By Karl Sakas
Consider your current day-to-day stage: Mandatory, Necessary, Needed, and Optional?
Wondering about your evolution as an agency owner? The biggest indicator is what you do on a day-to-day basis.
When you started, you were doing everything. As you’ve grown, you’ve built a team, and perhaps eventually sub-teams. But it’s hard to shake old habits—and what worked a year or two ago might not work today.
The solution? See where you fit on what I call the “Day-to-Day Involvement Meter” (right). And if you want to upgrade your spot, read on for my advice to move forward.
When you make yourself “Needed but not Necessary” as a manager, your team still needs you for long-term direction and sign off on big decisions. But you’re not necessary for every decision—your team can make decisions without you, and they’re generally good decisions.
That means you have time in your schedule to think strategically about your agency, and take a week or two off each year, without interruption. It means you’re making an above-market salary, and working reasonable hours, so that you can have a life outside of work.
Being Needed doesn’t mean you disappear forever. You still define the vision, choose long-term company goals, reinforce the culture, and so on. But you can set it, and forget it… for a week or two at a time.
The Day-to-Day Involvement Meter: The Four Stages of Leading an Agency
Expanding on the original idea, I’ve found that agency owners fall into four stages based on their day-to-day responsibilities as an agency leader:
Let’s look at each of these a little more closely. As you look through these, think about which one you are now… and which one you want to be.
Stage 1: MANDATORY
Initially, you’re MANDATORY day-to-day. This means your team can’t function without you… and you never can get away from the agency.
I call the first stage Mandatory. In this terrible stage, you are Mandatory to your team’s day-to-day decisions.
Here are some signs that you might be in the Mandatory stage:
- You can’t get away for a DAY without something going wrong, much less a few days, and you certainly can’t take a real vacation.
- You’re interrupted all day long, by both employees and clients. You’re probably the primary contact for many, if not most, of your clients because your team can’t handle them.
- You’re so Mandatory, it feels like you can never get your important work done, because you’re constantly fighting fires at your agency.
- You rarely each lunch on time… or if you do, the meal tends to involve frantic multitasking and indigestion.
- Your significant other has stopped asking if you’ll be home late.
At this point, you’re likely barely profitable—or even unprofitable. And you’re certainly underpaid for the workload, stress, and negative impact on your life.
But there’s hope—when you move up from Mandatory to Necessary.