Every agency leader I've heard from in the last few weeks is frazzled.
Running an agency can be intense at the best of times, but 2021 has probably been the most intense year we've all experienced. Whether business has been booming or tough, it's been hard hard work.
But, as I've set out before, I think we're entering a golden age for agencies.
That makes it even more important to rest over this holiday period. Hopefully you can also take some time to reflect and re-energise.
To help with that reflection and re-energising, I'm wrapping up the year with a series of blog posts, based on research with agency owners, about what makes leading an agency hard — so we can solve some of those problems. The themes that came out are:
- Loneliness and isolation
- Learning the hard way
- Being stuck in reactive mode
- The rollercoaster ride
- The weight of responsibility
If any of these ring true for you, do read the series to unpack these problems and explore solutions to put into action in 2022 to be ready for the golden age. Start reading the introduction here.
This week's newsletter — my last of the year — is a special one, with lots of suggestions of articles, books and podcasts to help you get fired up again for 2022. You'll find the list down below.
P.S. This is my last newsletter of 2021. I'll write again on 10th January. See you then!
P.P.S. Know another agency leader who'd benefit from this? Do forward them this email, I'm really keen to spread these ideas and inspiration as widely as possible.
P.P.S. If you want to chat about anything in my blog posts, these newsletters, or about Convivio's work with agencies, I'm available for a Zoom coffee. You can book in directly on my Calendly for January: https://calendly.com/steveparks. Chat, share your thoughts on what I've written, pick my brains, just shoot the breeze about being an agency owner. It's all fine, honestly.
Agency owner inspiration for 2022
I asked agency leaders for recommendations of books, blogs podcasts and other sources of inspiration for 2022.
Thanks to the wonderful communities of Agency Hackers, Agency Collective, The Bureau of Digital and various agency leader slack groups for helping me spread the word and gather recommendations (the name in brackets is the leader who recommended it)
- Brutally Honest, an ebook from US agency consultant Emily Cohen (Simon R Jones)
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time and how to use it by Oliver Burkeman (Joe Baker)
- Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt (David Robinson — "A masterpiece in my view. If you’re reviewing your strategy it’s a must read. I like the audiobook.")
- Agencynomics by Spencer Gallagher & Peter Hoole (Natasha Goldring, Simon Cole)
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (Natasha Goldring — "helps understand leadership and employee behaviour from a psychological perspective")
- The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky (Sue Keogh — "Has me furiously scribbling notes this year")
- Grow Your Digital Agency by Robert Craven (Simon Bollon — "a hidden gem")
- Do Build - How to make and lead a business the world needs by Alan Moore (Simon R Jones)
- Human Powered: Supercharge your digital product teams with emotional intelligence by Trenton Moss (Jamie Huskisson, and Trenton Moss 😜)
- Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit (how leaders can gather their tribe in times of crisis and inspire them on to great things)
- The Inner Game of Tennis: The Ultimate Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by W Timothy Gallwey (Natasha Goldring)
- Small Spark Theory (Kat Arney, Philip Olivier) — I was on an episode of this recently
- Agency Dealmasters (Angel Gaskell)
- High Performance (Simon Bollon)
- Leadership is Feminine (Sue Keogh — "one I always get something out of")
- Diary of a CEO (Simon Bollon)
- Two Bobs (Kat Arney, Philip Olivier)
- Build a better agency (Kat Arney)
- Attention Engineer (Kat Arney — "a fascinating listen about creativity etc - she interviews musicians rather than business folk but it's always a good listen if you want to get ideas from outside your own world")
- Built for Change (Philip Olivier)
- And of course, the Convivio Agency Leaders podcast!
- Seth Godin describes the differences between professionals and amateurs in this video. There's a lot to take from this for agency leaders, as many of us have turned our talents and passions into work. How can we improve our work, and reduce stresses on ourselves, by stepping into more professional shoes?
- The leaders guide to fighting fatigue is a topical read with some useful reminders — leadership burn-out is one the key risks identified on the Agency Radar
- This year has been very much about being reactive as a leader. To make 2022 great we need to switch back to being proactive, and that needs clearer thinking. We need to find ways to reset our animal brains. This guide to the Elements of Effective Thinking is a great prompt for that.
- And it's well worth browsing through some of our blog posts from this year about being an agency owner, and how to run agencies — including this one on what agencies are for.
Finally, if you're a Convivio member, here are some highlights of the special briefings and reports you have access to which are worth a review at the end of the year:
- Agency Senate report: how are the leading agency owners dealing with stress and overload?
- Agency Senate report: what do the top agency leaders see on the horizon in the next six months?
- What Works report: What can agency owners learn from the way fast-growth entrepreneur-led tech companies set up and run their boards?
- Agency Radar Board Brief: Handling the margin squeeze
- and the main Agency Radar Report with a complete horizon scan of risks and opportunities for agencies
If you're not a member yet, you can sign up from just £225 to get instant access to these and many more briefings, plus the agency leaders playbook.