Abundance Through Servant Leadership: Building & Scaling Agencies with Kurt Uhlir

Episode 95 November 02, 2023 00:44:38
Abundance Through Servant Leadership: Building & Scaling Agencies with Kurt Uhlir
The Agency Hour
Abundance Through Servant Leadership: Building & Scaling Agencies with Kurt Uhlir

Nov 02 2023 | 00:44:38


Hosted By

Troy Dean Johnny Flash

Show Notes

Welcome to the Agency Hour Podcast, where we explore strategies for web design and digital agency owners to create abundance in their lives and businesses. In this episode, we're thrilled to have Kurt Uhlir, a renowned marketer, operator, and speaker, joining us from Atlanta. With a track record of building and running businesses from startups to over $500 million in annual revenue, Kurt shares valuable insights into servant leadership and agency success.

Discover why some agencies fail and the critical importance of documenting your processes for sustainable operations. Kurt's journey, from selling his lawn mowing and pressure washing business at the age of 14 for six figures to his recent focus on helping business owners and marketing agencies, provides a wealth of wisdom for agency owners.

We delve into the principles of process documentation, the ever-evolving agency landscape, and the tactics behind keeping your team performing at their best, including the concept of servant leadership. Learn how being an honest leader can drive agency growth and success.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Welcome to the Agency Hour podcast, where we help web design and digital agency owners create abundance for themselves, their teams, and their communities. That might sound like a mouthful, but it really makes a difference in your life when you can truly work and live in a place of abundance. This week, we're joined by Kurt Euler. Kurt is a globally recognized marketer operator and speaker, joining us all the way from Atlanta. He's built and run businesses from startups million in annual revenue, assembled teams across six continents. And in this episode, we explore servant leadership and the tactics behind keeping your team performing why some agencies fail, and why you need to document your process or your operations will fall apart. I'm Troy dean. Stay with us. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please welcome to the Agency Hour Podcast, kurt Euler. Now, I'm going to make an assumption that I'm pronouncing your last name correct. Is that right? [00:00:49] Speaker B: That's correct. [00:00:50] Speaker A: There we go. Where do you hail from? Where's a name like Euler? [00:00:53] Speaker B: Well, from it's correct for Americans or how I would say it, it's technically a Czech name, which everybody that's worked for me in Europe makes fun of how I pronounce my own last name. [00:01:02] Speaker A: So how would the Czech pronounce it? [00:01:04] Speaker B: I don't have enough phlegm or the Hula. [00:01:08] Speaker A: Hula. Right, got it. [00:01:09] Speaker B: I speak American and Southern. That's the only two languages. [00:01:13] Speaker A: Love it. Now, Kurt, who are you and why are you here on the Agency Hour podcast, and how did we cross paths? [00:01:21] Speaker B: Well, you all reached out, so, I mean, I'm happy to be here. I've been a serial entrepreneur and parallel entrepreneur since I was 14. Had to start two LLCs in the US. When I was 14. But I've built a whole bunch of companies, and so I've been part of more than 60 acquisitions on one side of the aisle or another. A lot of them the buy side. I've built up a successful agency and sold it. My wife built up and currently runs a successful agency. But more than that, I'm typically at big companies really growing things, and so some cases that's been providing technologies to agencies and helping them grow. Like, I helped HubSpot with their partner program back in the early, early days, did that with another company. So I'm really good at helping agencies be successful and seeing why they fail. [00:02:07] Speaker A: Excellent. So that's what we're going to unpack here. So you were at HubSpot in the days when they were affordable? [00:02:13] Speaker B: Technically, I was at a company called Vitru where we had a shared investor with HubSpot, and they were working on their partner program, and they only had a couple dozen partners in it, and it wasn't driving a lot of revenue. And so General Catalyst and Sequoia asked me to go, hey, could you go offer some advice over here? And we kind of created a new playbook that their team implemented and has become the partner program we're all used to that drives like half of their revenue. [00:02:37] Speaker A: Wow. What were the two LLCs that you started when you were 14? [00:02:42] Speaker B: So one was actually in flea markets selling like, swords, knives, martial arts equipment. It turned in big ecommerce company. And the other one was, what do you do when you're 14? You do lawn care and pressure washing. Pressure washing became a bolt on service. But I ended up selling that business when I went to college for six figures. Not a huge deal, but enough that it was like it paid for some really good, really good couple of years. [00:03:05] Speaker A: Oh, my gosh. When you're 14, why weren't you just like playing football or chasing girls or something? Why were you thinking about business and entrepreneurship when you were 14? [00:03:19] Speaker B: Well, a little two reasons. One, my dad had always been in technology. He had retired but was working on Redstone Arsenal. And he's one of those personalities in just DNA. He didn't sleep, like, until his third round of cancer. He slept about an hour and a half a night, and then he slept like a normal. Like he wouldn't let me sit and be bored. I had to be doing something. And so I was like, well, I'm mowing our giant lawn. Maybe I go mow the neighbor's lawn. Well, that was at 13, and I had enough friends on staff closing out. One my 13th year, I was like, dad goes, their government's going to want their piece. And then he didn't tell me much more besides I was going to have to pay taxes. He basically made me figure it out myself, which was part of, I think part of growing things and figuring out operations, going forth. He told me it was a problem, told me I had to solve it, and he knew I could do it. And then he didn't say anything else. Now I'm sure he's behind the scenes being like, okay, he's talking to an accountant, that's good. But I had to figure it out. And so I had to go have big boy conversations, big girl conversations when I was 14. [00:04:31] Speaker A: Wow. And was this like, when did you realize that being an entrepreneur was your obviously you come out of school. I don't know if you went through college or anything. I dropped out of college because it didn't kind of suit and the structure didn't suit me. And I realized that everyone that was teaching me at college was too incompetent to actually have a real career. So they just came back to college and taught me how to do it. And I was at teachers college, which is the saying is those that can do, those that can't, teach, and those that can't teach, teach teachers. And so I was like, being taught by the worst anyway. But at some point you realize that solving problems and being an entrepreneur is your calling rather than going down the traditional route of just having a corporate gig for 30 years and then getting a golden handshake? [00:05:18] Speaker B: Well, a little of both. For the most part. I've been in the corporate world helping big companies, but I have this passion for small businesses, entrepreneurs. It's much closer to true sales to me, and true discipling people. So how do I multiply myself? Well, you have a business of five people or 15 people. That's why I continue to work most of the time. Now, what I realized, and I didn't realize it until I was probably my late 20s was I'm really good at operating. I tend to come into marketing roles. Sometimes companies will bring me in more on the strategy side. But what I didn't realize until I go and look back was the reason I was good at 14 was I just systematized everything. I realized that, Whoa, wait a second. I can walk down a neighborhood and sell 50% of the houses on there. Well, the problem then is, how do you get those lawns mowed? Well, that's no different than after I was working on my Master's program, and websites were a thing. I mean, it was like it was coming up new. We were no longer doing dial up bulletin boards. And I walked into the first financial planner in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I sold my website for like, $2,000 or something. And that was crazy money back then and like, $150 a month, like, hosting and maintenance plan. And I was like, crap, that was easy. I didn't even have his website built yet. And I walked to, like, an estate planner across the street, and I'm like, Well, I'm doing their website site. Can I do yours? And I ran into the same problem. I could sell really well, but selling people that sell, maybe start agencies, but if you can't run things behind the scenes, everything just falls apart. And so when I look back, my story has always been identifying the systems that need to be in place, documenting what needs to be done, and then handing off what I can so I can go mad scientist. Some other crazy part of my business. It applies very well whether I've helped take a company public, and it applies very well for entrepreneurs that are building up an agency. [00:07:15] Speaker A: Talk to us. What can you tell us about some of the companies that you've been involved in acquisition either buy or sell. I think this is just interesting purely from an academic point of view, but I think it's interesting to understand what a business needs to look like and what the environment needs to look like for a successful acquisition to take place. [00:07:35] Speaker B: Yeah, great question. I'll start with many of my transactions were at this company called Navtech. It's now called here technologies. We all use Google Maps and something. Google Maps is behind our ad targeting. Well, this company is still larger than that for maps. We took it from 85 million a year in revenue into ten years at 1.44 billion. And so we were literally the mapping data, traffic data globally, whether it's Australia, Britain, China, we had to do joint ventures there. We had cars in the road decades before Google had their cars. [00:08:07] Speaker A: Wow. [00:08:07] Speaker B: Well, I joined in 2000. Well, think about then. We didn't have smartphones then, so MapQuest used our data, rand McNally and all these travel guides. The printed maps were actually our data that they would print. And so I came up almost as a management consultant with car navigation Systems and MapQuest. And then back there, I helped build Microsoft Flight Simulator using our data. And so I was like at this nexus of eleven different industries. So a lot of acquisitions, a lot of investments. And that taught me a lot of things where I started to realize, like, I wrote a lot of stupid checks then because we took a company public and I had stupid money for a little while before I did stupid things. And to your point about what does a company need to look like, when I acquired things, I would turn away from companies that I didn't realize I was actually investing in. If you're building an agency or a technology company, you need to build something that is repeatable and will run without you showing up. If you have to show up to run the business, especially as an agency owner, you're going to get a really low multiple if you ever sell that thing. And so things have to be documented. It has to be running. And so I think the thing for anybody is I don't care whether you're a CEO of a $50 million SaaS company or a marketing agency that has 25 employees, half of which are in the Philippines, do you have an operator that basically is running all of your day to day operations? And as soon as you can, then you need to get somebody to replace you from the sales side. Doesn't mean you can't still step in and do those things, but to package up anything for selling, you have to not be the driver and doesn't mean you have to sell. But that's also what a lifestyle business that looks like that you would want to live in for you and your family. [00:09:46] Speaker A: Correct. And this is a really interesting distinction, right? Because I talk to a lot of agency owners who I think that they say, I'm never going to sell the business. And I think the reason they say that is because, one, they're young and they feel like they're going to live forever. And I just turned 50 this year, and I've had friends die in their late forty s and early fifty s. And I can tell you now, I can guarantee you, no one lives forever. And at some point you are going to have to think about how to unscramble the egg that has become your digital life and clean that up and hand it over to your family before you die. Because if you don't, your family is going to inherit a shit show and they're going to have to kind of go through the weeds and try to figure out where the needle is in the haystack, so to speak. The other the other thing, the other reason I think people don't think about this is because they're afraid. They don't know what's involved, right? And so they think, oh, well, that's just too big for me to get my head around. Now, what I find what's interesting is that if you can get a business running without you and you don't sell it, it's still a great asset that turns a profit, and you can go sit in the hot tub or do other things, right? Or think about other projects or spend more time with your kids or don't volunteer at a charity or whatever you want to do. Have some or invest or coach or mentor others. [00:10:54] Speaker B: Well, let's raise the stakes for people even that much more. I agree with everything you said, especially about your family. Maybe they don't have a family yet. They're thinking about it. They haven't thought about it yet. But the moment you have employees, what you should realize is whether you have a family or not, you are providing not just for your family, but their families. And so if you get hit by a bus, not just does your wife or husband need to figure things out, but now the 20 people on your team, they have to figure something out because it's not just your family, it's their family. And that raises the game for things. And it doesn't mean that you can't be really involved. I love working. I don't need to work most of the time. I love working with people in the best. I've mentored people. I've coached people, which is great, but it's like, hey, somebody gives me a big check to coach them as a CEO or CMO and it's like, great. I talk to them for like two or 3 hours a month. How much mentoring do I do on that? Very different than if I work for you or you work for me, Troy. And so that's why you want to be in a place where you can pour into people that way. And then if you're really good at sales and you have somebody leading sales, then go do mad scientist sales stuff and then go, hey, guess what? I just tripled the business. You all need to figure this out now. And they'll love you for that. [00:12:07] Speaker A: Yeah. I think the other reason that people don't I think agency owners believe they're unicorns. There's no one that can do this as good as which is which we can unpack and is a complete myth. And really, I think what it comes down to is it's interesting, this conversation, a Facebook group that I'm a part of recently, and someone know, what's the biggest challenge that you've had over the years as an agent? It's a pretty boilerplate question, someone who's fishing for kind of pain points, but the first answer was letting go. The hardest thing someone mentioned the hardest thing for them has been letting go of control because they feel like no one can do it as good as them. And I also think people feel useful and worthy if they're doing the thing right. They don't feel like taking a step back and documenting it and empowering the team to do the thing. They don't feel like that, well, what am I doing? What's my role now? How am I relevant? Where do I fit in? Right? And so they have to shift their identity and their kind of self worth has to shift as their role shifts. [00:13:08] Speaker B: Yeah, well, things scale so much more, though, when you have the margin where other people are running those main pieces. I think too often with agency owners, we get into those spots because we're really good at some part of marketing or all of it. Maybe I'm really good at pay per click. Maybe I'm really good at design or SEO, which okay, I find many of the people I hire, I'm better than they are at almost every role I'm hiring for. The problem is, if I'm stepping in and I'm teaching them like, 5% improvement, 10% improvements, one, they're not really growing, and it's so defeating for them. And then it ends up getting into this micromanagement role too, where it's like they're treating the clients the exact way I tell them to when none of us realize that they have a better idea. And if I just step back and it would be different, then, hell, I love now, actually, when I'm able to have people running operations for me. I was running this gigantic in house and external content marketing team. We generated 5 million plus words of human written AI enhanced content in just 18 months. And so where did I get the most enjoyment? Setting up the processes was great, but I had basically a factory manager that would kind of run most of that. And then I got to step in with junior writers, and instead of telling them how to improve things, I just did it with them. And so they grew so much faster. Had this woman on my team, Maddie. She's probably I think she probably only worked me for two years. She's more seasoned at this point than some people that worked for me for ten years via my old Style 100%. [00:14:42] Speaker A: We were talking in the green room before we hit record here. The number one conversation I have around team with agency owners is they say, Well, I'm not ready to hire someone because my processes aren't ready. So, you know, how do I hire a project manager if I don't have a project management process? And what I need to do is I'm going to document. I see this all the time. I had a client once who fired seven project managers in a year, in a twelve month period, right? I said, listen. I sat it down. I said, listen, what's the common denominator here? It's you. Because what you're doing is you're hiring project managers and then trying to teach them how to do things your way. And let me tell you something, you're a terrible project manager. So why don't you just hire someone who's really good at what they do? Get out of their way, give them everything they need to succeed, and then let them document their process, right? So what's the fear here? What are we afraid? Like, why do we think we have to document everything before we hire someone? Why don't we just hire them and document it with them? [00:15:43] Speaker B: I think so often people will say that we're perfectionists. But what the reality is, if you dig into that, is you're scared. You're scared you're actually not as good documenting. You're scared you don't have everything figured out. And the moment you just admit, I'm a scared little seven year old that's out in the woods by himself without a flashlight, okay, then we can work through like, I'm pretty good at documenting. And I say pretty good, I'm really good if I take a long amount of time. I hired this woman, Mandy, on my team. Mandy's superpower more than anything. Just so many things. Wonderful. But she can watch anybody do something and just document it. Like SOPs that you could hand it off to a 50 person team to just go and scale something. There'll be processes interlinked to each other. You bring her in your company, the world changes. You get hit by a bus tomorrow. I mean, at that point. And she does it effortlessly because she's seeking to understand. And so she'll take a crack and then she'll ask you to read it. Then in my case, I always put it off. So she forces me to read it and come back and ask me questions like, well, what about this here? And I didn't understand what you did there. That's not things that I would do as an agency owner. And so a documentation should there's two things. There's one just a process, and then there's the handoff version. And they can be different levels, but the handoff version should be like if you weren't talking to somebody, is there a video or word that would explain everything to do you need somebody like Manny to walk through and do that for you? [00:17:14] Speaker A: Yeah. And I've heard this argument a lot. Good budy of mine, Dave Jennings, is a he kind of coined the phrase systemologist. Right? He's got a business called Systemology. He wrote a book called Systemology. He trains coaches in kind of systems thinking. And he also helps small business owners sell by basically building out their operations manual and adding value to their business. John Warlow has talked a lot about this on Built to Sell as well. It's a fabulous podcast. He talks about every time you add a process and SOP to your business, which can be run by more than one person in the business. So you're building redundancy. You're actually adding value to your asset. I've got the attention span to make a video and explain how I do something right, even if it's a screen share or even if it's on a phone, I'll just turn the phone on and go, here's how I think about this, and here's how I do this. I don't have the attention span to document something beautifully and interlink it and all that kind of stuff. How much detail do you think is required in process documentation? Is it to the point where you can hand it to a 17 year old who walks in and knows nothing and can actually turnkey run it? Or is it high level enough that someone can kind of get through it, but they might have to fill in some blanks? [00:18:25] Speaker B: I think it depends on what it so, you know, in the last two or three years, I've become one of the world's top experts in enterprise SEO. Topical SEO. Corey Tuberg is tutoring me on some things. The way Corey thinks about image rules for SEO is it's at a level that some people think about organic chemistry. It's so detailed. And so if we stay with that example, I would do two different my image roles would be different, like, what images do I want in this content piece to help it rank on Google, I'm going to do two versions of it. I'm going to write one set of my roles that I'm going to force everybody in the roles to read through once because I can't go buy the book anywhere. And it's my version. Having read like 200 Google and being patents, this is my version of why I think it works. Then there's the checklist version, which is the one to two page flip through, make sure it's got these components. I think both of those are very important. I'm probably going to do the first or do that simple version in the video, or that's the law of a Kurt. I'm going to have to talk out loud. That more detailed version that I would need somebody like Mandy to write that I need to do. Because it's the repeatable bit like your business gets to be able to grow from that system thinking. The reason I'm great at ahead of growth marketing CMO for large B, two B companies, it's because I don't want to diminish people that are creatives, that come up with a cool idea. But it's like anybody can come up with a cool idea knowing when you add another million dollars to a pay per click campaign for an ecommerce company that's growing, that's a systems level thinking that's not just like, hey, we have a good idea. Let's go buy a Super Bowl ad. That's what modern marketing looks like. And so when you get good at documenting all these things we're talking about, it also changes how you will approach all of the campaigns for your clients and then everybody's successful. [00:20:20] Speaker A: Two questions I have around this is this landscape that we play in changes so quickly? How do you manage your process documentation so that it's up to date and it's relevant? Because you could give me a process and I could be following it in three months time. I could go, Kurt, something's changed. This is out of you. How do you keep agile with your process documentation? And the second part of this question is, what role does AI or what role can AI play in helping you document and manage the processes, given the fact that things are changing so quickly? [00:20:56] Speaker B: Well, on the second question, now that I can start talking to Chat, GPT and other AIS documentation, I think is going to get a lot easier for some of these things because I love doing voice notes and Loom sessions. And so the moment I can start speaking into that and say, format it in a way that's an SOP or give it one of my SOPs, I think that's a game changer totally. There's parts of it with what we're doing that changes very frequently. And then there's a lot of it where it's like when you document things and you start to hand stuff off and you don't touch that anymore, creating images. I had a woman on my team out of the Philippines, never actually spoken to her on anything except for slack like Chat. Incredible. And so I would do for Enterprise, SEO. Here's my implementation for when my team writes these detailed articles, 5000 word articles. Here's everything you need to follow to get it into the site. That changes a lot. I mean, there's been a lot happened in just the last two or three years, especially in Enterprise SEO. Well, when do I notice it? Well, because I just hand off the implementation. Now I have time on my calendar to go through and go look at the most recent article that comes out and say, what don't I like about it? And I realized it wasn't her fault because she was following the SOP I gave her nine months ago. Now, what I don't like about it is what I've learned from my mastermind sessions and working with other agency owners. And so I go, oh, I need to update the documentation, like assuming that she followed. But usually when I document things, my teams follow it very well, or they come back to me to tell me why my process is wrong or why we should do something different. I love getting that feedback, but they implement things the way because it's not my process, it's then our process. So if I don't like the end result, it's the process and it's my knowledge, and I need to get it out of my head and realize, all right, am I the one getting out of my head? Do I have a Mandy I can give it to? And she can go update the document? And I think that's then what you should be doing with things change, and not everything changes. I mean, how we write content does change, but it more depends. Now, I can put out a website with a million words, original AI content. Is it going to rank? Well, I might go like this. That's very different than documenting how do I AI enhance stuff that I have a content team writing to make them maybe 30% to 50% better? [00:23:17] Speaker A: And I think you're right. There are principles and fundamentals that largely don't change, right? And then there are things like, well, we're using this tool to do this thing. Do you document that or do you just say, I don't know that we're getting in the weeds here, but I know people are going to ask, and I'm hearing my audience go, Troy, ask her about you. Do you go, well, hey, when you're in SEMrush or Ahrefs, this is what you do. Or do you just link off to their support documentation? Because, you know, they're probably going to keep it up to date. [00:23:44] Speaker B: If it's something like especially like an Hrs or an SEMrush, they're keeping it up to date. That's going to be core research. I'm going to show that I'll usually have an internal Loom video that I'll walk through my approach to keyword research, which is going to be different, but I'll link off to those things as much as I can. But as far as specific tools, I'm a tool addict, not just like AppSumo. I mean, I don't know how many SaaS tools I sign up for on a monthly basis and then churn them back out. And so I always have the core tools that the teams I'm working with, this is what you're using. And then I give them the flexibility to try new shit, and then I tell them what I'm testing. And when I start to test stuff, I add it to a separate trello board that says, hey, I think this hippo video thing is a great thing, Troy. You should test it out. And then that kind of hands it off for you to figure out. What do you think before we may go change our core processes? [00:24:39] Speaker A: Love it. You and I going to get along really well. My CEO, Emily, has an Asana board where all of the stuff that I sign up for gets added because I forget. And then within 30 days, they go, Are we still using this? And I just go, no. Yes, no, yes, no. And then they go, cancel all the subscriptions for me because otherwise I end up with this huge subscription bill. Of shit that I'm not using. So in terms of I want to get tactical here about team. I had an interesting conversation recently with someone about team who's really struggling to get their team to perform right and just catching stupid things that the team shouldn't be like a grammar check on a blog post that goes out and it's like, come on, this is just like basic 101 stuff. I have some theories about this particular individual, but anyway, I won't go into the details, but I think they're being micro. Well, I think from the start the team's being micromanaged too much, right? And so I think what happens then is the team go, well, dude, it was just your process. I followed your process and I have no autonomy here, so it's not my in. Before we push record, you talked about servant leadership, so I'm a huge fan of all the leadership stuff I've learned from Ramsey Solutions. They talk a lot about servant leadership. I love Jonathan Raymond's Good authority book. I think it's the book on leadership as far as I'm concerned. I also love all the stuff that's come out of Ken Blanchard and that whole world around servant leadership. What is the key if you're building a team and you're an agency owner that hasn't really had a lot of experience building a team even if you're outsourcing, right? As far as I'm concerned, it's the same kind of thing if you're outsourcing or you're building your own employees. What is the key to growing a team and leading that team to get them to make decisions as if they were the owner and to basically make the same decision that you would if you were in the room but without micromanaging every freaking detail that comes up on a day to day basis. [00:26:48] Speaker B: There's two big answers I have to that question. And so one is we'll get to it about the type of person that you hire. Most people are hiring for characteristics that are the wrong things to hire for. And the first one, yeah, is on servant leadership. What I find holds so many agency owners back, heck, so many CEOs of billion dollar companies back is they may be the nicest person, but at the end of the day, there's only two types of leadership. To me, there's an authoritative which underlying it basically says do what I say the way I say it, where there's the door and your ass is fired. Or there's a servant leadership approach which says, look, it's my job as a leader to make sure everybody, including the janitor, understands the outcomes we're trying to accomplish, how their role and what I'm asking them to do. Because what I pay you is no different than what any other company would pay you. It's the same amount 100 grand is 100 grand. And so I need to explain to you why what I'm asking you to do is going to help the company achieve the outcomes and tell you what I want you to do, but be open enough to the fact that I might be wrong. And so I think when people approach that leadership is it's binary like that it's either strictly authoritative or I'm here to serve you in accomplishing the company, which I may own, all of it helping you accomplish what I and we think the outcomes are, well, that changes how I interact. It changes the fact that I might be wrong about things as well. And you need to know that people push back and they're like, no, I know I'm right and this is what I need my team to do. I can guarantee that any agency owner listening is wrong about three fundamental things in their business today, and they have no idea about it. And I say that as somebody who has consistently if I look back, I uncover things and realize I'm wrong. We helped social media management. We all schedule stuff online. I was at one of two companies that started that for the enterprise. Samsung, Mobile, Apple, all user products. And Hootsuite was the distant number three for individual people. We at the board level said we need to build these local agencies that go out and to meet our clients where they're at. So we hired like 25 or 30 local account managers. And about six months in, we looked at the data and we realized it was fundamentally the wrong decision. We made that decision and by like that Thursday, we fired almost all of them. [00:29:15] Speaker A: Wow. [00:29:15] Speaker B: Well, we didn't make that decision because we knew it was wrong. We thought it was right. And so when you're wrong and when you're right feels exactly the same until you actually find out from the data that you're wrong. And your team is more likely to see that with the work they do when talking to clients than you are. And if you're there to serve them, they will be open enough to tell you. I don't know if you're wrong, Troy, but I think this is not the right thing that we should be doing for this client. Or I think we should fire this client rather than before they become a difficult client, because we all have been there. So that's part of it. The second part is about how you hire. Too often we hire people that are really good at what they do. You're the best designer I've seen or somebody I want to go to the pub with. And I hire people that I don't care if they ever want to hang out with me personally or not. I'm going to love them when they're at work. But I want to hire people that I'm going to see certain cultural traits based on how they show up and interact. They have a bias towards action. They don't wait for me to tell them what to do when the client has an issue they pick up the phone and call the client to find out what's going on. People that have a strong opinion and go, here's what we should do, Troy. And they're open to me giving them a different idea. All of my job resumes say this are you okay with healthy conflict that scares so many people off today? [00:30:35] Speaker A: Yeah. 100%. Yeah, totally. Yes. I love this. [00:30:40] Speaker B: Most people aren't. I've had people go, I don't want to work because I don't want to come work in a conflict place, but can you tell me what healthy conflict is? And then they write me back six months later because I still have a call with them. And they go, you changed the relationship with my wife. Yeah, because at the end of the day, if you and I are out hiking and we see some mountaintop and you think we should go that way and I think we should go this way, at some point we have to make a decision, and maybe I can acquiesce and I go along with you. And if it turns out you're wrong, how is it not going to feel bad, shameful for you? Like, I'm going to rub your nose in it a little bit in there. It's the same thing. Anything at work as well. This is what the client needs us to do. You want to have that decision up front with your client. You want your team to have the decision up front with the client now versus nine months when your client is firing you because, well, you all didn't do what I wanted you to do anyways. I knew we shouldn't have done your plan, have that conversation up front. And that's in people before they I mean, you'll see that in their interactions. Nobody ever says, hey, I'm really good at conflict, and comes in and yells. [00:31:43] Speaker A: Yeah. It's interesting because in those moments where you're having healthy conflict, it feels a bit scary. Right. And the reason it feels scary is because in my experience, every time I've been in there and it's interesting because I think it's only in recent times that I've been able to articulate what that feeling is. But it's a feeling in my gut, right. And I feel a little bit scared because I know I'm about to put myself out on a ledge. I'm about to be vulnerable. I'm about to say or do something that might make other people uncomfortable, and that's going to make me vulnerable. Right. And the moment you do it, there is those fleeting seconds where you feel like a friend of mine said recently, I'm like a raccoon hanging on the outside of a brick building. You have that feeling, and then the second or the third person come with you. They step into that space with you. And then I feel so powerful in those moments. I feel so strong and so right. Because people have followed the lead, right. Not the leader. Or the leadership. People have followed the lead and they've stepped into that space with me. And I go, great, now we're having a real conversation. Now. This is the work. We're actually doing the work now we're not just trying to please everyone and be beige. This is where the real decisions get made in this moment of healthy conflict, right? And I agree 100%. And it's taken a long time for certain. Some team members, some have been quicker at it. But I've always said to my team, beg forgiveness, not don't ask permission. Like push back, make decision. You never get in trouble for making the wrong decision, but you will get in trouble for not making a decision because then you make me responsible for all the decisions and I'm only one person, right? [00:33:38] Speaker B: Yeah. Well, I agree with everything you said. And then the other part of that is you have to model not just the fear of stepping out when you don't want to have that conversation, letting people follow you. You have to bring out as publicly as you can, especially if you own the agency or you're a leader at some big company, you have to bring up your failures to your team so that they're going to be comfortable bringing things up to you. I go back to about this time last year, I had a gentleman on my team, another leader, and I probably went almost three full months past where I should have brought up a healthy confrontation thing where we were. Just butting heads, and it was eating on the inside of me, and I was getting upset, and it was bubbling up like it was spilling out of my glass. When we're in meetings, And I finally realized it and I went to him and I did exactly what you said. And so we made up right then, and I said, look, I've been acting this way for the last 80 to 90 days. It's my fault. You started it, but I didn't handle it well. My next all team meeting with 30 people, I walked through the whole I didn't walk through the private details, but I walked through everything public. And I said, look, we ask you all to do healthy conflict, and I failed about this. Some of you have been in meetings with me, with this person, and this was the result of me not approaching this. We've made up. But you all need to know that I didn't do this right either. I had three people reach out to me with completely unrelated things going on, going like, hey, I don't know if this is a problem yet or not, Kurt, but I need you to know this is going on in the like, you have to model that vulnerability and step out into the fear in a way that gosh you don't want to do. Because, like, you watch most people that have basically a PR person behind them doing podcasts and writing all these press pieces, and it's like, you think they're the Superman Wonder Woman of all meetings. And it's like, that's not what your team needs. Your team needs to know you're a real person and you screw up. And if they screw up, you're not going to necessarily fire them for it, but you want to know ahead of time. [00:35:39] Speaker A: Yeah. This is kind of a weird story, but it's relevant. Last night I was putting my son to bed. He's six years old, and he's obsessed with octonauts, right, at this TV show, and he's building these worlds in his bedroom. He's like, dragging every stool in the house into his bedroom, and he's building these amazing worlds with all these octonauts toys. And two nights ago, I'm sitting on his bed watching him, and he's like, dad, dad, you got to help me do this thing. And I'm like, well, I'm the supervisor, right? So I'm going to help you sort of work out what needs to happen, and then you can do it. And so then last night, he's like, dad, can you be the supervisor? He said, you be the planner and I'll be the builder. I'm like, oh, awesome. And so I'm kind of helping him plan it. And then he said, what do you think we should do next? I said, well, I said, Oscar, really good planners understand that the builders are the one down on the ground building the thing, and they've got a really good vision of what's going on, whereas the planner sits up here and can't really see the details. So I want to know what you think we should build next because you're the builder. And then I'll kind of give you my well, his eyes lit up. He was like, you want to know what I think? And I was just reminded of that moment. It's like how easy it is to let someone know that their opinion matters. And we had the best time watching him build things out of kitchen stools. Rather, he felt so empowered and he felt this sense of autonomy that I had kind of let him do that. It was an amazing moment, and it was just reminding. [00:37:11] Speaker B: I love hearing that with your son. That applies with your content writers and people on your teams as well. You can probably do most things 5% 10% better and improve almost anything that you see, but if you step in and give that, it's deflating. Like if every time you were there being like, no, no, this needs to get moved over, there they go. But if you just go, yeah, hey, can I just do this with you next time? Then it doesn't feel like teaching. [00:37:38] Speaker A: That's right, exactly. So, you know, Max and I were talking the other day about I was talking about this from a parenting context, but it's true in any of these contexts that we're talking about. And I can't remember where I learned this. But the two ladders, like, imagine the confidence and the competence ladder, that you climb both ladders at the same time, and your right foot's on the competence ladder and your left foot's on the confidence ladder, right or vice versa. Your left foot's probably on the competence ladder and your right foot's on the confidence ladder. And our job as leaders is to because as you climb the competence ladder, one of your feet gets stuck on the confidence ladder. You can only climb so high on the competence ladder as the confidence ladder will allow you. Right. And vice versa. So our job as leaders is to boost our team's confidence so that they are then willing to try new things to become more competent. And the more competent they become, the more confident they become. It's easier and faster and cheaper to boost someone's confidence and let them become more competent than it is to try and boost their competence. [00:38:41] Speaker B: Absolutely, yeah. Because we're real people. Our team members are real people. Wherever that in the world, things come up. And so I need to give them confidence in their work product, and I need to give them confidence that when things come up and their spouse gets cancer or they get into elder care or something happens with their kid, says, look, you still have a job. We have to pay the bills. Profit does matter, but at the end of the day, I want you to I had a woman on my team. Major medical issues happened last year. I think she called me before she called her parents to let me know she had stepped out of the doctor's office. Major medical thing going on because she was worried about what it would look like for the company. She ended up pivoting her role because the rehab was going to be very different than the role. That what she used to have. She ended up because she was upfront with me, man, we completely changed her role. She became more valuable to me than she ever was before from a work perspective. And whether or not she was at her desk at 04:00 P.m., I didn't care. And so that's part of being able to show up to people. And confidence comes from both the work product or helping your son build things or watching build things, but it also comes and saying, look, we're building something together. And yes, I need to be profitable this month, but I'm trying to do this over the next one year, two years, three years. And Troy, you're critical to that. So when things come up, I want to know about it because I want you to be productive for us over the next three years, not just the next three months. [00:40:16] Speaker A: Yeah, love it. You mentioned that you stepped out of a role recently. What are you doing at the moment? What are you currently playing with and what are you looking forward to? Over the next few months, I'm entertaining. [00:40:31] Speaker B: A lot more paid keynote roles. So I just stepped out of a three year role with EXP Realty, the largest independent real estate company in the world, which is really cool. But it also meant I had turned down a ton of paid speaking gigs. And so I've been working with Vinyang and some other people, and so I'm hoping to get back on that circuit. But really I'm spending a lot of time with AI right now, and I'm enhancing a lot of my own writing. And so I'm probably writing about 5000, maybe 12,000 words a day right now. Wow. Now I'm probably only writing four days a week, but I'm writing a lot right now and I'm experimenting with different things in different formats and seeing how I can repurpose content. So I'm kind of mad scientist seeing stuff until I figure out what I kind of want to do next. It's hard for me not to be at a big, established company. I'm a scaler. I have this heart for wanting to help people, smaller businesses and agencies grow, so I always find time to talk to people like you that are doing that day in and day out for them. But I tend to help big companies become like massive companies. And so I love the dials and the knobs, and so those roles often don't happen frequently enough for me to be interested in them. So we'll figure it out. I've got a mountain property. I'm good. [00:41:46] Speaker A: Yeah, that's great. I love it. Awesome. Kurt Euler, it's been so good having you on the Agency Hour podcast. I'm so glad that we made the connection. Where can people reach out and keep in touch with you. And thank you for this and say good day. [00:42:01] Speaker B: My personal website, kurt Euler. Uhlir.com, we talked a lot about servant leadership. That's actually the biggest topic that I'm writing about right now. And if there's something somebody wants to ask a question about that I haven't covered, I will almost guarantee I will write an article about it or find somebody to interview about it. [00:42:18] Speaker A: Love it. Awesome. Thank you so much for being on the Agency Hour podcast. Look forward to keeping the conversation going. Thanks again. [00:42:25] Speaker B: Thank you. [00:42:26] Speaker A: Hey, thanks for listening to the Agency Hour podcast. And a massive thanks to Kurt for joining us. I really enjoyed chatting with Kurt, and we'll definitely have him back on the podcast in the future. Okay, folks, please don't forget to subscribe and please share this with anyone.

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