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Agency Coach Clodagh Higgins On Managing/Growing A Healthy Business - The ROI Online Podcast Ep. 21

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As business owners, we like to handle everything ourselves. So what do you do when you know something isn’t working, but you don’t know what the issue is? Or worse, when you have a hunch about what’s wrong, but you know opening that can of worms will stir up a lot of painful emotions?

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Clodagh Higgins, business coach and founder of Grow It Group, helps digital agency owners deal with these situations every day. As an agency owner herself, she’s personally gone through the isolating and frustrating issues that come with being an entrepreneur.

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Clodagh’s career began in sales. She worked at Dell, Sony, and other companies, jumping from country to country. Eventually, her talents took her back home to Ireland, where she landed a job at HubSpot. She talked with hundreds of agencies around the world. Despite their differences in geography, Clodagh noticed that they all struggled with the same issues. They felt frustrated and alone. They needed help making a profit and retaining good workers, and she wanted to be the one to help them do it.

Clodagh opened her own agency to support business owners who just can’t seem to get the right kind of traction. It hasn’t been easy—for her or for her clients—but her agency has helped agency owners gain clarity on what kind of business they want to own, the kind of people they need to support that business, and what role they fit in best. With the right crew, map, and captain, your business can catch wind and enjoy smooth sailing. But without all the right people in place, it’s only a matter of time before it sinks. 

Her unique process involves working with employees as well as the employer to identify core issues in the business. It’s all good stuff, but it’s not for the weak of heart. The process brings up a lot of deep emotions many entrepreneurs try to avoid. But, Clodagh points out, dealing with these issues can help save not only the business, but also the business owners’ relationships with family and their employees.

On top of being an agency coach, author, and podcaster, Clodagh is also a world-famous power-lifter. She began lifting in her 40s and ended up representing Ireland at the world stage at the age of 43. In training for competitions, she had to learn how to manage her mindset, overcome imposter syndrome, perform under pressure, and make sacrifices—all lessons us entrepreneurs can benefit from.

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Also available wherever else you get your podcasts.

You can learn more about Clodagh here:

https://www.growitgroup.com/
Listen to Clodagh’s podcast: https://www.growitgroup.com/agency-life-podcast
Read Clodagh’s book: A Happy & Healthy Digital Agency

Read the books referenced in this podcast:

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Get your copy Steve Brown’s book, The Golden Toilet. Also available on Audible for free when you sign up for a 30-Day Trial Membership!

Topics: Marketing, Podcasts, Story

Clodagh Higgins : 

Think back to a time when you were going into your own office—and this is a huge indicator for any agency owner, actually anyone in a small business—if you go in first thing in the morning, so you're the first person there. And if the place is not clean and tidy, people haven't tidy up. There's dirty coffee cups, the kitchen's a mess, you've run out of milk. Or if that is something that happens over and over again. The reason you've got to go in early is because there's always someone who's going in early to make sure you never see that, generally a woman cuz we can see things like... Just you know, not not being and generalist but we would just go in going, "God, every time I come in here... You know what, I'll go in five minutes early, and I'll tidy up just for the sake of peace and quiet." Right? If you go in early a few times in the places messy, there could be a problem with your culture. People are not taking pride in where they work and they're not looking after each other. So if they're not looking after each other's coffee cups, they're certainly not looking after each other's work.

Steve Brown : 

Hi, everybody. Welcome to the ROI Online Podcast, where we believe you, the courageous entrepreneurs of our day, are the invisible heroes of our economy. You not only improve our world with your ideas, your grit and your passion, but you make our world better. I'm Steve Brown, and this is the place where we have great conversations with winners just like you while we laugh and learn together. Well, welcome back everybody to the ROI Online Podcast and today. This is a little funny because this is the third time that I've talked to Clodagh but not on this podcast. Two times it's been on her podcast, but I'm really proud to have Clodagh Higgins from the Grow It Group. She's the agency coach and consultant. So she works with agencies such as mine. She consulted them. She helps them grow. And she does it all from a little place called Ireland.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Thanks for having me on the show, Steve. I feel like we're old, old friends by now.

Steve Brown : 

Yes, we are. She complimented my voice on the last interview. And so this was going to be a real hard hitting hit piece. But it's now it's changed into a nice softball interview because of her compliments and my voice.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Take it easy on me.

Steve Brown : 

So Clodagh, would you please give the folks a little background to your journey to becoming an agency coach. And obviously, from your accent, you begin your life journey in Ireland. But yeah, bring us up to speed.

Clodagh Higgins : 

That's right. Yeah, I am Irish. But just like a lot of Irish people, we traveled around a lot. And I was in my sales career, I kind of started out in sales. I worked for Dell. I worked for Sony. I lived in the UK. I've lived in Australia and it was in Australia in about 2009, 8', 9', that I started to look at digital marketing as a way for growing businesses. You know, Facebook was new. LinkedIn was new. There was all these tools that I took an interest in and I just set up a small consulting, helping friends, that kind of thing and got into the digital marketing world. Ran a little agency down there in Sydney for four or five years. And then ended up coming home back to Ireland in 2012, where I got the privilege of working at HubSpot and rise in HubSpot, talking to hundreds of agencies all around the world. And one thick theme kept coming up over and over again for these agencies, where they were really good at running their business as in sales, marketing campaigns. They were they were good at kind of doing things but not all together, and running a business and a team of people was becoming a challenge for them. And so as I was sitting there, I was going, "They need business advice. They don't need to learn how to run another campaign. They figured that out. They know how to do campaigns. What they need to how to run a professional services business and profitably because a lot of them weren't really doing much profit wise." And so very luckily, I got taken up by a merger and acquisition company, who said, "Hey, we've heard about you in HubSpot, would you like to come and work with us to set up mergers and acquisitions and consult agencies?" And so that's what I've been doing for the last three years is helping businesses, small business agencies, and like that digital marketer agencies or what they call web development, anything in that sphere, about 10 to 25, 30 people, help them increase the revenue, increase the results and increase the retention. And very, very privileged to to do that work. I've written a book about it. I've got a podcast, like you mentioned, my own podcast. And yeah, I think it took me until I was maybe 42 to find out what I love to do, but here I am and loving every day of it.

Steve Brown : 

Good. I'm excited to have you. Tell us about your book, the name of your book and a little bit about why you wrote it.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yeah, I've got it. Look, I can even do this. Ta dah. It's called "Healthy Digital Agency." And some fresh copies arrived there. And I wrote this, which... What I had noticed was the successful businesses, agencies that I'd worked with they had this really solid business model of having six strong pillars. So the people pillar is strong, the strategy session pillar is strong, growth (so that's all the finances), services, sales, and marketing. And there's components in each of those pillars that, when an agency has those (there's generally about five topics in each of those) when they have them strong, they can then build a really successful machine or a business. And that's where the book came out of. I've actually turned it into an online course as well. So it's self-serve, somebody can go through all the courses themselves. And what it means is, I think a lot of the times as an agency and this might ring true with you, when you start the business, you're very passionate about it. You're quite protective about it. And as time goes on, if you've defended the business, if you've grown it, it does become almost like a very emotional relationship. It's your child. It's your baby. I hear people talking, "It's my baby." But we're not very good at being indifferent about our baby or standing back or being objective about our baby. We get very defensive. "Don't you talk about my baby like that." So what happens is, I see a lot of agency owners making decisions about their business that perhaps are too emotional, and they need to stand back and go, "Hang on now. Is the baby behaving very well?" "No." "And why is the baby still in kindergarten, the baby needs to go to school. You know, you're treating... Why is it... The baby needs to learn how to read and write. Baby's ready for university. Let's get moving." So I think that kind of analogy around, you know, taking the baby and giving it to people that are going to run a different day so that the agency owner can go and do what they're doing really, really well. And it's fun work. It's interesting work. It's definitely challenging and character building, because you can imagine a lot of personalities that I work with are very strong, they're eccentric, they're charismatic. They like doing things their way. But I've had a lot of fun along the way and grown these businesses and helped them turn them into machines that so far, most of them through these difficult times that we're going through, are doing okay. And if not even a little bit better than before.

Steve Brown : 

You know, you've described... So I believe that the invisible heroes of our economy are the entrepreneurs, the small business people who have these babies. They have to wear all these hats. They can't be good at all those roles that they have to perform. Running a business, they have to be good at hiring. They have to be good at managing. They have to be good at coaching. They have to design services. They have to sell services. They have to do customer service. They have to do negotiation. They have to do purchasing. They have to wear so many hats, and perform so many roles all on the fly, all in the heat of battle. And these are my heroes. I think they're like the invisible heroes and that, but yet, because of their audacity, they employ people who get to have families, pay rent, buy, cars, send kids to school. And so I have this heart for these folks that you're describing. How is it that you can go in and go, "Okay, Steve, I know you love your baby, but your baby's ugly."

Clodagh Higgins : 

The exercise I do, there's two things that I do we do an assessment of the business like a health check. I've got a series of questions that I get sent to the owner and ask about the health of their business and get them to stand back and objectively go, "Do you have this in place?" "No." "Do you have that in place?" So once they go through a series of, "Oh, there's a lot of I don't have," and I was going, "Well, imagine you did have them, what would it look like?" And also a lot of... You know yourself. You're just so busy dealing with day and day and day. You might plan a quarter, but you very rarely sit down and go, "Okay, I started it. For this reason, great reasons. I'm here now. Doesn't quite look like what I thought it was going to be. And what do I want to look like in the future?" And I do an analogy of a boat. And even though I'm not a sailor. I live by the sea. I've been on a boat, but yeah, but there's lots of different types of boats. There's a big, fancy catamaran and has loads of parties on it. Then there's the cruise ships that aren't like there's the cruise ships that actually participate in the Sydney to Hobart. They're operational boats, there's nowhere to relax, right? So there's tiny little row boats. There's customized Italian, fancy-looking speed boats. So there's all different types of boats. You have to think about, "What boat do I want?" Which then determines the type of crew that you want. Do you want a party crew? You know, do you want a hard working crew? What type of business do you want? If you can stand back and build it like a boat, decide on the crew, then decide on: Where are you going? What's the island? What's the... Are you in a race, or are you just going to a destination? And you have to explain that to the team that you're working with. Because if you start to build a business that is for racing in the Sydney to Hobart, that's uncomfortable, those people need to be strong and fish. They need to have a passion. They need to be prepared to die on the ocean, right? That's a certain type of person. That's a very different person from party, Riviera catamaran, that type of crew. So you need to actually explain to that going, "Okay, I started this. I felt I was built a catamaran, but as I get into this, I want this type of boat. That means I need this type of crew. We're going here and it's going to take us this long, who's in?" And now you give them an option to go, "Hmm, you know what, I need to cut. I'm out of here." Or they go, "Absolutely. Get me on that ship. I want to learn. I'm going to be the captain of that boat." So I think giving, detaching and the story of why you got there. That's lovely. But where are you going? What does it look like? Who do you need all around you? And what role are you good at? If you're good up the front, great, if you're not, are you in the engine, keeping the engine going? Find the role that you're good at and sit in it. You'll still be the owner of business, you'll still be making decisions, but you need to sit in a seat that suits your personality, especially as you get older. I think you know, Steve, you and I, the things I did in my 20s... I was a great salesperson. I could cold call the heads off people. Put me in it right now, I'm not a particularly good cold calling sales person. That's okay. I'm good with that. And so that's where we look at and then I've... You know, if somebody says to you, "I do want to help building this boat," and they hire me. I have a great exercise which starts out with a team assessment. And I send an anonymous interview to everyone on the team. It's about maybe 30 questions about how they are, what's going on for them? What works in the business, what doesn't, who annoys them in the business? Who doesn't? Where do they get their inspiration from? What do they want to achieve in the next three years? And they know that they can fill that out honestly, because I'm not giving those answers to the owner. I'm going to look at the answers and I'm going to combine them into a: here's a common theme. This is not working. And here's how we're going to fix it. Or this is working. So let's keep doing more of that. And then really quickly we go back out to the team. We have a little chat with them one on one, just in case anything was missing. Or, they might want to fix something beforehand, but straightaway we get the owner to go, "Thank you for your feedback. Here's what we're going to do about it. And we're starting today." So we do the quick wins really quickly. And it's always just a brilliant exercise for agency owners to get a real handle on culture, what's happening, what's working, what isn't. A huge eye opener. And I always make sure I deliver at the end of the week. And when they're at home, I tell them to tell their partners, "Please don't plan anything tonight. We're not going out for... We're not having a romantic dinner. I'm about to receive an awful lot of feedback about my business. There may be some emotions attached to that." So, you know, it's always that... Even for the men, it can be quite confronting to go, "Oh, this isn't working right now. And it's okay, but we're going to fix it." So I don't give the feedback and then let them stew. I go, "Here's what's wrong. And this is how you're going to fix it straight away," but I just love that exercise so much, because then it enables change management and really just unlock things. And probably the biggest revelation from that is the agency owner is an entrepreneur. We've just talked about entrepreneurs. That personality is extremely different from an employee. Employees and entrepreneurs have totally different things, the things that they want and the things that entrepreneurs want, they're two totally different things. Employees need a lot more structure, rhythm, predictability, career path, planning, and where's my agent? Where's my career going? And when can I take holidays? I need to go at five o'clock. All the things and entrepreneur goes, "I don't need any work until..." And this relationship between the two, until you sit down with an entrepreneur and go, "They do not need you. They can go... Your employee, your team can go and get any job they want. They're choosing to work with you, however you need them. So let's figure out what do they need, let's give it to them. Let's get that in place. So that you can have the business that you want because you ain't got a business until you make this... I'm not saying they lord over the company, but give them the structure and all the things that they want to make them happy." And once you do that, then you can start to work together a lot better.

Steve Brown : 

I love the analogy of the boat. I think about my agency, but I think you know, that's a perennial concept to all businesses. You start off in a rowboat by yourself, maybe you with one other person and you're off on this journey. Then later you pick up more people and you upgrade your boat a little bit and you start to change and you go through stages. And so at some point that boat starts going so fast because you're catching so much wind. You move from a rowboat to maybe you added an engine, maybe your cigarette boat, or maybe your sailboat who knows, but people start falling off the boat because you're going so fast. And yet, if the business owner or the entrepreneurs not thinking, they may still be stuck in the rowboat mindset and not realizing that, "I need to slow this down now, and I need to get things a little bit squared away. And different systems need to be in place as compared when we were just throwing in someone was fishing. And we were joking. But now it's like, there's some serious accidents that can happen here."

Clodagh Higgins : 

Right?

Steve Brown : 

What are the best stages that... What stage, the life stage of an agency. is the best for you? Where do you shine? Well, let me say this. At some point, an agency owner starts to say to themselves, "My baby's ugly." But they're not saying it right, and that they're like vulnerable to maybe listen to you coming in and going, "Hey, we're gonna get your baby in shape here." What stage is that?

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yeah, there's a couple of trigger points that sort of happen. If I go back over the years, sometimes agencies have to have a series of things happen and they lose crew. So three people leave, and all three people say the same thing. "I just don't see a future here. And I'm going to take this job. I don't really want to go." And that can really affect the agency owner so sometimes it's a calamity of, "We have all this business. We don't know what to do." But sometimes it's just this feeling of: they know something's wrong, but they can't figure out what it is. Or they're around the 10 people, 1 million marker, around that like eight to 10 people, 1 million. And every year, they just can't seem to crack that true "the million feeling" revenue. And it's generally because they haven't got the right people in the right seats, the right structure. They're still wearing too many hats. They're the ceiling. And they don't realize because, "I'm working hard. I'm doing all that..." No, no, you're... You are the reason you're not going through because you need the system. Yes, you have to need more people to be more profitable, so that you can get out and be more effective. They're the type of typical things. But then this is a really simple one. And I know a lot of us are locked in lock down and we're not in our offices. Think back to a time when you were going into your own office—and this is a huge indicator for any agency owner, actually anyone in a small business—if you go in first thing in the morning, so you're the first person there. And if the place is not clean and tidy, people haven't tidy up. There's dirty coffee cups, the kitchen's a mess, you've run out of milk. Or if that is something that happens over and over again. The reason you've got to go in early is because there's always someone who's going in early to make sure you never see that, generally a woman cuz we can see things like... Just you know, not not being and generalist but we would just go in going, "God, every time I come in here... You know what, I'll go in five minutes early, and I'll tidy up just for the sake of peace and quiet." Right? If you go in early a few times in the places messy, there could be a problem with your culture. People are not taking pride in where they work and they're not looking after each other. So if they're not looking after each other's coffee cups, they're certainly not looking after each other's work.

Steve Brown : 

Wow, that's impactful. We have a lot of StoryBrand guides that listen to this podcast. And so they began maybe solopreneurs. Maybe they have a small team. But they're wanting to figure out how to scale. They're trying to figure out how to create services that they're very... coming to their own, figuring out what their unique value is, and taking advantage of this opportunity. What's some advice that you have for them?

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yeah, with the work that they're doing, and I think this is a great opportunity at the moment to think back about the best work that you did that gets the most impact for clients. And that was profitable for your business that you enjoy doing, and you're good at doing. So if you could analyze the last five successful clients that you had, you like working with them, they paid on time, the work was profitable, you were proud of the work. It got great results for them. So if you could go through that criteria, and then analyze it and go, "Okay, in this new world that we're in right now, what packages based on the work that was excellent, profitable, all that plus what's needed in the future, what new packages could we create going forward?" And start there. And perhaps look at maybe it isn't the industry that you were used to working in, but take the work and put it in a box, create a box and talk about the box going, "We're really good at that box. Because we're very... We're experts finished, and it gets great results for you. And we love doing that work. And when we love doing work, we're so bubbly and happy and it's easier." So a lot of agencies do work that they go, "I should be able to do that." Maybe pick your lane and outsource the things that you really don't... If you don't love SEO, don't do it. Right now. It's a full time job. It's a full time person and a full time job. It's not something you kind of add in. So I think that's just... Right now it's an incredible time to really analyze the packages that you went, "You know when we did that? That was great work." And also So analyze the personalities of the people that you were working with, what was it about Jack that you really liked? There's something about his personality. And then going back to those people and go, "You know, that work that we did we really want to do more of that. Do you have anyone that you could recommend us to? Doesn't have to be in the same industry." Because you want to get that personality vibe of an open person, somebody who's good to work with, somebody who can handle the falls as well as the highs and start to build out from a core work and then a sideways on the personas as opposed to this industry if that if... Does that make sense?

Steve Brown : 

Totally. I realized, you know, I went through that process as well trying to figure out, "Alright, so we had some attorneys, we had some surgeons..." I'm thinking, "Okay, then maybe that's what we're going to do." And then the oil and gas company popped up. What I realized the common theme, actually was is you had a progressive thinking business owner. And that became what I was looking for. They need to think progressively. They need to know... They need to already come to you, they've already gone through the process. I didn't have to convince them. They already had decided, "I need to make a change here because this is my future. I'm just trying to figure out who's the best person to help me or best agency to help me go to the next stage." And that was an epiphany that I had. And it really started to resonate with us. And then I designed a package, that package, and named it. It's a very defined scope of work. And that really resonates, clicks, and they love it because they learn. They get clued in, we partner up if you will, we start to go together side by side, and then it becomes more of a partnership, but it took a long time to develop that and tested it and iterate.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yep. Yeah. And we get told sometimes I'll pick a niche. I never really embraced that advice when it was given to me at the time. I never shared that with people, I'd go, "Pick a couple of niches." Because right now there's some agencies who did put all their eggs in one basket and that could have been all hospitality or could have been on recruitment and could have been all travel and right now that... So I think thinking about the work the really great project that you went, "Geez we love doing that." But if you could do that over and over again and get better and better and better at it. And interesting enough like I feel like I'm show and tell here, I'm reading this at the moment. "Profit First." Yeah, that's... With Mike Michalowicz.

Steve Brown : 

That's easy for you to say, yrs.

Clodagh Higgins : 

And that's what he talks about is going what do you do... What's the best work that you do that's profitable? Lke what's the best best work that you do that gets the best results for your clients and it's profitable? And I think now more than ever, you've got to think about: what is the work that people are going to need? And it's probably more or less the same. It's just the messaging is going to be different. Or maybe you're doing more education than promotion.

Steve Brown : 

Most every day for the last 10 years, I've worked with business leaders such as you. And there's this common conversation that I've had over and over again. It goes a little like this, "Steve, I see other brands excelling online, and I feel we need to do the same because my customers are expecting out of us. I'm not sure where to start, but I think we need to redo our website. What's the best way to approach this?" And this is why I wrote my book, "The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your Business." It's a book designed to empower my business leader so that they have the words and the proper expectations to communicate what it is they really need and get what they really need instead of something that's sold to them, it puts them in a position of confidence and clarity. And so to get this book, it's a great read, you can go to Amazon, get it there, or you can go to thegoldentoilet.com, and click on "Get Your Copy." Now, back to our conversation. So we're in this social distancing world right now and working remotely and we've had additional barriers or hurdles thrown in our way. It's tough enough to run a business and you have your ups and downs. But now we have these additional hurdles that makes it hard. It's something that's really testing a lot of folks. What are some things that you're noticing that some of your agency owners or the folks that you're working with that are doing that was impressive or inspired you that you'd love to share with us?

Clodagh Higgins : 

And yeah, I have so many stories, but I think the kind of the one that I've seen, which is was starting before all of this if we wants to look at... I've been watching Impact, and Bob and Marcus are good friends of ours, an agency in Connecticut. And a long time ago, they started to pivot their business into more at training, consulting, teaching clients to do the work, enabling the clients to do their work. They were building academies and online training courses. And I spotted that probably the beginning of last year. I remember saying to agencies, "It's probably a good time to start teaching your clients what you do. You will still have work, but teach them the basics." And I have noticed a lot of really solid agencies right now have built their own online academies. We know that online marketing, digital marketing, it's too big to be a one stop shop. So why wouldn't you train people inside that business to do... I don't know, basic SEO. So you can come in and do advanced SEO, basic content preparation so you can come in and curious. There's just so many things that you can... Basic video and get yourself ready. You can go in and edit it make it fancy, but I think there's a huge opportunity now. I've seen Impact doing it. But then I work with a fantastic agency in Quebec, and they've changed it all into French Canadian. They're a trait... You know, everything they've seen on HubSpot and all around the world and all these different types of courses that are in English. "We've made... We have our own and we've changed this. And here we are now with their own online sales academy." And of great timing the French, or the Canadian government has given a lot of grants to businesses to upscale in digital marketing. And historically, this particular agency would have gone, "Oh, that's great. We can get five new clients today, they can get 50, 500 if they wanted." They have an online platform that teaches people how to do digital marketing. You know it as an agency, all the one on one stuff, people are just starting out, and everything from how to use Slack, how to use Zoom. There are thousands of companies out there who still haven't figured this out. So that's what I've seen is a big one is like all the things you know... It could be ROI Online Academy. 101.

Steve Brown : 

So we are in the middle of. So we have what we call the QuickStart. It's up four months sprint or a semester, and we've... We're like Chip and Joanna Gaines will come in and, and flip your house, right and then and we do it with you and then we'll pull it back and everybody cries. It's so beautiful. And but... I was just thinking of the French Canadian example. That's a great idea. We could translate all that into Texan.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Right, exactly. With all your analogies and all your y'alls. Exactly.

Steve Brown : 

But all we have we do, we're about to launch what we call the Quickstart Academy. So we're moving that way. Folks do want to learn it. But in that audience that comes and attends your Academy, there will be a percentage of those that will go, "I like working with this team. I think that we're go ahead and outsource more to them." And so we're excited about that. To have the model already in place, we're just about to launch. And that's why I'm doing this podcast is to help promote...

Clodagh Higgins : 

Brilliant, well there you go. You're streets ahead already, I think I think it's fantastic. And I think if you've been in the agency world for a while, you have grown out of the basic work, you want to do more challenging work, there's so many new things that are coming around at the moment that you're like, "I want to do that work." So you need to train people on the basics so that you can go and do the advanced stuff.

Steve Brown : 

Yeah. So I'm interested. Gve us an example of an agency or in this case, let's say do you just work with agencies, number one?

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yeah. Not just, it's kind of interesting. I do performance coaching with individuals as well. And the work that I do, it can apply to a small to medium sized business as well. I've just sort of happened into the agency world. Because that's where my sort of natural network was. But the principles that I work on business, it's any business really.

Steve Brown : 

So it can be one to one, if I was a solopreneur, a StoryBrand guide or whatever.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yeah.

Steve Brown : 

Awesome. So give us an example of someone that you didn't have.... You were really concerned whether this was going to really help them make the curve. And then it was like, a proud, fulfilling project that you worked on.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Wow. It's almost... I probably there's actually most of them are, because they're very strong personalities. They know they need to help, but there's a little bit of resistance there. And you can tell that they're like, "Oh, you fix this." And I'm like, "No, no, you needs to change you. It's not me magic. No, the hiring of me ain't gonna magic this away." And I think that the moment that I feel the proudest is when I physically see the agency owners after I work withm generally when I start working with them, you can tell there's lines, there's stress, the sleepless nights. I work with husband and wife teams, a few of them are usually I'm in the middle of a route, they are arguing with each other, but the business is running, because they're at opposite sides, and I have to break it up and go, "I'm going to talk to you in a minute and I'm going to talk to you here." So generally, in every instance, there is a set of angst, something's not working there sleepless nights, it's stressful. And, you know, once we kind of unpick the things that are going to be done and the first few weeks are quite challenging because a lot has to be done very quickly. Because as soon as the team here's "consultant," they get a bit spooked and they're like, oh changes They're coming and you have to address that and go, "I'm here to fix what's broken and improve what isn't. That's what I'm here for." So we have to move really quickly. But I physically see, there's always a point where after a few, it's still starts the beginning like this, like stress. And then there's a couple of calls that come in after a period of time. And they come on, and I can see before they say anything, and I'm like, "Oh, brilliant." It's clicking, they're starting to sleep better. They're starting to communicate better, they can see what's broken, and they know what they need to do to change and they know they've got to change themselves. And they look better. Some of them have lost weight, have taken back up their hobbies, they're getting on better as a couple, or they're just genuinely much happier in their business because it had been running out of control. It had been having a tantrum every day. Taking crayons and crayoning the home office. Very irritating, up all night. Yeah, but now the baby sleeping behaving dress nice. It looks nice, to use the baby and the boat analogy.

Steve Brown : 

The things I hear... One of the reasons I started this podcast is because I had this experience where I sat with other entrepreneurs in this class and when I'm... I just remember this point going, "Oh they're experiencing the same thing. I'm not crazy. I'm not alone. They're going through the same things." Do you do you hear? I don't know how many times I've heard that. "Oh, I'm not crazy."

Clodagh Higgins : 

I'm not crazy. Or I'm not a failure. Like, you know, that's what I'm reading in Mike's book is there's a lot of things in business are set up in certain ways that are actually set up to fail. If you can actually survive, but it's an inevitable failure the way the businesses and entrepreneurs and life is. And sometimes business are just, they're just not set up no matter how hard you work or how many hours you give. And yet that that is the number one after somebody talks to me, I go, "It's okay. There's a way out of this. You're not alone. You didn't do anything wrong. It's fixable." And then you can see. "Oh, God, thank you. Okay."

Steve Brown : 

Admitting you feel alone. And like you said, you can't talk to your employees. You can't go sit down and just have a beer because they don't understand not, not because you're better is it actually you're more... you're more weird, because you actually tried to pull this off. But to have someone to talk to and there's something about not feeling alone and realizing that you're not a failure, because you know, all your uglies. But really you've done a lot of good stuff. But yeah, often focusing on all the mistakes that you know about.

Clodagh Higgins : 

That's right, because we're kind of hard on ourselves as entrepreneurs as well. I also feel for business owners who are married and wives and kids and things like that. So there's a whole set of eyeballs you know, if there's two kids and a wife at home, there's six eyeballs, you walk in that door, who need things, who expect things, who want things, who you make promises to. Snd that can be quite hard as well. There's, "No, I'm sorry, I can't get you that your new car, love. I know I promise that to you." And then sometimes that alienates the entrepreneur. They start working hard or they don't want to go home until everyone's in bed. They don't want to see the eyeballs. And then outside of that their community if their friends aren't entrepreneurs, are guys and jobs and employees in banks or finance or whatever, they've nice cushy numbers, they play golf on a Friday. Even though they're good friends of theirs, they don't understand because they'll turn around to the entrepreneur and if they start to hear, "Oh, things aren't going great. "Their reaction is, "Sure, just get a job." And they don't understand that that can come for us could basically make us like our skin crawl. Our... I can't just get a job and there's so many reasons but to them, it's, "What? That doesn't work. I can't get a job." And you go, "No you don't understand." So I really, really feel for the entrepreneur. And that's why I'm super passionate about the podcast so that people listen to all the highs and lows. There's been, "Oh, if you don't listen to a good few of those episodes and identify with that mistake and that mistake, you know, we'll cover it. We cover them all." And I especially feel for men because I feel that women sometimes it's just easier for us. We can pick up the phone to about 10 people who let us talk and off we go again, but sometimes men don't have that right friend for that right situation. Or they're just afraid to go home. They don't want to tell the wife how bad it is because they're afraid. So I definitely feel that too. And in that instance, I just say, "Please get someone to talk to, it doesn't matter who it is where they are, it doesn't matter. Let's start the communication process."

Steve Brown : 

Guys just don't want to ask for directions. They want to try to figure it out. Or at least that's the joke, right?

Clodagh Higgins : 

No, no. It's true. No, it's true. That's part of their hunting process. I absolutely get it.

Steve Brown : 

I, in my book, I talk about... I loved sales. But the thing about sales and you'll relate to this is that everyone knows if you're hitting your numbers or not. They know what your quota is. Of all the people in your organization, the salespersons numbers are written on the board. Their quotas are written on the board, Everyone measures their performance and yet in accounting, or an HR, there's no numbers that we're measuring. So it's okay. We're out there being judged. But everyone knows when you're not hitting your numbers. Everyone knows when you suck. And being an entrepreneur, you were just talking when you go home. Everyone knows when you're not hitting your numbers. Everyone knows and you carry around... I made a business decision on... the best I could. But obviously, I made some decisions that are impacting us right now. But you're exposed and everyone knows. But that's part of the uniform that you wanted to wear. And it makes it hard to sit down and ask for directions from someone as well. It's like you're admitting I really messed up.

Clodagh Higgins : 

That's right.

Steve Brown : 

So do you have... Do they cry? You have some...

Clodagh Higgins : 

Oh, yeah, yeah, there's always tears at some point. Usually frustration. Yep. But that's good because it starts. "Great. Okay. You feel something about this." I also do say to them you can go and get a job, right? There is nothing wrong with that either. I do put that option in front of people right now. Sometimes agency owners did not realize how absolutely ridiculous days can be. And many of... I know many agency owners who just went, "You know what, I love the work, I do not love managing the people and all the hats." And so transitioning into jobs and there's nothing... The world is different. So you can go off and... I did it. I had a business. I took a job. I did a business. Who knows what I'll do. It doesn't matter. Just be happy.

Steve Brown : 

A lot of us started this agency, this business, because we tried really hard to get a job but because we were just a little bit off we didn't get hired. Or the ones that we worked for. ot was just frustrating to watch them run their business the way they were. And if we were really honest with ourselves, we would go, "You know, I shouldn't be sitting here complaining about how they're running their business. If I'm so smart, maybe I gotta go."

Clodagh Higgins : 

Right.

Steve Brown : 

And that's why we're here is like... It makes their skin crawl to think that we're going to go and get a job. Who am I? I'm admitting I don't fit anywhere.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Right. But sometimes... Like, I went back and took a job at HubSpot, and I was 40. Average age is 25. In the company. My boss was considerably younger than me. I was older than the managing director of the company. But I did it for a specific reason. I went in. I had goals to achieve and then moved on. It's different. It's not... Things aren't forever anymore. I think we've learned that.

Steve Brown : 

I think that the non-traditional way really is the traditional way. Meaning that what what's been grew up thinking was the way that you're supposed to go about your professional career is not a one size fits all. There's not a standard that you should measure yourself by. You need to figure out what what your niches and really go.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Absolutely.

Steve Brown : 

So being... Now you're a power lifter, right?

Clodagh Higgins : 

That's right. Yeah. Not so much recently. I've got some trophies from the past, and there's no competition obviously on at the moment, but I still train. I train every day.

Steve Brown : 

So how does that help you manage your agency owners better?

Clodagh Higgins : 

So I started powerlifting when I was 42. It was my first competition. And the following year, I ended up qualifying for the Irish team, so I was 43 when I was representing my country on the world stage. And I had to learn how to compete. I'd never competed internationally in big competitions. So I had to learn how to manage my mindset, imposter syndrome, how to perform under pressure, how to prepare you know, make sacrifices for preparing. I did a lot of traveling so I was training. I had to make use of figuring finding a gym. And it's to message... It's not so psycho. Powerlifting, it's not pretty and I would be like in the weirdest places in the world walking into gyms that were basically like the smell of testosterone and knock you out. There I am walking in the door, benching more or less what most of the boys are benching. And it's was a great crack. I used to mention to my... I used to text my coach and go, "Jazz, you never see where I am now. This place is a warehouse with men and sweat and weight. That's it. A box in the middle of nowhere." And so I think what that took me towards was was a performance coaching is to help people going under pressure and also working with agency owners. So I'm not only just fixing the ones that are needed the help, but I am working with agency owners that are personally trying to figure out: where do they want to go? What does life look like? And what do I want now? I've actually got the successful business and yeah, it's okay. And there's other things I want to do. Maybe they want to sell the business. Maybe they want to sell and be a part of it. Maybe they want to sell and get out of it. And so yeah, I think the powerlifting, it's an amazing community and it's such a feeling of power to lift something heavy, especially as a woman, because we were told, "Sure, you can't assure you can have lift that." Men are always running around picking up things for us. It's great. Or, "Can you manage that?" is my favorite line at the moment. "Can you manage that?"

Steve Brown : 

"Hold my beer. Let me show you."

Clodagh Higgins : 

"Yeah, I'll be alright." Pick it up with one hand. It's a great crack. So, yeah, I encourage them, and definitely women, to lift weights. And I also bring that story to a lot of people going, "Never say never." If you told me as a teenager, you'd be lifting for your country in your 40s, I would have gone, "Nobody does anything in the 40s. You're basically invisible. You may as well go to the nursing home in your 40s." That was how we grew up. It was like, "Well, when you're 40, it's all over." And it just started when I was 43. So and yeah, love us and need to... I've been to work to do in the numbers, but I put a gym in the middle of the house, so there's no excuse.

Steve Brown : 

Awesome. So Clodagh, those that are listening to this, how can they connect with you and find you? Tell us the name of your podcasts, where they can buy your book, how they connect with you.

Clodagh Higgins : 

So Agency Life is the podcast and a growitgroup.com is where everything is. The book is "Happy, Healthy Digital Agency." And that's on all the Amazons, the Kindles and I even recorded an audible if you want to listen to this Irish accent for four and a half hours.

Steve Brown : 

Awesome. Awesome. I recorded that as well as so mine's out with Texas accent here in a couple of weeks.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Boom. Isn't this the funnest experience, recording your own book?

Steve Brown : 

Yes, it was amazing. It was a different set of heavy lifting, if you will.

Clodagh Higgins : 

It was. I've done videos and scripts and I'll read till the cows come home. Three pages into read my own book, I wished I'd never wrote it. I was like, "This is HELL." I had a lovely producer as well who would say things like, "Can you say that with a little bit more energy?" It's like, "No, no, I've repeated that line 10 times now. No." So, yeah, go and listen to the book. You'd hear me getting a bit stressed. But I got it done.

Steve Brown : 

It's embarrassing how many simple words are hard to pronounce when you're overthinking it.

Clodagh Higgins : 

I know. And I had a great instance for that. Because I had planned the recording of the book. I booked the studio. I did my hallucinogenically optimistic frame of mind. I booked two afternoons. For like, for I don't know how many, 45,000 words or something. I was like, "I know how to do this. I'll get in and I'll get out and I realized after the first few pages. "I'm not..." I said to him, "I'm not getting this done." He went, "No, you're not." And I was flying to other countries, so I had to come back and book more studio time. It was all big longer. But there was one day because it was Christmas time, was at the end of the year and try to get everything done. There was one time, I had a great run. I'd done an hour and a half of all the lines. You know,when you're in the flow, the whole thing, the paragraph. It was like, "Pew pew pew!" And he turned around and he goes, "Can we have a break?" He wanted to go and have a cigarette and a coffee and take a break. And I was going, "Huh, I suppose we could." So I went and went and got a coffee and I walked around the block and I came back. And I was like, "Blech." I stumbled over every word. And he just looked at me and went, "Did you go to the pub?" It's like, "I not go to the pub. I'm here to do a professional job." And he goes, "Well, you can't say anything." And I went, "That's it. I've got to go home." And that was the end of the set. I had this hour and a half of, "Meer," a break, and I came back and I was a mess. So any tips out there for anyone who's recording their book, give it a lot of time and do it in short bursts. And don't go for a break in the middle.

Steve Brown : 

Totally. We found out that actually, I'd been doing pretty good, but something in the technology had changed. So I had to go back and redo it. It was... You're right. You have these bursts of energy and focus. And it's amazing how exhausting it can be. But anyway, it's another thing that you can expect of yourself to grow into and figure out and then... It's like, just choosing something that you want to challenge yourself.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Yeah. Or they say something like, "Can you say that again?" You're like, "No, no, take it. I don't get what it sounds like. Take it. Just no." Yeah, it's definitely one of the most interesting parts of my life.

Steve Brown : 

Well, this has been an awesome conversation. I've enjoyed it so much. We're kind of getting good at this.

Clodagh Higgins : 

We are! We'll go and hire ourselves out for other podcasts. We go, "We come as a team. We're basically doing this together."

Steve Brown : 

At least one side of the folks listening will hear and understand one side of the accents.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Cool, thank you so much, Steve. So good to see you.

Steve Brown : 

I appreciate you value you and have enjoyed you. And we'll do this again.

Clodagh Higgins : 

Definitely. Stay in touch. See you soon.

Steve Brown : 

All right, and that's a wrap. Thanks for listening to another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast. For more, be sure to check out the show notes of this episode. And feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, where we can chat and I can help direct you to the resources you're searching for. To learn more about how you can grow your business better, be sure to pick up your copy of my book, "The Golden Toilet," at surprise, thegoldentoilet.com. I'm Steve Brown, and we'll see you next week on another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast.