Tag Archives for " business vision "

Managing Your Imposter Syndrome

Managing Your Imposter Syndrome

Let's face it, we all suffer from imposter syndrome at some point or another.

The key message here is that you are not alone, and your best bet to manage your imposter syndrome is to change the relationship you have with your inner critic.

Today we're going to talk about imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments, and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud!

Once we realise we all suffer from imposter syndrome and we can do something about it, we can start to take control.

So in today’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share some strategies for changing your inner voice from a critic to a more supportive (coaching) voice and 6-steps to overcome that negative voice in your head to have a better relationship with your inner critic and consequently tone down your feelings of being an imposter and being found out!

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:29]  

What is imposter syndrome?

[2:32] 

Keypoint #1: Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome at some point or another, including all the most successful entrepreneurs. 

[3:01] 

Keypoint #2: It's not about getting rid of imposter syndrome, it's about having a more healthy relationship with your inner voice.

[3:23] 

Keypoint #3: There are certain traits that entrepreneurs have that can lead to imposter syndrome

[3:33] 

How being a ‘perfectionist’ can lead to imposter syndrome 

[4:04] 

How being an ‘expert’ can lead to imposter syndrome

[4:47] 

How being a ‘poor delegator’ can lead to imposter syndrome

[5:09] 

How trying to be superman/superwoman can lead to imposter syndrome

[5:25] 

Tips to manage that inner voice in your head

[6:03] 

The 21-day challenge to change a behaviour

[7:17] 

How to overcome your imposter syndrome

[9:36] 

Why the idea of journaling can help 

[10:48] 

How to find the balance between your successes and failures

[13:06]

6 Steps in managing imposter syndrome

[13:12] 

Step #1: Acknowledge that everybody suffers from this and talk about it.

[13:22] 

Step #2: Separate feelings from facts.

[13:44] 

Step #3: Develop a healthy response to failure and mistakes

[14:14] 

Step #4: Write the rules and recognise that you have as much right as the next person to be wrong, to have an off day or to ask for help.

[14:35] 

Step #5: Do what professional athletes do and visualise success e.g. spend time beforehand picturing yourself making an amazing presentation or public speech. 

[14:54] 

Step #6: ‘fake it till you make it’ or ‘act as if.’ 

Quotations

“..the key message in today's episode is that you are not alone, and your best bet to manage your imposter syndrome is to change the relationship you have with that voice in your head, that inner critic.” - Rob Da Costa

“I find having a realistic to-do list every day really helps because it helps me feel accomplished… I'm focused on the most important things in my business through moving my business forward and with no distractions.” - Rob Da Costa

“We need to be kind to ourselves.” - Rob Da Costa

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

“I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode.” If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not subscribed, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Subscribe now!

Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

Let's face it, we all suffer from imposter syndrome.

So, the key message in today's episode is that you are not alone, and your best bet to manage your imposter syndrome is to change the relationship you have with that voice in your head, that inner critic. So, that's what we're gonna be talking about today, the thorny topic of imposter syndrome. 

Today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Loved by agencies around the world, Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web hosting related complexities, leaving users free to focus on growing their businesses and clients. The platform offers unmatched performance, reliability choice and 24/7 365 support that acts as an extension to your own team making Cloudways the ultimate choice for growing agencies. 

Now, at present, Cloudways is offering an exclusive discount for The Agency Accelerator listeners, so, visit cloudways.com and use the promo code AA20 to get a discount of 20% off on your first three (3) months on the hosting platform of your choice.

Okay, on with today's show. 

Today we're going to talk about imposter syndrome, and I thought it's probably best to start with some kind of definition because we've probably all got a different view of what imposter syndrome is. 

Based on my research, imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which individuals doubt their skills, their talents and their accomplishments. And they have this persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud, which I'm sure we can all relate to. Despite external evidence of their competence, those who experience imposter syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and they don't deserve to have the success and all the things that they've achieved. And what they end up doing is incorrectly attribute the success to just good luck or being in the right place at the right time. So, in the end, imposter syndrome keeps us in our comfort zone and stops us from growing and it stops us from taking risks, and it's worth noting that it impacts men and women in equal measure. 

Whoa! That feels really depressing but we can't just ignore that in a critic. Especially at the moment where we're all becoming much more aware and talking more about our mental health. Allowing the inner critic is not going to help yours or my own mental health. I think it's worth reiterating that everyone has imposter syndrome to some degree or another, including the most successful entrepreneurs who looked like the most confident people in the world. So, it's worth knowing that you are not alone and that is the first key point to take away from today's episode.

Secondly, another key point is that it isn't about getting rid of your imposter syndrome, because if we know we've all got it. It's not about getting rid of it. It's about having a more healthy relationship with your inner voice and finding tactics which I'm going to talk about to improve that relationship.

Now, the third point I want to make is that there are certain traits that entrepreneurs have that can lead to making your imposter syndrome more debilitating. 

So, let's just unpack a few of these. 

First of all, there's the perfectionist, which, of course, many entrepreneurs are. Now, perfectionists set an extremely high expectation for themselves, which by definition means they can never succeed. So, even if they are meeting 99% of those very high expectations and goals, they're still going to feel like failures, and any small mistake will make them question their own competence. And, guess what? This leads to a kind of reinforcing that inner voice. That's saying, ‘Hey, you're a fraud, you're an imposter, you're going to be found out.’ 

The second type is the expert, and the expert feels like they need to know absolutely everything before they start a project or before they can call themselves really competent. So, they're constantly looking for new channels to learn or books to read. In the end, the expert often sticks in their comfort zone for fear of not knowing enough if they expand their horizons and step outside. And, guess what? This leads to imposter syndrome.

Now, the third trait that can often lead to further enforcing imposter syndrome is the fact that agency owners are often poor delegators, and so they sort of becoming soloists because they feel like they have to accomplish all these tasks themselves, and they have to be experts before they could possibly ask anyone else to do it. This means that they don't delegate, they don't ask for help, they think that if they do need to ask for help or they can't do it themselves, they think they are a failure and a fraud. This leads to imposter syndrome. 

I just want to say that as a good delegator, you don't have to be able to do the task but you have to understand what the task is, what the outcome is, and how to communicate effectively to your team member. 

And the fourth trait is trying to be superman or superwoman. Those people push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they're not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life, not just running their agency, but as parents, partners, friends and so on. They may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something. This leads to imposter syndrome. 

I'm sure that you can relate to some of these categories just as I can. I think it's worth acknowledging that we or even I have been all of those four things at different times in my career.

So, now, we acknowledge that we all suffer from imposter syndrome at one time or another, let's just talk about some strategies to actually manage that relationship with your inner voice. 

So I think that there are two sides to our inner voice, the critic, and the coach. And, your challenge overall is to turn down the volume of the critic and to turn up the volume of the coach. Given that it takes 21 days to change your behaviour, you have to consistently do this in order to make that behavioural change.

Think about behaviour as I might be going to get this wrong, I apologise to any neuroscientists out there. But think of a behaviour as a neural pathway and think of that neural pathway like a well-trodden path in the forest. It's really easy to walk down that pathway, but if you want to change your behaviour you need to create a new neural pathway or a new pathway in the forest. At first, it's really difficult to walk that path where you have to push through the undergrowth, you gotta tread it down. You might have to chop some of it down, then it's really easy to give up walking that path and go back down the old regular path that you're used to. But if you keep working at it for those 21 days and that new pathway becomes trodden and easier to walk, and meanwhile, the old forest pathway has grown and disappeared. Then, that's how you can change behaviour. 

Therefore, it takes 21 days to change your behaviour. We want to start focusing on our coach, which is more supportive than our critic, which is just creating imposter syndrome and keeping us in our safe comfort zone.

One of the first steps to overcoming those feelings of being an imposter is to simply acknowledge that they exist and to put them into perspective. So, what you really need to do is just observe that they're happening as opposed to engaging with them. And then, you want to be saying to yourself, ‘How does this thought help me?’ and the answer is often, ‘It doesn't.’ Therefore you can start to reframe your thoughts and create this new pathway. This voice in our head as there's an emotional side and rational side to it.

The rational voice needs to be asking this question: ‘How does this help me?’ Because when you're in that rational moment, that's when you can start to say, ‘Well, it doesn't.’ So, ‘Why am I really engaging with this?’ If you're just observing that you're having these thoughts but not engaging with them, then, that's going to be very different to having a thought really engaging with it and then letting that thought dictate your actions. 

I think also if you have a mentor or a trusted partner, you can talk with and share these thoughts with them. Because sometimes just saying this stuff out loud and having someone act as a mirror to you is just a really good way of getting the right kind of perspective. 

Now, another strategy that works really well for me that I've used many times myself, is this which lets me step back here and say that ‘We, as human beings, can only consciously think of one thing at once.’ We can subconsciously think of seven, do seven things that are like that time when you're driving home when you're thinking, ‘How on earth did I get here?’ That's because that journey is so well practiced you're doing in your subconscious. But consciously, we can only think of one thing at once. So, if you're consciously engaging with your imposter syndrome voice, then that's the thing you're engaging with. 

However, if you use some distraction techniques to change the subject and consciously think about something else, then that imposter syndrome voice will die down because you're not engaging with it. Think of it like a fire, so the fire is burning. If you engage with it, you're putting more fuel on the fire and it becomes more real. Whereas if you distract from it and think about something else, then the fire's getting no oxygen and then before eventually, it goes out. 

It’s advisable to use a distraction technique. Think of something, sing a song in your head or whatever it is to distract you at that moment to stop you from engaging with that imposter syndrome voice. 

I think another really good strategy in dealing with your imposter syndrome is to get into journaling.  All I mean by that is just right down when you're having those thoughts and write those thoughts in black and white. If you implement the morning and evening rituals that I've spoken about many times and written about before then part of that should be journaling. And still, when you're having these negative thoughts, these imposter syndrome thoughts just write them down because it can get out of your head for a start and you can start to see it through a more rational pair of eyes when it's written down in black and white. 

I think another thing that's worth saying, this isn't so much a strategy, but it's more of a reminder that we need to be kind to ourselves. So, when you're having these imposter syndrome thoughts that can often lead you to beat yourself up, you just need to be kind to yourself and just take a moment. Stop, take a breath, get some perspective and remind yourself that you are not superman, you are not superwoman. It isn't great to be a perfectionist. You have people you can delegate to, even if it's a VA, and you need to be kind to yourself. 

On that note, we really need to make sure that we get a balanced view of our successes and failures. Entrepreneurs often beat themselves up about what they haven't done, and they focus on it which again leads to imposter syndrome. Whereas if we can get a more balanced view of our successes and failures, then that will really help with imposter syndrome. Also, it really ties into the journaling point. I may just now because you should write it down at the end of your day like the things you've done really well, the things that have gone great, and the things that you would like to improve.

Now, I find having a realistic to-do list every day really helps with this because it helps me feel accomplished. It also helps me also make sure that I'm focused on the most important things in my business through moving my business forward and with no distractions. 

Whilst this episode isn't about the to-do list, here are just a few quick reminders for you. First of all, scheduling your morning and evening rituals. Make sure that your morning ritual starts off by planning your day. Overestimate how long things will take to win back time rather than have lots of other things that happened during the day. This means that your to-do list is actually longer at the end of the day than was the beginning of the day. 

I'll tell you what my to-do list every single day gets ticked off every single item. If you want to feel good about yourself and your day, then you want to do that. So I simply say, like recording this podcast, for example, I scheduled about an hour and a half to record this podcast, but I'll probably get it done in about an hour and a quarter in terms of writing and figuring out the structure then recording it. It wins me back 15 minutes. With that 15 minutes, I can check my emails, make a cup of tea, and move on to the next task earlier. Then, make sure by the end of my day every task is tipped off and then I feel in control of my day, which I don't have to hear this nagging voice telling me that there's something else I should have done because I took the time in my morning ritual to work out what the priorities are and what I need to get done today to move me forward.

Let's just end this episode with a bit of a quickfire section. I saw this quote when I was researching this that I really like which is “The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter,” which is so true. 

So, here are six steps and I've already talked about some of this already. 

#1 You should really quickly break the silence, acknowledge that everybody has this and talk about it. That's what I'm doing today. I have imposter syndrome, and I'm sharing that with you.

#2 You should separate feelings from facts. Sometimes we take an emotion, think it's a fact but it isn't because it's just an emotion. It's a story that we tell ourselves. So, when you can realise that it's just a feeling and you can change that feeling or it's just a story I'm telling myself, and I can change that. Then, you can begin to take more control. 

#3 You should develop a healthy response to failure and mistakes. Let's face it, we all are going to fail at some time or another, and we are all going to make mistakes. Henry Ford once said, ‘“Failure is the only opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” So, instead of beating yourself up for falling short, do what players on the losing sports team do and get some learnings from your loss and move on. Then, remind yourself, ‘I'll get it right next time.’ 

#4 You should write the rules. If you've been operating under misguided rules as I should always know the answer or I must never ask for help, then you need to change those thoughts. Also, you must recognise that you have as much right as the next person to be wrong to have an off day or to ask for help. 

#5 You should visualise success and do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making an amazing presentation or public speech. That’s much better than standing in the wings, thinking about everything that you're going to do wrong and how you're going to be found out by your audience. 

And #6, you should fake it till you make it, or I prefer to use the term ‘act as if’ because now and then we've all got to fly by the seat of our pants, such as part of running an agency and being an entrepreneur. But rather than considering winging as proof of your ineptness and everything you don't know, learn to do what many high achievers do and actually view it as a really great skill. 

Now, the point of that worn-out phrase, ‘Fake it till you make it’ still stands. Don't wait until you know everything. You're the perfection until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks, and when we take risks, we expand our comfort zone. So, I'm a really big believer in ‘Act as if’ and it means you're supremely confident because people will sense that energy from you. Whereas if you're going out there feeling super nervous, people are also going to sense that from you.

Remember that by and large, human beings don't want you to fail but rather they want you to succeed. So, ‘act as if’ and all that ‘fake it till you make it’ are a really good way of helping overcome imposter syndrome. 

So, I hope this episode has helped you. I hope that clarifies that we all suffer from imposter syndrome kind of gives you a bit of comfort. I also hope that some of the tips and advice I've shared will help you start to make a change.

If you feel like imposter syndrome gets in your way sometimes and stops you from moving forward, remember that most people experience moments of self-doubt in their life, and that's completely normal. The important part is not to let that self-doubt, voice in your head or the imposter syndrome, dictate and control your actions. 

Therefore, the goal is not to never feel like an impostor. The goal is to have the tools and the insights and knowledge to be able to talk yourself away from engaging with imposter syndrome and acting upon it. We all can still have those imposter moments, but not that impostor life. 

Again, I hope that one helped. I'm not claiming to be an expert on any of this stuff, but I've certainly done training on my NLP and mental toughness which digs into all that we've talked about today. 

Then, I really hope that helps you. If it does, please consider leaving a review, subscribe and please share this with your colleagues because obviously, I want to reach as many people as I can, especially as we head towards episode 100.

But other than that, I hope you have a great rest of your week and I will see you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Using Video Testimonials To Win New Business With Adam O’Leary

How powerful are customer video testimonials in helping win new clients?

In today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I'm joined by Adam O'Leary from TrustScout. We talked about both his entrepreneurial journey and also the value of getting video testimonials from existing customers to help you win new customers. 

Adam shares some of his experiences and key learnings as he has grown his agencies, including what he believes every entrepreneur should focus on and how to get rid of all that other stuff that can be just a distraction!

We also talked about video testimonials: how to get video testimonials from your customer, when you should ask your customer and why video testimonials are such a powerful way to quickly build trust and credibility.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[3:38] 

Adam’s journey in the entrepreneurial world

[5:11] 

The importance of testimonials videos in the buyer’s journey

[6:03] 

The difference between written testimonials and video testimonials

[7:19] 

The best time to ask your client for a video testimonial

[8:59] 

Tips on what kind of questions to ask in video testimonials

[10:22] 

How to maximise the use of video testimonials in your marketing

[11:59] 

How to make video testimonials authentic

[13:07] 

How you can use TrustScout software in your agency

[16:23] 

The good and bad of running an agency

[19:29] 

How Adam finds the balance in running two businesses

[22:01] 

The importance of fully automating as much of your business processes as possible

[24:17] 

Tips in running an agency

[27:51] 

Adam O'Leary’s advice to his younger self

Quotations

“ I think what puts people off is they think they have to create highly produced videos. But sometimes the rawer, the more real it looks and therefore people are more likely to believe it.” - Rob Da Costa

“ There are really only two things in your business that you should focus on:  traffic or sales.” - Adam O'Leary

“..try fast and fail fast” - Adam O'Leary

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

“I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode.” If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not subscribed, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Subscribe now!

 Full Episode Transcription

In today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I'm joined by Adam O'Leary from TrustScout. Now we are talking about both his entrepreneurial journey and also the value of getting video testimonials from existing customers to help you win new customers. 

We talk about some of the experiences that he has had as he has grown his agencies and some of those key learnings, including what he believes every entrepreneur should focus on and how to get rid of all that other stuff that can be just a distraction. 

Then we talk about video testimonials and how to get those video testimonials from your customer when you should ask your customer for that testimonial and why video testimonials can be such a powerful way to build trust and credibility really quickly with that prospect. So another action-packed episode and let's get on with today's show.

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value-added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DaCosta. 

Before we jump into the phase episode of the podcast, I want to really quickly tell you about some free value pack training I'm going to be delivering in September. This training is entitled “How to Easily Fill Your Sales Pipeline With High Quality Leads in The Next 90-Days or Less!” Now, this is a 60-minute training where I'll be talking about why referral based clients are actually setting your agency up to fail, the importance of niche in your agency and how to go about teaching that to discover your zone of genius, and how to create compelling marketing messages that instantly build credibility with your target audience. I'll be talking about the importance of building your mailing list and making sure that your agency is aligned across the market, product service and price. 

So this is a real action-packed 60-minute training with some exclusive bonuses, and all you need to do is head over to training.dacosta.co.uk/salespipelinewebinar and you can save your seat. I'll put a link to this in the show notes, but let's get on with today's show. 

So welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I'm really excited to have with me today, Adam O'Leary, who is the co-founder of the software company TrustScout that helps agencies capture video testimonials. And we're going to talk a little bit more about that later on. He is also the founder of his own agency, UpsideBuilders helping SaaS companies convert more leads and it was interesting when I was preparing for this that I saw that you said that SaaS companies typically only convert 5% of their leads. Adams companies helping convert more of that 95% that are, I guess, just being left by the wayside. 

So thanks so much for joining us today, and is there anything else you wanted to add to my garbled introduction? No, that's perfect. I'm really excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me on. Fantastic. 

So today we're going to talk about two areas. I was really interested to explore Adams Journey as an entrepreneur and talk about what that road map has looked like. And some of the kind of tips that you can share with our listeners and some of the good, bad and ugly of how you have grown over the years. We're also going to spend some time talking about how important it is to get really good video testimonials for you to help you win and convert more clients. So, why don't you just kick off by telling us a bit about your journey in the entrepreneurial world? 

Yeah, sure thing. So I run an agency for multiple years. I was going ahead and working with different types of software clients and working even with local businesses as well, really, Just trying to go out and figure out where my niche was in the world. And the more that we started working with different clients, we started to realise that as we were writing copy for those clients, that a lot of the time that you had to have, some sort of proof to go along with it in order for us to convert more of that traffic. Unfortunately, most of our clients didn't have a lot of proof, or they would have customers coming in, but they would never actually get anybody to say good things about them in public. So once we started kind of understanding that we started diving really deeply into getting video testimonials to improve for our clients right off the bat like the first time that was the first chance that we could. And once we started doing that, we started saying, Okay, is there a way to actually automate this process for our clients?

So we're not manually going out and chasing down each of these video testimonials one by one. Once we went ahead and we made the kind of that that reach into the video world. We created software that allowed us to do it and completely manage the entire process for our clients on autopilots, which was a fun little experience. Fantastic. 

So while we're talking about the video testimonials tell, why do you think that's so important in the kind of like the buyer's journey for agencies when they're looking at growing their customer base?

Yeah, absolutely. For agencies. I mean, it's really mission-critical, because I think the easiest way to put it is there's 10,000 SEO agencies out there. There are 10,000 design studios or agencies and stuff like that. There's 10,000 of every possible agency that's out there. And when potential clients coming to you and looking and saying is this actually a good fit for me. They're going to compare you normally with 10-20 other agencies to try to figure out who is the best, and it's really creating that trust factor right upfront. That's really critical for agencies to grow in scale. 

How do you compare, say, like a written testimonial versus a video testimonial? That's a good question when it comes to writing. I think one thing that we've seen a lot of in the news and stuff like this is, for example, in Amazon, there were tonnes of cases of fake written testimonials. You see people throw stuff up on websites and you look next to it. It looks like a stock image almost of a person. There's really that lack of trust or that lack of understanding when it comes for, written and then with video, it's almost impossible to fake, you know because you're truly seeing the person there you're seeing. If they're being honest, you see where they're at their location. Are they in even a pizza restaurant, for example? You know, like, what's their background like, And that right there is one of the cool parts when it comes to video. 

It's amazing when I see quotes on people's websites that say, You know, you're fantastic, says leading an SEO of a large financial institution. And you think to yourself There's absolutely no value in that whatsoever. And it's worse almost than not having it there at all. 

Tell me what part of the journey in the relationship with a customer would you ask for a video? Because I think sometimes people are too afraid of asking too soon. So when would you advise clients to actually go to their customers and ask for this testimony? Really? That's a great question. I always recommend the first ah-ha moment. So the first moment that somebody has experienced your product or your service is okay for your agency.

So the first time, if you're going out and you're doing Social Media Post, for example, your social media agency, then the first time that you want to ask that person to give you and like a video testimony or any testimony whatsoever is like literally that first time that they see the social media post, and they see the first results. I always recommend to people in your agency or in any business, really, you need to trying to get a customer a quick wind within that first, like literally as fast as you can. So, for an agency, is there a way that you can get an ah-ha moment down to 24 hours? You know, Is there a way to do it so quickly that the person is excited because you're starting off that relationship? That's one of the most likely to give you a good video testimonial or any testimonial because they're the most excited at that moment. Then from there, you're able to keep that relationship and help with scale and grow. 

Yeah, so much good advice. I think a lot of time I see my clients too afraid to ask that early on need to think they need to feel like they need to wait to the end of the project,  and that's often too late. Then, if the clients kind of starting to disengage from the agency and think about the next party, it might be too difficult. 

Tell me about the kind of questions that you should ask when you're doing a video testimonial. Because I guess that's another thing people aren't really sure what to ask. And therefore they avoid doing it. 

Yeah, absolutely. I guess the favourite the best way that I like to explain it is like a hero's journey. So if you can visualise even like, in the US, they have, like, the medical commercials, like for pills and things like that. There's always at the very beginning. There's, like, this sad person who's struggling. And then all of a sudden, they found the magic pill, which is, of course, your service. And then after that, it's happiness, sunshine and rainbows and things like that. I like to follow that pattern when we ask any sort of, questions. So we'll usually start off by, “What is your business about?” For example, like, “Are you a pizza shop? What was the struggle that you're facing initially?” And then bringing them in and then saying “How were you able to find such agency? Was it by referral? Where was it from? How is the experience working with this? And then would you recommend other people working?” 

Brilliant. Good advice that the hero's journey is a great one to use in all the aspects of marketing, isn't it? So okay, so we've done that. We've now got this video testament of this 30 minute, 30 seconds or two minutes. Whatever it is, video testimony, how can we use that? I mean, the obvious places to stick it on your website. But how else could we be using that to help maximise our marketing?

Yeah, my favourite way to use it is to put it into via cells or to create, like, clip montages at the very beginning of something. So even in like the beginning of your via cell or a sales video that you're making for your agency, you can even stitch in at the very beginning, like John is the best. Like this was the best experience that we've ever had. Click that in the beginning, and then you can start that mood off. Right? When that person is watching because now there it's not there. Now, in their mind, they're more engaged because now they're going to see the kind of already have some understanding of how good you do. So there, watch your videos even further and things like this. 

Then also, I love to use it and follow up situations. So, if you're trying to land, say, a $2000 a month deal, the perfect place to stick that in and be able to send it over to a potential client is to follow up with them, send over, say, “Hey, here's all of the happy customers that we've had before.” And that gives you that trust and credibility for that person to make that decision.

Yeah, I'm glad you said that because I have a page with about 12 video testimonials on it, and I always use that page with my prospects and I'm following up some doing exactly that, which is good to know. So I guess one of the other things that put people off doing this is that they worry that the client might not have the equipment or, you know, they don't know how to set it all up. So I guess your software is helping sort of automating some of this process.

Is that is that right? Yeah, absolutely. And one other thing, too. Is that we personally, for me when I see video testimonials, I never liked, I guess one great example like this. Like when speakers are on stage, and they afterwards they go and they pull people aside and like, everybody's in the same situation, the same background. It looks very staged, you know, and one of my favourite things when it comes to video testimonials is that authenticity, people actually being in a different setting, people clearly being at the place that they're giving the review. Seeing all the moving parts in the backgrounds, to me is one of the most important parts. So when somebody actually does pull out their phone, or if they pull out their computer, it gives you that, like, OK, clearly, they didn't script this testimonial out. 

That's such good advice. And I think again that sort of puts people off because they think they have to have this highly produced video. But you're absolutely right. Sometimes the rawer, it looks the more real it looks and therefore people are more likely to believe it.

Just talk us through how they would use your software in this process. So when it comes to TrustScout, redesigned it to be as easy as humanly possible. For any sort of business to go out and collect these video testimonials. So when a user or when a business owner such as yourself, when you go and you use a telescope, what will happen is once you send it over the link to a person or you could put it on a QR code or whatever it is that you want to send it over or Linkedln an email. Once they click on that, it'll prompt up and ask them like it will tell them like, these are the guiding questions that we have. So if you can tell us about this situation, in this situation and then once they start recording, they recorded the video testimonial comes right into the dashboard after they leave their name and their review. And then from there, you access it inside of your dashboard, where you're able to download it and upload it to YouTube or anywhere else that you would need. 

Fantastic. I'm going to go and check this out afterwards then tell a lot of my clients that they should start using it. I think the easier we make this for ourselves and our clients, the more likely we are to do it. And it's such an important part of, like you say, building trust and credibility with your potential clients that it's something we should all be doing. 

So let's just take a few steps back here and talk about your journey as an entrepreneur and how you what you were doing before you start TrustScout, what led you to do that and what your aspirations are sort of moving into the future. Lots of questions in one there. 

Absolutely. Yeah, when it came to TrustScout, I mean, for us, it was just so important. We were initially using it for ourselves, just to be able to help out our clients. It was literally just to save time because we were spending I mean hours to go out and get video testimonials because half the time we would need to go and call up somebody and then be able to say, Okay, this is how to set it up. This is how to actually go and record. And then this is how to send the video testimonials to us. And it was not fun because half the time it would get stuck, in the email or the file was too big or they just couldn't even figure out how to send it. So we're like, okay, this isn't really an efficient way to do it. So, we had people like trying to drag and drop it into files and stuff like this, we just kept it just we had no control over any of the situations.

So when we actually designed trust, that was completely for ourselves to be able to help us and systematise the process and one of my friends, actually asked if we could or if we could share the software with them and go out and even use it for themselves and from there, That's actually when it started going into a larger scale situation where we had a lot more people than we were initially expecting. Yes. How long ago was that that you started to trust? We started TrustScout last June. So a little over a year or a little over a year now.

And then just talk us through your journey of like when you started out in business and how you got this and what your aspirations are Beyond that. Yeah, absolutely. So when I first started off, I knew I wanted to get into sales or if I wanted to get into business. I wanted something that I had control over how much I made. I remember this was back when I was young. It was with Pokemon cards. I love Pokemon cards. Once I found out that people desired one card more than other cards and that you could trade one card for two cards or one card for four cards or whatever it may have been, I fell in love with that idea of being able to have something of value in being able to help people in whichever way it was. So I started really trying to do a lot of projects. And when I was probably 15, 16 years old, I was trying to start up, like, food stands. I was trying to start up everything I could possibly try to do. And some days I would make some money and then other projects. I would make absolutely no money, and a lot of the time in a lot of my projects, very early on, they were not profitable. We would have all these ideas. We had all this type of, like, I guess, passions to try to go in and follow. But we didn't know how to go ahead and make any money like we just didn't know what to do. And from there I went, and I just said, “You know what? I think the best way for me to be able to learn how to do something, whether it's online or if it's just in a local area, is to tack onto what somebody's already doing and kind of see what somebody else is doing.” So I ended up working with a person who ran an online company, and I started working with him, and I started seeing the way that he was generating sales and the way that he was being able to bring clients and bring customers.

And from there I was able to tack on two very specific areas that I found that I was good at the inside of his business, and it allowed me to learn. And once I was able to learn those skill sets, then from there I was able to go out, and I was able to help other businesses be able to do the same thing. And I created an agency for myself, and but I wouldn't have been able to do that unless I actually was a. But unless I actually worked with that person from that initial stage.

I think a lot of people will relate to that story of having worked in an agency, having seen the good and the bad of running that agency and then deciding that they can do it better themselves. In probably as only my story I used to be a million years ago, I was the marketing manager for a software company, and we really struggled to hire a good agency that understood what we did. So I thought at the age of 23-24 I thought, I know I can go and start my own agency And, you know, that naive kind of arrogant youth was stood me in good stead because I don't think I do that now. 

So, how do you juggle running these two businesses? That's always an interesting question to ask people who have got multiple, you know, balls in the air. Yeah, absolutely. It was definitely challenging at first because when you start something, you put everything that you have into it, you know? So when I first was kind of making the switch and working with a scout, what happened is I started focusing all of my attention on that other business, which then, of course, my agency started going down, which was not fun. And it took me a couple of months to start realising like, “Oh, OK, I need to kind of figure out a balance.”

So what we ended up doing is it was actually, I guess, good, because it started to change my perspective of running a business in the first place because you kind of thing that you're supposed to put all your attention on the business. You're supposed to work eight hours a day on the business, at least. Or if you listen to some motivational people out there, they tell you to work 18 hours a day. But what happens is a lot of the time you're just working for the sake of work, you know?

And that right there it was. That's what you start to realise is because you have to start finding time and kind of start figuring out, OK, ‘where is my time best valued in a specific area?’ So what we ended up doing is we kind of said okay, you know what kind of structure? The time where it was like, OK, half a day of work on this project, and then the next day of work, 100% on this one. and I kind of had to think of it as I had to get the maximum of time for the least amount. I agree with you.

I mean, you know, I run this programme the self-running agency, and I wrote my book of the same name for all those reasons is like, you know, we want to grow our businesses, but we don't want to be completely tied into that business, working for a really difficult boss ourselves. So how do we grow it without losing control? But get that flexibility and freedom. And I always talk to people about the concept of working out what their hourly rate is.

It's like what is an hour of their time worth? And if they are doing tasks that are worth less than that, why are they doing them? Why can't they need to delegate them or to make them or do something to stop doing them and focus on tasks that are worth their hourly rate or more? And those are the usually the things that move your agency for. Those are the strategy things that you know, the things that only you can do and what's your sort of future aspirations. You're not grey and, like, I am your young So what's your sort of your translations for your businesses?

For me, I guess the biggest school in the next 4 to 5 years. That type of outlook is to be able to fully automate most of the business processes that are there. I almost kind of want to view myself as the chairman, as opposed to physically going into the business and working on it. So a lot of what I'm even doing now is I'm constantly out looking at okay, “What did somebody just do twice?” You know, somebody on my team. What does somebody just do twice? And how can I systematise that? Actually, even last year, I hired somebody to come in and basically just follow me around, you know, and be able to document everything that I was doing. And you start to realise, “How much of that stuff is something that you don't even remotely have to do?” You kind of thing that you have to do, But then you realise if you can just document processes, then you can have somebody else go out and do it for $5 an hour. And then you're able to focus on the money, how going out and getting new clients, like focusing on the things that actually increase that hourly net worth that you have. That would be my biggest thing is like trying to focus on getting all the systems up all the processes, and then being able to have both businesses running on autopilot. 

Such good advice. Personally, I've failed quite a few times in the last few years of hiring, a really good via and hiring social media person, a content person. And this time around, I got it right, because I did exactly what you just said. I spent. It was a very tedious process. But I spent a good few days documenting all of my standard operating procedures on how to do everything that I have been doing. And then when I hired the new team that I have now, they can follow the SOPS and you know, they can deliver it to the sort of level that I would hope with my minimum about my input.

Any other tips that you could share about running your business? I'm putting you on the spot here a bit, but any tips on running your business that you can share with anybody else, any things that you've seen good or bad? You know, when you've been running your business or when you've seen other people running. Absolutely, I would say this was probably one of the better pieces of advice that somebody told me, and it was that there are really only two things in your business that you can never focus on and its traffic or its sales.

Those are really the only two things that happen in your business. And I asked I said, like, “Why is that?” You know, and if you start thinking about it, if you're doing the delivery, if you personally are going out and doing the delivery, and then what ends up happening is you're basically just working a job at that point because you're just doing the service that somebody else who actually has benefits, who gets dental, you know, like that they could be paying you if you were just working like for them in the company.

So if you're doing the delivery, especially as an agency owner, you really have to check yourself and say, “OK, wait a minute. How can I step out of the delivery 100% and only focus on traffic and sales?” Because those are the two things that will actually put money in your pocket? 

Yeah, such good advice. I've not heard it like that before. I think my experience with a lot of entrepreneurial business owners is that they have to change their mindset as well because they do believe that clients, want them. And if I don't work on the client account, the client will haters and levers. And of course, that's not true. And they get stuck on what I call the client service hamster Wheel of Doom. So they're just constantly servicing clients. They've got no time to focus on traffic or sales. They've got no time to focus on the future direction of their agency. And there's a big iceberg up ahead that they aren't seeing because they're so entrenched in client delivery. So sometimes you've got to change your mindset, first of all, to think no, there are other people that can deliver as well or better than me, and I need to hire those people, and I need to train my clients so that they don't want to expect me on the account because I need to do the thing only I can do. And the thing that a lot of business owners do very well is traffic or sales. 

It's also interesting that I see some agencies trying to outsource that problem. So trying to outsource that, like hiring a new business agency or hiring a business development manager and almost nine times out of 10 that fails because sometimes people say it's a difficult problem, but they don't realise that they're the best person to solve it.

100% So if people wanted to find out more about you, Adam and more about TrustScout, where would they go? Yeah, they can go to trustscout.io. And then they'll be able to, really see how you can collect video testimonials for your agency or if you want even doing it for your clients as well. We can walk you through all that. 

Fantastic, Okay, so I'll put a link to that in the show notes. And if people wanted to reach you directly, should they don't have a LinkedIn or via the website or your email? Yeah, You can reach me on LinkedIn. Definitely. Okay, if you just reach out and malaria, we'll put you in conjunction as well. 

So, as you know, the one question I ask all my guests before I let them go is if you could go back in time and give your younger self just starting out in business, one piece of advice. What would it be? Yeah, what I would definitely say is try fast and fail fast for me. That that has become one of the I guess main building blocks of my business is because if I go ahead and when I first started off in business, I would work on projects for six months at a time or nine months, even if it wasn't profitable. Thinking that like, oh, it takes so much effort to go out and start a business that it makes sense to kind of work for free for six months or 12 months. The reality behind it is that if you can just get it in front of enough people, and then see what the conversion rates are and how much you're making from it, in 24 hours, you're gonna be way better off because you're going to have all those misses, and then you'll be able to find those couple of winners. That will allow you to scale at that kind of exponential rate. 

Yeah, great advice. Of course, the danger of sitting there working on something for six months that you think your market wants is that you might find out that no one is actually interested in. I always talk about companies that sell vitamin pills instead of painkillers. You know, a customer in pain and they want their pain solving. And what they want is a painkiller bit of where if we are producing a product that's a vitamin pill that we know would be really good for our clients. But they've got a splitting headache. They don't want the vitamin pills. So, you know, I really like that. I haven't heard that term Try fast, fail fast. But that is a good piece of advice. 

And as I always say too, I guess we haven't had anybody say anything like that before. So that is where nearly 100 episodes now, and with no one's ever said that before. So I'm and one day I may be for Episode 100 I'm going to go back and collect all of the advice and put them into one episode. I think that would be a really good one. 

Adam, I really appreciate your time, especially since it's really early in the morning for you in the U.S. But I really appreciate your time and sharing your experience and your wisdom with our listeners. And thanks so much for joining me today. Absolutely. Thank you so much. It was awesome being on.

The Time-Travelling Agency Owner – Lessons From the Past to Change Your Future – The final chapter

business growth

Welcome back to the final article in this four-part series, detailing the biggest mistakes I made as an agency owner – and how you can avoid doing the same.

This week, we’re going to discuss the final error I made as an agency owner, one that potentially cost me hundreds of thousands of pounds: not being in the right frame of mind when I was selling the business.

Even if you’re not currently thinking about selling your agency (or in the process of doing so), you’ll still find valuable lessons to be learned here.

After that, I am going to recap the four biggest mistakes I made as an agency owner, giving you an easy reference for this material in the future.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: first things first…

Setting The Scene

I remember it like it was yesterday. December 2002. As another year drew to a close, I was sitting in my office, reflecting on all that had happened over the preceding 12 months – and even further than that, right back to the beginning.

Since starting my agency in 1991, I had grown the business from a two-man show to an agency with over 25 staff, seven-figure revenues, and a healthy client book to boot. The dotcom crash had passed our UK-based business by, and we were well poised to succeed and grow moving forward.

The future was bright, but there was one problem: I didn’t really love the work anymore.

Sure, I still showed up every day, met with clients, worked on putting deals together, mentored my staff, made decisions, and “took care of business”…

But the passion that had driven me to set up my own agency in the first place had dwindled. I seemed to spend all day dealing with other people’s problems and that wasn’t why I set up my own business in the first place! So initial talks of moving to a new office space (one that could accommodate our expansion plans) were nothing but a headache. Losing a key client (responsible for ~30% of our revenue) didn’t help matters.

The fire was gone. And I didn’t know how I was going to get it back.

As I sat there in my office at the year’s end, I knew that something had to change. I wasn’t motivated to keep moving in the same direction I’d been heading in. My work-life balance had taken a hit, and I desperately needed a break.

It’s from this position that I decided to sell my agency. This wasn’t an impulsive move by any means (it’s not as if a buyer walked in off the street and made a great offer the next morning), but it all started here from this place of tiredness.

Looking back now, I know that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sell my business. I was looking for a way out, and that made me vulnerable. And potential buyers could sense that.

So in this first part of the story, the lesson is clear: when you’re selling your agency, don’t negotiate from a position of tiredness. You’ll end up getting a worse deal than you could. If you need to, consider bringing in some outside help – hire a specialist to assist with negotiations and broker a great deal. They often pay for themselves, especially if they’re skilled.

And the second part of the story? That’s the tale of what happened to me once the sale finally went through.

Freedom

Almost overnight, I was free as a bird…

With no idea where I wanted to fly.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of selling the agency, I had failed to create a concrete plan of what I’d do once it was sold. I was so focused on selling the business (the process actually took about 9-months) that I spent no time answering the question ‘what next?’.  I knew I didn’t want to retire (a. I was only 39 and b. I didn’t sell for nearly enough to enable me to retire)

It’s easy to feel lost when you lose something that’s been driving you for a long time. When I no longer had to show up at the office every day to put out fires and make big decisions, I was directionless for a time. But thankfully, this confusion didn’t last too long. To get clarity, I did one simple thing:

I sat down and remembered all the things I had wanted to do before running the agency had dominated my life, taken my time & energy, and drained the fight from me.

Some of the things were easy. I wanted to travel more. Spend more time with family. Contribute to charity more often. All the things I could do – but not things that would give me all the direction I was looking for.

I racked my brains further. As I reflected on those times when I had felt most engaged with my work… I realised that I loved helping people overcome obstacles and solve problems. Whether it was delivering great work to clients (the kind that they were delighted with) or mentoring a promising employee through a particular situation, I loved coaching (I just didn’t know that was what it was called at that time!)

So that’s what I decided to do. I would become a full-time business coach and work with other agency owners, helping them to avoid the traps I had fallen into in my business. I knew that – if nothing else – my fresh pair of eyes could give a much-needed perspective on a situation. My vision was clearer than it had been in a long time now that I knew what I wanted again.

It seems like a quick process when it’s written down like that, but in reality, it took me several months – close to a year, even – before I decided to get into coaching. Looking back, I realise that I could have avoided getting caught in limbo like this if I had just put a proper plan in place before selling the agency.

Taking the time to sit down with a coach/mentor or trusted advisor, and plan out my next moves – would have been a smart decision – but sadly, it wasn’t one I even considered or was aware was even an option!

So that’s the second lesson you can take from my story. If you’re thinking about succession planning then make sure you know what your next steps are going to be. Think a little further ahead than lying on a beach somewhere and ask yourself:

  • What do I want to do with the rest of my career?
  • What will help me feel fulfilled in life?
  • What value do I want to create in the world?

If you’re struggling to answer these questions by yourself, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone else for guidance. Personally, I know it would have made my transition much easier, and I’ve helped many agency owners answer similar questions in the past. The quality of your answers to these powerful questions will determine your future: don’t take them lightly.

Conclusion

When I began writing these articles, I envisioned they would be much different to how they are now. So I suppose the first lesson we can reflect on is that our visions change over time, based on how the real world interacts with them.  

As for the worst mistakes I made as an agency owner? They went like this:

When I was running the business, I didn’t have a clear vision of where I wanted it to go. While I had a general sense of its direction, I had no idea of the milestones I’d need to hit each week, month, quarter and year to make that dream a reality.

If this sounds like you, then get clear! Figure out what kind of business you want to build, and start building it. Chunk that end goal down into small milestones you can hit along the way, so you’ll know when you’re on track (and when you’re off).

The second mistake I made was being in constant fire-fighting mode instead of taking a strategic approach to the business. I loved being the key man in my agency, solving problems left and right… but this held us back, as I frequently didn’t have time to make the big moves that would have the biggest impact on the agency.

If this sounds like you, then you need to focus on building a great team. Once you’ve found talented professionals that do great work, you’ll feel comfortable handing off responsibility to them. Secondly, you need to get clear on your vision (sound familiar?) – once you’re accountable to a bigger goal, you’ll find you don’t have time to waste on the small stuff. Bigger problems will demand your attention.

The third mistake I made as an agency owner was trying to go it alone, instead of just learning from the experiences of others. After quickly scaling the agency to around 10 employees, I hit a sticking point. The decisions I was faced with got bigger and more complex, and I (being as stubborn as I was) ploughed ahead. Little did I know that this “trial and error” approach to difficult decisions was not the right move.

Instead, I should have looked outside for guidance: a coach, a mentor, people in my network, seminars or even books. These were all viable sources of knowledge… but I didn’t use them as much as I should have. Don’t do what I did – learn from the experiences of others where you can. Personal experience is valuable in decision-making, but you don’t have to go it alone.

The fourth mistake I made as an agency owner was selling my business from a place of exhaustion. Completely burnt out, I was eager to get the deal done.  And once I was out, I lacked a clear plan of action. What did I want to do? Who did I want to be?

I could have avoided both of these situations if I had been more strategic. I could have hired a skilled negotiator to assist with brokering a better deal for my agency. I could have taken the time to work with a coach to clarify my vision for life after the sale. But I didn’t do either of these things. While everything still worked out fine, I know things could have worked out better. So if you’re selling your agency, learn from my mistakes – call on the strength and experience of others if you need to. You won’t regret it.

The purpose of this article series is to help you avoid the mistakes I made as an agency owner. I can’t go back in time and change what happened (and even if I could, would I want to?), but there’s still time for you. The lessons of the past shape our future. They shape the actions we take, the moves we make… and the words I write to you today. It’s up to you whether these lessons help or hinder you.

I hope you’ve gotten something from these articles. And remember: I’m always happy to help other agency owners through whatever they’re dealing with. Odds are I’ve encountered your situation before in my coaching practice. So if you’re currently struggling with something in your business, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can email me anytime at [email protected].

The Time-Travelling Agency Owner – Lessons From the Past to Change Your Future (Part 3)

business growth

Welcome back to the third article in this four-part series, detailing the biggest mistakes I made as an agency owner – and how you can avoid doing the same.

This week, we’re going to discuss something you’ve probably experienced before. It’s a costly error I made early on in my agency career: taking the trial and error route instead of learning from the experience of others.

Thankfully, my business lived to tell the tale (despite some poor choices along the way), but I know my path to 25 staff, seven figures in revenue and an eventual sale would have been much smoother if I had just taken a smarter approach.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the start of the story, and see why this lesson matters.

Trial and Error – Not Always The Best Approach

I started my agency back in 1993. Having already spent a number of years in the industry, I had youthful confidence on my side that running my own agency would work.  In a few short years, we were able to grow the business to 10 employees (with a decent client base to boot).

Guiding the business in these early days was exciting. Every decision brought with it the opportunity to learn something new. And when our agency was still small, I could afford to go with my gut and make the choice I felt was best: worst-case scenario, I learned a valuable lesson moving forward and avoided making that same mistake in the future.

It’s all well and good going with your gut when you’re leading a small team. But I found that as the agency got larger, the situations facing me were getting more and more complicated. I couldn’t readily apply my previous experience in industry to what lay before me. Hiring my first few employees worked out great, but adding further members to our team was a challenge. I ended up making some errors in judgement, taking on staff that weren’t right for the company. Not delegating enough (sound familiar?).  Not focusing on the right things to move the Agency forward. This resulted in a much bumpier road to growth than it needed to be,

My old approach – based on trial and error and going with my gut – was no longer appropriate for the kinds of decisions I was making. With employees and clients depending on me to make smart moves, I needed guidance. I needed someone to advise me on these critical matters. I needed training and support so I could learn to manage my staff better (rather than just winging it).

As you can probably guess, I kicked that particular can down the road for a long time. I didn’t think I had the money to spare for training or coaching. I thought we could figure it out ourselves if we gave it enough time (and tbh, coaching wasn’t that well known in the early 2000s).

While it was possible we could figure it out by ourselves, the reality was that it was costing us more money in missed opportunities than we saved by skimping out in this area.

But I digress. Let’s refocus here and get back to what matters.

The Purpose of This Article Series

When it comes down to it, I’m creating this article series with one main goal in mind:

To help you avoid making the kinds of mistakes that I and so many other business owners have made in the past. The kinds of mistakes that cost you time, money and valuable opportunities. The kinds of mistakes that hurt your business badly without giving anything of value in return.

Simply by reading materials like this, you’re already further ahead than I was back when I was mired in my “trial and error” approach to business. By learning from the experiences of others, we can discover what works & what doesn’t work faster than we could on our own.

I’m not disparaging the value of trial and error and listening to your gut instincts, in helping you make better decisions. In fact, I believe that experience is a crucial part of effective decision-making – but it should be combined with learning from other people’s experiences too – especially those who have ‘been there and done it.’

Taking a trial and error approach to making an important decision is like desperately tearing into a haystack with your bare hands in search of the needle inside. Learning from the experience of others, on the other hand, is like using a powerful electromagnet to pull that needle to you, saving a boatload of time and energy in the process.

How To Learn From The Experiences Of Others

So you’re sold on the value of learning from others… but for whatever reason, you’re not in a position to seek out a formal coach at this time. If that’s you, don’t fret. You can benefit tremendously from the experiences of others in many different ways, including:

  • Read blogs, newspapers, and industry publications. LinkedIn is a great place to find compelling, well-written content that can help you take your business to the next level.
  • Read the biographies of successful business people to get an insight into how they made decisions. Contemporary or historical, there’s a lot to be learned from the lives of others. Don’t worry if they’re in different industries to you: the principles of sound decision-making are the same, regardless of the space you find yourself in.
  • Listen to podcasts and interviews with business owners you respect (check out my podcast).
  • Network with other business owners – either in your local area or via social platforms like LinkedIn. Having friends you can informally bounce things off of can be a great help when you’re faced with a tough decision.
  • Invest in high-value training courses or group coaching (either in-person or online) for you and your team. Anything that will save or give you more time and money is worth looking into.

Conclusion

There’s a time and place for learning through your own experience. I’ve seen this in my coaching practice: while clients often rely on me for advice, the final decision rests with them, but they value the fact that I have ‘walked in their shoes’. Experience is vital in making better choices, and simple “trial and error” is one way to accumulate this experience.

However, relying on your gut – to the detriment of learning from the experiences of others – is a fools’ game. Learning from others could take the form of reading their content, listening to their interviews, investing in their training or simply talking to them. No matter how you do it, getting an outside perspective is valuable.

Don’t make the mistake I and so many other business owners have made in the past. Learning from the experiences of others will allow you to shortcut your learning curve, and this will enable you to build your business faster and easier than ever before.

In the next article, we’ll talk about the fourth (and final) mistake I made as an agency owner, and recap everything we’ve covered in this series. Stay tuned!

The Time-Travelling Agency Owner – Lessons From the Past to Change Your Future (Part 2)

business growth

Welcome back to the second article in this four-part series, detailing the biggest mistakes I made as an agency owner – and how you can avoid doing the same.

This week, we’re going to talk about one of the most common traps agency owners fall into: bailing out the boat instead of plugging the leak.

A Day At Sea

Picture this: you’re the captain of a small fishing vessel, and you’re out at sea with your crew. The ocean is calm. Waves gently lap against the hull of your small boat, a gentle breeze blowing past you. You can taste the salt in the air as you survey your surroundings. All is quiet. Peace at last.

But suddenly, there’s a commotion.

You look around from your post at the helm to see your crew all in a panic. You don’t know how it happened, but there’s water filling the boat at an alarming rate. Your crew are desperately bailing it out, but it’s pouring back in as fast as they get rid of it.

The shore is distant – too distant for you to hope for help to arrive. This is a job that requires all hands on deck, so what can you do but get down there and join in? If you don’t, you’ll be sunk for sure.

Everyone needs to do their part to keep things afloat – and as the leader, it’s up to you to shoulder the heaviest burden, direct everyone to where they’re needed, and even get down there and handle the work yourself.

There are times when this is the best approach. After all, life is unpredictable, and sometimes you don’t have a choice. But when you’re on your hands and knees desperately scooping out bucketfuls of water like your life depends on it, you’re blind to the reality of the situation:

  • All that water is pouring in from three small holes in the hull.
  • As long as these remain, the boat will continue to flood.
  • If you could just direct your energy towards patching these holes instead of bailing the water out as fast as possible, you’d return to a safe state that much quicker.

The captain that realises this simple truth can save his crew for certain.

The captain that gets caught up in dealing with the immediate threat in front of them (bailing out the water at the expense of correcting the root cause) is leaving their survival up to chance.

One of these is an effective leader… and the other is not.

But why is this relevant to you as an agency owner?

Because while you might not be the captain of a literal fishing vessel, you lead a team of your own (even if you’re just working with freelancers and other outside partners). And when your agency starts to take on water, what do you do?

Do you jump down and start bailing like a madman, shoulder to shoulder with your employees?  Or do you take step back and figure out where the water’s coming from?

How you answer will determine the success of your business. Sometimes the choice is out of your hands. Sometimes the best thing to do is to plunge in headfirst and lead by example, but other times, we simply default to this approach – even when it’s not the best move to make.

If you’re tired of being stuck in your business, then read on. You’ll get two tips you can use immediately to get some breathing room and start plugging the leaks, rather than getting bogged down in the bailing.

Tip #1 – Surround yourself with a great team

A lot of people are attracted to the idea of having their own business so that they have complete control over everything. Maybe you’re highly creative and very good at your job. In this case, it’s understandable that you like to be involved. You’re skilled at what you do, and you feel as if you can handle difficult situations better than your employees can.

But Apple would never have grown if Steve Jobs spent all day tinkering with computers and electronics. A landscaping company doesn’t grow if the owner pulls weeds 8 hours a day. And your agency won’t grow into the business it could be unless you can take a step back and become more like the effective boat captain we discussed above. From a detached perspective, you can make the right moves, not just the urgent ones.

During my 12-year stint as an agency owner, this was one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome in order to grow my agency. Through my coaching practice, I’ve encountered dozens of other agency owners who had the same problem… until I was able to help them to conquer this issue and scale their businesses into something that worked for them (not the other way around).

Truth be told, I loved the work I did. I loved the process of engaging with new clients, landing new business, and delivering great creative work that generated big returns. Back in the early days, I was the key man in my agency, putting out fires and solving problems left and right. There was no limit to what I’d take on.

But over time, I started to enjoy my “key man” status less and less. I felt like a one-armed juggler trying to keep 12 balls in the air at once. Inevitably, some of them started to fall, often with negative consequences for the business.

My agency was suffering because I was trying to manage it all by myself… so the very first thing I had to do was to find a strong account manager. This simple step created some separation between me and the agency’s operations, which freed me up to focus on the bigger picture.

Managers can come from inside the business (i.e. you can develop and promote existing employees that have potential) or outside. Both are viable options – the most important thing is that they’re suitable for the position. We’ll talk more about what makes a great manager in another article, but don’t be afraid to go with your gut. Experience is the best teacher, and taking this first step away from low-level work is crucial in making your business into all it can be.

And if you’re not in a position to bring on a full-time manager (if you’re a smaller agency, or just starting out on your journey), then don’t be afraid to outsource some of your work to a freelancer (I use Upwork). If you don’t have the funds to take on a new member of staff, delegating to someone like this can be a viable option.

Tip #2 – Get Clear On Where You’re Going

After I had successfully detached myself from the day-to-day operations of the business, I suddenly had more free time to focus on where I wanted my agency to go.

And with all this free time, I soon realised that I wasn’t very clear on what I wanted.

As strange as it sounds, I had been so engrossed in running the business that I hadn’t stopped to consider where we were running to. All I had were some vague ideas as to the kinds of clients we wanted to serve, what we stood for, and how big I wanted the business to be.

Knowing your goal is one thing, but having a plan to attain it is entirely another. I didn’t have a precise destination in mind, so constructing a road map to get there was practically impossible. Like a ship without a clear course plotted ahead of it, my agency was liable to go around in circles – or even head straight for an iceberg that I didn’t spot until it was too late.  

At this point, I knew that I needed help once again – but this time, it was different. This time, I needed to sit down with someone and figure out what I wanted to do with my agency. So I did what I thought was best and hired a business coach.

He was local, recommended to me by a few colleagues. While I don’t remember the exact details of our meetings now (25 years is a long time!), I do remember that our sessions together put me back on the right track. I came away with a clearer vision of what I wanted to do with my agency, a plan for achieving these aims, and confidence that I could make this plan a reality.

This positive experience also pushed me towards becoming a coach later on in life – but that’s a story for another day.

Conclusion

The two simple tips I’ve described in this article have the potential to greatly improve your business when they’re put into practice. If you’re anything like I was, you love working in your business… but to grow and become all you can be, you need to set aside at least some time to work on your business. There will still be plenty of challenging situations, urgent problems and important clients that require your personal touch. However, being able to separate yourself from the day-to-day operations (at least every now and then) will enable you to take tremendous leaps forward.  

Getting an effective manager/management team in place is a vital step in freeing up your time to focus on the bigger picture. And if you’re not entirely sure what this bigger picture is, don’t be afraid reach out  for advice.

Gaining perspective from someone who has been in your position and advised countless other business owners just like you is the smart move. It’ll save you time and money, help you avoid unnecessary struggle, and help you to develop your agency into something that serves you in all you do.

Remember: the captain that chooses to bail out the boat alongside his crew is risking their lives…

But the captain that stays calm, spots the leak and moves to fix this underlying issue is hailed as a hero.

In our next article, we’re going to deal with the third mistake I made as an agency owner – one that has a huge impact on your business: choosing the wrong strategies. Stay tuned!

The Time-Travelling Agency Owner – Lessons From the Past to Change Your Future (Part 1)

business growth

The 2000’s haven’t panned out like Back To The Future promised they would.

I cashed out of my agency in 2003. Once the last document was signed and the money was on the way to my account, I remember feeling immensely relieved – and, to be honest, a little lost. I had been so focused on getting the deal done that I hadn’t taken the time to think about how far I’d come or what was next.

Over the prior decade, I had scaled the business from nothing to 25+ staff and a seven-figure valuation… but what had I learned?

While it feels like it was only yesterday, there’s no getting around the fact that 2003 was 16(!) years ago. In between then and now, I’ve had the chance to reflect on my experience as an agency owner: the good, the bad, the confusing, and the downright terrible.

It tends to be the negatives that stick out in your memory the most because those are the things you learn the most from. When I think back to running my agency for 11 years, certain things jump out more than others. Sure, I remember the big wins, the celebrations after a hugely successful project, the new hire that was a perfect fit…

But the mistakes sting just a little more. Wrong decisions, bad hires, losing important accounts. Long days. Sleepless nights. Arguments. Heartache and Stress!

Don’t get me wrong: there were highs. Plenty of them. But highlight reels, while fun viewing for the victor, don’t teach us as much as a good post-mortem analysis.

 

From the ashes of failure comes valuable lessons. And what good is a lesson left unshared?

That’s one of the key reasons I ended up retraining to be a coach (but that’s a story for another day).

In my work with over 250 agencies over the past 12 years, I’ve seen a lot of business owners making the same mistakes I made.

I do my best to advise them, lead them back onto the right path, help them to avoid suffering like I suffered back them. If you’ve been burned once, why let someone else get burned too?

But not everyone is interested in being shown how to avoid the fire – they need to feel the heat for themselves.

In my coaching practice, I often observe that agencies don’t understand the value of learning from the experience but just continue to do the same things (usually because they are run ragged servicing demanding clients) and hope for a different outcome. Predictably, this doesn’t tend to work out too well for them.

If you need to get burned before you learn, your agency is in for a rough ride. But if you’re interested in avoiding unnecessary pain, building a better business, and actually enjoying the process, then read on.

In this article series, I’m going to lay out the four worst mistakes I made as an agency owner (mistakes I see countless agencies making even today), and what you can do to avoid suffering the same fate.

I can’t go back now and change anything – sadly, we haven’t quite worked out time travel yet. But if I can help other business owners avoid these same pitfalls, they won’t need a time machine. And that’s good enough for me.  

The only value in an idea is how it helps you. The greatest business plan ever written is worthless without hard work & execution behind it. So please take the information you find in this series and use it to make your systems, your business and your life better. In the end… that’s all that matters.

Now, let’s get started.

Mistake #1 – No Vision

Hands down, the biggest thing that held me back from growing my agency as fast as I wanted whilst feeling in control, was not being clear enough on where the business was going.

It wasn’t that I had no idea what I wanted – it’s just that no one ever told me how crucial it was to have a exact destination in mind when you’re setting out to grow your agency.

Maybe you started out as a solopreneur or a freelancer – just one person servicing your clients.

Maybe you were a “proper” agency right from the start, with multiple owners, a few key talents, and a couple of admin staff for good measure.

I’ve had clients from both camps. Worked with bigger businesses, pushing 100+ staff, with client bases to match…

And in my work with businesses of all shapes and sizes, I learned something very interesting:

Most of them had, at one time or another, felt lost on their journey.

Sometimes they made it through on their own (with a lot of time, effort and pain!). Other times, they came to an experienced coach like me for guidance.

It goes without saying that I helped them get back on track using a powerful, yet simple set of tools (read on for more info).

When you first start out, you’ll take clients wherever you can get them. 5, 10, 20, 30 – you take on new business left and right without taking the time to consider whether they’re really a good fit for your agency. And this strategy is fine until you hit a sticking point.

The sticking point varies, depending on your business…

But one day, you wake up and realise that you’ve got 5, 10, 20 or 30 demanding voices to answer to, with no clear escape route in sight.

If you’ve been here, you know how this feels. You started your agency with the best of intentions, hoping to build a business that worked for you (and not the other way around). But before you knew it, you were working just as hard as you ever did – it’s like having a job all over again, but with more stress, worry and risk than it’s worth.

This happens when you don’t set out your plans in advance. When your growth strategy is client acquisition at all costs, no plan is needed – you just keep pitching, keep winning new business… and deal with the fallout later.

That fallout comes when you don’t pay attention to building the critical infrastructure you need to support these clients. The staff, the systems & processes, the valuable core offering, the marketing plan – they all matter, but we forget this when we head off on our journey without a map to guide us.

However, if you’ve got an actual vision for your agency, things are different. When you know where you want to be a year from now (and what you need to do to get there), making strategic decisions is a lot easier.

But when you’re stuck in the trenches, a year can seem like a long time. That’s why I like to sit down with my coaching clients towards the end of their financial year and hash out the details of their vision and plan for the following year.

We get crystal-clear on their goals, the KPI’s we’ll use to assess their progress, and take full stock of the situation they’re in (using a variety of planning tools e.g. SWOT analysis, and more).

But a yearly plan on its own isn’t very useful, so we don’t stop there. Once we’ve gotten clear on their big-picture vision for the next 12 months, we go one step further and determine their quarterly plan.

Here, we create a plan that puts them on track to accomplish their yearly goals, by breaking it down into quarters and allowing for seasonal fluctuations in revenue or anything else that’s strategically relevant.

We repeat this quarterly planning process four times a year, constantly assessing and adjusting as needed.

We don’t stop there. To really make sure we deliver the annual vision, we take our quarterly plan and use it to create a monthly plan.

I find that a month is the shortest period of time most top-level managers should think in. Further down the agency, you’ll want to implement daily and weekly plans to stay on track, but visionaries need to think bigger.  

The monthly plan is just as it sounds – we take the quarterly goals, determine what they can realistically be done in the next month, and set it out for achievement.

This three-level planning process seems simple. If you already do it, you probably think it’s obvious… but you would be astounded if you knew how many agency owners don’t have a solid, well-formed vision of where they’re going.

And the ones that do? At least 80% of them don’t have concrete quarterly and monthly plans (with built-in KPI’s to assess progress) that hold them accountable.

Without a vision, you can’t see the road ahead.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know if what you’re doing is helping your business… or if it’s strangling it.

Take the time to sit down and figure out where you want your business to be a year from now. Be realistic, but don’t be afraid to think bigger – we can often do more than we expect when we actually work for it.

Don’t stop there. Go further. Take your one-year vision and figure out what you need to do this quarter in order to get there. Then drill down one level deeper and figure out what needs to happen this month to get your business from here to there.

Without a vision, we flounder. We don’t know which option to choose, so we choose whatever’s easiest, or whatever pays us the most money right now… but this approach costs us in the long-term.

Get strategic, and your business will reap the benefits in the weeks, months and years to come.

In our next article, we’re going to deal with the second mistake I made as an agency owner – a crucial one you need to avoid: bailing out the boat instead of plugging the leak. Stay tuned!

Hitting a brick wall

Brick wall

Every business (and individual in that business) hits a ‘brick wall’ at some point and in order to get over or break through the wall the business (and individual) needs to do something different – but often working out what this is can feel nigh on impossible and therefore many business remain at the brick wall, hitting their heads against it and not surprisingly, feeling the pain.

That is often the point my phone rings and I begin working with a client.  Here are 4 areas to consider to help get you through the brick wall (or avoid it in the first place):

1. Have a vision

The problem about a brick wall is you can’t see over it and therefore what is in the distance.  This is the first issue that needs resolving.  You need a clear vision for your business that excites and motivates you.  Business owners often hit this brick wall because they have lost motiviation and lost sight of why they started the business in the first place because the day to day activities have de focused them.

2. Build the foundations

I know it’s cliched but if you try and build a bigger house without the supporting foundations, it is going to fall down.  The same is true with business.  It is one of the major reasons businesses feel like they are taking one step forward and one back.  Creating a scaleable business makes it easier to grow and avoid that brick wall altogether.

3. Hire the right people

Your staff need to align with your business and buy into the vision.  They both need to be technically competent to do the job and culturally match the values of the business.  They need to be as excited about delivering the vision as you are.  Then you need to delegate as much as possible, leaving you to working on the bigger picture strategic activities of your business.

4. Revisit, review and revise your vision

A mistake many organisations make is to create a vision, cast it in stone and one year later use it to beat everyone up with for failing to deliver it!  A vision (and business strategy) needs to be a living document that is frequently reviewed (to identify next focus area) and refined (based on current knowledge and circumstances).

These are 4 of a number of steps I would recommend following to enable you to break down, climb over or even build a door, so that you can painlessly get through the brick wall and move to the next stage of your organisation’s evolution.  Want to know more? Then please get in touch.  You can also download my whitepaper on building a scalable business here.

Does everyone share your vision?

Look ahead to your future

If you are a business owner/leader and have a clear vision for your business, then does all your team share in your vision and buy into it as much as you do?  I explain to clients that a vision is a like a desert island in the distance. Once we have decided that is the place we want to get to, we have to be sure that our team all want to get there too.

However, it’s worth remembering that business leaders are usually some ways ahead of the business and can typically be ALPHA-type characters, which means they lack patience and assume everyone understands, as they do.  Not the best combination!

I sat through a presentation recently of an MD presenting the vision to the business and there was definitely a disconnect between the excitment of the MD and the audience’s reaction to the content being presented.  The issue was the MD was ahead of the business in her thinking and wasnt ‘standing in the shoes’ of her audience.  This was the feedback I gave her afterwards, when she was dissappointed that the team didnt seem to share in her excitement.

Sharing that vision with others in a way that compels them to act is the secret to a successful leadership vision yet to do this you have to have strong empathy with your team and acknowledge that not everyone cares as much as you or has the ability to think in a ‘bigger picture’ way. Which also means that you might need to cut down on the bigger picture and present in more manageable chunks – chunks that team members can relate to and therefore buy into.

To create that inspiring vision, ideally leaders need to create a process that involves everyone, that allows people to contribute to a shared view of the future, which is powerful and engaging for all. It’s simple – but it isn’t easy.

How do you fulfil your vision? Design a plan that focuses everyone’s efforts solely on its achievement. As a coach, this is an area I work with many business leaders on.

Now comes the tricky bit… Live, breathe and role-model the vision every day. Successful leaders never assume that their organisation is ‘on board’ with the vision – they go on and on and on about it. This is the primary job of leadership – not the day-to-day detail.

Concentrate on clearing obstacles to fulfilling the vision. Every person needs to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and why it’s important to the overall vision of the organisation. Don’t do people’s jobs for them, or chase them to do their jobs; clear the way for them to do their own jobs effectively (see my last blog post on perfectionism and delegation).

So make sure you’re the type of leader that is not only excited about the vision but shares and excites everyone else, so they can deliver it and you can all arrive together on the desert island.

>