In this episode, Stacy sits down with Drew McLellan, the CEO and founder of McLellan Marketing Group.  The two share insights on how agencies can start to make changes to best prepare for COVID-19 and to find a way to thrive during this crisis.

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Transcripts:

Stacy Jones (00:01):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.

Speaker 2 (00:31):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.

Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today and I want to give a very warm welcome to Drew McLellan, CEO and founder of McLellan marketing group and he’s joining us for the second time on this podcast. With over 30 years in advertising, Drew is a true veteran in the advertising industry, but it’s more than that. Drew is a constant resource for so many in the agency world. He’s spoken at conferences and appeared in publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post Agency Post, Ad Age, CNN, Business Week, and so many others. The Wall Street Journal even calls him one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.

Stacy Jones (01:14):
Drew owns and runs Agency Management Institute or AMI, which serves over 250 small to midsize agencies of all types so they can better learn how to increase their AGI, attract better clients and employees and let the agency owner actually enjoy the perks of agency ownership. And I’m happy to attest to having been part of AMI for the last few years and I have no doubt drew has seen pretty much every mistake an agency on owner could possibly make 10 times over, including from mine because we all make them. It’s just how we learn and we improve.

Stacy Jones (01:46):
The reason why I invited Drew to come on the show today is to share insights on how agencies can best prepare and position themselves to make it through COVID-19. He’s been diving in and learning massive amounts of information over the last few weeks and sharing those insights during this very rocky time. So today we’re going to talk about COVID-19 and how to start making changes and positioning your agency to be able to not only make it through this crisis, but to find your own way to thrive and stay on track. We’ll learn what’s worked from Drew’s experience, not that there’s a whole lot of experience in this right now, we’re all kind of trying it out, but what could possibly be avoided and how some agencies may miss the mark. Drew, welcome. So happy to have you here today.

Drew McLellan (02:29):
Thanks for having me.

Stacy Jones (02:31):
I’m super glad to have you. Sorry about the circumstances, but always happy to chat with you. And I’d love to have you dive in a little bit and talk about the information that you’re seeing and why agencies need to be preparing themselves right now.

Drew McLellan (02:49):
Well, it’s… So we’re recording this on April 3rd and that’s critical to mention because this changes every stinking day. And so what’s happening in the US is most of us have been working from home three, four weeks depending on where we live. Many agencies have experienced client pauses or cancellations, but one of the messages that I’ve been trying to convey to agencies is I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the panic of all of this. And what I’m seeing with agencies, and we’re talking to hundreds of agencies every week, we’re holding open mic webinars just to answer people’s questions.

Drew McLellan (03:37):
And what I’m seeing is about 20% of all the agencies are actually busier than ever, that COVID is actually been good for them. Maybe they have a lot of healthcare clients or their clients are just not affected by the virus. They are just keeping keeping on, right? On the other side of the spectrum, probably another 20% of all the agencies that we’ve seen have had 50% or more of their revenue walk out the door in the last couple of weeks. And they of course are thinking about furloughing staff, laying staff off. How do they manage to survive literally to survive through the next couple of months as we sort of navigate this storm. And then the other 60% are somewhere in the middle.

Drew McLellan (04:27):
I would say on average we just did a research and it was, I wouldn’t call it research, we did a poll and we only left it open for a couple of days, but we asked, it was about 125 agency owners, sort of how COVID-19 was impacting their agency. And honestly the lion’s share of them said that right now they’re seeing about a between a 10 and 20% reduction in their AGI. That’s sort of the average. And so I think it’s super easy when you spend a lot of time on social and when you are watching the news to immediately go to doomsday level panic around this. And for some of your listeners, that’s exactly the level of panic they should be at. But for most agencies, we don’t have to be quite that panicked.

Stacy Jones (05:15):
Well, I think it’s interesting. China went through this before us and they’re still trying to figure out what they’re doing and we can look at a lot of what is happening in China to see what’s going to happen here in the United States. Although I think we’re going to have a longer shutdown than they potentially had. They had two months, I think our government’s talking about extending it into the summer months for us. But what they are seeing are trends like Nike, they hit a complete decline when they shut down all of their retail stores. But they also changed their messaging and they promoted differently through digital advertising and they saw an increase in sales when people were at home.

Drew McLellan (05:52):
Right. Yeah. So I’ve been in touch with agency owners from Asia and in fact I did a podcast interview with an agency on owner from Hong Kong who owned a 50 person agency that had offices in Hong Kong and mainland China. And it was really fascinating and sort of filled with hope for me of what happens. And what she said was, you’re right, they were shut down for six, seven weeks. They worked from home. And for them it was… it’s interesting in China, it was an edict from the government. In Hong Kong, it wasn’t. And what she said was, because they had lived through SARS 20 years ago, I think it was 17 years ago, as soon as they heard highly infectious virus, they all just went home. Right? And they were just like, that’s it, we’re done. Which is not of course what’s happening here in the States, but they are back at work.

Drew McLellan (06:49):
And so for them, the virus really struck at the end of Chinese New Year, which is the tail end of January. And so by mid March, late March, they were all back in their offices. They were all back to face to face meetings. Restaurants were open again. And what they were seeing was an uptick in business. And interestingly, particularly in the industries that were hit the hardest. So this agency owner and this agency specialized in travel and tourism. So they were of course decimated when everything shut down. And they had a lot of cruise clients for example. But what they found is that after everybody had been sort of on lockdown, that they were so hungry to reward themselves, that two of the biggest spikes in spending were in luxury products and travel.

Stacy Jones (07:42):
That’s fascinating.

Drew McLellan (07:43):
Yeah. Yeah. So, and everything else is coming back. And she said, it’s not like you flipped a switch and everything was back to normal, but it is coming back to normal. And part of it is businesses realize, and we’re in the early stages here in the States where I think everyone is still in full on panic mode. They’re hoarding cash, they’re acting like they’re never going to leave their homes again.

Stacy Jones (08:07):
There’s a little bit of toilet paper stockpiled here and there.

Drew McLellan (08:10):
I don’t get it.

Stacy Jones (08:11):
A little bit.

Drew McLellan (08:12):
Right. Okay. When we’re done recording, we can talk about that. But I don’t get. I can’t find, fortunately I’ve got enough, but when every time I go to the grocery store, I see no toilet paper, and I see no dishwasher detergent. Well it’s like what are you people doing at home all day?

Stacy Jones (08:29):
You’re supposed to [inaudible 00:08:30] send your hands up an awful lot. And dishwasher soap really says.

Drew McLellan (08:34):
I guess so. Maybe.

Stacy Jones (08:35):
Yeah, I think.

Drew McLellan (08:36):
But anyway, you know what, we’re in the very early stages of this sort of first wave, which is more active cases every day and all of that. But pretty soon in a couple of weeks if we align with how it played out in Asia, businesses are going to realize that this is going to last a while and they’ve got to get up and moving. They have to stay connected to their customers. They have to keep talking. Probably not in the same way. Probably not about the same things. I mean, right now I don’t know about you, but I’m getting emails from Kohl’s with discounts on things. And I’m thinking how tone deaf are you? A, you’re closed and B, I’m not shopping on kohls.com right now. Right? But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be talking to us.

Drew McLellan (09:27):
And so I think for agencies, what’s happened is in the last couple of weeks, and I think we have one more week of it, probably up to Easter where businesses are going to hit the pause button and then I think agencies are going to be able to look at who’s left or what projects are left and say, “Okay, these are the ones that are probably going to be pretty solid. These are the ones that are going to keep moving through.” And I think they’re going to start seeing some of their other clients start to sniff back around, come around May one because all of a sudden they’re like, “okay, we have to do this for another month or more. We can’t just be dormant for that long.”

Stacy Jones (10:06):
Right.

Drew McLellan (10:07):
Right? And the truth of the matter is, when you look at this, you take a step back and you look at it pragmatically as opposed to emotionally. I mean, I think part of why this is so scary is because of the health aspect of it, right? I mean 9/11 was horrible and we suffered a lot of deaths. But it was sort of, it happened and then it wasn’t like more people were going to keep dying. Right? The recession of 07-08 wasn’t really a health scare at all and wasn’t putting our physical bodies at risk. It was just putting people’s financial situations at risk. This is sort of a combination of all of that, which I think makes it more scary. But the reality is if you go back and you look at every recession and you look at 9/11 and for most of us we had our agencies in 07 and 08, the businesses that continued to talk and connect with their audience, their prospects and their customers and their internal audiences, their employees during the recession are the ones that dominated market share post recession.

Drew McLellan (11:14):
And so one of the things we have to be doing with our clients is helping them understand the risk and the cost of going dormant, but we have to do it when they’re ready to hear us. And I don’t think that’s today. I think that’s a couple of weeks away at least. And we have to do it in a way that doesn’t look like we’re just trying to put our hand in their pocket.

Stacy Jones (11:37):
And I think it’s going to be interesting as well to see so many people are looking at furloughs and layoffs and we have The Cares Act they’re looking at right now. Everyone’s racing to apply for that hopefully shortly. But with what you’re saying that this is going to come back, that brands are going to be interested, for agency owners whose gut reaction is I got to lay off everyone, you’re going to be really hurting in whether that’s two weeks from now or two months from now because your staff that’s trained isn’t going to be around to help you get that new workload that’s out there.

Drew McLellan (12:12):
Yeah. I think it’s a delicate balance, right? I mean I think that’s what the paycheck protection program, part of The Care Act is all about is basically, I was talking to an agency owner earlier today and he said basically the federal government is giving us money so that we can become our own unemployment office for a couple months. Right? And I think that’s what it is. I think it’s giving us the opportunity, and again this is not going to be the right choice for every agency, but for many agencies, the fact that you can have your payroll covered for the next couple of months allows you to not let as many people go or maybe not do as deep a pay cut so that your team can stay reasonably intact and you can continue to serve the clients that are sticking around. You can continue to invest in all of the things, all of the cobbler’s children have no shoes things that you should be doing for your own agency that you never make time to do. Now is the time to do that, to be innovative, to be thinking about what are our clients going to need.

Drew McLellan (13:15):
For a lot of agencies, for the last two years they have been telling me, “We can’t get to the C suite. There’s a feeling that we can’t get up to upper management. We really want to be a more of a strategic partner.” Well guess what kids? Now’s the time. Because now they’re going to talk to you. Now they have time, they’re hungry to talk to you. So now is the time to invest, especially as an agency owner with your C suite clients at that level to create and foster a better relationship with them and just to help them get through this. Right?

Stacy Jones (13:49):
And it’s amazing how Zoom calls or other video calls allow you to actually have pretty deep connections without being in front of them.

Drew McLellan (13:57):
Right. Yeah. I think there is no substitute for being in the same space, face to face. I think we all know that. But at least with a Zoom call, you can look at each other. You can see their expressions, you can see the nonverbal cues. Honestly, one of the things I’m loving about the Zoom calls is you sort of get a peek into everybody’s life in terms of what does their office look like? Are they working from the kitchen? And here comes their dog or their kid or whatever. So it makes it actually more human in a lot of ways than we’ve been able to be with our clients when we’re sitting in their conference room and everyone’s in a suit and all of that. So I think there’s some upside to it.

Stacy Jones (14:41):
Well obviously there’s a good upside for the reports that Walmart’s putting out, that their sales enough tops are zooming up and their sales in bottoms have like plateaued because everyone is buying shirts and tops to look good in front of their cameras, which who knew?

Drew McLellan (14:58):
Oh that’s hysterical. Or some people like Drew are just wearing a tee shirt, so. There you have it.

Stacy Jones (15:04):
Well, Drew always wears a tee shirt, so you haven’t changed and it’s good to know that about you.

Drew McLellan (15:09):
That is right. I’m not getting all fancied up for you people. Yeah.

Stacy Jones (15:13):
That’s okay. That’s okay. So what should agency owners be doing? How should they be planning? I stunned our team because I had middle of the night brainstorming came to them the next day with a Monday board, a project management board filled out with all of their new jobs under their duties that had nothing to do with anyone ever experienced before. So that’s the take that we’re going, we’re doing colors [crosstalk 00:00:15:41].

Drew McLellan (15:42):
Of course you did.

Stacy Jones (15:43):
Yes, I know. That’s me, yeah. But what should agencies be doing? How should they be spending some of this time and deep diving in?

Drew McLellan (15:55):
I think an agency owner right now needs to be thinking about a couple of things. Number one, they need to be spending a lot of time focusing on their team. So for a lot of our employees, especially younger employees, this is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. And they’re afraid, they’re afraid they’re going to lose their job. And they’re also used to physically for most of us that aren’t a virtual agency, they’re used to physically being together. And there’s an energy and a connection that comes from that that they’re lacking and they’re missing.

Drew McLellan (16:27):
And so we as the leaders need to show up and sort of help them find some inner calm in all of this. We need to be connecting with them on a regular basis. We need to be doing it on video so we can sort of see if they’re okay. Because somebody can say over the phone or text or email that they’re okay. But it helps to actually see that they’re okay. But I think it’s also about providing them direction as you were saying. I think they’re floundering a little bit, not knowing what to do and they don’t really want to admit that they’re not busy because again, they’re worried about being laid off so they need to understand what their new role is.

Drew McLellan (17:02):
And for some agencies it’s going to be keep taking care of clients and keep getting work done. For other agencies like what you’re saying, it’s going to be like, you know what, we have three internal projects that we’ve been putting off. Our website and this, or our key studies or whatever it is and we’re going to focus on those. So we’re going to open jobs, we’re going to meet on these just like we would for a client project and we’re going to get them done.

Drew McLellan (17:25):
So a lot of it’s that, the other thing that agency owners need to be doing is thinking about, okay, what does my agency need to look like to come out of the gate of this as strong as possible? So certainly one of the things you need to be doing is still managing to the numbers. I know there’s a lot of loans and other sort of relief opportunities out there, but now is not the time to dig yourself into a big deep debt. So if the paycheck protection program doesn’t… Because that’s a forgivable loan, right? So if that doesn’t get you to stay in the black, then you may have to do a furlough or an across the board pay cut or layoffs. Your job is to make sure that…

Drew McLellan (18:10):
The analogy I’ve been using is that we as agency owners are the captains of a ship. And right now our ship is being tossed and turned by a doozy of a storm. But our job is to get the ship through the storm and to calm waters. And for some ships it may mean that we have to lighten the load and we have to shed some of our expense, which in most cases are employees. But it’s also a time to be innovative, to be a little more introspective about how your agency is showing up. Is this really the agency that you want it to be? And if not, now is the perfect time to be thinking about how do you pivot a little bit.

Drew McLellan (18:51):
And the other big thing that agency owners should be doing is investing a lot of time in your existing client relationships. And I will say this is whether they’ve hit the pause button or not because whether it goes from a pause to a cancel is all dependent on how they feel about you and how confident they are about the relationship over the next couple of months. So the more you can stay connected to them, the more you can serve them and help them, the more you can support them through this, the more likely they are to bring their budget back to you when it’s the right time for their industry or their business.

Stacy Jones (19:32):
And I think you’re right in the connection with your employees or your interns or anything along those lines because it’s not just about them not being in your office anymore. A lot of them are at home and if they live alone, they are really solo. We’ve had people who’ve gone through breakups on here during this time and they’re really, really alone. Their families are far away. This is hard. And especially for people who are in that Gen Z and that millennial demographic, they are used to being very social and being around friends and relieving stress by going out, going to bars, seeing friends, working out at gyms, all that’s been taken away.

Drew McLellan (20:15):
Right, right. And I think it’s also, it’s just so unnatural to work in these little isolation cubes and to feel like you have no human interaction. Some people have their kids around or their spouse or whatever. But it’s different than being around your friends, being around your coworkers, being with clients. And so I do think everybody, certainly especially the younger employees, but even folks who are not in the Gen Z or millennial, this is so unnatural for us and they need to be able to sort of talk about that. And I’ve seen some agencies do some really great things. So as you might imagine, every agency on the planet is doing virtual happy hours.

Stacy Jones (21:00):
We start ours today. Our starts today. Yes.

Drew McLellan (21:04):
Agency owners immediately go to booze as a solution.

Stacy Jones (21:08):
Yeah. Why not?

Drew McLellan (21:09):
Right.

Stacy Jones (21:09):
Yes.

Drew McLellan (21:10):
But some of the agencies are doing things like they’re holding a daily zoom meeting to talk about work and do that. But couple of agencies have done, it’s kind of a cool thing, which is they throw out a random question every morning. So it might be describe your worst haircut or were your parents strict or what was your senior prom like for you? Or whatever it is. And then everybody goes or they’re playing two truths and a lie, but they’re doing things to get them talking about themselves and to create connection, which I think is really smart. It takes 10 minutes, big deal, but it allows you to feel, to laugh together, to do all the things you did when you were in the office together. And just do it in this new environment.

Stacy Jones (21:59):
And all one up everyone, because we have this meeting in the morning, thanks to actually Drew, Chelsea went to one of your account management classes that you gave and she learned to come back and she came together with this whole coop meeting where everyone gets together and now we do it on Zoom, but we have a little something extra special and we have an element that we’ve brought into the daily coops that are part of our office where you have to sing for thanks. So you literally have words up like karaoke style and you don’t know what it is. There’s just random words from a song and you have to sing them.

Drew McLellan (22:31):
Oh dear.

Stacy Jones (22:31):
And it isn’t oh dear, I’m not a singer. I’m the worst one of the bunch. [inaudible 00:22:37] fine. It’s fun. And everyone participates and laughs and it really changes it.

Drew McLellan (22:43):
Is this acapella or do you at least-

Stacy Jones (22:44):
Oh yeah. You’re just like belting it out. And in front of a screen of people and some people turn off their screen, they’re like, ah. So it really though does work. I know we’ve taken it up a level, right? Yeah. I did not drive this. I was brought into this and I just fully supported our team but of it they love it. Yeah.

Drew McLellan (23:03):
That sounds horrifying.

Stacy Jones (23:05):
It’s actually kind of fun.

Drew McLellan (23:06):
Oh, I’m sure.

Stacy Jones (23:06):
And if you get-

Drew McLellan (23:07):
I’m sure it’s fun when it’s not your turn to sing, I’m sure it’s awesome when it’s not your turn to sing.

Stacy Jones (23:12):
You get to put the lyrics up if you’re the one that sings, you get to replace the lyrics for the next person to sing. So there’s a whole little thing that goes into it, and it gets people going.

Drew McLellan (23:22):
Yeah. So the point of that though is it is about the connection and it is about shared experience and it’s sort of trying to create what sort of naturally happens when we’re in a space together. Probably not the singing. You’ve-

Stacy Jones (23:38):
Oh, no. Making fun of works really well, they make you fun part is when we’re all together.

Drew McLellan (23:43):
Oh yeah. The mocking each other apart.

Stacy Jones (23:44):
Yes, yes.

Drew McLellan (23:45):
Yes, right. Yeah. But again, it just brings everyone together as a team.

Stacy Jones (23:49):
Yeah.

Drew McLellan (23:49):
And I think that’s super important right now.

Stacy Jones (23:53):
Yeah.

Drew McLellan (23:54):
Especially in this phase. I think as we get more used to this and it doesn’t feel so artificial, it feels like, oh, we’ve been doing this for six weeks and I’m kind of used to it. But right now I think like the first week or two it was probably novel, but now we’re a month in and people are like, I am over this. And so I think we have to give them some ways to survive it.

Stacy Jones (24:19):
And one question, because I know this has probably come up to you, have you had agency owners say, “Should I cut my salary?” We’re hearing all these giant CEOs and people who have massive stock in companies saying, “I’m going to stop my salary for a year.” And it’s very altruistic, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the healthiest thing for the agency.

Drew McLellan (24:41):
Well, and keep in mind, they’re making like $5 billion.

Stacy Jones (24:44):
They are. Their salary means nothing.

Drew McLellan (24:46):
Right. And they’ve been making $5 billion for the last 10 years. So they probably have a pretty healthy savings account. Right?

Stacy Jones (24:54):
Yeah.

Drew McLellan (24:54):
So I think while that example is in front of us, and this is a great reminder what we see in the media and what we see on social is not necessarily a real, in terms of like our world. It may be real in somebody else’s world, but they live in a different world than we do. And this is a great example. So no, I don’t think you should cut your salary. And I certainly, even if you do, I certainly wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

Drew McLellan (25:24):
So I do have some agencies that have done, for example, a 20% cut across the board. And the owners have participated in that. And I think that’s different. So first of all, I am not a fan of everybody’s pay being cut under normal circumstances. This is a weird anomaly where it works because you’re saying, “Look, either we all have to cut our pay or we have to let some people go and given that it’s a pandemic and we’d really like everyone to keep their health insurance, we’re going to cut everybody’s pay.” I think that plays better now than it plays for example, we lost a big client, so everybody’s going to suffer together. I think that’s like the scaredy cat way of avoiding layoffs normally. Right? But I think it’s a viable option in the covet graces.

Drew McLellan (26:17):
So I think an owner could cut their pay in that scenario. But I don’t think an owner should say, “I’m going to not take a paycheck so all of you guys get paid.” First of all, most of you don’t pay yourselves that well. And so for you and your family to go without your paycheck, you are not a Walmart billionaire or any of the other people. I don’t think the Walmarts did it, but the Waltons did it. But anyway, you understand what I’m saying. We’re not in that position. Right? Most of you make a decent amount of money, but honestly, most of you could make more money if you worked for someone else. You own an agency for other reasons. So it’s not practical for you to cut your salary. And, again, I want you to manage your business by the numbers. And part one of the numbers is that you actually get paid. And so if you artificially alter the numbers by not taking a paycheck, then what happens is you’re not really looking at the numbers accurately and making the right decisions for the business.

Stacy Jones (27:19):
Is there anything else that agency owners and execs should be keeping in mind right now?

Drew McLellan (27:29):
Yeah, I think the big thing that no one’s talked about, I just recorded a solo cast about this and it’ll come out next week. But one thing that no one’s really talking about in the agency space is, and I think it’s probably the most important message. We’ve been so busy doing tasks, trying to get loans and just trying to shore a business that we haven’t stopped and acknowledged that we have every right to be grieving what we’re going through. This is a loss and for many of us, it’s a loss of what we hoped our agency would accomplish this year. It’s a loss of financial security, it’s a loss of all the things we love about owning an agency, which is the comradery and chasing after new business and coming up with great ideas and delivering amazing results for clients. It is a loss on every level and just like any loss, it has to be grieved. And I don’t think most owners have paused and taken the time to actually grieve the loss and to acknowledge that they’re angry and they’re afraid.

Drew McLellan (28:39):
And I think we were all in denial for awhile. This wasn’t going to happen in the US and then all of a sudden that got shot down. And so I think a lot of people are in the super sad or super angry or really frustrated stage. And I think it’s important that you recognize that if you do not acknowledge those feelings and you don’t allow yourself to grieve, that stuff bites you in the rear end later.

Drew McLellan (29:05):
And just like many of us have grieved personal losses, this is as big a deal for a lot of people. And so it’s important that you give yourself some grace and some room to feel what you’re feeling and to process it and to get through it. And like any grief scenario, there’s no hurrying it up. There’s no, you have three days to grieve and then it’s time to get back to work. So you just need to recognize that that’s the reality for you and figure out how you’re to manage through that grief while you still are calm and confident and compassionate and you’re leading your team and you’re still trying to do what you need to do for your business, but you got to cut yourself some slack.

Stacy Jones (29:55):
And you probably also need to [inaudible 00:29:56] some downtime of relaxation. Now, at least for myself, I mean I’m on all the time and making it home 24/7 just means more hours I can be on and there’s no disconnects.

Drew McLellan (30:07):
Right.

Stacy Jones (30:08):
To be out there.

Drew McLellan (30:09):
Yeah. So I think physical activity, I think getting outside, if you are in a part of the country where the weather is conducive to that, I think scheduling time to talk with friends and family. A lot of families… I think one of the advantages some families have that have like little kids is that they’re demanding, right? They want to watch Frozen 2 for the 12th time, they want to make pancakes for dinner. They want to… But I think for some owners that are either on their own or they don’t have little kids anymore, their kids are grown or they don’t have kids. I think it’s easy to fall into the 24/7 work cycle.

Stacy Jones (30:49):
Yeah.

Drew McLellan (30:50):
And so if you have a natural excuse for that, you have a dog that needs walking or you have a kid that needs feeding or whatever, great. Lean into that. If you don’t have that, you’re going to have to artificially create it. So I’ve been scheduling coffees with friends all over the country and we just get on a Zoom call and shoot the breeze for 30 or 40 minutes and it’s just a way for me to check in on them and make sure they’re doing okay. But it’s also good cathartic medicine for me to not be thinking about work, to not be responding to texts and emails from clients and to just be a good friend or a good family member.

Drew McLellan (31:31):
And so I think that’s one of the ways for us to just give ourselves a little bit of margin so that we… Because here’s the deal. This is a marathon. This is not a sprint. We got to survive this for six or eight more weeks maybe. And so you’ve got to be physically and mentally and emotionally and spiritually fit enough to not only survive this, but to lead everyone else through surviving it. So you’ve got to have a plan for that. And part of that plan, I think is you’re right, is you’ve got to give yourself some downtime.

Stacy Jones (32:08):
And the other thing I was going to say, and we kind of glossed over it, didn’t gloss over it, we dived into it. I think having frank conversations with your employees right now are really important and laying cards on the table. And if you’re not planning on laying people off at the current day, letting them know that and letting them know you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s not like you’re going to scare these team members away from you right now, there are no jobs to hire them. You’re pretty safe.

Drew McLellan (32:33):
Right. Well, and I think again, one of the things that makes this so uncomfortable for us as agency owners is the unknown. So if we can take some of the unknown away for our employees, they’re going to manage through this better. So I think saying to them, “Look.” And what I’m recommending to agency owners is that every week you say to them, “Here’s the plan for this week. as of this week, we’ve got this much business. We have this much going on. There is no reason why any of you need to fear for your job this week. We’re good. We’re all right. Or you know what? We have enough money in the bank that we can survive this for a couple of months.” Whatever your situation is.

Drew McLellan (33:13):
I agree with you. tHis is the time not to pussyfoot around, not to dance around issues, but just say, “Look, I know you’re worried about your jobs. Let me tell you where we’re at.” Because even if it’s bad news, even if it’s a “look, we have enough money in the bank this week. I don’t know if we’re going to have it next week.” It’s far better to have that conversation and they will appreciate your candor much better than them… Because here’s the deal. If you don’t say anything, they’re making crap up in their head and what they’re making up in their head is much worse than what you’re going to tell them.

Stacy Jones (33:45):
And then for all of our listeners, just because I experienced this today and I’ve talked about cyber crime in the past and I’m just taking a couple of minutes of Drew’s time right now, make sure you’re talking to your team members and your remote employees who are not going to be able to catch things as well. Cyber spoof emails are a thing that everyone laughs about where people ask for gift cards to be gone out and purchased. Target is still open. We had an intern today thinking that they got a requests from our COO. Not that we would never send a request to go and purchase gift cards on our behalf and then to scratch off the back and then to send a picture of the back with the code to the individual. And they did this.

Stacy Jones (34:29):
And it’s not that it was just one silly intern who this has happened with. This happens every day, all over the world. It’s real and you need to be talking to your teammates about it. We miss this, we cover this usually on our onboarding and with all COVID going on, things are just off. So make sure you’re talking with people to protect yourself and sharing with them what the scams are there out there so that you don’t feel like you’re responsible for paying for a lot of gift cards for someone in the Czech Republic like I am doing right now.

Drew McLellan (35:01):
Yeah, that’s a bummer.

Stacy Jones (35:03):
Yeah.

Drew McLellan (35:04):
Yeah. I also think, I think we as owners are also the targets of this. I think when people are desperate and afraid, it makes us ripe for the picking. And unfortunately there are people out there who are more than happy to take advantage of this confusion, of this isolation, of this not being able to walk down the hall and check with someone and to take advantage of our fear and our worries. And so I think all of us need to be vigilant about what we click on and how we… I can totally see someone sending an email that spoofs a bank that says, “Hey, give us all your information and we’ll allow you to apply for the paycheck protection program.”

Stacy Jones (35:46):
Yeah.

Drew McLellan (35:46):
Right? I can totally see that happening. And so yeah, I think for everybody now is the time to be super cautious and that anything carefully and probably put in more safety measures than we normally have.

Stacy Jones (35:59):
Yep. And my suggestion on anything dealing with team members, let them know that you’ll never ever send an email or a text that something verbally needs to come from your mouth so that they actually can move forward with something if you are asking them to do a purchase or a money transfer. It’s not that we’re in the silo world, we actually are all connected. So jump on a call and let them know that this is important because [inaudible 00:36:24] just taking away money that you have to lose right now.

Drew McLellan (36:26):
Absolutely. Yep. Absolutely.

Stacy Jones (36:30):
Well Drew, thank you so much for being on today and joining us to chat all things COVID-19.

Drew McLellan (36:38):
Yeah, I wish it was a different topic. I’d like to come back sometime and talk about happy things, but if it’s helpful then I’m glad to have done it. This is a time when agencies need to be sort of lashing their boats together and getting through the storm together and anything that we can do to help agencies survive and thrive through this, we’re happy to do so. Thanks for having me on the show.

Stacy Jones (37:04):
Of course, and I know that you have been a phenomenal resource, not just for AMI members, but you’ve been opening up your doors to let the rest of the world in and learn from you and doing conference calls. How can people find out more about you if they want to have these insights and have educated offering of what’s going on?

Drew McLellan (37:25):
Yeah, so the best bet would be to go over to agencymanagementinstitute.com/covid and we’ve put together a resource page and we’re updating it pretty much every day. I’m sure that will slow down when some of this relief bill stuff passes, but we’re updating it every day. And then what we’re doing every two weeks for non-members is we’re holding open mic webinars. And so the best way to find out about those is to jump on our mailing list. Means you’re going to get an a weekly newsletter, which right now is pretty much all COVID related, but we’re literally just on go to webinar for two hours answering people’s questions and providing some counsel and some guidance where we can, and we’ll do that until this all sort of goes away. We’re happy to provide that resource. And so come on over and take advantage. The resource page, the agencymanagementinstitute.com/covid, no email is required. We’re not going to try and sell you a bunch of stuff later. It’s open to anybody and what’s there is yours for the taking if it’s helpful at all.

Stacy Jones (38:36):
Well, I will give you this. As far as being a member of AMI, I find it really valuable. I’ve given you testimonials plenty of times saying that it’s a really great thing, but you have really stepped it up for agency owners. I mean guys we have access to suggested letters that you should be using and templates and guidance and updates. And Drew, you have really, really I think helped everyone who’s a member under you not only have a little less stress right now but have more knowledge and be able to take faster action. So thank you.

Drew McLellan (39:09):
Yeah. Thank you. That’s what we’re trying to do is just let everybody breathe a little easier so we can all get through this together. That’s the plan.

Stacy Jones (39:17):
Well, Drew, thank you. And to all of our listeners listening today, thank you for tuning into Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them. I look forward to chatting with you on our next podcast and hopefully we’ll continue to have light at the end of the tunnel conversation.

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