Doug Austin, Leader of Austin Amplifies, discuss with Rich and Steve the challenges of implementing the Great Game of Business in a professional service industry, Doug's advice to leaders trying to Change the Game in their industry, and Doug's new book Permission to Win.
Episode with guest: Doug Austin
Leader of Austin Amplifies
(This episode was recorded in April of 2021.)
Key Episode Take-Aways:
1. Even if numbers scare you or you consider yourself financial illiterate, opening the books can still work. Follow the plan and do not overwhelm yourself or others. (click to jump to this topic below) I was not the most financially literate person either. I mean, I'm one of those. I am not supposed to understand that, you know, but you're responsible for part of the rent, and the thing you could learn pretty quick how to manage the numbers. But so, I followed the book, I follow the manual, I followed the rules, and we rolled it out as directed. And when we did, and I didn't try to jam everything down their throat and in what I thought was going to scare them. It didn't. So, we took it one step at a time,
2. Permission to focus. There are many good ideas out there but getting rid of 10 good ideas and focusing to really make it a great idea. (click to jump to this topic below) Sure oftentimes, so in our business, we're in the idea business like to say we're just like, we're fountains of ideas, like that's all day long, all day long. And then people will get very excited they go, Doug, I've got a great idea. And I'm like, man, that's a good idea. Let's make it a great idea. Well, how do you make a good idea, a great idea, you got to get rid of the other 10 good ideas and focus on one to make it great.
3. Characteristics that good leaders have are vulnerability, coachable, and objective. (click to jump to this topic below) I think the value and power of objectivity around one's own scenario or situation is very valuable. So, my advice would be, seek out a trusted advisor, whether it's a personal friend or other and ask them before you go do something like that. Get advice, be open to it, then be coachable, you know, be vulnerable. are, you know, we can't see what's going on in our own business sometimes, because we're in it so deep.
Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.
The "Change the Game" Podcast is sponsored by Prairie Capital Advisors, helping businesses think forward. For more information, visit prairiecap.com/ggob. That's prairiecap.com/ggob.
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the "Change the Game" podcast with special guests Doug Austin. In this episode, Rich and Steve discuss with Doug the challenges of implementing the Great Game of Business in a professional service industry, Doug's advice to leaders trying to Change the Game in their industry, and Doug's new book Permission to Win. Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.
Steve Baker 0:51
Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast where we are changing the Game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker and with me as always is Rich Armstrong, president of the Great Game of Business, and co-author of our new book, get in the Game how to create rapid financial results and lasting cultural change. Hello, Rich.
Rich Armstrong 1:19
Hello, Steve. How are you?
Steve Baker 1:21
Doing good. I'm especially excited today because we have a very special guest. His name is Doug Austin. And Doug has been in the advertising world for a great many years that sounded like too many years, didn't it Doug? He's been advertising and promotion and shopper and business to business food service ad agencies in New York, Dallas, and in Springfield, Missouri. In fact, he's probably one of the guys most responsible for making Springfield, kind of the center of the food service advertising world. As he made his way through this agency career, Doug saw firsthand the effects of mergers and buyouts, sales acquisitions, even ESOP transactions. So today, he works with independent agencies and consumer brands. And companies as a leader of Austin Amplifies Doug Austin, how are you today?
Doug Austin 2:17
Yes, I am wonderful, and very happy to be here and can't wait to just cut it up with you.
Steve Baker 2:24
All right. Well, we're always having fun with you. Again, you've got such a great background, I didn't mean to make it seem like you had so many years in advertising, but let's just say, so much depth. To start off with, I think, you know, anybody that's listening, that knows something about you knows that you utilize the Great Game of Business to grow your last agency, the Marlin Network, which you were able to grow from $8,000,000 and 57 people to 20 million and 157 people, four companies, four locations. Do I have that Right?
Doug Austin 2:58
That's, right. Yeah, we turned a single sort of boutique agency at the time, with a grand reputation, which was why this was possible into a network as sort of a mini holding network, if you will, I always tell people is just like Omnicom, except that instead of 80,000 people, we had 80 people. And we weren't 800 companies. We were four, but the principle was the same. Yeah.
Steve Baker 3:30
Doug Austin 3:31
Rich Armstrong 3:32
Hi, Doug, how are you?
Doug Austin 3:36
Rich Armstrong 3:36
You know, even though a lot of people equate, you know, GGOB, with manufacturing, primarily due to the fact of, you know, our parent company SRC holdings in the original story, that in all reality, the majority of our practitioners are actually service companies. And what were some of the challenges of implementing GGOB in a professional services business?
Doug Austin 3:58
Yeah, that's great. You know, when I was first introduced to the whole theory of open-book management, it came at a time when, you know, Steve had mentioned, we had four companies, three of them were advertising agencies. And so, you'd have thought that we'd kind of had that dialed in and figured out and how to make money and do everything well, or well enough, you know, but as it turns out, advertising agencies are like restaurants, they all have their own personality. And it all depends on the head chef and all that kind of good stuff. So, we had one that was a little challenged, shall we say, in terms of understanding that we were a for profit entity, and in fact needed to make money. And so, we had to help them with that because they're super creative shop, we just were losing money. So, they you know, when I heard about this open-book management, I thought, that's interesting. And you know, the right here in town, and of course, Jack Stack has such a wonderful reputation and all the companies and SRC and all of that and it just drew me in enough to say Hmm, I probably had a look into this. And, and as I did, what I realized was, we did some of that, because we were a network and in operating as a holding company, there was, it was pretty transparent to begin with. And in terms of the financials and understanding in the back and forth, and we had a fantastic CFO at the time, who was really ratcheted down on the numbers very well. So, we understood it, but they didn't. So, he, you know, we talked about it, and I said, you know, I think we can do this, I think we can do this deal and not literally freak everybody out. I mean, you guys, I would hear stuff like, you. Okay, so advertising agencies get this weird reputation. And to be honest, I leverage it when it's in my favor, and I debunk it when it's not. And so, but what we do here is like, dude, you know, I'm an art director, you can expect me to understand the numbers. I'm like, yes, I can. And yes, you will. And guess what, it's not going to hurt. It really won't. It's okay. And so, we did is we, I mean, writers, art directors, you know, everybody in a Creative Suite that you would imagine. And I was really kind of dreading it, I thought they were going to push back pretty hard. But as it turns out, they were pretty open to it, because of the way that we introduced it. And the way that we introduced it was all the things I learned by attending the, you know, teach the teacher course, whatever it was called, at the time, this was a little while ago. But the challenges to your point, Rich, your question was really just helping them understand the impact, once I get them to understand how we made money, so that was a big checkmark for me. So that was like, I felt like I was going to celebrate that alone, you know, but then to help them understand how they affect that. And in every part of the company, that's when the light went off. And they went, oh, I mean, literally, it was like, Oh, yeah. Okay. So that's why we do estimates. Okay, so that's why you're giving me the stink eye when I've got 10 hours on concepting when I was only given five, um, you know, so, they realize that I would tell you, I was really encouraging and you could watch everybody literally stand up, like, way more confident. For me, that was the best the numbers came and that all turned out. But that was the best for me.
Rich Armstrong 7:34
No, that's, that's great is that can you know, for the service companies that may be listening? Are there any specific things that you remember that you did? To overcome that kind of, you know, reluctance of learn learning the numbers. Was there some tricks or tips or hacks that you use to try to get people to really embrace it
Doug Austin 7:58
Yeah, well, for so yeah. In the simplest answer is, it's what you all taught me. I literally, like followed it, because, hey, look,
1. Even if numbers scare you or you consider yourself financial illiterate, opening the books can still work. Follow the plan and do not overwhelm yourself or others.
I was not the most financially literate person either. I mean, I'm one of those. I am not supposed to understand that, you know, but you're responsible for part of the rent, and the thing you could learn pretty quick how to manage the numbers. But so, I followed the book, I follow the manual, I followed the rules, and we rolled it out as directed. And when we did, and I didn't try to jam everything down their throat and in what I thought was going to scare them. It didn't. So, we took it one step at a time, we, you know, we introduced the problem, we all agreed on the one thing we could all attack together, meaning create a mini game around, understood what our critical number was, and how we could affect it. And then we met every I can't remember how often if I'm honest, maybe it was weekly. I'm not sure for huddles, but what people started to realize was not only were we affecting that the number playing the game affecting the number winning, people started to respond better to each other in terms of accepting help, offering help. It brought the culture tighter together. And that was for me, that was a big bonus. Because we always believe that if the culture was strong and healthy in a positive way, that they can feel safe. And if they felt safe in my business, if I can't ask somebody to share all their creative vulnerabilities, if they're not, if they don't feel safe, they just they won't, they simply will not do it, right. They'll guard themselves. It's human nature. But the confidence that came in the fact that we're actually going to make money and I, you know, wasn't going to get laid off and we're doing fine, created this safety net, and the fact that they were helping each other so there's empathy involved. It was a really wonderful dynamic happening. And it's honestly, if somebody would have told me before, that the way to get that particular group to lighten up a lot was to help them be more financially literate. I would of said you're crazy. Right. But that's exactly what it did. And so, the tricks or tips or whatever is like, follow the rule like the you know, you guys have this dialed in very well. And it works wonderfully for that group. They made their bonus that year for the first time in four years.
Rich Armstrong 10:38
Doug Austin 10:40
Steve Baker 10:41
I'm glad you mentioned the mini-games, Doug, because as I recall, I go over to the network headquarters building and I would see what was going on the latest mini-games and that sort of thing. And for people for creatives, who are basically running from numbers, you know, their whole life. And then they get in this situation, you're like, now we can learn this. Some of the things that they did in mini games, like utilization, build out percentages and things. I didn't even understand it because they learned it. So, well. I remember a target where they had these percentages. I'm like, I don't explain it to me again, I don't understand it. That shows the power of it is that it can be very approachable. And when it's your number, it means something completely different than when it's Doug's number or Todd's number or somebody else's number Dennis's number. And so, you guys actually built a lot of value in the business as an ESOP. And then in 2015, you and your fellow employee owners sold to a large agency out on the west coast. And this gave you an opportunity to start your own business, Austin Amplifies and you help other agencies grow. You also recently published a book which by the way, I happened to see it debut at number one in its category on Amazon, congratulations on that. It's called Permission to Win. How to Grow your advertising agency with confidence. I wonder if you can talk about that. Because I'm fascinated with the phrase permission to win. Can you share with our listeners what permission to win means?
Doug Austin 12:16
You bet you bet I, you know, being on the business development and growth and innovation end of the field for the last 15 years of my agency career. It was always a challenge to say, Alright, let's go after that brand. Let's go after that brand. Let's go for that brand. And I'd say well, you know, they'll never forget, when I arrived on the scene at Marlin, one of the things they wanted to do one of the agencies that the one in particular was just mentioning, they said, we want you to go get Indian Motorcycle for us. And I thought, Wow, very cool brand. Everyone loves Indian Motorcycle. It's the underdog to the Harley, you know, it's super cool. It was having a resurgence. It was awesome. And I thought, okay, like, knowing full well, I'm going to do exactly nothing to try to go get Indian Motorcycle for these group of very, very talented food marketers, okay. And that's the key. Right? Right. So, I said, okay, guys, I am positive, I can get a phone call. What will you say? When we get them on the phone? And they'll go, oh, well, we're going to tell them how much you love their brand. We're going to tell him how much you know; we can like we have these ideas for them for design, marketing. And I'm like, okay, great. And I'm just going to be, you know, might be a little bit of a bug here. But I'm going to go like, what? And the answer is, I said, I'm going to stop you from embarrassing yourself, because he answers you don't have anything to say to them, except that you're excited about their brand. Like most other people out there, I said, Guys, listen, we can't waste our time, we have no permission to win there, we have nothing of value to tell them other than our talent. And guess what? I'm sorry to tell you. And this is where they start throwing things at me that the creativity has been commoditized over the years to the degree that I can get it for free, and maybe better. So that's not the answer. Okay, we have got to bring something of real value to the conversation before we really have permission to win it. And that's where it comes from Steve, it's really, it's a posture that says, Look in a competitive space, like advertising, and advertising agencies and design and PR and all the communication group, right. There are, by the way, 120,000 of us in the United States last count. That's a lot of competition. So, from a competitive perspective, if I want to whittle down that competitive set to something more manageable, I have got to get a lot more specialized in what I have to do. Right. And so, what I mean by that is I picked a vertical to focus on in our case, at the agencies, it was food. And in fact, it was business food was manufacturers, to distributors to restaurants very specific. And who would have [thought], you could have created a global reach career out of being that finite, but we did, and employed a lot of people and did a lot of fun stuff. But, but the permission to win is not only a platform and a posture, but it's also a filter. Because when people would bring things like the Indian Motorcycle, which is a fun story to tell, because it's so ridiculous in the context of a food marketing agency, is that if we don't think we have what it takes to bring real value and demonstrate expertise, to the degree that we will be seen as a valuable partner versus a vendor, then don't waste your time, because now you're competing on something other than value you're competing on? I don't know, looks, charisma. I don't know. But it certainly isn't the thing that is tied to margin.
Rich Armstrong 16:01
Steve Baker 16:01
I have a quick follow up on that. Because I think it's important for listeners that don't know you Doug to know exactly what this Permission to Win has done through the years. Because if I'm not mistaken, you're responsible for being a big part of bringing global brands like Starbucks, and Nestle and Unilever, to Springfield, of all places to do business. And I think that's pretty amazing.
Doug Austin 16:27
Yeah, yeah. And so, the Starbucks was there, but yes, it and you know, tell you what, it's we're unlikely candidates for that level of work, Aren't we here in Springfield, Missouri. And it was so invigorating to be able to say, look, with focus and being deliberate about what we're doing. I had not only permission to win, but also permission to say no, right? And that's where this permission to focus comes in. Right. And that is if we let ourselves say, let's go back to that 120,000 ad agency analogy, regardless of your business and your vertical, you have competition. So, what's a good way to eliminate competition other than, you know, doing things that we shouldn't do? Right? Because we would never do that. But so, let's fight fair. So, we're going to fight fair. And you know, in the in the spirit of capitalism, it's a game. And so how do you win a game? Well, I'm going to reduce the size of the field, I'm going to reduce the size of the competitors, I'm going to take away their weapons, I'm going to take them. And the way we do that is being smarter than him first, more innovative, more relevant, all of that those are our tools. And so, when we have those in line, because we've focused our efforts, we've decided the verticals we're going to invest and innovate in. And those are different things, to become the expert in those fields. Then when something else like an Indian Motorcycle opportunity shows up, I very confidently can say, hey, you know what, that's a really fantastic brand. But that's not in our wheelhouse, you know, best of luck to you. In fact, let me introduce you to these great motorcycle marketing folks over here. Because they'll do a great job for you. I'll just continue to admire your brand from afar. Thank you. And it's good. It's liberating to be able to say no, frankly, I mean, it doesn't even have to be that drastic, to be honest. Right? I mean, it can be that focus has as much to do with staying in our lane vertically business vertically as it does within our sort of qualified prospect. And if we spend the time to really ratchet down, what makes a great prospect, a great prospect versus a contact, right. So that's the difference, you know, I have 100,000 contacts in my database, those are all prospects I go, um not unless you're selling air. They're not I mean. So, let's ratchet that down a little bit. Let's get more finite, and the more finite we get, which is where some people will have trouble with this. Do they say, well Doug? I don't know. I mean, if I get that focused, right, then I'm missing opportunity. And I'm like, well, let's be okay. Okay. How many new clients? Can you handle a couple 100? That's a lot. Okay, good. Well, you're pointing your gun. And by the way, that shotgun you got in your hand you're putting in at about you just said 10,000. first of all, you'll choke on the response. If we, do it, right, which we will and we get them to respond whatever percentage of 10,000 is you're still going to choke on it. You're going to have to then decide whether or not they have any money, time, or interest. Right. And now you've deflected all of your energy for somebody who is truly already sort of vetted. In qualified, you've learned yourself slick trying to Convert somebody and all these people want to do is pay you. So, I don't know, I'm all for being the only advertising agency that is in food service b2b protein, college, university private, under 5000 people.
Rich Armstrong 20:24
I love it. I love it.
Doug Austin 20:25
Because you know what? There's one. And you know how many of those universities there are 300. And guess what if I'm the only answer, I get to win?
Rich Armstrong 20:36
No, it's a great concept. Doug, I can almost visualize the audience. When you talk about more focus, them nodding, oh, that's what I need. I need more focus. We just had an opportunity to talk to about 50 of our practicing CEOs. And I asked them, you know, which is more challenging right now in your business, finding opportunities or vetting the right opportunities. And 80-20 80% said, it's vetting the opportunities and figuring out which one do we actually Chase. And I think what you're saying here is that if you can find that focus, and you can find specifically where you have permission to win where your differentiation is really true and set yourself apart. It can be very powerful. So great concept.
Doug Austin 21:24
Yeah. Oh, yeah, it's um, it to me, and I use the word liberating because it is to be able to say no, especially when you're in the position where you have a lot of people expecting you to make the right decision on their behalf, whether it's 2 or 200, or 20,000. How do we how do we know we're making the right decision for all the people that were responsible for? Well, it can't just be a gut, it can't just be a feeling we have to have more than that. And that's really what drove that, for me discipline to get that the prospecting part of it ratcheted down?
Rich Armstrong 22:03
Could you talk just a little bit more about how a company would use a concept like permission to focus and how they would go about practicing that?
Doug Austin 22:14
2. Permission to focus. There are many good ideas out there but getting rid of 10 good ideas and focusing to really make it a great idea.
Sure oftentimes, so in our business, we're in the idea business like to say we're just like, we're fountains of ideas, like that's all day long, all day long. And then people will get very excited they go, Doug, I've got a great idea. And I'm like, man, that's a good idea. Let's make it a great idea. Well, how do you make a good idea, a great idea, you got to get rid of the other 10 good ideas and focus on one to make it great. And that's kind of the same way I approached the prospecting. So, for example, there are types of clients, regardless of what we do, really, whether it's heavy machinery, manufacturing, or restaurants or breweries, or manufacturers, or agencies or service companies, there are certain people that certain companies do the best with the most valuable for the most effective for, you know, the people see the outcome better. And so, identify those and build that, build that out into your prospecting persona, like I like let's build this very finite set of characteristics. And they include all kinds of things psychographics, geographics, all kinds of things, size, ability, run rate, appetite for innovation, budget, timing, history, their clientele, our ability to affect it all. so many things, and it's a long list, you guys, I mean, it is, it's pretty long. And then he said, then you have to set out to try to find them. And that's where the, I don't know, magic, I don't know, that's for the fun part of the marketing journey comes in, because now that I've identified this persona, this perfect prospect. Now I've got to identify them, right. And they can be in big companies, little companies, they can be around the world, they can be wherever, so we can identify them first, and then we have to make contact with them. So, I'm going to find a way to interrupt them in a way that catches their attention is, the more finite I can get, the more I can speak just to them. I think we all can relate to getting many emails, unsolicited emails in our inbox every day that, you know, profess to be the solution to every problem we've ever had, like, I know I have a solution for you. To which I always wonder, I wonder what problem they think I have, you know, and if we don't understand that part of it, I don't think we can do it. And that's where I talked about the difference in my mind that there's a difference between being a solution provider and a problem solver. Right. And I prefer to be a problem solver approach than a solution provider. And the reason is if I'm a solution provider, I've got this thing that is my solution fixer. And everything I go after is what I use it for, you know that old saying that to the to the guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, you know, as opposed to right, the carpenter that says, I don't think we even need a nail, I think we can totally groove that thing, you know. So, like, let's, if I don't understand what you're doing first, I can't help you. And so, the focus on trying to identify that prospect, right, and then identify that industry that they're in the vertical, right. And so, I've got the perfect prospect in the in a vertical that I understand well, because I understand the business of their business. And that's a term I use a lot if we understand the business of their business. And I understand that that's the type of person I want to talk to, I can jump into a very meaningful conversation, presumably, on first meetup. Right. And I would always tell people, you know, this strategy for trade shows and things like that. So, it transfers into everything we do our inbound, sort of the magnet that we're going to use to get them included into our community, the outbound how I'm going to reach out to connect with them and intersect with them. The interpersonal industry relations if you will. So, it manifests all the way down to I think we can all relate to this. And we've been in business for any amount of time. And we attend to a trade show or a convention or a summit or something and read the, you know, the networking mixer thing, and it's pretty, you know, pretty traditional, we get our big-name badge on everybody's smiling big and saying hi, and how's your business and all that? And, you know, it's waiting online for a, you know, a gin and tonic behind somebody and striking up a conversation and can't be, you know, what's your biggest pain point? Like, oh, come on, like, I don't know you. I'm not going to tell you that. But if I could jump in and say, hey, you know, I look, I know you guys, there, McCormick, do a lot of spices. And I got to tell you, man, if I'm you, I'm wondering what's going on in the K-12 system with this new sodium mandate? That's got to be put in a hurt on you guys. What do y'all do about that? All of a sudden. And, by the way, I don't know anything about sodium mandates in schools, other than it's a very, very big topic, once upon a time, probably still is. So, guess what, I've got something really relevant to actually kick around with this person. That's because I took the time to focus in on them and then vertical. And I understand the business of the business. So, it says it's mostly that Rich. But for me, it goes really deep, right? So, it goes all the way down to what am I going to talk about when I meet somebody?
Rich Armstrong 27:45
Very practical I like it.
Steve Baker 27:47
Yeah, permission to focus, permission to win, both of these mindsets, would be really helpful and beneficial to people outside of just advertising. Have you adapted your philosophy, your approach outside of a creative agency? And maybe you could give us an example of that, or maybe talk about what adaptations of it are necessary to make it work?
Doug Austin 28:11
Sure. No, I haven't. It's been fun, by the way. So, let's see, I have done work for a senior living land developer. That's interesting, right? That was interesting how we adapted it to that. restaurants and other business consulting firms. breweries, research firms, you know, consumer research and insight firms. A food manufacturer, beverage manufacturers? Yeah. So yeah, that's a decent breadth, I think, and what it does is once we start to sort of adopt this posture of permission to win and why we need to think about things that way. So, for example, a product development inside of a food manufacturer, and they see an opportunity in the marketplace for something in a dry good can space, but they're a frozen pizza manufacturer today. And I'm thinking okay, well, that's a bit of a stretch. It's a whole different part of the store from a retail experience. It's a whole different mindset, a whole different shopping experience. It's a whole different litany of things, right?
Steve Baker 29:37
Logistics and everything,
Doug Austin 29:39
Everything. And so, I say why do we want to be in the canned bean space, like the burning desire for lagoons or something? What is it you know? And by the time we get through it, and they we realize that we have no permission Our brand will not translate to that space. It's unbelievable. And by unbelievable, I mean lose money not going to buy it, distributors are going to laugh you out of the house, you won't get the shelf space you want. So why do that? Why call Indian Motorcycle right? Like it just doesn't fit. If we're going to can something? Why don't we can the pizza sauce that everybody loves about to pizza or the cheese or the crust, something less than the most leverageable equity of your current brand posture is where we should start. It's got to have a reason for being. Right. So that's just an example of a product development scenario. And yeah,
Steve Baker 30:47
We just got to get over ourselves and say, hey, you know what makes most sense? Dang it if it isn't common sense again, Rich.
Doug Austin 30:57
Steve Baker 30:57
We run into this a lot, Doug.
Doug Austin 30:59
Yeah. And I can be the guy that comes across as a big buzzkill. Sometimes, because they go, well, you're just a dream killer. I only find me in the can being business. By golly, you can't stop me. And I'm thinking, well, that's awesome. But you know, let's really decide what kind of measurement of success we're going to have. You could just sell one candidate beans and you're happy or you want to try to make a million bucks or 100 million bucks or whatever it might be. So yeah, I mean, I'm while I am a like, I don't know, reckless, optimist and super open to trying anything. At the end of the day. Now there's a there's a passion driven thing. And there's a business decision that has to be made. And the business decision usually is the thing that keeps me from spending not only my money, but somebody else's money if I don't think they can win with it.
Steve Baker 31:48
Rich Armstrong 31:49
Yeah. What makes me think that comes from a lot of bumps and bruises and scars from doing this for the last 30-40 years.
Doug Austin 32:00
Yeah, yeah, there's a few times I had to go to the outcome room, and I had no real good answer, except I thought that was a good idea.
Rich Armstrong 32:08
Doug Austin 32:10
Rich Armstrong 32:11
I got a big question for you, Doug. But I got a sense of you know, maybe where you're going to go with this. But you know, what, what kind of piece of advice would you give leaders? What piece of advice? Would you give leaders that are trying to kind of Change the Game in their industry? Hmm.
Doug Austin 32:27
That's a great question. Well, I, you know,
3. Characteristics that good leaders have are vulnerability, coachable, and objective.
I think the value and power of objectivity around one's own scenario or situation is very valuable. So, my advice would be, seek out a trusted advisor, whether it's a personal friend or other and ask them before you go do something like that. Get advice, be open to it, then be coachable, you know, be vulnerable. are, you know, we can't see what's going on in our own business sometimes, because we're in it so deep. I think that's everybody can relate to that at some point. And yet, sometimes we forget to, you know, sort of stand back and look at it objectively and say, Oh, my gosh, I keep, I want this to work so badly, that I continue to invest and reinvest and reinvest and reinvest, when I need to stop, like, I just need to give it up and or, right, how can I maintain my relevance without reinventing because sometimes it's laying right in front of us, you know, and, and it takes an outside perspective sometimes to help bring that bring that to bear and, you know, coming from an industry that is literally driven by collaboration, and open and honest dialogue that sometimes looks like disagreement. And sometimes it's like fighting, but most often looks like a lot of fun. If we, do it right, and we create the right environment. I can't help but fall back on that as being just a cornerstone of my, the platforms and the perspective that I have is that, you know, seek that outside perspective and be open to it. You know,
Steve Baker 34:25
I love that. Well, Doug, we always wrap up our podcasts by asking this question, which is, what is the one question we should be asking you?
Doug Austin 34:39
What's the one question you should be asking me? Oh, boy. that's a that's a good one. I mean, maybe you should be asking me. How does running an ad agency correlate with how to run a. I don't know pick one of your verticals. Any one of them. Construction? manufacturing? Yeah, I don't know. Maybe because there probably is an even a tighter route, which would be a challenge for me. And I would love that, right. Like if you said, How, show me how your career in advertising relates to this healthcare vertical that we're trying to break into, by, you know, like that would be, it'd be fun for me.
Steve Baker 35:45
To do the process, right? Because really, at the core of it, you're probably going to tell me, the same thing that you would tell the bean company or the pizza company is, hey, you know, why is oncologists doing? You know, plastic surgery or something? I don't know. Right? We might have people there. Yeah,
Doug Austin 36:05
Yeah. Right. Yeah. No, and it's, uh, yeah. So maybe that.
Steve Baker 36:10
So, I'm getting a ton of good takeaways here. First of all, permission to win permission to focus permission to say no permission to be great. I even kind of took this as an inference permission to get paid. Because you mentioned, sometimes you had to say no, because these people just didn't have the money. The big takeaway for me is that focus does not mean myopic, you're still aware of what's going on and adjacencies. But you're staying focused through discipline, not through ignorance. I love that solver versus solution provider. What are you going to talk about with this person, you know, this perfect prospect? And I just, I feel like I've gotten a lot out of this. I think everyone listening could benefit from just a little bit of focus, especially in crazy times, like right now when people and supply chain are in such a mess and who knows what the demand is going to do? And you know, it's going to explode, obviously. And how do we not choke on it? That's my final takeaway, how do we not choke on the businesses? So, Doug's new book is Permission to Win, how to grow your advertising agency with confidence. And Doug Austin, what a pleasure. Thanks for being here.
Doug Austin 37:27
Thank you both. Always a pleasure to talk to both you guys. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Rich Armstrong 37:32
Yeah, thank you.
Steve Baker 37:33
Well, let's keep the conversation going. Be sure to send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, ideas, your challenges, and your victories. That is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you next time.
The "Change the Game" podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more, visit greatgame.com.
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