The most valuable product my business produces shocked me.

In 2016 I left a salaried position with a large, stable advertising agency. I had amassed almost 20 years of experience as an advertising creative. Over the course of my career I had developed a clear vision of what the perfect ad agency looked like. And like Bob The Builder, I believed I could build it.

1 Year Later

A year later my startup ad agency was buzzing with activity. So I joined a CEO roundtable to surround myself with people who knew things I didn’t know. My Council Of Small Business Executives (COSBE) group meets once a month to compare notes, discuss issues and serve as a thought-provoking sounding board.

My Introduction

At the first meeting I attended back in August, the group asked me to take a couple of minutes to talk about me and my business. It was like the introductions you make at an addiction recovery group. You know, ‘My name is Adam, and I am an Ideaholic.’ Welcome brother Adam.

I told the group that my business, an advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry, had attracted ten clients in the first year. Those clients stretched from Florida to Atlanta, Boston, Montreal, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.

Then I dropped this fun, and almost unbelievable footnote:

We did this despite the fact that we were a brand new business with:

  • no logo
  • no business cards
  • no website

The Insight

After I finished my quick overview on my business, the guest speaker that day said something that I will never forget.

‘There is only one way you could build a business like that. People really trust you.’

This guy was a total stranger. We had been in a room together for 15 minutes. Yet he gave me an amazing insight as to why my perfect agency project was working.

I knew I had clients that liked me. I knew they had good experiences with me. I knew that some of them thought I was funny or smart or creative, or perhaps a non-alchoholic cocktail of all three. But the only reason my business stood a chance of succeeding is that people I have worked with in the past, and those I meet today, trust me.

It’s a matter of trust. (Like Billy Joel said)

Trust is the key ingredient of a successful entrepreneur. It is the most valuable product that you will ever deliver to your clients.

  • My clients trust me with their money.
  • They trust me with their confidential information.
  • They trust me with their valuable time.
  • They trust me to reflect positively on their personal reputations.

Key Takeaway

If you want to increase your value to other people, increase your trustworthiness. Do what you say you will do. Deliver what you say you will deliver. Meet the timeline you said you would meet at the price you quoted. Always demonstrate that you’ve heard and care about the concerns of others. You’ll find the rewards far exceed the cost of doing business.

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Let’s stop TGIFing around.

Welcome to the second post in my Days Of The Week Series (my gut says this will be one of the seven best). Today we’re talking about Friday. Which is really more like Friday! It’s one of the most popular days of all time (see what I did there?) Everyone loves Friday. But I don’t love the way we often think about the day.

We all know the phrase TGIF.  The thing I dislike about this is that Thank God It’s Friday is really saying, ‘OMG! I am so thankful I have reached the end of my week of suffering!’

But on Fridays at the Perfect Agency Project we want to: Make the most. Not just coast. So we are rebranding the day as Phone a Friend Friday. Or Fone a Friend Friday. Or Phone A Phriend Phriday. Your choice.

Relationships are really, really important in business. I’ve made a genuine effort to develop, maintain and grow mine. In fact, people are one of my favorite things about this planet. And they were an important factor in me choosing to live on Earth.

Today we use lots of ways to keep in touch. We text, email, tweet, snap, chat, IM, Link and stalk people. But Fridays were made for phone calls. Because schedules free up and the pace slows down at the end of the week. So instead of using that lighter load at the end of the week to knock off early, or hang out at either the real or the proverbial water cooler, I encourage you to call someone in your network that you haven’t talked to in a while.

At a minimum, my Phone a Friend Friday calls are always a highly enjoyable end to the week. But they routinely provide great insights, advice and learning opportunities. They help strengthen my relationships. They often shine a light on another friend or contact that could use a call, a hand or a word of encouragement. And these calls regularly lead to new opportunities for me to work with some of my favorite people again.

So don’t start mailing it in just yet my friends. Pick up the phone today and end the week on a high note. Your Friday calls may prove to be the most valuable part of your week on both a personal and professional level. If you don’t know who to call, call me (614-256-2850). Even if I can’t talk at the time I’m sure to call you back. And my voicemail messages alone are usually  worth the call. Have a great day. And I look forward to catching up soon.

5 words from my Grampy that will improve your business and marriage.

Marriage is one of life’s greatest adventures. You can never be too prepared for it. Half of marriages end in I don’t. A healthy percentage of the other half aren’t any healthier. So on my wedding day I wanted to cram in one last bit of preparation. I scheduled breakfast with my three marriage mentors, my dad and my two grandfathers (who would all laugh me off the family tree for calling them my marriage mentors). At the time my parents had been married 32 years. My grandparents had been hitched 61 and 63 years.

After we sat down at Emma Krumbies in Wausau, Wisconsin and worked through some Northwoods pancakes and sausage I decided it was time for the knowledge share. I asked The Paternity, ‘What is the key to making a marriage great?’  With 156 years of experience at the table I felt like I just lit the fuse on a 4th of July fireworks grand finale. This was going to be an amazing show. So I sat back to take it all in.

Then my maternal grandfather, Kenny Sprau, crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair and said,

‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’

Um… WTF Grampy?  61 years of trial and error, nine kids and a World War, and that’s all you’ve got?  I wanted to give him a mulligan and see if he could hit it past the women’s tee this time. But he went on. ‘You have to keep doing the things that got you to this point.’

Over time I’ve come to understand what Grampy was saying.  When we are dating we are at our best. The unfortunate tendency is to drop the hard work, the energy, the attention, and charm we put into the relationship after the contract is signed.

This advice holds true in business as well as marriage.  Treat your potential partners well. Act as if you would like nothing more than spending the rest of your time together. Listen. Make them laugh. Show them you are interesting, kind and thoughtful. Get the contract signed.  And then keep doing what you’ve been doing.

If you are a creative it is easy to get precious about the work you do.  It’s easy to throw hissy fits (although the best place to grab the hissy to throw it is hard to determine). It’s easy to be combative. Oh, and it’s easy to go out of business. The statistics aren’t good.

But in business, as in marriage, listening and collaborating are valuable approaches to your growth strategy. Clients and spouses alike really like that stuff. Crazy right?  When you respond favorably to a client’s request they generate something called ‘good feelings’ about you.  And these ‘good feelings’ make them want to see you more and work with you more. And the result is business growth.

The opposite is also true.  If you are the all-time best seller at The Jerk Store no one wants to be around you. This is true of both the individual and the organization.

If you recognize complacency, apathy or combativeness between your organization and your clients stamp that out like a flaming bag of dog poo on your front porch. The behavior may feel justified today. But you’ll regret the justice leveled tomorrow when you’re trading the offspring in the McDonald’s parking lot.

At the Perfect Agency Project our goal is to treat our current business like new business. We never want to take them for granted.  We are trying to re-win them every day. Even after we put a ring on it. Thanks for the wise advice Grampy. Me and Grammy miss you.