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A piece of advice I wish someone had given me 30 years ago!

Agency

I want to share something that may help my fellow agency owners. I ran my own agency for 11 years (before selling up), and even though I’m grateful for the experience… man, there were some hard times.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the experience I had towards the end of running my marketing agency.  I was thinking about all the hard times, and how when I was so deep in the valley, it was tough to see the light. So I decided to write a letter to myself 15 years ago. I wish I had this letter at the time because it would have been so encouraging, given what I was going through. I wasn’t going to share this, but it may help some of you, so here you go. Here’s the letter I wrote to Rob, the burned out agency owner, 15 years ago.

Dear Rob,

I know you aren’t that motivated to be at work today and you are almost certainly distracted.  No doubt your day will be filled with handling difficult clients. I know how hard it’s been recently dealing with the loss of XYZ client. They were 40% of your revenue, and you lost them virtually overnight. You’re panicking, and wondering how you’re going to make payroll with such a big loss.

You’re walking into work every day expecting to deal with yet another  ‘wheelbarrow of crap’. Problem after problem. Frustration after frustration. You’re wondering how the hell the ACTUAL business has strayed so far away from the VISION you originally had for it.

You’re wondering how long you’re going to feel so damn… lonely.

But before you throw away a great business because you think the other man’s grass is greener, let me tell you one important thing: It gets better,

Rob, my friend, here is what you need to do to turn it around:

  1. You have the potential for a great business that not only earns you a lot of money but also could give you the freedom you desire – if you make the right decisions.  So go and get some external assistance (a coach) to help you objectively see this.
  2. Remember to follow your passion. Ask yourself:  What changes do you need to make to create a business you feel passionate about again? How can you spark that same joy felt when this business only existed on the back of a napkin? There is really nothing stopping you except yourself! Which is GREAT. Because you are in full control of your destiny. And you have what it takes.
  3. Create a REAL plan (not that ineffective plan sitting on your desk that’s not really a plan, just a to-do list for today) that fires you up and that you can get your staff to execute — with excitement.  That way you can see that you are on the right track, rather than just meandering along, HOPING things will get better on their own.

Trust me, if you do these things, you will quickly realise there are more options than just selling the business. And done right, you could have the freedom to pursue other things. Like travel more. Start that business in Spain. Become a coach and so on.

Do you know the best part, Rob? The part you can’t see right now, but I wish you could? It’s that you can do all this while keeping a business running that earns you a good income and provides a great life.

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Are you an energy sapper or an energiser?

negativity

We all know the type. You can feel them when you walk into the room and you can almost see a grey cloud over them. These are the people who put a pair of grey glasses on every day when they leave for work. They see the reason why something won’t work, as their default position. They are the victims; they are helpless to affect change. They are the energy sappers.

I occasionally get to experience this with clients or when delivering training. It only takes one! Then all the attention and time is swallowed up trying to convince that person to take their grey glasses off. Not only does this suck the energy from the room, it is also unfair on the rest of the team.

Some common traits of the sapper is that they constantly air negative views, fail to engage others, favour their own solutions or fail to deliver on the commitments they make and are poor listeners. These actions drain the energy of their colleagues, stifle creativity and hinder progress on initiatives.

Many business leaders believe that energy sappers are the biggest obstacle to success.

So what can you do?

  1. Avoid hiring them in the first place –easier said than done! (after all we always show the ‘best version of ourselves’ in an interview). But what questions are you asking them to find this out? What previous scenarios are you exploring with them? Also make sure you follow up references and discuss the candidates moods in their previous role
  1. Address poor behaviours as close to the scenario as possible. Explain we can deliver on tasks in a number of ways from delightful to disaster – and we want them to do it in a delightful way. Get them to ‘stand in other people’s shoes’
  1. Define ‘energising behaviours’ and reward staff who exhibit these behaviours
  1. Start a more formal performance management route which could end with them exiting from the business or moving role

The flip side of the sapper are those people who “energise” others.

They are high performers and help create high performance, high-energy environments. We want energisers in our business and we want to encourage, acknowledge and reward these behaviours. So define your company values and the behaviours that sit behind them. Ensure roles & responsibilities contain a description of ideal behaviours and not just tasks. Recognise and reward great behaviours not just the completion of objectives.

The traits of the energiser are not surprisingly the complete opposite of the sapper: they are open to ideas, inclusive, look for the positive, are great listeners and team players. Energisers bring energy into the room and we want them in our businesses.

So tomorrow morning, as you leave the house, consider what glasses you are going to put on – grey? neutral? or rose tinted? Are you going to be the sapper or the energiser?

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