Tag Archives for " Leadership & Management "

Staying In Control Of The Direction Of Your Agency

Why do so many agency owners aspire to build an agency that is less dependent on them (i.e a self-running agency) but completely fail?

They end up building a business that they work for (instead of working for them) with the worst boss in the world!

So in this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I explore how to ensure you build an agency on your own terms: one that you stay in control of and one that ultimately could be running itself.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[0:00] 

The 4-day work experiment from Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast

[0:45] 

The concept of running a self-running business

[2:26] 

Staying connected with your mission and vision statement

[3:18] 

What does real success look like?

[3:53] 

How to reconnect with your ‘why’ in running an agency

[4:29] 

Transitioning from face-to-face coaching to online meetings

[6:00]

Why I can spend my winters in South Africa

[7:43] 

The importance of focusing on the journey and not just the destination

[7:57] 

How I am moving towards becoming a ‘digital nomad’

[9:05] 

What are the technical equipment I need 

[9:59] 

Understanding how to best use a VA and the structures I use

[11:47] 

What I am doing this year to take control of how I want to run my business

Quotations

“We are surrounded by stories of super successful entrepreneurs who make it sound so easy and have supposedly made their millions and are trying to tempt you to strive for the same thing - it’s almost as if - if we don’t aspire to that then we are failing.” - Rob DaCosta

“..growth in a financial sense doesn’t always mean success.” - Rob DaCosta

“..wait for some future point when everything will be better and forget to live my life within the constraints of what we are able to do now.” - Rob DaCosta

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 Full Episode Transcription

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts last week, which is Amy Porterfield’s online marketing made easy, and she was talking about an experiment that her business has been doing to move the whole organisation of about 20 staff down to a 4-day working week without losing any revenues in their business, and indeed ensuring that they met their ambitious growth targets. It was really interesting to hear about the positive and negative aspects of the experiment, the things that they've had to change, e g. moving all their meetings down to a maximum of 30 minutes rather than an hour or more, and indeed whether they will keep doing this after the 90-day experiment is up.

It got me thinking back to the concepts of the self-running agency that I've been talking about and teaching for the last couple of years, and the importance of making sure that we are running an agency on our own terms and not just chasing the next shiny new object or the next revenue tear, because that's what we feel we should be doing to be successful. We're surrounded by stories of super successful entrepreneurs who make it sound so easy and have supposedly made their millions, and then they're trying to tempt you to strive for the same thing.

It's almost as if if we don't aspire to that, we are failing. It's crazy when you say out loud, right, and it seems to take you so far away from the key reasons of why you would start your own business in the first place. So in this episode of the podcast, I want to remind us about that. But I also want to share my personal story of some of the things that I'm doing to make sure I'm running my business on my own terms. 

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

I'm not sure where this is instilled in us, but it's almost as if we don't aspire to grow our agency by, say 20% year on year, then we're not being successful and indeed others. But perhaps more ourselves, if I'm honest, judge our success based on this growth. But that might well not be what you want. You might want to create a lifestyle business and focus on maximising profits, or you might want to focus on being a social enterprise and making a difference in your community. There's a whole myriad of reasons why we run our own agencies and why we started our own agencies. And it's super important that we stay connected with that mission. And we create a vision every year so that we know we're headed in the right direction rather than just being pulled by external factors or by the things that we tell ourselves we should be doing. The problem is, as I mentioned in the introduction, that we're bombarded with social media posts and ads of Instagram people standing in front of expensive yachts that probably aren't even up. There's telling us how they built their agency and how they can help you do the same.

But it's important to remember that this might not be what you want, and growth in a financial sense, doesn't always equal success. Let's face it, if you were growing your revenues, but you're hating what you were doing and you get really stressed and working long hours and perhaps even getting physically ill, then would you deem that as success? I know I certainly wouldn't. And sometimes, you know, we have to learn that lesson the hard way by going down that route to get to a certain point where we say no, having more money isn't necessarily the thing that makes me happy.

So in the spirit of openness and sharing, I want to talk about some of the conscious choices that I'm making in my business and my life as we are coming out of the pandemic. And I'm sharing this in the hope that it might inspire you but also give you permission to reconnect with the why like, “Why did you start your agency?” What do you want to be?” and, “How can you do it on your own terms?” Because, let's face it, one of the reasons we start our own business is because we want control. But we're not careful, and we're not making these conscious decisions and choices. Then suddenly, one day we can wake up working for this monster that we've created and having a much harder boss than we've ever had in any kind of job that we had in the past. So anyway, here are some of the things that I am doing and choices that I am consciously making. So first of all, prior to lockdown on the pandemic, I would spend probably three or four days a week travelling to head to clients in London, on the train or driving up the motorway or even getting on a plane. And it was a super ineffective use of my time because let's say I was taking a train into London, which would take me an hour and a half, and then I would perhaps coach one or two clients and then I would come back in a very crowded trainer and probably standing up most of the way for another hour and a half. And that would be my day. Whereas the pandemic force, of course, was all online. And now I do my meetings by Zoom, and that means that I could possibly do 3-4 even 5 meetings or coaching sessions in a day if I chose to.

So I made the conscious decision to not go back to that face-to-face coaching life because I think coaching online can actually be more effective because you can do shorter sessions and more frequent sessions. I have a couple of exceptions to that where I will travel to a client because they're either very local or because I really need to be sitting face-to-face. So, for example, if I was doing some strategy work with a client for the day, it would be very difficult for both of us to concentrate that long online, so I would then go and sit with them. But that's probably the exception and not the raw. And it probably happens once every two or three months rather than two or three times a week. So that's my first conscious choice I'm making not to go back to doing face to face coaching now. Prior to the start of the pandemic and indeed, at the start of the pandemic, I used to spend every January-February of each year in warmer climes, typically in Cape Town. And, of course, the pandemic has paid for that. In fact, I only just got back in 2020 before lockdown happened, so I was fortunate to not be stuck in South Africa during the start of lockdown. But having done this two or three times now, it's really shown me that I can completely viably go to another country and spend an extended period of time. So I'm not just there on holiday and actually get into the rhythm of working. And of course, one of the great things about South Africa is not only that their summer in January-February, but also they only have a two hour time difference to the UK, so that really makes the working day viable. You can rent pretty cheap. Airbnb is out there. The cost of living is much lower than the UK, so that is something that I aspire to do every year. But of course, as I said, the pandemic has put paid to that. But that will be something I'll be doing again. But in the meantime, I find myself sort of marking time and waiting for this fictitious point in the future when we might be allowed to travel again. And then I realised that I'm doing exactly what I outlined in the introduction, and exactly what I advise my clients not to do, which is to wait for some point in the future when you think everything will be better and forget to live your life right now and enjoy the journey.

So you know, when we're talking about vision, Sometimes clients tell me that when they hit this milestone, things will be great and they're busy with their business. But of course it might take them a year or so to get there, and they don't think about that journey. So I want to encourage my clients and myself to make sure I'm focused on the journey and not just the destination. Of course, right now there are lots of constraints on us. I can't go and spend my time abroad. But another thing that I've been working towards is becoming more of a digital nomad, which is a term that lots of 20 year old Instagrammers bound around while they live their lives on an opioid in Bali.

But as I said, I've proven for the last few years that I can work in a different country and be just as efficient and continue to serve my clients and my audience when I'm sitting at my desk in the UK or sitting at a desk in Cape Town. Now, we are taking one step further because we've just purchased a motor home. And whilst I'm not quite ready to become a socks and crocs, I am excited to be able to find some beautiful places in the U. K. And then hopefully in the near future in Europe where I can travel, explore, and work. And you know, technology really does make this easy impossible to do now because you can get great mobile WiFi setups that you can get solar panels and all that kind of stuff so I can run my computers and record these podcasts and edit videos, and all that stuff whilst being in different locations.

So I haven't taken delivery as I record this podcast, but we're just about to. So we've been busy researching all the tech that I'm gonna need, like mobile WiFi and off grid energy solutions such as solar panels and lithium batteries and all that kind of rubbish. And who knew that there was a whole world of tech and terminology to learn? And right now I'm revisiting my physics level by reminding myself the difference between amps, watts, and volts. Now, by the time you listen to this episode, I will have been away for the first few weekends. So if you want to know how I got on, just reach out to me and I'll let you know. So that's a really exciting project and a new adventure for us. And, you know, I have no idea what the outcome will be. I might hate it, although we've done it a few weekends before, but I'm hoping that I will enjoy it and I can explore parts of the UK that I haven't seen and do it in a pretty inexpensive way. 

Now, the next thing that I have been working on because I've made lots of mistakes with this is getting my kind of team structure in place. So I've tried various virtual assistants. I've tried using a virtual assistant to organise my diary, someone else to do my audio podcast editing, someone for video editing, someone for copyrighting. And it's been really difficult to project manage and they've been really different qualities. So sometimes I find myself trying to delegate and then having to rewrite it, and telling myself those stories like it's quicker to do it myself. So I finally got a structure in place that is really working, so I'm working with a VA company, and my main point of contact is the project manager there. And then they have a team of people that have specialist skills. So they have someone who is really good at creating artwork for social media, someone who is good at editing audio for podcasts, someone else who is great for video editing, and someone who is good for writing content. And I'm only dealing with the project manager. And then she is managing all these other people, and so far that is working well. And that is enabling me to pump out a lot more content and also for me to be able to focus on my superpower, which is creating the content, not necessarily editing this podcast or writing the show notes. So if you are a freelance personal or one person agency, then really think about how you can delegate to a team of people, even if they're just virtual people that you hire for a few hours a week, and I'm going to be recording more about my VA structure and I'm going to actually interview my via on a future episode. So look out for that because, like I said, I think I've got this concept of having a project manager, and then a public publisher and editor working well for me. So I want to share that with you. 

So that's what I'm doing in 2021 to take control of how I run my business. As I said, I think I was starting to fall foul of this idea that when the world opens, I'll be able to start doing things I used to do and pick up where I left off. And I think many of us felt that would start to happen at the beginning of 2021, but here we are halfway through the year and whilst the vaccination is rolling out well in the UK, things haven't really changed in terms of being open and travelling. And to be honest, most countries are not opening their doors to us right now. So rather than continue to mark time and wait for some notional point in the future, I'm creating the kind of working environment that I want based on the constraints that exist right now, and who knows what the future holds. But this whole situation reminds us to live more in the present, and I guess that's sort of the theme of my podcast today, which is to stop marking time and waiting for things to happen in the future. But take control of them now and realise that you have choices and you can make whatever you want happen. And remember that success isn't determined by you growing your revenues 20% year on year on year on year. And so make sure you stay connected to the reason why you run your agency. So I hope this episode has given you some food for thought, and if so, please make sure that you leave a review. I agree. Be eternally grateful. Hit the subscribe button to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes, and I'll be back with you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

How to ensure you don’t inadvertently become the bottleneck to growth

I want to write about this topic since it is an issue a great many of my clients face. 

Picture this: 

You have built your agency up to a certain size where you have a good team beneath you.  You had hoped this would result in spreading the work load and taking some weight off your shoulders.  But you find yourself still being run ragged, clients still want to talk to YOU and you're frustrated that team members beneath you just don't seem to step up and fill the gap between you and the rest of your agency. This is compounded by the fact that new business still seems to sit on your shoulders and as much as you would like your senior team members beneath you to step up and take on more proactive business development they just don't seem to do it.

If you can relate to any of this then please read on…

You're the brains behind your agency.  You're the reason why it has been flourishing for the last few years. Clients love you.  So much in fact that all key clients want you to be working on their account and before you know it you've become the bottleneck to growth.  Whilst exhausted you finally recognise this cycle and are determined to do something about it.

So now you're turning your attention towards developing the next layer of leaders in your agency.  You recognise that you need to ‘get out of the way’ to enable your future leaders to flourish and for them to become a key contact point for clients.

Stepping aside so others can step up

I am sure the above scenario is familiar to you.  Yet sometimes its easier said than done, to create space for your senior team members to step up.  In the early days of running your agency you may have not been able to afford to hire the best staff and overtime this results in a big gap appearing between your skillset and the next tier of team members skillset, so make sure when you are hiring staff, you get the best staff you can find (and don’t be fearful of them challenging you!)

Let’s look at 4 actions YOU can take to get your team on board with you and stepping up.  

1. Articulate your vision

  • It’s amazing how many owners believe that telepathy exists or what's in their head will automatically be transferred to others via osmosis! So you need to make sure that your team are as excited by the vision that is in your head as you are. It's also worth noting that the owner is always several steps ahead of the rest of the agency in terms of the development of the agency, so it's crucial that you communicate your vision clearly and get them excited to come on the journey with you.

  • If they don’t understand the vision for the company it’s going to be difficult to get them to act independently or make intelligent decisions.

  • To solve this problem, you need to take the time to articulate and document your company vision to get everyone in your company moving in the same direction. Depending on your leadership style and agency size, you can do this by yourself, or involve your team in the process - but either way, you will need a process for communicating these things to your team once you have them articulated.

2. Set your company structure up to complement your strengths

  • Most visionary agency owners are ‘knowing’ people.  This means they hate the minutiae and can easily get annoyed by having to manage the details and repeating themselves. An Integrator (the person in charge of day to day operations) is a person who sits between you and your team to make sure that any friction is smoothed out and converted into energy that will power the agency forward. This person needs to love managing and resolving day to day issues, have a passion for clear communication between teams, and must have a tolerance for repetition and process.  Now I appreciate in a small agency you may not be able to hire an Ops manager/integrator but you will be able to give this as a functional part of someone's bigger role.

  • As the owner, you need to focus on the things that only you can do, and delegate the rest.  To that end, make sure you ask yourself the right questions. Not “will they do it as well as me or as fast as me?” but “will they do it well enough?” and if the answer is yes then you should be delegating.  If you delegate down then this will encourage others to do the same.  However, if you hang onto all the tasks you will encourage others to role model that behaviour too.

3: Implement a system for communication and decision making

  • Chaos can reign in a small business. Frequently, these entrepreneurs (myself included!) hated all the meetings, processes, and systems they had to follow in their previous world before they started their own business - so they resist creating these things in their own agency. Unfortunately, non-entrepreneurs (i.e. almost everyone working for you) like and need process - they want to know what is expected of them, and they want to be able to make decisions and get work done without having to run to you all the time (more on this later).

  • If you have the right Integrator/ops person in place, he or she can help you create and manage a robust set of systems and processes your team needs to function efficiently - and minimise the number of processes and meetings you are involved in. When meetings run efficiently, decisions are made quickly and processes actually speed up your business, your culture and bottom line will begin to improve dramatically.

4: Get stuff out of your head so you can get out of the way

  • This is a SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP moment in the development of your agency.  If you want to delegate tasks to others then you need to do it effectively!  Take the time to articulate what you want and what success looks like.
  • Also, acknowledge where you don’t have skills and bring those skills in-house (even if you are using a freelancer in the short term)
  • If you want to delegate something (like marketing) to someone else, but don’t understand what it really takes to set the marketing team up for success, you need to take the time to educate the person or team who will be taking things over, and then regularly receive updates on results so you can stop worrying.

If you would like to read more about staff retention and growth then grab a copy of my free e-book.

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Don’t make assumptions!

Let's paint another picture: 

you have a superstar team member who is doing really well and clients love them and you now put them into a managerial leadership position. You've done this as a reward for their hard work and you see it as a natural part of their career progression. However, you quickly realise that this person is not a natural manager and is failing to motivate and direct their team.  As a result team morale is at an all-time low so you are forced to make a difficult decision that could result in this (previously superstar) team member exiting the agency.

Why is it that we invest a lot of time and money training our team to have great technical skills (e.g. web development, design etc.) but we don't invest the same time or money in giving people managerial skills whilst somehow assuming that as their career progresses they will naturally be a good manager (because maybe you were)!  Crazy!! Don’t be THAT leader. Instead have a clear career development path that includes leadership and management training as well as technical training. Remember these skills are useful for not only managing team members but also for managing clients and suppliers.

So now you have these steps in place lets look at how you can get your team members to take responsibility and be accountable.

Here are 9 steps to getting managers to step up:

1

Create clear roles & responsibilities and set clear expectations

When a team member is clear about what their role includes (and doesn't include) they are much more likely to take ownership and step into delivering that role.

2

Set time-bound SMART objectives

Make sure you are setting regular (e.g. quarterly) SMART objectives that are owned and delivered by each team member.

3

Get them a mentor or a coach - give them the tools to succeed

If you have a team member that you want to develop then a great way to expedite and broaden their development is to get them an external mentor or coach. You could set finding a mentor as one of their objectives. The mentor should be someone who is several steps ahead of where your team member is and ideally, are external to the agency and therefore they bring a different set of experiences.

4

Form your leadership team

As your agency grows and you develop more leaders beneath you, you should plan to create a leadership or management team who can collectively own aspects of delivering the vision and take more responsibility from your shoulders.

5

Give them responsibilities in addition to their ‘day job’

I spoke about this earlier when I talked about the Integrator or Ops Manager. Your leadership team will have their roles & responsibilities but you can also give them some additional functional responsibilities such as Operations, New Business, Marketing, IT etc.  This not only takes responsibilities from you but also further develops the team member.

6

Give them ownership of the quarterly business strategy 

As we discussed earlier, each year you will create your agency vision and communicate this to the rest of the business.  In order to deliver the vision (and it not just stay as a dream!), you need to break it down into quarterly strategies and have the leadership team take responsibility for delivering these strategies.

7

Support don’t rescue

This is a classic one that deserves a blog post of its own but as a leader, you need to separate the difference between being a supportive manager and a rescuing manager. A supportive manager will coach someone through a problem whilst a rescuing manager will think it's quicker to do it themselves and take the problem away.

8

Be a great delegator and give feedback

This is another example of slowing down to speed up we don't spend enough time giving our staff constructive feedback (both positive and negative) yet according to this study, 65% of employees want more feedback.

Get into the habit of giving feedback at the end of a project and ensure that the feedback includes an action plan so that the team member learns.

9

Slow down to speed up

I've said this a number of times throughout this blog and it is really an overarching summary of this whole post - which is slow down, invest time giving feedback and developing your team members in order to ultimately move forward more rapidly.

The entrepreneur, leader and agency owner who recognises as early as possible that they need to make themselves dispensable, are the ones who will rapidly develop a flourishing, growing profitable agency full of eager motivated team members.  However, those who believe it's quicker to do it themselves and that they don't have time to develop team members will quickly find themselves the bottleneck to growth and under a great deal of stress. Make sure you are opting to be the former rather than the latter.

Scaling Your Agency: A Roadmap To Guide Your Way  (Part 3)

staff development

Welcome back to the final article in this series. Last time, we covered some of the most common problems you encounter when scaling your agency from “small” (5 or fewer employees) to “boutique” (10-15 employees), and how you can avoid them. If you missed that instalment, you can check it out here.  

This week, we’re going to look at the next stage in the process – moving from “boutique” to “medium” (10-15 employees to 25-30 employees). Just like the last stage, there are certain challenges that routinely crop up as you start to add more employees into the mix. Let’s examine those issues in more detail.

Stage 2: Boutique to Medium

Scaling your agency from 15 employees to 25-30 employees is not as simple as stacking more and more people on top of existing infrastructure. As we discussed last week, a dysfunctional foundation will collapse when it’s put under too much stress. Similarly, if your agency doesn’t run well when it’s small, it’s unlikely that things will improve as you get bigger.

However, the single biggest issue that holds back agencies looking to make the leap from boutique to medium-sized isn’t infrastructure. If you focused on putting the right systems & processes in place earlier on in the process, you should find that most of your systems scale up readily to accommodate new employees. Sure, there may be some hiccups, but overall, intelligent design and selection of your internal processes will serve you well.

Anything you neglected to reinforce earlier on (e.g. IT systems, finances, communication) may come back to bite you here, so make sure to take the time to strengthen these systems now, before they can cause real problems.  

Neglected system upgrades notwithstanding, the principal obstacle you must overcome at this stage relates to skills.

Overcoming the Skills Gap in Your Agency

When scaling your business from solo to small, you had to grapple with making your first hire. Here, you had to make good choices and bring on employees that possessed the skills your agency needed.

As you continued to scale your business from small to boutique, your attention shifted away from people and onto systems. Making good hires was still important, but you also had to ensure that your infrastructure was robust enough to sustain your growing operations.

And now that you’re looking to scale from boutique to medium, your focus returns to people. But it’s quite possible that the skills you need at this stage in the journey are different from those you needed earlier on.

Many agencies are top-heavy when they start out. If you have multiple owners, it’s likely that you’re all doing a substantial amount of work. When you take on a few employees, the work starts to get more dispersed and your time frees up. The top-heaviness of the agency decreases as more and more lower-level employees join the ranks. However, this leads to a growing gap between top management (i.e. you and the other owners) and junior staff.  

This gap can cause problems, particularly as you endeavour to scale your business further. Making strategic business decisions and focusing on the future of your agency requires the space to do so – breathing room from the everyday hustle and bustle of managing operations. Without being able to safely delegate your duties, it can be hard to get this time to work on the future.  And this can be compounded by the fact that your key clients all expect YOU to be working on their account!

If you’re not careful, you can be caught in between roles: not stuck in the business, but not free to work on the business either.

The solution to this problem is twofold:

  1. Ensure that you have the right functions filled in the agency
  2. Bring in more senior staff (maybe a general manager) to oversee day-to-day operations

Let’s look at these two areas in more detail.

Functional & Managerial Capacity

Simply put – if your skills/expertise are integral in delivering great client work, you won’t have the time you need to focus on scaling the business effectively.

There’s nothing wrong with having an input into the work, or being in a position to guide your team. But if your valuable time is spent doing work that someone else could be doing, you need to consider introducing more senior experienced staff into the organisation.

The best way to determine if this is an issue in your agency is to look at your current employees. Consider the following:

  • Is there a clear skills gap between top management, your few star employees, and the rest?
  • Is there an obvious bottleneck individual in the business (someone who needs to sign off on work, or is frequently sought out to get things moving)?
  • Are you overly reliant on “Jack of all trades”, or do you employ a number of specialists?

With reference to questions like these, it should soon become apparent if you have issues in this area.

If you’re still required to oversee day-to-day operations and closely manage employees, your time is still being used up IN the business, so who is working ON the business?

The lines between your competing delivery, managerial and leadership roles blur as your agency scales. It can be hard to grow the business effectively when you have so many demands on your time.

When scaling your agency from 15 employees to 25+, you’ll probably find that there’s an awkward transition period. The demands on a handful of vital core staff (e.g. yourself, or some key employees) increase dramatically, which can then lead to decreased performance, slower delivery, and even burnout.

The solution is to identify these issues before they can cause real problems. You know you need to invest in people, but what does that look like?

  • You may need to restructure your business. For instance, this could entail the promotion of existing employees to higher positions, then making an additional hire or two to fill their old positions.
  • You may need to train up existing staff (i.e. for a leadership role, or even just a different functional skill to reduce over-dependence on key employees).
  • You may simply need to make hires in some area. Perhaps you need additional client-facing staff, support staff, or a middle manager.
  • You need to get comfortable with your new more ‘hands-off’ role as you focus on guiding the agency forward.

Whatever the case may be, you have to invest in people at this stage in your journey. The systems you put in place previously (when growing from small to boutique) should serve you well, but remember to proactively improve matters in this area too.

Conclusion

This is the final article in this “Scaling Your Agency” series. When moving from ~15 employees to 25+, it’s rarely systems that hold you back. There’s little difference (conceptually speaking) between the infrastructure required to run an agency of either size. Payroll, communication, IT, finance… unless you’ve seriously neglected one of these areas, it’s unlikely to be your primary stumbling block.

Instead, the obstacle you must overcome at this stage relates to skills. Whether you restructure your business, hire new employees or train up existing staff, you have to ensure your agency possesses the skills required for growth.

As you continue to scale, you need more time to work on the business, not just in the business. If you’re trapped in a functional role all day, you won’t have the time or energy to make smart strategic decisions. For the good of your agency, you have to step back from day-to-day operations (in both a functional and managerial capacity). Take care of this, and your journey towards building a bigger, more profitable agency will be a whole lot easier.

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Do as I say not as I do

Leadership

We know all the great leaders lead by example; inspiring their staff and exhibiting great management skills but sadly that isn’t always the case in every SME business. So what happens when senior managers expect their managers to show strong leadership skills but don’t themselves? What are the consequences when someone like me is brought in to deliver some leadership & management training yet the senior managers don’t participate because they think they have all the skills already themselves?

This happens to me occasionally where the leaders are endorsing and/or organizing the training; believe they have excellent leadership skills themselves so don’t take part. Yet the reality often is, that they exhibit the worst leadership skills because they are running around doing 1001 tasks so ‘don’t have time’ to manage. And the managers quickly identify this as an issue – “it’s great that we are learning these skills and techniques but our managers really need to be here too.”

Let’s explore the consequence of this:

Lack of a consistent management approach

Managers will gain some new skills, tools, techniques and language that they can implement with their teams. Yet if their managers haven’t attended the same training then we already have an issue of differing management approach in the same organization. The most likely outcome will be confusion from team members and the good work the training did, quickly dissipating away.

Cynical lower manager

This in turn will create cynical managers because they already know that their managers aren’t great so wonder why they are not attending the training.  Senior managers derail the good efforts of the managers by showing the hypocrisy of asking them to attend management training whilst not attending themselves!

Lack of delegation

Strong management is a huge part of creating a successful motivated and cohesive team. Weak managers don’t delegate because they believe “I don’t have time” or “it’s quicker/easier to do it myself”. Those senior managers who didn’t attend the training and are running around doing 1001 things will be the ones who don’t take the time to successfully delegate thus increasing their own workload and creating demotivated teams. A lot of my time is spent training and coaching managers around the art of good delegation. Not something that comes naturally to everyone.

So if you are in charge of management training or are one of those senior managers who doesn’t believe leadership & management training is for them. Think again!

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.

Your Customer Personas

Business Coaching in London

Last week I wrote about the client journey and how important it is to map this journey from start to finish.  It seems appropriate to follow this up and take it one stage further by talking about your customer personas.

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