1 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When Your Manager Demands Out Of The Blue An Urgent Meeting, So You Screw Up Your Day To Get Ready For The Meeting, Only To Have Them Cancel Without Explanation 20 Minutes Before The Meeting Starts.
I had a manager once that would make these demands completely out of the blue, demanding that I schedule an urgent meeting with them.
Of course, I was already in the middle of something (working to complete their last demand which they had declared urgent, of course), so scheduling a meeting with them meant rearranging and messing up my day.
Now call me crazy, but I like to do this thing called ‘be productive with my time’. And so every morning I sit down, figure out my top tasks – those urgent tasks that need to get done most quickly – and then I line ‘em up and knock ‘em down.
But I schedule out my whole day, from 8am to 5pm – it’s all booked. So if a manager comes around and demands an urgent meeting, that means my whole plan goes to sh*t.
I now have to rearrange work periods – work gets spilled over to the next day and everything gets out of whack.
But hey, this is my manager, and they’re demanding an urgent meeting to discuss an urgent matter, so this must be urgent right?
20 minutes before our ‘urgent’ meeting, they cancel, with zero explanation, and no attempt to even reschedule.
It’s almost like the meeting was never that important anyway.
It’s almost like, they just wanted to tell me what to do.
It’s almost like, they just enjoyed the power trip.
It’s almost like they didn’t’ really care about us accomplishing any of the urgent and important tasks, but rather was just enjoying the fact that they could tell me what to do, and have power over my day.
It was more to test their sense of power, than it was about actually getting anything useful done.
Now, maybe I’m just naive, but I’m a very pragmatic person, and I’m all about just getting done the things that need to get done.
We’re here to work after all, right?
I’ve never been into playing power games. Not because I’m ‘nice’, but because it’s just never been part of my reality. I guess I can thank my parents for not being emotionally manipulative while I was growing up. Thanks mom & dad.
But power tripping managers are bad for business. It serves zero value to the client.
And seeing as the clients are the ones footing the bill, anything that offers no value to a client, is irrelevant and a waste of time.
So if you have a manager who’s simply out to appease their ego, and tries to silence those screams of insecurity they feel inside by lashing out and externally using their position of power to self-validate, that business my friends, is going to crumble.
It’s not sustainable.
Because any employee who’s actually decent at their job and has any sense of self-respect won’t put up with it for very long.
That manager will find it very difficult to retain good staff over the long term (and good staff are worth their weight in gold – hiring is an expensive and time consuming process – not to mention risky, as you’ll never be sure who exactly is on the other side of the desk, until you hire them, at which point, it’s kinda too late if you made a mistake).
This means, that the only staff who will stick around and accept the managers declarations, are those who either have extremely low self-esteem (or maybe they secretly enjoy being told what to do), or are so desperate for cash, they’ll put up with whatever they need to.
And in a sick way, that actually fulfills the managers deepest fantasies. They don’t really want productive employees who are good at their job and get sh*t done, they want an army of drones that are too terrified to speak up or resist. An army of dutiful subordinates who do exactly as you demand.
That is the ultimate power trip.
Too bad it’s bad for business.
Your sensitive ego brings zero value to the market.
And the market always corrects itself.
If you think I’m bad, the market is ruthless.
2 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When You Work With Simple Clients, Who Want Simple Results, But You Massively Overcomplicate Things.
If you want to be successful in business, you need to get good at reading your clients and understanding what is truly important to them.
Some clients love a show and they love big complicated solutions to their problems – it makes them feel all important.
However, most clients (and I don’t mean this condescendingly) are simple people who just want simple results.
Many clients prefer speed over perfection, and they want results they can understand.
For example: a report that clearly states how much money they spent – and how much money they made. Simple.
For example, we had one client that we told we could turn around a project in a couple days, no problem.
But then I told my manager the situation and they lost their sh*t and berated me for ‘proposing a sh*tty design’ and ‘you should have known better’.
Now, this project which I believe could have been completed within 1 hour, my manager then ‘took the reigns on’ and turned it into a 5 hour behemoth. Slightly destroying our budget, ever so slightly.
Instead of it just being a 1 person operation, they demanded that the whole team get involved – that we get the design team and the dev team and the marketing team and get ALL the cooks in the kitchen.
Of course, despite my manager taking control of this project, they failed to actually communicate with the client and tell him what was going on.
So of course the client checked in to see ‘why is this taking so long? I just want something simple, I need to launch this quickly’.
And this is the point: the manager had completely misread this entire situation.
I knew what the client wanted – the client wanted simple, no frills, just get it done and get it launched, and that is what I was working on delivering.
However, when the manager took over, they didn’t care about any of that, they just cared about stroking their ego – they wanted big and fancy and complicated!
But they completely misread the situation and just overcomplicated the project – they stepped in and made a mess – that of course then became my problem to clean up.
But the key point here is that is did not understand what was truly important to the client – they misread the entire situation.
And in the process – made us all look bad – they made us look like we dind’t know what we were doing, that we had no coordination, and the we didn’t have a clear understanding of the clients needs.
Oh, then when we delivered the work – the client obviously wasn’t happy, and sent back about 3 rounds of passive aggressive revisions – just as a stab at taking some power back, and showing us exactly who was boss here.
The manager just wants to fulfil their own ego of creating ‘high quality content’ so we ‘look good’ – but has zero concern for delivering what clients actually want: simple work that is effective and gets the job done, and on time.
3 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When Your Manager Wants A Marketing Plan That Is So Unnecessarily Complicated, That It Is Doomed To Failure.
So I do need to take a moment here to show my manager some appreciation – they planted the seed of a marketing idea that had the potential to be extremely powerful and lucrative, but it had only one drawback:
It was so insanely complicated and expensive that there was zero chance that it could ever be successful or that clients would be willing to front the investments required to make it happen.
Dead in the water as far as I was concerned.
I’ll keep this simple, but here’s a quick taste of the plan:
Run a cross-channel remarketing campaign, across all the major platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.
The idea being that if someone does a Google search one day, they’ll see an ad on their Facebook feed the next day, and then LinkedIn the day after that, etc etc. Basically, wherever they go online, there’s our ads again.
Great plan in theory, but once again it falls flat on its face in execution.
Because of that silly thing called privacy. And money.
All the major platforms introduced restrictions on remarketing – specifically that any remarketing audience requires at least 1000 members before you can use it.
So let’s just say we wanted to target: 45 yr old yoga moms with 3yr old daughters who are vegan, trying to lose weight, love travel, use an iphone and don’t like waiting in line in the grocery store, loves soy frappuccinos but hates when they’re too delicious, who clicked a link to a Whole Foods ad and is fighting to end white privilege – I mean how many of those f*cking karens do you think exist anyway??
So we’d make a remarketing audience for that list.
Oh, but then in addition to the 45 yr old karens, they also wanted separate audiences for the 25, 35, the 55, and the 65 year old Karens, so now we’ve got 5 different audiences.
And instead of just yoga lovers, they also wants cat lovers, so now we double to 10 different audiences.
So let’s be kind and assume they stop there (they don’t).
That is now 10 audiences that we need to populate with at least 1000 people. That is 10,000 people.
Let’s assume it costs $1 to get a person into in a remarketing audience, that is now a $10,000 investment.
Oh right, and that’s just for 1 platform, let’s assume we’re doing this across 5 platforms, that’s now a $50,000 investment – just to begin.
Remember, filling the remarketing audiences is only the first step, then you have to actually, you know, use them.
But what’s the client’s budget? $500.
Maybe $1500 if we’re lucky.
Another example of Classic Management – where they get over zealous and overly excited on an idea – but they are completely disconnected from any semblance of reality, and what can actually be achieved within the client’s budget.
They wanted to run a big and complicated ad campaign, not for the client’s sake, but for their own sense of accomplishment and expertise.
This was all about them, and trying to pad their resume with all their amazing achievements, so they could show off to their friends or make daddy proud or something.
Maybe I’m just a very pragmatic person, but once I understand the client’s budgets and their limitations – the question I ask myself is: great – now with this limited budget, what is the best possible thing I could achieve, that would show them some results and success?
And I work from there.
It isn’t about me and my ego and padding my resume, it’s about them – it’s about the client.
Remember: the market smells bullsh*t, and in the long term, the market always wins.
4 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When You Recommend Your Clients Invest Substantially More Money, Even Though The Money They’ve Already Invested Has Not Only Not Turned A Profit, But Has Actively Lost Money. When You’re Losing, You May As Well Lose Faster.
This is the classic reason why business owners don’t trust marketers: that sinking feeling when they want you to keep investing more money, even though the first money hasn’t shown any signs of doing anything useful.
Think about it: if you went to a marketing agency, and they said ‘yep, so that’ll be a $3000 investment, and we expect you’ll see significant returns’ (note the use of vague language – what the hell does ‘significant returns’ even mean anyway?), and then one month in you hadn’t seen any returns, but your marketing ‘advisor’ said ‘well you really need to invest more to get the exposure you need’.
Yikes – there comes that sinking feeling.
I’m not sure if marketers do it intentionally or not, but to me it feels like this weird power trip – where you want your clients to sink so much money into you, that they basically become desperate and dependent on you.
Almost like some kind of Stockholm Syndrome. It’s like, they’re so far in the hole, that you become their only saviour and chance at redemption.
It makes me sick. Personally, I hate that sinking feeling, and any time I feel I’m around someone of dubious character who doesn’t respect my money as much as I respect it myself, I get the hell away from them as quickly as I can.
But here’s the thing: this is typical in the marketing world (and lawyers too – yikes, didn’t mean to go down that rabbit hole).
Most marketing campaigns follow that trajectory, in fact, it is so common that it is laughable if it wasn’t so embarrassing. I would even go so far as to say, that most marketers, have absolutely zero idea how to actually generate any kind of meaningful returns for their clients, without just wasting big mountain-loads of cash.
And that is the crux of it: most marketers don’t actually know how to make a profit for their clients.
So they burn cash, and hope that burning more cash will start to turn things around.
Of course – they never actually take responsibility for the situation, but rather they put the blame on the client for not ‘being invested enough’ or ‘dedicated enough’ or ‘committed enough’.
I know it’s cliche to say ‘I vowed to be different’ – but I really did vow to be different. I understand that marketing campaigns can be difficult and that sometimes it does take 6-12 months to fully optimize and dial it in – HOWEVER – and I’m adamant about this – in my view it is non-negotiable that the client should see a substantial demonstration that their initial investment is paying off.
Even if it’s not perfect – if a client invests $3000, they should see at least a $3000 return that first month, or at least close to that.
That is enough of a ‘case study’ to demonstrate that you’ve got proof of concept, and that you can continue to optimize and grow from there.
Simple as that – marketing doesn’t have to be nearly so complicated.
5 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When A Client Stops Paying For Their Monthly Management Fee, But You Keep Managing Their Campaign Anyway To Keep Them Happy.
Literally insane. Go f*ck yourself. This is not how you operate a business.
Essentially we had this one client who our CEO really liked because they referred us all sorts of business. They were essentially a business consultant, and one thing that many businesses need while being consulted is to improve their marketing, so it was a pretty good referral relationship.
However, it became pretty clear pretty quick who had the power in the relationship. See, when someone refers you a lot of business, they have a lot of sway and power in the relationship, because if you upset them and they leave, not only do you lose their business, but you also lose all the potential business that they could have referred you.
Which depending on the contracts, could be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over a few years.
So we knew who was wearing the pants in the relationship.
Side note: if you have the power to refer a lot of business to a service provider, do keep in mind how much power that gives you. Because if your referrals are any good and turn into money, that service provider will do whatever they can to keep you around. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
So we bent over backwards to make this client happy.
They bought a 1-month marketing package, which by its very nature is not nearly enough, as to do a proper marketing campaign, and to test and improve and optimize, you need a solid 3 months minimum.
But the client was too cheap to pay for 3 months, so we agreed to 1 month (big mistake).
We reached the end of that 1 month, and not too surprisingly, the results were not overly stellar. In fact, the results were pretty garbage. So the client said ‘make it better’. So we asked if he wanted to extend his contract, and he never responded.
In the meantime, he had other referral clients that he kept sending us, so in an effort to keep him happy, and keep him sending us more business, we kept working on his account.
In fact, for about 3 months, while we went back in forth in negotiations, we kept managing and working on his account.
We were so desperate to make him happy, that we would do literally anything to keep the campaign going.
We wanted to have a ‘good news story’ so that he would be ‘excited’ to upgrade his package.
Unfortunately it never materialised – we weren’t really successful at optimizing his campaign (largely because the client was being difficult – again – this is why I advocate only working on systems where you can maintain 100% control).
The issue never came to a resolution – it just became the perpetual issue that went on and on and on.
But this speaks to the reason why you need to grow a pair and take full control of your business.
If you’re in a situation where one client has that kind of control and leverage over you, then you’ve got bigger problems than just that one account.
It means that you haven’t taken the reigns. You’re not really in control, and clients will always smell that on you, and find ways to manipulate and control you.
If you get paid for 1 month of work, then work for free for 3 months, you’ve messed things up pretty bad as far as I’m concerned.
6 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When You Reinvent The Wheel Every Time You Produce A Report, Meaning That You Spend More Time Producing Reports Than Doing The Actual Client Work You’re Reporting On.
Some people call me an a**hole, but to me it’s just basic math: if a client pays you for 4 hours of ‘project work’, but then you spend an additional 10 hours ‘reporting’ on that project work – the financials do not work out well in your favour. At least not in the long term.
I get it – sometimes you have a new client or a new process and it takes time to fully get up to speed – so maybe in the beginning there are a few slow months.
But if you’re several years in, and you’re still ‘messing around with your process’ – dude, your business is going to fail – you clearly have no idea what you’re doing.
This would seriously happen: my manager would demand that we do something crazy different everytime we produced a report, making them endlessly long and complicated, and convoluted. It’s like trying to hit a moving target, or thread a needle while you’re standing on quicksand – it’s just not going to happen.
We would spend more time each month reporting on the activities we did, rather than actually doing the activities.
We had several cases where the client only paid us for 4 hours of execution, but we literally spent 10+ hours doing the reporting.
This system doesn’t make any sense.
Oh and the cherry on top? The manager then demands on top of that, that you become ‘more efficient’ with your reporting efforts, because ‘we’re spending a lot of time on these reports’.
Rip my freaking hair out.
Do you want it done quickly or do you want it done custom and bespoke each time?
Because you can’t have both. And your arrogance to think you can is sinking this company.
Let’s remember here, the whole point of leadership is to help the team to make those tough decisions. But that’s the point: you have to make a decision.
Saying that you ‘want it all’ is not a decision, that’s just you being lazy and delusional.
I think this is real simple: my personal opinion is that reporting should account for no more than 10% of the total project time, ideally closer to 5%. So if the client hires us for 10 hours of work, I’d include 1 hour for reporting. Because if I spent 30 hours doing the reporting, my budget is not only shot, but it has become a critical care health crisis.
I’m talking ICU.
You’ll never grow a successful business if you keep blowing wads of cash like that. Wasting the teams time, and wasting the client’s time.
Let’s just get real – the answer is way simpler than we’d all like to pretend it is.
I believe in effectiveness, over prettiness.
7 – Signs Your Business Is Going To Fail: When Sr. Management Wastes All Sorts Of Time Developing Processes And Flow Charts That Look Cool But Are Ultimately Useless.
Seriously – we had our Leadership Team put their heads together to come up with some processes to optimize and enhance our business.
The goal was to help everyone to be more effective in their jobs, and to guide everyone as to the desired workflows.
For example – after we make a sale, what is the next action to onboard the client? Then what is the next action to notify everyone on the team? Then what is the next action to kick off the project – that kind of workflow.
Now in theory I believe this is a great idea. It is absolutely something that all important businesses need – a clear workflow, and details whos responsible for what.
Why is it so important?
So that any time you have a new hire, or any time there’s any confusion on the team, they have a document to refer back to that shows them exactly whos responsible for what, and what order it needs to be completed in.
So it’s great in theory – so what’s the problem?
Where things went wrong was that no one used them.
(Even Sr. Management).
So they wasted a helluva a lot of time – preparing this workflow document, then it effectively got forgotten about and tossed aside.
See, this is another one of those Classic Management Blunders – where management gets all excited and creates the processes – and they get all high and mighty about the amazing work that they’ve completed, but they fail to realise that it has not properly been designed to be used and implemented.
You know when management gives you a document and you read it, and you’re left scratching your head thinking ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this?’.
Yeah – that was the workflow documents. They didn’t actually make any sense in practice. The items and tasks and who they were assigned to didn’t make any sense. And even when I pointed these things out to them, they failed to actually update and improve them.
There was a complete lack of accountability, and complete lack of actually reviewing the processes to ensure they’re actually being updated and optimized.
Garbage In = Garbage Out
You can create the greatest system in the world, but if your employees aren’t clear on how to implement it – it is effectively garbage.
Management loves to come up with all sorts of ‘management ideas’ – but they’re rarely effective at actually bringing about any real and significant change.