This is rare. So many agencies fizzle out (or combust) in their first few years. Making it past five years is a big achievement. Making it past ten is huge. Making it to 25 is amazing.
So I've listened back to the interviews with this longevity in mind.
What stood out to me as characteristics in these two agency leaders that I think helped them go the distance was their ability to constantly learn and improve in three ways:
- Low ego to learn from mistakes. They didn't need to big themselves up. Both had awareness of their mistakes and weaknesses, and could talk, and even laugh, about them. They didn't brush them under the carpet and try to forget about them, though — they learned from them and still remember and talk about what they learned from their mistakes.
- Learning from peers. Both are active members of agency communities, and have developed their own support networks of other leaders whose brains they can pick. They also read blogs and books.
- Stepping back for a different perspective. Sue talked about physically taking herself away from the business so she could think about it with some distance and see a broader perspective. Paul talked about having had an advisory board that helped him get a broader perspective, as well as a peer-coaching group.
These seem like simple things, but it's so hard to consistently do all three. It's linked to what I wrote about last week, you need to actively block out the time to make sure you can do these key parts of the leadership work.
That's (part of) what it takes to build a long-lasting agency to be proud of.
My colleague Joe wrote a great piece for Agency Radar (available on the free tier) on how two big businesses responded differently to stress — and what we can learn from this about retaining staff in the face of 'the great resignation'.
We've launched our first online course, with an e-learning version of our popular Healthy Agency Finances workshop. It helps CEOs get to grips with the numbers in a way that connects with how an agency actually works. It goes live in October, but during September you can get early adopter access using the code 'PRELAUNCH' at checkout.
We've also added dates for our live Zoom workshops, all the way through to March next year - with the next dates being at the end of September. In particular, I recommend coming on the Positioning Your Agency Workshop, with one or two colleagues. The marketplace has changed so much and clients are seeking something new that they can't quite describe. This workshop will help you refine and clarify your offer to ensure you benefit from what is becoming a boom time for many agencies.