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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Oct 28, 2020


In today’s episode we are diving into finding your WHY and how that’s the route to avoiding burnout. We talk about how we’ve maneuvered our professional experiences over time. We talk about burnout, innovation, the struggle to give yourself space for rest, maintaining boundaries between work and life, and so much more! With a reported 30-35% of professionals reporting job-related mental health concerns, how can YOU as an agency leader help to mitigate that burnout for yourself and create passionate, creative companies that serve not only your clients but your employees as well? 


Top 3  Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Let go of the idea that you need to be available for your business 24/7. Burnout can come hard and fast when the lines between personal and professional time are blurred, so it’s important to guard your personal time well!
  2. If you find it hard to turn off your work brain, step back and take a different perspective- often the pressure you feel to get something done is just a matter of a perspective shift. 
  3. Innovation can come in many forms- “Don’t be dependent on a platform or someone else’s technology for the success of your own business.” - Bob


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:


About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob: 

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken: 


Show Notes:

[1:04] Bob introduces this week’s episode- reflecting on the idea of maintaining passion for your agency life. With a high level of burnout in agency life, the concept of losing passion and excitement is commonplace. He asks for The Guy’s perspective. 

[1:51] Brad talks about the experience of working until 9pm on a regular basis and how destructive that overwork can be if you’re not careful to create boundaries. The guilt that came along with leaving his team alone to work late at night or early in the morning- he often wonders now if it was worth the time away from his baby daughter. “What’s worth my time in life, cause that’s all I have.” 

  • Reflects on the idea of being burnt out with the industry and the effort it takes to not blame the industry for his exhaustion. If you as an agency owner begin to feel like you just want to be an employee and not have to drive the charge constantly, then it’s likely time to draw some new boundary lines. 

[3:54] Bob mentions a data point in a recent Digital Day article- 32% of agency professionals reported being worried about their mental health. In America, 30 to 35% are worried about their mental health directly related to work. 

  • Gary Vaynerchucks’ agency has a room for relaxing and even handling panic attacks and other mental health issues- a specific space for employees to feel safe. 

[4:58] Brad wonders is it a problem that the company has the room to begin with or should every business have something like this? 

[6:00] Ken reflects on how it’s a sad state of the industry to see that businesses would need this. 

[6:48] Brad shares his experience visiting Facebook HQ, they had a printmaking shop on campus to provide a break from the online work that employees were doing. This serves a different purpose from the pingpong tables and cool stuff that a new or prospective employee may see. 

[8:02] Bob: “I think providing environments and cultures and trying to build cultures that are positive and you feel like you’re part of a team and you feel like you can be creative and productive.” 

[9:29] Brad shares his experience of being a self-proclaimed workaholic in the past. Now he works usually 9 to 5 or 9 to 6, sometimes bringing work home, occasionally working on the weekend. But as he’s gotten older he’s realized that that is a certain point when he just stops caring about anything other than what he needs. 


  • “To be really frank with you, I get to the point where I’m like this is my time and you’re not going to take it any longer because you’ve taken it my whole life. And I’m talking about me, I’ve done it to myself, I haven’t had good boundaries… So I’m almost militant  about it at times. This is my time.” 


[10:15] Ken says that you have to stop caring at a certain point- no matter what, I’m off. There will always be an emergency, but time is the only thing you can’t get back. So figuring out how to use your time correctly is so important. 

  • The perspective we have on a situation will make it more or less urgent, and so if something is begging for your time it might just be your perspective. 

[11:20] Bob brings the conversation back around to passion. “How do you remain passionate and how do you find that balance,” between the chaos of never having enough time and always battling for your time, while also being excited about life and your work and having a passionate pursuit of the way that you use your time. 

  • Being fully present and in the moment at all times is so difficult, really impossible. So how do you find that balance? 

[12:19] Brad says that his emotions and mental health drive the business, so when he’s not being proactive, the business isn’t being proactive. He says that there are times where he almost “checks out” for a little bit and it’s an absolute necessity to reset himself and have the ability to gauge what his priorities are. 

  • He feels a lot of guilt when these moments come to pass, and it’s always a learning experience to trust that the business will keep going and do well. There’s a struggle against the industry standard of hustling and always racing to keep up, but time and time again that anxiety does not come to fruition and things work out. 

[14:20] Bob talks about how our ego is what drives us to wake up every morning and take care of our families, it’s okay to be driven but there is a fine line there. 

  • Refers to The Power of Why by Simon Sinek and talks about how it all comes back to your why. Personally and as a company. 

[16:15] Brad talks about how we wield a lot of cultural power in the advertising industry, and so it’s even more important to have your Why at the forefront of what you’re doing, because it’s so easy to forget and let that mission get lost. 

[16:37] Ken says that the stronger your Why the less that sinking feeling comes into play. 

[17:32] Bob says that finding the thing that gives you energy and that you could do for free all day long- that should be built into your Why. He asks The Guys whether being employed or being the employer is better. 

[18:00] Brad says that it would be difficult for him to work for someone else, because he knows the stability that comes with being in control of his day every day. Owning his business allows him to be the only one that dictates his time. 

[19:03] Ken mentions the downside, that time is more fluid so it’s easier to let work creep into personal life. He doesn’t like having a schedule, so owning his business has always been the goal for him. Owning the business has become a big part of his creativity, and has morphed into his Why over time. 

  • There is a cyclical nature to the way he moves through that creativity, and typically if he doesn’t plug into rest then that creativity can’t flow naturally. 

[25:12] Ken continues: “I need that tension, and I don’t think there’s a perfect balance between it but I think that when I get in the weeds and it’s every day… it burns me out.” 

[26:23] Bob talks about entrepreneurial personalities- typically you have to have a comfort level and interest in- even a propensity for- risk. Sometimes being an agency owner means you don’t get a paycheck for a couple months- you have to be willing and ready to accept that and do what it takes to drive that creativity forward in your agency. 

[27:02] Brad says that working for others when he was young gave him a very solid understanding of business and how things work. You may want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but don’t discount the power of having mentors and learning about the business from the inside out. If you’re fresh out of college, this is a great place to start, to learn about working with and learning from people.

[28:30] Bob shares his pro/con list based on his work experience. He’s working for Five-by-Five agency in Brentwood, TN currently after running an agency for 17 years and not having a great ending to that. He was a victim of burnout. 

  • Eventually the questions of passion and energy and creativity, truly acting from a place of service floated to the forefront of his brain, and he began to step back into the industry based on his newfound passions. But the decision of whether to work for someone else again or starting something new was the next step. 

[32:10] Bob continues, saying that when it came down to it, he knew that working for someone else would make him miserable. But things slowly changed, and after working on contracting projects he found a place that fits his personality and gave him the freedom and control to do what he loves, while working for someone else. 

[34:30] Brad asks what kept him from exiting the industry altogether after the crash and burn phase. Why not walk away? 

[34:40] Bob responds that asking himself real questions about passion and drive and motivation is what kept him here, he really does have a passion for the industry, it just needed to be recalibrated. 

[37:23] Ken talks about invention and innovation, how there is excitement when a client comes and asks you to do something just right outside of your wheelhouse. He talks about the cyclical nature of innovation, how it’s new to everyone at first then slowly it becomes commonplace and there is a bit of a lag with innovation again. 

[39:15] Brad talks about how that innovation has diminished due to technology and the advances we’ve made. Making an effort to foster that innovation and creativity is worthwhile. It can be hard to find companies that are truly doing something different. 

[41:16] Bob says “I think it comes down to getting yourself back to the core of what you do…” 

[43:38] Bob continues “For me, that’s how I get up in the morning, I don’t see agency life and digital marketing and all this as just I’m going to put up Facebook ads and be the best… I try to see myself as an innovator and as a media professional. So that gives me the freedom to say ‘How can I integrate AI into data and stats reporting and Google analytics as a functionality of a product?’” 

  • He shares a recent conversation- or argument- with someone about seeing yourself as a media company or a service agency. They see media company as Fox News or NBC, where Bob thinks of media company differently. 

[45:15] Bob If you’re creating podcasts for someone and you sell and market yourself as a killer podcast producer, then you’re a production and media company. 

  • 47:15 “Don’t be dependent on a platform or someone else’s technology for the success of your own business.” 

[48:11] Ken shares that it’s difficult to be intentional about this, because we don’t realize we’re doing it, we don’t realize we’re handing over the monopoly to these platforms like Facebook, which has a LOT of vulnerabilities when it comes to revenue streams. “I wonder if old school media is actually one of the ways to diversify.” 

[49:50] Brad talks about the excitement of being in this era, that there are so many innovations and you can go in so many directions, multiple directions. 

[51:15] Brad talks about feeling built for this industry, having worked in it since he was 17. Going through the ups and downs, the adjustments and changes, he’s still here and still excited to do what he’s doing. “I do think it’s about boundaries, it’s about knowing yourself and then how you work with those inside of this industry and find your niche… there are so many lanes you can choose…”

[52:11] Ken says it’s easy to lose sight of this, without even realizing it. “Its so easy to forget about being an innovator and become an order taker.” 

[53:45] Ken continues “Overwhelm comes from a lack of focus… if you’re overwhelmed, if you’re burnt out, if your boundaries are being disrupted all the time by your work… what should your focus be on?”

[54:45] Brad suggests keeping a shortlist of a few things that stay at the top of your mind, and try to delegate interruption to others. Also: Find a hobby! One that is physical, active, and completely the opposite of what you do every day.