Those of us in charge of agencies have had an intense couple of years. Whether sales have plummeted or rocketed, it's taken a lot more out of us to steer the business and look after everyone in the midst of a global crisis.
At the end of the year it's a great time to take stock, learn lessons, and make changes. That way we can make 2022 a great year — I believe it can be our best year yet.
So here goes, with a series of blog posts looking into what's been giving us nightmares, and what we can do about it.
Expectations of and pressures on agency leaders are reaching unprecedented levels, trying to sustain their business in very challenging times that predate the pandemic. Leadership fatigue is widespread, and many agency leaders are suffering burnout.
I've also heard personal stories from many agency leaders showing signs of burnout this year, and that many have at some point considered 'throwing in the towel.' Others have stepped back from their CEO role, or even sold their agency, just to get away from the stress overload and resulting unhappiness.
We can imagine what's causing this current peak in fatigue: It's a global crisis with massive uncertainty, but leaders have to somehow take charge and take care of everything.
The deeper problem is that the stresses of the pandemic are a spike on top of already very high levels of pressure in the job.
There's little we can do to control the pandemic, but we can do more to deal with the everyday pressures agency founders/CEOs face. By addressing the deep foundations of the stress, the spike in the current crisis becomes more manageable.
And these stresses don't just happen when business is bad. Yes, 2020 was very tough for many leaders because work evaporated. But the rapid return of new work and business success in 2021 is hard in a different way.
In this blog series I'm going to do dig into those underlying problems, interviewing a range of agency CEOs to understand the pressures — and then look at some possible solutions.
By addressing these issues now, we can make 2022 a year to look forward to.
I'm on a mission to help agency founders fall in love with leading their agencies again — feeling confident, happy, and fulfilled in their role.
I think we are heading for a golden age for agencies, because times like these are when clients need agencies most for the really interesting challenges to work on, but we have to get in shape to enjoy it and make the most of it.
The nightmares of Agency CEOs
In addition to the formal research we conducted with the Senate, over the last year I interviewed CEOs of agencies between 10ish and 75ish staff (so they are in what we call the Step Up phase of 10–30 staff, or the Smarten Up phase of 30–75 staff, which are the most challenging stages of development for agency leaders).
I simply asked, 'What are the hardest things about being an agency CEO?'
We then analysed the responses to look for themes and insights. I'll dig into each of those in the following posts:
- Introduction <- this post
- Lonely and isolated
- Learning the hard way
- Stuck in reactive mode
- The rollercoaster ride
- The weight of responsibility
If you are the owner, founder, director or CEO of an agency, follow along with this series and see what resonates with you, and what you might want to do to make 2022 your best year yet.
Find out more about...
- Our programme for CEOs at the Step Up stage, on the journey between 10–30 staff
- Our programme for CEOs at the Smarten Up stage, on the journey between 30–75 staff
These programmes provide you with the framework and tools to lead a healthier agency, as well as the support to implement them.