In the past year as President of a PPC agency I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I’ve come to understand the difference between decisions you don’t want to make, and decisions that are really tough to make. I’ve learned that if you don’t have one foot in today and one foot in 6-months from now you are going to miss a lot of opportunities or move too slowly.

But there is one lesson I’ve learned that I use almost every day now. That is, in order to get more done and have people better aligned, I have to reduce how I would approach situations to 2-3 core concepts, and then still expect people to do it differently than me.

This one is hard for me on a lot of fronts. It’s surprisingly hard for me to think about why I do something the way I do, or why I think it should be done a certain way. It’s then hard to distill it down to just a couple bullet points, and then it’s hard when people still do it differently. But as hard as it is, it is the only real way to scale yourself.

Here’s an example – we routinely review all our clients in order to ensure we’re giving them great service, and they are not at risk of churning. I wanted to get everyone involved in this process on the same page, as well as make sure anyone that is client facing is always looking for warning signs that we are misaligned.

I look at everything, including:

  • Performance against goals
  • Personality traits of the client and account team
  • If there’s been negative speak about the engagement
  • How the industry is doing as a whole

All of this is great, but too complicated to arm people with. After a few months of paying attention to what I focus on most, and what the best indicators of problems are, I have (FINALLY) boiled this all down to three questions.

1) Do we have the right team working on the account?

2) Do we have the right people on the client side working with us?

3) Since hiring us has the client’s year-over-year growth rate increased?

Think about it, having the right team on the account and the right people on the client’s side means that the personalities mesh, the skill sets are what we need, and that we have decision makers involved in the process. The first two questions cover a lot of ground, but are easy to remember.

The last point replaces performance towards goal, overall industry performance, and other issues relating to the quality of work being delivered. While everything might not be perfect, accelerating the growth curve creates a lot of reasons for forgiveness. On the other hand, you could be doing everything perfectly but the growth curve has slowed, in that case an agency is on borrowed time.

These questions still take practice, and there is a lot of coaching about what it means to have the right team on an account. But it also starts a lot of conversations that otherwise may not start without them. Such as, “do you think we have built relationships with the right people on the client’s side? I don’t think so, here’s why…”

Most times these conversations end with a, “nothing to do here” answer. And sometimes it will raise some issue that we could resolve long before they become fatal.

When people follow the core questions/ideas but get to a way different result than you would have, that’s a coaching moment. You can have them walk you through how they got to the answer they did, and you can talk through the points at which you may have come to a different conclusion. Some of the time you’ll actually realize it was a good decision and you’ll have learned something yourself. And other times you’ll share the points at which you would have assessed the situation differently, and thus, what decision you would have made.

In either case, someone grows, gets better, becomes deeper engaged with clients and your business.