What should I as an agency owner be focussing on (in the middle of a global pandemic)?
Times are uncertain. That is becoming clearer every day. David C. Baker said in a recent webinar that many of us won’t make it through this.
He reminded us that our actions now will dictate what business looks like in the future. This post isn’t yet another “end of the world as we know it” article. Still, it is a reminder that there are things we as agency founders can and should be doing with our time to ensure the companies we’ve worked hard to build are still here to serve those customers we’ve also worked hard to acquire and delight.
You don’t need to be scared, but you need to be mindful of the economic climate that has begun to shift. And though the realities are there, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. We’re seeing reminders from business professionals and influencers in the space that are reminding us of the good that we can both give and have received in our lives and businesses.
Here are some of the ways we can and should be spending our time to ensure growth and success:
- Check-in with your clients. There have been too many general emails from brands letting us know how they’re handling the COVID-19 outbreak. Try asking your customers how you can help? What can you do for them to be of assistance? Practice being flexible with your agreements and contracts. Now is a great time to show the human(s) behind your name. Let them know that they matter and that your team is ready and available to support them in any way possible.
- Let your team know how much you value them. Thank them for their contributions. They have their concerns, of course, but hearing from you and having them know that you’re doing everything to support them goes a long way.
- Don’t be afraid to make those tough decisions. You know the ones I’m talking about. You’ve been thinking about making changes in your business for months and have come up with reasons why “now” isn’t a good time. Well, as the last couple of weeks have shown us, “a good time” doesn’t actually exist. Is it a business process you need to implement or remove? Is there a leadership or staffing change that needs to happen? And on the off chance that that “bad fit” client hasn’t fired you yet, then you should consider the ball to be in your court. Take the shot.
- Create content, not for selling, but to be a helpful resource. Offer a helping hand to a partnering small business owner (even if it means some pro bono work) to let them know they’re not alone. Be selective, of course. Your shop comes first, and the last thing you want is to add more to your plate without thinking through the direct impact.
- Self reflect. What is your why? What problem do you solve? My mentor once challenged me to answer two questions, one, why would someone fly you across the world to do business with them, and two, what is your north star? What is the reason (why) you get out of bed in the morning, and when times get tough, what is going to keep you going into work and continuing to do this thing that you’ve committed to? This is both a positioning exercise and a chance to dig deep into why your business exists and what value you bring to your industry. Is it time to make a pivot? Have you felt led to one industry or set of offerings lately? Try answering the above questions for yourself. If you’ve never done something like this, it isn’t something that should come quickly. These are tough questions and should take some time to answer. Don’t stop, don’t give up — find your north star.
- Assess your systems and processes. At the end of the day, we still have a responsibility to our teams. The more available we can be to work on the things we need to focus on, the better off we’ll be in the long run. How effective is your project management process? Is there one? Would a team member know how to onboard a new client if you weren’t available? Are your sales and marketing departments aligned and are they able to remain agile during these uncertain times, or do you need to update your SOPs to match the current climate?
- How can you simplify your business? What can you take away that doesn’t make sense or is overly complicated? Is there copy on your website that no longer fits? Broken links? Is it time to finally update your CRM so that it can actually work for you? It’s time to do those things you’ve thought about in the shower or on your commute but haven’t had time or headspace to think through.
- Stop or reassess the effectiveness of your paid campaigns and/or drip campaigns. What is your current message? Is it sales focused or are you trying to reach people who have problems that need solving now? You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the amount of time deaf ads that are currently running around travel or ways to spend money that involve being around other people. The world is in a holding pattern, if your message isn’t helping the masses, don’t say anything at all.
- Embrace community. We’ve all heard the saying “community over competition”. Now, more than ever, we need to lean into that. Those agencies that you would have viewed as competition a week ago are more than likely your best chance for survival. And here’s the thing, the same is true for that (larger) shop “down the road”. Find your community. Share best practices. Talk about the tough things. Talk about your struggles, concerns, doubts, fears, successes, and how you’re staying true to your purpose and company mission. Find these safe spaces to talk and reflect with those that are in the same boat as you. Social distancing only becomes isolating if we let it.
- Rest. Though there are still some working in the office, the majority are working remotely. Working from home has a whole new meaning when you have small children who don’t understand what is going on and want to do nothing but build Lego spaceships with you all day. Yes, working is still important, and the kids need to know that, but be careful how many times you say “no, not right now.” And if it is a “not right now” then make sure that you set aside time to engage with them. Take a snack or lunch break. Go for a walk. Do a craft with them. Build the lego spaceship, even if it is the 6th one you’ve made in the last 24 hours. Use this time to rest and recover. The energy you give off will impact them in one way or another, so make sure you’re staying balanced in both focused work and family time.
A connection on LinkedIn that I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of weeks ago shared something yesterday. We’ve all heard it before, so much so that it might have lost its impact, but the post read: “This, too, shall pass.” Remember that we will get through this, we will be stronger. It will look much different, but to reiterate my earlier point, the time we spend now and the decisions we make will have a direct impact on what our agencies look like on the other side.
What to chat, vent, ask questions, share best practices? Reach out, I’d love to connect over a virtual coffee.
In the meantime, let me know in the comments how you’ll be spending your time. See you online.