A reality check for agency owners (featuring Brad Farris)

Mistakes to avoid and opportunities to seek as agencies navigate the current environment and look to the future
Brad Farris

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The Covid-19 crisis isn’t just a bump in the road for PR and marketing agencies. If you’re hoping to weather the storm and see a return to normal later this year, you’re likely to be disappointed.

At the same time, there are plenty of opportunities for agencies that look to innovate and adapt. Brad Farris of Anchor Advisors joins Chip to talk about what agencies should be doing right now.

The pair emphasize the importance of not thinking about the present as a “new normal” and instead looking ahead to what will become the norm in the months and years ahead. We’re all still feeling our way forward and taking it day by day right now, but eventually we’ll come out into a changed environment that agencies will need to handle to secure clients and execute campaigns on their behalf.

Resources

About Brad Farris

Brad Farris guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Brad is a speaker and author. Brad is passionate about business and helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money and enjoy life more.

Transcript

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

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Chats with Chip Podcast. I am your host, Chip Griffin. And my guest today is Brad Ferris with Anchor Advisors. Welcome to the show, Brad.

BRAD: Thanks. Glad to be here, Chip.

CHIP: It is always good to talk to you. And today we’re the subject is reality check. We’re going to give a reality check to agency owners to help them understand what’s real and what’s not in the current environment, or at least what you and I think.

BRAD: Yes, right. As much reality as you and I are in.

CHIP: Well, yes. And then we could debate that I’m sure that my kids would challenge me on whether or not I’m living in reality, or they are but

it is what it is. That’s right. But I think the you know,

and I don’t want to make this a depressing episode, because I think there are there are a lot of good things that will come out of what’s going on for sure. At the same time. I think there is still a lot of destruction to be done. Yes. Yeah. And I think it’s important for agency owners to consider that as they’re making their plans over the next you know, Few months and then even starting to pretend to look beyond that, although the uncertainty is so great, who really knows? I mean, if you had said eight or 10 weeks ago that this is where we were going to be today, we’d have all laughed and said, Oh, my God, yeah, okay, you’re

BRAD: right. I mean, their lives are taking out all their middle seats, right?

CHIP: Well, and nobody’s on them anyway. So I’m gonna take out a bunch of rows, and nobody’s gonna notice any difference. It’s, I mean, it really is, you know, and we say this a lot these days. But you know, none of us have ever seen anything like this, nothing like it. And as a result, it makes planning more difficult. Yeah. But, you know, you and I are talking to lots of business owners and trying to help them sort things out. We’re trying to figure things out ourselves. A lot of it’s guesswork. But, you know, you and I have both been through previous economic downturns, which, while not exactly like this, do give us some hints as to what to expect when you’re running a business, whether that’s 2001 or 2008, both of which were severe, but you know, different This, this is even more different in more severe.

BRAD: Right? I mean, I think that what I’ve been saying to people is there are lots of different viewpoints but what you can’t do a standstill, right, right, you can’t just wait and see how this is going to go.

CHIP: No, if you think you’re just gonna wait out the storm and and put down your umbrella in two or three months and get back to to normal, whatever that is, you’re sorely mistaken. Well,

BRAD: yeah, that’s this is the reality check. We’re here for.

CHIP: So, so tell me I mean, you know, what, what, what are you seeing now? And what do you see happening? particularly as it relates to small businesses, small agencies in the not too distant future? What’s your take?

BRAD: So everybody’s functioning pretty well at home. I mean, that’s been my experience with my clients. There aren’t major disruptions, people were able to work effectively. I would say that a lot of people are working in the 60 to 70% Capacity range in terms of their ability to get work done because they’ve got little people under their feet or, you know that there is just a more complicated way of working from home, but everybody is functioning. Would you agree with that?

CHIP: Yeah, I would agree with that. I don’t think, you know, I know a lot of agencies that had most of their staff in the office were concerned that this would, you know, cause productivity to plummet? And I don’t think we’ve seen that I certainly think there are challenges, particularly for folks who have kids at home. Yep. You know, that is that is a serious challenge and requires some some good care and thinking from a leadership perspective when you’re managing them. And and some folks, you know, particularly the, the younger workers just don’t have good work from home setup. You know, if you’re, you know, 25 years old and living in New York City, you probably don’t have a home office, right. You know, you’ve probably got a roommate. These things make it much more challenging to work from home, but it hasn’t killed productivity. It’s just created a new challenges. Sure.

BRAD: Yeah. My daughter lives with three workers. mates and they’re all working from home now. So they like have a sign up for the dining room table.

CHIP: Yeah, and it you know, it certainly is challenging. I think that you know, for those folks who are sitting there right now and talking about how this is proving that the remote work model works, and so basically all agencies, agencies should become virtual. I think that’s a mistake. Because there are a lot of workers who can’t or don’t want to work from home permanently, even though they’re finding a way to do it. Now.

BRAD: I think it’s important to look at both sides of that chip. On the one hand, I had a CEO who said to me, you know, for 10 years I’ve been I had this list of reasons why we couldn’t work remotely. And the last two months, we’ve overcome all those. Right, right. And so, for those people that felt like, we could never do it, you know, their minds are being changed. Then the flip side, like you’re absolutely right, there are a lot of people who are like, okay, now I’ve tried working at home, I don’t want to do it anymore. And we need to think about those people. There are people that don’t have a good Instead of at home, they have kids at home, whatever it is right? And and those people need to find a way to get back to an office.

CHIP: Yeah. And the reality is the the new normal whenever we get there and I don’t call what we’re in right now is the new normal, I call it the new abnormal. We’ll eventually one day get to a new normal. We don’t know exactly what it’ll look like. But I think the likelihood is from a work perspective, it’ll be some sort of a hybrid model where businesses will have some employees who work in the office and some who work remotely. But frankly, that’s no different than larger businesses that have multiple offices. That’s right. You know, I mean, if you can work with in a in a business that has an office in New York and Boston, you can work in one where there are people in the office and people at home.

BRAD: And I also think that if you’re pondering getting rid of your lease, you could pay for co working for 20 or 30% of your workforce and still come out ahead, right. And so, people still have to commute they might, they might have a co working place on the east side, another one on the north side and wouldn’t go to the ones that they want to go to And still have everyone have a better situation and still be effective.

CHIP: Right? Now, of course, the challenge is most businesses that have commercial space have leases that are not all that easy to get out of. Yeah. And and you know, commercial leases in particular are nothing like residential leases in most places. And so and commercial real estate, you know, owners are in a position where they are, they’re going to see a lot of pressure. So they’re going to have to try to keep as much of their own revenue as they can. Right.

BRAD: So I’m curious, what are you hearing from your clients in terms of landlord flexibility?

CHIP: It’s completely dependent upon the individual landlords and what the situations are, I think, in general, I would characterize it as the, the, when you’re dealing with smaller landlords, they’re willing to work with you a little bit more, the larger you know, more commercial enterprises tend to be more sticklers for their leases, but that’s not that’s not 100%. You know, there is a lot of variation and and I’ve been encouraging business Saunders to do if they’ve got commercial leases is start talking as soon as possible. Yeah with the landlord’s try to figure out what you can do because, you know, while they want to be sticklers for their leases, they also know there’s going to be pressure on their industry. So they they would rather work with you, in all likelihood to get you to stay at least 50% as opposed to not at all.

BRAD: Yeah, the two, the three reactions that I’m hearing, I am hearing some landlords who say, Okay, what if you paid me 75% of the rent for the next four months? And I’ll take the other 25% out of your security deposit. And then four months from now, let’s talk about where things are. Yep. Which I felt was that was a very reasonable approach from for a couple of landlords or I heard I have heard a lot of go pound sand, you’ve got a lease, right? And I don’t think that’s gonna go well for those guys. And I have heard some landlords who are saying, Yeah, I’ll just extend your lease, you know, like we can, we can either. You can skip payments for a couple of months in real estate. Then the lease on the back end. Or if you want to negotiate a longer lease, we can talk about a reduced rent. Like they’re trying to get people locked in sooner, which I think is smart on their part.

CHIP: Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s why, you know, in all these situations, whether it’s a landlord or any other kind of business relationship, the sooner you start the conversation Yeah. And and the more willing you are to be flexible, the more willing that they’re likely to be. So you know, if you come in guns blazing, and say, you know, we’re just walking away from this lease, we’re done with this, you know, we’ll fight you however hard we have to, that’s probably not going to go over that well. But at the same time, you know, your businesses is probably hurting. And so if you go to a landlord and say, Look, here’s the deal, I can’t afford the rent that you know, that I’m paying you, we’re not able to even use the space. Can you work with me? Most of them at least we’ll have the conversation. And you can see where it goes. So it’s it’s like anything else. You’ve got to be, you know, open minded and proactive in your communications.

BRAD: So those agencies that are trying to get people back in the office, what do you what are the things that you’re thinking about that they need to do in order to make that safe for everybody and give people the confidence they can come in safely?

CHIP: Yeah. And that I mean, again, I would start with communications. I think that the biggest thing here is that you as an owner earlier, shouldn’t be making this decision on your own. You need to talk with your team, you need to understand what their concerns are, what their comfort level is, with coming back, it’s probably you probably need to start with some sort of a hybrid model where you give flexibility and you say, okay, we’re open, but it’s optional. You know, if you’re ready to come back, great. If you’re not, we understand we’re gonna work with you. Because there’s a lot of things that go into this.

BRAD: Listen, I have room for X number of people to come into the office, if you’re interested in talk to me, right, but you may not be able to have everybody in there and still maintain good distance with people and so maybe maybe you can only have half your team in the office, but but making that available for the people that want it.

CHIP: Yeah, and that’s a great point. I mean, you know, what, what are you seeing as far as folks looking at how they’re either Going to reconfigure their offices or change office policies. I mean, that’s, that’s something you have to be thinking about right now.

BRAD: It’s really a mix a bunch of guys went out to Home Depot and bought plexiglass and they’re, they’re putting up partitions, you know, kind of Renegade partitions. What I’ve heard is the major tech companies have bought out all the partitions from the big furniture dealers, so you’re not going to get anything from the furniture dealers. Other people were just saying, you know, we’re going to go every other desk, and nobody visits anybody the desk, if you want to talk to somebody, you call them on the phone. Right, you know, and so with different ways to do distancing. Now, the big questions are really the shared spaces, conference rooms, lunch room, bathrooms, what’s your policy for cleaning where we’re, you know, a lot of people have their offices cleaned once a week, right? You got to have your office cleaned every night now.

CHIP: Well, and not only that, but you know, and I wrote an article and I said, Something that like, you know, in the old days, we basically, you know, look to see if the trashcan was empty the foods laid up in the break room and, and there was, you know, not too much dust on the window sill, right? You know, now I think businesses are going to have to hold their cleaning services to a higher standard, which probably means more money, and and, frankly, are some of the cleaning services that folks are using now even capable of doing the proper disinfecting that you’re going to want to see in your office. I don’t know. I mean, that’s a that’s a tough one. And if you’ve got to share your bathroom, that’s something else you got to talk to your landlord about is how are they keeping the bathrooms safe? bathrooms, elevators, you know, all sorts of shared facilities in you know, depending on where you’re at, but even small cities tend to have, you know, a lot of shared spaces in commercial real estate.

BRAD: In in. In the trivium. This morning, Chicago Tribune, there was an article about how people are thinking about elevators and they’re talking about having assigned spots for people to stand facing the wall. So you’re in spot seven, you’re in spot nine and there only nine people who can get on the elevator at a time. And I think that’s gonna be pretty hard to get people out of buildings.

CHIP: Oh, it’s gonna be a massive challenge. I mean, how many times have you been in an elevator in in a big building where everybody’s packed in like sardines, for sure. And even then you’re waiting forever for an elevator? Yes. If you all of a sudden say, you know, we can only have like four people in the elevator at once. I mean, it’s almost impossible to go into that building.

BRAD: What what are you seeing people do in terms of pee pee? Are people doing gloves masks?

CHIP: Everyone bring their own? It’s all I mean, you know, obviously a lot of local jurisdictions are starting to require masks that we have here in the northeast. And so I think that that masks will be sort of a standard feature. My instinct is most people will probably end up having their own mask as opposed to their employer, providing them I think employers though, are going to have to be thinking about providing hand sanitizer and, and things like that which is frankly difficult to obtain right now.

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CHIP: to obtain to match All masks are becoming easier because we’re actually, you know, one of the things you know, as we talked about not being just that Debbie downers here, you know, masks are the kind of thing where some brands have started to come up with branded masks. And they’re seeing an opportunity in this to, you know, to make designer masks, if you will, or those kinds of things. I know, I’ve ordered one that has referee stripes on them because I if I can’t be out refereeing and umpiring sports, you know, at least I can have referees stripes on my mask. I saw

BRAD: Disney did a baby Yoda mask, which was kind of cute.

CHIP: Yeah. And I think I you know, I think that that everybody who’s running a business right now needs to look for the opportunities, yes. And not being opportunistic and taking advantage of people but not any legitimate opportunities where they can, you know, meet a need and hopefully help their own business in the same process.

BRAD: I was talking to a business owner this week, and he, he had found a company that made high school band uniforms that had pivoted into making masks. Yeah. And he got masks that had his company logo on them, and he mailed them to all of his employees. And I thought that was a pretty, pretty nice thing.

CHIP: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a here in New Hampshire, there’s a hockey equipment manufacturer that switched over to making PP plastic face shields, because they have all the equipment and materials to do it. So, you know, people should be looking for those kinds of things, you know, if you’re, if you’re in the agency space, you need to be thinking about what it is that your clients need, what and what’s gonna, you know, what do you see changing in those industries in the next couple of months? Start thinking ahead, start thinking how you can meet them, you know, where the puck is going, so to speak around the hockey analogy, as opposed to just you know, chasing them down the ice.

BRAD: So this is an interesting question. What I’ve been saying to people, because a lot of my clients are saying, you know, we’re busy, we have work, everything’s fine. And I say, right, but where’s your next piece of work coming from? How does someone decide to hire you that didn’t know you before the shutdown?

CHIP: Right. And I think at least what I’m seeing, particularly with my clients is they are still closing business, but it tends to be business that was already in the pipeline. Yes. I have seen almost nothing for Anyone that it has developed within the last two months fresh it with the exception of some of the I do work with a couple of crisis firms that are different, right now let’s put a wall up, we’ll talk about them separately. But you know, the vast majority are pulling in business that was just sitting idle in the pipeline, and now people have a chance to focus on it. So that’s, that’s a real problem.

BRAD: Yeah, I, I’ve pushed my clients to call everybody that’s in the pipeline and every client they’ve ever worked with in the past. So that’s gonna be your shortest path to cash is those people that that you’re already talking to or that have talked to you before?

CHIP: Right. And I think it’s also important that agencies don’t assume that the clients that they have now that haven’t gone away, are still sticking with them. Right. You know, there is there is still more damage to be done. There are still more layoffs to come. There are still other shoes to drop in all likelihood. So don’t sit there and be comfortable and say Well, look, I you know, we weathered the storm with these clients, they’ll stick with us now we just need to fill in, you know, for the business. We lost. That’s, that’s not a good winning scenario.

BRAD: Well, I think that’s the other thing about calling all your past clients and everyone in your pipeline. What I’ve been talking to people about is that your clients are on a journey, right? They’re going from point A to point B. And they’re hiring you because they believe that you can get them to point B faster. Hmm. But whatever their point B was in February, is probably not their point B right now. So we need to find out where it is that they’re going, how is their journey changed through this process so that we can get on with helping them to get to wherever their new point B is,

CHIP: right? And have you seen your clients reluctant to engage in these conversations reluctant to do business development? And those sorts of things? Are they have they needed some prodding?

BRAD: There’s a lot of people are like, well, I don’t want to be that guy. And I said, well, Don’t be that guy. Just be you and reach out to people and say what’s going on? But again, I do think people are reluctant. They’re like, I don’t want to bug them and I don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to be asking him something in a difficult time, like, just just call and say hi and be a human. Right.

CHIP: Yeah, I think I think we we miss that a lot in business generally, which is the concept of being human. And, and it’s, it’s difficult. And I, you know, and I have seen a lot of people criticize various businesses for their, you know, sales and marketing efforts, you know, being tone deaf and that kind of thing. And my advice to everybody is, take a deep breath, that there are a lot of people out there trying to figure out how to do things right, right now, don’t assume that they’re being evil, right? Don’t assume even that they’re idiots. It may just mean then some of it comes from desperation to I mean, there are businesses that are really hurting, they’re going to push extra hard because they’ve got to try to figure out a way to put things together. So you know, we all need to give each other a little bit of that, you know, extra space to figure things out right now.

BRAD: Now, I’m just curious chip. How many email newsletters Have you gotten in the last week that your thought I don’t even remember when I would have gotten on this You know, I haven’t seen this newsletter in six years. So

CHIP: it is safe to say that there has been an explosion of, of email that, that I did not realize that I was I was subscribed to.

BRAD: And while I’m a huge fan of email marketing, that is not like to me that’s in the category of we don’t need to hear about how great your your your agency is right now. Right?

CHIP: Right. And I think to the extent that you are sending things out, don’t don’t tell me what you do. Don’t tell me about your services. Give me something useful. Give me something I can use. Figure out what it is that people want to know and either create that content curate that content, but somehow find a solution. You know, we don’t we don’t really care about what your business processes are. We don’t care about you know, what it is that you could do for me just actually helped me right now.

BRAD: Tell your clients stories, tell it tell about a client that you know, that is having challenges and what they’re doing about it tell about a client who has his overcoming cap challenges and what they’re doing about it. Talk to me, right? If I’m your client, then those stories probably relate to me. Right?

CHIP: Or ask questions. Yeah. And I know you do this a ton in your emails, ask what you know, what, what are you seeing? What are you thinking? And, and that’s actually a great way when you’re working through your list of contacts to talk to just ask them what they’re seeing. I mean, I have so many calls each week where I’m just calling someone up and saying, Hey, you know, what, what are you seeing? What are you hearing? And it’s sort of like the old days, I you know, 30 years ago, I got started in politics. And so, you know, everybody always called around to sort of see what the scuttlebutt was, but that but now that’s useful from a business perspective, even more so than it normally is. Because, you know, things are changing so fast.

BRAD: Well, it also makes you useful, because now you’re the hub of information. So, people want to talk to you about what are you hearing from your other clients?

CHIP: Right. And, and I and I think that, you know, we we often overlook that because we’re, we’re sitting there and we’re so fixated on how do we, you know, move leads through the pipeline. How do we generate generate revenue. And it’s, you know, at this point, it’s so much about information gathering, because the the likelihood is that, you know, it’s going to take longer to close business now, yes, than it was six months ago. And I think, you know, we have to keep that in mind that that folks are going to be a lot more cautious as they move forward and even can here’s my favorite, favorite pet peeve. And I’m curious what you’re seeing. But one of my favorite ones right now are all these agencies who are telling me Well, you know, we haven’t lost any clients. We’ve got a bunch who paused. Yeah. You lost those clients.

BRAD: They’re no longer paying you.

CHIP: They’re not paying you. You’ve lost them. That’s there’s no guarantee that they’re coming back even if you have a contract. I mean, I think one of the things folks are seeing in this process is their contracts are not worth the paper they’re printed on right because when when you know, big company calls you up and says, Hey, we’re not sending you the next check. What do you do just sit there and you know, banging on the table saying, hey, when my money it doesn’t work, or you do your corner?

BRAD: I mean, there’s that all

CHIP: right. And so I think that you know, everybody needs to be realistic about that you need to focus on re winning that paused business and not treat it as

BRAD: yes definitely coming back. And if somebody is going on pause, say yeah, okay, I’m not gonna charge you but let’s get together every other week and just have a high level strategy call like yeah keep in touch with them so that you know what they’re thinking about what’s going on to them

CHIP: right and and even your existing clients make sure that particularly he was the principal, you know, or or an agency leader you can’t rely on your team to be having all the day to day communications you need to involve yourself so that you can read the tea leaves and frankly, you can just say to them hey what you know what’s going on in your business so that you get that early warning and find out you know, whether or not they’re feeling pressure and and thinking about possible change because you don’t want to be blindsided by it, particularly, because so many agencies have now taken the PPP money. they’ve they’ve held off on letting staff go because the PPP is dependent upon them not laying people off, right? And so, you know, you need to be thinking about and looking ahead, so that you don’t end up in a situation where the PPP money runs out, your client then leaves. And you can’t really take care of your employees properly as you have to let them go.

BRAD: Yeah, it’s it’s interesting.

The SEC, I would love to do a psychological study on on what how people felt about the PPP because certainly it was designed to help people keep your staff and if you if your staff is busy and you you have a reasonable expectation that they’re going to be busy two months from now, you should do that 100%. But if I have to let staff go if I don’t have an economic case for keeping people on, it just means that I have more of a loan and less of a forgiveness. I mean, I would the mental. The mental question I’m asking myself is, is it likely that it’ll be easier for me to get staff later in the year or cached later in the year

CHIP: Well, I think the easy answer to that is staff.

BRAD: Exactly. So I the one thing that I want to hold on to is the cash Right, right.

CHIP: So here’s here’s what I’ve been advocating and it obviously is very dependent upon individual business situations right so but But what I’ve been advocating is that agencies should be taking the PPP money and using it essentially to fund severance for employees so treat it so give them garden leave. So instead of letting them go and forfeiting your your loan forgiveness, you say look, you know, the PPP money runs out on x date. And so that’s when we’re going to part ways from from now until then, I’m going to keep paying you with this money. But it’s, you know, to give you a soft landing, because if you wait until the end, you may not have the cash to give them a decent severance to help them have a soft, so tell them that. I mean, if you’ve lost 30% of your business, and you haven’t laid anyone off because a PPP, that’s insane. That’s insane because that 30% revenue isn’t just going to come back on All of a sudden in the fall, if you need to be contracting your size and getting more nimble, and it sucks to say it, and I’ve, I’ve had to do layoffs before. They are not fun. I mean, I always say I like to fire people if it’s for cause, but I hate to lay people off.

BRAD: Oh, it’s terrible. It’s awful terrible. But but I think we have to look at if we if we bet that everything is coming back. And it does. That’s great, right? But if we if we bet that everything’s coming back, we hold on to our staff and it doesn’t, then we might lose the whole agency. Right? Right. The flip side if we bet that things aren’t coming back and we lay people off now and it does come back, well, it’s gonna take us a little bit longer to scramble around and we might lose some of the upside. But if we bet that it’s not coming back in it doesn’t well we get to live to fight another day. So I want to I want to value survivability above you know, recovery,

CHIP: you have to because otherwise you’re doing a disservice not just to yourself as the business owner, but To all of the other employees, right, and and so, you know, an agency that’s holding on to 20% of their staff and not laying them off because they don’t want to hurt them, maybe hurting 100% of their life plus themselves in their own families. Yeah, it’s just it’s it is it is short sighted thinking. Yeah, too. And I, I’ve never talked to someone who’s had to do layoffs, who didn’t say and myself included, who didn’t say, I waited too long. sooner, but not a single person said I laid off too soon. A single one. Yeah. In February,

BRAD: they say I regretted laying those people off. No,

CHIP: it’s just I mean, that is reality. And look, even even if business does come back. agencies in particular need to have a more flexible business model. And to the extent that they can work within the restrictions on independent contractors and Eb five and all that kind of stuff in California. If you can come up with a more flexible implementation model. You’re going to be in better shape not just coming out of this but for the long haul.

BRAD: That’s right. Yeah.

CHIP: So are there other other things that you think that that agency owners should be thinking about right now that you just kind of like to shake them and say, Hey, you need to understand this. What have we missed here?

BRAD: Well, I, we covered the big three to me, which is, how are you working effectively as a team? What are you doing from a new business perspective? And what are you doing about preserving your cash so that you can survive for the long run? I think that the last one probably would be just making sure that through all this, that you as the owner are maintaining your mindset that you’re you’re taking care of yourself so that you have the energy and the optimism to go through this. So that you can continue to pivot and make changes as the world changes. We’re not done changing. And so if you’re exhausted now, you need to find a way to take care of yourself because we’ve got, you know, another half or three quarters of the game. Yeah,

CHIP: I think that’s absolutely right. And and we don’t know what the rest of the game looks like even we, you know, it’s, it’s different from a sporting event where, you know, you know, how many innings or how many quarters are and, you know, we don’t really know. I mean, I think I think to me, that’s the thing that’s the most difficult, difficult about the current situation is the level of uncertainty. Yeah, even in 2001 2008, there was a little bit more certainty out there. You mean, you could sort of figure out a path forward now, you know, there are so many restrictions economically, logistically, it’s, you can’t figure it out. And I think that is probably the most challenging thing from a business operators.

BRAD: I agree with you businesses hate uncertainty. And so that uncertainty is really hurting us and you know, you use the term new normal. Earlier in the conversation. I’ve actually banned that from my vocabulary because I don’t know that we’re gonna know when we’re in normal. I think whatever we’re in right now is is normal for today. And so Waiting for a new normal or some breakthrough or some certainty, I think is gonna be really painful come into the year. So let’s look at where we are now and say okay, this is what we have to work with, let’s work with it, knowing that a month from now it could be totally different.

CHIP: Right? And to jump off of your point about focusing on your own well being, I think, you know, part of that is the the personal side, you know, making sure you’re getting sleep and exercise and, you know, needing not too unhealthy at least, you know, we’ll set a reasonable bar here because I think it’s fair to say most people have slipped a bit in quarantine.

BRAD: Yeah, my eating is okay, it’s this the drinking that’s the problem.

CHIP: Well, there you go. So, but but i think that you know, a piece of that, too, is spending some time making sure you’re carving time out from a business perspective to think about the opportunity and look to what you can make of the future because I if you get too buried in the survival aspect and in the day to day, it’s not You don’t Free your mind up and most agency people are creative in some fashion, whether it’s with words or images or code or, you know, something. And so, so making sure you have an outlet for that creative thinking is good for your health, I think as well as for your business.

BRAD: You know, somebody’s been thinking about the kind of jumps off on that point is that when we get to go back to the office, I think one of the temptations of going back to the office is going back and saying, Oh, good, everything goes back to normal. No, and, and one of the beauties of being out of the office is that we’ve been really innovative, right, that we’ve, we’ve changed a lot of things. We’ve tried a lot of things we didn’t think that we could try. When we go back to the office, we need to preserve that innovative experimental outside the box thinking because that’s what’s gonna get us through,

CHIP: right. And I think we are all learning useful things during this as painful as it maybe in the short term. I think we are all learning things we’ve accelerated, you know, some trends Like using videoconferencing, which you know, while people talk about being, you know, zoomed out or whatever, I get it, but at the same time, it’s so much better to be able to have a video of someone than a telephone of plain old girl phone call. So if

BRAD: this was six years ago,

CHIP: or even six months ago, I had a hard time getting people to turn their video on in zoom. Yeah, and it was it was it was really, really annoying to me. Because as someone who works from home, it’s nice to have that, you know, contact with people, and, and even doing things like this recording a podcast, it’s so helpful to be able to see each other because, you know, particularly in a group conversation, you can kind of pick up on who wants to speak next. Whereas when you’re doing a typical audio conference call everybody just stomping all over each other. Not that it doesn’t happen on zoom, but it happens less.

BRAD: So can I put you on the spot chip? You bet. What’s one tool that you’ve started using in the last two months that you’re like, I’m never going to stop using this other than the

CHIP: the big one for me is probably V max What’s that? It is a it’s a video production tool. Oh wow. Because one of the things that I have been doing more of during quarantine is is video and I’m looking to expand into that even further. And and this is actually something I just found in the last couple of weeks. And it really makes it easy to do good looking video productions on the fly. It’s designed for either live streaming or recording. And it just I really like In fact, I I almost tortured you into doing this as a V mix session. But I’m still I’m still working through some of the kinks and having guests on it.

BRAD: Well, I’m gonna check that out because that I’m doing more video as well. But the tool for me is mural. Have you ever used mural.co? I have not. What does that do? It’s a it’s a infinite whiteboard product. Okay, that that feels very much like you’re standing up in a wall with sticky notes and markers and all those tools and it’s really helping me to get a group of people to focus on working together collaborating on a project. And yeah, they’ve got some nice, like customer journey maps in there and personas and all those kind of tools. But you can also just take a blank whiteboard and stick sticky notes all over it. There’s voting, so you can vote on the sticky notes you can. So it’s a really nice tool for group collaboration.

CHIP: Yeah, and that sounds I’m definitely gonna check that out. And I but I think this touches on one other thing, and I and, and I apologize to all your listeners, because I always keep these shows under 30 minutes, but I just, I can’t help

BRAD: man,

CHIP: right through it. And the beauty is there are no rules here. We get to do what we want, because, well, I control the microphone on the record button and all that kind of stuff. But, you know, I think you’ve touched on something really important here, which is trying to think about how people collaborate and get together. Yep. Particularly until we have the ability to congregate in groups again. And I think that thinking creatively about how you can use use tools Like this neural product or Yep, other things happening to you, there are a lot of events that have been postponed, in fact, just about every event that’s right, postponed, right? A lot of people are replacing the in person event with a virtual event where it’s basically the same schedule.

BRAD: Yeah, ah,

CHIP: that doesn’t work. No, does not work does not make me sit in front of a computer for one or two or three days and just watch keynotes. No, not gonna do it. Nothing.

BRAD: My clients said, right? What’s the difference between a virtual conference and watching TV?

Like, oh, that’s, you’re stabbing me in the heart right there, man. That’s, that’s a good one.

CHIP: Well, watching TV, you can change the channel. Well.

But, but, you know, I think that but while it’s bad, particularly for those folks who are focused on events, either because it’s what they use for their own business, or they’re an agency that uses events with clients, it creates an opportunity for those folks who are thinking this through and saying, How can we do it differently? Yes. And it starts with asking the question, Why do people even come to this event anyway? Yeah. And I’m going to clue you in. It’s not because of the content. Right, right. People do not go to conferences, solely because they can sit through these sessions. In fact, if you go to sessions at conferences, you will see that a lot of them are not very well attended that

BRAD: Hall,

CHIP: they’re standing out in the hall. I mean, it’s, you know, I’m involved with some higher education work, and I was having a conversation with a university leader recently. And I was talking about the, you know, the fall semester, and, you know, a lot of colleges are trying to figure out are they going to be doing online learning still in the fall, or can they do something and I said, I said to them, point blank, I said, why would someone pay $65,000 a year to do online classes, particularly for undergraduate now graduate, you know, it is more about the coursework generally, but undergraduate it’s about the experience. Just go into the party just go into the sporting events. It’s, you know, living in the dorm, all these things that you don’t get through online, why would you pay that? It’s just it doesn’t make any sense to me.

BRAD: I have had parents say that exact thing to me. If we’re going online, I’m not paying 40 grand for my kid to do online learning,

CHIP: right? And unfortunately, so I have a high school senior, my oldest son is 18, and graduating in, I guess, just a month or so here. And so he was in the process of trying to figure out where to go to school. And so we had this conversation and we were talking about, do you take a year off and sort of see what’s going on? Or, you know, and And fortunately, one of his schools that he was accepted to was Southern New Hampshire University, which is, in addition to having the on campus experience has been a leader in online education. And they actually decided that for freshmen, they were going to give them the freshman year for free.

BRAD: Oh, that’s great. So sense Actually,

CHIP: yeah. And so it may not have been his first choice school generally. Right. But because it’s free. He gets to the bank a year of credits, no matter what happens. He knows that if they’re doing online only, it’s an institution that is familiar with how to write. Because frankly, that’s part of the problem in a lot of institutions of higher learning, have pockets of online learning that they’ve done. But I mean, I know one of the universities I’m really familiar with has three or four different applications they use in different. I mean, you got to have some

BRAD: elementary school has like five different ways that teachers are sending assignments to my fifth grader, and I’m like, you know, this is more than I can manage much less him.

CHIP: Yeah, and I can’t imagine I know a lot of people have elementary school aged children. I can’t imagine how you do or how it’s really even useful and productive. I mean, my kids fortunately, they’re in high school. Yeah. So online learning is, you know, not that difficult for them. My 15 year old has actually added a third computer monitor to his computer so that he can play fortnight and take classes. So Boris Yes,

BRAD: yes. Yeah. So as you do as you

CHIP: do, I mean, that’s that’s ingenuity and, you know, part of me wanted to say I keep believe you’re doing this, on the other hand, he was creative enough to figure out to do it. So, you know, points to him and it’s quarantines, all the rules are out the window. That’s it. That’s it. That’s it. But anyway, I don’t want to run too far over here. Yeah. So this has been a great conversation.

BRAD: I really appreciate it Chip. It’s been fun and let’s keep in touch because just the conversation that you and I had earlier, like there’s information that you have that I don’t have and I have that you don’t have so we will absolutely be talking and once I’ve got my my videos, skills knocked down, we’ll have you on for a live stream. And that sounds fun.

CHIP: And we’ll take some questions from the audience. Maybe if we can get real time so we’ll, we’ll have some fun with that. But in the meantime, if somebody would like to find out more about you or your podcast or your business, where the heck should they go Brad,

BRAD: anchor advisors comm is the is the best place to find me and if you’re interested in seeing where you are in terms of what the next steps are, you are for you to grow your agency if you go to anchor advisors.com slash Growth bash phase. There’s an assessment there that can help you to see kind of what the next things are you need to focus on.

CHIP: And you also have an excellent podcast that’s even more high energy than we were today, which was for folks listening to this podcast, that’s normally a little bit more NPR style. I think, you know, they’re gonna sit there and say, Oh, my God, more high energy than this one. Yeah, yeah. So So where can they find that was breaking

BRAD: down your business comm is our podcast called breaking down your business, Jill Salzman who has a ton of energy and brings it out to everybody around her. She and I partner on that podcast and it’s, it’s a, it’s like part cardstock part of a business Doc, and part of my morning Zoo to morning zoo.

CHIP: But it is great, and it is one of the podcasts I listened to every week. So we’ll include links to all that in the show notes for you all so that I would say if you were on your commute while you’re not on your commute, but if you’re on the treadmill or you might be walking the dog, you might be walking the dog you know with a face mask. appropriately Distort and all appropriately. We don’t want to encourage any bad behavior by this podcast. So with that, I thank you all for listening, Brad, I thank you for being the guest today. It’s been fantastic and we’ll be back with another episode real soon.