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Marketing firms have been understandably concerned about how digital they must be in order to remain sufficiently central to the marketing mix. We’ve lost something, though, by framing this discussion around whether we should actually develop digital properties instead of around the broader question of how we should learn from digital thinking. In other words, we might need to approach our work—digital or not—with a more digital mindset. I want to talk about that, but I also want to talk about how you might go about deciding the degree to which you do digital, too.
At the outset of this movement, there were so few firms developing digital properties that it was actually difficult to make a poor positioning decision. The tools were rudimentary, no one knew what good digital really was, and that world was there for the taking.
Developing digital properties, though, now shows more signs of being a mature market, meaning that there are few gaps to arbitrage. Strong tools are widespread, we have nearly twenty years of experience to inform our work, and suddenly kids in the garage don't seem to own this anymore. (They have gotten bored and moved on to social media .)
The last two decades have ushered in a new medium, but the true impact of digital is barely felt. Worst of all, even digital firms aren't thinking digitally. But—and this is so exciting to say—the promise of digital impact is at your doorstep. If you miss the promise of digital thinking, you'll suffer far more than missing digital itself. I'd like you to consider thinking digitally....Read More
What is culture? What defines culture in an organization? One thing we know for sure is that it's not strongly connected to the "vision," "mission," and "culture" signs hanging in the lobby. Heck, the most evil companies in history said all the right things, and they said them in engraved marble in the lobby! No, culture isn't what you say.
Culture is what you do. Period. Even bigger than that, culture is the sum total of all your actions. You know that very talented employee who is selfish and territorial? Keeping that employee around speaks to the real culture at your firm. It says that you value output pretty much regardless of what comes with it.Read More
What are the characteristics of a leader that others want to follow?As you’ll soon see, this list is a very personal one. In other words, we’d all come up with different elements when building the list. What I’ve tried to do, though, is to think of a complete leader. So I’ve asked myself this question: can I imagine a leader who isn’t fair, for instance. The answer is obviously no. Each one of these, then, describes a leader’s characteristics, any one of which might hinder their effectiveness if missing in any significant proportion. What I’d encourage you to do--maybe even before you read this list--is to first make up your own list and compare it with mine. (These are not presented in any particular order.)Read More
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These are the things I've learned about paying humans, most of which I didn't absorb until some time after I was managing them.
The two groups of employees who are typically overpaid are those who have been with you a long time and those who know what other people make.
There are five issues more important to good employees than money, and when they talk about money is when some of those five things have eroded over time.
No employees in the world are mature enough to know what other people make and not read "intrinsic value" into that equation.
Real power comes from shaping how and what someone is paid. Unless a "manager" is that same person, all they are really doing is making suggestions about projects.
Small, frequent adjustments are better than...Read More
As you grow, what transitions are useful and even expected? Let’s look at a few that you’ll almost certainly encounter and help you see what might be on the other side of the transition.
One: Hiring for Expertise vs. Money
The first good transition to make is to begin hiring people for their expertise rather than for what they cost you. In the early days, you have a budget and you hire accordingly. You aim for whatever you can get for that price, and that’s the best you can do. There simply isn’t any more money, and expertise takes a back seat to available funds.
Eventually, though, you determine that expertise is more important than money. So you outline what you’re looking for in great detail and you don’t settle for less. You have a budget in mind, but the budget takes a back seat to the requirements for expertise. That means you may bust the budget. But in this scenario, one very qualified person may actually be equally as effective as two less qualified individuals.
Two: From Judging to Shaping
The second good transition to make is to move from judging to shaping the work underneath....Read More
I had trouble getting to sleep last night, and for some reason I started thinking about how managing client relationships has changed over the years. I'm not talking about my clients, but your clients. Do you know the really important things about how to do it right? I'm not sure i would have figured all these out, but I have paid attention to the hundreds of firms I've worked with and tried to cull out the best practices that have been proven in the field.
Just for fun, I started writing these down as they came to mind in a stream of consciousness style. Here are a few of them:
- The only power you have in a client relationship is to withhold your expertise.
- The degree to which you have power in a relationship is directly related to how long it takes to replace you.
- There are only two ways to have more opportunity than capacity, which represents your ability to say "no" to prospects and clients: create more opportunity or reduce your capacity.
- The most important criteria in evaluating a prospective client is whether or not they've used a firm like yours before. Never be the first.
- Your cheap ass clients are the ones spending their own money. You want to work for clients with budget authority over someone else's money.
- The clients who trust you say: "I have $140,000 for this project. What's the most we could do with that money?" The ones who don't trust you say, "Here's what I need. What will it cost?"....
A great client recently asked me to outline my definition of success for their firm. I really enjoyed doing that, and below is a version that you can adapt to your own situation, putting your own stamp on it:
- Partner compensation equals or exceeds industry benchmarks.
- After that is achieved, you still 20% net profit.
- The more entrepreneurial employees are satisfied that their contribution to your gain is recognized and accounted for.
- Partners and employees in key roles will have already tasted competence in the area of your focus, or they will experience it within nine months of joining the firm.
- There will be few or no young employees who value variety over expertise.
- When employees talk about your firm, while still employed, their private comments will be complimentary.
- When partners and employees head out the door to work for the day, they look forward to the challenges, the companionship, and their participation in the overall culture.
- As a firm you will not require extraordinary people....
I was recently working with a firm under our new "Come to Nashville" program for a day and we were doing long-term planning, mainly, but with an eye on how that might impact the short term. I came up with some questions that turned out to be very helpful as they took a break from the continuous crazy days we all have, and then answered them honestly and seriously.
- How do you feel about the current positioning of your firm? If you could waive a magic wand and change it (without regard to current employees or clients), what would your positioning be?
- What are your biggest fears in just pursuing that positioning, even if it means doing so alongside your current firm and maybe even doing it all alone without employees?
- If I watched you on a typical day, would it look like you are taking care of clients or would it look like you were taking care of employees (who would then take care of clients if you did your job well)?
- Who are the two weakest employee links who probably should be dismissed in the near future?
- Who is the most talented person at your firm who is disruptive to the culture? Are they on the list, above, of people to dismiss?
- You likely started this firm to create an environment for yourself that allowed for more freedom, control, and money. Now that you have built it, to what degree are these three things true?...
Every manager on earth is going to encounter significant management challenges. How you react to them is what will set you apart.
First Wrong Reaction: High Control Mode
The first wrong reaction to difficulties you’ll experience is to go into a high control mode and seek to eliminate the messiness of the management environment. That might manifest itself in coming down hard on people, drawing artificial lines in the sand, insisting on rule keeping all out of proportion to the circumstances, etc.
Essentially you quit trusting people and try to control them. The problem is that you can’t really control what they’re thinking—instead, you take a stab at merely controlling their behavior, but their attitude is actually worse. And of course that’s the root of the issue.
This instinct to control things is your perceived antidote to feeling out of control. You think people aren’t listening to you or aren’t respecting your directives, so you clamp down even harder, hoping to force compliance.
If the issue really is an obstinate employee who needs to be dismissed, well, then deal with the issue directly and dismiss them. It’s not very productive to penalize the entire group just because you’re deeply annoyed with a few people who, you fear, are infecting the others.
If you feel like things are spinning out of control, that’s usually a sign that something else—something deeper—is amiss. Take a deep breath and look underneath the surface to see what’s really happening.
Second Wrong Reaction: Revert to Former Expertise
The second wrong reaction to difficulties you’ll experience is to go back into the craft or the technical expertise from which you were promoted...Read More