Big Fat Mistakes I've Made

Actually, I Could Write a Book

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Peter Madden Peter Madden
In the spirit of full disclosure, the author looks back on eight years running and growing his agency, and dispenses five bits of "wisdom" learned from, well, from screwing up from time to time. I refer to these as my Big Fat Mistakes.

Feel free to add to the list! If my editors at Ad Age took me off the 500-word leash, I could write a book, I tell ya. I'll pop in quarterly to re-visit other infamous Big Fat Mistakes, and if it gains steam, maybe there's a book here!

Acting big: small thinking! Damn you, insecurity! Instead of taking the Popeye approach -- I yam what I yam -- I attempted to make AgileCat seem bigger than it was. I wonder how many prospective clients I scared off in the process that would have been happy to work with someone with my experience -- clients who didn't want the big, scary agency? I'll never know.

Lack of collaboration. I built my own island and, in my mind, to let any potential "competitor" on it was to admit that I couldn't do it alone. The reality was, I would have made quick contacts with others in the industry and learned a ton about the biz in the process -- had I reached out to see where and how we could combine forces.

Ready, aim, aim, aim... I used to over-think so many aspects of the business, and in the end not "fire." Whether that was bringing on a new hire, taking an idea to market our business, or a making a contact in the business world, I too often hesitated. Yes, when it comes to people, you want to ensure you're making the best call. But As Malcolm Gladwell's incredible book "Blink" advises, when it comes to ideas, sometimes it's best to trust your instinct!

Cold calling: a chilly and silly way to build business. It rarely works, and this is from a guy who at one point logged hundreds of hours on the phone, hired consultants to learn the "secrets" to cold calling and bought a number of how-to books on the subject. Next time you want to pick up the phone, pick yourself out of the chair and get to any kind of networking event -- or any place where you can meet people -- and make real face-to-face contacts that will truly impact your business. And if you do want to pick up the phone, I hope you've done major homework on the business and the individual you're calling, and why you could be their "answer."

Overselling. I might as well have worn tap-dancing shoes to my first 20 to 30 prospective client meetings. Now I just wear realllllly comfortable slippers. Yes, I'm kidding. But don't put yourself in a position of being an "interviewee" when meeting a prospective client. Ask yourself if their business is right for you, given your brand and goals. Also ask what you might be able to do for the business beyond what your business does. Maybe you have a client or contact that would be a great connection for the prospect, even.

I'm interested in learning about your BFMs (Big Fat Mistakes). It's where you do the most learning. So send 'em my way and let's eat some humble pie together.
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