4 Things Agency Owners Should Do During Hard Times

By Jason Swenk on March 25, 2020

When times are hard, we have to work even harder…

There’s a lot of unknowns right now during these hard times and we’re all just winging it, right? Clients are stressed and panicked. Our team members are worried and scared. And as an agency owner, you’re supposed to be the fearless leader for your clients and your team but you’re just as anxious as everyone else.

I totally get it. I owned my agency for twelve years and not only survived but thrived during the economic aftermath of 9/11 as well as the market crash of 2008. This current health and economic crisis is certainly unchartered water for all of us. However, I know what I learned from past hardships applies to what businesses are experiencing today. And here are four things you can do right now to ease the burden of hard times.

1. Be a rock for your clients.

News and social media can make a difficult situation even worse by inciting panic. If you have clients whose industry is shut down by this epidemic:  bars and restaurants, dentists, salons and spas, etc. think of what can you do to help them stay in front of their customers? Remember, their customers are on social media even more now that ever before. Can you help them create content to post on social? Can you help them set up e-commerce or a DIY course? Help them and they’ll remember who had their back during this time.

Think of alternative ways you can help clients survive their loss of business. That might even be adjusting payment terms or pausing their retainer fee for a month. Get creative and try to anticipate what might help ease their burden before they jump ship. It might hurt a little in the short term, but goodwill goes a long way at times like these.

2. Keep driving outbound sales.

Yes, really. I know it might seem like a tacky move or that you’re being insensitive in these difficult times. Of course, I want you to approach outbound sales with tact and tons of empathy. But this is a tactic that is working well because just like you, many businesses are sort of sitting in idle right now and thinking ahead to better times ahead. (And trust me, there are better times ahead 🙂 )

One of the things you can do now is to make a list of “low hanging fruit.” These are prospects who chose in the past not to go with your agency. Like deals you lost or clients who went dark for some reason. Circle back and see where they’re at, what’s working or not working for them and share what is working for your other clients. Don’t look for the sale, work on the relationship.

3. Work on your business.

You know all the sh*t you never have time for? Work on it now 🙂 I know there are things that are not necessarily revenue-generating so you keep putting them off. Now is the time 🙂 Look, you’re home anyway… even though you might have your kids home distracting you. But there’s never been a better time to get more done so when things turnaround you hit the ground running again. So what kinds of things should you be working on?

Create tons of content so you have plenty of material in your content library. My team loves Headliner.app for slicing up our podcasts and videos into micro-content. What about that podcast you never had time to setup? (It’s easier than you might think, by the way.) Plus you can get great instruction on starting a podcast from my friend Pat Flynn. How about those SOP’s you keep meaning to get around to? There are a variety of formats for formalizing SOP’s including Google Doc, video/screen share, or even a PM tool like Trello.

4. Reassess your team.

Hard times like this force us to really take stock in what we have, what we need, and what we can live without. Your team is your most valuable resource and at a time like this, you need to evaluate that resource to see if they can take you where you want to go.

I tell my clients to grade their team members like a school report card: A, B, C, D, or F. What you want are A and B players. Your all-stars are your A players, who understand the result and can make decisions to achieve it. Your B’s are the ones who just need a little help to improve. They are the ones who are coachable into an A position. The C’s are ones who might be the right person in the wrong seat. But your D’s and definitely your F’s are the ones you need to consider letting go, especially if your agency is taking a hit as a result of a recession.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not take layoffs lightly but you have to think if the tables were turned, and a D or F employee was leaving by choice, would you be relieved? Or even glad to see them go? If the answer is yes, then it’s time.

And release yourself from some guilt because you are setting them on a new path to find something they’re better suited for. I was fired from every job I ever had… and it’s because I finally realized I was never meant to work for anyone else but myself.

Be Kind. Be Human. Be You.

At the end of the day, it’s all about making choices that are going to help you sleep at night. Instead of giving in to the fear and the panic think about what you can do to bring the calm.

There seems to be this unspoken but understood CoVID-19 etiquette. Maybe it’s because it’s happening to everyone everywhere. This illness and its residual effects on the economy are oddly bonding us as a human race. Do what feels right and the rest will come.


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Let Me Help During These Hard Times

I hope you found this beneficial and it helps you during these hard times and are able to focus on the future of your agency.

If you have more questions about how you can get through an economic recession in your agency like this one, I can help. Through my many years of experience, I have been through my own share of hard times but I can share advice on topics including how to start an agency from scratch to reasons you should sell.

You can check out all my tips, tricks and everything you need to know in my blogs. I have covered a wide variety of topics as well as answering your questions in more from my Ask Swenk series.

Are videos more your thing?  You can check out my AskSwenk series and more of my videos on my Youtube channel for advice from myself and other agency experts.

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