Meet Drew McLellan
Drew has worked in advertising for over 30 years, and he has started his own agency McLellan Marketing Group in 1995 after a five year stint at Y&R and still actively runs his agency. He also owns and runs Agency Management Institute, which serves over 250 agencies small to mid size covering advertising, digital marketing, media and PR. He helps them increase their AGI, attract better clients and employees, mitigate the risk of being self employed in such a volatile business. And best of all, letting the agency owner actually enjoy the perks of agency ownership.
Drew often appears in publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Agency Post, CNN, Businessweek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him one of 10 bloggers, every entrepreneur should read.
Can you share how running your own marketing agency transitioned to the success and helping you advise other agency owners?
I started my own agency like most agency owners do, kind of by the seat of my pants. And so I just, without any fear, leaped into the unknown, and then very quickly learned how hard it was to run any business. And so very early on, I found an organization that acknowledged that most agency owners were accidental business owners, and so I learned a ton from that organization. Completely changed the way I ran my own agency.
Can you share any tips or best practices for building a community in general?
There's so much buzz and talk around building a community of your customers and all of that, but what people don't really talk about is you actually have to like those people. And I would argue that you actually have to love them. And if you love them well, and you create an environment where they feel safe, and you encourage them to be kind and generous to one another. There are not a lot of places in the world where you do feel heard, and understood and cared about, and that it's safe to talk about the things that are hard or scary. If you genuinely create that space for the right reasons, which again, I believe are because you actually love these people. And then they gather and then they create it to be something far bigger than what you could have ever created.
Other than money, what advice would you share as far as some of the biggest hurdles to starting your own digital agency or just agency in general?
Well, I think the challenge is it's a very crowded space. And so if, if you don't do something differently, and if you don't have a depth of expertise around something, whether it is a certain audience, a certain industry, Whatever it may be, it's pretty easy to get sort of swept up in the sea of sameness, and look just like everybody else.
Can you help our listeners remove those fears by sharing one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I think we have given the word networking a terrible reputation, which is, I'm really out just shaking people's hands and collecting business cards so I can sell you stuff later. For me, every networking opportunity is I just look for ways to help. I just ask as many questions as I can.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture these relationships that you're creating and establishing?
I think it comes in layers, right? I mean, I think professionally, we are very content driven. So we're always trying to create content that is relevant and useful to people. And then I'm very active in email and on social and so I try and be very, very responsive. I think it boils down to actually caring about the people in your network and you cannot give everyone the same level of attention. But you certainly can touch everybody at a certain level so that they know that you're out there.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's looking to grow their network?
If you want to grow your network, help more people, that's as simple as it is. The more people that you help the more accessible you make yourself without someone wondering when you're going to put your hand in their pocket, the more they're going to want to stay near you and be connected to you and the more they're going to want to return that favor.
Digital networking or traditional networking, which one do you find more value in?
I think as long as you have an element of humanity then both. But today, most people's network expands far beyond the geographic region that they live in. And so you can't physically have traditional analog contact with everyone in your network, there's just no way. So I think it's a combination of both.
If you could go back to your 20 year old self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?
So funny, because when I was 20, it never would have occurred to me that I would own my own business. I just assumed I would work for someone else because that was what everybody did. I guess what I would have said to my 20 year old self is you don't have to do this for somebody else. You can do this for yourself if you want to. And the rewards are much greater. The risks are greater too. But if you're willing to bet on yourself, then maybe I would have stepped out earlier.
Any final word or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think work and our careers whether you're an entrepreneur or you're an employee, or you're a leader in an organization, it's lonelier than we acknowledge. And I think if you can be someone who makes it less lonely for other people, and make them feel that they really aren't doing this alone and that they have someone that'll just listen or offer some counsel or some perspective, I think that's an amazing gift to give to your network.
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