How To Become An Expert At Nothing (And Build A Great Marketing Organization In The Process)
Don't try to do everything for your business, advises columnist David Rodnitzky. If you really want it to grow, you need both “visionaries” and “integrators” and to fire yourself from jobs that others can do.
There are perhaps fewer than 1,000 people who have been doing SEM (search engine marketing) for as long as I have. I started in 2000, back when “expensive” keywords on GoTo.com cost 25 cents and the only campaign management software available was called GoToast (now long gone — it was acquired in 2003!).
When I first started my agency way back in 2008, I managed every SEM account personally. Even a few years later — when we had scaled to 10 or 15 full-time SEM pros — I still checked every account daily.
Today, however, my SEM skills are beyond rusty; it’s been years since I actually managed an account, and I probably log into AdWords only a few times a year. If you gave me the Advanced AdWords exam, I’m not sure I’d pass.
As my agency grew, I realized two things: First, for a leader to grow a business, he has to “fire himself” from jobs. Second, every business needs both “visionaries” and “integrators” to be successful.
Rule #1: Fire Yourself
In the early days of 3Q Digital, not only did I run every SEM account, I was also the CFO, CMO, Chief Costco Orderer and Chief Make-Sure-to-Lock-the-Door-Officer.
Do you know what a Panini is? I’m not talking about the sandwich — if you’ve started a small business, you probably know what I mean.
While it is strangely fun to do absolutely everything for your business, it is also both impractical and a poor use of time. To grow your business, you need to fire yourself from jobs that could be done by someone other than yourself.
A lot of these decisions are pretty easy — like relinquishing Costco ordering duties. But letting go of the things you love — like SEM account management — is hard.
In my case, I saw the digital marketing landscape changing and knew that our customers needed us to do more than just SEM. So I delegated SEM expertise to others and focused on “the rest” of digital marketing.
Today, we have great teams focused on SEO, mobile, paid social, display and analytics. Had I doubled down on what I knew and liked, the agency would likely have stalled.
To properly fire yourself, you need to satisfy two criteria: First, make sure you are firing yourself from one job so that you can focus on another that’s more valuable to the business.
Second, make sure you have hired an expert who can do your old job as well or better than you did.
Rule #2: Combine Visionaries And Integrators
At my agency, we use the Entrepreneur Operating System (or EOS) to manage our agency. EOS is essentially a series of rules, processes and philosophies around running an efficient business.
EOS has helped us define our core values, manage our key metrics and set individual and company-wide quarterly goals.
EOS describes business leaders as falling into two categories: visionaries and integrators. According to EOS:
[blockquote] A visionary has most of the following characteristics: He or she tends to be the founding entrepreneur, is a great leader, has lots of ideas, is a big-picture thinker, is a relationship person, is a creative problem solver, is a great salesperson, and is a grower and builder. Unfortunately, he or she also creates chaos, has no patience for details, has ADD, gets distracted by shiny stuff, and wants to implement every single one of his or her ideas right now.[/blockquote]
An integrator, on the other hand:
[blockquote] He or she is a great executor, is a great manager, is good at holding people accountable, and creates consistency and prioritization; he or she harmoniously integrates the leadership team. He or she unfortunately has to say no a lot, is accused of being a pessimist and is typically the bearer of bad news in the organization.[/blockquote]
Most people who read these two descriptions instantly identify strongly with one over the other. In my case, I’m clearly a visionary (though I don’t like how pompous that sounds). I love thinking about the next big idea in marketing, and I hate getting bogged down in details.
Understanding whether you are a visionary or an integrator is important in determining what you fire yourself from and whom to hire under you. Since I’m a visionary, it made a lot of sense to fire myself from accounting, operations, client services and HR, and for me to focus on strategy, branding and sales.
It also made sense to bring in integrators to run the parts of the business I did not want to manage.
Fired And Fired Up
I started 3Q Digital in a coffee shop eight years ago. Today, we have more than 175 people in seven offices, and we manage more than $400 million of online marketing spend.
Along the way, I’ve shape-shifted from an individual SEM consultant to a digital agency CEO. I’ve fired myself from almost every job in the business and spend most of my time these days thinking up crazy pie-in-the-sky ideas to push the company forward.
I miss SEM a lot, but I love being the Chief Visionary. Firing yourself from the very thing that gave you your start in the industry sounds crazy, but it’s often the right thing to do.