EP48: Habits | Clare Rees

January 12th, 2021

It’s safe to say that for most of us, 2021 arrived without the usual fanfare, excitement and expectation but instead, with an exhausted sigh and a resolution NOT to have any New Year resolutions.

Let’s be clear, the ambition and optimism are still there, but big fat goals can feel meaningless when we are surrounded by so much restriction, distraction and uncertainty. So what can we do?

In true Small Spark Theory, marginal gains style, for this episode we wanted to focus on some small stuff. Some helpful, positive habits. The things that can help us put one foot in front of the other, to keep going and stay motivated, even when we don’t feel like it.

To help me unpick the subject of habits I co-opted my long-term colleague and Small Spark Theory Institute co-founder Clare Rees. Clare learned a thing or two about forming good habits when taking on the mighty challenge of writing a novel, so has a great perspective on how to take small steps, avoid procrastination and keep our motivation strong.

As always, listen in for the chance to win a copy of Clare’s recommended read: Atomic Habits by James Clear – you can also download the first chapter here. 

We also have some questions and tips from our fabulous listeners. If you have a question or hot tip and would like to contribute to an upcoming episode – please get in touch.

Also mentioned in this episode:

Stephen Covey’s seminal 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 

Liz Wilde

EP47: The power of community | Ian Harris | Agency Hackers

December 7th, 2020

I can’t imagine finding an agency owner, who since March, hasn’t tuned in to at least one of the myriad of webinars or zoom chats that have been made available through either our industry bodies (see our earlier conversation with DBA CEO Deborah Dawton), individual agency experts or peer networks. From HR and culture, finance and operations to client service and new business, the range of advice and resources available have been momentous. So for our final episode of this year, it feels fitting to pull up a chair and chat with the founder of one of the UK’s leading agency peer support groups.

Ian Harris has been running Agency Hackers for the last four years, providing a community of agencies with insight, education and support.

Ian joins to me to reflect on a year of twists and turns and look ahead to 2021.

As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Ian’s recommended read: Charlatan: The Fraudulent Life of John Brinkley.

So don your Christmas jumper, grab a mince pie and settle in. The end is in sight.

EP46: Presentation materials | Shan Preddy | Preddy & Co

November 9th, 2020

In previous episodes we’ve tackled various aspects of pitching and presenting, specifically with Tony Spong from AAR (episode 10) and Catherine Allison at Master the Art (episodes 3 and 33). In those discussions we concentrated largely on our behaviour – our pitching processes, how we question, how we listen. But the area we didn’t really touch on is our presentation materials.

We’ve all heard the statistics about how much of our verbal vs visual communication is heard and seen, but at a time when we are mostly communicating through a Zoom window and many of the other subtle body language cues are missing, the pressure is on to make sure our presentation materials are working harder than ever.

And as a marginal gains exercise, this one is a whopper! Presentation decks are so often overlooked, either hastily rehashed or totally over engineered. Time spent rethinking how we approach this vital part of our new business armoury is undoubtedly time well spent.

So who better to unpick this than presentation expert Shan Preddy. Design Business Association members will know Shan well as a founder member of the Experts Register and trainer and advisor to swathes of organisations across the sector.

Listen in to hear Shan’s best tips and tricks for powerful presentations (and a bonus insight into the communication skills of the new US Vice President-Elect….!)

Shan’s recommended read is Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. 

Links:

Preddy & Co

Shan Preddy

“I’m speaking…”

This is also your last chance to contribute to our new year episode about new business habits – let us know your thoughts here.

EP45: Client satisfaction | Alisha Lyndon | Momentum

October 8th, 2020

Back in April this year, Claire Beale wrote this brilliant Campaign article about the client/agency dynamic. It was a rallying cry for cultivating deeper working relationships built on partnership, trust and mutual support and a move away from the procurer/supplier mind set we know all too well.

I’ve reflected on this theme often over the intervening months. In my conversations with agency owners, account teams and new business practitioners I sensed a polarising effect of the pandemic. It has been no surprise that the stronger the partnerships with clients, the better able both parties have been to communicate and problem solve. At the very least, for agencies that communication has been vital to provide the financial visibility required for scenario planning.

Whatever lies ahead, I hope this experience galvanises more clients into investing in the process of hiring agencies, but that’s a big, thorny topic for another day. What I’m interested in right now is how agencies can fulfil our part of the bargain. How can we actively shift our existing client relationships from transactional and reactive to trusted and proactive?

In previous episodes we have discussed the process of client development planning, but this time, we’re taking it to the next level and exploring client satisfaction audits.

My guest is agency powerhouse Alisha Lyndon, founder and CEO of B2B growth consultancy Momentum. Alisha and I worked together last year to re-invigorate Momentum’s client satisfaction programme and in this episode, we discuss the process, the outcomes and share some top tips for building trust and advocacy.

As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Alisha’s recommended read Insight, by Tasha Eurich.  Listen in to find out how to win.

For details of Gunpowder’s client satisfaction audit consulting, get in touch at lucy@gunpowderconsulting.com

EP44: The agency podcast | Isabelle Jarvis

September 14th, 2020

The podcasting juggernaut shows no sign of slowing. Four years ago, when we started planning the idea behind Small Spark Theory I thought we were too late to the party. Yet here we are now and with Apple estimating some 1 million active shows and over 30 million episodes on iTunes (double the figure in 2018), it would seem that audio content is still very much a thing. 

But what about podcasting in a B2B context, and more specifically how does it fit into an agency new business and marketing plan? Is it just a shiny new thing or can it really deliver new business?

I noticed a number of new agency podcasts popping up this year so thought it might be time to explore if and how this channel can add value. 

And who better to join me? Small Spark Theory’s very own producer and editor, Isabelle Jarvis. Izzy has been the driving force behind this podcast since its inception and has gone on to produce, edit and advise on a variety of other shows. 

In this episode, we discuss the need for strategy (spoiler alert – it’s your ideas and content that are important, the podcast is simply a different channel to allow those ideas to live in another format), thoughts on formatting and make sense of the technical implications. 

The recording, hosting and editing tech mentioned in this episode is as follows:

Zencastr

Squadcast

AnchorFM

Libsyn

Buzzsprout

Podbean

Audacity

If you have a great content idea which supports your proposition and marketing strategy, fancy your hand at podcasting but don’t know where to start, you can contact Isabelle@gunpowderconsulting.com

EP43: Business planning for agencies | Deepa Shah | Lab Eight

August 10th, 2020

One of the biggest challenges we face for the remainder of 2020 and beyond is undoubtedly our ability (or inability) to plan ahead.

Almost daily, we are bombarded in the news by a roll call of redundancies, rumours of regional lockdown, interspersed with “is it a V, U, W or ‘swoosh’?” predictions for our economic recovery. 

The end of furlough, Brexit (oh yes), and the prospect of a Covid resurgence over the winter all paint a picture where the only real certainty is uncertainty. And yet, if we are to survive and thrive, plan we must. 

So where to start?

This is the question I put to my guest, founder of Lab EightDeepa Shah.

Deepa is a vastly experienced, multi-award winning agency CFO and a fresh new voice on the agency growth advisory circuit having launched Lab Eight in April this year, exactly as the pandemic struck. 

Deepa shares her advice for where we should be focusing now, and how to plan ahead. 

It’s worth noting good proportion of the guests on this podcast are people I have known and worked with for many years throughout my career. They are the experts I have turned to for advice again and again, who can be relied upon for their deep knowledge of a specialist subject.  

Then there are those who have been recommended to me and others (mostly authors) who I have simply stalked until I could persuade them to join me. 

Deepa is someone who first appeared on my LinkedIn radar at the beginning of the year and quickly became a regular fixture in my feed, adding a constructive and positive commentary to the most interesting of threads. Aside from her insights on her specialist subject – Deepa’s use of her network and LinkedIn as a platform has been a masterclass in how to launch a consultancy. But perhaps that’s an episode for another day. 

In the meantime listen in and find out how to win a copy of Deepa’s recommended read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

EP42: Design industry outlook | Deborah Dawton | Design Business Association

July 19th, 2020

Regular listeners will have noticed a slight change to our usual programming. A global pandemic has shifted our focus from the very specific, detailed insights intended solely to improve new business performance, to include a more contextual viewpoint. Of course, context has always been important to new business, but with so much change and uncertainty around us, it now seems imperative to broaden our discussion. 

From the very beginning of this crisis I was blown away by the speed with which the Design Business Association team leapt into action to provide a virtual space for discussion, advice and community support. On any given week, agencies (members and non-members alike) could access free webinars to understand the implications of the evolving crisis and tap into expert advice to help navigate a way forward. 

So here we some 4 months on. What have we learnt? And what is the outlook for the design industry? I managed to wrangle some time with Design Business Association Chief Executive Deborah Dawton to find out.

You can find out more about DBA membership here and access the ‘Ask an Expert’ scheme here. 

EP41: Positioning v proposition | Robin Bonn | Co:definery

June 30th, 2020

There aren’t enough podcasting hours to do justice to the agency positioning and proposition debate. We’ve explored this before in episode 13 with David C. Baker and then again in episode 36 with master of the agency messaging, Roland Gurney. 

But with entire industry sectors in crisis and an uncertain economy ahead it has never been more important for agencies to clearly define and signpost their expertise.  So buckle up, we’re going in again!

In this episode we talk to Robin Bonn from Co:definery to get the lowdown on why positioning is dead but proposition is king and the perils of a pivot. Listen in to find out how to win a copy of Robin’s recommended read: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

You can read Robin’s latest musings here and follow his Marketing Week column here.

EP40: Agency leadership | Sally Henderson

June 7th, 2020

Across the world, leadership is under scrutiny.  

Citizens are looking to their politicians, employees are looking to their employers. Amid continued uncertainly, everyone needs direction and reassurance. 

So what does good leadership look like? Does it change in a crisis? And how can agency leaders look after their teams, and their own wellbeing, as we move from the challenges of lockdown to this next phase of the pandemic?

In this episode we explore these questions and more with Executive Change Mentor Sally Henderson.

Sally has worked with leadership teams at some of the most influential agencies and brands across the world. She joins us to share her top tips for leading with clarity, confidence and authenticity. 

As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Sally’s recommended read: Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, also mentioned in this episode is Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

You can find details of Fearless Fuel, Sally’s peer-to-peer leadership round-tables here

EP39: Maximising cash | Michelle Cook

May 7th, 2020

Over the past six weeks I’ve been speaking to lots of agency leaders. Those one-on-one conversations have highlighted to me, just how many variables there are determining how agencies are able to weather this extraordinary storm. 

Aside from agency size and structure, services, client sector focus, and the deeply personal experiences of managing pipeline, clients and teams whilst either squashed together with, or isolating without family, there is the issue of cash. 

In almost every case it is the agency’s cash position going into this crisis that determines how able they will be to emerge. Cash provides time. Time to think, to adapt, to respond. 

So as we move into this next phase, and negotiate anew with clients and prospects, how can we maximise our cash? How do we make sure we still get paid for our ideas and solutions?

In this episode, I talk to Independent Financial Director and cash flow specialist Michelle Cook. We learn how Michelle has harnessed Just-In-Time methodology used in manufacturing to revolutionise cash management and her top tips for invoicing, negotiating terms and avoiding payment delays. 

This is another perfect example of how small changes in our processes can deliver marginal gains. 

We’ll be giving away a copy of Michelle’s recommended read The Innovation Book: How to Manage Ideas and Execution for Outstanding Results by Max Mckweown. Listen in to find out how to win. 

You can find Michelle on LinkedIn here. And if you want to discuss a new business challenge, you can book into my diary here.