Jeremy Weisz 3:55
Talk about the services Bay, the evolution of services, so 95 I mean, I remember I think I had a compuserve. Maybe that was like, 97. I’m like, email address. But so probably people weren’t offering websites. What were the services you offer, then? And what do you offer now?
Drew McLellan 4:12
Yeah, I mean, we certainly offered some very rudimentary websites. We’ve always been a b2b agency for the most part. And so you know, it was lead gen and sales enablement and support. It was we did a ton and we still do today, even we do a ton of branding work where we really help businesses understand why why or why they’re not different and how they want to be different. And what is it like to bake that into the organization? So it’s not about the tagline or the logo, that’s the tail that wags the dog. It’s really about, you know, what kind of dog Do you want to be? And why would Why do you want to be that? And then how do we actually infuse that through the organization? So we did a lot of that kind of work. We did a lot of television and radio production. You know, which we don’t do very much have that anymore. You know, we’re doing a lot of video, but it’s not TV spots anymore for the most part. You know, we did some trade show support, which we still do today. So some of the things are sort of evergreen, but you know, as you can imagine, how we do them is very different even if we do the same thing.
Jeremy Weisz 5:18
Yeah, so we’ll say Radio TV 95 today video published wherever YouTube and their website and then lead generation, then was it like direct mail? Yeah, type of stuff, okay, I got a direct mail because you’re, you’re kind of a former copywriter.
Drew McLellan 5:37
I am a writer write my my origin story is I’m a writer. And so I grew up through the ranks of advertising and agencies big and small, as a copywriter. And then y&r when I was working for them had an interesting program where they, they would make you a what they called a copy contact person. So you add client contact, like an account person, but then you would go back and actually write the copies of kind of like how PR works right, much more so than a typical advertising agency. So I sort of got connected to the whole idea of the strategy of what we were doing and why we’re doing it. And I even today, I still love on the agency side of my world. I love knowing what we’re trying to do, and then sitting down and crafting it. And I certainly do that on the AMI side as well. Sure.
Jeremy Weisz 6:26
Yeah. I mean, I think you’ll appreciate this Drew I think I’ve done over 100 interviews with some of the top copywriters and direct response marketers, I think it’s literally the foundation of, of most things. Because when you talk about how to be different, like the copywriter has to pull out the nugget and then right and the real gem, and the hook of why people should buy or listen or whatever it is. And so you were doing direct mail lead gen. What were some of the stuff you were doing at the time?
Drew McLellan 6:54
Oh, you know, we were doing some great three dimensional direct mail where you would, you know, send part of something. And then if they wanted the other part of it, you know, they had to let you come see them. And, you know, we were doing
Jeremy Weisz 7:05
Tell me about that I could talk hours of I would love to hear all the 3d mail, what was an example that you’ve you sent out? That was fun?
Drew McLellan 7:13
Oh, you know, we would send you know, like, we would send a phone case. And if we got to have them call you, they would bring a phone or, you know, it’s like we’re giving you the we’re giving you the thing that’s not that valuable, not sexy. And if you want the valuable thing, you know, like people are doing that now with iPads and things like
Jeremy Weisz 7:35
I’ve not seen people do this actual yeah.
Drew McLellan 7:36
Jeremy Weisz 7:37
What are they doing, they’re sending me the case, and you meet with me, you get an iPad,
Drew McLellan 7:42
or one of the things agencies are doing is they are with a proposal or capabilities deck, they’re sending it on an iPad, and then they’re saying, you know, you know, if we can come talk to you, you can keep the iPad or you know, you can leave it at the front desk, and we’ll come pick it up. So I people, I’ll tell you what a my a lot of my agencies that we work with, are killing it with direct mail today is very different. It’s very personalized. It’s, you know, three dimensional, it’s, it’s mixed with a digital component. So you’re sending them a red Converse shoe, and then the red Converse ad is following them around on the internet. So you know, it’s much more sophisticated than it was back in the early 90s. But the the idea is the same, which is, I want to get your to I want to do something that actually gets your attention. And I want to show you that if I can get your attention. I can probably help you get somebody else’s attention.
Jeremy Weisz 8:44
Yeah, no, I love hearing those fun, because it just gets the creative juices flowing to hear Ray say, oh, some of the case and the phone or leaving the iPad up. And again, I think sometimes it can maybe backfire, as well if you don’t do it, right. So in those situations, would you say they get to keep it regardless? Or like if we do business together? You get to keep us? I mean, what have you have you seen any gone wrong? lumpy mail gone wrong?
Drew McLellan 9:12
It only goes wrong if it feels smarmy, right. So I think it’s like I right now I have an agency that we work with. And they live in the building materials world. That’s their niche. So they’ve got a great biz dev program where they are, they went out and got real tools, right like saws and shovels and things like that, that that they’re using as a three dimensional direct mail piece. So you know, if somebody sends you a shovel, a shovel in the mail, and then you get a call, say hey, I’m the guy that sent you the shovel. You’re going to have a conversation, right hundreds
Jeremy Weisz 9:50
and you’re not going to throw away the shovel
Drew McLellan 9:52
and you’re not going to throw away the shovel, right? So so this is going to be this constant reminder of this agency and They’re probably the same agencies you’re bumping to into three months later at a trade show or something else. So it’s just
Jeremy Weisz 10:06
it’s very memorable.
Drew McLellan 10:07
Yeah, it’s just a way to get on somebody’s radar screen in a way that sticks for a little while.
Jeremy Weisz 10:13
Yeah. What’s the coolest thing Drew that you have seen someone send? Or maybe you’ve received been on the other end, receiving? Yeah, so
Drew McLellan 10:23
I wish I had thought of this, but I didn’t. So one of our agencies was in a pitch for a large manufacturer of refrigerators. So they went to a junkyard, and they found an old refrigerator, they bought it and they just took the door, all they wanted was the refrigerator door. And then they had a bunch of magnets made with messages from their pitch. And they delivered the refrigerator door to the company with all of these magnets about you know, how the refrigerator is the part of the kitchen and you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. How do you not pay attention to an agency that sends you a refrigerator door with custom made magnets?
Jeremy Weisz 11:07
I love it.
Drew McLellan 11:08
Jeremy Weisz 11:10
Um, so lead gen 95. direct response. lumpy mail. Yeah. in the mail now, today. What does it look like for the agents?
Drew McLellan 11:20
Yeah, so for us, most of our clients sell something to a bank, a credit union or an insurance company. So where I happen to live Des Moines, Iowa, nobody thinks about us this way. But we are like this hotbed of banks, credit unions and insurance company.
Jeremy Weisz 11:39
I have no ideas.
Drew McLellan 11:40
Yeah. After Hartford, Connecticut, Des Moines is number two, an insurance company headquarters. So my whole idea haven’t lived here my whole life. But when I started my agency, it was in Des Moines. And so we’ve, we’ve been constantly getting to know and bumping into banks, credit unions and insurance companies and how they buy and what matters to them is a very unique sort of cadence, and, and language. And we’ve just gotten really good at it. So most of our clients, they might sell a white label, credit card or mortgage to credit unions, they might sell teller drawers to banks, that’s who our clients are. So So we do a lot of, you know, pre COVID, we were doing a ton of tradeshow work. We were doing, we were doing a fair amount of lumpy mail and sales enablement. We were doing a lot of what I would call brand building because you know, you would think a teller drawers, a teller drawer as a teller drawer. So what are they what makes them different. So again, it was around the brand and what that brand stood for. We we do a fair amount of podcasts for clients and other thought leadership things. My latest book that came out in 2020, Sell with Authority is all about how I believe people need to sell today, which is from a position of authority, where you are an expert, and so people want to buy from you because you’ve already been super helpful to them. And so they sort of feel like they know you by the time they’re ready to buy. So we implement a lot of that methodology with our clients. And we have a unique sort of position with our clients, which is, we think that most agencies spend their clients money wrong. We think that most agencies spend their money trying to get new customers. And what we say is, you know what, 75% of your budget should be spent getting more money out of your existing customers, and will spend 25%, getting you more great customers. But the best easiest money you can get is more money out of your existing customers, and nobody pays attention to your existing customers. But our philosophy is they’re all
Jeremy Weisz 13:44
the new shiny,
Drew McLellan 13:45
always offer the new sale. But our thing is there’s it’s so much easier to get incremental dollars for and to get you set your hooks even tighter into an existing customer, that that’s really where your marketing should be focused. So that’s the kind of work we do.
Jeremy Weisz 14:00
Do you also do digital for these clients to like, Oh, sure, like paid ads and things like that.
Drew McLellan 14:07
You bet. And we’re doing, you know, SEO and PPC and you know, retargeting and all of all of that. I mean, honestly, today for an agency, that sort of table stakes, if you’re not doing that, it’s pretty hard to be relevant to a client. But I think the mistake some people make is that and and we certainly have seen this during COVID, where everybody abandoned all of their traditional marketing efforts and when completely digital, and and while I don’t disagree, a good chunk of your money should be spent on digital. I think there are some tried and true like direct mail that are still very effective and very cost effective. And so it’s it’s important for us as business owners and leaders to not be so enamored with the digital side of things that we assume that the analog side of the world doesn’t exist anymore.
Jeremy Weisz 14:58
Yeah, I would love to see if You still play in the radio space? Again? Like, it’s probably the same as direct mail. It’s melodic people aren’t doing because they think it’s dead. Right. So they could keep thinking that with direct mail, but it’s also, like you said a way to be different stick out. And it seems like the way that that you’ve been able to be different stick out is to really serve a specific niche. Yeah, it sounds like, yeah. And so I’d love to hear a story like with maybe the Agency Management Institute of, or maybe your client, that how you because it’s a really important piece of everything is How are you different? how unique and you’re showing your unique selling proposition? What was it like, like Tommy one that was before and after, like, how they maybe positioned themselves or the messaging? What would be a good example, where you, like, walk people through this process of how to be different and what it looked like on the other side? Yeah, well, so
Drew McLellan 15:57
first of all, I think, you know, again, leaning back on this idea of selling from a position of authority, you can’t be an authority on everything, right? I mean, somebody is an authority on a thing, or a topic or whatever it is. And so I think a big part of sales in this century is about specialization, and subject matter expertise. And so it’s very difficult, I think, for any company, to be a generalist, and try and be something for everyone, and then talk about how they’re different. And so what happens is, you have to compete on price, because that’s the only place you can really differentiate. And that is a slippery slope, unless you want to be, you know, the Kmart of your industry. So, you know, I can give you I don’t even
Jeremy Weisz 16:41
know if Kmart exists anymore.
Drew McLellan 16:44
That’s my resume. Exactly. Yeah. You know, there are a lot of times when I think a business and and we work in this space, again, both on the agency side and ami side. But, you know, we had a we had an agency that we had been working with agency was about 30 years old, was very much a generalist for its first 20 years, kind of served the local butcher, Baker and candlestick maker, they were in a state that had a lot of tourism kind of things. So they had some specialties. They had at, they ended up having when we sort of looked at where they already had a concentration of clients, you know, they had some tourist stuff, they had some financial things, and they had two or three higher ed clients. So we went through an exercise and really thought about where they could differentiate themselves both what are the skill sets inside the agency that would lend themselves to a certain vertical And anyway, long story short, they decided to go all in on higher ed. But higher ed is not an industry niche, higher ed is an entire freaking industry, right? So what they did was they said, You know what, we’re gonna work with private colleges with less than 5000 students. We are very, super niche like these, we’re going to help these people and we’ve got the digital jobs, to help them recruit the right applicants, and yada, yada, yada. So within 18 months, so they launched some thought leadership things again, really right out of what we teach. They launched a podcast, they started producing some content, they started going to very specific trade shows, exhibiting, talking about how they really polished off some case studies that they had done for that, that super defined niche. And within 18 months, the largest client in the agency’s history was one that came in through their website, because they had heard the podcast, invited them to an RFP, and they won that piece of business. And today 95% of their clients are in the niche. And they have more than doubled in size in less than three years. All honestly, all because of their focus on the niche, and their understanding that it was their job, to teach through their marketing, things that would be valuable to the marketing folks at these, you know, small private colleges, that they would build a community of these people who would look to them as a subject matter expert. And when those folks needed an agency, they were like, Oh, I know who to call. Because I’ve already been getting their email. I’ve already listened to their podcast. I’ve already engaged with them at a trade show. Why wouldn’t I call them I know them.
Jeremy Weisz 19:30
I joke around you I say everything good. In my life goes back to a podcast episode, relationship wise, besides my wife, or business partner, I mean, I know someone one of my friends who actually met his wife through his podcast also. So it happens. It happens. But I love what you said there which is, you know, it’s really focusing in and niching down and figuring out who your Who do you want to serve who your best clients are. Who do you deliver are the best results for the what’s the skill sets around that? How do you deal with that particular person or anyone? Did you find they were resisting that? Because there was this push pull there? Which is? Well, if I go really all in on this, then I’m missing out on this. And there’s that like, fear of missing out. How did? How did you help them get around? Get off the mindset of, well, we still serve these other three really well. And you know, you’re not a you know what I’m talking about. Right? So how do you get them to? Or maybe you didn’t suggest right away going all in? But I’m curious of how they got their mindset around that, that they’re missing out in other niches?
Drew McLellan 20:37
Yeah. So I think I think the distinction it First of all, there is not a business owner on the planet that likes to have someone walk into their office with a big bag of money, and send them on their merry way, taking the bag of money with them. That’s just counter intuitive to how we’re wired, right? Because we know there are moments of FISA, there moments of famine. And anytime, you can grab a bag of money that stretches out the famine, all the better, you get to keep paying your people, you don’t have to lay people off, you don’t have to do all the hard things, which make most people not want to own a business. Right. But I think I think the distinction is, and when I have said to them, and every other client that I’ve walked through this with, here’s the deal, if somebody walks into your office with a big bag of money, and they’re not one of these small, private colleges, and you can actually serve them take their money. But in terms of how you present yourself, and how you go out to market, the only people you care about are these private colleges, all of your marketing, all of your content, all of your social channels, all you’re going to talk about is private college, private college private account, if a bank happens to walk in the door and wants to hire you, because you know, they’re cousins with one of your account execs, and whatever, or they’ve known you for 20 years, because you’ve been in the chamber together, take their money, until we get to the point that 75% of your revenue is coming from the niche. And then you have enough confidence to start saying no. Right? So it’s very different inbound versus outbound in the beginning, that it is an evolution, not a revolution. And we’re going to slowly build up the book of business in our area of specialty to the point where we are perfectly comfortable saying no to the bank, because we know there’s three colleges around the corner. And we are so much more effective and efficient. When we stay in our lane. At a certain point in time the business owner goes, Oh, I see the value of this. My people don’t have to understand 12 different industries, or my equipment doesn’t have to make 50 different things. Like if I just make a really strange thing. Yeah, everything gets more streamlined. It helps me know exactly who to sell to what events to go to, what my content strategy is, what kind of people I want to hire, what expertise I want them to have. It just makes everything in a world where nothing is simple, which is true about business ownership, it makes it simple.
Jeremy Weisz 23:02
I’d love for you to walk me through, you know not to say there’s a checklist but your methodology of what if someone’s listening to us right now? And they’re like, yes, like, that’s what I want. I haven’t been able to accomplish that I know I have whatever for different types of clients, or five, or maybe I don’t know, what is some of the thought process they should go through to narrow it down to get to their private college of less than 5000. Students? What are some of the things that they should think about?
Drew McLellan 23:34
Jeremy Weisz 23:37
Cool. So go ahead.
Drew McLellan 23:39
Alright. So I have I’ve built kind of criteria for figuring this out. Right. And so here are some of the questions that the crate so is basically an Excel spreadsheet, and it lists my criteria, and then it has room for five different I think this might be our niche. And you give yourself a letter grade for each of these questions. And it does the math for you. And he goes, Well, duh, this is what it is. And I say the UPS guys about to work. This is such a critical question that I actually have developed a tool that people can sort of self assess. So picture an Excel spreadsheet, because that’s what it is. And the first column is the criteria. And then I’ve left room for you for five potential niches. And what you’re going to do is you’re going to read the criteria and give yourself a letter grade A through F. And then and you’re going to do that with numbers which is in the key on the on the criteria sheet. And then you’re going to the math is going to tell you where you should belong. So here’s some of the criteria. We already have extensive experience in this niche. Number one, we have the skills to deliver what they need. We already have compelling case studies. In this niche. Generic case studies are not meaningful to your audience. They want to know you’ve already done it for someone that looks just like All right, there are between 510,000 prospects in this niche. So here’s the thing, everyone thinks I’m going to say healthcare is my niche, that is not a niche, right?
Jeremy Weisz 25:12
If they’re a dentist, so give me high
Drew McLellan 25:14
schools, it could be, it could be rural oil systems, it could be whatever it is, but you’ve got to have a list that is manageable enough that you actually can be a subject matter expert in that. So you know, healthcare, I’m not an expert in farm, I’m not expert in Healthcare Management, inside hospitals, or, you know, long term care, like, you’ve got to narrow the niche. So for most businesses, unless you sell a $5 thing, you don’t need 20,000 clients, you don’t even want 20,000 clients. So you know, if they’ve got if this niche has between 510 or 15,000. prospects, if you could buy a list that would have that many, you’re gonna have plenty of opportunity there, right? But you don’t want one that’s 150,000 on the list, because what that means is you haven’t narrowed down enough. Alright. So the next one, ironically, is we could buy a list of prospects in this niche like, this is a group of people or businesses that I can identify in some way these prospects gather together. So conferences, trade shows, whatever that may be. How many other businesses already claimed this position? So in my world, the sheet says how many other agencies but you could translate that so if everybody else on the planet already says, you know, for example, you you couldn’t throw a stone in any city and not hit an agency that has a bank as a client, right? So bank, a bank, financial institutions, not a niche, but small community banks in communities smaller than X, great niche? Do we have current clients in this niche that would safely give us a referral? Do we have a strong point of view, in working with this niche, I told you at MMG, our strong point of view is you people are spending your marketing dollars backwards, right. And at ami, our strong point of view is most agency owners are accidental business owners. They’re great at serving clients, but they have no idea how to actually run the business of their business. And that’s what we teach them how to do how to make money and keep money and keep more of the money they make and all of that sort of thing. So we have a strong point of view. And the next one is I the owner, and my team could get excited about this work. Because an inch is not a one and done like you do it for a year, it’s like, I’m going to be doing this, you know, I think about my world, I am going to be serving agencies until I’m ready not to work anymore. That’s a long time. So I got to be I got to be able to get up for that every day and be like, yeah, this is gonna be great. And then we can happily serve this niche for 10 plus years. And the niche is recession proof. So those are the criteria. And you know, if you if you answer, honestly, sort of where your business is at on all of those, then honestly, honestly, it’s not figuring out the niche, just having the courage to do it. That’s where people get stuck.
Jeremy Weisz 28:17
Totally. And I don’t know, if there’s a page of the Agency Management Institute, we should send people to or just go to the go to the actual website itself. I don’t know if there’s a good place for that niche. If they just go to the blog or the podcast, is there a particular page we should send people to or just send them to the main website for that in particular? Yeah, hang on.
Drew McLellan 28:41
Yes, there is.
Jeremy Weisz 28:44
All right. Well, yeah, if
Drew McLellan 28:46
they just go to AgencyManagementInstitute.com/nichecriteria, you can download the Excel. Cool.
Jeremy Weisz 28:55
Yeah, so go to backslash niche criteria, and you’ll see the Agency Management Institute site linked up on this episode. So, um, you know, thanks for sharing that that’s really, really valuable. I don’t know, you know, I myself find it super valuable. I don’t know if people realize how valuable that is. Cuz when you’re speak, it goes back into direct response copyright. I mean, if you’re speaking directly to a person, and they feel like you’re speaking to them, right.
Drew McLellan 29:21
And all the and all your examples sound like them, and your referral sources look like them. They go and you know, this is probably more true now than ever before. So, you know, we are coming out of the pandemic, and I will tell you, the agencies that rebounded the fastest were the specialists, because when businesses had money to spend, they had no margin of error. So they didn’t want to generalist, you know, it’s sort of like the analogy I use all the time. If you had a brain tumor, you would not go to your general practitioner to remove that you would get on a plane and fly to Mayo Clinic. If you don’t happen to live in Rochester, Minnesota together. Get that thing taken out. And you would want a brain tumor specialist from Mayo Clinic to do that work. That’s the same thing for all of us. If you are a generalist, number one, you’re geographically bound, because why am I gonna drive past four of you to get to you? Right? You’re all set. And like, you know, it’s like a oil change. Why would I drive past for Jiffy lubes to get lube fast, if they’re pretty much the same. But we will literally, we did some research last year. And we asked about 1000 agency clients, if they’re agents geographically, where was their agency located in relation to them, and and the bigger the client, the less likely the agency was a local agency. They picked them because of their expertise, not because of their geography. And this was pre pandemic. But I think that we’re gonna see even more of that, now that, you know, we all live on zoom every day, right? I don’t really care if my agency is in town anymore, or my fill in the blank, whatever, whatever your listeners business is, you can expand your geography unless you deliver. Like, if you’re a plumber, odds are you cannot expand your job. But especially if you’re a b2b service provider, there’s no reason why all your clients have to be in the same geography as you. If you give someone a reason to drive past for other people like you to get to, you
Jeremy Weisz 31:26
know, unless you’re the plumber for like, the Japanese 572 model that are on all the mansions in you know, three surrounding states, then they’ll call you in to fix that thing. Well, you
Drew McLellan 31:37
know what, I just bought a new dishwasher. And as I was buying it, the guy goes, the one thing you need to know is there’s one guy in the state who works on these dishwashers. So and I was like, show me different dishwasher.
Jeremy Weisz 31:51
Exactly. That’s my that would be my next day.
Drew McLellan 31:53
But this guy, he’s a specialist in this kind of dishwasher. And he was like, Yeah, sometimes it takes 30 days. I was like, No, no, I don’t care that much about the dishwasher brand. I’ll switch. But when it comes to something important to your business, you do care enough and you are willing to work with somebody out of market, who can provide for you a depth of expertise and counsel that a generalist just can’t do.
Jeremy Weisz 32:17
Yeah, no, I love that. It’s such an important exercise. I appreciate you sharing that. And people can check it out on the website, too. The other thing I was gonna ask is, you know, through the Agency Management Institute, you’ve helped a lot of agencies, and there was one in particular, that, so I’d love to share what some of the takeaways were of this person. It’s around a 50 person staff. And they had said, from 8% profit to 22% profit. So hey, what were some of the ideas, suggestions and advice, and I’d love to hear more about that.
Drew McLellan 32:53
Yeah. So as I was telling you, before we hit the record button, this is an agency that started listening to the podcast, ended up coming to a workshop, and began implementing some of the things we teach at our workshop on the podcast. In some of our content on the website, we produce videos every week. And honestly, a lot of it was around one of the things that most business owners unless they have an MBA, or they have an accounting background, most business owners aren’t great at business, math. And in our world, in the agency world, there’s very specific math and metrics that no generalist accountant is going to show you. And so what we do in our workshops is we teach agency math. And so this owner, and one of his right hand, people came to a couple of our workshops, and we walked them through. Basically, here’s how you build a dashboard for your agency. Here are the four or five numbers you need to look at. If they’re all green, your agency is healthy, the minute one of them turns yellow, or red, you have a problem. And depending on what number here’s where you go to look to resolve the problem. And so honestly, what we did for them, for the most part was give them a financial management set of tools that allowed them to, for example, in every business, when things get busy, your employees come to you and say, we need to hire more people gotta have more people. And most owners look around and they go, Well, everybody seems pretty busy. So maybe we should hire someone. Well, at ami, we’re like, Nope, that’s not the way that works. If you don’t have $150,000 of AGI, so that’s gross Billings, minus your cost of goods. If you don’t have $150,000 of AGI or adjusted gross income. For every employee, you can’t hire another person. So all of a sudden we took something very subjective and made an object. So we have a bunch of those that we taught them that all of a sudden they basically started running their business by the numbers. And when you run your business by the numbers, the number on the bottom gets bigger.
Jeremy Weisz 34:57
I would love to hear you know, you’ve seen yourself Personally, and from your experience through helping other agencies, some of the big challenges and mistakes, I’d love to hear, you know, what do you see? Do you see certain people hit up against a certain plateau and how they get to the next level, like whether it’s staff or revenue, I go to go from 20 to 50 staff things have changed, or a million to 5 million or whatever criteria you have, what are some of those roadblocks, you’ve seen people, once they get over that hump, it takes them to the next level.
Drew McLellan 35:31
Yeah, I think one of the biggest challenges for business owners is a very human issue, which is we tolerate mediocre employees. And when we are small enough that we think of our business as the family, and we refer to it as Oh, we’re very family oriented, bla bla, bla, bla, bla, it’s kind of hard to fire your kid or your uncle, right. But what happens is, in a business of 10, or 12, or 15, or 20, people, you know, you have one person that’s a C player, that has pretty dramatic impact on the business’s performance. And even worse, it makes the A players and the B players go, you know what, I’m not working this hard anymore, I’m tired of covering for this person, clearly, my boss doesn’t care that this person comes in late or is not prepared or whatever it is that they don’t do at the level you want them to. And they end what happens is the employee sit there and they go, Okay, I’m going to watch and see how long it takes through to fix this. And the more time it takes, the more respect you lose from your actually your great contributors. And so a big change for for business owners, and I certainly see it among my agency owners, is when they can transcend from family to team, and they can separate the personal from the professional, I can fire someone and still care about them as a human being, I can still you know, want to make sure that their kids are happy, like I can still care about them. But if I’m not really clear, and this is the other issue. I mean, a lot of business owners have a very passive aggressive communication style, we’re not clear about our expectations, we’re not clear about the consequences when those expectations are not followed. And then even if we have been clear, we don’t actually execute on the consequence. Because you know what, she’s got three kids, and they’re all in college, like we tell ourselves this horrible story. And then what we end up doing is, our business starts to erode. And we start losing our best performers, we end up taking less money out of the business, because we’re having to shore up around this person. And you know, I have agencies that honest to god they’ve had, they’ve had the wrong person in the seat for 15 or 20 years. They know it, they have eight workarounds to work around that, but they will not fire her. And so a lot of my job is like, help me understand what she would actually have to do for you to fire her like, what do you have to kill your dog in front of you? Like, what would it What would it take? And you know, just kind of talking to them about the cost. But honestly, I have clients that we work with that I can’t get them to budge off of that, that they have they have such displaced loyalty to this employee, that they are willing to risk all the other employees in the business to not make this difficult decision. And I’m not suggesting it’s easy. And I’m not suggesting we should fire people willy nilly. That’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying it’s our obligation to have an expectation of our employees and to hold them to those expectations.
Jeremy Weisz 38:37
True in that situation, let’s say it’s part real part hypothetical. would you suggest how would you suggest that person handle it? would you suggest they let the person go or you suggest they try and find another seat for them? How would you navigate that? If you were there? like okay, Drew, I’m ready to go. Like, I know, I’ve not listened to for the past 10 years? Yeah, I’m ready to listen, like, give me the Give me the roadmap for this. Typically, maybe
Drew McLellan 39:04
we’ll send it to that person. Typically, they’ve already had several seats on the bus, right? Like they’ve already tried to like, Oh, I’m gonna put them here that didn’t work. Oh, I’m gonna put them over here that like they’ve already occupied several seats, they just need to get off the bus. So you know, I yes, I think at a certain point in time, what you do is you sit down and say, You know what, I have done you a disservice. I have not been really clear about my expectations. And I need to, I apologize that I have not set you up to be successful. But I am changing that today. And I want to be really clear about my expectations. I’m going to be very clear about the timeline. And I’m going to be very clear about the consequences if you can’t, if you can’t or choose not to meet my expectations. So I think that’s how the conversation starts that you own that you’ve been allows the manager right and you haven’t really set them up to be successful. So number one that then is here are my expectations. They have to be measurable. They have To be able to prove, you know, it can’t be something subjective, it’s got to be like this, these five things have to happen, they need to happen within a 90 day period, you and I are going to meet every other Friday to talk about your progress to coach you through, I want you to be successful. But at the end of the 90 days, if we have not checked all five of these boxes, I am going to let you go, you’re warning them 90 days in advance, and one of two things will happen. And I’ve had both happened in my own company with this. In one case, the guy looked at me and said, I had no idea I was letting you down, I will accomplish these things. And he stayed with me another 10 years. And he was one of my best employees. He just got off the path. But I have also had people go, I’m not doing that. So I quit, okay, or they start looking for a job and they quit somewhere in the 90 days. But in either case, you either have a good employee or you have a spot on the bus for a good employee.
Jeremy Weisz 40:59
Yeah, that’s great. It’s really, you’re giving them a shot right under the under the pretense of expert, you’ll get a setting clear expectations, and objectives. And then that way they have it, they basically can do it or not do it,
Drew McLellan 41:15
right. It’s, it’s now their choice, because they’re grownups, they get to make that choice. And you’re not gonna it’s not like you’re just saying go do it. And you’re not helping them you’re going to coach them through, you’re going to meet with them on a regular basis, or you’re going to get someone else to help them if you don’t have the skill set to help them. But you’re going to you’re going to give them a shot. And what you’re saying is, I’ve messed this up, so I’m going to give you a shot to redeem yourself. But this is both for both of us. This is our last shot
Jeremy Weisz 41:44
below. On first of all, Drew, I want to thank you and I have one last question before I ask it I want to point everyone to check out the AgencyManagementInstitute.com To learn more, check out the Build a Better Agency Podcast to learn more. Any other places online that we should point people towards?
Drew McLellan 42:03
I’m on all the social channels, and I’m happy to connect with folks. And my last name is spelled MC capital L e l l a n so if you just look for Drew McLellan, pretty much everywhere that you’re gonna find me.
Jeremy Weisz 42:16
Yeah, so you know, last question is Who are some of the companies or leaders in the you know, it doesn’t have to be agency industry in general, that you really respect whether it’s their books, their work, what they’re doing that, that we should all consider learning from as well, because I know you’ve probably, you know, you have friends, or colleagues that you really respect and you’ve, you know, over the past decades,
Drew McLellan 42:43
yeah. So the first place I always point folks is there’s an author and sort of a management coach by the name of Steve Farber. So Steve’s first book was called Radical Leap. And then he wrote Radical Edge. And he’s written several other books. His latest book is called Love is Damn Good Business. And it’s and really what he teaches is, how do you manage people? And how do you grow a business from a position of love, and I think his brilliance. His earlier, books are all business fables. So they’re easy to read. But I read it, I read his work early as an as a business owner. And I was relieved to align with it already. But B, I learned a ton from it. So I would say that there’s another guy out there named Joe Calloway, who has written some great books and has some great presentations online, again, about leadership and management. The end of the day. How we show up in our business is going to determine our business’s success or failure, it is dependent on us and it’s not so much our skill set is really about what we’re willing, how far out on the limb we’re willing to go? What kind of risks are we willing to take? How do we get invite people to participate in those risks in a way that they want to follow us that, you know, that’s at the end of the day, that’s, at least from an employee perspective, how we grow our business.
Jeremy Weisz 44:10
Thank you Drew, and who’s a good fit to check out and join the Agency Management Institute?
Drew McLellan 44:17
Yeah, we work with independently owned agencies, and none of the big holding companies. Most of our agencies are under 100 people. And a lot of them are under 2025 people all over the world we have, you can join one of our virtual peer groups, if you’re outside of the US, we have live peer groups. You know, we have workshops all the time, so you don’t have to be a member to attend one of those workshops. Our goal is just to be as big and helpful a resource as we possibly can to that independent agency owner who’s saying we take great care of our clients, but I can’t figure out why I’m not making more money. That’s typically that’s how the entry point to somebody come in to find us,
Jeremy Weisz 44:59
everyone sugar AgencyManagementInstitute.com check out more episodes of inspired insider.com Thanks, everyone.
Drew McLellan 45:06
Thanks for having me. You bet.