Posts 15-18/30: 18 Lessons From My First 18 Days

By Jeff Allen | @JeffAllenUT | President at Hanapin Marketing

You’ll notice I am grouping several posts in a bunch. I had to somewhat-true up my blog series to the actual number of days I have been President while not just writing a bunch of fluff. I made the decision to write one better post incorporating my experience and what I am learning then trying to break it up into smaller chunks. Feel free to tell me in the comments if you disapprove.


1. Repetition Matters

No matter how clear you feel you are, how hard you try to conduct yourself in the right way, how articulate the instructions you give are, people who care will have questions. They will shine light in the corners where you didn’t look. They will have questions and concerns that you didn’t think of.

If you roll out something new to your team, want a client to start doing Twitter or Facebook or you are naming a new executive, be consistent and repetitive with how that will impact them and/or their business. This is the most effective way to build trust and have an open dialog.


2. Your Resting Face Matters

Seth Godin wrote an interesting post questioning what your resting face is (both personally and your brand). This is, when you aren’t thinking about how you present yourself, how do you appear? Do you frown? Are you grinning ear to ear? It matters because people look at you and your brand when you aren’t trying. And they read into what they see.


3. Being Open Impacts Others

Of course I knew when I started writing these posts that the team would read them. I didn’t expect how many times they would tell me about it and joke about how it changes they way they interact with me. Part of that is good, but there is a negative side too. Being too open can hurt others, make them too self conscious, make them think I want them to act in a certain way, etc.

For example, I know that people in the office are going to give me &#%^ about #2 on this list. I see this as a good thing. But they will also read point #4 and worry about including me (which they shouldn’t).


4. I’m Outside The Circle

The peers that used to pull me in to talk ideas and concerns now do that without me. It makes sense but it still stings a bit to feel like after one 5-minute announcement I am out of the circle (or at least on the outside edge of it). It is something that I have experienced before and so I think that it is something natural.

The bad part about this is that I have to work harder than ever to get the truth from people.  In Fight Like Your Right, Listen Like Your Wrong, the author points out that people who give good news and loved, people who give bad news are hated and thus why would anyone share bad news with the President of their company? To combat this I am fighting hard to be trustworthy, listening, caring and taking action on pain points when I can.


5. People Really Want Me/Other People To Succeed

It’s been very encouraging to hear and see people going the extra mile to accomplish things I ask them to do, come up with new ideas to drive the company forward and generally give me encouragement. I think this is a.) because of the amazing people we hire and b.) because people in general want other people to succeed.


6. Winning New Business Is As Much Art as Science

It’s interesting how every pitch is a little different. Some executives want to talk high-level strategy. They want to understand how you are different; who your other clients are and they want you to tell them why they should hire you. Other times they want to get really technical. They want to know exactly how you are going to improve click-through-rate and they want to meet their account manager so they know they’ll get along.

The only real way to consistently win new business is to create enough opportunities and focus on pitching to the types of clients you want. This way you know if you lose a deal you have another opportunity coming as well as you don’t inadvertently bring in clients that aren’t a great fit for you and losing deals when it is a great fit. (That would happen if you get really good at pitching to high-level executives but bad at pitching to in the trench executives when you are more of pragmatic agency.)


7. 30-Seconds Of Reassurance Is Worth 30-Minutes Of Your Time

People need to hear that they are doing a good job (if they are). And more importantly, they need to understand what specifically it is that they are doing well. It would only take 30-seconds to tell someone they are doing great, but it’s worth taking 30-minutes to tell them exactly what they are doing well, how it impacts the company and how they can do more of it. It’s a rewarding conversation to have (for you and the team member you are speaking with).


8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Funny enough I have never read the book, but the concept is true to me. It applies to your business, to results with a client and to your professional development. Every level up requires new skills, new strategies and redefining yourself (or your business).

I’m learning that I have to be more blunt, plan better, be more organized and engage with others in the community much more than I ever have before.


9. It’s Hard To Explain To People Exactly What They Need To Do To Get To The Next Level But It’s Easy To Recognize It When You See It

(First, there are a lot of “to”s in that sentence…) A couple of people, internally and externally, have approached me and asked what they can do to move their careers forward. The thing is it’s hard to really for me to pinpoint. I am a firm believer in being a rock star in your current role and then you keep an eye out for opportunities and exploit them. That’s pretty hard to explain to people at any level of depth that is actually helpful. What is an opportunity? How do you know when you see it? How do you know when to bring an idea to your supervisor versus holding back?

One thing you can do to be a rock star at your current role is to fully understand the metrics you are measured against and constantly hit them. That seems simple but sometimes people get busy chasing new things, special projects, etc. and they lose sight of the core function of their role. Then, find ways to make what you do more efficient. If you are always hitting goals, management should want to know how you do it and ideas for making it duplicable. Bring ideas to management before they ask shows you are thinking about the right things.


10. “You Have To Wallow In It”

The CMO of GE wrote an article explaining how Jack Welch taught her that you have to slow down, get to learn people and make sure you have buy in before moving on. I thought that I knew people and what they were working on really well but moving into a new role puts everything in a new perspective.

The same goes for a new client. You have to take some time to learn their personality and for them to learn yours. You have to understand the nuance of their goals and their business before making suggestions that could push thing in the wrong direction (or that feel unimportant to the client at this time).


11. One Of The Most Important Questions You Can Ask Is “How Do I Add Value?”

Another article/interview of Jack Welch divulges his thoughts on individual contributors and how they should be asking “How do I add value?” I think this transcends individual contributors and applies to every person at an organization. If I am supposed to be in a meeting I should ask how me being there adds value. If it doesn’t, then the format of the meeting needs to change or I need to not be part of it.

Again, this applies to clients as well. How do you add value to their organization? One way we do that is by funneling up ad test results to the client so they understand what features and benefits their market responds best to. That way they can use this in other marketing channels. In today’s PPC marketplace it is tough to differentiate agencies, so being the agency that is committed to constantly finding ways to add value to the business is a must.


12. You Have To Fight To Stay Available

I’ve found that more than ever I have to fight my own schedule to stay available to people on the team. Meetings pop up, special projects get my attention, travel pulls me out of the office and writing blog posts take my time. It’s been a struggle so far to stay open enough that people can find me when they need me. I am still working through this, part of the potential solution being deciding how to structure my weeks.


13. Tough Decisions Are Easier When You Are Closer To Business Metrics

When you are in the trenches it is harder to make tough decisions because you will likely be impacted by it on a greater level. When your performance metrics are overall business metrics it is easier because you are more removed and because you see how that decision is directly linked to business objectives.

Having more frontline people tied in to more long-term business objectives will help them make decisions in the best interest of the company.


14. Dropping Emails/Projects On People On Nights And Weekends Is Kind Of Messed Up

I have a nasty habit of working in the evening, early in the morning and on weekends. While the emails I used to send during these times went largely ignored until the next business day (a good thing) now I find that people just right on them (a bad thing). At first I got really mad at people for ignoring the subject line, first paragraph, etc. that explicitly asked the person to ignore the email until they were back at work. Then I realized that it was my fault.

I’ve resorted to working on solo projects on nights and weekends and/or saving emails to the draft box until a reasonable work hour.


15. There Are No Right Decisions

Another great post I read last week was about stop worrying about making the right decision. The premise being that there is no real right decision but the company or person who wins is the one with the best execution of whatever decision is made.

It’s refreshing to know that there is not magic answer. It is frustrating to know that coming up with the answer is only a small piece of the puzzle. It would be a lot easier if coming up with ideas/solutions all the time was all you had to do.


16. Every Word Matters, More

I am trying to speak less, listen more and be more careful with the words I chose. That is because the leash is much shorter than it used to be. I used to be able to back track, ask for forgiveness, etc. Now when I speak people listen, they interpret and they try to understand how what I am saying impacts them. All my communications take longer but they are hopefully better thought through (still something I am working on getting better at, and doubt I will ever stop trying to get better at.)


17. Every Day Matters

I used to think I have urgency. Now I am starting to understand the true meaning of it. When something important comes up and I am not the point person on it, I find myself becoming incredibly anxious. I trust the team to execute, but it is hard to impart the true urgency of the matter. That is part because I am closer to the business metrics than ever. So I have a better understanding the impact waiting a day or two can have on the business than I had before.

The other part is that I tend to down play the impact as to not stress other people out. This is probably one of my greatest management weaknesses. I am too easy. Most of the time that is a good thing, but I have to be better about stressing people out a little bit when it really matters.


18. New(ish) Channels (Like Paid Social on Facebook and Twitter) Are The Future

Paid Search is becoming more and more challenging. Thanksgiving broke a billion dollars in online sales this year, with a huge chunk of that coming from mobile devices, yet search volume continues to decline. Paid Search is still extremely viable but Facebook, Twitter and other sources are growing even faster than Google did when it first came on to the scene.

Luckily, we have experts in these channels and already aggressively push our clients into them. Agencies that don’t do this are in big, big trouble.


This is part of a 30 posts in 30 days series chronicling my first 30 days in my new role as President of Hanapin Marketing. f you are interested in reading all posts in this series you can start with post 1 about what I am focusing on as president of a PPC agency