A simple business improvement for freelancers & agencies

Gecko Jones 101In growing businesses, Marketing executives don’t always have full-time, in-house resources for vital projects and programs they need to launch or nurture.

Plus, when those types of needs are intermittent or part-time, the logical approach is to outsource the assignments.

I rarely come across freelance graphics designers or print/digital/other agencies who aren’t open to taking on a new client. Finding new clients is hard enough without mishandling opportunities that come to you.

Over the years, and even over the last few months, I’ve reached out to people who became known to me through referrals. And, amazing as it may sound, at least half of them failed to return my call, reply to my email, or respond to the inquiry form I completed on their website.

Some of the non-immediate responders, though not all, eventually reach back with excuses like “It was a holiday week”, or “I was on vacation”, or “I’ve been busy wrapping up other business”. I seriously doubt a 3 minute phone call (“Can we talk at length next week?”) or email (“This is my one getaway week for the year. I will contact you immediately upon my return to the office.”) is impossible to fit in. The payback could be immense.

Many who get into freelance work or start their own agencies are creative types with minimal business, self-promotion or sales skills. I get it. Nevertheless, your business is predicated on having clients. Do you get that?

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    The vital, missing ingredient in most performance appraisals

    Gecko Jones 128Most discussions surrounding the level of work being done by the employee being evaluated relate to the individual’s personal activities.

    That’s fine, but a factor that needs to be included in annual assessments is the level of teamwork that person demonstrates daily.

    It could be teamwork with people in other departments, properly helping in shared efforts with those in the same group, implementing management directives or coordinating with liaisons in other companies.

    If you can’t identify how an employee has one or more of these responsibilities, you either don’t know what it takes for their efforts to result in a true payoff for the organization, or you have someone who is not very crucial to the success of your business.

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      Do you know why you’re hiring?

      Gecko Jones 127An association asked a C-level marketing professional to consider joining their Board and serve as their Director of Marketing (both volunteer positions). He met with several Board members and, though they suggested no precise goals, he knew quickly what his initial goals would be:

      1. Double membership within 6 months
      2. Double average meeting attendance within 6 months
      3. Eliminate the horrible mistakes they were making in email announcements (two different meeting dates listed in the subject and body copy, poor wording, etc.)

      In the interview process, it became apparent they had one or two other candidates. Both were quite junior and unlikely to provide any real leadership, or have proven skills.

      Ridiculously, the Executive Director sent an email to each, mentioning a bit of work that was needed immediately. Was that a test to see who would grab it? What if all ran with it? That would be a waste of redundant effort. Regardless, what would this actually prove?

      The executive withdrew from the silly competition and they signed up one of the junior alternatives. Guess what happened next? Subsequent mass emails promoting upcoming events were poorly written. And, I suspect they have made no progress in driving new membership or boosting conference attendance.

      If you’re looking for leadership, hire a leader. If you trivialize the hiring process, it’s very possible you don’t know how to screen and hire for the job that’s open. Ultimately, you are responsible for knowing who to hire, based on what you want to accomplish.

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        When business goals work against you

        Gecko Jones 126Raising the bar by establishing aggressive goals for each department, and the company overall, is more than just wishful thinking.

        It’s a way CEOs can get their teams to step up their productivity and creativity for the betterment of the business.

        Increases in revenues, for example, might be expected to reach 10% per year in some industries, or 100% in others. There’s no one right answer and the team in place is as much a factor in what’s attainable as the market, your competition, etc.

        However, in one company, I continuously saw the CEO set goals that went beyond reasonable. The sales team constantly hit between 80% and 95% of the objectives, but the goals were not logical. The CEO would chide his very capable VP Sales by introducing him as “Mr. 95%”.

        It served to demoralize the executive and embarrass those reporting to him (as they felt responsible for missing his assigned targets). Even without using the ridiculous nickname, the CEO had set goals that were not attainable. They served to discourage instead of motivate the company.

        I’ve seen some objectives that were so silly, the entire company walked out of annual kick-off meetings rolling their eyes and ignoring discussion. Are your goals high, but sane?

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          Your company may face challenges similar to the Seattle Seahawks & the Denver Broncos

          Gecko Jones 125
          You don’t have to be a sports fan to know the Seahawks and Broncos dominated pro football last season. They could continue that success this year, but not without increased challenges.


          Successful companies are like winning sports teams. They attract attention and they face stiffer competition. Here’s how:

          1. No more sneaking up on teams (other companies in your industry). Competitors know you exist and what you can/can’t do well.
          2. You won business because you were better (people, tactics, product/service) than others. But, they now know they have to “step up their game”, whether it means improving their talent level, tactics or product/service. You’ll have a tougher challenge in the new season (year).
          3. Some of the things you did to defeat competitors have now been exposed. Many will start doing exactly what you did (similar marketing, expanded focus into channels and distribution, product/service attributes, etc.). It will be harder for you to stand out in the market place.

          That means changes are necessary and making further improvements in all aspects of your company is vital. Anytime your team looks to you like it’s coasting, you can be sure that other vendors are gaining ground.

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