Advice on improving firms - starting with the CEO

Here are some key tips based on my consulting and coaching work with CEOs and top management of PR firms, as well as my 30-plus years in the PR business, for CEOs who want to improve their own performance and that of their firms:

Here are some key tips based on my consulting and coaching work with CEOs and top management of PR firms, as well as my 30-plus years in the PR business, for CEOs who want to improve their own performance and that of their firms:

1. If you are not part of the problem, then there is no solution. Hey, stop blaming your problems on a lack of staff, inadequate staff, the economy, or competition. If your firm is not where you want it to be, look at yourself first. Work on your own behavior because chances are good that your own attitudes, habits, and beliefs are not only influencing your actions, but those of your staff, as well.

2. Commit to becoming a great leader. Great agency leaders are made, not born. This year, dedicate yourself to becoming a great leader. Read books about leadership. Take courses on the subject. Hire a coach to work with you on your own leadership shortcomings. Great leaders run great agencies.

3. Envision the future, not just the present. Many agency CEOs lack a clear vision for their firms. Most had one when they started, but for many that vision is long gone, replaced by the day-to-day need to win business, retain and grow current clients, and find people. Involve your senior team in helping you create a new vision for your firm. Then share that vision with the rest of the staff.

4. Move from fear-based thinking to possibility thinking. Much of what I hear from CEOs I work with and talk to is laced with skepticism, cynicism, or negativity. All of this is rooted in fear-based thinking, and typically the fear is financially based. I encourage my clients to engage in possibility thinking instead. Ask yourself the questions: What would I do if I weren't afraid? What would I do if money were not an issue? It's not about the words; it's about truly believing. And truly believing creates a mind shift that promotes possibility thinking.

5. Elevate your business-development efforts by going after your dream clients. Identify five "ideal" clients - dream names that you'd absolutely love to have on your client roster - and then develop action plans, including a contact strategy for each. As one is converted or is dropped from the list, add another. When you succeed, it will be well worth the effort.

6. Create a coaching culture in your firm. A coaching culture focuses on the needs of others to ensure the success of your firm. Creating a coaching culture means creating an environment within your firm that encourages more meaningful communication among your employees and to your employees. It means helping your star performers understand themselves and their colleagues better so they not only improve their performance, but improve their lives, as well. That's motivating!

7. Set standards of excellence for every part of your firm. To improve agency performance, establish non-negotiable standards of excellence for every aspect of the business. Standards of excellence start with CEOs because they set the tone. If you don't have standards of excellence, you're missing a key ingredient in the formula for success.

8. Begin to create your exit strategy now. Whether you're in your 30s, 40s, or older, start planning your exit strategy now. Too many people assume they'll sell their firm when they're ready to retire, but that's like waiting for lightning to strike, hoping someone wants to buy it. Fact: There are always many more sellers than buyers. Create your personal vision of what your desired outcome is, including a timetable. Do it now.

9. Commit to making your firm one of the best places to work. You already know how difficult it is to recruit great people. You need to do everything you can to keep the stars that you have. Assess whether your staff considers your firm a good place to work. If not, then determine what you can do to change that opinion. Commit to making your firm a great place to work, and you'll be taking the first step toward attracting top people, in addition to keeping those that you have.

10. Hire stars. Last, but not least, is my number one credo: Always hire a star, no matter what position you're filling. Don't settle for someone who meets the criteria and is willing to work for you. Hold out for the star, and you won't be disappointed.

  • George Rosenberg is CEO of The Rosenberg Group, a coaching and consulting company based in Scottsdale, AZ.

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