ALP 24: 7 Key skills for agency owners to develop (Part 2 Of 2)

In the second part of a special two episode series, Chip and Gini discuss fundamental skills that PR and marketing agency owners should spend time and effort to improve to be more successful.

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In the second part of a special two episode series, Chip and Gini discuss fundamental skills that PR and marketing agency owners should spend time and effort to improve to be more successful.

The topic was first raised by Gini on her Spin Sucks Podcast.

The skills she identifies include:

  • Networking
  • Financials
  • Estimates
  • Patience
  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Learning

Over the course of these two episodes, Chip and Gini look at why each is important and how to find ways to improve.

No matter how experienced an agency owner may be, there is always room to grow.

Transcript

CHIP:
That brings us to patientce. Something that that I think both you and I are are really fantastic at – really patient. No?

GINI:
No. And I will tell you honestly and truly – I did not get good at this until I had a child and then it was like oh, okay, I have to be better at this. So that is honestly what forced me into becoming more patient, just overall.

CHIP:
See, I have teenagers so my patience is… I used it all up years ago. No, but it’s look it’s it’s it’s a good point. And when I was first getting started in being a manager, let alone an owner patience was not something that was easy for me. And I know that back then I had a much shorter fuse, if you will. I mean, I was never a yeller and a screamer but I you know, I got I got frustrated and and everybody knew it very quickly. And you know, one of the things that that I have worked on consciously over the years is to, you know, not dumb down my expectations but realize that not everybody has that same level of skill and experience that I do. So it’s going to take some people longer to do something, longer to figure something out. And and I think all of that goes into developing that patience to be better because it makes you a better manager. It makes you better with your client relationships because you got to have patience with clients too, it’s not just employees.

GINI:
Yes you do. Yeah, and I would also add to that, that you have to be patient in terms of results for your own business. So what I see a lot is somebody will say, okay, we did $120,000 in revenue this year, and 100 of that went to me. Next year, I want to make $250,000, and you know, more than – more than double my – so you would have to almost triple your, your revenue in order to take that home. And then they’re not taking into account employees and all that all that kind of stuff. But I see that a lot where it’s like, is that really feasible? Or does it make sense for us to actually plan this out so that you have consistent growth, but it may not be 150% or 300%, but it’s 50%,

CHIP:
Right. And, and part of that’s where, you know, one of those gut check tests comes in, you know, okay, I want to, you know, go from, you know, 100 to 250 or whatever, you know, what does it take to get there? Is that really realistic? You know, okay, that means I have to add five new clients a month, is that probably going to happen? Okay, maybe not…

GINI:
And can I manage five new clients a month?

CHIP:
Right. And, and what does it mean from a staffing perspective, because, you know, I think, you know, a lot of times these things, you know, projections get made sort of pie in the sky, but nobody says, okay, you know, what are the steps that need to be taken to get there? Yeah, and it’s not just the sell side, you know, sometimes people will at least go through that exercise, but what does it take to actually onboard all those clients? Right, all of those different things that go into it. So I think that’s an important piece of the patience as well. And finally, on patience, I would say, it also means that if you’re implementing a strategy, particularly for growing your business, or something like that, you have to be patient and let – and see if it works. Right. Frequently. I see someone, you know… you know, and, and what, that can go for your own business or for what you’re doing for clients. But, you know, I mean, you know, if you’re, if you’re, you know, started a blog, and, and, you know, six weeks in, you don’t have the traffic you expected? Well, do you quit? No, because it takes time. Yes. Right. And, and the other thing, you know, some things you get instant feedback on, you know, if you’re doing online ads, you can get some pretty instant feedback. All you need to make sure your sample sizes are big enough. So, you know…

GINI:
With that I’d say, you need some time too. I mean, you don’t need a year, but you probably need a few weeks.

CHIP:
Yes, exactly. So, you know, you need to need to try to figure out, you know, what’s working, what isn’t, but give it time. And, and that will depend on the individual tactic. But you want to have the patience to see it through. Otherwise, you’re just going to be, you know, bouncing around like a pinball, right, trying different things. And hopefully, you hit the right bumper. And I don’t know, I was never a pinball guy. So…

GINI:
I’m not either. It sounded good, keep it up.

CHIP:
The ball bounces around, something good probably happens at some point in that game, you know, whatever. Anyway, so you get the point. Be patient.

GINI:
Which leads us to communication. And, you know, for me as a communicator, I mean, duh, that’s literally our jobs. But I think that there’s a difference between being able to communicate externally through copywriting or marketing, or brand messaging, or, you know, working with journalists, or however, it is that you that you help clients communicate, there’s a difference between that, and the interpersonal kind. And the example I always like to use is, I worked for a very large agency. And I loved my time there, because I learned everything there is to know about communications from that, from that job. From that those few years of my life. I also learned that, and I didn’t know at the time that this was bad, because this was how they quote unquote, communicated if there was something bad or criticism they would – and this was back before email was prevalent in the office, which tells you how old I am – they would send a memo, and they put it on everybody’s desk. And they would do it at the end of the day. And then they send you home, and you were like, what? And then when email came into play, they would send emails in the middle of the night, that would land in your inbox, and you’d get it, you know, early the next morning, and you’re like, the interpersonal communication piece of it. I didn’t even get until I had a managing supervisor on my team for my business, who said, You can’t do that. Like, that’s not how you communicate. And I truly did not understand that until she said that to me. And it’s because of the experience I had at the big agency, where that’s how they that’s how they all communicated. The partner of the profit center, the GM of the office, they all communicated that way. So I think there’s a difference between the way that we do it as professionals, and then the way we do it interpersonally,

CHIP:
Can I just say that I think most agencies are absolutely horrible at internal communications.

GINI:
I would agree with that. Most people. I would say most people.

CHIP:
I mean – most most people, but I think for for whatever reason, and I think, you know, part of it comes from the way sort of most agencies develop over time, but it – internal communications is a real weakness and the larger you get the more profound that becomes.

GINI:
Yep. Fair.

CHIP:
So I think that’s something that there needs to be more focus on in agencies to make sure that they are figuring out what to communicate, when to communicate, how to communicate, because it – the culture in an agency can fall apart so quickly, if, you know, there’s sort of negative attitudes and most of those come about because people aren’t communicating effectively. So, so it’s something really, really every manager, every owner needs to be working on constantly.

GINI:
Yeah, and it is something you need to work on constantly, constantly, constantly, and get the professional development help if you need it.

CHIP:
And and then of course, you know, as you’re, you know, developing these interpersonal skills, you’ll have to negotiate with each other a little bit. And that’s your next skill, negotiation.

GINI:
I have never, ever in the 14 years that I have owned this agency had a woman negotiate her job with us ever. Men always do always, always always, they always negotiate. Women, never. And and it’s a gross generalization, but in my experience in my agency, not one woman we have hired has negotiated. Not one.

CHIP:
Hm. That’s an interesting observation. I mean, I have to say, from my own experience, I’ve had a number of women negotiate with me.

GINI:
That’s great because…

CHIP:
Maybe I just looked like a softy. Maybe easy target. I don’t know. But, you know, but but it is. I mean, certainly that’s something that most of the research suggests right? Is that is that that that is you know, much more common than not and you know, certainly I think you know, that’s something that female employees need to work on, female owners as well. But males too. I mean that you know, I mean, I I think that there are…People leave a lot of money and other opportunities on the table because they’re not willing to negotiate.

GINI:
Yep. Don’t want to rock the boat or whatever it happens to be.

CHIP:
Yeah, but at the same time, you know, one of the fine arts is figuring out what to negotiate and what not to, right, because I’ve also seen, you know, whether it’s in business or employment or other things where people negotiate over the dumbest stuff. And, and so, you know, I think, you know, as the important as developing the actual skill to negotiate is to figure out what to negotiate because if you, you can, the other way you can leave money on the table is by negotiating hard for something that’s pointless, winning that pointless argument, but then not getting what, you know, would really be beneficial.

GINI:
It’s like the battle versus the war. Yeah.

CHIP:
So, I think there, you know, it all comes down to having an actual strategy. And, and I’m a big believer that people make the most mistakes in business and probably in life when when they act without intent. Yes. And, and I think that a lot of negotiating, even when it does happen is unintentional. And I don’t mean accidental, but I mean, you know, that there’s not a specific goal in mind and an understanding of, of what you want to achieve, and how to get there. So, you know, those are things that you need to work out. There are a lot of, you know, good resources on negotiating, seems like every six months or so, some, you know, at least halfway decent book comes out. Yeah, there, you know, there’s really no substitute for experience, right. And just trying. Yeah, and most of the time, the worst that can happen is someone says, No, right? I mean, it’s, it is rare that, you know, you’re having a salary negotiation. And, you know, your boss says, not only we’re not giving you a raise, but you’re fired, right, right, right. I mean, right. Now, that that can happen. I, I’ve certainly done that. If someone’s come to me with an ultimatum, right? If they come to me, and say, I’m leaving if you don’t give me X dollars…

GINI:
That’s not negotiation.

CHIP:
And I’ve had that happen two or three times in my career each time I’ve said bye, bye. In one case, the poor guy was just shocked. He had he, he thought I would counter or something. I’m like, No, you just walked in and basically threatened me. Yeah. So buh-bye, that’s not how we do things here. Yeah. And and so, you know, again, that comes down to strategy, right? He didn’t have a good strategy coming into it. And the final thing I would say on negotiation, is it you know, you’re in your strongest position as negotiator when you’re willing to walk away, right. And so, so that’s, you know, that’s true of a job offer. It’s true of potential client relationship. Yep. So if you’re not willing to walk away, then you have to realize that you’re in a weaker negotiating position. And so those may be the times where you don’t want to push as hard. But if you’re willing to walk away, you can often get a whole lot more. Yeah, but but you got, but the idea that this isn’t going to happen, whether it’s a deal with a client or a job offer, or whatever.

GINI:
Murphy and his law, that’s how it works.

CHIP:
And you know, I think everything that we’ve been talking about is all rooted in your final habit, skill, whatever that you address in that podcast. So why don’t we talk about that one, it’s learning. Which, hopefully, people are doing from listening to this podcast, hopefully you folks have learned something.

GINI:
And I think we are both really big advocates of professional development in general. But you know, one of the things I always say is, Michael Jordan had a coach, one of the best basketball players ever in history also had arguably one of the best coaches in history ever. But everybody who is hugely successful has somebody or something that has helped them along the way. And I think what we tend to do is, well, you know, I’ve got the family, and I’ve got the house and I’ve got, you know, all these responsibilities, and I’ve got to get to work. I’m like, I have all this stuff, I don’t have time for me. And that’s a really big mistake. Because, especially today, as things evolve and change as quickly as they do, we have to keep up. Because if we’re not keeping up, we’re going to be extinct. And you don’t want that to happen. So when you think about the types of things that you should be doing as an agency owner, not just from a business perspective, but how you might evolve or learn new things, so that you can bring it into the agency to serve better service clients, these are the kinds of things that you should be responsible for.

CHIP:
Yeah, and there are so many different ways to learn today, right? I mean, there’s online courses, there’s YouTube, there’s blog posts, there are really smart, talented professional advisors like you and me, who can help folks, right? There’s a, there’s a lot of different ways that you can do it, you can find mentors, right? I mean, you know, whatever. And everybody has a different style of learning, right? Some people will learn much better visually, some people want to have a conversation, some people can read -whatever it is, you just need to find. First of all, you need to identify the things that you want or need to learn. Right right. And and hopefully this podcast is giving you some ideas for things that that might be worthwhile for you to learn and improve on. And then you have to figure out, okay if that’s what I want to learn you know, what are my choices what’s my style of learning?, and go from there and it’s not always something that’s… you know, it doesn’t have to be fancy you know, you don’t have to go back to school necessarily, you know, you don’t necessarily have to go to a you know multi-thousand dollar conference to learn something. There’s a lot of ways that you can do professional development and learn and and you just need to figure out what’s going to work best for you

GINI:
Yeah, and that’s exactly right. I mean, there’s so much stuff out there. You can read books, you can take online courses, you can go back to school – I mean there’s a lot of stuff you can do today.

CHIP:
And of course you can listen to podcasts. And so that – consider this your professional development for this week as you’ve been listening…

GINI:
And next!

CHIP:
And next, yes, as you as you been listening to the Agency Leadership podcast. Oh, this will be the end of the second episode now, so it would have been last week and this week. Now now I’m all turned around and confused, but you know, as you all are listening you realize just how real this podcast is, dear listener. We just kind of wing it, we go with the flow, and we share what’s on our mind for better or for worse, but hopefully this has been for the better and we appreciate you taking the time to listen, go forth and learn. And with that, I’m Chip Griffin.

GINI:
And I’m Gini Dietrich.

CHIP:
And it depends.

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