Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving and New Year's Wish

The end of November is a time to remember
We give thanks and good cheer for the good times this year

Put your worries aside give a smile so wide

Say thanks for your turkey say bye to things murky

Drumsticks, stuffing, carrots, and such
Fill up your plate but don’t eat too much

Save room for the pie and also the thought
That all that has happened has not been for naught

We learn, we improve, and also we grow
Year end is approaching that much I know

So here’s a combined wish for all that can hear
Happy T-Day, C-Day, H-Day, K-Day, and a healthy New Year

Thursday, October 28, 2010

10 Things That Bug Me

Here are a few of my favorite pet peeves practiced diligently by too many people.

1. Not returning phone calls or emails from people you know or who are not pestering you. No excuse for being rude.

2. Sending an email, which invites a response, and then not answering your phone one minute later.

3. Using this cliché excuse for not responding to a phone call or email: “I didn’t have time”; or “I was so busy.” A simple acknowledgment takes 15 seconds!

4. Asking for a proposal and then disappearing into a “black hole” never to be heard from again.

5. Giving advice for free and then complaining that no one wants to pay for it.

6. Being afraid to work on themselves to become a better leader, manager or just a better person. What are they afraid of finding out?

7. Believing so strongly in one political side or the other that they can’t possibly see any middle ground.

8. Always finding a reason (or making excuses) not to do something that they really need to do.

9. Not understanding the basics of customer service and so there isn’t any.

10. Letting bureaucratic policy get in the way of good common sense.

What about you? What really bugs you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Get Rid of Destructive Employees -- Now!

Apart from financial performance, smart agency owners know that success in the agency business (e.g. new clients, great work, industry reputation, awards) is based on:

• People

• Chemistry
• Relationships
• Teamwork
• Collegiality

I am sure there are some “successful” firms that turn a blind eye to internal flare-ups, disrespect of colleagues, berating team members, constant complaining, etc., but who the hell would want to work there?

Have you ever had a “destructive” employee? Moreover, have you ever had a destructive employee on your management team?

Unfortunately, some of the most destructive employees (particularly the senior ones) are often among your most valuable. They do great work; certain clients love them; they are aggressive in their pursuit of business, and they are vocal in their ideas on how to make your firm better.

After experiencing several such destructive “stars” when I was in the agency business, and having seen how they have affected some of the agencies I now consult with, I can say unequivocally – get rid of them.

They will bring your firm down not up; they will spur others to leave; they will ultimately create client problems, and they will frustrate your efforts to make your firm a great place in which to work.

Any destructive employee “horror” stories you care to share?

Monday, August 30, 2010

30-60-90 hike!

Guess what sports fans? It’s almost football season. The sports talk airwaves are filled with football speak – preseason college rankings, upset specials, NFL preseason games, etc.

Pretty soon we’ll be hearing field microphones capturing the quarterback’s “hut one, hut two, hut three” hike calls.

I’ve got my own version of the quarterback barking signals over the center, and it’s called “30-60-90 hike.”

If you are an agency owner, CEO or COO it’s that time of year to get serious about the next 90 days. And, if you are, you’ll be able to enjoy the last 30 – December – with less stress than normal.

Here’s what I suggest to my clients:

Create specific goals for the next 30 days; the next 60 days; and the next 90 days. Make the commitment to achieve those in the time frame you set. Take a measure of what you have achieved after each 30-day period.

You will be surprised at much you can accomplish if you set achievable goals that move you and your agency forward.

Your 2011 revenue goals will be, in part, dependent on how much new business you can generate in the last third of this year. So, as you create your goals make proactive business development a priority.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Where's Your Marketing?

I just read an article in Advertising Age, “How Social Media Is Helping Public-Relations Sector Not Just Survive, but Thrive”.

It is an interesting piece about how public relations firms are capitalizing on their inherent strategic thinking and social media expertise to develop innovative, result-oriented programs for clients and helping the industry rebound quickly from the recession.

I have only one issue with the story. Look who’s cited and quoted: Edelman, Omnicom (parent of Ketchum, Fleishman and Porter Novelli), Interpublic (which owns Weber Shandwick, Golin Harris and MWW), and Hill & Knowlton.

We all know that excellence in social media/marketing programs are not the province of the big global firms – so why are there no small or mid-size firms mentioned. The easy answer may be that none of you are advertisers in Advertising Age.

Yet, I wonder, how many of you out there have even thought about trying to interest Ad Age in even doing a story? If, like many firms, you want bigger clients, bigger brands and bigger budgets, what are you doing from a marketing standpoint to make those prospective clients aware that you exist?

Shouldn’t traditional public relations (read print publicity) still have a place in your marketing mix?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Turn Around -- Sept. 1 is Gaining on You

Turn around. September 1 is gaining on you.

What’s so special about September 1?

It marks my official start to the last 1/3 of the year. Most people think about the last quarter – I suggest you start to think about your business in thirds.

• jump-starting new clients
• launching new programs for existing clients
• executing your business plan or (in January) developing your new one
• active business development and marketing
• investing in the business

• revising your operating budget based on current results

• keeping the proactive business development and marketing going

• taking a critical assessment of the first six-eight months and revising your plans accordingly
• conducting formal client reviews
• continuing your rolling budget review

• adding new resources
• preparing for the stretch run to December

September-December: you are entering one of the most critical periods of the year. This is the time frame that can make or break the following year. Develop a four-month plan for success.

• winning business that will carry over to next year
• reviewing your stars’ career development track, and keeping them motivated and enthused
• addressing client vulnerabilities and opportunities with additional client review sessions
• selling in new services to achieve stretch goals

• beginning to plan for the following year

September 1 is almost here.

What are you doing to prepare for this critical 1/3 of your year?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Six Strategies for the Next Six Months

I recently returned from several days in Asheville, NC where I attended the 2010 Counselors Academy Spring Conference.

I love going to the conference and I have attended perhaps 20 of them over the years. I consider myself a Counselor’s regular.

I have been fortunate to present at breakout sessions and breakfast roundtables. This past Conference I facilitated a roundtable on strategies that agencies should be using over the rest of the year. I identified six that I cited:

1. Critically assess the first half-year
  • What have we learned?
  • What must we do differently?
2. Revise your strategic plan as necessary
  • Or develop one if you don’t have one
3. Change your mentality
  • Start thinking like a salesperson not just a marketer
4. View your major clients as new business opportunities.
  • Conduct formal account reviews with all key clients
5. Keep your stars motivated
  • Over communicate
6. Revisit your vision
  • Do you have a clear and compelling vision of the firm you want to become?
b. Are you moving towards your vision?

I’ll be going into more detail on all of these in coming posts.

What other strategies would you add to this list.?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Get out of Your Office

I have been very fortunate this first quarter to have facilitated 2010 planning retreats for two agencies. One was in Miami Beach (South Beach) and the other in San Juan. One client was based in New York and the other in Massachusetts.

The retreats were great. Good business meetings and great bonding among the staffs.

Why did each firm choose to “get out of their offices” and head south? Several reasons: warmer weather, an opportunity to “reward” their staffs after a tough but successful 2009, but third, a chance to spend quality time on their business without the normal distractions of phone calls and emails. Ironically, both firms did have to work on major new business proposals but they were able to successfully do that without interrupting our meetings.

While most firms conduct their new year’s planning late 4th quarter or early 1st quarter, think about the value of mid-year management or staff retreats as well.
Here are some benefits to consider:

• The opportunity to critically assess the first half of the year and make changes as necessary
• The opportunity to recharge your business development or marketing efforts if they haven’t paid off like you hoped
• The opportunity to decide on staffing adjustments or new additions
• The opportunity to set new financial goals, including new stretch goals
• The opportunity to reward your people for their efforts

Not all agency retreats need be in a resort setting. But, they should be out of your office. Take a hotel room down the street; go to a nearby city, or convene at someone’s home.

Working on your business instead of just in your business is a critical leadership requirement. Tough on a daily basis unless you plan for it. Agency retreats are way to do just that.

So, as Nike says, just do it. It will be well worth the effort and cost.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Part 6: Positioning Your Agency for 2010 Success

Here are the first five key strategies for your success in 2010:

1. Critically assess 2009
2. Revisit your firm’s vision and strategies to get there
3. Critically evaluate your client relationships and your work
4. Develop a smarter new business and marketing strategy
5. Keep your stars motivated and invest in the next one

Now, number six – one of the most neglected strategies for success.

Strategy 6: Commit to and develop a formal business plan and operating budget consistent with your vision

I’ve been fortunate to help firms develop their business plans for the year and I can tell you without question that it is an important step in ensuring a successful year.

A well-crafted business plan:

• Provides a framework for decision-making
• Takes the guesswork out setting priorities
• Creates a context for investments, new hires, and new service offerings

Start by analyzing the competitive landscape and what your clients are saying. Where are the opportunities to accelerate your agency’s growth? What did you learn from your assessment of last year? How has your vision changed?

By the way, if you don’t do personalized (by telephone) surveys of your clients each year, you should. Clients will tell you a lot about how you’re doing and what you need to be doing better. Consider an outsider rather than agency leadership to conduct the survey.

In your plan, include new services, service enhancements, and new agency “products”. Identify staffing needs and changes. From your prior year’s assessment, specify internal changes you need to make to the way you conduct, manage or operate your business. Remember, this is a plan you intend to execute – so be brutally realistic and honest.

Include your marketing and business development action plans as part of the overall agency business plan.

Finally, develop a formal operating budget for the year that reflects the actions you’ve specified in your plan. Budget for new hires and any new investments when you believe they will occur. Review your budget monthly against your P&L and adjust the budget as necessary to deliver your profit margin goal.

There you have it: 6 key steps to success in 2010. If you commit to follow these strategies you are well are on your way to a great 2010.

What are your key strategies for success? Are there some I’ve missed?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Positioning Your Agency for 2010 Success – Part 5

My fifth strategy for success in 2010 involves your people.

I used to hear this all the time at Burson Marsteller: “our most important products go down the elevator everyday”.

I’m a big believer in stars. People drive success.

As a leader you and your senior team must:

• Motivate and retain your current stars
• Hire new stars for every new position

In 2002, as we began to emerge from the last recession, I wrote an article for PRWeek in which I predicted that “job switching, the inevitable curse of good times in the agency business” was a gathering storm that was moving closer.

Be prepared – it is going to happen again. So, as we enter the New Year, commit to keeping your current stars motivated.

• Over-communicate – let them know what‘s happening (both positive and negative) so they feel a part of the firm they’ve committed to. Being secretive is a disaster recipe.

• Be transparent – share your financials and help them learn the business side of your firm. It will help better understand their clients’ business and it will give them a greater sense of their role in ensuring the financial health of your firm.

• Listen and learn – I once had a boss who said if I don’t ask people how they’re feeling, I won’t ever have to hear them complain. What a sad commentary on leadership. Your stars keep a pulse on the firm. Keep a pulse on them. Find out how they are feeling and what they need from you.

And, in terms of your 2010 planning, find the next star; invest in that person now – ahead of the business if you can. Harold Burson used to say, “find me the next star, and they’ll be fully billable in six weeks.” Everyone wants to work with a star; stars attract business. They will make your firm better.

Don’t settle for good. Find great.

Remember, motivation cannot be delegated. Attend meetings you used to pass up; open your door and your phone lines; practice walking-the-halls management; get instant feedback; always stress what’s in it for them and share your vision – for the nest quarter, the coming year, and the future.

Other ideas?