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Embrace the 50-20-30 rule

What would happen to your agency if you were abducted by aliens? It seems like a silly question, but bear with me. If you were captive on another planet with no way to reach your team, would your company survive?

If the answer is no, then I've got bad news for you. You built a company so you could give yourself a job.

When you're caught up in the day-to-day operations of running an agency, it's hard to step back and imagine that the company could ever run without you. But if your absence would cause the agency's AGI to drop massively, you're doing something wrong.

Agency owners who stay involved in client work long after they have a strong staff to manage those relationships end up working in their businesses indefinitely. Instead of lifting their heads up to focus on long-term strategies and expansion, they fill their days with client calls and customer service.

Maybe you think working on client accounts demonstrates how committed you are to their needs. But what kind of example does this set for employees? You can't grow your company when you're micromanaging client accounts. You're just signaling that you don't trust your team.

The more involved you are in client work, the less likely you are to build an agency that someone will want to buy. As the organization stagnates, staff members will leave for agencies where they see growth potential.

As an agency owner, you must focus on cultivating big-picture opportunities. You do that by organizing your time around the business's top priorities.

The 50-20-30 rule

Agency owners should apply the 50-20-30 rule to how they spend their time. Start by allotting 50 percent of your time to generating new business.

New business is the lifeblood of your agency. Many agency owners hire consultants to help them drum up new business, but outsourcing this task rarely pans out. The only way to grow your company is to get out there yourself, connecting with potential clients and partners. Business owners and leaders want to talk to other business owners and leaders, so spend the bulk of your time developing those relationships.

Allot 20 percent of your time to developing your staff. Your team members want to learn from you, and the agency won't advance if they don't grow as well. Schedule quarterly meetings to ask them what they're working on, how they're trying to expand their skills, how their accounts are progressing, and what obstacles they're facing.

When people know they'll have regular opportunities to discuss their goals and projects with you, they won't interrupt you as often with their concerns. This empowers them to make decisions on their own, and it allows you to focus on long-term strategies.

What do you do with the remaining 30 percent? I suggest breaking it down into three priority areas:

Run the business
Examine your financial metrics and dashboards to ensure that your agency is healthy. Meet with your board to review the numbers together so you can make quick, educated decisions based on the data.

Maintain your agency's vision
Map out one-year and three-year plans, and establish milestones for each. Share the vision with your employees, and touch base on the agency's progress at least quarterly, but preferably monthly. By engaging your team in this conversation, you keep everyone aligned on where the company is headed.

Show your clients some love
You shouldn't be managing accounts, but you should spend quality face time with key decision makers on the client side. Invite them to lunch and ask, "Are we doing a great job? Are we exceeding your expectations? What could we do better?" Find out what their goals are and how you can make them look like superstars within their organizations. Personal investment goes a long way toward earning their loyalty.

Your role as an agency owner is not to check in on the progress of your ads or take customer service calls. You can't grow the company if you're stuck in the weeds. If you're unsure of how to break out of that pattern, even incremental change will help. Building in 30 minutes a day for new business, scheduling meetings with your direct supports, and having coffee with your VIP contacts will jolt you into a new way of thinking. It's not only about servicing your current clients; it's also about growing those relationships and bringing new ones through the door.

For nearly 30 years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. For 20 of those years, he has owned and run an agency. Additionally, Drew leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small- to medium-sized advertising...

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