is this is a step above that, because this isn’t just someone random, this is someone who is expressing some level of interest in the service that you provide, it’s To me, it’s an absolute no brainer, because you’re right, you’re not going to close 100% of them, you shouldn’t expect to close 100%, you should want to close 100% of them. Because if you do, then you haven’t cast a wide enough net, right? You could be you could be saving more. Yeah, so or you’re not priced correctly or something. But the you know, if nothing else, you will get information, you’ll start to hear more about more businesses that that could be interested in your services, you’ll understand what their pain points are, what their budgets are. And all of this goes into the mix to help you build a more compelling offering that will make you more money. So absolutely take these kinds of things, you do have to be careful, you don’t want them to eat up all your time. Right. So in my case, I let people schedule these directly through calendly. So I don’t have to have any, you know, sort of back and forth, it saves a lot of time. But calendly does allow you to limit the number of these meetings in a day. Right? So So I have a limit on the number of those. I mean, it doesn’t usually kick in but occasionally it does. And and I make sure that I’m never allocating to larger percentage of my day to these kinds of calls. And that’s a smart thing to do to spread them out if you’re giving something away for free. And someone’s got to wait two weeks for it. No big deal. Right? I mean, yes. Great. Great. Gini Dietrich Great. And, you know, I always liken this to you, you won’t appreciate this analogy, but I always liken it to a really good hairstylist. You wait six weeks to see a really good hairstylist. Sorry, Chip. Chip Griffin Wow. Wow. I missed the holiday season. Jenny, I do we really have to go there. I mean, really? It’s just that Gini Dietrich you’re welcome. Merry Christmas. Chip Griffin But yes, you I mean, you absolutely do. And I mean, I and I also have clients who say to me, you know, I’ve got a new client who wants to start tomorrow, I don’t have the bandwidth, but I will in two weeks, we’ll tell them that. Right. Right. And if they can’t wait two weeks, it wasn’t going to be a fit anyway. And so you know, you need to you do need to set boundaries at the prospect stage and throughout the relationship to make sure that it’s working for both sides. And so that certainly goes for these free consultations. I think the other thing I would like to touch on here is this notion of, you know, someone sees your offer, and then they share it with their own list or their own. Right. Thank you is what I would say thank you. Chip Griffin Yes. Yeah, I mean, you know, so I get the potential concern, if you’re getting a flood of people that you have to say no to right. So on one level, I understand that concern. At the same time, that’s a huge opportunity. And so to me, if someone shares my offer, and I don’t really know them to begin with, or even if I do, I’m going to reach out and try to have a conversation. If it’s not someone that I know, well, okay, this is a new relationship that I can have. And it’s someone who thought highly enough of me to promote my offer, to their own audience. Now, any of us who have our own audiences? No, you don’t pull out things that you think are bad ideas, or there’s not value in it, because that reflects on you. So if you’re doing that, you’re a fourth, I’m going to assume that this individual who shared it was not a fool. They saw some value in it. But they perhaps didn’t understand well enough, the ideal client of this particular agency. So reach out and say, Hey, thanks so much for sharing this. You know, I’d love to talk to you more about what it is that we do, and find out you know, how I can help your audience. And that gives you the opportunity to discuss your ideal client. Now, the other thing this tells me is that in all likelihood, this agency is not doing a good job of framing ideal clients in their marketing messaging, right, because the that coach should have realized that it was not a good fit, or when people got to the website, they should have realized they were not a good fit. So that means you should also take a look at your own marketing materials and think about, can I phrase things better, so that my ideal client knows who I am. And as you and I have talked about Jenny, I am going through the world’s slowest moving rebrand Agency Leadership Advisors to the small agency growth Alliance. And it’s for all sorts of different reasons. And we’ll talk about that in the new year. But the salt small agency started it, that’s a pretty good indication if you’re not a small agency, you’re probably rightly not right. So Chip Griffin you know, so I think that those are things that you want to look at there. But to me look at anytime someone is sharing something that you’re doing, that’s a win, even if they’re criticizing you, right? If someone just said I can’t believe that so and so’s do this. Take this opportunity to reach out strike up a relationship maybe there’s something to be had there. Gini Dietrich Yes. Was it Who was it who was the baseball player that said I don’t care i’m gonna i’m gonna butcher that this but I don’t care how many times I get up to plate as long as they know my name when I do. Sort of that whole idea. Who was that? Chip Griffin Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not familiar that. I started out in the world of politics and and politics. We said there was no such thing as bad press as long as they spelled your name correctly. Gini Dietrich I mean, as a communicator, I would disagree with that. But Chip Griffin well, but in politics, so much of it about name ID right turn. So just when someone gets into the voting booth, if they recognize your name, they may not even know a thing about you. But if they recognize you, that’s Gini Dietrich fair. Yeah, Chip Griffin in fact, you could argue that’s how we ended up with our current president. But anyway, Gini Dietrich I’m almost past presidents. Chip Griffin let’s not let’s not go there. Let’s not, let’s not all right, all right. Our listenership and all that kind of thing, so. But so now the other thing is, there was there was also the discussion that took place in the Spin Sucks community not long ago, also about these free offers, and what kind of success people had had with them. And this was, this was not specifically about consultations, this was more about giveaways of some sort of variety, whether that’s a quiz or an E book, or, you know, some sort of resource. And so the one thing that I think that’s important to understand with those kinds of things, obviously, you don’t have the resource constraints, right? You know, so, like I said earlier, give them away as much as you can. The trick is to make sure that those are well aligned with your ideal client. Yeah, because too often I work with agencies and I see the things that they’re giving away. And that’s, that’s not just downloadable stuff, where someone has to give up their name. It’s even the content on their blogs, and things like that. The material that you’re sharing the resources that you’re sharing have to be a fit for your actual buyer. Right. And, and more often than not, what I see is people communicating with their peers. And that’s not really what you’re in now, maybe if you’re if you’re looking to recruit or something like that there’s an element for that content. Right. But think about it in recruiting terms, not in bizdev terms. If it’s Biz Dev, it has to be the buyer of your service. And that’s where I think a lot of these offers fall down. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I mean, I made that mistake early on with Spin Sucks. And it turned out to be okay, because it allowed us to build a separate business model for the agency. So I have two sides now. But if I had actually thought about it strategically, there’s lots of things I would have done differently. But that’s one of the things is I would have talked to the buyer instead of the industry, which we didn’t do, we still don’t do. But now it’s now the buyer is the industry. So Chip Griffin right? I made that same mistake almost 15 years ago, when I built the media Bullseye website for custom scoop. And it was it was a great resource for bringing together communicators. And we had all sorts of great conversation about, you know, what’s going on with the early days of social media and those kinds, it was a great community. Yeah, they weren’t buyers of the online news monitoring service that. And frankly, at the time, the conversation was around a lot of the social tools. And we didn’t really cover social that well back then. Because it was very difficult to cover social in the earliest days. And so it was just it was a complete mismatch. And so we you know, we built a community. It was great community. Great. Right bars. Oh, Chip Griffin yeah. So as an agency owner, you know, you need to be thinking the same way. You know, if I’m, if I’m a travel and tourism agency, you know, the content that I want to put out is something that will speak to the Travel and Tourism directors who are potentially going to hire me. And so what are they looking for? What is the content that would be useful to them, that would help them build the relationship with my firm? And that’s different than even perhaps what you’re interested in talking about, or thinking about as an agency owner? Gini Dietrich Sure, absolutely. Yeah. So I think there’s some some good advice here, you know, definitely offers some sort of free consultation 100%. But do it you know, with really targeted qualified people have something that you can give away for free, if it’s a lead magnet, you know, ebook webinar, on demand webinar, whatever, it happens to be something that you can give away for, quote, unquote, free, and then create the the funnel for lack of a better term that allows you to qualify people as they come through it. So maybe they come in and they see maybe they’ve come from this private, this link from the private coaching group, they come to the website, but instead of being able to schedule a call immediately, there are three steps they have to go to go through first. So think about that. And then it doesn’t matter who shares your link. Because you’re you’re you’ve set up a process that allows you to qualify the person when they come to come to that link. Chip Griffin Yep. And I would add two additional things. So one is view all of these things as an investment. And so for sure, the amount of time that you’re spending creating it or that you’re spending doing the consultations as an investment. Yep. Understand that not not every investment pays off. So you have to become a potential risk. Reward Yes, is doing so that’s one and the second thing is anytime that someone says something about you Positive, negative, whatever, use it as an opportunity to further that relationship. And to be honest with you, I’ve had plenty of times where I have gotten into arguments with people, particularly online, it happens. But it’s turned into something because you have a follow up conversation and you start to find that there’s more commonality than you realize or that there is an opportunity that neither of you realized existed when you were arguing about something that, you know, may not even be all that correct potential. So, so always look at those things, at least if they know who you are. That’s an opening to a conversation that might take you someplace that you’d rather go. Gini Dietrich Absolutely. It’s a huge opportunity, I think it’s a huge opportunity. From a business development standpoint, it’s a great opportunity for you to use inbound marketing to drive leads to your to your website, so that you can then qualify them. I’m a big, big believer. It’s something that we do for all of our clients. So you may as well do it for your own agency, too, because it works if you do it correctly. Chip Griffin Right. And you just don’t know where anything is going to lead. It may not even lead where you think it is. Right? I mean, that this whole show came out of you and I just having lunch one day, down. Yep. We happen to have an opening in both of our schedules that matched up and I wasn’t even thinking about having you as the co host of this podcast. Talking about it. You said Oh, yeah, I was like, I want to do that. You’re already doing 17 podcasts. Why would you want to do another one? And yet now, what two years later here, here we are. Yeah, happy as clams. Right. Right. Just it’s all Gini Dietrich happy as clams since, like an old married couple. Chip Griffin Just that’s where I want to think of us. Yeah. Great. On that note, that will bring to an end this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m old man Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich And I’m Gini Dietrich. Chip Griffin And it depends, but I don’t wear depends just to be clear. not that old. Yes. Okay.
20 minutes | 6 months ago
Making 2021 different for your agency
Chip and Gini talked about how things won’t magically change once the calendar flips over to January 2021. Then Brad Farris jumped in with a great post making the same point, albeit more eloquently. So Chip and Gini decided to pick up the ball and run with it in this episode. Resources What’s Going to Make Next Year Different from this Year (Anchor Advisors) 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 the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich And I’m Gini Dietrich, Chip Griffin not Jenny, Juju this week, you’re back to be Gini Dietrich going. And I decided that I decided I really didn’t want to create that trends. Chip Griffin I could hear the hamster wheel spinning in your head. Or maybe it was next to you. I still not really sure. Gini Dietrich I mean, it’s also next to me. But yeah, Chip Griffin yeah. So, speaking of hamsters, makes me think of groundhogs. Groundhog Day, we’re doing the same thing over and over and over again, right, which is 2020 2020, which is the lead in to our topic today. Because our topic today comes to us from our friend Brad Ferris. Another, another, another Chicago in Gini Dietrich his and Brad Ferris, by the way, has the best laugh on Earth. The best. If you get him laughing, you it will be a very good laugh. Gini Dietrich You all you just start laughing. And then 20 minutes goes by accomplish nothing. But you have laughed until your episode. He’s amazing. Chip Griffin He is a lot of fun to talk with. So Gini Dietrich it was very fun. Yeah. But very smart. Chip Griffin Very smart, too. But yeah, I mean, come on Fun. Fun is more important than smart these days, right? I mean, I feel like it is but yeah. Chip Griffin In any case, so So why don’t you kick it off? Because this was this was your suggestion. We’ve we’ve, we both I think engaged with him on this topic. Because he wrote a blog post about it, but go ahead and kick it off. Gini Dietrich So I think maybe two or three weeks ago, you and I were joking about what happens on January 1, do we like 2020s? Over are we everything’s fine. Everything? Oh, yeah. Um, and so he not in response to that. That was just you and I haven’t conversation, but clearly, Chip Griffin because he probably probably doesn’t even listen to us. I mean, you know, I’m probably going to tag him so that he knows that we actually posted the podcast episode yet. Wow. Wow. No, that’s, Chip Griffin that’s pretty harsh. I’m pretty sure i think i think i Yes, you’ve been attacking me a lot lately. Thanks. I appreciate it. I think I’m caught up on publishing, maybe? I don’t know, I’ll have a look through my files. You know, I forget, sometimes it’s hard. It’s 20. It is Gini Dietrich hard. And really, I shouldn’t make fun of you. Because you do all the work. I just show up. So I should not make fun of Chip Griffin anybody. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that slight concession, I guess. Sort of. Gini Dietrich So he wrote a blog post called what’s going to make next year different from this year. And he says, I know, we’re all looking forward to turning the page on 2020. It’s been a year. But things don’t automatically improve just because we change the calendar, right? If you want 2020 2021 to be different from 2020, you need to take different actions and make different decisions. It’s not automatic, you have to make it happen. Chip Griffin That is absolutely true. Gini Dietrich Amen. Chip Griffin I mean, look at the intent not to get too philosophical, but time is an artificial construct anyway. So you know, the anytime that you you, maybe you have a milestone birthday, or it becomes January 1 of a new year, or it’s a new decade, none of these things actually have anything magical happening with it. Right. I mean, you know, I remember the the end of the 1980s watching a special on TV about the 1980s. And now that the 1980s years are gone, or into the 1990s. So what right, I mean, now I sit there, and I’ll watch a movie from the early 90s. And I’ll be looking at I think, Oh, that must be an 80s movie, and then I’ll look it up. And it turns out, it’s the 90s because guess what, there’s nothing magic that happens when the calendar turns a page. Gini Dietrich Although we do evolve from things like bell bottoms, and then we come back, and then we evolve, and then we come back. So you’re right. It’s Chip Griffin true. But but but that’s but it has nothing to do with a magical time, like so. So the day I turned 40, nothing actually changed for me Gini Dietrich 25 years ago. Chip Griffin Well, I mean, every time you’ve turned 29 I’m sure it has not been any different either. Gini Dietrich I always turn 35 Chip Griffin or 3535. eligible to run for president? Is that the deal because that’s that’s the for someone like me, that’s the first thing I think of when someone says the 35 I say, okay, you’re eligible to write president now. Gini Dietrich I had never considered that. But yes, that is why Chip Griffin because 25 for house 34 senate 35 for president just you know, yeah, there was Gini Dietrich never ever running for president. No, come on. Gini Dietrich No, that would be the worst job on Earth. No. Chip Griffin I, I think it would be a fun job to have. It would not be a fun job to get but anyway. That is way far afield of the things that are likely for any of us or our listeners in 2021, unless Joe Biden happens to be listening, in which case Hi, Joe. No, he’s not listening. No, I hope not. I think he’s got more important fish to fry as it were. Yeah. So So I guess so. So, right, because it’s PR agencies, it’s not government agencies. But anyway, so look, here’s the thing. If you’re looking at January one and say, okay, it’s 2021. We’re, you know, we’re finally out of this rotten year. And I think pretty much everybody agrees that 2020 No, rotten here. Yeah, I mean, even even if you’ve done relatively well, it’s still kind of a rotten year, for all sorts of reasons. So what should you be doing? How do you really set yourself up for success in the new year if it’s not just magical, because the calendar has changed? Gini Dietrich Well, I really like what he has to say about this. And he says, One of the challenges I’m seeing, and we’ve talked about this, too, about making plans for 2021. is there so much uncertainty. So instead of trying to find the one way to thread the needle and succeed, what if you looked for the many ways to fail? And he goes on to say, instead of asking the question, what should we do to be more successful next year? start by asking, if I wanted to make sure we didn’t make any money next year? What would we do? Chip Griffin Yeah, I love the construct of turning things around, right. And instead of, you know, doing the normal exercise, and this is this applies to almost anything, right? So you know, anytime that you can look at the opposite position, it often helps you to think with more clarity. So if you’re trying to, for example, to argue a position, learning how to argue the other side, usually helps you out. So something like this, where instead of looking for the keys to success, look for the keys to failure, and that will help inform some of your decision making. Gini Dietrich Yeah, and I really like that, I think it makes you more creative, too. Because if you just think about it from the perspective of you know, you’re not gonna make any money. And let’s just say that, financially, from a personal perspective, you’re fine, your mortgage is going to be paid, your kids are going to be okay, like all that’s fine. What would you do next year, to allow you to have some success? Without the money implication? Would it be, I’m going to create some products, or I’m going to go back to school, or I’m going to invest in professional development for my team? What are the kinds of things that you would do without that piece of it? and be really creative from that perspective? Chip Griffin Well, look, the reality is that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, always. Right. So you know, we sit here and say, Oh, my God, you know, there’s so much uncertainty right now, the reality is, every single year, every single month, whenever you’re running a business, there’s a lot of uncertainty, you just don’t know, your biggest client could be perfectly happy with you one day, and then something could happen to their business, that they go away the next day. And so so there’s always the potential for this, you always need to be thinking, you know, how do you set yourself up for success by being nimble, being creative, setting up a structure that gives you some resiliency, and the more of that, that you have in your processes in your client base in your thinking, the more likely you are to succeed no matter what the external conditions are? Gini Dietrich Absolutely. And, you know, I mean, you think about this, when you start a business or when you’re helping a client with their planning, you say, Okay, let’s take away the structure. And let’s take away even just just when you’re you’re planning for the next year, from a communications or marketing perspective, if we took away the budget constraints we set and we said, okay, we don’t, let’s not worry about, we only have $5,000 a month, or we only have a quarter of a million dollars, or whatever it happens to be, let’s just take that away. And let’s think about all the things that we could do to create a really successful year. And then figure out how to implement it into the constraints that we do have, but take that away, so that you can open your mind and be really creative. And then you can add in the constraints. Chip Griffin Right. And I think one of the things, one of the lessons that most people should be taking away from 2020 is that you need to be thinking about your business in terms of what you want from it. What is your goal? And and a lot of people you know, you start your agency and you sort of just you’re kind of run on autopilot, you do things because you think this is the way it’s supposed to be done. This is the way it’s always been done. This is the way I saw someone else do it. And this is the time if you haven’t done so already hit the pause button, take advantage of the fact that we’re nearing the end of 2020. And so you know, we may have a little bit of downtime here and there in pockets, depending upon you know, what your client base is like, and gives you and take that opportunity to think about, what kind of business do you want to build? What do you want to be delivering the same kinds of services to the same kind of clients that you always have? Or do you want to make some adjustments? Do you want to have some additional lines of revenue, which obviously, is something that you preach Jenny, quite a lot for agency owners to be thinking about? What is it that you want? What do you want to get from it? And if you start thinking about 2021, and beyond in those terms, you’re going to find probably that you that there are some things you want to change. And that should open up your horizons and expand your thinking, so that you can come up with those new ideas. Gini Dietrich Absolutely. And I think that’s such good advice is something I did earlier this year, when everything fell apart, as I sat back, and I thought, Okay, what is it that I want out of this business? Because for so long, I’ve been running so hard and so fast for clients and for the industry and for my team, that I wasn’t happy. And so this allowed me and I keep calling it the great pause from that perspective, but it allowed me to stop and think and say, okay, that’s not going the way we anticipated. What, as we come out of it, what does the agency look like? And how can how can I start now to build that foundation? Mm hmm. Chip Griffin Yeah, and I’ve done the same thing, as I’ve looked at my business over the last seven or eight years, you know, I’ve had to look at it in terms of my business before, this was large projects on site with clients, you know, a lot of larger agencies, those kinds of things. And coming out of this, I’ve thrown a lot of that out the window, to be honest with you, obviously, not traveling, not doing on site work. So I’ve built out the studio that I have behind me, and I do almost all, you know, well, not almost all entirely remote work. But I expect to continue to do that even coming out of this. I probably travel someone’s weekend. But I don’t think I’ll go back to the traveling every week, like I had been prior to the great shutdown. But the other thing is, you know, I’ve refocused the business to focus primarily on small agencies. And so, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out how, how can I serve a broader swath of people who need help running their businesses, but maybe can’t afford my higher end consulting services? So you know, I’m doing the, what I call the slow motion rebrand from Agency Leadership Advisors to the small agency growth Alliance. It is truly slow motion. But, you know, hey, I’m a party of one right now. So you know, it is Gini Dietrich all this stuff you’ve added this year, you added the live streaming, you’ve added video. I mean, you’ve added a ton of stuff this year that you weren’t doing at all? Yep. And it’s been fun to watch, just as you and I think that’s, that’s the point here is what kinds of things can you look at doing that you’ve wanted to do or have been on the back burner, or you just haven’t had a time to do? So instead of looking at next year and going, gosh, I have no idea how to plan for this. Because there’s too many things up in the air, you know, our runner kids going to go back to school? are kids going to go back to school? Are we always going to be on down on in shutdown? Are we when’s the vaccine going to be available? There’s too much uncertainty. So instead of focusing on that, focus on exactly what you’ve done, and say, Okay, what are the things I’ve always wanted to do, and let’s figure out how to implement a plan to do that, Chip Griffin right. And I think the key is to take some chances, try some different things. Because, you know, you know, whether that’s, you know, trying to offer a service, that’s maybe a little bit different than what you’ve done before servicing a different kind of client, or, you know, using some, some different marketing tactics, you know, and, and not all of them are going to work, not all of them are going to make sense over time. You know, I, I’ve been doing those live streams three days a week, it turned out that really wasn’t probably productive for all sorts of reasons, the audience wasn’t likely to be there three days a week, so I’ve moved it to one day a week, fine. So what you learn through the process, and it gives you a chance to try and test different things, and, and so take advantage of the new year, while it doesn’t change anything on its face, it does give you an excuse to change things. You know, I, I often tell my clients, you know, if they’re thinking about, you know, changing how they do contracts, or pricing or those kinds of things, use the turning of the calendar as an excuse, you know, we’re going into a new year, so we’re changing the format of our contracts or something like that. And it it’s, you know, it’s it’s a normal way of doing it that doesn’t alarm anybody. So take advantage of the calendar to experiment and try different things if that’s something that you’re inclined to do. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I think it’s really smart advice from Brad’s perspective. We can link to his article in the show notes. It’s pretty short. It’s pretty easy read. But you know, he just says, try brainstorming that for a minute. If we if I wanted to make sure we didn’t make any money next year, what would we do? And then take that question. If you have a team take it to your next team meeting, and envies you or you know, take it to friends ticket to industry, friends, whatever. However you like to brainstorm with See what kinds of things you come up with? Chip Griffin Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a really great way of doing it. And I think that most of you listening within the first five minutes will come up with a hefty list of things that you could do to run your business into the ground. Some of the some of them were probably, Gini Dietrich that’s what any say? You got saying run your business into the correct. Chip Griffin Nobody if if you’re talking about not making any money, Gini Dietrich yeah, but I think I’m looking at it from the perspective of, if we are, if we make sure that we’re not going to make any money, so does that, that doesn’t mean that means that we’re not going to bring on new clients, right? We’re not going we’re gonna focus on other types of things. That’s how I read it. That’s how I how I perceived it was, what are the things that I can focus on next year, because I’m not focused on business development, or whatever it happens to be, I’m not gonna make any money. But how can I, what can I do over here that’s going to build a foundation so that I can make more money in 2022. Chip Griffin And I think I perceived that that’s a good idea too, to me, what i what i would think of in terms of, you know, you know, what are the things that I could do to destroy the business? Because those are the kinds of things that I can think about, okay, you know, how do I make sure that doesn’t happen? Right? Well, but, but they’re things you know, if you say, okay, you know, if I made sure that I didn’t get any clients, right, any new clients? And so then you say, Okay, well, if I, if I want to avoid that, what do I need to do? How do I make sure that I continue to get clients? You know, you know, if, if I’m worried about losing big clients, how do I offset that? So to me, I think there are a lot of different ways that you can go about doing this, but to me, I would look at those things that are that I could do to really damage the business and figure out how to make sure that doesn’t happen. What’s the opposite of that? So, you know, however you do it, it’s it’s a useful exercise to be thinking about it in different and fresh ways today than the way that you did maybe yesterday. Yeah, absolutely. Gini Dietrich I think it’s a really interesting way to do it. Nice job, Brad Ferris. Chip Griffin And thank you, Brad, thank you for giving us something to talk about today. Because otherwise journey, and I would have sat here silently, scratching our heads and saying, What is there to talk about? Gini Dietrich It’s we’ve never been known to do that. Chip Griffin No, but sometimes the topics are better than others. So this This, I think, was a good topic. I think, you know, this was not a stretch. Gini Dietrich It’s a really, really smart idea. I like it a lot. Chip Griffin It is indeed. And you should you should actually follow Brad for all sorts of other insights, because he shares blog posts on a very consistent basis and has lots of good ideas in them. So don’t just read this one. Subscribe to his blog or his newsletter. At the same time. Gini Dietrich Yes. And if you have a chance to have a conversation with him, see if you can you can make him laugh because it’s Chip Griffin it’s not that hard to make Brad laugh It really is. Gini Dietrich Fair. That’s fair. Chip Griffin As you learn very hard to make you laugh either. So not hard to make me laugh. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I think I’m I’m laughing myself. So. Yeah, we’ve got recent notes. Happy Thanksgiving. Chip Griffin Yeah, except this is gonna be published after Thanksgiving. So hope you hope you had a great never Gini Dietrich had a nice Thanksgiving Chip Griffin as we were not publishing during Thanksgiving week since because no one will be because well, yeah, cuz you’re not going to record with me on Thanksgiving Day. And Thursday is our recording time. I mean, I would happily do it. I would you know, but I know you would do you believe in taking time off or some such thing. Gini Dietrich Which I believe in sleeping in riding my bicycle. playing Monopoly but Chip Griffin isn’t sleeping in for you basically like the same as for me like you sleep until 445 instead of 430 or something crazy. Gini Dietrich Snap point, okay, I don’t have to set an alarm. And I don’t have to get out of bed. I could lay there if I wanted to, even if I was awake. Chip Griffin Now, well, it’s all I can say is at least it’s not summertime. So we no longer have the risk of me crossing with my son where he’s going to bed as I’m getting up. And we only we only had that happen one time over the summer where it was I think about 345 he was going to bed and I was getting up. So anyway, on that note, we hope you had a great Thanksgiving since you will be listening to this after. But Jenny, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving since we’re recording. Thanks. Yes, you too. Chip Griffin Yeah. And on that note, we will wind up this episode. I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich And I’m Gini Dietrich, Chip Griffin and it depends
24 minutes | 6 months ago
Joining forces with another agency to win business
Sometimes you may come across a client who wants more services than your agency provides. Or maybe it happens quite often. How do you know when it is a good idea to pitch for business in partnership with another agency? What should you be looking for in that collaboration? What are the red flags you need to look out for? That’s what Chip and Gini talk about in this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast, leaning on their own experiences to help you avoid the pitfalls and reap the rewards. 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 the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich And I’m Jenny Juju. Oh, Chip Griffin I forgot that you were gonna do that. Yes. The, the automated transcripts system that we used, decided last week that it was going to transcribe your name as Jenny Juju. Gini Dietrich I like it. That is what I will be known as from now on. Maybe that’s, I don’t know, maybe, maybe, or maybe it’s just silly. Chip Griffin It’s, you know, it is what it is. It’s 2020 and so what it is, you know, the the system likes to call you Jenny anyway. But ever since I was able to put vocabulary into the the AI, it generally has improved, but not last time. But in fairness, that was when you tried to race through saying your name to so the name Yeah, even close a new It was a name. Gini Dietrich No Chip Griffin kudos to otter for for being able to to handle totally fair, craziness. Gini Dietrich My craziness, just reacting to what’s going on in the world right now. Chip Griffin There is nothing going on in the world. As we record this, we are, we are definitely not in a limbo period, where we do not know who the next President will be even though voting is. Anyway, Gini Dietrich it is what it is, Chip Griffin you know, and, and so, today, we are going to be talking about when two agencies partner together to serve a client and in particular, the whole business of agencies joining together to pitch business together and harass because sometimes people need a helping hand kind of like your daughter does with her current class. Yeah, Gini Dietrich she’s, she’s asking me for help, which I’m trying to do at the same time as talk here. But you know, sometimes Chip Griffin it’s not so easy. We’re just we’re just keeping it real here, folks, this is there’s, there’s there’s no magic about this podcast, there’s no, there’s no serious level of professionalism. It’s how we show up in front of the camera and the microphone, and we record a video and a podcast, and maybe it’s useful to hear Gini Dietrich maybe it’s not, and I often I often, she’s often in class when we are recording, so it’s not that big of a deal. But right now she’s asking for a username and password for her science class, which I do not have. Well, would you like me to be in all capitals? Be Here, I’m gonna give everybody the password to the science class. Chip Griffin And if I’m really ambitious, I edit this out, but I probably won’t be ambitious. So you’re probably actually listening to this. So, Gini Dietrich okay, I’m done. I’m finished. You’re finished. You’re welcome. Sorry. Okay. Chip Griffin Excellent. Nice, nice little sidetrack there. Yeah. You know, a lot of times agencies are specialists in one thing, but a client or a prospect may need a broader set of services. So sometimes agencies will decide to team up you typically see this, for example, with a PR and a digital agency often coming together to offer a full suite of communications services to a client. But it happens in other areas, too. I’ve seen web firms and video firms come together. Sometimes you’ll see an advertising and a PR firm come together, it’s, you know, it’s any time that you’ve got two sets of services that are really adjacent to each other complimentary to each other, but not competitive in most cases. Gini Dietrich So I relayed the story to you, but I’ll relay it on the podcast here. And I have a friend in we’re working with their agency for one client, and that what they do is they bring their sort of the matchmaker, I guess, and they bring all the agencies together for a specific client. And I was on their, their new website the other day, and they have their partner agencies listed. And I said to her, Well, that’s interesting. And she said, you know, from a client perspective, we’re trying to be as as transparent as possible, and I said you, but then they can just cut you out of the middle, right? And go and directly to the agencies, as she said, maybe, but we hope that we provide enough value in bringing it together, and then they only have us to work with and we work with all of them. That it’s that they’re willing to do it this way. And then she goes, so I guess we’ll find out. But, you know, we we’ve talked about this a little bit from the perspective of to get clients care, and I don’t think they care, as long as the work gets done, and it gets done well, and it gets done on time. Chip Griffin Yeah, I mean, it you know, I think that there are a lot of things to think through here when you’re doing these kinds of partnerships, but they absolutely can work. I think, from a client perspective, you’re right that they want to just make sure that things are done at the same time. A lot of times clients would prefer to have a single throat to choke. So they’d, they’d like to see, one of the agencies take the lead one of the agencies handle billing, so that, you know, you don’t have two contracts two invoices to two primary contacts. So to the extent that you’re doing these kinds of things, it’s generally better if one agency is technically the lead in. So that it simplifies the whole process. That doesn’t, that doesn’t always work. There are sometimes reasons you may not want to do that. But more often than not, when I’ve seen it work, it works, because you have one agency that is taking the point position, and handling all of the overall management. Gini Dietrich Yeah, um, you know, I’ve actually seen it work better this way, then having the different departments inside an agency. So having the PR department in the design department, and this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, because what I find internally is you fight for budgets, and you start to when people start to undercut one another, because they are they’re there. But their bonus, and all of their results inside the agency are dependent on how profitable they are, and how much revenue they make. And so they start to undercut one another and don’t do what’s best for the business for the client. Right. And where I find that when you’re bringing in partner agencies, you give them a bucket of money, and you say, this is your budget, and this is what what we need to achieve and they go do it, there’s not that that same kind of undercutting. The only time I do see that when you’re using a partner agency is if they have if you have similar a similar skill set, then you may see some of that, but you tend to typically see that people are pretty willing to work together to complement one another when they’re external like that. Chip Griffin Right. And generally, I mean, particularly if you’re bringing the match to the table, you want to make sure that there’s not overlap in the services, because you know, that just you’re just setting yourself up for potential disaster if the other agency maybe specializes in something else, but still does what you do. Because then at some point, you may end up losing the business. And so this comes into play more, particularly if you’ve got two PR agencies coming together, maybe one has a national capability and one is more localized. If the national one also has local or vice versa, that can become a problem, because at some point, the client may say, Well, I don’t really need that level of expertise, let’s just simplify this down to one of you guys. So you need to think, like think those things through. And if you’re going to be pitching this directly and openly to the client, then you need to make sure there’s a huge level of trust between those two agencies. So I would generally not suggest that you go out and try to pitch jointly, before you’ve even worked with that other agency. So work with them in some capacity first, whether it’s because you happen to be working together for another client that brought you both in independently, so you know what it’s like to work with them there, or maybe they’ve been a subcontractor to you, on some work. In the past, you know, there, there are a lot of different ways that you can test the relationship. But generally speaking, the first time to test it is not in a pitch to another prospect. Gini Dietrich Yeah, and you know, that’s a really good point from a pitching perspective, too, because you don’t want to oversell and we’ve, we’ve talked about this on on on another podcast, but you don’t want to overwhelm the prospect from the perspective of bringing, let’s say you have four or five partner agencies, and you bring in four or five of the lead account leads into a meeting and that it’s just the one prospect, I think you have to think those things through as well. And we definitely have talked about that. Chip Griffin Yeah, and you need to, you know, to the extent that you’re pitching together, you need to make sure that you’re well coordinated, so that it tells a cohesive story, you don’t want to go in where you make your usual pitch, and they make their usual pitch. And it’s disjointed. Because everybody has their own style, you really need to come together, you need to, you know, if you’re doing it in person, you need to have one deck, you need to I mean, it really needs to be a cohesive presentation, in every respect, whether that’s just on a phone call, or in a formal presentation, because otherwise, it just confuses the client. So, you know, and in some cases, you may be better off just having it as more of a behind the scenes partnership, you know, where, you know, you may even mentioned that, that that agency is partnering with you, but they’re not actually there. So it’s a, you know, it’s a little bit of a tiered relationship. There’s a lot of ways that you can do this and make it effective, but you really need to think it through what are the pros and constantly approach you’re taking? Gini Dietrich Yeah, I mean, I have a really good example. One of the things that that we do really well is we build a PESO model program, of course, and we do it using content marketing as the hub. And we have a cadre of writers that we use but I don’t introduce the clients all the writers what you know, what we do is we say okay, we have a bench up we have been bench strength writers and You know, they’re here, we may include four or five of them based on their experience and what we think the client, the prospect needs, you know, here’s a sample of them. But when we get into it, and in writing begins to happen, content creation starts to happen, then we’ll bring in a couple of them for you. And sometimes we let the client interview and you know, decide that Yeah, there or sometimes we just assign a topic and get them to do the work and see what’s going Chip Griffin on. So part of it is trying to figure out, you know, are they are you pitching things that are of equal stature within the solution that’s being proposed? Is it that one is really feeding the other? You know, you want to think those things through you want to think through, you know, if you’ve got a writer or something like that, behind the scenes, are they ever going to be present to the client, once they become a client? Are you just going to completely keep them behind the scenes, and I’ve been in plenty of different agency partnerships over the years. Sometimes it’s transparent, sometimes it’s not. I’ve had even had situations where I’ve had business cards from agencies other than my own, to sort of make it appear more seamless, you know, back when we used to use cards, because we got together in person. Now, of course, Gini Dietrich who needs a card? Right. Chip Griffin But they’ve been falling out of fashion, generally. But now, if you’re not meeting in person with someone, there’s really not need to have them. Gini Dietrich But there’s not mail it to them. Yeah, Chip Griffin but I mean, I mean, I have in the past, I have had business cards, and even phone number extensions for some of the agencies that I partnered with, because it just gave them a more seamless experience to the client. And at the end of the day, the client didn’t really care, right, they just care that the work was getting done. So you want to do this in a way where you’re expanding your capabilities. And if you’re a small agency, which is mostly who’s listening to this show right now, is a useful way to increase the breadth of the services that you can provide to provide a complete solution to the prospective. Gini Dietrich You know, that’s interesting, because we used to do the same thing where we would have we would kind of, I guess, for lack of a better term white label, some of the agencies or freelancers that we use, and I had a nominee for Gemara dress and caboodle. Now, we don’t do any of that, because I don’t think anybody cares. Chip Griffin Yeah, I think I think it is much less of a big deal today than it used to be. I think the main thing that you want to think through anytime you’re doing really any kind of partnership, but you know, let’s address this kind in particular, you need to think through, you know, what are the bad things that can happen? How would you deal with them? So, so think them through in advance? So, you know, what happens if your relationship with this partner agency starts to deteriorate? How do you make sure that the client continues to get what they need? You know, how do you make sure that you’re protected so that one agency isn’t trying to steal the client from the other? So you should have some paperwork between the two agencies? Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes, those kinds of things? And yes, and so you really, anytime you’re entering into any kind of a partnership, whether it’s just to solve a particular project problem, or it’s, you know, longer term, bigger picture, or it’s even a merger, at some point down the road, you need to think through, you know, what happens if things go wrong, because those are the kinds of things you always ignore up front, you always get excited about what’s possible, get excited about how you can give the client the best possible solution, but you’re not thinking about, you know, what happens when what happens if you need to think through things like if the client doesn’t pay you, you know, what are your terms with the other agency? Right? If you’re going the same route, you know, you don’t want to be on the hook for that, you know, if you’re tying it back, the clients payment because you’ve pitched it jointly. So subcontractor relationship, it’s harder, you’re probably going to be on the hook to pay. But if you’re, if it’s a transparent Partnership, which suggests that your paperwork should clearly say that they don’t get paid until you get paid. Gini Dietrich Well, we had an episode on that as well, which goes down the whole road of, you know, you’ve got to create paperwork that in the event that you get divorced, what does that look like? And we’re all excited at the beginning. And we all assume it’s going to work out and sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. So, we should link to that episode as well. Because we did talk we we spent a good amount of time talking about how important that is, Chip Griffin right? Yeah, in absolutely every kind of relationship paperwork paperwork paperwork. Gini Dietrich Not funny, not prenup, prenup, Chip Griffin yeah, because that’s basically what it isn’t. And in some of these partnerships, you could be talking about substantial sums of money. And so you know, you don’t want to be in that position where the client stiffs you and and now you’re still on the hook to pay the other agency. So that’s, you know, and don’t just assume that you don’t have to pay them, make sure that you’ve papered it in advance because that’s, you know, people are funny about money and and they can, they can really turn relationships around quite quickly. So you may think that you have the best relationship with someone until you owe them a lot of money and don’t pay it. Gini Dietrich Don’t let that happen. 100% Yep. And and it’s true. You have to it has to To be on paper, because you can’t make the assumption that they understand that they won’t be paid. If you’re not paid, right, and they can’t make the assumption that they will be paid if you’re not paid. So you have to definitely outline that on paper for sure. And get the attorneys involved in that. Chip Griffin Yeah, and look, and you need to think through, you know, what happens if they don’t deliver at the level that you need in order to keep the client happy, right, because at that point, now, you’ve got an issue with the client. So that’s, I mean, that’s the downside to having to going the single contract, single invoice route, right, is that any failure of your partner, you know, that lands on you from a contractual perspective with the client. So while the client may want a single contract, you may be better off having to particularly if you don’t have a good way to replace that agency, so if they’ve, if they’ve got a certain specialty, that, you know, that’s very difficult to replicate somewhere else, or very difficult for you to subcontract quickly to someone else, if you need to, you may want to have two contracts in that case, because, you know, otherwise, you may be on the hook to deliver something that you just can’t, Gini Dietrich can’t, you know, I always, always, always prefer that the client paid for, I mean, it’s, they may want a single invoice and you may go get through procurement with some big companies, and they say, we’re only you’re, you’re the only agency that’s, that’s approved. But in most cases, I try to say, listen, so and so’s going to invoice you, you know, you’re going to get five or six different invoices, because I don’t want to be on the hook for that. So it for the most part, but like I said, there may be big, big, big, big, big clients who, you know, they have the procurement process, and that you have to get approved, and they’re not going to approve every single single partner that you use. So in those cases, you are on the hook. But I, if I were any other, if it were any other client relationship, I would just have, have the partner send invoices directly to them to get paid, Chip Griffin right? Well in it. But those are the the important things you need to think through when you’re thinking about pitching business, because most clients, if it’s a joint pitch, most people, most clients are not going to want to have two contracts to invoices. Now, if it’s if you’re already working with them, and you’re bringing someone else to the table in a partnership, that’s that’s different. But when you when you’re sitting down with them and trying to present a cohesive single solution, most of the time, they don’t want to have to deal with two different people. It’s not that’s not always the case. But yeah, you know, but there are, there are certainly some negatives to that, that you need to think about just as we’ve talked about here. At the same time, if there are two contracts, you want to think through, well, what happens if, you know, the agency or the client lets you go but but keeps the other agency? So you know, are you then oh, you know, particularly if you’re the one who brought the business to the table, you may want to work out with that other agency that in that case, you get some sort of a referral fee or something like that, particularly if it’s early on in the relationship that they are with you things like that. So, you know, just just try to think through the what if scenarios, I mean, you may not be able to capture everything and your experiences in the past will influence what you do in the future. So if you got burned on one kind of partnership, you’re unlikely to do that the exact same way again, hopefully, hopefully. Gini Dietrich Yes. mistakes. Chip Griffin It’s fine to make mistakes, just don’t keep making the same ones over and over. Right. That’s that’s when you have a problem. Gini Dietrich That is the definition of insanity. Chip Griffin Actually. It is. And this this is the year of insanity because it does feel a bit like Groundhog Day. And we do the same thing over and over and over again. But most of those things are outside of our control. So that’s a little bit Gini Dietrich direct. Yes, no, Chip Griffin it’s if we were voluntarily doing these things to ourselves, then we did some serious therapy, which we may need anyway. Gini Dietrich We need anyway. I was gonna say I need therapy. I don’t know about you, but I need therapy. It has it has been Yeah, nowhere near over yet. No, it’s not. Chip Griffin 2021 is looking an awful lot like 2020 right now. So listen, Gini Dietrich last year you are last week you told me that 20 january first comes and everything is going to be fine. So that is what I’m banking on. That is the light at the end of my tunnel. Chip Griffin Yeah, it’s it’s possible. I may have just been saying what you wanted to hear. Oh, shoot. But you Chip Griffin could always move to Oregon. I understand that they have legalized psychedelics in Oregon. In the election? Really? Yes. Because pots not enough. We really need to go to psychedelics. class, Chip Griffin and I believe that the District of Columbia may have decriminalized them as well. So yeah, yeah. I mean, we could all I’ve never, I mean, for the record, Chip Griffin I’ve never tried psychedelics, so I can only tell you based on what I’ve seen TV and read that kind of stuff. But, you know, I might be inclined to try if I lived in Oregon right now because it can’t be any worse. Gini Dietrich You know? We’re the generation that you say no to drugs. I’m having a very hard time. Yes comprehending this in my brain right now. Chip Griffin Yeah, I know. I mean, I, I didn’t inhale I haven’t even tried pot. So you know, I’m get out I had. In fact, I think about 10 years ago, I was at a Jimmy Buffett concert night and I said to my wife, I said, What is that? smell? She said to me? Oh, honey, that’s pot. Don’t you know what it smells like? I’m like, I had no idea. Gini Dietrich Really? Yeah. No college or like, did you didn’t smell it in college or anything? Chip Griffin I didn’t remember it. At least. I mean, I was. I certainly knew that that I was at parties where where people had smoked pot, but it didn’t. It wasn’t prevalent. Interesting was if i was i was very cautious back then. I know that that’s gonna shock listeners. Gini Dietrich Yeah, it really surprises me. Yeah, Chip Griffin cuz cuz back then I thought I was gonna run for political office. And, you know, back back in the early 1990s. You know, the use of marijuana, even in college was, you know, a disqualifier for a lot of high offices. And so it was I was extra cautious, not even because of stuff. I’ve subsequently decided that I have no desire to hold political Gini Dietrich No, or smoke pot, apparently. Although it Chip Griffin is legal now in New Hampshire. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I saw like five or six more states legalized it. So there you have it. Chip Griffin Why in a case, I think we’ve wandered a bit far here. So we have we wander back on the path and say, you know, partnerships can be good. Just thinking through and Gini Dietrich just do crisis planning, scenario planning. Do that with this with your business partnerships. Chip Griffin Like this. A great partnership. Gini Dietrich We don’t have any favorite or No, we don’t. Yeah. Yeah. Well, whatever. You know, would you like a podcast? I’ll do as we say, not as we do. Chip Griffin You can have it you can handle the recording and the editing and all that kind of stuff. No, I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. Chip Griffin At least at least we don’t have to compensate our third host here. You know, so Gini Dietrich fair, right. The third host in and the hamster. Chip Griffin Oh, and the hamster hamster number two. Oh, those of you watching on video. You are. You’re seeing hamster for those of you not on video. Oh, my co host now has a rodent on her shoulder. Yes. I think this is what they call jumping the shark. So Gini Dietrich I think it is to Chip Griffin jump on the hamster and get out of this one. So this episode is coming to a close. I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich I’m Gini Dietrich, don’t like on my head. Chip Griffin And it depends
24 minutes | 6 months ago
Managing work-from-home agency employees
Lots of us are working from home these days. Many agencies have transitioned to having their teams work full- or part-time remotely. This creates new challenges for agency leaders as they try to figure out how to support and get the most from their employees. Chip and Gini discuss some things that work — and some that don’t — when it comes to leading distributed teams. But the focus of this episode is on some of the important things that you might overlook, especially if you are new to having employees who don’t work in the office — including some who may now be thinking about moving somewhere else to be closer to family or simply take advantage of the fact that they no longer need to come into the office every day. Resources WFH and remote employees bring new administrative issues for agencies 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 the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich And I’m Gini Dietrich, Chip Griffin and we’re here today to talk about working from home because that’s what we’re all doing right now. Well, Jenny is and I am, I don’t know about you, a lot of you are, well, some of you, I Gini Dietrich think most people are, Chip Griffin most most people aren’t. And, and many of you have newly work from home team members, and some of those team members are even moving to other locations. I know a number of folks who have decided to pick up their their luggage and their belongings and move to a whole other parts of the country either because they can or because they need to be close to family for childcare reasons or all sorts of other things. So this is a topic that I know is on your mind. Gini Dietrich Yes. And not only are we working from home, but we have other experiences while we do that. Chip Griffin What do you mean exactly? Gini Dietrich You know, like interns who are also remote learning, and yes, hamsters who write on their wheel. I’m Chip Griffin just I’m just glad we were able to kind of get started on this. I did. I did have to see the new hamster though. Gini Dietrich We did. Yeah, she there is a new hamster. We had to introduce you to pumpkin. Chip Griffin hamsters last longer than fish, but still not very long as it turns out. No, actually, we’ve Gini Dietrich had a fish super long. But now that’s gonna die because I just said that out loud. So Chip Griffin Oh, 2020 2020 Yeah, Gini Dietrich a 2020. Chip Griffin What can I say? Yeah. Gini Dietrich Do things are gonna change? Come 2024 Gini Dietrich like, January? Everything’s better. Chip Griffin Oh, I think it’s an absolutely things just suddenly change this magic thing. So do you know we wake up and it’s like, oh, something happened. It’s like, we’re recording this just a couple of days before we change our clocks. I’m sure that that, you know, it’ll be the same thing. You know, just kind of like you wake up. And it’s a whole new time even though the sun’s you know, different. It’ll be the same thing on January 1 2021. Yeah, I think so too. Yeah. Yeah. Chip Griffin You go ahead and believe that. That helps you sleep at night, Jenny? Go for it. Gini Dietrich Yeah, so anyway, work from home is going to be going on much longer than Chip Griffin and it’s it is, you know, there’s a lot of conversation, a lot of people are thinking about how do I communicate with my team? How do I, you know, how do I build team culture? We’ve talked about some of these things, you know, how do you how do you have to look at meetings and client service and all those kinds of things, when you have your team working remotely. But there are also some much more mundane, but just as important administrative issues that you need to look at. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Gini Dietrich Well, when you describe it that way, I can’t wait mundane, and administrative issues, yay. Chip Griffin But very important. And we talk about every aspect of the business on this podcast, we don’t, we don’t. We don’t just talk about, you know, the fun of getting new clients. And we talk about the things that most people don’t think about when they’re running a business but have a significant impact on how profitable you are, they have a significant impact on risk, and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, that’s what we’re going to talk about today, particularly because a lot of you are in uncharted waters here. If you’ve had an office, and you now have all of your employees working remotely, particularly if you have any of them who have moved from one location to another, or if your office is in, for example, one state, but you have employees in another. Those are things that were relatively easy to deal with when you had an office. But now with the remote, there are other issues that you need to be thinking about. Gini Dietrich Yeah, that’s a really, really good point. Because now you have to be thinking about taxes in each of the states where your employees lives. And if And to your point, if people have moved, that’s a massive consideration. Certainly, it allows you some some some massive flexibility as well. But those are the kinds of things you have to think about. So you have to be thinking about insurance, you have to be thinking about. In some cases, you may have to incorporate the business in some states, depending on where they are taxes, all sorts of fun, administrative end of year kinds of things that you didn’t have to think about before now. Chip Griffin It conveniently I’ve just recently written about this. So we actually have a guide for you to look at some additional information. But you know, we’ll for those of you who prefer not to read, we will talk through some of these issues for you over the next 15 or 20 minutes. So the first the first issue and the one that most of you will be thinking about probably most immediately unless you’re already dealing with our payroll taxes because you always have to, you know, to have that. So if you’ve got if you don’t have any employees who have moved, not a whole lot is changing here with an asterisk that I’ll talk about in a minute. But if you have employees who are moving to different locations, you need to make sure that You’re working with your payroll processor to update their locations and make sure that whatever paperwork you need to do with the payroll processor takes care of the new states in which you may have to withhold income tax. This is all pretty straightforward these days, you know, 20 years ago, when I first got started, I tried doing a lot of this stuff manually, that was a nightmare. Nowadays, most people use ADP or paychecks or, you know, into it or, you know, one of those things, and it takes care of most of this for you. But you still need to make sure you’re putting the right data in. Gini Dietrich And one thing I will add to this, just based on personal experience, you know, I have employees scattered across the country, well, North America, really. And if you have a service like an ADP or paychecks, I guarantee I highly recommend that you use them to their fullest extent. Because if there gets there’s a screw up a state perspective, or they didn’t file the correct paperwork, and they will take it and they’ll pay all the fines as well. So I cannot recommend that more, because you don’t want to be responsible for and there’s a lot, you know, Chip Griffin right? There’s a ton of paperwork to file. Yeah, yeah, it’s expensive enough, there’s absolutely no reason not to be outsourcing payroll processing. Really, I mean, even even most of the medium size agencies out there are using payroll processors, it’s only the very largest who might be thinking about doing in house, but even a lot of them are still using a service like ADP or something like that. Because Yeah, it just, it just takes away so much of a headache. But now that the asterisk here is that there are some interesting situations that that depending upon, you know, where you have employees, where you may have to get in the middle of a food fight. So for example, if you are a Massachusetts agency, and you have employees who live in New Hampshire, who are no longer going into the office in Massachusetts, Massachusetts, has decided that they will still collect income tax, even though that person never crosses the state border anymore. Wow. But because they used to work in the office in Massachusetts, they sell they say they’re still entitled to a percentage of their income in taxes. Hmm. Needless to say, the State of New Hampshire disagrees with this and is suing Massachusetts in federal court to try to solve this one. There are very few states that have no income tax, which is why this is really a big issue. But even if there are two states that both have income taxes, you know, one may prefer to get the cut over the other. And so you can have, you know, these kinds of battles that go on. So in those cases, you’re going to need to figure out, are you going to continue to withhold or not because your employee obviously is, particularly if they’re in a no income tax state like New Hampshire, they’re not going to want anything withheld. So, right. So that can be messy. It’s really not directly your problem as an employer, but it’s something you may end up having to get in the middle of. Gini Dietrich So the second thing I will say is, this is actually a conversation that’s been happening in some of the agency network on social media, but the P employees are asking employers which rightfully so to pay for things like cell phones, and printers and ink and you know, auto supply type stuff. And employers are responsible for that. So, you know, what do from your perspective, what should an agency owner be providing? And where’s the line to say, okay, the rest is up to you. Chip Griffin Yeah, and so this is this is difficult, because there are there are a lot of different rules out there. So in some jurisdictions, the business actually is required to pay some of these work from home expenses. In some places, it’s just what should you be doing? And then, of course, you layer on top of that, you know, what are these things are actually taxable, because somebody may cross the line into a taxable benefit for the employee. So, so when you’re starting to cover expenses at home, things like a percentage of the broadband expense, for example that employees may have, because a lot of us have had to upgrade our internet services, because of all of the video that we’re doing and things like that, and employees are asking to be reimbursed for all are part of that bill, you need to figure out what you’re going to do from a business perspective. And I would argue that if you are actually having people work from home, you need to be subsidizing these activities in some fashion. If you’re going to do that, though, you also need to work with your accountant to make sure that you’re doing it properly. So that you’re not, you know, creating some tax liability there that you’re not thinking about. And in generally speaking, I’m not an accountant or a lawyer or anything like that. So it’s, you know, my normal disclaimer, right? Yeah. But in general, the IRS has tried to clean some of this stuff up because back 1015 years ago, you had to actually allocate what percentage of your cell phone use was personal versus business, for example, right? You don’t have to do that. They’ve generally decided that if you’ve got a business cell phone, you can still use it for personal purposes, and it’s not taxable. That said, as we get into some of these things, I mean, if you need a new chair, for example, at home, because you know, it was fine for using an hour a week when you were doing just quickly Little projects, but now you’re doing it eight hours a day, you may want a better share, should your employer be picking that up, you know, quite possibly, but then what happens to it after they’re gone so that there’s a lot of issues that you need to be thinking about as an employer. In general, I think agencies should be looking for ways to help subsidize some of these expenses. But you really need to have a clear policy about what you’re going to do. And then you need to make sure that that policy is is vetted by the appropriate professionals to make sure that it’s in compliance with whatever rules may exist in the jurisdictions where you have employees. And again, keep in mind, if you’ve got remote employees, the rules, there may not be the same as where you are. So you know, it’s going to take some investigation to make sure that you’re on the side of the angels here and just Just do your best you’re not, you know, at the end of the day, as long as you’ve made a good faith effort, you know, most of the time you’re going to be okay. Gini Dietrich Yeah, and I mean, just to reiterate what you said about different jurisdiction, jurisdiction, you know, when you look at states like California, Illinois, they’re completely different than, say, Maine or Kentucky, so, Chip Griffin right. Gini Dietrich Not that I have that experience. But yeah, you have to really pay attention to those why the professionals are so important, Chip Griffin right. And it’s and, and a little bit of investment upfront for them to look at your your plan and make sure that it’s or that your policies are okay, is absolutely worth it. Because the the expense of being wrong can be, can be very bad, which is a great segue into the next one, because this is the most expensive issue that you can probably run into, and that is your actual business taxes. Because when you when you’ve got employees in other jurisdictions, it potentially creates what’s called a Nexus. And I’m not talking about LexisNexis, I’m talking about a Nexus that causes you to be taxed by another jurisdiction. This is messy, this is very difficult, and it can be very expensive. So you really need to work with your accountant to make sure that you understand if you’ve got a remote employee in Massachusetts, or Kentucky or California, are you on the hook for paying business taxes in those states, not just the payroll taxes that you’re paying for the employee, those are, again, pretty straightforward. But business tax is a percentage of your overall agency profits could be taxable in those jurisdictions. And this is something I’ve run into a number of times over the years with my own businesses. Ah, Gini Dietrich that’s what I have to say on that one. Chip Griffin Because because keep in mind, if someone is permanently working from home, and they’re an employee, it’s their home office is basically a branch office for your agency. Yeah, in the eyes of taxing jurisdictions. Yeah, right. So so you need to understand that that may create that, that tax liability or even licensing requirements are all sorts of other things. So it’s great to have the flexibility of remote workers in other jurisdictions, but you really need to make sure that you’re understanding, you know, what the what the potential liability is there, because it’s not, you know, in a lot of cases, it doesn’t end up being a huge cost to you. Other than that, you’ve got to, you know, do all the paperwork that goes along with it. But you also have to come up with some formula for figuring out how to allocate revenue, because there’s, there’s a lot of different things that you can look at. And there’s not really a lot of clear guidance, as it turns out, about how you allocate revenue to different states, you know, is it based on the amount of employees you have there, the amount of time they’re putting in? Is it based on the clients that you have in those jurisdictions, there’s a lot of different ways that you can calculate it. You need to work with your tax advisers to make sure that you’re doing it. The best way for you Gini Dietrich is hire help. Yes, your help, Chip Griffin right. And just I mean, most importantly, just realize that you have this potential issue, right. So you know, we can’t solve it for you on this episode, but but we’re just flagging it for you. So that, you know, to look into this. And this is this goes for whether you’ve had remote employees forever, and you just haven’t been doing this. Or if you have newly work from home ones, this is something you should be looking into. Gini Dietrich So speaking of work from home, I have to check on my intern for one moment because I though I allowed her to use her iPad to read books, it sounds to me like she’s watching Youtube Kids. Chip Griffin Maybe it’s just an audio book. But while while you are investigating her intern, I’ll monologue a bit and I’ll talk about employee benefits, because this is something awesome that you need to be thinking about when you have remote employees. So I will go solo on camera while I’m waiting for you to return. And so as as you’re thinking about employee benefits when you have remote workers, it’s important to think about what kinds of policies that you have for things like health insurance, and how that translates to people who are in other jurisdictions, particularly when you start hiring people who are far flung away from where your main location is from where you live, because a health insurance plan that works well for you in say New Hampshire may not work well for someone in California. And part of this is because of the crazy health insurance rules that we have around the United States. But part of it is because There are just different provider networks in different locations. And so you want to be thinking about those kinds of issues and talking to your employees, frankly, to figure out, you know, what are, you know, is the plan that we have a good one in your location or not? Is it something that, that we should be thinking about the next time we’re looking at plans, because there really are some big differences. And again, this is something I’ve run into before where I had a plan that was great for most of my employees in a particular region. But then the employees in another region said, Well, I can’t find any doctors or in network, and it’s very, very difficult. So you want to be thinking about those kinds of issues. Because we’re agencies are about talent. And so you need to be thinking about team morale and all that kind of stuff. Gini Dietrich That’s really a really great point. Because, you know, quite honestly, it’s not even something I’ve come up against is the loss of a really good plan. But, um, you know, we’ve we’ve always been covered, no matter where the employee is, that’s a really good point that I hadn’t been Chip Griffin willing to keep keep in mind, there’s there is a difference between being covered and being able to use the doctors that you’re used to using, right? Absolutely. And particularly, you know, in the part of the country that I’m in, there are a lot of lower cost providers that specialize in New England. And so and they then partner up with nationwide networks, but those networks may not be as robust. And sometimes this is even big name plans. So in a previous existence, I was working with one of the Blue Cross providers, which normally you would sit there and say, Okay, well, that’s, you know, that’s sort of the gold standard of insurance historically, over the years, they’ve got, you know, Nash national networks. They did, but but in one particular market in New York City, they, that particular Blue Cross plan didn’t have good providers. And so it was a huge issue for we had a whole new York office in that case, that just hated the plan, because they couldn’t find any doctors that took that particular insurance. So you need to be aware of those things and thinking about them. And so don’t just make the decision between yourself, the owner and the broker, you want to make sure that you’re talking to your employees and getting their feedback. And you may not be able to make everybody happy, but at least they’ll feel like they’re listened to if you solicit opinions before you go into the renewal process. Gini Dietrich Yeah, that’s a really good point. And one that you should definitely have on your list of things to consider, Chip Griffin right. And of course, you need to know what’s actually required to because different, you know, there are different rules, you know, around who you have to provide insurance to, and all that kind of stuff, again, based on jurisdictions. And again, keep in mind, it’s not based on where you’re located. It’s based on where your employee is located in most cases. Gini Dietrich So we’ve talked payroll taxes, business taxes, employee benefits, business insurance, Chip Griffin business insurance, right, because it’s not, you know, health insurance is what we think of when we say insurance. But most agencies have business liability insurance, general liability, maybe errors and omissions. We saw some discussion in the Spin Sucks community recently about an agency that’s looking for cyber liability. That’s a whole nother nightmare, we could do a whole nother conversation about that most agencies don’t really need cyber liability. But whatever general liability policy you have, if you’ve got employees who are working from home, there’s a good chance that you need to list their residences on your policy to make sure that you’re getting maximum coverage. And so that’s something that you want to make sure you understand between, you know, hopefully, you’re using a broker, I would generally encourage you as a broker when you’re dealing with business insurance, because they can, they can help you work through a lot of the nuances. But whether you’re working directly with the provider or through your broker, you want to make sure that they understand you have remote employees, and what are the implications? What do you need to make sure that you’re including in your policy, to make sure you’re covered? Gini Dietrich Ah, so much fun to be thinking about it really expensive? Yeah. Yeah, I think the only Gini Dietrich other thing we haven’t talked about is contractors versus employees, which is a really good point, especially right now. Chip Griffin Yeah. And that’s, I mean, that’s certainly something that we’ve talked about in general before, but particularly now, as we’ve got, you know, folks who are, who are going remote and again, maybe moving from one location to another, a lot of agencies that I know are saying, Well, you know, let’s, why don’t we just switch to contractor status? That’ll be easier for everybody, then I don’t have to deal with any of these other headaches. Gini Dietrich Not true. Chip Griffin Not true. Not Not true. As we’ve talked about before, it’s very difficult to even have independent contractors who live in certain states like California. You know, basically, if you if you’ve got someone in California, just make them an employee, your life is going to be so much easier if you do that. Yep. But But you particularly have to be careful anytime you have someone who’s currently an employee and then becomes a contractor. That is probably the most risky thing that you can do, because it’s very easy for the IRS and other taxing authorities to see that that transition has been made in most cases. And so you want to make sure that you are if you’re doing that it’s legitimately because that employee is starting their own business. They’re they’re no longer working for you full time. They actually have other clients, they’re, you know, they’re soliciting other people. clients, they’re marketing themselves as a business. And in fact, I would tell you, if you want to have independent contractors, don’t have them as truly independent, don’t contract with them by name, make them set up an LLC. Most states, it’s very easy and very low cost to set one up. Yes, have them set up an LLC that at least is the first step into being quote unquote, a legitimate business. It doesn’t completely exonerate you, but it helps a lot. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I, that’s probably the biggest thing give to engineers, when they’re thinking about working with contractors, make sure they that you are paying them to business and not as intimate. Chip Griffin Yep. Yeah, it is. It is, it is a big deal. And particularly now, because every government, state, federal, local, they’re all looking for tax revenue right now. And so as a result, they will they will particularly enforce any rules that are advantageous to them as far as collecting taxes. And independent contractors are traditionally much harder to collect tax revenue from than payroll employees. So most taxing jurisdictions really like to get someone classified as an employee. And so I guarantee you, they will be more aggressive as they’re trying to figure out how to meet some of the budget shortfalls that everybody’s experiencing because of both the economy and the health situation. Gini Dietrich Sure, sure. Sure, sure. Chip Griffin So stay outside of the agency. Gini Dietrich It’s so much to think about, you know, you started a business because you think of doing things differently, or you you know, you get tired of working for the man or whatever it happens to be. And then all of a sudden, you’re in all this and you’re like, Chip Griffin Oh, my gosh, I have to what’s right, right. No, it’s it’s, it’s, it’s horrible that you have to think about these things. But you do. And so you know that that’s why I thought it was important for us to talk about it on this episode. Because these are not the kinds of things that you generally do or even want to think about. But it’s important that you do, because these are things that really can impact your agency’s success in the future. Gini Dietrich So, um, I hope that you’ll link to your blog post with this episode, because it does do a nice job of breaking all the sections down, and it gives you a good roadmap of saying, Okay, this, I handled this, this, I handled this, don’t have to do this, and this, Chip Griffin right. And I can tell you, that all of these things are things that I’ve dealt with from personal experience over the years. So these are not, these are not theoretical problems. These are These are not things that I’ve just imagined, oh, well, this could be an issue these I mean, everything in that article I have had to deal with, and I’ve had bad experiences on in the past. So I’m hoping that you can learn from my mistakes and my troubles, so that you have fewer of them. Gini Dietrich Yes, do that. Because with the exempt Employee Benefit one I’ve also had all these learn from us. Chip Griffin Indeed, indeed. All right, well, hopefully you did learn something. Hopefully you enjoyed yourselves, at least a little bit. Because, you know, we try to make this a little bit light hearted even when we’re discussing these serious issues. And you know, if you want any advice on them, or they Chip Griffin get mundane, exactly, and if you want any advice on hamsters feel free to reach out to Jenny on that too. She’d be happy to share. Yes, Gini Dietrich I’m very experienced in hamsters right now. Chip Griffin Actually, rodents, rodents, generally, I mean, because you’ve had rat issues. So you’ve dealt with both ends of the road and spectrum the enjoyable part. Well, I guess at least enjoyable in your mind. I don’t I don’t think hamsters in trouble but anyway, so Gini Dietrich, rodent expert. And with that we will draw this episode to a close before she starts calling me aurat. And I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich I’m Gini Dietrich, Chip Griffin and it depends
21 minutes | 6 months ago
Handling agency employee departures
What do you do when an employee leaves your agency? In this episode, Chip and Gini talk about how to handle the transition with clients to minimize disruption. There are definitely some things you want to make sure to do — as well as to avoid. Gini will even share an example from her past about how employees shouldn’t act on their way out the door. 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 the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin. Gini Dietrich And I’m Gini Dietrich. Chip Griffin Yeah, you’re just messing with, like, You’re messing with me. You’re messing with the listeners. It’s just Oh, Gini. I don’t know. You know, don’t we have enough problems in 2020? without creating? I mean, all you’re doing is saying your name. It’s, it should be simple. Gini Dietrich I know. It should be. You’re right. But it’s 2020. And while I sat there for a second, and I was like, should I wait five seconds? Should I talk over him? How should I do this? And that’s how it came out. So you know, Chip Griffin well, that’s okay. I maybe maybe next time, I will simply introduce you. So we can just bypass that all together? Maybe that’s not a bad idea. So in any case, so So speaking of introducing you, you know, I, since one of us is leaving, you know, we have to figure out how to tell the audience. Gini Dietrich I’m sorry, where are we going? Chip Griffin Oh, oh, no. Gini Dietrich Am I being fired? I get it. Now. I get it. Yeah. So So yeah, this week? Chip Griffin That’s, that’s good. That’s good. Know, the topic. The topic is when an employee is leaving, how do you handle the client transition? Because this is something that just about every agency of every size, except for a solo has to handle at some point or another? If you’re a solo, and you’re leaving? Well, that’s called closing down the business. So generally speaking, so but but if you have an employee or could even be a contractor who’s got direct client contact, if that if you’re making a team member change, how do you handle that communication with the client to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible? So that’s what we’re talking about today. Don’t worry, or maybe worry, both of us are actually sticking around. Yeah, you might want to worry about that. But then no, can you know, Jenny apparently thinks she’s getting fired. So I’m not sure that I can do that. Yeah. Gini Dietrich I mean, you can just don’t send me a link every week. Chip Griffin Well, there’s that Yeah, I guess. Yeah. Yeah. I won’t send you your Patreon, either. Gini Dietrich Yeah, well, thanks. Don’t do that. Anyway. Question did come up. This question did come up in the community. And it was one of our employees is leaving sad for us. But she’s leaving in great terms, terms, and we’re excited for her next role at a new agency. We need to notify clients, is it more appropriate coming from the employee who is leaving or best to come from management? Chip Griffin And what is the answer? Gini Dietrich Well, I think the answer is it depends. I will also tell you that I did a really jerky thing when I left fleishmanhillard. And I had my I had an email all ready to go clients BCC the whole thing, wrote it, went in and told my boss, they of course, escorted me out because I was going to another agency, went back into my office hit send back everything up and left. And I had a boss who was is phenomenal. And she called me later, and she said, you know, that was a really jerky thing to do. And I was like he was, and she explained why. And I was like, Oh, yeah, that was a really jerky thing to do. I’m sorry, that should not have come for me. But I was young and stupid and naive, and and I knew that they were gonna walk me out. So I had it already. Like I didn’t even it didn’t even occur to me that they should be the ones to tell the clients not me. Right. And for me to hit send, as they’re shutting my email down that was really jerky to do. But Chip Griffin yeah, yeah, that was that was not the best behavior? Gini Dietrich No, it was not. Chip Griffin But I you know, I think it It raises the point that first of all, from the from management standpoint, you often don’t know what your employee is going to do. And sometimes, sometimes it will be with bad intention. And sometimes it’s just, you know, because they weren’t thinking or didn’t realize or didn’t know any better, those kinds of things. So, so you always have to be prepared for the unexpected in these situations. You know, to me, the most important thing, anytime you’ve got an employee leaving is that you’ve got a process that you’re going through. And so you’re sitting there and so part of the transition should be to work with that individual to figure out, you know, which you should already know what projects they’re working on, but really get good status updates, and anything that’s, that’s critical to the relationship since you can understand exactly where the relationship stands between that team member and the client at that point in time, because that will help inform how you do the, the notification of the client. You know, if they’ve got a big event, the next day, you might wait until after the big event to share the news. So you can modulate the timing. You can module and in some cases, it can be more appropriate for the team member to share it if this is if this is someone that you completely trust, to you know, to do a good job in the handoff and they’ve got the kind of relationship with the client, that the client will take it better hearing it from them. Sometimes that happens so so you can walk through it that way, I would say more often than not, at a minimum, their supervisor should be part of the conversation or may need to do it directly themselves, or you may need to escalate and even above the direct supervisor to, you know, to the owner or someone who’s more of a relationship manager, but it I think it really needs to be case by case based on the individual team member and the individual client. Gini Dietrich Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with that, um, we just had somebody leave. And for the most part, I called everybody to tell them, but there was one client that I just don’t have a relationship with. And so what she and I, what the employee and I did was craft a plan and a process for what that would look like, because I had plenty of No, she gave me plenty of notice. And we were able to do that and start to bring other people into the client meetings so that when we rip the band aid off, it wasn’t so bad, the client was like, Okay, I get it. That’s I seem to be well taken care of. And it was kind of a non event, I was kind of surprised. I was like, oh, okay, Chip Griffin right. In my experience, people worry way too much. When these transitions happen, most clients do just fine. With the transition, they’re going to be looking more closely at you during that transition period to make sure that things aren’t falling through the cracks. But it’s, it’s really, it’s really how you handle the transition, more so than the fact that there’s simply been a transition. So you know, I don’t think this should be the kind of thing where you worry too much about it. But what you need to do is you need to be prepared for the questions that you’re going to get from the client, which will always start with what does this mean for me, they may not say so many words, but that’s what they care about. They don’t care about you and your agency and what it means for you and what you have to do for recruiting and you know, the relationships that you have blah, blah, they don’t care about, yeah, they’re right. There. You know, we’ve said before our clients, in some ways are like children. What does it mean for me? What’s in it for me? And so you need to be prepared to answer that question. And in many cases, particularly, if you’re a small agency, you may not have all of the answers right away. Because chances are, you’re going to have to do some stopgap things to cover because it’s rare when an employee leaves to have enough time to actually replace them. It before they’ve gone. And so so you’re going to have to sort of, you know, juggle a few balls in the air and keep things going for a period of time. And so you need to communicate with the client, you know, what your immediate plan is, even if it’s probably going to change over time. Gini Dietrich Yeah, I totally agree. Um, a couple of comments from the community on this were, from my past experience coming from management, and it includes explaining the change, and what’s next, who will take over the account, and CC their employee to wish her the best and allow the clients to do the same. So I thought that was an interesting thought is just, you know, when you send the note, if, if it’s via email, I tend to pick up the phone and call people. But if you’re sending it over email copying the the person who’s leaving so that the clients and the clients team can can wish that person Well, I thought that was a good piece of advice. Chip Griffin Yeah. And so that also raises the point that that whenever possible, you don’t want to leave this to the last minute. So the way you ideally don’t want to have this, I mean, there are some cases, obviously, if it’s a termination, that’s different, if someone’s going to a competitive agency, and so you know, you need to literally walk them out that may have to happen more quickly. More often than not, you know, there is lead time in these situations. And so, you know, to the extent that you can give the client a little bit of time to adjust, not too much. So if someone gives you two months notice, don’t go running, telling clients, right, rake advantage of time, but you know, but don’t wait until 4pm at 5pm is when they’re, you know, packing their bags, Gini Dietrich for 50. All right, by the Chip Griffin way, because because a lot of clients have built a strong relationship with your employee. And so they would like to be able to say something nice to them. And they may ask for their personal email address or those kinds of things. And, and so you want to be able to allow them to have that, because that will help them feel better about your agency overall. And you also don’t want to ever inadvertently make it appear as if there’s something squirrely about the change, if there isn’t, right and so if you wait to the last minute, it can look like someone was terminated, even if they decided to do it voluntarily, because maybe they’re moving cross country and they gave you notice two months ago, whatever. By leaving it to the last second it makes it look like something bad happened. And you know what? Gini Dietrich We could she got fired and we walked her out with two minutes. Notice Chip Griffin right now, now that said, if it is a termination, then you need to be prepared to immediately talk to the clients because terminations sometimes go wrong. And as we’ve talked about before, it’s very difficult to predict which terminations are actually going to end badly. I’m horrible at it. I have a Have terminations, terminations? Yeah, that would go badly. There was barely a ripple, I thought terminations that were going to go fine ended up turning into total, you know, what shows. So you need to be prepared, if there is a termination, before you even sit down and terminate the employee, you need to know what your plan is with all of their clients, because you need to communicate with them quickly, so that there is not an opportunity for that individual, because of frustration, anger, whatever to reach out to the client directly and and pollute the waters. Right. So so you need to be prepared for those kinds of things. Gini Dietrich Well, and I would say, even if somebody’s leaving voluntarily, and it’s on good terms, there’s still the opportunity, I mean, to for them to pollute the waters, even if it’s on detentions. So I think having a plan, knowing what it is, you know, we have a really strict thing, thankfully, to my assistant, we have a very strict process that we follow. And it’s, you know, boek broken into three buckets, if they they’re leaving, and we have noticed, and they don’t have to be escorted out, if they’re leaving, and they’ve given us notice, but they’re going to a competitor. And then if they’ve been terminated, and it’s very strict, it’s like boo, boo, boo, boo, you do this, you do this, you do this, and we get that all done within, you know, half an hour, that allows us to really move quickly. And I’ll admit that I was a little reticent to create that process, because I was like, Oh, well, I feel like it’s karma. And that we’re you know, bringing bad luck to ourselves. And that’s just not the case. It’s It’s very, it has been extraordinarily helpful in having that available. And it’s literally a checklist, do this, do this, do this, do this, do this. Chip Griffin Right. And, and the termination process is one where it’s very easy to overlook things. You know, if it’s in a termination, it may be because you, you know, the termination is coming in part out of your own frustration. And so you just want to get it done. So in some cases, it’s you know, because terminations are uncomfortable, you may skip over things, because you just don’t want to have to think about it. And that’s a huge mistake. But even in friendly ones, you still need to make sure that you cross the T’s dot the i’s, and this is something you should have vetted by, you know, an HR consultant or someone like that someone who actually knows, you know, what, what the the any particular rules that may apply to your situation, they’ll often have decision trees. So for example, if you’re terminating someone over the age of 40, it’s different than he would terminate someone under the age of 40, the paperwork is not really different. And the rules around it are very different in most states. So you need to make sure that you’re on top of that kind of thing, so that you don’t inadvertently end up with a problem down the road. So having those checklists can be really helpful to make sure that things don’t fall through the cracks. And the client piece of it has to be part of it. Gini Dietrich Yeah, and the client piece, I mean, depending on what it is, with the client pieces, usually number one, if it’s a termination there, you know, email and things like that are usually number one, the tech stuff, but then clients number two, so Yeah, it definitely has to have. And like I said earlier, I prefer to pick up the phone and have that conversation versus sending an email, I just find are better that way. Chip Griffin Yeah, me Look, most agency employees don’t have contact with enough clients on a regular basis that that you shouldn’t be having that as an actual telephone conversation. I mean, you know, if you’re, if you’re in a in a SaaS company, and so, you know, account manager has 50 clients, okay, that’s not practical, but in an agency, right? Most employees, what, maybe two or three clients tops, in most cases, yeah, there’s no excuse not to have that conversation. by phone. You know, you may want to email and set it up, set up an appointment, as opposed to just calling out of blue, whatever it may be, you need to think through and part of it depends on your relationship with that client, right? If you sure if you know the client, that’s much easier for you. And and particularly if you’re the one who brought the business in, your employee leaving is going to be much less of an issue. If it’s, if it’s a case where it’s a senior employee, and they’re the ones who brought the business in, those are the ones that are the toughest to handle into message because they may have come to the agency because of that employee who’s leaving, right, those are gonna require a little bit more TLC from the standpoint of senior management or ownership. Gini Dietrich Yep, my favorite thing to do is text the client and go call me to bash Gini Dietrich me usually creates the opportunity for them to call you immediately. But I do it all the time. So it’s not like Chip Griffin if you don’t do that all the time, please I beg of you listeners do not do that. Gini Dietrich I do, but I do do it. Chip Griffin If it’s your regular habit. That’s fine. I guess I don’t, but it works. The irony is I don’t think you even have my cell phone number. So you can’t text me with that. Gini Dietrich I don’t think I do. text you at all terrible. Chip Griffin Oh, well, what can you do? But so you know, I think that you know the key is having a plan having a process thinking through and you know, you need to think through those. What are the client’s concerns likely to be part of that’s looking back in the past? and seeing what what are their concerns previously been? You know, particularly if you’ve already if they’ve had a transition of a team member before, if it went, well, great, then you can point to that and say, Well, remember, when Jane replaced Sally, and it went smoothly, you know, we’re gonna follow the same kind of process. On the other hand, if, if, when Jane replaced Sally, and it was a little rocky, you know, then you need to communicate that you’ve learned your lessons from those. And so you’re going to handle this transition a little bit differently. And, and critically, in that transition period, you need to apply some extra TLC, you don’t want to go into the full overblown over servicing, but you you certainly want to err on the side of over servicing during that window to make sure that there’s no concern that balls are going to be dropped, because, you know, their client contact is left. Gini Dietrich Yeah, and I probably tend to go a little far on the on the side of me just checking in and making sure that everything’s okay. And doing that pretty consistently. I had a client say to me, okay, Jen, we get it. We’re good. We’re good. You’re okay. Here. Chip Griffin Yeah. And I think the other important thing is in your communications with the clients, you need to exude confidence in the transition. So even if you are pulling your hair out and saying, Oh, my God, I have no idea how we’re going to handle this. Because a lot of times that happens in the small agency environment, right? You sit there, and you know, you’ve got, you know, seven or eight employees and one of them leaves. It can be one of those, oh, my God, what am I gonna do? Do not let the clients see it. What was that advertisement that they used to run years ago, don’t let them see you sweat or something like that. Same thing here, right? Do not let the client see how the sausage is made, don’t let them see you sweat. You know, you need to even if you were completely flummoxed by it, exude confidence in that communication with a client, it’s all going to be fine, we’ve got this. And if they come across thinking that you’ve got this, then you’re going to have a lot more runway to to make mistakes, because they’re always going to be mistakes and transitions, things will always fall through the cracks no matter how hard you try. Unless this is, you know, one of those ones where you’ve got one team member of like five that are servicing the client. So it’s, you know, it’s sort of seamless, fairly, yeah, if you’re listening to this, chances are you’re not in that situation with your clients. But if you are, then those transitions can go more smoothly. If it’s one where it’s their primary client contact, or even their only client contact, that’s going to be ones where things are just that person knows things, there’s institutional knowledge, there’s, you know, there’s things that they forgot to put into your project management tracking system that they didn’t put into an email or whatever. And so, you know, you’ve got to be prepared for those kinds of things to happen. Gini Dietrich Well, I have found as well, that they’re you, I mean, you know, those that we always joke that our job is more therapy than anything else, because we tend to be the voice of reason for some clients. But I have found in the past, not in this most recent example, but in the past, there has been advice given by members of my team that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with. But you know, when you empower your team to do their thing, they do their thing. And then the client will say to you will so and so told me this, and you’re like, Okay, I’m right. So Gini Dietrich there’s some of that, where you have to your point, exude confidence and still support the advice that was given but steer them in a different direction, if it’s wrong or not where it should be, Chip Griffin right. But this is also an opportunity for you to shine. Because, you know, particularly if you’re stepping in and becoming involved, which is typically what happens whether you’re at the management level, the ownership level, typically you become more involved during those transition periods, you will spot areas where you can service the client better not necessarily even by over servicing. But just because you’ve got a better strategic idea. You look at something and I mean, almost every time I’ve had an employee leave in that kind of setting where I go in, and I look at him, like, why did they do it this way, this is inefficient. This is you know, you could you could generate better results by doing it this way. And so clients will see those as wins. So even if they loved their client contact before, if you find some of those quick wins for them, that’s going to help them and it’s going to show that you know that you’re paying attention. And you’ve got to be careful. It’s a delicate balancing act because you don’t want to get so sucked in that you’re now doing the client service yourself on an ongoing basis. Right, right. So balance that out and try to try to even if it’s only part time, have someone else on your team front that relationship during that transition period until you hire someone new. So that it’s it’s not just you that they’re dealing with Gini Dietrich Yep, totally agree. All right. So exude confidence, have a process, pick up the phone and call. Those are probably the big ones. Chip Griffin And it depends. And it does depend. And so with that, I think that will that will bring this episode to a close. I’m Chip Griffin. She’s Gini Dietrich. I’m Gini Dietrich Gini Dietrich. Chip Griffin And it depends
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