Solutions for Creative Agencies

Thousands of creative leaders manage their agencies with Workamajig.

Solutions for In-House Creative Teams

Fortune 500 marketing departments run on Workamajig.

Project Management

All-in-one marketing project management software for creative agencies & in-house teams

Resource Management

Marketing resource & traffic management tool schedules, tracks & assigns tasks all in one place

Task Management

Track time & tasks for more transparency, more billable hours & keep projects right on schedule

Business Intelligence

Get real time insight on cash flow, budgeting & forecast revenue with custom reports

Finance & Accounting

Fully integrated accounting and financial reporting tools make billing & invoicing a breeze

Sales CRM

Capture new business opportunities & potential revenue with easy to use CRM for marketing

IT & Security

Workamajig is secure, compliant and ready to integrate.


Our pricing plans include all features for everyone, from small agencies to large corporations

Enterprise Pricing

Get fully customized pricing and features for your team of 100+ Users

Workamajig Blog

Get weekly tips on marketing project management & running an efficient agency.


Get answers to the most common questions about Workamajig.

Customer Support

Get customer support for existing Workamajig Users.

Get In Touch

Have questions about Workamajig? Get in touch!

THRIVE Podcast for Agency Leaders

Listen to Kelly Campbell's podcast on what it means to lead a creative agency.

Workamajobs, a free job board for creatives

Post job openings on the completely free job board just for creatives.


The Podcast for Agency Leaders

Join Kelly Campbell twice a month as she goes deep into what it means to lead a creative agency, with interviews discussing leadership, culture, mindset, and more.

EP 64:  Do You Know + Communicate Your Value, Paul Boag


On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by WorkamajigKelly and Paul Boag discuss how to identify your agency’s value by focusing on the knowledge and experience that influences the services you provide.



 EP 64:  Do You Know + Communicate Your Value

Duration: 23:03


Kelly: So welcome to another episode of Thrive. Today, my guest is Paul Boag, a user-experience consultant, author, speaker, and coach. He’s based in Dorset, England. He helps nonprofits and enterprises to really refocused the user experience and engagement for their digitally savvy audiences. Today, we're actually gonna get into identifying and communicating your value to others and we'll do that in the context of agencies but I think that that can also really be applied to then our clients and honestly sometimes in our personal lives as well. So Paul, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm really excited for the conversation.


Paul: It’s a pleasure to be here. I always like catching up with other people that work in a similar failed and facing similar challenges.


Kelly: Yeah. So I think you and I agree for sure that, well, let me give a little context first , the reason how we got connected was I have a coaching client who had received an email from you, that was I think it might have even been titled, do you know and communicate your value, or something along those lines and he forwarded it to me and said it seems like you wrote this and Paul just put it out. So I was like well then, I have to meet Paul obviously. So I can say that I know that you and I agree that most agencies have a lot of difficulty being able to identify what their actual value is, let alone communicate it because you've got to have one before the other. So what are the inherent issues from a business standpoint in letting this issue just completely linger unresolved.


Paul: I think a lot of it is built out of where people started in their careers that if you're running any kind of creative agency, you began by producing assets so that might be a website, it might be brochure, it might be whatever. You produce something, something tangible. Okay. So we see our value inherently as being in the deliverable, in what it is that we deliver. But in truth that is not the whole or even the main part of what value we provide. So yeah I don't know the kind of agencies that you deal with, with all the agents but typically the kind of agencies that I'm working with are web design agencies. And these people think that they produce websites but he is the thing producing websites is a commodity. It's easy. Anyone can do it. That's the whole point of HTML, is that it's easy to write and it's even easier today than it was ten years ago because now there are these amazing themes.


Kelly: You don't even need to know HTML anymore.


Paul: No. Absolutely. So you can just use your Squarespace or Webflow, whatever tool to build these things. So as a result, that's not where the skill is. That's not where the expertise is. The expertise, the value is what's in our heads. It's all knowledge in our understanding of what makes a design compelling, what makes a piece of copy persuasive, what makes performance particularly important on a website or security, or whatever else. So it's understanding that the value is in our knowledge not in our deliverables.


Kelly: And you argued that we should not only not feel guilty about following the so-called best practices but we should value our role. We should value all role more because we're providing what we're providing is so much more valuable. It's in the knowledge. It’s in the experience behind influencing, these other services. And all of that really if you boil it down, it comes down to empathy. The experience, the understanding of other people's perspective, wrapping all of that together, it's really a solid understanding and utilization of empathy. So I think that's really important because I don't think a lot of agencies really focus on that understanding, that part of their value is derived in their practice of empathy.


Paul: Yeah, but here’s the ironic thing, a lot of those agencies will understand themselves that they empathize and aren't being able to get into the minds of users is the key to that success. They understand that for themselves and they want to do that all the time with their own users but they never apply that same methodology to their clients. They never say what is it that the client values for me, as I tend to empathize with the client, what's the value that I’m providing at the end of the day for the client. Is it just the website or is it the reassurance, the reassurance that they’re heading in the right direction. Is it the reassurance or what’s their motivation, maybe they want to get their next pay raise at the end of the year and so you need to deliver by the end of the year. So understanding how our clients think is just as important as understanding our end-users. I don’t think a lot of agencies put the same effort into understanding their clients as they do their users, at least it’s not in my experience.


Kelly: Right. Absolutely. So can you give actually a couple of examples of what that effective value communication looks like, and maybe some of the in-house teams or other clients that you've worked with like where did they start and then what is that effective value communication look like.


Paul: For me, one of the best ways of communicating your value is to educate, is to share and to educate. So one of the things that I encounter a lot because I work with in house teams as well as working with agencies and what I encounter a lot with in house teams is they’re effectively are seen as a support service because they’re often borne out of IT, for example. And so, the result of all of that is that people come to them with an idea, they’re expected to go away and implement that idea. They’re not there to have ideas of their own. And the same is true with agencies actually. You go to an agency, you expect them to deliver on your brief but actually in order to shift that relationship to one where people come to you with a problem rather than a solution and they look to you to help solve that solution, that is really about education and communication. It’s about starting that kind of dialogue and conversation with clients. So what I often do within organizations is I get those internal teams to share better their best practice so get back to explaining, look this is my process, this is how we do things to get to a final solution because having a process in a framework makes it sound like you’re not just making up stuff as you go along.


Kelly: Isn't that the thing that most people think when they hire an agency, right? We're working and they’re like, oh, these people don't know what they're doing, they're just making it up as they go along.


Paul: And that’s especially true with creative stuff. Oh yes they go and have artistic muse in the corner and spell out a lot of artistic stuff. So it’s our job to educate them that there is a process, there is a methodology behind what we do. Unless they see that methodology and as they come to understand that methodology, they understand the depth and complexity behind what we do. The problem is a lot of us within the creative industry don't fully understand why we do what we do. So a great example of that is white space in design. Every designer knows that white space is a really important part of creating a design because clients come along and they want to fill that white space.


Kelly: Make my logo bigger. Why you need so much room?


Paul: Yeah, and we will go, no, you can't do that. I'm the designer. Well, that's not a good reason. That's not educating their client. So first of all, we need to understand why white space is important and that means maybe understand a little bit of that cognitive load and the psychology behind these kinds of things then we can communicate better to the client so it's a combination of having a methodology, better communication, understanding what we do, and why we do it and why that leads to success. No, I was going to say, a lot of the times, a lot of the problems we have with clients comes down to their lack of confidence in us and that lack of confidence ultimately comes because we are very poor at explaining what we do and why we do it.


Kelly: Right. So it's almost like in order to communicate our value, the very first step is actually not communicating the value but actually understanding and turning that lens on ourselves and understanding what we do, documenting that, and then diving a little bit deeper to understand why we do it, then producing some content about why we do it, sharing that with the client, then we can speak to our values. So you're sort of making the case for what you do just through this conversation helping them with that framework and all of that. So yeah absolutely there's so much to this and this is the big component. Let’s call this 4 or 5 step process. There's so much meat to this and this is literally the 4 or 5 steps that very few agencies whether they’re external independent or in house, they just gloss over this and I think for 2020, this is our year of vision, we have to stop glossing them with this.


Paul: Absolutely. And I think you said something really interesting there. So we've got to document this stuff and we've got to have it written down and I find that that is extremely important for setting expectations with clients so as you go into a new client engagement, if you can provide them a set of documentation that says this is what is going to happen, this is the order that things are gonna happen in, and this is why things are gonna happen. That is so reassuring for the client and they also establishes you as the expert in the partnership. But also there's another thing which relates to that is, let’s say we went into a meeting and I presented a design to you and you turned around and you said, make my logo bigger.


Kelly: I will never do that to you Paul.


Paul: No, I know you wouldn’t. I know you wouldn’t, but it happens. You're being a hypothetical client in this occasion.


Kelly: I know.


Paul: Now, I might now come back with a good reason as to why you shouldn't make the logo bigger, but there’s two other things that are happening there. One, first of all, I sound like I'm just messing you at this point, that I'm just making up reasons. Two, you have already put your stake in the ground as the client and said this is what I want. So it's hard for you to back them now. However, if before, you ever said that, I’ve given you a nice little cheat sheet in why white space is important and negative space is important within the design. And I’ve preempted that issue. A, it doesn't sound like I’m making up things as I go along and B, you have an opportunity to back down before you actually say anything and lose space.


Kelly: Yeah, no, I'm all in favor of education, client education and setting those expectations upfront, whether it's a cheat sheet, whether it's a blog post, whether it's a video, whether it's a podcast, I think creating this content in ways in which the client can feel like they're a part of the conversation as opposed to being spoken to. Part of them wants the education but part of them wants to also feel a little bit like the equal so in those meetings like you're discussing, there's a little bit of a power struggle that happens especially if it's early on in the relationship. I'm trying to assess the agency. I'm trying to establish my expertise, my value, all of that and as the client I want to remind you that I'm paying the bill and you're pretty much I have the last say. So there's that weird balance that we have to achieve and get to a place where ultimately, this comes down to trust.


And this is a good segue sort of for my next question, which is that we need to understand that value is a two-way street and this was a huge takeaway from the article, that Lou had passed over to me. For me, this comes down to two things, which might sound really strange in the context of business but I think that the two things that it comes down to for me are love and respect. So respect is easy like I respect that as the client, I respect that you’re the agency with the expertise that's why I'm hiring you and as the agency and I hope everybody's really paying attention to this, as the agency, I have to respect the client. I have to respect that they know their industry, their organization, and the nuances of all of that, so well they know it much better than I do because they do it every single day whatever the service or product is and having that level of respect gives them the opportunity to communicate that to me as the agency so that I can do a better job.


So I think that's point number one. And then I think also, it just comes down to having a little bit more love for each other. I think that we don't like to talk about sort of squishy things in business but at the end of the day we're just humans interacting with one another. We're just humans communicating with one another and we all are sort of built from sort of the same mold for the most part. We all come to the table with different baggage and triggers and all these things. But at the end of the day, if I feel respected and appreciated and we come to the table trusting one another or at least willing to trust one another, we're gonna get a lot further.


Paul: But you see that's the problem I often see with agencies.


Kelly: And that was going to be my question, is what is that, what are those barriers to those things?


Paul: Yeah. So many agencies don't trust clients. They don't they don't trust the clients to be involved in the design process. So for example they’re constantly limiting the client's involvement. We're not gonna show you anything until this point and then you’re gonna get a controlled choice and then after that you'll get X number of iterations and that’s all, and then you have to sign in blood that you're happy with the design. Now all that does is, undermine the relationship and it builds up each of those decision points to this phenomenal level where oh, I've got signed in blood that means I have to be happy. I have to think this thing is perfect and so it becomes this power struggle. Instead and also, you're completely excluding all that expertise that the client brings to the table. 


So instead if you actively involve them, I involve my clients to every stage. We agree on keywords together or the brand needs to communicate where we do collaborative mood boarding. We do collaborative web production. They're involved absolutely every step of it. And when it comes to presenting them the final design, there's no surprises because they were involved in creating it. It's not just the natural evolution. So I almost never have to do each iteration of designs and I certainly don't have to do multiple versions of the design because I created that design in tandem with them.


And best of all, they then feel a sense of ownership over the design so they’re certainly not going to reject and they’re going to defend it internally. And also I never asked clients to sign off on the design either. I simply just keep of evolving, keep producing it as I build the website, accepting that there will be changes and tweaks. It's better than getting stuck in the endless cycle of iterations, which goes nowhere. So the more you control the client into the process, the more it establishes the relationship as peers working together which is what you are ultimately trying to achieve.


Kelly: Yeah, what's interesting that comes up for me and even though this conversation is just between the two of us, I can already hear agency leader in and saying, that sounds great in theory, how would I build for that because if I'm expected to iterate with the client and have this collaborative relationship and it takes double, triple the amount of time that I was hoping for, how would I make any money of that.


Paul: This is the most common question I get asked whenever I talk like this, you know what, it won't take any longer. The reason it won't take any longer is yes the actual production will be longer of the initial design but you won't have any of that endless situation and it's the iteration that kills you, that's where you lose money, on the iteration. And that is completely unpredictable. You have no idea how many times you might have to iterate and tweak and change the design before the client is going to be happy. While you know you're gonna do a mood boarding exercise, you’re going to do a wireframing excise, whatever else, I’ve talked about this on my blog, if people are interested but that is predictable. I know that that's going to take a certain amount of time. Well, if you can be stuck in iteration for weeks, if you're not careful. So it’s the predictability that makes it work because what we do is we submit proposals on the best case scenario. Oh yes, this is probably gonna be one round of iteration. Rubbish. That never happens. So actually, it works out more economical to do it that way.


Kelly: Yeah, so as we start to wrap up here, what would you say is the top piece of advice that you’d give to agency leaders who are trying to figure out how to identify their value and then communicate it.


Paul: Talk about outcomes and not just deliverables. So what I mean by that is talk about the business benefit, what you do provides not just what you’re delivering. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't talk about deliverables, of course. They want to know what they’re going to get. But when I produce a proposal for my clients, sure I outline what I'm gonna deliver but I also outline what that deliverable, anticipate that deliverable maybe able to provide for them as an organization in terms of well, let's take a take a standard website, increases in conversion, reduction in marketing spend, more repeat business and etc. So focus on the business benefits because that is where your values lies, not in pushing some pixels around.


Kelly: Because then you get out of that commodity loop and there's less client attrition because they see the value. It’s definitely I always say the same thing, it's always more so about benefits over features, benefits being what our expertise is, features being the thing that comes out of the relationship, which is the deliverable.


Paul: The only thing, again now, I've got the people's voices right in my head. The only thing that I think people worry about is well how do I know what the benefits are going to be and you've done it.


Kelly: Historical data or historical experience or anecdotes give you a sense of hey for a project similar to this, with my client similar in your industry, this is what they achieved so you can draw on that for sure.


Paul: Yes absolutely. And there are all variables involved, which is why, so for example, I always soften it a little bit in my proposals by saying things like together we can deliver rather than I'm going to deliver these business benefits. I talk about both of us because if they don't play their part, then it's gonna be rubbish. You’re not gonna exceed those benefits. So you could do things to soften it, if you need to, a little bit for your own state of mind.


Kelly: Yeah. Paul, this is a great discussion. I've had so much fun. We are so aligned in the way that we're thinking and talking about this. So I really, really appreciate you coming on the show today and hope to talk to you soon.




Start Watching

EP 63: Why Exploration Matters for Your Employees, with Erica Shieh

  On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly and Erica Shieh of Movement Strategy talk about the importance of cultural exploration and travel for agency employees. The multitude of benefits to your team, your agency, and your clients may surprise y





 EP 63: Why Exploration Matters for Your Employees

Duration: 13:52


Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Pardon my voice, I'm just getting over laryngitis after the holiday season. But last year, I actually work with this agency called Movement Strategy. They've got offices and a bunch of places across the US. We worked on some positioning things together a little bit of SEOs, some conversion rate optimization, and as part of that work together, they initiated this employee contributed blog.

And one of their first post was by Senior Manager of Data + Insights, Erica Shieh who is actually my guest today. Her post was called How Traveling the World Made Me A Better Researcher. And honestly, I was kind of really blown away by the post. I’ll put that in the show notes today but I thought we could have a really great discussion about why exploration matters for agency employees. So Erica, welcome to the show. I'm super excited to have you on today and just thrilled to have this conversation. I think it's one that I haven't heard before so I'm really excited to jump into it with you.


Erica: Thanks for having me Kelly. I'm so excited to talk about it. I could talk about travel all day.


Kelly: So you actually started off this post by identifying a critical issue for strategists and creatives alike, which is that they're sort of like this idea that there's an unconscious bias and like a cultural blindness that we have and kind of unintentionally creep into our work because at the end of the day like we're just making assumptions. So how does that impact the work that we deliver to our clients is really the question.


Erica: Yeah, I think sometimes we don't even realize it. Because a lot of my teammates and a lot of advertising agency, a lot of us are from similar areas. We have similar backgrounds. Most of us have lived in big cities and when we get together and put together a creative brief or a strategy, I think we're sometimes not aware of the fact that we kind of live in a bubble and how it is an agency life, like the timelines are really short and sometimes we don't have a budget to do proper research.

And so, we kind of sift together what we know from our own personal experiences and hope that that's enough to put together a really broad reaching insightful campaign. And sometimes it works and sometimes we hit the mark or we miss the mark just because we don't fully understand a subculture or a group of people. And unfortunately that's kind of pervasive in the industry right now. One thing that's really helpful to deter that is just doing research and talking to people and experiencing things and getting a larger perspective from travel or research.


Kelly: Yeah, and the reason why I think this is such an important conversation is because I think you hit the nail on the head that this is very pervasive in agency world because of all of the reasons why, you just mentioned. And so, if part of our charge is to deliver good work and effective work on behalf of our clients yet we're lacking perspective, we’re lacking empathy. We’re sort of using our own assumptions and our own experiences, which could be really limiting or limited.

That obviously has to impact the work and not make it as effective as possible. So yeah that's the reason why sometimes we do miss the mark and then the client questions our value and then there's client attrition and so really it cascades down into a lot of different things. And again this conversation is not one that I've heard before so I want to know a little bit more about the journey, the physical journey, the travel journey, that you went on. You bought a one way ticket to Asia and actually you were sort of on sabbatical for about seven months and I want to hear more about that. 


Erica: Yes, so I had worked in advertising for probably six years and it's the story of burnout, working long hours and I kind of was looking for a reset moment and part of my job is to do consumer insights and to study human behavior and to study psychology and discover truths about people and I realize that I don't really know my own personal truths. I had never really felt connected to my Asian heritage growing up. Essentially my sister announced that she was gonna have her engagement party in Taiwan. And then I had a friend who had a wedding in India and I thought oh my god, like this is the perfect moment for me to just go to Asia, take some long time off. In my head, I was thinking around like six months and take the opportunity to just explore other countries and be in different cultures that I'd never really known before.

So I started off in China, which was crazy and I did the typical touristy things, did Great Wall of China, and went around, Terracotta Army. Went to the meeting place called [5:47]. But I think one of my intentions with traveling was to travel slowly and to think slowly and have it be less about me but more about observing what's around me. And you have all the stereotypes about Chinese people. Growing up in America you're told certain things and then you realize when you get there that it's not everything that you were taught necessarily and being able to travel slowly and not really know where you're going and just figuring out it along the way and just being spontaneous and letting people that you meet tell you where to go.

It was invaluable and I had the best time. I think I met a lot of people in China that kind of reframed how I felt about the Chinese government and just having that insider perspective, I never could have gotten that if I hadn’t been there. So China was crazy and then I went to Nepal where I did a lot of hiking there. It was a very spiritual experience because a lot of folks are religious and they believe that the mountains are sacred and time spent there is very simple and slow. And I think along the way, being able to observe people and meet other travelers that perhaps were from German or Sweden like they have different perspectives as well. So just meeting strangers, meeting other expats, meeting other travelers, it was really, really awesome and just getting to talk to people and learning about what are my own biases, what did I not realize that I held on to. And just kind of being exposed to their thoughts and perspectives, is really awesome.


Kelly: Yeah. As an employee obviously you're with movement strategy but like as an employee, what advice would you give to the owners or leaders of other agencies that might be considering the pros and cons of sort of allowing employees to take these extended periods of time for travel  and vacation and exploration and things like that.


Erica: Yeah I'd say it’s so, so incredible in making employees not only feel like they’re growing personally but also professionally. I honestly went into my trip thinking this was a personal journey of mine. But I came out of it realizing that I grew so much as a researcher and someone who became more empathetic and more aware of my own biases and as a strategist, being aware of those things helps a lot in crafting our briefs. I would tell agency leaders that while you do miss this person for a couple of months, they will come back as more confident, bold, empathetic, open-minded, and really I would say, audacious. I think any time that people are exposed to different cultures you come back so humbled and so empowered. And like people are the best versions of themselves when they travel and then when you come back, you're not only reset from a mental perspective but you have all these experiences that make you a better strategist or creative.


Kelly: Yeah, I couldn't agree with that more just from my personal travel experiences and all the upcoming travel I have planned because of that. I do want to read the last paragraph of your post because I think first of all there's just so much sort of poetry and beauty in it. But also because I think it's really good for these agency leaders to understand why they should really encourage this exploration in their employees. So if you don't mind I'd love to read this last paragraph. It's a little long but I think it's important. 

You said, “I've taken what I learned during my travels and have since re-entered the agency world with a new perspective on research and strategy. I take the time to recognize my own implicit biases and ask questions that don't make assumptions. I actively listen to consumers with an open-heart and without judgment. I am more compassionate towards societies and cultures that I'm not familiar with and I share this mindset with my fellow teammates reminding them of our audiences complexities and nuances. I left America to connect with myself and I came back not only more in tune with myself but even better as a researcher.”

That to me, that was like, amazing. That was honestly, that was the paragraph that made me even want to record the show with you. Because I thought it was really moving, it was really inspiring and I think again it's a conversation that we need to have because we do get so sort of tunnel vision. Agency life is hard. Agency life is just what we talked about a little while ago. It's fast paced. Sometimes there isn't budget for all the things that we need to really get done but who are we doing the disservice to at the end of the day. So I do want to thank you for your writing that and for encapsulating it in such a way that I think it's really compelling.


Erica: Thanks. Yeah, I think again like it was an opportunity to slow down and be patient and be open-minded and be present. Those are all things and experiences that will go a long way especially in the agency world.


Kelly: Yeah, so as we wrap up, is there anything else that you would love to leave the audience with? A take away or just something that you think that they should consider?


Erica: That's a great question. I think that, I envision this future in which maybe once every six years, it became normal to take a sabbatical for six months like the 6/6 rule, like 6 years and then you learn in 6 months. If that could be implemented as normal and standard across not only agency world, but in the professional life, I could see a world in which employees are so much more productive, happy, inquisitive, curious, brave and I think Americans especially can benefit so much from that because we don't travel much. I feel like we’re afraid to travel sometimes. And so if we made it a norm to say hey you're with us for six years where every six years you do this, I think it would be really incredible.


Kelly: Yeah, that's awesome and if you put a petition together or something, like I would sign that in a heartbeat. I love it. I love it. Well, Erica, thank you so much again for joining me today on Thrive and I wish you the best in your future travels.

Start Watching

EP 62: Mind Training for Agency Leaders, with Anahita Moghaddam

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly and Anahita Moghaddam, Founder of Neural Beings, discuss consciousness and contemplative science for creative leaders. Learn how to tap into the power of your own mind and how that can lead to taking the right actions in your life and business. The guided meditation at the end is great for beginners as well.




 EP 62: Mind Training for Agency Leaders

Duration: 21:27


Kelly:  So happy new year everyone! Welcome back to Thrive. I literally could not think of a better way to start 2020 and a new decade than to talk about consciousness and mind training for agency leaders. So I'm really happy to have everyone with me today. My guest is this beautiful being, Anahita Moghaddam. She's the founder of Neural Beings. She's a consultant to organizations and individuals who are really purpose-driven, mission driven and she's also an international speaker, which is actually how we met. We met last year at the World Happiness Summit in Miami and instantly I knew that we had to work together. I was in the audience, she didn't know this on stage, but I knew and so she's been working with me as my mind training and Buddhist psychology coach for the last eight months and she's also one of the people that I've interviewed for the book that I'm writing. So excited to have you on the show with me today. I'm so grateful for you to be here. Thank you so much. Welcome.


Anahita:  Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Such a warm welcome, Kelly. And it's an honor to be here and to be able to say some things that may add some value.


Kelly:  Yeah, absolutely. So let's start out with sort of setting some context. What do we mean by consciousness and how does mind training actually help us to live happier, healthier lives?


Anahita:  Well, I think when it comes to the question of consciousness, I'm probably not qualified to really explain what it is. I don't even know if there is any clear understanding of what really consciousness is.


Kelly:  Fair enough. Fair enough.


Anahita:  Pretty hard problem out there, but let's just call it awareness. Let's call it maybe even like deeper mind, right? So let's like borrow back with the term deep mind from the world of AI and robotics and computing and so forth, and just refer to that deeper mind, which is synonymous for awareness, for knowing that a lot of the contemplative traditions are pointing us towards, right? So with the practice of introspection and gradually sort of calming the mind, we may start to access states of awareness or states of mind perhaps that have the potential of revealing, let's say the true nature of reality, right?

So once you achieve that deep level of consciousness or awareness, you start to see things in a more, let's say clear manner, less distorted by your own filters and perhaps more congruent with the way that things really are. And coming back to your question about how does my training actually create a better life? Well, I think it's pretty simple. So let's just go back up to a more surface level understanding of the mind, which is what our current under scientific definition is of mind. So mind being sort of the cognitive processes that in let's say, reduction of scientific terms is considered a byproduct of the electric chemical processes that happen in the brain. Right? Let's just say mind is like all the thinking and that is produced by the brain, which I don't agree with that definition, but let's just hold that for a moment.

If that's the case, most of us are subject to a lot of negativity, a lot of habitual thinking. That actually doesn't make us really happy. In fact, it keeps us in these kind of ongoing inner dialogues that just make us more and more connected loops, disconnected from ourselves and let alone from other people. And so I think that the more we can have an understanding of the mechanics of mind and how mind works and mind is not separate from feelings and emotion. So the whole thing, the whole system, the more we can have an understanding of how it all works for oneself or ourselves individually, the more we can perhaps began to change it. And when we can change it, we can change it into something that is a bit more conducive to our wellbeing and our happiness, maybe even to our professional lives. Right?


Kelly:  Yeah, absolutely. And I know that as I said at the beginning of the show, you work with leaders of organizations, you work with individual leaders. We all know the responsibilities that come with leadership, right? But what does the responsibility to lead oneself really entail?


Anahita:  I would say it begins with humility. I work with leaders and I think that you know with all love and respect to become a leader, a lot of the time, a pretty well-defined ego is required. A lot of people become leaders because of motivations that they may not even be conscious of or aware of. So when you're working with a leader, the first thing to do is to just really make them aware of their ego.

And by ego, I'm referring to their sense of self and maybe in some cases when you're dealing with people in leadership positions, the sense of self is really calcified because it's constantly been reified by their environment, by the people that work for them, by themselves, by how they see themselves in their positions. So to start to slowly decalcify the sense of self or this ego is a whole art form in and of itself, which really requires willingness on the part of the leader, humility to be able to actually say, maybe there is more to me or less to me than what I think there is.

And then of course the massive discipline, resolve and resilience that is required to actually change, to really change.


Kelly:  Yeah, I was just going to say, and all of that obviously resonates with me. That's a great encapsulation because that's really, I think a boiled down version of the work that we've been doing together for the last eight months. It does require all of those things coming to the table to say, I had this, this sort of CEO egoic thing, this ego that I came with and now help me strip it down and unravel it. And I want to be willing to do that. I want to get down to the simplicity. Get down to that humility, be in service of others. And then, go through the disciplines, whether it's changing mind, changing action, all of those things. So that resonates really, really deeply.


Anahita:  Exactly as you say. And I think that the more you are able to do that, the more, let's say the weight, the baggage, the armor, the identification is removed. So what happens naturally is there's a sense of lightness and a sense of ease and flexibility that comes sort of as a byproduct of this work. With that, inevitably you're going to be more pleasant to be around when you're more committed.


Kelly:  I hope so.


Anahita:  Yes, of course. There's Apple research that's been done on how happy individuals are more likely to have better relationships when a leader is more, let's say, calm and kind and generous and friendly, they're going to invoke a deeper sense of trust and reliability and loyalty from their employees. They're going to be much more motivated to work for a leader that's kind, versus perhaps a leader who is perhaps not as, is a bit more rigid and little bit more unnecessarily firm or closed off or lacking empathy. So you're just going to benefit from it in every way.


Kelly:  Yeah. And I think also I would add to that or build on that with the aspect of vulnerability. I know we've talked to her, I've talked about Brené Brown on the show before, but I think that aspect of vulnerability sort of builds nicely on everything that you just said because the more vulnerable we are, the less rigid, the less closed off, the more I can say, you know what, I need help from my team to help lead this organization. Or hey, this is something that I'm struggling with. Like, remember, I'm human, not just the leader, right. And I don't have all of the answers and I have to rely on you as my team. That's why I built this team of people who are really talented and some of them smarter than me and you have to just let that go. And really, again, that goes into the trust that you're talking about. So I think vulnerability is definitely something I would add to that.


Anahita:  Absolutely. And that's really what my understanding is of a leader, someone who helps other people be their best rather than they are doing all the work and others are following. They actually are creating and inspiring others to become leaders.


Kelly:  Yeah. It's all about empowering other people. Absolutely. So in your own coaching and consulting practice, how do you actually help leaders to gain this clear understanding of how their minds work and then how that leads to taking the right actions in their lives? Like give me like a little bit more about the nuts and bolts so I can share that with everyone.


Anahita:  Okay. Well, I guess when they sign up with me, my role is to be that really uncomfortable instance in their life and they first show who they are and how they are. Right? So maybe, just acting as a mirror of sorts. And for that, going, referencing the Buddhist teachings, we have to become really comfortable with the reality of our suffering, with the reality of our dysfunction. So in order for us to actually go from being perhaps unhappy to happy, we have to first really look at what is making us unhappy. We have to understand the causes for that unhappiness or that dysfunction or that suffering, whatever you want to call it.

By understanding the causes we can then slowly begin to tweak them and change them, right? Because everything is subject to change. So that's beautiful. Nothing is fixed in any sense, right? We can begin to work at it. So it begins the process. The work that I do begins with really kind of shutting a realistic light on the condition and the circumstances and the inner reality of a person. And not everybody wants to do that. Not everyone wants to be…


Kelly:  Why not? That sounds like so much fun.


Anahita:  Yeah, exactly. Not everyone wants to do that. It's an uncomfortable process. Not many people want to look at themselves in that light, in that unfavorable light perhaps. But once we begin to do that, we start to then create sort of a map of where we want to go. Most of us want to be happy. I think if probably all of us want to be happy, nobody wants to be unhappy, nobody wants to suffer. So we all agree that we want to be happy, but then we can get further into the definition of what happiness is for each person. Happiness would be achieving a certain level of success work-wise, achieving a certain reality in regards to interpersonal relationships, romantic or love relationships, whatever, health. So we define what that sort of goal is and then we go back to our present moment, right?

So again, referencing the Buddhist teachings, everything happens in this moment, so, right? So it's in this present moment that we can't even look like there's no, we can't even hold onto the present cause it's constantly fleeting, right? We can attempt to work with this present moment and it's our actions, right? Our actions, which actually then become our future experience.

It's the ways that I think, the ways that I speak, the ways in which I act or for a time, this will weave my reality. So we have to become clear on where we want to go and make sure that our actions in the present are congruent with the results that we want. Most of us want a certain reality in the future, but our actions are so incongruent with that reality that we're striving towards and we keep falling into this hole of dissatisfaction and unhappiness and we're able to, whether it's to conjure forth the discipline or the awareness or the resilience, whatever resources are needed to actually make sure that our actions are congruent with the results we want.


Kelly:  Right. So in Buddhism, it is called pervasive dissatisfaction, right? That recurring loop. I've been doing my homework by the way. So like that recurring loop of like, this is how I want to act in integrity or how I want to feel or how I want to live, but then my actions are not in alignment with that. And so that's really, that's where the work is.


Anahita:  Absolutely. But the sad thing is that my actions are not in alignment with that and I'm not even aware of it. So what happens is I'm constantly feeling this like underlying nagging feeling of things being off. It's almost like no matter what, there's always something that's not right. Whether it's my own experience of myself subjectively or my world, or my work or my relationships, something always needs to change in some future instance for me to finally arrive at that moment of happiness. The reality is it's like the carrot that's standing in front of the horse. You are never going to reach it unless you do what? Testing.


Kelly:  What's that?


Anahita:  I was just testing you.


Kelly:  Oh I didn’t hear.


Anahita:  Do you think Kelly? In the future. Okay. No, sorry. I put you on the spot on your own podcast.


Kelly:  That's okay. Hey, it's all about vulnerability, right?


Anahita:  Okay, fine. Yeah.


Kelly:  It's okay. It's okay. This is the e beauty of an organic conversation. Right?


Anahita:  Right. No, I was going to say, unless we really, we become really aware, whatever, forget about it. But anyway, moving on. 


Kelly:  Yeah. So as we start to sort of like wrap up the conversation a little bit, I think it would be really helpful for agency leaders who I don't, I don't know exactly how many of the people who watch or listen are into meditation or have a meditation practice, but I know that that is certainly part of the work that you do. Part of the work that we do together. So I think it might be helpful if you're open to it to do some kind of guided meditation that we can invite everyone to kind of do this together with us. I think that would be a beautiful way to start the year.


Anahita:  Yeah, sure. Yeah. Gladly. So I would say let's find a comfortable seat. And by comfort I'm referring to a sense of stability in the body, but also a sense of ease. So make sure that you can relax your body, but your body is also sort of upright and stable. And if you're comfortable, you can close your eyes. If you prefer, you can leave them open. Try to not fix your gaze upon anything if your eyes are open, and let's just take three deep breaths. Inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth.

This way we begin to sort of down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and inviting the body into state of relaxing. So inhaling deeply through the nose, exhaling through the mouth, and as you exhale the air out, allow the weight of your body to drop and allow the weight of your body to be supported by whatever you're sitting on. Inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth.

And one more time. I know you may have done more than three rounds. That's okay. Make sure the exhalations are long and as you exhale, the abdomen is pulled in words and then just closing the mouth, breathing naturally through the nose and begin to lose interest in the world of the external and begin to become curious about the world of the internal. Curious to know what is happening in this inner realm that a lot of these contemplative traditions are inviting us to explore.

What is my feeling in this moment? How am I feeling? And see if you can refrain from grabbing onto language and labels and just allow yourself to feel what you're feeling and trying to refrain from judging the feelings as good or bad or wrong or right. It's just feeling.

Notice if there's any change in the quality of your mind as you keep going inwards and inquiring, inquiring into the nature of your subjective experience. Let's go a little further and ask ourselves, what is the quality of my mind in this moment and listening for the answer. So in order for the answer to become audible in a non-audible sense, you got to become quiet.

What is the quality of my mind? And allowing all sounds and activity in your external environment to be there without losing any attention on it. What does the quality of my mind, and it's almost like a tuning in or a sensing or listening quality that is required. And just mere active listening or tuning or sensing into is enough to calm the mind as an entry point into meditation.

And just take a moment to let that go and just rest. Allow your mind to rest and in that sort of state if it wants to run around, if it wants to go into the future, into the past, just let it, but see if you're going to watch how your mind behaves right now when you let it go. It's like a wild horse that you just let go and it starts doing what it does and you just observe it.

Without any judgment, of course, just taking note. And then letting that go and slowly having the intention to come out. Take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you did a meditation for a few minutes. So give yourself that credit. I just meditated. Maybe you allow yourself to feel a little sense of joy or happiness or contentment. And then slowly beginning to bring a little bit of movement into the body. And whenever you're ready, you can open your eyes.


Kelly:   That was beautiful. Thank you.


Anahita:  You're welcome.


Kelly:  Well, I feel a lot calmer now. Good thing we didn't do this at the beginning of the show. I would have been like monotone the whole time. And it is amazing when you do come out of meditation, your whole affect really does change. So if you don't think it's “working” it's always working.


Anahita:  Exactly.


Kelly:  It’s always working.


Anahita:  Yeah. I heard that Sharon Salzberg say that the other day actually.


Kelly:   Yeah?


Anahita:  Yeah. Is it a quote by her?


Kelly:  No, I just said it.


Anahita:  Oh, it's fantastic. Yes. When you think it’s not working, it's actually working.


Kelly:  Oh, that's funny. Yeah. Maybe I'm channeling my inner Sharon.


Anahita:  You are.


Kelly:  Well, Anahita thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for guiding us through that meditation. Thank you for everything that you're doing in the world and really, really grateful for you to be here.


Anahita:  Thank you so much for having me, Kelly, and thank you to everyone that's been listening and I hope you are happier, tiny bits maybe.


Start Watching

EP 61:Overcoming the Overwhelm Loop, with Heather Yandow

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly and Heather Yandow discuss the physiological symptoms of burnout. They provide suggestions on how leaders can get overwhelm under control, as well as the difference between self-care and self-soothing.   


 EP 61: Overcoming the Overwhelm Loop

Duration: 14:55


Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we're talking about the recurring feeling of overwhelm that a lot of leaders can relate to, and then actually how to overcome it. So super exciting discussion. And I'm sure it'll resonate with everyone. My guest is Heather Yandow, a nonprofit consultant with Third Space Studio in Raleigh, North Carolina. And what Heather does is she essentially helps nonprofit leaders to really understand how they can create impact and then generate more of it. So Heather, thank you so much for being here. Really, really excited to have you join me today.


Heather: Great. I'm really glad to be here. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. So I'm glad to be able to talk about a little bit with you today.


Kelly: So we are actually connected after you published a blog post. And I think the blog post was essentially based on an article that you came across in the Harvard Business Review. So I want to hear a little bit about the main theme of that, and then we'll kind of dive into getting some kind of relief or remedy for these people.


Heather: Yeah. So the article that I saw in the Harvard Business Review is how to deal with feeling constantly overwhelmed. And so certainly, I see that all the time with nonprofit leaders that I work with, but I also see it in consultants, and in folks running small businesses that I work with. And so that article really, really just spoke to me and so it talked about how being overwhelmed shows up, feeling confused, unable to make decisions, irritable. And then also what are some of the strategies that you can use to address that? And what are some of their top tips for thinking about how to deal with overcome.


Kelly: Right. So if we start to dive into it, I think a good place to start is talking maybe about the physiological symptoms of overwhelm and burnout, right? Every single person listening or watching this can really relate to that. I know you can. I know I can. I think starting there, but then also, what does it feel like? And how do you recognize it? I think that's a really great place to start.


Heather: Yeah. So I think a lot of the leaders I talked to recognize burnout in their rearview mirrors. They can look back and say, oh, yeah, last summer, I was really burnt out. But a lot of us it's hard to recognize in the moment.


Kelly: Yes.


Heather: It might be, yeah, we're just really high functioning, right? And so we are used to having a million things going on and answering emails at all hours of the day. And so we don't realize the toll it's taking. Some of the signs that the article explains and that I really feel as well are feeling of just being foggy, inability to make simple decisions. So I don't know about you, but I get to the end of the day and I'm negotiating with my partner where to go for dinner and just cannot go.


Kelly: You’re just like pick a place. I don't care if it's Greek or Thai or whatever.


Heather: I’m just like I can't make another decision. So that to me is one of the signs. Certainly kind of stress but stress manifested all kinds of ways. For me, it manifests in irritability. And so I know when I start getting snippy with my dog, that there's something going on, when I'm angry at this adorable little thing, who does nothing but love me that there's something else happening. And then of course, you've got kind of this the sleeping, eating, exercise problems that come up with when you're overworked and overwhelmed.


Kelly: Yeah. I think for me, it's when I look back at when I was running my agency, it was especially in that, the last few years of it, it was just a loss of passion, just a lower vibration in my own mood, maybe a little bit of being feeling lethargic. Those were the things that I could, reflect back on and say, yeah, that if I look at that, those were definitely my physiological symptoms.


Heather: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it definitely gets to the end of the day, sometime, and all I want to do is go to bed, it's 8 o'clock, and I'm just spent, and so that for me is some of that lethargy as well.


Kelly: And that's also your body communicating to you like you need to shut down, or if you don't consciously shut down, like we're going to shut you down, we're going to make you feel that exhausted where it's like, the only thing you want to do is crawl under the covers and just like shut it down for the night. So as you were, sort of you read this article, you subsequently wrote about it, what were your top three takeaways, whether those were for the executive directors and leaders of nonprofits that you work with, or whether those are for creative and technology agency leaders who we’re talking to you today.


Heather: Yeah. So I think three things that I really got out of it that reinforced some of what we hear all the time, but just particularly in this context. So the first was really thinking about what's your main source of stress right now. How can you identify what's happening? What are the projects, what are the tasks, whatever it is, that's really, you are struggling with the most, that you're thinking about the most, that you're stressing about the most? Identifying those and the steps you can take to actually address whatever is happening there. Sometimes I find that I'm stressed about something because I'm letting it hang out in the back of my head, and I'm not bringing it to the front and saying, okay, I actually need to think about how I'm going to get work in the second quarter of next year. Right? What's the plan for that? So that's number one. It's kind of being really clear with yourself about what is contributing to what's going on in your brain. The second that I really like is really carving out more boundaries around your work. So that can be time boundaries and that I'm only going to work between x and y. It can be time blocking. So really thinking about if you've got a project that's on your mind, you haven't been able to find the time for it, can you just start with an hour next Tuesday morning, and just think about that project? And then along with that is just saying no, right? Really being clear. I can't do that then or I need to push this off. It's not a good time. And then the third piece that I think is probably true for you. It's certainly true for me is to let go of the idea of perfect.


Kelly: Oh, do you know me?


Heather: So just thinking about what needs to be A plus work? And what can be B plus work? And where do we really need to spend our time and energy making it perfect? And where can we say, this is great. This is good enough. This is ready to go. Let's get it out into the world. So those are the three big ones.


Kelly: Yeah, and those are big ones. I mean, all three of those resonate really deeply with me. And within the work that I do with agency leaders, similar to how you're working with nonprofit leaders. Listen, at the end of the day, the titles don't matter. What we do for a living doesn't matter. We are all human. And so of course, those things are going to be really resonant. And like you said before, stress and anxiety and overwhelm, presents differently for each of us. And that's based on maybe our past experiences, how we grew up, what organizations we've been a part of, all of those things. So there's a lot to that, but I think those in particular are really, really strong takeaways. So I definitely appreciate those. There's also something that we talked about the last time that we were together, this concept of, part of the resolution or part of the overcoming overwhelm, has to do with self-care. And there's a big difference between self-care and self-soothing. I think that's a really interesting place to kind of take the conversation because I'm really curious to hear your thoughts about that.


Heather: Yeah. So, the rise of self-care is something that I think more and more people are paying attention to. And so more and more companies and organizations are paying attention to. And there's been something that's floating around in the past couple of weeks or past couple of months on the internet that talks about self-care versus self-soothing. And so a lot of the things that we have in the past I think articulated as self-care are actually just band aids on the problem. So, the wine and bubble bath self-care is really kind of a temporary solution. The practicing mindfulness every day is more of a self-care; it's more long term, helps to get to this overwhelm issue and others. So the big difference was kind of what's happening, at one point in time, what's a quick fix, in some ways that actually doesn't fix anything versus what's taking care of yourself. So the real self-care in that are things like managing your finances, cooking a delicious meal, signing up for exercise classes, there are those things that are not going to instantly fix some of the stress or anxiety you're feeling but overtime are really taking care of yourself, rather than…


Kelly: Yeah, I was just gonna say so that for me what the differences I think underlyingly is it's really the discipline and the commitment after you recognize what that underlying issue is, like where those feelings of the overwhelm, the stress, the anxiety, where are those coming from? And then what can I do on a day to day basis to start to regulate those emotions and make that sort of a lifestyle change as opposed to let me go get a massage because I'm super, my shoulders and neck are super tight because I've been on the computer all week, or the wine and bubble bath or those things are great and I don't discount them. But I agree with you that they are sort of a band aid and they're just to fix what happened today versus like, do you want to actually make this a lifestyle choice?


Heather: Yeah. My favorite kind of self-care that I never thought of self-care is going to the grocery store.


Kelly: Oh my God. I love you. I love grocery shopping. Most people hate it.


Heather: Yeah, I don't love going to the grocery store. But when I started to reframe it as this is an opportunity for me to buy food that will nourish my body. It's a way to get me out of the kind of cycle of buying the takeout food that I know isn't good for me. But that's the only way, I don't have anything in my house. When I reframed it that way, I could see like, yes, actually, as much as I dislike the act of being in the grocery store with all these other people, it is actually self-care.


Kelly: So my trick for that is and why I love it so much is I actually bring my phone. I have my shopping list on my phone, so I have to bring my phone anyway. I plug in my headphones, and I listen to my favorite music as I'm food shopping.


Heather: Oh I love it.


Kelly: And so, this way it doesn't, I'm still in my own world, but I have the same mindset that you have, like I get to choose the things that I'm going to put in my body. And so I think part of that is definitely mindfulness and bringing awareness to every single thing and it could be food shopping. It could be whatever. There's so many different examples of how you can reframe and reset the way that you approach something. First of all, what is your intention in this? How are you feeling when you go into this situation? And you can make things that other people would actually dislike or find mundane. You can make them really meaningful. So I love that example. Yeah. So as we start to wrap up, I want to touch upon something that's going on with you, with this national directory of nonprofit consultants. And just hear a little bit more about that, because that could also be really valuable to the audience. I know it's a separate topic, but I thought that was really interesting.


Heather: Yeah, thanks. So I have launched which is, the National Directory and Network of Nonprofit Consultants, coaches, accountants, lawyers, so all of the folks who are serving nonprofits as experts. And it's not only a chance for nonprofit leaders to find new people that they can partner with. But it really is an opportunity for us, as a lot of us are small business owners or work just one or two people in a company. It's a chance for us to meet and learn from each other across the network and to share resources and best practices. So if folks want to check it out, it's


Kelly: That’s amazing. I will definitely check that out. I'd be interested in that. And I know a lot of the creative and technology agency leaders who are listening or watching that serve nonprofits, that could be an incredible resource for them also. And just to loop it all around, if those resources are in need, and part of overwhelm is, not having the right talent or resources or people in your network. Maybe that could provide some relief as well.


Heather: Absolutely.


Kelly: Thank you for that. Well, this has been a great discussion. Is there anything else that you want to leave the audience with before we wrap up?


Heather: The last thing is just pay attention to your body, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you about overwhelm. One of my favorite teachers here in North Carolina. So the question to ask yourself is what do I need right now? And I think just pausing and asking yourself that over the course of the day, can really help you address some of this overwhelm and over time build to going grocery shopping, taking care of your finances. Really being intentional about that.


Kelly: Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me today, Heather. This is great.


Start Watching

EP 60: Why Clients End Agency Relationships, with Tricia Atkins

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly and Tricia Atkins explore the primary reasons why clients end relationships with their agency partners. They talk about how to identify weaknesses and work to solidify those for repeat reliance or long-term retention.



 EP 60: Why Clients End Agency Relationships

Duration: 16:37


Kelly: Welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we’re talking about something very, very valuable in my opinion. We're answering the question: why do clients end agency relationships? And my guest today is Tricia Atkins. She's founder of Walker-Stanley Communications. Basically, a fractional integrated marketing team for small to mid-size organizations, nonprofits, things along those lines. She's based in Boulder, Colorado. She and I met at Search Con, one of the conferences out in Breckenridge several years ago and I hope you agree with this, but over the course of time, we kind of discovered that we are very much aligned in terms of personal development, really addressing our client’s needs so I want to welcome you to the show and thanks so much for being here.


Tricia: You're very welcome. Happy to be here.


Kelly: So what's interesting about this conversation is that why I felt like you were really the perfect person to have it with me is that you've really been on both sides, you've been client side, you've been agency owner side, and you've been agency side as an employee so you've really seen it from all different aspects.


Tricia: Sure.


Kelly: What do you believe is the reason why clients end relationships with agencies? I know you have a thought that it's kind of twofold. But what are those twofold reasons.


Tricia: Well, I think some of it is just relational. Does the client still have trust with the agency? Do they still feel the agency is competent? Can they deliver on the needs? Is their transparency? Is the agency giving the client access to accounts that the agency is built for the client? So part of it is just kind of subjective relational. The other part is more quantitative. Are they delivering the results that the company needs? Are they getting leads that they need? Are they getting the kind of social media traction or online traction that they need? So I think it is twofold.


Kelly: So I'm hearing you say relationships and ROI. It's got to be a mix of the two, right?


Tricia: Yeah absolutely.


Kelly: So one of the things that we talked about recently was the fact that there is this, we'll call it a growth gap. So as we grow as agencies, the clients that have historically been our bread and butter, the ones that we thought were ideal or the ones that would just pay us some money especially if we're early on the agency world. As we up level in terms of our agencies, those client criteria, the client demographic, what those ideal clients look like starts to change. And so, we may have some of those historically bread and butter clients that are no longer a good fit for our agencies. Nobody wants to have this conversation. So let's talk a little bit about that because I think that's pretty fascinating.


Tricia: Yeah, there's a lot of loyalty to those clients that we all got when we were first starting out. They believed in us. They invested in us. They hired us. They supported us, not only financially but also probably emotionally like they give confidence to grow the agency and expand and go, pursue that next client. So there’s loyalty there and gratitude. But at some point as you grow and as you move up market, and you start looking at your systems and your processes, and what can you deliver well and efficiently and make money at, sometimes that doesn't include those clients from the early days.


Kelly: Right.


Tricia: And you still have, I think an obligation to support them well and communicate with them well that if you're not willing to continue to support them in the unique way that you did when you started, then maybe you have to have conversation about finding a new agency to support them or another way to support them without you.


Kelly: Right.


Tricia: And it's tough. Like you don't want to give up on the relationship. I mean, you don't want to walk away from the relationship, for the loyalty. You don't want to walk away from the revenue even though it’s small. It’s tough. You need to have that conversation because it's your reputation as well. If you ignore and neglect them, it erodes your reputation.


Kelly: Yeah, so why I thought about this as a growth gap is because I think that it's a very important conversation to have with those legacy clients, to be honest to say we are growing and you’ve certainly helped with that growth. We want to support you in the best way and honestly the best way that we can support you might actually be to help you transition to another agency, the one that can better support you because maybe our core services have kind of evolved or maybe we're set up in a way that our pricing model is no longer going to fit your budget, whatever those conversations are, but having the respect for that client to have that really difficult conversation, I think they will appreciate it more than the angst that you might be feeling about having the conversation.


Tricia: Yeah, I'm smiling because it feels like a breakup. You're breaking up with.


Kelly: Hundred percent, one who breaks up.


Tricia: No, they don’t.


Kelly: It’s not a good feeling but the thing is you're really being compassionate in that moment and you're being respectful and you're honoring the fact that you've had this great relationship together. Hopefully, it was great. You've been through a lot of things together especially if it's a legacy client you’ve had for years and what better way to honor that than to say, you know what? We were no longer the right fit for one another but we respect you so much and we value the relationship so much that we want to help you seamlessly and hopefully flawlessly transition to someone else who can better support you.


Tricia: Yeah, it's an integrity and a communication issue.


Kelly: Yeah, so there was a webinar that you were telling me about that you had recently watched and it was about over committing and there were a couple of examples that the person who's doing the webinar kind of shared with you but I think what the takeaway for me was when you were sharing it, was how that over committing, that being that yes agency really results in a lot of stress in our lives. So I wanna hear a little bit more about that.


Tricia: Yeah, it was a brilliant point that I'm guilty of but I have never been called out on it. The guy's name is Chris Felton and he was talking about setting boundaries with clients and talking about serving them well with integrity and watching out for over committing. So if o a client comes to you and says I need this job in two days. And you know it takes you five days to deliver quality end result, you need to stand up to the client and say this is a five day job, I won’t be able to do it. This builds trust with clients because you're so committed to delivering value and a quality end result. that you have to stand up and say it's a five day turn around. And he said that over committing that we all do in our work and our personal lives creates a lot of stress. Like that’s a brilliant point. I'm so guilty of that. And they need to stop. I don't know. It's just kind of a light bulb. It was just a brilliant thought.


Kelly: One of the other things that it does on the positive side, so on the negative side it creates stress, but on the positive side what it does is it really sets more realistic expectations with that client so if you do that in that moment or when you have the difficult conversation again to say, “This is a five day turnaround. We want to deliver the highest value for you. We're proud of the work that we deliver for you and we want to continue to do that. This is the situation. It's a five day turnaround and let's be real about that.” The next time that they have something that's similar, they're gonna have that in their mind. The last time I asked for this, this agency was honest with me and said it was a five day thing so now when I requested I'm gonna say hey, I've got this thing that I need done. I know last time you said it was five days. Look at the scope. Is it going to be five days again? That's a very different way to approach it from the client side but you're the one as the agency who is serving control of that and your setting those parameters and those boundaries with the client and then setting their expectations. You're changing their behavior.


Tricia: Yeah, it’s what they call client management.


Kelly: Client management training.


Tricia: But it also creates respect. They're not going to treat you like a commodity.


Kelly: Exactly.


Tricia: Like you're just whatever engine for whatever digital marketing. And we all know the damage. The damage of over-committing and under-delivering is real.


Kelly: Yeah, absolutely, drives your team crazy. They come to work and they've got their to do list or whatever it is maybe you're an agile agency and you’ve got sprint, whatever it is. You can't mess up that work flow. I mean, your people want to be focused and deliver good work. They want to be proud of what they're doing and you as the agency leader or manager or whoever is agreeing to these crazy timelines, you’re driving your team crazy and you're gonna actually noticed more employee attrition because of it because they don't feel like their work and their time is being respected. They feel like it's being controlled just because you want to make a client happy and there's no real good that comes out of about.

Tricia: Yes, absolutely true.


Kelly: So one of the things as we were starting to wrap up here is we have to realize who we are as agencies, right? Like what purpose do we serve or how do we fit in with our clients? So agencies become this sort of extension of the marketing team. So as agencies, we also need to start developing the self-awareness of really tapping into understanding are we delivering the value, are we continuing to support our primary contact in that marketing department making them look like the rock star, are we doing all of those things? If we feel at any point in that situation where I don't know if we're really doing that like I can't believe the client hasn't brought up that to us yet that they're not happy. I can't believe that they're satisfied with what's been going on because we know intuitively that we're not giving them the same attention that we used to give them when we were younger or smaller agency. So being on both sides of it, client and agency side, what's the best piece of advice that you would give, maybe these agency readers who are listening and watching to this. What's the best piece of advice that you would give to really change that or to become more self-aware?


Tricia: Yeah, Kelly you raised a really good point. I think if you have an inkling that you're not delivering a level that you know you should be, then the client probably knows it too. You're probably picking that up from the client. They just haven't had that discussion with you.


Kelly: And they may not until they're firing you.


Tricia: Yeah, for sure. But I think you also raised a really good point about what exactly does the client need. There’s the quantitative piece that we started out this conversation with like are you delivering, whatever it is, the social, the web, the strategy, there’s metrics.


Kelly: There’s metrics though. ROI.


Tricia: Yeah, there's that whole piece but there's also a piece about your primary contact and what do they need and a lot of times it might not be marketing. It might be making them look good at their next executive presentation. It might be helping them figure out, find resources for another piece of their business. When you really stop and look at, and get to know them in a very intentional level and consider are they completely overwhelmed, then don't go and just deliver a bunch of here’s a to-do list, let me add to your plate. How can I support you in ways that are kind of beyond the obvious? So appreciate your client from where they sit. What's on the plate? Are they dealing with personal issues? Is the company being acquired or sold? There's a lot of other dynamics. They don't think about marketing for you 24/7. The way you might think about them. You were not up and their top priority. We’re just a piece of the puzzle. So try to think about your client from where they sit and what does their world look like and how can you come alongside them and serve them well and support them.


Kelly: Yeah. And that reminds me of just really in depth and really good buyer persona development, like understanding what's important to these people, what's their mindset, what's their motivation, how could you best support them in their role, how could you take things off of your plate. But at the end of this, I really feel like what you're saying is that it's not just about checking in with your clients and with your primary contacts, it's about being really intentional about it. Not coming to that situation or that phone call or sending an email where you're trying to covertly upsell them on something like oh what other projects do you have down the pipeline. It's really about being intentional about it and what does that check in, what is that phone call or in person meeting or video call, what does that sound like to you having been on the client side?


Tricia: Yeah, I feel like it's a very honest and transparent, intentional phone call. Sometimes without being scheduled and it definitely doesn't have any other business agenda items attached to it. Simply I'm checking in how are things going, are we supporting you well, are we delivering the value that you need, is there anything else we can do, because  to get back to the beginning of the call, a lot of times the client doesn't want to have the difficult conversation either. So by checking in a few times a year and really this is across all industries. Your financial advisors should be doing it. The marketing people should be doing it. All sorts of consultants should be checking in with a client and just how are you doing, is there anything else we can do. That kind of discussion.


Kelly: Yeah, well this is great, super, super valuable. I think hopefully we can save a couple of relationships or at least help some of these agency leaders who are thinking about this and realizing that with upleveling of their agency, with growth, there is this gap and maybe this is certainly a way that they can either support the client better or help them transition out. So thank you so much for the conversation today. I really appreciate it.



Start Watching

EP 59:What's Your Leadership Story? , with Aaron Rose

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly chats with Aaron Rose about the inner work that’s calling so many leaders. They talk about what’s missing when we focus on external tactics, why we resist self-exploration in the first place, and where to start if we want to change our subconscious pa




 EP 59: What's Your Leadership Story?

Duration: 20:41


Kelly: Welcome to Thrive, your agency resource.Today, we are answering a question and the question is, what is your leadership story. My guest is Aaron Rose and Aaron is a transformational coach, an inclusive culture consultant and a motivational speaker. He's worked with organizations like McKinsey, Columbia University, T-Mobile, Greenpeace; I mean just doing really, really incredible diversity and inclusion work. He's also worked with a lot of public figures, really helping them to embrace their unique role in building a better world.

So all of you know that this is a conversation that's near and dear to my heart. I recently came across Aaron on Michael Ventura’s podcast Applied Empathy and that show, I was literally nodding my head every single word that was coming out of Aaron’s mouth so I felt the need to connect and he's with us today so Aaron welcome and thanks so much for joining me.


Aaron: Thank you so much for having me. It's really wonderful to be here. I remember when that podcast came out and it was like probably within thirty minutes, I had an email from you and clearly there’s such strong alignment here.


Kelly: Yeah, so with this leadership story theme that we're sort of covering today, I want to start out by talking about the inner work that is really calling to a lot of leaders regardless of what organizations they may be leading. Today, we’re talking to creative and technology agency leaders but within our work that's calling to leaders even unconsciously. You are so tuned in and so tapped into the why for all of us. So like why this happening at this particular moment in our collective lives?


Aaron: Such a beautiful question. And I invite everybody to really let that question sink in, and almost to make meaning of it for yourself first, if you’re into like, what was your first reaction to that why because owning our why is really what makes all of this possible. From my perspective, we have been, we're actually in a really beautiful face of human evolution where we finally have the resources to deal with all of the ways that we have experienced the illusion of separation from ourselves, from our own authentic nature as well as separation from other human beings. And really the opportunity at this time is to clean up the detritus of the past and then to give ourselves permission to release our nervous systems attachment to feeling really stressed out and defensive all the time and to figure out what it would be like to be a human being who was living life from a place of being motivated by love and expansion and adventure rather than chaos and scarcity and fear. And the perspective that I work with is very multi-dimensional. There's lots of different ways that we can see why this is happening at this time but one of the simplest ways that I like to feel into it is really that a lot of people in a sort of growing wave have been saying, is this all there is. And there's got to be a better way, even in my own my own life and in my work in the last 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, 3 years, more and more people are willing to admit that what was the ideal of how to live your life isn't fully nourishing us and are starting to look around and say okay, if I've admitted that this isn't working for me in whatever way, then there is that opening to have a new experience.


Kelly: Right, just talking about admittance for a second, I think there is so much sort of beauty in letting go and being honest with ourselves first. The antithesis of that would be sort of the fake positivity that we see on social media and things along those lines. Admitting to yourself first, this isn’t actually what I wanted my life to look like or this doesn't feel like what I thought it would feel like. It's such a great place to start and it's almost like we are focusing on all of these external factors like society says owning an agency we have to have this range of revenue and we have to have this number of full-time employees and maybe multiple office locations. Why do we focus so much on the external? And what are we missing when we do that?


Aaron: I mean, we really live in a world that programs us to look externally that gives us the instinct that what is outside of us is more real than what is inside of us. Again, many reasons for this but the image that comes to mind right away is the way in which we often habitually condition children to not be able to understand and relate to their own instincts. If a kid says I feel sick, and the parent questions them and it's like no you just don't want to go to school right now. Or a child is like I don't want to hang out with that person or I don't want to go to that birthday party or I want to listen to this song. And there's some kind of external arbitration on their deeply held self-expression and sense of what drives them forward. And many of us have had that experience of being conditioned to disregard our gut instinct. And to look outside of ourselves for an external authority to tell us, what is right and wrong. And we accepted that because on a deep core level as a child. The calmer the nervous systems of your caretakers are, the safer you feel, and so you actually equate even if it's a violation of your boundaries or your needs. You equate them getting what they want with your safety because you rely on them for food and shelter and all of that. So on a core evolutionary level, it really crosses our wires. And we're just in such an over stimulated from one perspective world right now in terms of just having the ability to pick up our phone and get lots of people's opinions on things but we're slowly starting to I think return or rapidly, from one perspective return to the sense that actually the only fail safe is to rebuild the trust with ourselves.


Kelly: Right. And so what you're talking about before it's really like the foundation to why we become people pleasers and why we put other people's needs first, why we kind of suppress our own emotions. It's really interesting how all of that just compounds over the course of your life and it really makes you who you are because of that imprint.


Aaron: Completely. Yeah and just to bring a little bit of science, the way that our brains are structured between zero and seven, some people say all the way up to fourteen is that we’re really in this very impressionable state that similar to the state that you go into when you're in hypnosis, where your brain is essentially collecting all of the information about the conditions of the world that you live in and setting certain emotional and neurological patterns to recreate a certain set of behaviors to keep you safe. And so, if you are in an early environment that conditions you to feel like you have to manage other people's emotions in order to keep yourself safe, then that setting gets very firmly set and the way that it actually works is that I always sort of see kind of like a door closing. And a lot going on because ideally if your raise in a really powerful life-affirming environment, once those settings get put in, then you're locked in. And you're good for life but a lot of us have had some faulty programming put in and so we got to peel back the layers and choose again.


Kelly: Yeah. So at this point, what do you think the reason is, most agency leaders sort of resist that diving deeper to understand what their own leadership story really is and what it can be?


Aaron: For one I think sometimes we question whether or not it's worth even asking the question, what happens if I admit that things aren't going as well as I thought they would or things are going great. But I don't feel good. If we ask a question without knowing what the answer is, it puts us in a vulnerable place. It puts us in that place of having locked away from something before we know what the safety net is gonna look like.

Bu paradoxically in order for the safety net to appear, we have to create that willingness to see it. So I think that, that very understandable fear is one aspect of it and I think there's also a lot of scarcity in our culture where it's like I don't even have time for like 45 minute check in with my direct reports where I add like a few more self-reflective questions in versus a 20 or 30 minute weekly check in, like how do I have time to fully delve into the depths of my intuition and my inner world. And the third piece is that a lot of us have a Pandora's box vibe about what would happen if we went into that internal realm. I was working with I guess it was the financial services institution and we were doing a session on empathetic leadership and how to connect more fully as a team because there were some high conflict, high stress environment patterns.


Kelly: In a financial situation? I don't understand.


Aaron: Yeah. And this like bright-eyed young guy raised his hand as we sort of we were just working on some basic breathing techniques for regulating when we’re really stressed and he raised his hand and very candidly said, is it weird that I am really scared about what's gonna come up if I take a deep breath and it was just this very candid moment that revealed so much, which is that if we’ve been suppressing our authentic emotions and our intuition for so long, there can be that sense of the flood gates opening but the truth is that if you just let the floodgates open and you schedule sometimes it just feel whatever comes up, then you end up on the other side with a lot more clarity.


Kelly: Yeah and I'm absolutely that person. I was like I don't want this, I am suppressing it, what's going to happen; it is it really does feel like a Pandora's box. It's like I don't want to open that box, it's too scary, it's too much. I'm really afraid of what I'm going to find out being on the other side of that I’m like I have nothing to worry about. In fact, it's incredible. But so yeah I understand where that fear comes from. When we last met up for brunch in the city, you kind of joked around that we could call this the theme of the show just like subconscious patterning and the potential title for the episode could be like why your childhood maybe to blame for your business issues. We had a pretty good laugh about it but it's really true, it really is true. So can you just talk a little bit about that?


Aaron: Totally, I love that and as you were saying that the phrase that was coming to mind was the cold is coming from inside the house. That kind of energy what those early programming, no matter how much it seems like a problem is outside of us, it's that other person's behavior and it’s that person who made the hiring choice. It's the way this office is set up.


Kelly: Everything else.


Aaron: The building management, whatever it is. It's ultimately up projection of what's happening internally within us and so great question to ask is what's not working well my business right now and how does it feel. And when is the first time I remember feeling that way, feeling like everybody needs something from me and I just don't have enough time or feeling like people are volatile around me or feeling like the other shoes always gonna drop. Things go well for a while and then they fall apart, feeling like I have a need and it's always in conflict with what the business needs. These different things we can really look and say, where did that get set or the other way that we can look at it, is, what was my family like growing up. And do I see those similarities playing out in my business right now.


Kelly: For the agency leaders either watching or listening to this, the ones especially that are kind of just off the precipice of starting to like really peel back and like hesitantly peel back that first layer, really wanting to know more about their own leadership story. Is there a place that you would suggest that they start? Because there's so much information out there. We're bombarded with all different things as soon as we go down the Google rabbit hole. So is there a place that you would suggest to start whether it's from a resource perspective or mindset perspective or anything like that.


Aaron: So I always really, the medicine that has always guided my work is how can we make our means reflective of the ends that we seek to create and so we've been speaking about the power of taking back full responsibility for ourselves and reclaiming your intuition and so the advice that I want to give in this moment is about recreating that relationship with yourself before going and buying someone else's product and tool and things like that. So I would say first is developing some kind of regular practice where you are taking a deep breath with yourself. It could look like a five minute meditation practice. It could look like a specific song that you listen to in the morning while you stretch and you don't do anything else. Creating that space where you are starting to become more intimate with yourself again with your inner world. And the image that came to mind for the folks who are listening to this is first that kind of meditative breath moment of some kind and then second, some kind of journaling or voice note practice where you're actually letting your subconscious speak to you. There's a practice called morning pages from the book, The Artist's Way but there's lots of different ways that you can automatic and just sit down with a page or maybe what you have time for, set a timer for ten minutes maybe you have a notebook or you just say I'm gonna fill up a page  per day. If we start to finish you can put a lot of pressure on the conversation with ourselves in the same way that like if you have a kid who's been like dad like trying to get your attention for a while then you're fine you sit down, okay like put it out. And then they kind of clam up or what might have happened in other relationships that you've had. It's starting to create a regular container for what is true for you to be expressed without it being judged, without anybody else needing to see an I love writing but I know for some people, it might just be actually voice noting, pretending you're on a phone call while you're on the treadmill in the morning or while you're on the exercise bike or while you're walking to the subway. And just saying this is what's going on. I'm just gonna talk it out with myself right now because that starts to over time when you do that, you start to notice the patterns. And something that I want to offer really quickly here that just keeps coming up from a previous question that you asked is that sometimes we’re afraid to ask this because we’re worried that the answer is going to be not only that we have to make some shifts in our business but like we don't even want to be running an agency to begin with. Maybe there's something else on the horizon for us. But if the fear and the question is there, the relief wise on the other side of exploring it and whatever the answer ends up being, it's going to be for your highest good.


Kelly: Yeah, absolutely and again I mean you're heading it right on like exactly relatable to what my experience was. When I thought I can't do this anymore I don't know why. I'm like losing passion for this. I feel like there's something that I was meant for that doesn't really look like this right at the time when I was about this all my agents state not knowing that I was gonna sell it but really scared that I was gonna sell it I don't have children this was my like fourteen year old daughter and I was gonna like give it away to someone else like there's so much emotion attached to that.  So I was in that exact same boat and I think that's why there was so much fear it in that decision and then once I made the decision even more fear, what's going to happen next. So I really resonate with everything that you're saying. Is there anything else that you want to just kind of impart right before we wrap up here? It’s been a great discussion by the way but I always want to give you the ability to have creative license.


Aaron: So yeah two things are coming through. One is again kind of just to reinforce this idea of subconscious patterning, we think about the fear of connecting with our intuition. By intuition we just mean your gut instinct rather than someone else's logical opinion about what you should be doing. And why we sometimes have that fear and even thinking about you filling into making this very bold choice to sell your agency and what was the social emotional relational cost of you making a bold claim about how you wanted to live your life when you were a kid, when you were in those sort of early formative environments and what was that programming and how could that made you feel like literally the world was going to end and the way our bodies sometimes feels physically like I'm gonna die. I feel like I'm being dangled off the cliff right now that's how. Yeah. And understanding that it's a nervous system response that you can work with and shift and so I wanted to offer that to people as well because sometimes we can have that deep fear that were literally like taking our entire lives by doing something that feels good. And so just bringing in that level of compassion and that perspective and then I just offer folks that if this is something that is intriguing to you, I have a variety of levels of ways that I work with people on this including intensive one on one coaching but also different meditation practices and little tools that you can use on your own to support this inquiry because we are all being called for the next chapter of leadership in embodying even if we still run the same business in five years, the way we're going to run it is gonna feel different and we agree to participate in that co evolution that we're doing together.


Kelly: Yeah, beautiful. Well I will put a link to your website and all of your information in the show notes so that everybody can access that and again just thank you so much. I'm so grateful that you're here today.


Aaron: It was such a pleasure to have this conversation. Thank you for having me on.



Start Watching

EP 58:The Trust-First Mindset , with Jay Tinkler

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly aligns with Jay Tinkler of Conduit Strategies in Australia on the concept that we need to enter into partnerships with our clients, employees and associates with trust. As opposed to continuing on the feast or famine cycle, Jay shares why the missing ingredient in business development is that "trust is born from warmth of intention".



 EP 58: The Trust-First Mindset

Duration: 25:55


Kelly:  So welcome back to another episode of Thrive. Today, we're gonna talk about the trust mindset for agency leaders, and my guest is Jay Tinkler. He's a sales strategy and consultant for digital and branding agencies and he’s based over in Brisbane, Australia. In addition to owning his own digital agency for about the last ten years, Jay helps leaders to really understand how trust impacts their business. So naturally, I had to connect with him after we actually connected on Instagram of all places so it's great to see you again Jay. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.


Jay:   Thank you so much for having me Kelly. Awesome. So good.


Kelly: And I just want to say at the top of the show here that for those of you who are watching or listening and you don't think that you can form real authentic relationships off of something like Instagram or other social media channels, this show is absolutely proof that that's not true.


Jay: We are proof.


Kelly: We are proof. I had seen a couple of things I don't know if I followed a hashtag that you use or whatever it was but I had seen a couple of things that you had been posting and I found myself sort of nodding my head. And I'm like wow this guy gets it. There's definitely some synergy here. Let me just follow him. Let me kind of see what he's all about and every single time I saw something I was like okay alignment, alignment, and then we reached out and now here you are.


Jay: Yeah and I know a previous chat that we've had as well, I was doing the same thing with you. I’m just going, yes, yes, totally, yeah, yeah, yeah, we killed it, the conversation.


Kelly: So I'm really excited to talk with you today. I want to start out with the this sort of reality that service-based businesses, they need to escape this feast or famine situation that they’re in associated with pipeline and yeah I know that that's something that you work with them a lot on. The agencies themselves especially in Australia and I wanna know what led you to figuring out what that underlying factor was in helping them to change that Easter famine pipeline issue.


Jay: Well, at least, listen, to begin with I think it's inherent in our industry. I think it it's something that sort of has driven being a project based business initially for me and coming in as really probably the difference from me coming into my businesses is it all start off as a sales person, right? So a lot of coders come into or designers that they say you know what, I'm going to create my own business, create my own agency here. I came in as a solution focused sales person. And I was looking at the business model originally I'm saying okay, well, to actually drive that business long term and have a consistent income coming in, you need to eliminate that debt, you need to eliminate and get them flatten out that sales, not only from, you talked about mindset a minute ago and even under the heading of scarcity versus abundance kind of mindset. The beautiful thing, I was with a company today and the beautiful thing about being able to step into an abundance which is where we're at with things, we’re in design, we’re in flow, and we're actually being incredibly abundant, and present with our clients and we’re able to, I guess, nail a solution for them every time is the fact that more people buy in nature anyway, in that mindset so it's not only the obvious of hey, we need to cash flow wise, flatten out this feast and famine, but in the famine, we have this scarcity mindset that we step into which is detrimental that can be a slippery slope for us as an agency too.


Kelly: Right. And you did some stand-up comedy a while back and you sort of entered into this stream of consciousness right? We'll call it. How did that lead you to sort of teaching people that trust is earned in relationships because I think this is fascinating.


Jay: Yeah, well listen it's probably been a backstory too on that is the fact that I've been a salesperson right from day one right and one of the things that was, stand-up comedy was a great thing so it was really addressing a fear of mine which was, and most people probably getting up in front of hundreds of people and actually and telling your own jokes and saying will I stay lean? But one of the lessons that they teach you in stand-up comedy is the fact that you do a thing called streaming of consciousness, which is about getting all of the information in your head out of your head and then down on paper and what that allows you to do is actually understand what, it's a really good way to understand your why, understand why you want to be authentic, how are you going to show up. And so what came out of that was really, as humans, as individuals we do this trust thing so well as friends we do this trust thing so well as family members as we step into this and do this trust thing so well by default but the moment we put on our work clothes and step into the work door for whatever reason we stop put on this facade that everything's okay, that we don't necessarily need to be vulnerable, we don't necessarily need to seek out shared value with all the people. And so, that stream of consciousness piece that came out of stand-up comedy was really just identifying for me that I want to show people and demonstrate to people that amazing things come from trusted relationships and if we can learn how to have more trustworthy relationships that together we can create amazing things.


Kelly: Yeah, it's just interesting the way that you just frame that. When we do put on our work clothes it's almost like we are automatically distrusting of the prospects that we're going after, very distrusting of us because they think that we're just there to sell them things. It's like you said we just take this trust that's inherent in these familial or friendship relationships and we forget that we're working with humans. And so, that's very interesting to me because I think if we all trusted each other just a little bit more out of the gate and we're open to what the possibilities were, if we could let those walls crumble a little bit and be a little vulnerable and be more transparent and be more honest, I think that the entire economy would be different. And this is what Brene Brown talks about, you talk about it a lot. There are so many people talking about authenticity and gratitude and vulnerability and showing up and I love the fact that this is where we're at, in this moment today because it's a conversation that we have been putting off for far too long.


Jay: Yeah, listen. The other interesting thing about this is like it or hate it, our capitalist society is not set up for creating trusting relationships. It is actually an intended behavior change that we need to make. That it feels counterintuitive because it goes against of what is inherently a, for want of a better word, his selfish act of going I really need some money. Right? And saying I need to figure out a way but if you can then go, okay, if I slip that on its head and say, if we are doing an exchange and I'm really simplifying here but if we're doing an exchange here and we are having a true relationship, what this should mean is collaboratively, there is a win-win for both of us. And so, stepping into that realm of going we’re not selling here, we’re not going into actually sell them something but we're actually feeling how do we create a relationship together so we create a long term profitable partnership. Then suddenly we go okay how quickly can I get to the no, how quickly can I get to that we’re not a good fit, let me interview you to see whether you're a good client for me rather than doing my dog and pony show every time to actually show what my ways are to see whether you're interested. That’s abundance.


Kelly: Right. And obviously, yeah, and so yes, it's a little bit of abundance mindset and it's a little bit of going in with asking the questions as opposed to introducing ourselves and going right into our capabilities deck which I call the Chinese menu of services allowing that prospect to sort of self-prescribe and choose from that menu. There's no value in that. We’re not showing what our intellect is and what the value is that we're bringing to the table so it's all about questioning. I always say it's a hundred and ten percent about them at the beginning of the relationship then they'll want to get to know you, build, develop that trust. You'll develop the trust with them and that's really how these relationships in these long term business relationships are formed. So yeah I mean everything that you say makes a lot of sense.


Jay: And I think that we are in a revolution at the moment with the Brene Brown as you said before and these kind of people that what were considered quite feminine based trait like empathy and authenticity and vulnerability were starting to say you know what these aren’t, let go on the days of these being feminine traits, these are necessity for us to have authentic relationships.

Kelly: So what you're saying is women were right all along?


Jay: Well…


Kelly: It's okay. You're in the safe place. You're talking with me. You can say it. If you wouldn’t it, I’ll say it. So one of the other interesting things in people that you talk about a lot is using feast from Princeton and Susan Fiske has this great phrase or quote, “Trust is not born from confidence. Trust is born from warmth of intention.” And I love that term warmth of intention so I would love for you to talk a little bit more about that because you know her work so well.


Jay: So, it gives me chills talking about this kind of stuff because I really like get off on it, really it's so much fun, especially again just circling back to what we were talking about just a minute ago, which is around there, naturally we step into a dog and pony show right? Naturally, we default to, oh let me show you how to fix that and let me show you what we've got. Let me show you when in actual fact didn’t see what I really want as a buyer, is I really want to know that you care. I really want to know that you actually understand me and that you actually care. So talking about warmth of intention, the cool part about this is a couple of things. First of all, you need to own your competence. The first thing is you need to own that the reason why you are in business and that you've lasted as long as you have is because of your competence, you do what you say you could do. Now, stop talking about that and start building strategy around your warmth of intention. What is your warmth of intention? Everything that we've just been talking about. It's that gut feeling, it's that place around which we build on that level of care, that level of empathy, that level of authenticity and people often set aside how do you build strategy around that because what we think happens here is that we go in with our competence and we go, we've got something to fix that problem people go great, thanks so much, and then over time because we've done lots of business with them. We build warmth of intention when in actual fact the way to hack trust, for want of a better word, I mean, hack meaning  you always need time, you always need that level of, the recipe that comes with warmth of intention plus competence. But is to stop with warmth of intention is to stop with going I'm here to help first and great, if my product or service can actually serve a purpose in your business, wow, that's a win-win. But let's talk about how I can care about you guys first and be empathetic. The analogy I like to give on this is I don't know whether it's the same in the states but we've got this sort of, I guess it's from movies and that kind of thing but the typical used car salesman.


Kelly: Oh yeah, we have lots of those here.


Jay: Stereotype, right? And if you're walking across a used car sales lot, the first thing you're thinking of, when you're walking across that used car sales lot is, I'm not buying off this guy if he's so and so, right? That I can tell you that in most cases. Let's say that the poor used car salesman is walking across that car yard going, maybe a station wagon. Yeah, I don't know. He's got kids. He's so amazing competence wise. Now for him to be successful, all he has to do is, you know what right? And he meets you where you are and suddenly you build a relationship in which you can generate long term profitable partnerships who will refer you every day of the week if he feels like you care. So the second piece I just want to touch on there is to say that you can lose opportunity for warmth of intention. So if you start with competence, often you become a transactional relationship.


Kelly: Commodity.


Jay: Yeah commodity, sell, and you lose the opportunity to build true warmth of intention later.


Kelly: And again this isn't new. This is old stuff we do every day of the week in friendships family in that kind of thing but we almost need to learn it as a forced behavior and I don't mean that in a disrespectful way. It actually we have to because the game is not set off in a way to have that comes to default behavior. Yeah, forced just in terms of being against the grain or against the norm or against the conditions that we've been accustomed to.


Jay: Absolutely.


Kelly: I just want to touch on everything that you're saying in terms of warmth of intention to me it sounds like what we went back to earlier about asking those questions and making it all about them. What I like to do is aside from just asking questions, I'm listening not just with my ears, I’m listening with my heart. I'm listening to the things that people are saying but probably even more so I'm listening to the things they're not saying and then that gives me just from a practical or tactical standpoint, that gives me a reason to ask another set of questions or to follow up or to dig a little bit deeper and the deeper that you dig, the more emotional people will get, the more trust that they will have, the more that they will open up and the opportunities that you're talking about from a business standpoint are in the underpinning, they’re in the underlying reasons why they’re vetting you as a solutions provider. I like to use words like after we have that conversation, I like to use words like it's my intention to serve you or how can I best support you, this is not about sales, this is about nobody wants to be sold anything that they don't need, so I need to understand what the need is, what the wants are, what the impacts of those things are going to be to you on a personal level and in your business. And then I can say I would love to be able to support you. This feels like a good fit for me. I hope it feels like a good fit for you and if that's the case, then you know I would be happy to put a proposal together. That's kind of verbally how this situation goes with warmth of intention. Would you agree with that?


Jay: I totally agree and I think a good hack around this is the idea of and I often say to clients that we work with is, go out and get me five no’s. Go out and go, because the mindset and the exploration that comes with figuring out whether they shouldn't do business with you, is the kind of exploration that you should be doing as to whether they should.


Kelly: Yeah.


Jay: In other words it should be asking all the reasons like why we are a good fit. Some of the same kind of reasons is why you wouldn't be a good fit and if you're not, then great. Let's get a few no's. Because we're so conditioned to get the yes. Absolutely.


Kelly: Right. And the no’s are not bad.


Jay: No.


Kelly: No is still an answer. No to me is just another reason to dive a little bit deeper and see again like you said why is it no.


Jay: Yeah.


Kelly: It maybe that we haven't hit on the pain point yet or the challenge or the…so that's interesting.


Jay: We may not be a good fit and if we're not, I've got someone really good that I can introduce you to that I think that would be a fantastic fit for that.


Kelly: Yeah and how valuable is that to be able to have that dialogue and that exploration with someone to find out that you're not a good fit to them or for them, they're not a good fit for you and then to leave them with this amazing taste in their mouth like wow, that was a really helpful and beneficial exercise that we just went through and on top of that, they're still providing me a solution. It's just not their solution. That's just giving, that is like the ultimate giving.


Jay: Yeah.


Kelly: So that's absolutely how I think most people should operate and here's the reality for that. I mean when I work with agencies and I'm sure you do the same. Those situations don't necessarily mean that you're not going to be getting something monetarily out of that. If you have a strategic partnership, referring those non-ideal prospects for you to other people that would be ideal for them, that could be some kind of commission based structure or partnership where you're referring and again that's like pure profit into your company. So those are, I love the no’s because that's like great I'm not a good fit, I've got somebody else who probably would be and then with my strategic partnership network, I'm still getting money. I'm still getting income and it's pretty passive so I think that's an important point because a lot of times we think about oh well it's not a good fit for me, forget it. I'm not going to refer them to someone else because there's nothing in it for me. Sometimes you refer people even if there's nothing in it from you because that's just giving and that's how you should act in this world and show up in the world but sometimes there is going to be a monetary benefit so I just wanted to quote that out.


Jay: Yeah and not only that, but if you're able to define why you're not a good fit. And they go, yeah, totally get you, the next time they're at a barbecue you still become a referral source, you still become a third tea, you still become and it becomes an act of reciprocity as well, that you just also just given them the perfect fit for what they need. And they’re feeling that to you.


Kelly: Right. So as we're starting to wrap up here, I want to ask you this question. If we led with trust more often in our lives, what would happen in your opinion from an economic perspective?


Jay: I'm able to answer this like not theoretically because…


Kelly: However you want to answer it.


Jay: I can say that there are a lot of studies now around even if we lead with trust, even with somewhat forced trust, for want of a better word.


Kelly: Conscious trust maybe.


Jay: Conscious trust but I guess what I mean is trusting first rather than necessarily getting to a place of trust so trusting what people would call trusting bluntly, all of the studies show that all our economy markets go up. Now the interesting thing about that is that there’s two pieces to trust is the trustworthiness and actually being trusted so you still need to show up with the element of do I have the ability to do what I say I can do, do I have the commitment to do that. But also the elements of character and connection which is, will I do the right thing or will I do the right thing by this person. Did the other pieces that actually had a tied up in this? So the short answer is that through trusted relationships, I mean, if we look at just an agency level, through trusted relationship, we elongate these relationships. They become more profitable. They become more profitable not only through new business coming through that existing client, that referral base, everything starts to explore. It's the pillar in all of this that we’re trying to achieve. But I just need to touch on one last point to you Kelly and that is runway, that this isn't about going into one conversation and asking the right questions. I really want to encourage the agency community to build more time into what we all call discovery to not only allow number of quality interactions over a period of time but to understand that the time even if you charge for it but the time spent in that early planning stage, I can guarantee it pays off at the other end financially for you with the right type of client once you've gone through qualifications stages and stuff. It needs runway. Every relationship needs runway.


Kelly: Absolutely. And I'm glad that you sort of ended encapsulating that because I think that's a really, really important point and I'm glad we didn't leave it out.


Jay: Yes, cool.


Kelly: Well Jay, thank you so much for being on the show with me today. It's an absolute pleasure every time I talk with you and I'm looking forward to more conversations.


Jay: Amazing. Thanks Kelly.


Start Watching

EP 57:Why Deeper Connection Matters, with Chris Schembra

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly chats with Chris Schembra of 7:47 about the empathy deficit in our society. Chris shares his story about filling the gratitude gap in business, as well as advice for creative and tech agency leaders on why giving works so well from a business development perspective.



 EP 57: Why Deeper Connection Matters

Duration: 21:24


Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, I am super grateful to have a really special guest and good friend of mine on the show today. Chris Schembra is the founder of 747, which I guess I would describe as sort of a facilitator of the Bespoke Events that help companies really show gratitude to their teams, their V. I. P. clients and their partners. I will get into a whole bunch of that and why that's super important but Chris I'm just so glad to have you here today. I love connecting with you as you know and I'm just really excited for the conversation.


Chris: Thanks for having me Kelly. I mean, we've done a lot of great work together and we’ve shared many great friendship moments together and it's such a beautiful thing you've created and such a wild success you've had in your career. So excited now this engaging conversation with you.


Kelly: Thank you. So 747 is such a unique concept. I think it would be really interesting for people to learn a little bit more about how you sort of arrive at the need to create this and really what your intention is and what the mission is of it.


Chris: Yeah, thanks for asking that. 747 is peculiar, strange, yet it’s needed. And, it's been a wonderful journey to get here today. Our story that will tell starts back in July of 2015. At the time, I was engaged in theatre producing Broadway plays and overseas in both here domestically. And in 2015, a few thing shift in my life. The person that I was working for was getting married and we're spending less time together. I just broken up with a girlfriend. I had just returned home to New York City from Italy after producing a Broadway play over there and when we got back to New York City essentially found myself in a rot. I essentially realize four things one day that I was lonely, unfulfilled, disconnected, and insecure. One would call that kind of a cross-section of the American workforce unfortunately and in that that kind of downtime, in that darkness.


I started experimenting with a bunch of things that would pick me up out of my funk and one of them was cooking. And so, I invented all these different kind of recipes in my kitchen. One day, I accidentally created a pasta sauce recipe and I figured you probably feed it to people to see if it's even good or not and I decided to host a dinner. And so on July 15, 2015, we invited 15 of my friends over to our home and decided to give them the sauce. And 6:30 PM cocktails began. 8 PM dinner was served but at 7:47 PM, we put the pasta in the pot and because I was lazy as heck.


I invited the people into the kitchen to help me create the meal. And we ate together. We got comfortable together. And we asked them a specific question around gratitude. It just popped out of nowhere but the question we asked at that very first dinner was, if you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don't give enough credit or thanks to who would that be. And people felt so comfortable and so safe because the act of working together to create the meal and to serve each other somehow created connection. And because that question they opened up and they got vulnerable and a bunch of them cried. They love the sauce and so we did the dinner the next week.


And so for the first year of our dinners, we did a dinner every week once a week for free in our home. After the course of the year we had done 54 dinners feeding 808 people for free in our home, a little 350 square foot apartment in the Upper West Side. After a year, we started realizing that not only were the dinner saving my life, not only were the dinners having a transformational effect on the people attending, but maybe some companies could benefit from it. And so we started turning it into a corporate model, threw it down in the corporate space. We've been running ever since. The key metrics that we've had since day one the only thing we care about from dinner to dinner is if less than 6 people cry, we considered a failed night; the average is about 10. And that’s success.


Kelly: Yeah. And I just want to kind of share with whoever's listening and watching that Chris and I worked together to create a kick off for a project that I had brought a couple of different partners into design, website development, copywriting, things along those lines for a company and we used Chris’ dinner model for the kick off and to really get everybody together and allow them to be vulnerable and allow them to tell the stories of what they loved about working with the company and the clients and all these things and it made the project so much more successful. It was definitely unique and it was the first time that we worked together in that way and I got it. I got it really quickly, what the impact was and what the benefit was to the outcome but that's only one component, that's only one use case, let's call it for these dinners. I mean there are really so many. You talk a lot about the fact that there's this empathy deficit in society so I want to hear a little bit more about the core theory that you have as to how we fix that, how we change from deficit to a more of an abundance mindset or how do we get to where we need to go.


Chris: Yeah, you bring up a good point. We live in a world that’s so digital and disconnected. Social media has empowered billions of people to connect around the world but are we actually connecting? Are we actually giving our heart the goodness that it needs and many would say that the answer is no. So you have President Obama talking about empathy and you have the pope talking about empathy. If all these people saying that somehow we've gotten so focused in on ourself and our own opinion and having social media as a speaker stand that we've forgotten about the feelings and perspectives of others. And I would agree with that. Roman Krznaric who is one of the founders of the School of Life wrote a wonderful book about empathy and in that book he defines empathy as the art of imaginatively stepping into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives and using that knowledge to guide your action. Empathy is this amazing power that has the ability to heal broken relationships. It has the ability to inspire and motivate entire movements into action. See we live in a world under the old Cartesian rule of I think therefore I am.


And we have the self-help space. We have activism. We have social media to blast our comments outwards therefore I think therefore I am but there's an old African Bantu of, “You are therefore I am.” And that's the ability to listen to the perspectives of others and use that to guide where you're going. And so the good news is empathy can be developed over time and so this deficit that we face can actually be reversed. Empathy is a subset of emotional intelligence, the people that are watching this, emotional intelligence is actually a very important thing in people's lives.


People that have high emotional intelligence $29,000 more per year on average than people with low emotional intelligence. And studies show that emotional intelligence is actually the only thing directly linked to earning potential, not IQ or technical skills but EQ, the ability to lead. So the need to reverse the empathy deficit is actually great for business. And so as we look at empathy, empathy came into our life in early 2016. We are doing our dinners, we're having a great time. I mean heck in early 2016, we woke up in our bed bawling our eyes out realizing for the first time in my life I was starting to feel a little bit of joy, starting to slightly rid myself of insecurity though I'm still not cured, I'm still an insecure. And that it was all because the dinners.


And so one day our friend Jerry Schweitzer walked into our office and said, if your 747 dinners were gender, what would it be? I said, it'd be a woman. He said if that woman walk through that door right there, how would we feel? I said we would be overcome and consumed by the greatest maternal energy and empathy we've ever come across. And I realized that was the pain point we were solving, empathy. And so as empathy relates to our dinners. Empathy is listening to the feelings and perspectives of others. We, at our dinners, pride ourselves in creating the safe space for people to gather, to share, and listen to others in a small group format.


So if you remember that question that we ask at every dinner, that question is centered around gratitude. If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don't give enough credit or thanks to, who would that be? Steve Jobs once said, “You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking backwards and that's what this question around gratitude does. It gives people the platform to share stories from people that have positively or negatively helped them in their past so you develop empathy around the dinner table by listening to other share.


Kelly: Right. And you’re connecting and creating these deeper connections. You're sharing probably verbiage and feelings that you've never shared before with this group of people so just in and of itself sitting around well first doing the work together to create the me, all right that's part of the whole structure of what you've created, so everybody's got a job at task we're working together then we sit down, we commune. We have this meal together and we just have really organic beautiful conversations and a lot of people would say I don't know this kind of sounds like airy fairy like I can't imagine couple of guys from my office in suits like sitting down and doing this.


At the end of the day we are human. And we forget that. So it doesn't matter how you come to work. This is a little bit different. This is really getting to that humanity because we are robots when we go to work and so that's what it's about. It's about sort of bridging that gap between the work self and the personal self. There's a million ways you can sort of talk about it but I think that is also the power of it. We get to see people for who they are, not who they want us to see when we’re in the workplace.


Chris: Yeah, I mean just talking about the team building aspects of this, I think one of the popular things that people are making distinctions between now on the speaking circuit is the difference between people used to talk about having work life balance. Now people talk about having a work life integration. Like it being a very synergistic blend between the two worlds. And in terms of team building, empathy has a really, really, really big part in employee retention. 87% of high powered CEOs believe that financial performance is directly linked to empathy and studies show that one in three employees would take a position at a different company for equal pay and the same job title if their employer was more empathetic.


Kelly: It's that important?


Chris: It’s that important and so long gone are the days where you need to fear your leader. Long gone are the days.


Kelly: Thank God.


Chris: When that leader being a bully is how you get stuff done. That stuff in the past. Leaders who are empathetic and listen to the needs of their employees will create greater creativity, productivity and ultimately greater revenue.


Kelly: And loyalty.


Chris: Exactly. Because right now employees are lonely. Loneliness is a massive crisis. The Sergeant General of United States says that 51% of the American workforce reports being lonely on a consistent basis which is equivalent to the reduction of lifespan of smoking 15 cigarettes per day 7 years of your life. And so if you as an employer can take that stand and help bring your people together not as co-workers but as friends, then you've added tons to your bottom line and around the dinner table just so happens to be the unique way that we do it.


Kelly: Right. So transitioning this conversation a little bit too sales or business development but still along the same lines of deepening connections and gratitude, why is it that gifting as the first the thing that we do with a prospect, what is that, that works so well?


Chris: Our wonderful friend, mentor, partner John Rowland he's the founder of the Rowland Group and the author of Gift ology, he advocates that companies should dedicate about 5% of their net profits in gifting back to their clients and I'm not talking about the chat keys where you put your logo on a mug and you give them out at a trade show. We're talking about getting to know the needs, the personal needs of the people you serve and honoring that with a gift. So there’s 5 different love languages that you can use in life and we believe that the five love languages should come into the workplace especially into customer relationships. So the five love languages determine how you like to receive love. Words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Obviously we don't want people touching their customers.


Kelly: That's a whole different show.


Chris: Yeah, that's a whole another thing. But gifting and generosity are good for business. And so, I'll end up talking about the dinners in a second but Adam Grant wrote that wonderful book, Give and Take, where he studied 700 sales leaders and essentially could quantify what made them a successful salesperson. Were they a giver, a taker, or a matcher? Well, Adam Grants study showed that givers are actually the least successful type of people as salespeople. But the findings of a study had a catch. The results of givers were split down the middle and givers also became the most successful type of salespeople better than matchers, better than takers. When you’re generous and you're giving and you can give gifts and you can know the personal motivating factors of those you serve, you will win over time.


And what do I mean by personal motivating factors? What is the intangible benefit of someone doing business with you? Not your product or your price or what business benefit it has but if your business is to make a manager's life easier by saving them time, that's one benefit but what would happen to their life if you help them save more time? They could spend time with their kids. They could retire quicker. They could be happier. Those are intangible things. And so, personal motivators like you want to help your customers not just make more money but you want to help them feel fulfilled, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a sense of connection. These things warm the soul and engender people to you.


And so when you talk about gifting and you talk about generosity, we use our dinners as a way to help companies give the gift of community and belonging and show more gratitude to their V. I. P. clients and partners because when you can create the experience that brings emotion around the dinner table, emotion into a B2B sale, you make customers 5 times more likely to consider purchasing, 12 times more likely to purchase and 30 times more likely to pay a premium. So if you have a product or a service-based business you want to charge premiums to your customers and it's guaranteed to increase upsell cross-sell revenue referral by bringing emotion into that sale.


Kelly: And I think that's a great place to sort of it end because if this is not airy fairy. We are talking about business. We are talking about top line and bottom line revenue. We're talking about driving all of those things. We're just kind of approaching it from a little bit of a very different standpoint and I think it's the conversation that people have been a little leery to have for far too long and I do think it's time people are very open to it and people are realizing that we can't separate anymore humanity from business. They're not separate. They’re not a dichotomy. They cannot be a dichotomy because we make decisions especially purchasing decisions based on emotion. Everybody in advertising knows that.


Chris: Oh yeah.


Kelly: It makes all the sense in the world.


Chris: Especially in a B2B capacity. Emotion is every part of the deal. If you're in B2C space and you're selling pencils, someone buying a two dollar pencil from you, there's not much to lose if the deal goes bad. Not very emotional. 10 billion dollar deal on the line if you're about to acquire a company of which you've never met the founding team, that's huge pressure. And that emotion, you need to check those emotions, you need to take care of them. I mean to connect with the people. A lot of companies that are going through mergers will bring us in on the fourth date with the founding team of whoever they're buying because if that doesn't jel, then what's the point. The net loss, the loss leader of having a bad founder, that the founder’s not jelling is worse than not doing the deal at all.


Kelly: Right. Well Chris this has been an amazing discussion as I knew it would be. I love connecting with you every time. So thank you so much for being here today.


Chris: Thanks for having me.




Start Watching

EP 56: How to Increase Deal Flow, with Dan Englander

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly talks with Dan Englander of Sales Schema about how to increase deal flow. They debate what holds agency leaders back from proactively developing new business—and how they can take the first step toward moving that needle.  


 EP 56: How to Increase Deal Flow

Duration: 16:36


Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. This week we're diving into business development but without having to reinvent the wheel, always a favorite topic for agency leaders. And today my guest is Dan Englander, founder of Sales Schema, a New York based consultancy that helps agencies increase deal flow and win ideal clients. That's the name of the game, right? So Dan, welcome to the show. I'm really excited for you to be here today.


Dan: Thank you for having me Kelly. I appreciate it.


Kelly: So the last time we spoke we kind of had this mind meld of the fact that agencies are getting hit over the head with being full service versus being specialized in some way, shape, or form. So what's the sort of what you call the paralysis by analysis that agency leaders are struggling with as far as how the industry is changing so rapidly, almost around them.


Dan: Yeah, it's a really good question and I think it's interesting and this is kind of getting into bigger macro conceptual stuff but I think the whole world in a way is moving towards this idea of a long tail and specialization not necessarily on individual level but on a company level where you have a freelance economy, you have the internet, you have access to a lot more talent all throughout the world. The world is becoming flatter and all that so the whole world could get a direction in agencies. That's old news. That's obviously happened since the advent of the internet but it's one of those things where the future is here. It is not evenly distributed and agencies are now catching up to that. So to answer your question I think that it's something that agencies are getting hip to now. They're getting hit over the head with the idea of specialize, specialize, specialize. It's something that is a process. It's not like you flip a switch and you just focus on one industry. It's gonna take focusing on maybe a few and then having this is also Andrew McGlone who I love. Let's talk a lot about this. I don't want to steal his…


Kelly: I love him too. So that's okay.


Dan: Yeah, but he talks about the idea of connective tissues. You might have a few different industries that have things in common. You might have a big industry where there's lots of, few niches within that like connect with medical technology or something to that effect and then you might have a junk drawer for a while where you keep all clients that don't fit the bill and then eventually you might start to not take that business anymore and phase out over time. So I think that's kind of the best way to approach it.


Kelly: Right. And in terms of mindset, why do you think many agencies feel like they don't have the right to actually go out and proactively develop new business and new relationships?


Dan: Yeah, it's a good question and there's not always one answer for it. But I think that it's just how they've done business in the past and that's how it's been going for thirty years. We need to have a real kind of order taking based mindset where you have an RP, you have a proposal and you have a certain set of stacks and you're kind of talking to people when they're solution-aware as opposed to when they are problem-aware. Because that's how the whole dynamic was set up. That's how the infrastructure was set up. They put out an RFP. You fill out the RFP and you do it. And even a newer agency that might not like RFPs still falling into that paradigm a lot. There's getting their business through referrals and that sort of thing. So that's changing now because of the internet and all the stuff that everyone's, all that cliché stuff. Companies, bigger brands are doing business not necessarily the people they know in their personal networks although that's still important. They're doing it through people that are knocking on the doors or through constant reading or the ads they are seeing or whatever it maybe. So that means that the agencies are getting to those clients that are problem-aware stage but not necessarily solution-aware stage are winning. But to answer your question I think it's hard just because it's new. Anything new that requires different process, that requires getting rejected frankly, knocking on doors where people might not be ready to talk to you all the time.


Kelly: Right. And rejection is scary, right?


Dan: Yeah.


Kelly: That comes back down to a human emotion.


Dan: Yeah, exactly and I always talk about this but I think a lot of our clients at the agency world they're monitoring their dashboards for their clients all the time so they are seeing whatever Facebook media performance went up or down and they're sober about it. They're not getting the most reflected because it's just digits on the screen but the same dynamic happens in the sales process. But the difference is there’s human involved, there’s emotions but essentially it's the same thing. It's just different sets of numbers, different context a little bit but so that's a lot of it, just having to go through the process and keep yourself stable regardless of whether they’re having good or bad days, whatnot.


Kelly: Right. So Sales Schema is basically what you call a fractional new business team, right?


Dan: Yeah.


Kelly: Can you talk a little bit about that and then I have another question for you.


Dan: Yeah, of course. So essentially what we're doing as a team is going out to the market for our clients to get them really good first stage. It's gonna be hard to get outsource the process of selling and maintaining the complexities of a sales process for five to eight figure, the agency engagement. But we're really good at getting our clients first stage and what we found and the main things that we're we do differently is that a lot of the stuff is not about over automation. A lot of it is actually having the team and the resources to do this on bespoke or semi bespoke basis so that's kind of what your ideal clients. And a lot of the times, and I want to talk too much about us but when an agency is thinking about building sales support for themselves in house, they're not thinking about how much time and labor and knowledge it takes to do that. And it’s essentially three different jobs, part-creatives, part RP, part-technical and that's kind of what we're giving to our clients on a more flexible basis than they were built in house basically.


Kelly: Right. But to that end, can you actually share a couple those foundational tactics that you found most effective with agencies?


Dan: Yeah, it's a good question and I wish there is like one golden tactic for everybody how but there just isn't, there's a lot of, though it’s essentially finding the right words to send to the right people.


Kelly: That’s a really, really good way to put it.


Dan: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be harder than that. That's really what it is and the whole goal is to get consistency in the pipeline. So there’s these many ideal conversations happening regardless if somebody's ready to buy right now or later but I do want to get as tactical as I possibly can and not have this, be nebulous. So the main thing they were starting with to make this work, it's the most common question I get is what do you guys do differently to get a busy CMO in mid to large companies to put up their hand. And the first thing is back to that beating a dead horse is specialization. If we come in and we’re the agnostic agency for everybody, that means it's not gonna work so well but if we can come in and we're doing it typically as our clients, there is not like a middleman company like Sales Scheme, like we’re it as them even if people don’t hire us and they want to do this in house. It's the same deal you might have somebody on your team managing your platform. So if you are running it through LinkedIn and let’s say you're going after CPG for a given month, you're not agnostic agency. You are the CPG or that person the agency is the CPG specialist gurus are, whatever title you want to give. You have case studies. It's really tangible and then a lot of it honestly is just more of that bespoke sort of thinking. So on a monthly basis we might know that our clients are going to be attending a trade show or even if they're not, there's a big trade show happening in their space, CPG or tech trade show, we're doing outreach to companies and know about that and like before during and after so it just comes in with a lot more familiarity. And then beyond that, it's that consistency a lot of this is kind of counter intuitive. Sometimes it is an exercise and restraint. Coz a lot of the times like there's all these digital marketing things saying set up this automation, set up the automation. If people with a million messages sometimes about saying okay we've got connected over here, we're gonna wait a bit, we are going to send some messages later, we’re gonna have somebody to set up the appointment so that the CEO of the agency is not the one doing that because a) it doesn't look good and then b) it's a huge time suck. So that's some examples.


Kelly: And I want to highlight two things that you talked about. When we say specialization I think we could easily replace that word with relevance. So specialization in terms of an industry category or a vertical or a small niche that could be a specialization but it's also about when you translate that specialization into the messaging, it's really the relevance factor of when you go out to the ideal prospect, how you're translating that specialization or that core expertise or deep expertise as David T. Baker might call it. How you're translating that to that prospect to make sure that you make yourself known as the go to firm or this one that is the expert in the industry or that is irreplaceable when put up against other me to agencies who are generalists so I think that's really what we're talking about here, it is relevance.


Dan: Yeah, exactly and then the thing that we see is that most of our clients and many of the agencies that we do research and talk to already have that built up. They are not just cashing in on. They have amazing case studies. Some have thirty years of experience but they just haven't either put in the time or the effort or the bandwidth to actually do it. And I think a lot of it is analysis paralysis because there's a lot of like tech software and lots of products, lots of the idea that you have to get everything perfect first, that there's a great sketch on the 70s SNL called the Anal Retentive Carpenter and he would start working on like a bird house but he would have to stop and clean up the sawdust every five seconds so nothing got done. I think there's a lot of lesson to that.


Kelly: I like that. I might actually find that on YouTube and post the link in the show notes.


Dan: It's great.


Kelly: That’s awesome. So I think basically from both of our experiences, many agencies kind of try something from a biz dev standpoint. They go through this honeymoon phase of like I got a pretty good open radar, couple people click through to my case studies or maybe I got one or two responses. They get a few clients potentially out of that initiative and then they don't see any consistent results after that probably because they haven't put in a consistent effort and then they just revert back to relying on referrals and going after RFPs and all these things so can you talk a little bit about what you've seen in that regard because that's definitely been my experience.


Dan: Yeah, we see the exact same thing and I don't sugar coat anything like it's gonna be a different sales process talking to somebody that doesn't know you at all, that's coming in cold as opposed to somebody who is being referred to you warm and has an immediate solution based need in mind and you're filling in the blanks a little bit to varying degrees. So it's going to be a different process but what's the alternative, like if you can survive and get your growth goals on just referrals in and that alone like by all means you can feel confident about that. There's no reason to do outreach but that's pretty rare these days. There's just there's not enough of that and basically your competitors are gonna ease their launch because the agencies that are getting to those people when their problem-aware are gonna take their business before they get to you. And that's a big reason we talk to people that what's working yesterday is not working anymore, sorry if I lost touch with your question but I think the reason that people are reverting back is because they need to modify their sales process for outreach for somebody that's cold. And so they're getting in people, they have a nice conversation with them but then there's just sort of this blank error after they're done, it was like where do we go from here. So there's not going to be, I'm not going to give like a specific answer for everybody but it takes being able to proactively get them involved in your process because if they're taking the call with you, there's something there. These people are too busy to have the call otherwise. Yeah they're curious they want to learn more but there's usually a problem. Otherwise they're not going to take the call. So in the past we've had clients do really well with audits. That's what we do with our company. It could be something else, it could be a test project. It just depends on your domain but it takes having a specific process that people go through to get in the door and get started with you that's not onerous and not too hard.


Kelly: Right. And for the people who let's say you do outreach with and they don't necessarily jump on the phone, certainly they're not going to do that maybe after the first interaction but let's say that they do click through something that you send them through in mail or once you've connected on LinkedIn or you send a warm email whatever the case may be, they click through and then you see that they've click through because you're tracking that. What would you suggest to do next? You maybe put them into some kind of email thread, do you send them thought leadership articles, you just stay in touch on a personal level, just to make sure that they know that you're engaged and your more on the soft sell side and not so aggressive like how would you deal with a situation like that?

Dan: Yeah, it's a good question and I wish I had more specific answers as usual. There's differences for different situations. I think the first thing is making sure that you're targeting is really good and that you have a good story to tell to that particular group that you're going after and assuming that's true, if you have a good case study and it's really specific and they are like a great fit then there's no reason to delay a conversation like this is something that you're honestly kind of doing somebody a disservice by not building that relationship sooner rather than later. So I don't consider it aggressive. If you have a great case study in CPG and you have the CMO growth stage beverage brand reading your stuff that is somebody that is going to be benefitted by talking to you now.


Kelly: So are you saying pick up the phone and just call them or?


Dan: I mean whatever like the tactic can be anything. Obviously maybe don't go dropping another office or holding a boombox and say anything, but aside from that like it's to their benefit to talk to you so I think it's the shortest path to a conversation and that can be an exploratory thing. That doesn't have to be hard selling them on anything but if it's not a good fit or if it's somebody shouldn’t be in your pipeline anyway then they shouldn't be there anyway. That's kind of the mentality I have about it.


Kelly: Okay. So as we start to wrap up, what's the best single piece of advice that you could give agency owners as they're sort of considering their next steps in terms of how to increase deal flow?

Dan: Yeah, I mean I think it's resolved. Figure out your long term not necessarily goal but figure out your why behind it and essentially, it's one of three things, it's building the agency to do compelling work and sustain yourselves and have a lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with that. There's building to essentially sell and then there's building to take over the world and acquire. And I think it is figuring out what that is and then just kind of getting clarity and focus on things and then from there, I guess it is not one thing but shipping like just get something out the door like start getting to work on it. The biggest thing we run into is mindset problems where people start and stop. So I think getting the results first is the most important thing and then the tactics of the people, the how.


Kelly: Yeah, so ship something and iterate upon it, learn as you go, keep optimizing it and it could actually be maybe leveraging your existing content just in a better way or in a way at all.


Dan: Yeah, exactly. And honestly like, I’m sort of giving the million pieces of starting an advice, but get the relationship sooner rather than later because if you're properly specialized, there aren't that many people in your market, you can actually get to know a lot of them pretty fast. There's no reason to delay that. You have permission. No one is going to give you permission to have that relationship with your buyer basically.


Kelly: You already have that permission.


Dan: You already have it.


Kelly: Awesome. Well this is all great Dan. Thank you so much again for your time and thanks for joining me on the show today.


Dan: Thanks Kelly. I appreciate it.



Start Watching

EP 55: Peer Support for Agency Leaders, with Carl Smith

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly dances with Carl Smith of Bureau of Digital. They talk about his own discovery about getting out of his team’s way, the realities of agency ownership, and the importance of community, shared experiences and peer support as leaders.  


 EP 55: Peer Support for Agency Leaders

Duration: 23:13


Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. This week I am super stoked to be joined by someone who is so well known and so well respected in the community, Carl Smith from Bureau of Digital. We're going to cover a lot today. We're just going to have an awesome conversation and the takeaway is really going to be about the importance of peer support for agency leaders. So Carl, let's just kind of get off to the races. I mean, thank you so much for being here and I know we're going to have a great talk.


Carl: I appreciate the invite and it's so much fun to do video.


Kelly: Yeah, right. I love it. So you and I have been having like some really cool discussions over the last month or so and obviously we feel a little bit of a kinship, I guess you could say. I'm glad to be connected. One of the things that you covered or you talked about at some point was this whole house fire that you had when you had your agency.


Carl: Yeah.


Kelly: And what was really interesting to me about that, is that, there was sort of this let's call it a crisis moment where you kind of had to step out a little bit of your agency and start trusting your team and I just want you to start talking about that experience and like what that led to.


Carl: Yes. So first of all, it was insane. I was way too busy at the time and one of the things that was happening, I worked from home almost exclusively and I ended up getting a call from a client who was based in Chicago and they wanted to meet for lunch. They were in Jacksonville for some reason and I was like, I don't like leaving the house. I just work from here, blah, blah, blah. It was raining, all this stuff. And so I was like, all right, fine. I'll come see you. So I go meet them for lunch, have lunch. It was great. Come back and as I'm driving up to my house, I'm on the phone with another client, and I said, I have to go. And he was like, why? I was like, my house is on fire. 


Kelly: Literally!


Carl: He was like, what do you mean? And I was like, I mean, like my MFN house is on fire. And so I did, I saw smoke coming out. I rushed in, maybe just to get the fire out, which was ridiculous and I never picked on my kids and my wife again for leaving half-filled cups of water or Coke or whatever. So like I ran and just started grabbing all these things and throwing it on this fire on the counter. It was just ridiculous, right? I got the animals out, all that kind of stuff. But as a result, I ended up really for about two weeks, I was not functional at work at all.

We got moved down a house into an embassy suites hotel then get shut down because somebody's running a meth lab in it. After we replaced all our clothes and everything, then they all got sequestered because they could have had the meth stuff on them. Right? Then we had to move again. An employee of mine who's a dear friend found us this apartment complex that had no pet deposits. You could bring all the pets you wanted. So it was like apartment complex for dogs, kind of thing. And while we were there, I just told the team, I can't function. I've got to deal with insurance. I've got to take care of my family. Got to figure this thing out. Just make the best decisions you can.

And that happened for two weeks. I would occasionally check in, but then at the end of those two weeks, it ended up being the best two weeks in the company's history, which was awesome, but it also felt horrible. I was like, I didn't know I was the problem. But I hired really great people and that's a skill too. But I put these people together and gave them enough autonomy that I actually found we had two companies at that point. We had a more established, seasoned, slightly older team. It was really good at handling the financial staff and doing traditional corporate stuff. Then we had a young energetic team that wanted organic foods and they wanted fantasy sport and they want all the fun stuff and it turned out, they both kind of found their niche and I was able to step out of the way and let them grow these two independent companies together. It was really pretty phenomenal.


Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. Such an amazing story. And I think the takeaway here is that sometimes, it doesn't have to be something as catastrophic as a fire, but literally kind of taking that time whether it's imposed on you or something that you volunteer for, like moving out of the way sometimes is the way to get everything done, maybe a little bit more effectively than the way that you are leading. So I'm not saying that that was necessarily, and maybe it wasn't the, or it's not the case for everybody watching and listening, but just the consideration that it could be or might be, is just sort of stuff in that direction.


Carl: I think just real quick, there's also a difference between telling people that you work with. When you own something, when you're, I mean, my name was on the wall. It wasn't that kind of an ego trip, but when somebody comes in to your company, it's like a guest coming into your house. And you may tell that guest, hey, make yourself at home. Get whatever you want out of the fridge, but they're still gonna ask you. They're going to open the door and see that there's only one Coke left. Can I have this? I told you, do what you want, but if you're not in the house and you told them to make themselves at home…


Kelly: They’re just going to take it. Yeah.


Carl: And so that was what I found. I could tell people all day long, but until I wasn't there and they had to do it, just wouldn't gonna happen.


Kelly: Yup. Now, it’s a good lesson. So along those lines, you said something to me last time that really, really kind of struck me. I kind of had that little gut moment. You said, I told everyone to stand in the sunshine, but I didn't realize the shade I was casting. So I want to hear a little bit more about that little self-realization moment for you.


Carl: Well, I think a big part of it was that as much as I thought I was empowering them, I was constantly around. And I would ask how things were going or I would do, any of a number of things. And that just encouraged their behavior of not taking control or not doing what they needed to do. But when the house fire happened and I was gone, and then you see them all stand up and just start doing great stuff, that was when it hit me, there was only one change and that was that I wasn't there.

So you see that and, and honestly it was a little bit of a mourning period like I was super sad because I wanted to be part of the team. But then it became this realization that I can go do whatever I want.


Kelly: That's an aha moment.


Carl: Oh my God. And so I did and I let them kind of take over and there was infighting and all these things, but as long as there was no blood or exposed bones, I just kind of let them go. They have to figure it out.


Kelly: Yeah. So let's get into what you kind of felt like was your purpose in starting Bureau of Digital, because I know that there's so many people that are watching and listening that either know about it, it's been on their radar. They might already be members or involved in some way, but would love to hear more about like, why you felt like this was something that needed to exist.


Carl: Well now, honestly, I was an attendee first.


Kelly: Oh, okay. I didn't know.


Carl: Yeah. So I got an email from Greg Hoy and Greg Storey who were running independent Happy Cogs, which is hilarious. Two happy cogs, separate companies. Jeffrey's Zeldman had licensed them. It was this whole thing. It was hilarious. So they contacted me about coming to an event where they were inviting 25 owners of digital shops and I sent an email back asking why me? And they said, we've been reading your blog, we've been reading about your business model and either you're totally full of crap, you're onto something and we want to know which one. And I was like, I will be their.


Kelly: Challenge accepted.


Carl: So I did. And it was unbelievable because I had no, I mean I had peers. It's not that I have no peers. No, but it was more like I just didn't know them. Like I'd reached out to local people, but they weren't doing what we were doing. I mean, we made it on a national scale, we were starting to get global with some of the work, but then these people had written books and coined phrases. But what you find out when you spend three days with that number of people and you break into these small groups, the people you thought we're crushing it are holding on for dear life. You're not doing as bad as you thought. And people start writing down stuff that you're doing and you start writing down stuff that they're doing.

And before long, this is not, by the way an African proverb, it is, I think Snopes has said it, but that whole idea of if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It's been shown again and again, it's not any kind of proverb, but it should be. So that was kind of it. And then once my company started doing really well, once I was out of it, I had to figure out what to do.

So my youngest daughter, who at the time would have been 12 came out in the backyard. I work outside most of the time unless it's a thousand degrees outside. And she came out and she said, how do you want people to remember you? And I was like, what do you mean? And she's always been a dark soul and she said, when you're dead. And I was like, let’s figure this out. So I told her, I said, I want to be remembered as a nice person who didn't have to hurt anybody to be successful.

And she was like, okay, how do you measure that? Now really is, this was a shop owners kid, right? I would ask her these things when she was doing her stuff. And she goes, how do you measure that? And I said, by the number of people that I help. And then she said, okay. And the question was bound to come. How does that scale? 12 years old throwing me back at me. I was like, I can't, I don't know. Just please stop.


Kelly: Go back inside.


Carl: Yeah, daddy's working. But then, a day later, I realized, I don't need to help anybody. I just need to put people in touch with other people. I need to connect people who can help each other. And that totally scales. And that was when I was writing an email to Greg and I realized I think it'd be part of the bureau. So then long story short, I bought in as a partner. The two of them wanted to go off and do other things and now I got my baby.


Kelly: It all came full circle.


Carl: It did.


Kelly: So running it as long as you have, I'm sure there have been sort of these moments, maybe it happens all the time. Maybe it happens at every event. Maybe you get emails on a weekly basis. There'd have to be a couple of like stories that stick out in your mind for one reason or another. Can you share a couple of examples or a couple of things that kind of made you feel like, man, I am like doing my work?


Carl: Yeah, for sure. I'll say one of the first ones. I don't think they would mind me sharing this.  We take an oath before every event, not to share anything that people would deem.


Kelly: And you certainly don't have to call them out by name or company.


Carl: But there was a shop in the very first bureau event at owner camp and they were on the ropes, the four person shop, really popular in a certain space, but they were just struggling. And there was some moment during a conversation that was being had, I think Kelly Go too, who was in the room, she's so brilliant and she made some comment about following your heart is fine, but only if you can make money and survive. Right? And so it was this kind of, let's, we'll smell the hippy juice. We're not going to drink it. Okay? And so there was just some sort of light bulb went off.

And that shop didn't come back to bureau events for probably about four or five years and suddenly they showed back up and I was like, oh my goodness like, I can't believe y'all are gonna be here. Yeah, things have really changed. Well, they took to heart what was said and shifted away from any business that wasn't something they were passionate about. They knew they could make money, but they decided to go into anything that was more outdoors, adventure related.

These were people who love to fish, love to hike, love to go mountain biking, love to do all these things. So they shifted entirely to that, found ways to start an Instagram account, which was very seedy, not on their part. They actually bought an account and they had to transfer money while changing a password. The whole thing was just hilarious to me. But now they work with these amazing companies like REI, right? So they totally made that shift and it was because somebody said it.

Another one that was really amazing was, this was when we were in Minnesota and everybody was talking about how well they were doing, right? Well, not saying we're doing great, but saying we're doing okay, we're doing well, we're struggling. And this other person talked about how they were just so busy and they had 70 people on their team, but they couldn't make any money. And somebody said, well, how are you charging? What's your billing methodology? Well, we charge hourly. What's your rate? $65. And there was this thought that you couldn't raise it. And plus they had San Francisco office, they were like, woof. So somebody just said triple your rate and come back. And they didn't, but they doubled it. And now the shop is just gold. And this sound like things that shouldn't be, you have to go to an event to find out. But then we also have what I call bureau babies, right? They're more like bureau of weddings, but we've had shops that have merged. And that's kind of fun.


Kelly: That's cool.


Carl: We have a shop that's up in Montreal that merged with a shop in Charleston, South Carolina. They met at the bureau, and so these things just become amazing as well. And then I think probably one of the most powerful is when a shop's in trouble and other shops show up to support them. We had a group in Florida that was about to have a layoff and was going let nine people go. But we were able to find a group in Seattle that was desperate for the type of talent that they were going to let go, but didn't want to hire anybody. So they basically just used their bench. And now in the bureau channels, like if you're in the Slack channels, you'll see people say all the time, I've got four devs, a few specialized in angular on the bench this month. Everybody needs them. Right?


Kelly: Yeah. And that in and of itself is probably one of the greatest value adds. So I kind of want to dive into that a little bit more because I know that there are so many agency leaders or owners that are watching or listening and if they've never heard of the bureau before, I don't know how that's possible. But it's possible.


Carl: It's possible.


Kelly: If they've never heard of it before and this is the first time or they know about it, came across their radar at some point, but they just haven't sort of like step the toe in the water yet. Maybe they attended one event and nothing else, whatever the situation is. I'd love to get sort of that holistic viewpoint of what are all of the value ad components of the bureau. What does membership versus just attending an event? Is that possible? Like just give me a little flavor for all of that. Cause I think that would be super helpful for a lot of people.


Carl: No, that's great. And I appreciate you asking. So first of all, I'll just say that it's people over pixels, right? The more that you can be together in person is always better because that's where you pick up on all the vibes. The reason you do a video podcast is probably because people can see the reality versus them just kind of, doing whatever. But when you come to the first bureau event, the thing we hear all the time is I found my people. They didn't know. They might've been part of say a neo, right? Or they might've been part of some sort of other organization, but it was different types of companies. When you come into a situation where everybody does what you do, even though they're gonna do it differently, you realize you can say something and people aren't gonna look at you like a dog that heard a weird noise, they're going to look at you and go, I know what you mean and you're going to be like, you do?

So the number one thing is a feeling of acceptance and not being alone. Now the events, once you go to an event, you're in the Slack channels with your individuals who were at that event as well, your other alumni, they're about a thousand people who are active in the Slack channel, but it's split up in all these different little private rooms. So nobody feels the pain except for me cause I see everything. But in there [inaudible] it's asking me question. Answers will show up. And that's another amazing piece of value. We have a shop that's in Charleston actually, and they told me at one point they were in a leadership team meeting and they made a comment and somebody said, could you ask your owner camp friends cause I don’t think they're going to agree with you on this.


Kelly: Oh that's awesome.


Carl: So they went in and they popped it in the Slack channel and a bunch of differing opinions came back along with some that supported them and they printed it out and took it over. Right? So that was pretty amazing. But events can be expensive, right? I mean, the way that we do events is for the most part, all inclusive. When we do the camps we're trying to get with the summits and these other types of events that are more traditional with breakouts, we're trying to get that cost down a little bit.

The way we do that is through membership. So membership for us was a way to allow more people to come to the in person events. And what it allows is for you monthly to have a pure call. It gives you access to a library that's been curated from all the conversations over the last seven years where we're able to say, these are apps that people liked, these are books that people liked, these are videos that people liked, podcasts, whatever it is. And we put all of that into a reference library.

So you can go in there and find answers to almost anything if you're not just going to be human and ask the Slack channel. And then also with membership, there's discounts and stuff like that, but that's not the real value. We also will promote for our members. So if they got something new that they've done that they want everybody to know about, we'll step up and say, hey, we just want to let everybody know, they just finished this thing. It's pretty awesome. Take a look.

So it's kind of offering a humblebrag from a third party. And then also concierge service. So we will have people reach out to us and say, we're looking for a shop who does this. So for our members, we'll take care of that for them so they don't have to go through the hustle because we have a spreadsheet right now that has pretty much all 7,000 of the people who've been associated at some level with the bureau. And that breaks down into all these different groups. So it's pretty amazing.

But ultimately the value, it was funny, I was talking on Blair Enns’ Win Without Pitching and that stuff. I was talking about Blair about it and I said, well, the value is that you get this network of people. And he goes, Carl, people have friends. You can't tell them that they're coming and giving you this money so they can have friends. I was like, all right, Blair. And he goes, what do people do? What do they leave with? And I said, they leave with like 5 to 10 ideas that they can act on when they get back. And we'll hear within a year that one or two of those changed their entire organization.


Kelly: That's the value.


Carl: And he was like, that's it. And so I think if you do it in person events or if you do it in the Slack channels or if you do it on the monthly calls, that's what it is. As an individual, you maybe amazing at what you do, but you won't have had near the collective experience of thousands of shops. And so that's what it is.


Kelly: Yeah. It's incredible. And I love the fact that there's so many, the diversity of the touch points, whether it's in person or through technology, whatever it is. I think people have different comfort levels with, maybe I'm not super extroverted and I don't really love going to events like that, but to be a member and to get access to all those resources or to be able to pop a question into Slack, whatever it is, maybe that's a little bit more comfortable for someone. So I like the fact that it's almost like, we all have different learning styles but we also all have different behavioral styles. And the fact that you're offering those things in a way that's digestible, somebody could sort of come out into themselves a little bit by maybe being introverted and going to their first event being like, wow, this isn't so bad. I could do this.


Carl: Exactly. And you find that you're not that far off. Like a lot of times people are going cause they feel like they have nothing to add and then they realize they crack the code on something. What do you mean you haven't heard of PEOs? It's revolutionary, whatever it might be. And you see that aha moment and you write it down. One event, we did, one of our operations camps, somebody was talking about how they had done an employee onboarding guide and they were sharing it. So we'll do this on the third morning of a camp. We do a show and tell. The only rule is you have to show something you wouldn't normally. And you're not allowed to just sit there. Everybody's got to share something. But this person put up their internal employee onboarding guide and somebody said, do you have anything like that for clients? And everybody went, oh, so everybody suddenly write down client onboarding guides. So these are the things that just every single time there's one nugget like that that even I walk away with and quickly share with everybody else.


Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. Well, this has been awesome. I could talk to you for hours. I think we both kind of are on the same page with that after the last couple of conversations, but I just, I really appreciate the time and everything that you're doing for the agency leader community, super, super valuable. You really are impacting so many people's lives, even if it's just facilitating all of them getting together and sharing that information. It's really incredible. So thank you for that. And thank you for being on the show today.


Carl: Thank you so much. It's wonderful to get to meet your community as well.


Kelly: Thanks, Carl.

Start Watching
Workamajig is a robust project management system that allows you to collaborate, organize, and streamline every project, every time.