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A week doesn’t go by without Chip and Gini being asked about which software to use for sales tracking, media monitoring, time tracking, accounting, and more.

We get it. We like tinkering with tools, too.

But how should you approach making these choices for your own agency business?

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 tools, hammers, nails, screwdrivers, saws, table saws, right. No,

Gini Dietrich 

no. And I will say to you that we have a client who provides solutions. And anytime anybody writes that it’s a tool. They write in all caps. We are not a tool, and and sometimes I think

Chip Griffin 

I was gonna say, yeah. Oh, the fact that you say that, to them, the fact that you said that.

Hi, Mr. Yeah.

Gini Dietrich 

Not what we’re gonna talk about today, though,

Chip Griffin 

but it’s not. It’s not too far afield? I mean, what is it that they say that that a carpenter never blames his tools or something like that? It’s not one of those things, not the Yeah. Right. And and so that’s, that’s sort of that’s sort of where we’re headed. That’s a little bit of a teaser for you. So don’t go away after the commercial break that we don’t have.

Gini Dietrich 

That we don’t have.

Chip Griffin 

Right. We should have a commercial break, though. Don’t you think? I think I think we should have commercials. Yeah. So if you want to pay us a lot of money to have a commercial, we would be happy to go put it right here. Right in this very spot. Not not on this show. We can’t turn back to future future shows. I got it would be nice. Wouldn’t be nice. We’ll get back to the future this year. We could like, like, completely redo 2020 all over again.

Gini Dietrich 

Oh, yeah. It’s you know, time travel in general, I would really like to do

Chip Griffin 

some crazy hair. You know, that’s why I can’t if I go back into the pet while actually no, I guess. Well, I don’t know. Anyway,

Gini Dietrich 

like Brian Urlacher who used to play for the bears is advertising some care plug something they need to do that?

Chip Griffin 

Yeah. I mean, there are there are benefits to be involved, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. You know, my, my younger son has, you know, shoulder length hair at this point, because he hasn’t gotten his hair cut since February. And it looks atrocious. He’s, but we finally arranged for him to go to a properly socially distant barber this weekend so that he can

Gini Dietrich 

Oh, we’re not a picture. I want to see it before it’s taken off.

Chip Griffin 

Oh, I will, I will be sure to share with you his school picture that we just got back yesterday. I want to say it was special. It was special. It’s it’s the it’s the kind of photo you would expect to see on the TV news after he’d committed some horrific crime. That’s that’s that’s pretty much what that between the evil grin that he has on his face and the hair? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I will do that. Alright, so let’s let’s kind of Let’s Move from flux capacitors back to the kinds of tools that we actually use here in agency land, because that’s that’s what I wanted to talk about. Because it’s something that came up in the Spin Sucks community, and how do you get into the Spin Sucks community Jenny,

Gini Dietrich 

you go to Spin sucks.com slash Spin Sucks community and join there.

Chip Griffin 

And it is well worth it. There’s lots of great conversations there. But the conversation that I’m referring to right now is one where someone asked about project management tools and what people use and, and and what was effective and all that. And this is a question that comes up. I’d say about once a week for me with with someone in the agency world asking about a project management tool, a time tracking tool, a CRM monitoring service, immediate database, we’re consistently inundated with questions about what’s the best tool to use. And one of the things we saw in this conversation in the community is pretty much the same thing you see on all these a list of about 17 different possibilities. Right. And I’ve used a lot of the possibilities that were listed. They’re very good tools. They all do the job. The question is, is it really the tool? That’s the problem? Or should we be looking deeper into our processes?

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, and I think that that’s what the what it is, it’s not, it’s not the, like, we all and I gave options as well, we can all give options on what we like. But I think your point in the community itself was a very valid one, which is, what’s your process, and then find the tool that fits that because if you find a tool that you that has bells and whistles, and you think is very cool, but it doesn’t fit your process, it’s not gonna work. And you’re gonna be frustrated that you spent the money,

Chip Griffin 

right. And it happens all the time. And I’ve been guilty of this too. You go out there and I’m a diamond. I’m a tinkerer. I’m a tech geek, I will you know, I like trying out new hardware and software and seeing what works and what doesn’t. And, and every time you see something like oh, that’s pretty cool. I could do that. Or, oh, I look if I if I had this, if I had this tool, I could add this process and that process and do this. And my team would give me this and all of a sudden I would have all of this information. The problem is you have to think about what it takes to actually use the tool and get it to do all those things. Because even though it has the capability of doing it, most of the time it requires your team to be inputting information or you to be inputting information and then you have to consume But as well, are you actually going to do that if you’re not actually going to do it, don’t waste the time and money to build it or buy it, or force your team to do it, figure out what you actually need and work from there instead.

Gini Dietrich 

I think a really good example of that, and probably one we can all relate to is Salesforce. Because everybody by Salesforce and everybody uses means to use Salesforce from a sales perspective, which is great, because it integrates with all the stuff that we do from a marketing and communications perspective, if it’s used correctly, and it’s rarely used correctly. Rarely. And that that is probably the biggest complaint I hear from clients over and over and over again, is we spent all this money on Salesforce and it doesn’t work. Well, no, actually, Salesforce isn’t what’s not working. It’s the process. And I mean, we just had this conversation with a client earlier this week, which was, this is all fine and dandy. But if your sales team isn’t going to do this, this, this and this, then we’re not going to get the day that you’re requesting. Right. And so it’s some of that is a habit change, too, right. It’s saying to to your team, these are the things that are expected. And you have to do it this way. And that goes back to the process. If you have a very clear process and the way you a way you do things, then it becomes an expectation versus go in and use Salesforce if you want and you know, whatever it happens to be.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And I and I think that this is, this is one of the Salesforce is a great example, because there’s pretty much nothing that Salesforce cannot do. I mean, he can do things in the sales arena. But he can do things in pretty much every aspect of your business. Yeah, I have personally used it in many other aspects of the business. And if you spend the time and you do the tweaking and the customizations, and Salesforce even has its own coding system called Apex that allows you to I mean, you can customize the bejesus out of it to the point where it will do whatever you want. But, but you still have to actually do all the stuff with it. And you have to use it, you have to use it. And so so what I always encourage people, whether it’s project tracking, or sales, tracking, or time tracking, keep it simple. Start with start with the minimum amount that you need. And by minimum, I mean, put together a list and then cut stuff out of it. Because your first list of minimums is going to be bigger than what your actual list of minimums ought to be. So make, you can always add complexity, you can always add complexity. But if you come out of the gate, firing guns blazing with, you know, 75 different fields, you’re going to be forcing your team to look at it and say, Oh, my God is going to take me forever to do this. Right. And by the way, part of the problem too, is that for most small agencies, which is just about everybody listening to us right now, you don’t accumulate enough data on any of these things to be able to really run the kinds of reports that looks so cool and interesting in the demo. Right? I have put together plenty of sales tracking systems. And you know, people love to put in referral sources and reasons for loss and those kinds of things. And they put together these laundry lists of every possible reason. And then when you look at the report at the end of the year, nothing has more than one thing in it. Right? Because you’ve gotten so specific. Same thing with time tracking, I have seen time tracking setup, where it’s got, you know, I wrote a memo, I wrote an email, I wrote a one pager, I wrote an op ed, I wrote a press release. Yep. Why do I need all I mean, frankly, you probably don’t even need writing as a category, let alone every possible thing you could write, keep it simple, because otherwise, you’re not ending up with useful data, you’re putting a burden on your team to put together stuff that they don’t need to do. And that resistance is going to mean lack of compliance. Because if someone looks at and says, this is gonna take me too long, it’s too hard. They don’t just do it halfway. They don’t do it at all.

Gini Dietrich 

Right, right. I mean, I think anybody who’s done time tracking, has seen that you have some people who are good at it and do it. And then you have some people who wait until the end of the week. And then you have some people who wait till the end of the month. And then you have some people who just don’t do it at all. And when I worked in agencies, that was one of the biggest challenges. And they would say like, you know, there would be all sorts of threats. And we’re going to do this, if you don’t do that. And right, people just don’t do it, because it’s too hard. And I think your point is really good. Because in the big agencies, we had to record all this stuff. Like I wrote a memo, I wrote an email, I talked to the client for three minutes, like it’s Yeah, and it’s too much

Chip Griffin 

why it’s inaccurate, because you can’t really remember, but it’s also an accurate because at some point, you just start making stuff up just to get it done. Right. So you just sit down, say, Well, you know, I think I’ll put two hours writing and, you know, an hour of research and you know, whatever. That’s not that’s not useful. So, I mean, time tracking is an example. Start with the bare minimum, what’s the bare minimum? What’s the client? What’s the amount of time? That’s right, start there. If you find that, that you’re that you’re getting compliance, that that’s working well then maybe you start to add in you know, a Little bit of something extra. So you know, maybe you divide planning and execution or something like that, or there are, you can start gradually to add complexity once you’ve nailed the simple stuff. I mean, this is, this is like if you were to go out and you know, decide that you’re going to be an ice skater, and you’re going to go right to, you know, those fancy spin moves and stuff for

Gini Dietrich 

the analogy, they’re

Chip Griffin 

the actual apps or whatever they are. Because I was trying to make the point, that you probably don’t even know what these things are. So so. So why, why are you aiming for them? Right? I mean, for me, I would just focus on trying to remain upright for more than five seconds. If I was on the ice skates, I can say up right for more than five seconds. So I’m not on ice skates, just just for the record. So I don’t, I don’t have like major

Gini Dietrich 

decisions on how much you had to drink. But

Chip Griffin 

no, actually even even when I’ve had, that’s not really one of my issues. But anyway.

Gini Dietrich 

But I think that’s a really good point. And that it goes for anything, like you can’t go out and run 26.2 miles, which is a marathon, you have to actually train for it and prepare for it. So same kind of thing. You can’t, you can’t do those things. Um, but I think I think the point is really interesting. So we are actually going through the process of finding a project management system for a client. And we have the process set up. And right now, it’s driving me crazy. It’s in a spreadsheet, you know, all the stuff. But because it’s there, and we’ve created the process, and everybody’s accountable to certain columns in the spreadsheet, now we can take that and import it into a project management system, right? Where I think if we were just going, let’s do this, and, you know, check out how this project management system works, it would be a different story. But so you’re absolutely right, there has to be a process, it has to be simple. And then you can figure out the tools to help you make it better,

Chip Griffin 

right, and your, your team has to see this as a win, by the way, right? So and this just goes particularly for project tracking time tracking, those kinds of things. They’re the tip of the spear, they’re the people who are who are taking on the burden of these systems, they have to, to see that there is a benefit to them doing it. So with time tracking, I always like to show people how it helps you understand, you know, where they’re perhaps overloaded, how you can help improve their workload or when you need to do additional hiring those kinds of things, so that they understand that that there’s benefit to them. Project tracking, same thing. So with a project tracking solution and process, I always like to start with what are the pain points? What What is it? Why are we implementing this? And, you know, usually the first answer I get from someone as well, we’re trying to keep better track of things. We want to have, you know, better accountability, blah, blah, blah, well, that’s, that’s garbage, right? Because it’s really, you know, what’s what’s falling through the cracks right now? Is it that you’re trying to make yourself more efficient? Is that that you can’t find the information that you need when you need it? Is it that the clients are complaining that you’re, you know, you’re missing things? You know, what is it really that you’re trying to solve and start with that. So if you start there, then your team will start to see the benefits, because if they say, look, I can never find the latest version, the approved talking points, you know, I can never find the list of things that we promised you that you Jenny have promised and I need to execute on, I can’t find that list easily, I always have to ask you, okay, great. Those are, those are perfect things to use a project tracking system for is a repository for information. And there’s a list of agreed upon tasks, and you know, who owes who what Mecca, that’s great. But if you’re thinking about it in terms of a manager, I want to see what Sally’s working on, I want to know, you know what Joe is behind on, if you start thinking about it in those terms, it becomes more of a big brother tool that the team is just naturally going to resist. So solve the team’s problems first, and then figure out how you extract information for yourself after that.

Gini Dietrich 

And also, I mean, you’re the same way. But having that kind of information at your fingertips. There’s just too much like I don’t want to know that somebody’s a day behind on something, I want to know that we’ve met the goal, and that we’ve delivered the result. And that’s that, for me, would create a level of anxiety and stress that I don’t need. I don’t need that. So yes, focus on what the team needs. And then you can build in the rest but using it from a big big brother tool.

Chip Griffin 

Right? I mean, and there is it is valuable to have some of this stuff in there. Because, you know, while I agree with you, I you know, I don’t necessarily want to see that, that someone’s a day behind on something. If I’m the direct client contact, and I’ve got other people in the agency I’m working with, I may want that information readily available to me. If so, if the client calls up and says, Where do we stand on this? I can bring it up and see we have

Gini Dietrich 

it right that you

Chip Griffin 

know that this is, you know that this is moved from the you know, the writing team to the design team, it will be coming back to me, you know, probably in the next day or so. Right. So seeing and a lot of it comes down to how your agency works. What are your process if you are if you are a small agency where you have one person assigned to a client and they pretty much do everything You probably don’t need a whole lot from, from a project management tool perspective, right? If you project management tools become more important, the more individuals are working on individual projects, right? That’s the, it’s when there’s that overlap, that’s where these tools really shine. And if you’re if you’re doing it in your three person shop, and nobody overlaps on any other projects, you know, yes, you know, maybe you need something, because you need to have a repository. So you’ve got the processes. So if someone gets hit by a bus, you can actually sort of pick up from somewhere you

Gini Dietrich 

prefer to say one won the lottery, they won the lottery.

Chip Griffin 

Well, you can prefer to say that all you want, but I say spy bus. I’ve said it for 25 years, I had for years,

Gini Dietrich 

I had a lottery, I

Chip Griffin 

used to have an I used to have an envelope in my desk at the office that said hit by a bus. It was sealed. And it had all of my key passwords and you know, secret ish information that someone would be to take over if something happened. I that’s what I called it. I call it hip. I’m gonna keep calling it by bus. I’m sorry,

Gini Dietrich 

huh? Well, if you get hit by by a bus, I will come clean out your browser history for you.

Chip Griffin 

Oh, you will be able to get on my computer. So that’s not a problem. I don’t know. Nobody has the password any my computer’s? Because nobody needs that if I’m gone. You don’t need my computers you need, you know, perhaps on my financial accounts and that kind of stuff. But maybe. Good luck. It ain’t gonna happen. I take security seriously. But in any case. Yeah, you know, it is. And by the way to be hit by a bus, I’d actually have to leave the house, which almost never happens anymore. So that’s Yeah,

Gini Dietrich 

I mean, at this point, you might have a bomb dropped on your house? Or, you know, the West is burning. Maybe the if that happens in the east on the east? I don’t know.

Chip Griffin 

Yes.

Gini Dietrich 

But you’re right to be hit by a bus.

Chip Griffin 

I also live in rural New Hampshire. So I have to travel quite a distance just to get somewhere where there’s a bus under normal conditions. Yeah. I mean, I just school. There’s a school bus that comes to my house. Yeah. But anyway, um, so. So yeah, so I so on a very small team, you still need something because I think it is important to have those things in place. So that I mean, even if it’s not getting actually hit by a bus, you can, someone can be out for a day. Right. And so having someone who’s able to access their stuff in the middle of a crisis, I mean, we’ve always had process documents that were put together if we had a single person working on a project, so that if we had to hop in and help them out in a pinch, you know, you know, so and it may mean that it may just be that they had to go, you know, help a family member or something like that. And so instead of saying, Okay, before you get on that plane, to go see your family member I need, I need you to tell me all these things. Project tracking allows you to pick that up. So So having something even in a small team can be useful, but the the amount of information that you have to track becomes a lot less, the smaller your team is. And so you shouldn’t be looking at some of these tools that may be built for teams of 50 or 100 people and try to apply everything to your team of five, right, you need to be thoughtful about it. And that’s that’s why I think it’s so important to start with the process first, and then figure out the tools to get there. And you might even start super simple. You might as you did use a spreadsheet first. Right? Because that that helps you figure out, you know, are is this information really helpful. In fact, I just saw a video on YouTube this week, where there was, I think, an SEO agency that was using, you know, pretty complex Google Sheets to do project tracking, they didn’t like any of the tools that they had found. And I looked at them like that it’s kind of ugly, and not the way I would do it. But it worked for them. And the trick is that you just have to get people to actually use it. And so if you if you start simple and figure out what works and what doesn’t that will then inform your decision on a tool. Because most of the time when when I see someone buy a software tool, or frankly, when I bought them from my own teams, we don’t use 90% of what the tool is capable of.

Gini Dietrich 

Yep, absolutely. Yep.

Chip Griffin 

And we use less than half of what we thought we would when we started.

Gini Dietrich 

Right, right. I mean, there are definitely some very cool tools out there. And I think you know, you you see the bells and the whistles and you’re like, Oh, that’s pretty and that’s cool. And if we had this, we would do this. And I mean, truth be told, you just don’t have the time unless you have somebody on the team that is focused solely on building your project management system or whatever system it has to be. It is and building it and you know, customizing and coding and all that kind of stuff unless there’s one person solely focused on it. You just don’t have the time to use all the bells and whistles. So find something that works for the need right now. You can always graduate later. But it definitely has to be something that’s appealing to you like I can’t stand Asana. Everybody loves Asana, I hate it, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. You’re not ever going to get me on Asana. And it’s just because visually I know I’ve tried. I know I can’t do it. It’s I don’t know why that’s just not it doesn’t work for me. And so you also have to find something that works for everyone. And, you know, make sure that it’s a clickable to because you will still have challenges getting people to use it.

Chip Griffin 

Right and, and look, at the end of the day, you as the leader still have to make a final decision, you’re probably not going to, you’re not going to have everybody happy. But if you’re swoop in, and the first that they hear about it is when you sit down with them and say, here’s the tool we’re using, here’s how we’re going to use it, go forth and start right now, I guarantee you, it’s not going to end well, you may have the best tool and the best plan and it may make perfect sense. And you know, in a in another universe, they would have loved it. But because they didn’t feel invested in the process of choosing it and setting the process, you’ve set yourself up for failure. So it is your job, as much as you may not want to, to actually reach out to your team and ask them for their input clued them into what you’re working on. And this is this is very difficult. And I have to tell you, when I first became a manager 25, almost 25 years ago. Now I remember very distinctly where I was having a meeting, and someone pushed back on something I said we were going to do. And I said, Well, this isn’t a democracy. Now, Bear, it’s true. It’s not the best way to handle it, particularly when the person that I said that to was almost twice my age. And, and, and in fairness, she was also

Gini Dietrich 

surprised me about you.

Chip Griffin 

She wasn’t while I was 23. So I mean, it was it was I was very, very young for the responsibility I had been given at that point. But a was the start of the internet bubble. And so you know, why not hire a 23 year old CEO, it makes perfect sense. And so the the team that was all considerably older than that really appreciated it when I when I came in, I started telling them what to do. And of course, I was very diplomatic back in those days. I mean, I’m

Gini Dietrich 

sure very, I mean, not a democracy is very diplomatic.

Chip Griffin 

In fairness, I mean, she did set me off because she tried to have the team vote on something that I had said, we were doing one thing, and she wanted to take a vote to go in a different direction. And so so she did kind of provoke it. At the same time,

Gini Dietrich 

it is not a democracy.

Chip Griffin 

That is true. At the same time. If I had gone in and said, Look, you know, here’s what I’m thinking, you know, what do you think, and and sort of tried to bring them along, you don’t have to just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion, or change your decision as a leader. But if someone doesn’t feel like they’ve even been listened to, if they don’t feel like they’ve even been consulted, particularly begins in these kinds of tools with they’re the ones who are going to be using it day in and day out. The agency owner rarely spends a lot of time in the project management tool. Right? Generally, it is the the individual employees that are spending their day in that tool. And if they feel like they had it handed down from on high, and if they feel like it’s just a big brother tool to track projects, or to track time, or to track sales efforts, it doesn’t matter what it is, if they feel that’s what it is. That’s how they’re gonna treat it. So you need to get them involved in the process, you need to ask them, what are the pain points? How can I help you solve them? How can this tool help solve them. And if you can’t put the processes that help make your team better, and then select the tool or the software or whatever, after that, you have a much higher probability of success, it doesn’t make it’s still not gonna be easy, right? Even when the team loves the tool and thinks it’s it’s really smart, you still will have a hard time getting them to do all the data entry that’s needed and do it in a timely fashion. But you have no chance if you don’t have it. Correct.

Gini Dietrich 

You have to create a habit and it’s not easy to do that. So you also have to be patient.

Chip Griffin 

Yes, patient just like me very patient all the time to know. Right?

Gini Dietrich 

Well, on that note,

Chip Griffin 

I do believe that will bring us to the end of another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast that by the way, we used to try to play on through Asana. We do not plan it through Asana anymore. We plan it by getting on the phone right before we start this recording and saying, hey,

what should we talk about? that’s not entirely true. You sent me an email an hour and a half before with some ideas. And I’ve done that before. And then you change the topic two minutes into the show. That was just a couple weeks ago. So I mean,

Gini Dietrich 

that’s true, but it was a very good show.

Chip Griffin 

It was it was a very good if depressing show. If you have not listened to the doom and gloom episode, grab yourself a cocktail of choice. Go listen to it. And then then make sure that someone restrained you afterwards. Yeah. doom and gloom episode. doom and gloom, Agency Leadership podcast.com. You can find it right there. Storm clouds in the thumbnail and everything. Alright, so with that, I am Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin 

and it depends

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