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If I Were Starting Over

34:56

Episode description

LINKS

"The Great Convergence Is Upon Us" by Blair Enns

"CRM: The Train Coming At You" by Blair Enns

AltGroup.net website

"Eight Gauges on Your Agency Dashboard" by David C. Baker

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William Thorndike

"Rising From the Ashes: A New Agency Model" by Blair Enns

 

TRANSCRIPTION

DAVID C. BAKER: Blair today we're going to start over. Both you and I are going to start over. We're going to pretend to start over anyway, and the topic is If I Were Starting a Firm Now. In other words this is a firm that you and I work with, and the folks who listen to this podcast generally. If I were starting a firm like that now, what would I do differently? We're going way back in time because I ran a firm ... you worked at multiple firms, and I started and ran a firm for six years. My goodness, I would do so many things differently. If we talked about this 10 years ago, the answers would be different. If we talked about it 10 years from now, the answers would be different. But at this moment in time, what would we do differently if we were going to start a firm now? Are you up for that topic?

BLAIR ENNS: I am up for it, and as you've pointed out I have never owned a firm before. I've run a small office, I've been the number two in a larger office, but I've never owned a firm. So I'll try it one, let's do this.

DAVID: Okay. We're going to ping pong with some questions here, and I'm going to start by asking for your opinion on something that's really the big umbrella here. The reason I want to ask you is because you recently wrote a lot about this, and it was a provocative article the things that you talked about. I haven't talked with you to see what kind of feedback you got about it, but here is the question; what category of firm would you start? Would it be a digital firm? Or a dev shop? Or a UX shop? Or a PR firm? How would you start a firm from a category standpoint if you were starting over?

BLAIR: I think the piece you're referring to is something I wrote called "The Great Convergence Is Upon Us." The convergence I was talking about is the convergence of design, which is often UX design, software engineering, and business consulting. I'm seeing most of the best lucrative, most thriving, most impactful firms that we're working with these days are in that space. I think it's really hard to think of starting a new firm today that doesn't combine those three skills, so I absolutely would combine those three skills because I think that's where the big opportunity is in the market place but that doesn't really narrow things a lot. If I look at what I know the world of selling, and also some of the world of marketing ... what I've been interested in for a bunch of years is this intersection of sales and marketing. I wrote something on this ... oh man, it's probably approaching 10 years ago now. I think it was called "CRM: The Train That's Coming At You."

BLAIR: CRM as a customer relationship management software was becoming more prevalent and powerful, it's driven by the internet changing the way people buy, and the way we sell, and the way we use marketing automation. The biggest way sales and marketing has changed in the era of Google is that lead generation has moved from a sales function to a marketing function. When that happens, that changes the nature of what selling is, and it changes the nature a little bit of what marketing is. One of the implications is actually sales and marketing in your client's organizations are getting closer and closer together, and they're overlapping. That article I wrote about CRM was that the CRM application is actually the place in your client's organization ... and I know it's not an application, isn't really a place. But it's the place where sales and marketing are overlapping.

BLAIR: Even pre-CRM days when I was working in the agency business, I as somebody who comes from the world of sales, I always felt like in a new business opportunity, if I could get the chief sales officers in the room as a decision maker, and I could convert him or her, if I could win him or her, I would win the account. There's just something about ... this is a long rambling answer, but there's something about where sales and marketing overlap, and the technology that's required, and the way those two different departments work together. I would focus on that space. So where sales and marketing overlap in my client's business, it would be tech heavy. A lot of that tech would be CRM. I would have this converge firm that had high level of business consulting, had technology chops like software engineering, and had really good design UX skills. I would go after sales driven organizations, and I guess the classic label would be a B2B firm. I would specialize in B2B because in a lot of B2B organizations you have this kind of handshake, or overlap in sales and marketing. Did that make sense at all?

DAVID: It did. I kept thinking of things I wanted to interject, but I decided just to let you talk because it did make perfect sense. It overlaps with something that we've also seen in this industry for many years, the CMO, the person that we typically would get hired by ... you know these agencies we get hired by the CMO, was losing power for so many years and that's been reversed. About two years ago it was reversed, and really dramatically. The reason it was reversed is because the CMO took over more of the technology spend at large companies, which really dovetails with what you are talking about. The other thing that hit me too as you were talking is that so many of my clients do not understand that world, they don't even use a CRM themselves. It's not as if they need a CRM because they don't have that many clients or prospects to keep track of, but they aren't even using it enough to understand it and to speak that language.

DAVID: It feels like the world around these firms that you and I talk to a lot, has changed and these firms haven't really kept up that we need some ... it'd be interesting to talk at some point about maybe the professional education, professional advancement, how do these firms learn and catch up in that space?

BLAIR: Yeah. I think if your firm is positioned in any way as B2B, you have to be in the CRM space in some way because you can't be a good B2B firm without having CRM chops. You're going to be operating within your client's CRM application, everything that you do campaign-wise is going to push through that application, and there all kinds of opportunities within that space. As you've pointed out, most firms like the B2C firms if CPG is your focus, you don't need to worry about CRM. But if you're at all into B2B space you need to be using a big robust CRM package, probably sales force just because you're going to need to be able to provide that expertise at some level. You can go as deep into it as you want, but you're going to need to be able to provide that expertise at some level to your clients.

DAVID: Yes absolutely. And also sales force is so easy to use, and the interface is so wonderful ... I'm just kidding in case anybody didn't capture that.

BLAIR: Let me just put a shout out to ... I've been using HubSpot CRM for a project I'm involved in lately, and I've checked it out every 18 months or so, and it's always been, "Yeah, it's coming along nicely." And we're not into plugging things here, but I was so impressed with the user interface and how easy it is to use. Then I'd go back to my Salesforce instance and I think, "I like the robustness of sales force, but even the new lightning interface is not as good as HubSpot CRM." Okay that's enough plugging things. Let me ask you a question, if you were starting a firm today, size ... is there a target size you would shoot for? Is bigger better? Or would you limit the firm to a certain size?

DAVID: I started as one person, just myself. The second person, we didn't have an office at the time, and he was really tall, and he kept ... whenever he stretched ... we worked in our bedroom, and we moved out of our bedroom and that's where we moved the office. Whenever he stretched he'd get his arms caught in the ceiling fan, it just brings back memories. Then we moved into an office, and eventually grew to be 16 people so still really small. I did not understand at the time the implications of size, I thought that having more people meant making more money and that's a pretty tenuous connection there. The way I would answer this question is very different now than it was then for sure too. If you want to be vertically positioned, and hold an AOR place in the client's mind, you can't reliably do that below about 40 people except for really small clients. 

DAVID: If I wanted that sort of a relationship I would aim to get bigger, but I also feel like now there is much less stigma around being smaller and if you are not as caught up in doing implementation, and if you're positioning is really really powerful, and it's almost all around strategy, then I probably would aim to be about six people, or I would be over 40 people. I would try not to be in that middle size, that's how I would answer that question.

BLAIR: Okay.

DAVID: Does that surprise you?

BLAIR: The six surprises me. We've had conversations about what's the ideal size of a firm before, and I know that our friends that design business association in the UK has done a little bit of work on this ... and this data is a little bit old, but I remember being told that their research showed that the most profitable firm per capita was 11 people.

DAVID: Yep.

BLAIR: That fits nicely with your functional model where you say essentially there are 12 roles in the firm, and then once you get past the 12 roles now you're into middle management, right?

DAVID: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And you can have very pure roles where nobody has to wear more than one hat at about 22, 23, 24 people, something like that. My own research shows that there is a deepened profitability from about 10-15 and then above that there is another corresponding increase in profitability per employee. But there's so many exceptions to that, it's really hard to say that you would necessarily avoid a particular size. But I think I would be intentionally small, six or so. Or I would be intentionally large if I were starting over. That's just me answering the question, right?

BLAIR: Yeah.

DAVID: And none of these are like, "This is what you should do." This is just what I would do, that's how we're answering these questions. If you were going to start a firm would you want to have done anything else first? For example, would you want to have worked on the client side first? Or would it be important for you to have worked at another agency first? Or maybe a consulting practice? I want to just get a feel for whether it would make sense if you had a real objective view of things, and you're out of grad school say, and you're faced with these options; to work for a consulting firm, a client, or another agency. Which one of those would you do before you started your firm?

BLAIR: This is a real tricky one because you have to try it on for what's best for you. If I remove the question for me, if I think okay I would be ... in that converge model, I would be the consultant, but I don't have the pedigree to bid for boutique consulting firm experience, I have faith in my ability but I don't have that background so I would say somebody like me if I were thinking of a career path which ... if we could hindsight being 2020, and I was pursuing this model, I would do the MBA, and then go work in a consulting company, and then ... I think that would be the most valuable experience, would be consulting company experience. Not necessarily agency or creative firm experience, and I don't think client side experience is actually necessary. In fact a lot of people would disagree with this, but I think we in the creative profession spend too much time listening to client say what they want. I'm not saying we should ignore that completely, but if somebody is on a stage saying, "Here is what I want from you people."

BLAIR: I just don't trust that that's actionable advice, to listen to what somebody says they want generally from agency partners, and then build your business around that. That's probably another podcast. But no, I think of those three options whether I had agency experience, client side experience, or consulting experience. For somebody like me, I would see myself as the head of the firm, and I think the head of the firm in this new converge model, you're probably best off with somebody coming from the consulting background.

DAVID: That is exactly how I would have answered the question as well because for the same reason you gave about the client side, and because I want to build on my own after I leave the consulting firm as an employee. I want to build a consulting practice working in the areas that you mentioned in the first answer that you gave. I have noticed though that a lot of principals struggle when they have never worked for another good firm before, and the way they get around that is they hire people who have so that they can learn from them. But if the end look of your firm is more of a consulting firm than say a marketing or a design firm, then working for those would be great. I was just thinking to myself as you were answering that, there is no college degree for consulting. That's really odd, isn't it? There's so many things that people are doing, and there's no degree for it.

BLAIR: Well isn't that the MBA? Isn't that one of the paths coming out of the marketing focused MBA? Or even a financed focus MBA, is to go on the consulting side?

DAVID: Yeah. I mean you learn about business, but you don't learn how to do the craft. They don't teach you that in school, that's pretty interesting.

BLAIR: I agree. We're talking about if I were starting over, or if I were starting a firm today, and I'll put the question to you. What you asked about prior experience, I'll ask you about preparation before the launch. Would you raise money? How would you go about getting your first clients? And how would you generate leads if you're starting from the beginning?

DAVID: This assumes that I'm doing something else while I'm ramping up, and I'm ramping up probably in the evenings, or on the weekends, or something like that. I would have at least two to three months worth of my living expenses saved up, that would be the most important thing for me if I were starting over. The reason is because I think ... at least for me, that the father of compromise is really financial pressure, and so I would not want to face that pressure so I would have that saved up. The other thing is that whatever I was going to be doing ... well, obviously my positioning would be very nailed down, but whatever I was going to do for lead generation I would have that up and ready to go where all I had to do was flip a switch rather than starting to do that at the beginning. I wouldn't be sitting there with nothing to do, and smiling and dialing looking for work, I would have all of that ramped up partly because I want to be prepared, but partly because I want to test my own resolve.

DAVID: How committed am I to this new venture? Am I committed enough to it to do all this disciplined work around lead generation for myself? And am I committed enough to it to put money aside. Because if I fail ... and there is a chance that I will in this new venture, I don't want to lose any more than what I've saved up. I can then say, "That was a good college try, and I lost everything I saved up, but no further damage was done." That would be my perspective on it.

BLAIR: Would you consider outside sources of money?

DAVID: Only if it was free, in other words somebody thought I'd...

BLAIR: So no? The answer is no?

DAVID: Not in the real world. The answer is no, that's right. I would definitely not borrow money, and any money I got would have strings attached to it, so I would absolutely not do that.

BLAIR: But do you think that's the right universal advice? Or does that speak to your risk profile? Because as you were describing essentially hedging your bet and starting the firm, I was thinking, "Yeah okay, I could see that." But I would probably go the other way, I would probably burn the ships and go all in, and force myself to succeed. I don't know that that's the right way, and I don't know that I would give advice to others to do that. But I feel like that's the way I like to operate, push all the chips in.

DAVID: Well, I may take bigger risks than most people on the planet. On the other hand I couple that with a very different perspective about debt, in that I think debt is a very bad instrument for anything except for appreciating assets like a home, or a building, or something like that. Because debt enables you to cover up things that need to be looked at in different ways, it keeps you from having to make the tough decisions, and it forces you to clean up the past if things go bad. I never want to do anything but clean up the future. I'm a huge risk taker, and I take a lot of risks with money. I spend a lot of money, but it's money that I have saved up that I feel comfortable wasting if I need to.

BLAIR: How many tractors do you own?

DAVID: Let's not go there.

 

BLAIR: What's next on your list here?

DAVID: All right, next this one's for you. This is about web presence. You've given me some hints that your thinking has changed in this area that's why I thought it would be interesting to ask you this question. So you're building a new website for this new venture, how extensive would the website be? Would it be one page? Or 100 pages? How much content? Would that content be gated or not? Would you talk about your service packages? Would you say anything about pricing even in ranges? would you use marketing automation? Just what would the role of your website be in this new venture?

BLAIR: I've hinted at this, and I've actually put out there on social media that I'm going to publish some content on this. It's a little bit late, and there's a reason why it's late and I'm not going to day what it is but it's coming. There's been a shift in content marketing, and lots of people have seen it, but some people are oblivious to it. I don't want to give too much away here.

DAVID: Oh come on you woos, just say it.

BLAIR: Yeah yeah. I do want to say that I still ... I think we've talked about this before, but I think the best marketing agency website out there is altgroup.net and that's the Alt Design Group out of New Zealand where it says ... I mean it's been this way for 10 years, this page intentionally left blank and then an address in the bottom left hand corner. I look at that website and I think that is brilliant, and it's built on the idea that the most powerful thing in marketing is mystery. So I would build some mystery around my marketing. I might publish a book initially, I might put something out there in the world but what I wouldn't do is the way that I started to build the lead generating machine, or the marketing machine for Win Without Pitching back in the early days and we still do it today even though we also do other things like this podcast. I wouldn't focus on building a list, and I wouldn't focus on emailing people, I wouldn't focus on content marketing.

BLAIR: There's a shift in the way that people are consuming information, which has implications on our heretofore need to collect all the data on who is interested in us. The shift is more towards audio and primarily video, that's the big shift that's coming. If your target market is of a certain age, the video is coming a little but later. If they're younger, video is more prominent now. As you move to publishing content, instead of thinking of content as typed words, and read words, you think of it as what we're doing here in the podcast, or what you might do in a YouTube channel. If you're pushing content that way, now you actually have to force yourself to let go of all of that data you're used to having of who is interacting? And how or when are they interacting? There's a lot more trust that has to happen, there's a lot more letting go of the data and using these platforms. Other than the people who have reached out to us and said, "Hey, love your podcast." Or, "Hate your podcast, but I listen to it." Whatever. We don't have any data on who's listening to this, right?

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: But on who those people are, we get numbers so that's part of the shift. Content consumption is rapidly moving away from reading to watching and listening, and the platforms of watching and listening are increasingly not your platforms. You push it out there on these other platforms, so you have to be comfortable with not having the data. Probably if I were staring today, I would let go of email marketing altogether. Now I say that knowing that maybe there's a 40% chance if I did that I might change my mind really quickly.

DAVID: Just kidding right?

BLAIR: I have a hard time seeing it going away, email marketing continues to get less effective, interruption marketing. I think you need to put a great valuable content that people are drawn to, and again let go. Then we've got privacy regulations that are catching up with our own personal discomfort around how much data people have on us, so I think if I was starting out today I wouldn't over-invest in the website in any way. I would build mystique mystery, and I would push content out there other than via email, and I would let go of the need to collect all of the data around who is interacting with my content. But I might fail because of it.

DAVID: Well, that's okay 'cause you're not pressured to test that idea for sure. Thinking about this podcast for instance, you and I exchanged an email about this of all the things you do and all the things I do, and then we do this together, this takes the least amount of time, it costs the least amount of money, and it is the most effective, and yet we have no idea who's listening.

BLAIR: Yeah. It's been a big shift for us. I mean you and I are both readers and writers, right?

DAVID: Right.

BLAIR: So for ... along with time, and our clients who are our age, or older, even just a little bit younger, they probably still think of content as reading and writing. I'm not going to drop them here, but some of the prediction, some of the stats on the percentage of content that will be consumed in just a couple of years that will be video is far beyond the majority. It's way above 50% of all content consumed will be video, some numbers put it as high as 80% of all content.

DAVID: But nobody will be listening to this podcast if you and I hadn't been doing email marketing for 20 years either.

BLAIR: Yeah, there's that. Let me ask you about client base. So you're starting a new firm, you're not borrowing any money, and you're thinking you've got this vision of the firm that you're trying to build a certain size. Let's talk about the size of your clients, how many would you have? What would the nature of those relationships be? Would it be AOR longterm relationships? Would it be more project based? And what types of clients? That's a lot of questions.

DAVID: That's all right, I'll try to answer these. I would have fewer but larger clients. By larger I mean larger as a percentage of my practice in this field. I would not go after the largest clients though, I think they have so much power, and they push you around and don't need you as much. Nor would I go after the smallest clients that are not as sophisticated, and for which the money they're spending hurts them a little bit more. I would aim solidly at the middle-sized clients, and then I would ensure that each client I got was a fairly large part of my business. So I would probably aim for six or eight clients, something like that. I would aim to have more of a SWAT team approach, where I dropped in and did really amazing work for them that moved a needle and helped change their thinking, and maybe that engagement lasted six months, or two years, or something like that. 

DAVID: Then I would not feel any compulsion to do the implementation, in fact I would encourage them to do some of the implementation or I would introduce them to other people without fear that somehow they wouldn't call me back at some point. That would be my thinking in terms of how I would approach this. It's a little bit terrifying because I know a lot of our listeners are not interesting in putting that many eggs in one basket, they really want to spread out their client base and typically they're going to end up with 25 clients which is too much, right? Anyway, that's how I would answer that.

BLAIR: I would agree with almost all of that too, I like the small size of the client base. I was thinking 8-10, you said 6-8 short-term projects six months to three years. I wouldn't pursue some sort of longterm relationship like that too. Let's we how we can do here, what's next on the list?

DAVID: Okay. How would I earn money, or how would you earn money in this case? Would it be fee for service? Would it be guaranteed results? Variable pay for performance? List solutions? We talked a lot about this in some of the events that we've done, and you've had some time to think about this. How would you structure your arrangements with clients?

BLAIR: I love this question, and people who think I would say value based pricing, pricing a value, the real answer is ... and this is a proper answer for anybody who's running a consultative services, I wouldn't have a universal pricing model. I would reserve the right to price the client, not the job and every different client I would price differently. I think Ron Baker, and it might be Tim Williams, and the two of them work closely together on pricing stuff. I've heard one or maybe both of them say that you should think of your client base like your investment portfolio. You have this overall risk profile, and each client represents, in this case an investment. So you would have some high risk investments, or you would have some high risk compensation plans. High risk high reward, and you would have low risk low reward. You would have this range of risk levels in each of the engagements, but together they need to balance out to meet your overall risk profile.

BLAIR: I actually think it's a mistake to have a single pricing model where everything is performance pay, or everything is price certainty, we deliver price certainty based on deliverables, or everything is priced on inputs, etcetera. I think you really do need to look at each engagement separately, and the context around the engagement, what's your current financial situation? And decide in that situation how much risk you want to take on. So the short answer is it really needs to be a blend, and it's one engagement at a time. You figure out what the best pricing model is for that engagement.

DAVID: That surprises me, I thought you were going to say that they all looked pretty similar, you thought through it very carefully, and then you stuck with the same thing. That's a surprising answer for me.

BLAIR: I think we got a couple more questions we can get in here. What are the ratios? You're the ratio guy, if you're flying this new firm like it's a plane, you're looking at your dashboard, what's on the dashboard?

DAVID: The most popular article I've ever written on the site is "Eight Gauges on Your Agency Dashboard," but I can narrow that down to three and it would be these; don't pay more than 45% of your fee base to unburden comp ... and if folks are wondering what that means, they can go to the website and read it. But it's essentially without taxes, or benefits, and so on, or bonuses. That's the first one. Second, have three to four months worth of your overhead set aside in cash, not receivables, not line of credit so that you have that cushion to work from if things go south temporarily. The third would be watch the fee billings per full-time equivalent employee, and we've talked about this in a previous podcast. I would aim to always be above 200, and overtime me quite a bit higher than that, that's what I'd be aiming for.

BLAIR: Good numbers.

DAVID: Okay. The question for you next is how would you focus on creating future value? 'Cause you talk a lot about how that is the primary role of a principal of a firm, recognizing that, an if you believe it then how do you find the time? How do you do the research? Who do you hang around? What to read? This might even be an entire podcast episode at some point, but-

BLAIR: Yeah, let's do a podcast on that. I'll give you the short answer, two things. Number one, a strong number two. So strong COO. There's a great book called The Outsiders, and I think it's William Thorndike. It's Warren Buffet's favorite book where he profiles all of these different leaders who have publicly traded companies, who are the most successful in the history of the New York stock exchange. He asses what they have in common, and one of the things they have in common is they ave a really strong operations people to whom they delegate a lot of operational responsibilities. That's number one. Number two is I would travel, that's what I do in my business. I have a strong number two, she's my business partner and my spouse. I've been home for two months over the summer, I'm just itching to get on a plane. I provide the most value to our business when I'm not in the office. I get out there speaking, meeting people, working with some clients, building relationships. Those two things, strong number two, and travel.

DAVID: Great.

BLAIR: Let me ask you about employees. Employees don't stick around like they used to, how do you think about your employee base in this new firm in this new ... it's not just millennials anymore, but there's a new work environment where people have different ideas of what work should be, how it should be done, and what they should get out of it, or how it should serve them.

DAVID: And I would shut the hell up, and quit whining about this. That's the first thing I would do.

BLAIR: Amen. We should appreciate that these people are teaching us something.

DAVID: Yeah, it's fantastic. At first, I was thinking we've got to fix the culture so that they'll stay around, well that is not going to happen folks because people's career ladder involves inevitably moving to another place. That is how they make more money, that's how they stay interested, and so on. I would develop a model of employees that was excited about this, in other words I would beef up my training so that it wasn't as big a problem. I would force some sort of people going away. Maybe sabbatical is too long a word, but at least a couple of weeks where everybody's email and their contact with the office was completely shut off so that it forced us to have better systems in place. I would have ways for them to capture their first impressions at the firm, I would celebrate their departures, I would encourage them to come back at some point because when they come back their dabble is beneficial to the firm when that happens. I'm writing an article on this. Essentially I would embrace it and be very excited about it.

BLAIR: Those are all very exciting progressive ideas. One of my other recent article is "Rising From the Ashes: A New Agency Model" where I talk about the importance of flexible two-way scale. The idea that you need to be able to flex up and down, and you need to recognize the trends that are driving today's modern workforce, and you need to essentially build your agency around that. Hey, let's do two more questions. You're starting a new firm, would you go into this with and end date in mind? Would you have an expiry date? Would you have this idea, "I'm going to get out at X point."?

DAVID: I would, yes. It probably be somewhere in the 8-10 year range because I'd hit my stride about a year and a half, or two in. Then I would be maximizing revenue opportunities and taking advantage of all the marketing that I've done, and then I would move on and do something else. So 8-10 years is probably what I would plan on. What about you?

BLAIR: You know what? When I started Win Without Pitching originally it was a consulting company, I thought, "I'm going to do this for two or three years. Learn everything I need to learn, basically nail this and then go do something else." It's been over 16 years, and I feel like I'm just scratching the surface, so I would not put an expiry date on it. I would do this until I died, and that's my plan with my current business. I've written about that too about not having an eye on the exit, but I'm not sure that that's ... no, actually I think that's actually universally pretty good advice.

DAVID: So would you start a firm?

BLAIR: You know I've said for a long time that I wouldn't start a firm, but I used to think of creative firms as an ad agency, a design firm, etcetera. I wouldn't start an ad agency, I wouldn't start a CPG design firm, I wouldn't start a web design firm, I wouldn't start any of those classic marketing or creative firms. But all of these new hybrid firms with a new working models, they excite me greatly. I think I wrote in an article recently that I wouldn't start a firm, what I said is I'd start a really small one and lean on flexible scale. So would I start a firm if I can go back in time and think, "Yeah, I had a little bit of the right experience in the business in the beginning."? Yeah, I think I would. I might change my answer tomorrow, but I wake up this morning and I look around at what's going on in the spaces that we serve, and I think, "There's a lot of really exciting stuff." And then there are people who are stuck, who just haven't seen the trends, who are struggling in their business.

BLAIR: It's not those people I'm thinking about. The ones who are really seeing the trends, the ones who are doing things different, these hybrid firms I think they're super exciting. So my answer today is yes I would. How about you?

DAVID: I would. But the last half an hour discussion has gotten me more excited about the idea than I would have been at the beginning of this. So yes I would. If for no other reason, then I just want to bury your firm because if we're both starting firms, you are going down okay? 'Cause every piece of advice I've given is bad advice hoping that you'll follow it.

BLAIR: You're on. Let's go. Lets' go brother, it's a throwdown, my firm will crush your firm. You heard it here first people.

DAVID: This has been a fun discussion, thank you Blair.

BLAIR: Yeah, I got to go register a domain name, I'll talk to you later.

episodes iconMore Episodes

Top Ten New Business Development Myths

September 11th, 2019

34:33

Blair is in the spotlight discussing some bad practices driven by assumptions he's seen his clients make over the past couple decades, a few of which …

Six Staffing Blunders

August 28th, 2019

31:42

Blair interviews David about six employee archetypes which can end up being big hiring mistakes for creative firms.

Making Adversarial Assumptions in the Sales Process

August 14th, 2019

35:02

Blair has another podcast therapy session about “good clients vs. bad clients,” as David tries to help him see procurement people as actual human beings who sometimes are just overwhelmed.

Building Your Personal Brand

July 31st, 2019

34:03

Blair has an aversion to the topic of personal branding, so David offers examples of why, when, and how the personal brands he’s seen principals …

Can We Learn Anything From the Consulting Firms?

July 17th, 2019

34:51

Blair and David explore the differences they see between consultants and agencies in an effort to understand how the landscape is changing and what …

Be the Client You Want to See in the World

July 3rd, 2019

34:08

David admits to making a mistake, as Blair finishes his discussion from a couple episodes back on the eighth pricing model, which he claims “is the highest expression of entrepreneurship there is.”

 

Links

2Bobs episode …

Size Matters

June 19th, 2019

32:48

David and Blair address the obsession that many principals have with the size of firms, and the advantages of being either big or small.

Different Pricing Models

June 5th, 2019

34:48

Blair is struck by how creative businesses have trouble applying their creativity to their revenue models, so he and David discuss some of the best ways firms can get paid.

 

LINKS

Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model …

Greatness Requires Discomfort

May 22nd, 2019

28:27

David and Blair each share their own perspectives on how chasing comfort has kept them and their clients making the right decisions in both management and sales situations.

 

LINKS

2Bobs Episode 2: Say What You Think

Selling to Clients With In-house Resources

May 8th, 2019

29:34

Blair wants creative firms to quit viewing in-house resources as the enemy and demonstrates how the arrangements between the two can be mutually beneficial.

 

LINKS

2Bobs Episode 2: Say What You Think

2Bobs Episode 57: …

Things Principals Should Do More Of

April 24th, 2019

22:05

David and Blair each share a list of things that they wish agency principals would do more of to take their firms to the next level of success.

 

There Are NOT Seven Reasons Why Clients Hire You

April 10th, 2019

30:13

Blair and David work on clarifying things by coming up with only six reasons why businesses hire creative firms.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

March 27th, 2019

32:28

Blair and David share the places they find good ideas that they turn into content, the best of which end up being incorporated into their services.

 

Read the transcript ➝

It's a Small World After All

March 13th, 2019

29:49

David finds Blair's thoughts fascinating on how far agencies should service or pursue clients geographically, and whether or not the location of a …

Why Account People Should Close New Business

February 27th, 2019

23:14

David gives Blair four practical reasons for sales people to hand off new business to the account person before the deal is closed instead of after.

A Beginner's Guide to Negotiating

February 13th, 2019

35:11

David gets into Blair's head to get his 10 basic negotiating tips that he has worked with clients on over the years.

 

LINKS

“10 Negotiating Tips” (with 5 bonus tips)

“Selling in One Lesson,” 2Bobs episode 49

Buying …

Seven Positioning Mistakes to Avoid

January 30th, 2019

34:07

After having discussed positioning in multiple previous episodes, David puts together in this one episode the seven most common mistakes firms make …

Debriefing After a New Business Call

January 16th, 2019

30:29

David asks Blair about using "after action reviews" following sales calls, and the two key questions that should be asked as a part of that …

Shoot - Now What Do We Do?

January 2nd, 2019

34:10

Blair asks David to make some predictions about the new year, and then they discuss some ways that businesses can prepare for and react to (God forbid) an economic downturn.

 

TRANSCRIPT

BLAIR ENNS: David, predict the …

Selling in One Lesson

December 19th, 2018

34:55

Blair describes to David how he was able to distill his Win Without Pitching approach into a simple formula:

P=db/D

Power = desirability / Desire

 

The Risk Episode

December 5th, 2018

31:02

After touching on the topic of risk in many other episodes of this podcast, David and Blair finally take a full episode to discuss at length the role …

Open Book Management

November 21st, 2018

24:04

Blair gets David to admit that he was kind of wrong about open book management being just a fad when he originally wrote about it almost two decades ago, and David offers ways that it can actually benefit both employees …

Alternative Forms of Reassurance

November 7th, 2018

29:33

Blair and David analyze and then look beyond the requests for reassurance potential clients make during the late stage of a sale to address their underlying motivations.

 

LINKS

“Transtheoretical Model” (Prochaska & …

Seven Strategies to Grow Accounts

October 24th, 2018

31:33

David disagrees with Blair (sort of) on his model for growing existing accounts in the post-AOR era, and then offers his list of 6 ideas on the topic.

 

Links

The Peter principle

The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and …

The Best Ways to Disrespect Account People

October 10th, 2018

29:28

Blair remembers what it was like when he was an account person himself, and David shares five ways firms can treat their account people better.

 

LINKS

“How to Drive Your Employees Bat Sh*t Crazy” 2Bobs episode

 

The Seven Masteries of the Rainmaker

September 26th, 2018

33:01

Blair offers seven mindsets that any seller of expertise needs to master so that they can behave like the expert in the sales cycle.

 

Links

"The …

The X-Factor

August 29th, 2018

32:31

Blair gives David some homework to identify patterns in the principals of creative practices who are successful and have that "je ne sais quoi."

 

Starting...Existing...Thriving

August 15th, 2018

34:25

Blair interviews David on what each of the three levels of success in running a creative firm looks like.

 

Links

2Bobs Episode 39 - "Replacing Presentations With Conversations"

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, by …

Replacing Presentations With Conversations

August 1st, 2018

28:43

David re-reads the 2nd chapter of Blair’s first book, leading to a discussion about how sales people have to choose between either presenting to clients or being present to them.

 

TRANSCRIPT

DAVID C. BAKER: Blair, we …

Reviewing the "Surveillance Footage"

July 18th, 2018

26:35

There are seven patterns that almost all principals are guilty of. When David and Blair point them out, it leads their clients to say, “you must have hidden cameras in my office!"

Hacking Heuristics

July 4th, 2018

40:58

 

Blair leads a discussion on how clients tend to take mental shortcuts in making business decisions, and how we can nudge clients without …

Collaborating with Competitors

June 20th, 2018

27:21

David and Blair compare each other's competitiveness, and then offer some specific ways principals can actually collaborate with their competitors as …

Four Segments of New Business

June 6th, 2018

27:31

Blair and David come up with descriptive words that help clarify each of the four parts of what David calls the "pantheon" for new business: positioning, lead generation, sales, and pricing.

Pricing Creativity: A Guide …

Using Assessment Instruments in Your Firm

May 16th, 2018

33:49

David and Blair explore the big topic of personality assessment tools that can help firms “get the right people on the bus.”

Not Your Typical …

Thoughts on Partnership

May 2nd, 2018

34:35

Blair and David dive into a discussion on ownership structures, looking at the results of a survey that David did recently about partnerships.

What Good Clients Are Really Looking For

April 18th, 2018

34:13

Listeners on Twitter wanted to know what clients actually want from creative firms, so David makes a list based on his experience of what good clients want, while Blair's reaction is "who cares what clients want... all …

Mastering the Value Conversation

April 4th, 2018

35:00

David gets Blair to expound on his statement that “the value conversation is where value pricing theory goes to die,” and how crucial that conversation is within the sales framework he lays out in his new book, "Pricing …

Defining Success for Creatives

March 21st, 2018

30:51

David and Blair take a stab at answering the complicated question of what success looks like for each of them personally, as well as what it means for their clients.

Words That Make Us Wince

March 7th, 2018

33:40

Blair and David try to wind each other up by going through a list of phrases they hear from their clients way too often.

Positioning Cheats

February 21st, 2018

31:48

David is bothered by the notion of helping people cheat, especially at positioning. So Blair discusses 10 ways firms could succeed even if they …

Words We Try to Define

February 7th, 2018

38:05

Expertise, selling, marketing, entrepreneurship, branding, positioning, and consultant. Blair and David do their best to come up with definitions for …

The Business of Expertise - Part 3, Live from London

January 24th, 2018

29:04

Blair revisits David's new book, "The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth" in front of a live audience in London, who get to ask their own questions.

Pricing Creativity

January 10th, 2018

28:21

Blair talks about his new book, "Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour," and the process it took to write it. David gets him …

Planning for the New Year

December 27th, 2017

32:11

David and Blair each share some goals that they have for their clients and themselves for the upcoming year, which turns into somewhat of a therapy session.

Valuing and Selling Your Firm

December 13th, 2017

34:46

Blair and David discuss why, when, and how principals sell their firms, and Blair reveals he is skeptical about selling his own firm.

The Complexities of Commission Culture

November 29th, 2017

35:41

David picks Blair's brain about new business compensation, and what principals need to consider in finding their firm's place on the spectrum between …

The Role of Profit in a Creative Enterprise

November 15th, 2017

27:57

Blair has some questions this week and David has answers. The topic is profit - what it is and the targets firms should be setting.

Mea Culpa

November 1st, 2017

31:30

David offers to help Blair remember all the times he's been wrong over the past couple decades. Then Blair says he'll be happy to reveal all of the places he's wrong now but doesn't even know it yet.

The Science Behind Structuring Roles

October 18th, 2017

33:35

David reveals some of the science behind the extensive research he has done over the past couple decades to develop a key part of his Total Business …

The Business of Expertise - Part 2

October 4th, 2017

34:56

Blair revisits David's new book, interviewing him on the two chapters that cover the important topic of positioning: "Distinguishing Between Vertical and Horizontal Expertise," and "Principles for the Less Exchangeable …

Seven Words You Can't Say in Business Development

September 20th, 2017

32:04

David and Blair discuss a list of words Blair came up with that you should avoid to keep you out of trouble and in control of the buy-sell …

Paid Time Off or Earned Time On

September 6th, 2017

26:47

Blair needs a vacation. And David is blown away by how little time principals take off.

An Introduction to Blair Enns

August 23rd, 2017

18:57

David asks Blair to describe his work and his passion for the creative entrepreneurial community, and they discuss how where he lives has such a huge impact on what he does.

How to Drive Your Employees Bat Sh*t Crazy

August 9th, 2017

28:21

The issue of how principals manage their employees continues to pop up for David year after year, and Blair is worried that he might have this problem in his own firm.

Being Like Everyone Else

July 26th, 2017

30:24

Blair restrains himself from going off on a rant about who his clients choose to learn from.

An Introduction to David C. Baker

July 12th, 2017

19:33

Blair interviews David about who he is and why people should pay attention to what he has to say - if they should at all...

The Business of Expertise - Part 1

June 14th, 2017

33:27

David Baker wrote a book! And Blair asks him about his authoring process, publishing, and the book's topic.

What Happens When You're Away

May 31st, 2017

33:53

David and Blair list good and bad things that can happen when the principal steps away from their creative firm for a period of time, which is based on David's blog post on the matter.

Why Advertising Agencies Don't Advertise

May 17th, 2017

29:48

Blair revisits the first piece of thought leadership he ever wrote, taking a look at why firms may or may not do for themselves what they do for their clients.

Thriving In the Middle of the Road

May 3rd, 2017

30:34

Blair questions David on an article he wrote about identifying the risks on either side of the road and navigating a path between both extremes.

A Sales Skeptic Interviews a Sales Expert

April 19th, 2017

34:48

Blair does his best to reform David's skepticism of sales, discussing what works well and what fails miserably in the sales process.

Five Irrational Fears

April 5th, 2017

25:34

What keeps you up at night? Blair interviews David about the five most common fears that he has seen in the consulting work he has done with over 900 …

The New Entrepreneur

March 15th, 2017

28:59

David and Blair discuss how the nature of entrepreneurship is changing and what the new entrepreneur is facing today.

Truths and Myths About Money

March 1st, 2017

30:31

Do you have trouble talking about money with clients? David makes seven common statements about money and Blair states whether they are true or false and why.

Say What You Think

February 15th, 2017

33:51

David interviews Blair about the art of effectively communicating with clients and coworkers.

How Not to Act Like an Expert

February 1st, 2017

31:10

David and Blair make a list of the common mistakes that people make in trying to portray themselves as experts.

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