On finishing up my year of being 40…

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So today is my final day of being 40 years old and here is what I learned this year:

1- Age is just a number and I feel more motivated, hungry, focused and energized than when I was in my early 20′s.

2- Old friends, with real roots, can come back in your life and it can be awesome.

3- I sat down with Chris Heller, one of those old friends to do a podcast and it was a really special conversation and I learned a lot about myself. I recommend that type of exercise to everyone.

4- Doing the right thing is always the right thing.

5- Meditation is real and being mindful is a game changer.

6- I have a herniated disc in my back (came out of nowhere in May) and it stinks. Don’t take 100% healthy days for granted.

7- I made a commitment to go even harder than normal at work this year and there really is no limit. Commit fully and be amazed at how much further you can go.

8- Gratitude needs to be a part of your game. We are so lucky to be alive and we only get one at bat.

9- Reading is crucial and I think I still prefer real books over digital devices.

10- That being said, podcasts and audio are everything. I consume massive amounts of content on the daily now.

11- You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree…

12- I am definitely a morning person.

13- Kids grow up quickly and it is so important to be really present with them. (working hard at getting better at that)

14- I am awful at keeping up with friends and family on the phone. Text and email are much better for me.

15- My Spanish skills, while once a strength, are terrible now.

16- It is important to focus on where you are going, but it is equally important to remember where you came from.

17- This Is Us is an all-time TV Show.

18- Donald Trump is an ass clown.

19- I repeat, Donald Trump is an ass clown.

20 – I committed to doing 40 things for my 40th birthday as part of Chris Heller’s BE40 Facebook Group and though I did fall short (which I was at first annoyed with myself about, but now I am ok with it) I found out that:

21- Canyon Ranch is amazing and everyone should go.

22- Wo Hop is overrated.

23- Cryotherapy was ok, but not amazing.

24- iFLY was fun, but not worth a second session.

25- Going to Ann Arbor with Brett Goffin and no families, was one of the best weekends of the year.

26- Drinking expensive bottles of wine with Noah Yosha was really fun and educational – happy 41st birthday to him today BTW.

27- Not sold on guided meditation classes (yet), as I still think I prefer to do that alone.

28- My ski trip out west with the family was everything I could have hoped for and I am heading back in a few weeks.

29- Daughter date nights were top notch and a mandatory, ongoing tradition.

30- Cooking dinner for the family was not amazing. I am not so skilled in the kitchen to be honest.

31- Live music in NYC was a nice change of pace and something I will continue.

32- Pro soccer game was a lot of fun and I will do it again.

33- Broadway is such an amazing NYC treat and I need to take advantage. Starting with Dear Evan Hansen this Saturday night. (will I cry?)

34- Weekend away with my wife sans kids was special. Need to run that back.

35- Saw LeBron play live and still prefer Jordan.

36- Not 100% sold that I am a Mets fan anymore.

37- Been eating less meat and it has been a good thing. Won’t give it up for now, but don’t need it as much.

38- I care about my wife turning 40 (this year) more than I did about myself last year. She is more important, for sure.

39- Surrounding yourself more with winners is a smart move as is limiting time around negative people.

40- Life is good.

Bottomline is that 40 is an excellent time to sit and reflect on things. The way I see it (despite my herniated disc) it is a time where you are really in your prime personally and professionally and have a lot of control over your own destiny. It is mission critical to be in tune with yourself, be confident and make sure you focus your time and energy on the important things. Looking forward to 41 and will look to top 40. Stay tuned…

 

 

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On only wanting to work with good partners…


On this episode, Adam talks about wanting to only work with good partners/people and being ok with walking away from those who don’t fit that description. We are big believers in top-notch service, hard work and lots of over-delivering for our clients and in return, we look for respect and solid collaboration.

At times, we (as all agencies do) experience partners who do not live up to their end of the bargain. Some clients can be rude, unprofessional and just terrible to work for/with and in those instances, it is ok to walk away. When the client/agency relationship ends, it is usually seen as the agency who took the “L”. That might be the perception, but the breakup might have been the client’s doing and not the vendor.

As Sircle Media has grown and matured, that has become more and more apparent and we have really gotten comfortable with that. We know what we offer, and most of our clients do too. For the vast majority of you, we appreciate you more than you know!

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On winning customers back…

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In 2017 we had a stellar year at Sircle Media and I am very proud of all that we accomplished. We grew our staff, expanded and diversified our offerings and brought on a number of new and higher profile clients. By all measures it was solid.

What I am perhaps most proud of, are the clients who returned to Sircle after leaving us prior. In the agency space, there is a lot of churn and turnover on retainers and contracts. Sometimes you lose business because you messed up and deserve to, but more often than not it can be for silly reasons outside of your control. Losing clients sucks, especially from a competitive and passionate person like me. Unfortunately, this is what I signed up for and it is a way of life I have had to become accustomed to.

Our number one reason for losing clients is a new Marketing Director or decision maker of some sort transitioning in and pushing us out for no rhyme or reason. The analogy I always use is that it is comparable to a new President who wants to come in, flip the table over and put all new people in their cabinet seats. A new leader wants to make moves to earn their keep and often doesn’t want to inherit a legacy agency that they didn’t select. We would argue that if you have a great Secretary of Defense in place, you shouldn’t just fire them, just to fire them. They just might represent the stability you need to make that new role a success. Unfortunately, they don’t even want to hear that.

Regardless of their reasoning, when we do get the notice from a client that they want to leave our agency, rather than getting angry, frustrated or even petty we go the opposite direction. I teach my team to deploy empathy first and foremost and realize that the other party is doing it, for what they think is a good reason for their business. We immediately pivot to customer service and hand-holding mode. We look to set them up to win without us and shower them with love and attention during our winddown month. Every former client would attest that we were rock stars in our darkest hour and that is a distinctly different posture than they are accustomed to.

I then try to keep in touch and root for them from the sidelines, in order to stay on their radar and to let them know that while we are no longer dating, they are still a former love that we care about very much. In a rough and sometimes unforgiving world, they appreciate that more than you would think. We invested a lot of time and energy together and developed a loyalty to their brand, that doesn’t just disappear because they’ve stopped paying us.

When your team handles adversity like professionals and does everything with integrity and class, you create a long-term impression that has lasting effects. Life is a marathon and if you treat it that way and stick around long enough, good things tend to happen. So to all of those returning customers in 2017, I say thank you. To all of the other ones out there, it is never too late to come back. You know where to find us.  #Squad4lyfe

 

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Sircle Squad Profile: Michelle Paltan

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We have a wonderful new intern, trying to earn a coveted spot on the #SircleSquad in 2018. Her name is Michelle Paltan and we asked her some questions to get to know her better.  Enjoy!

Full name/nickname?  Michelle Paltan, tons of nicknames–at Sircle my nickname so far is MP.

Age? 23

University and Major? The University of Tampa, Class of 2016. Advertising and Public Relations major, with a concentration in PR.

How did you find out about Sircle Media?  How ironic is it that I found Sircle Media through social media?  Not that ironic I suppose, since it’s how our whole world is functioning these days. So, Adam posted in a Facebook group for social media jobs and internships, that they were in need of Social Media Managers and interns. He touched upon the different types of clients they worked with and the culture at Sircle and I saw the opportunity and knew I had to go after it since it seemed too good to be true or to pass up.

Most surprising discovery/realization after working here? That it wasn’t too good to be true.  It’s a social media marketing agency that is filled with smart, scrappy, and hustling individuals that focus on different attributes that together, make up great social media marketing and strategy for clients.  I knew that this would be a great learning experience, but I didn’t expect how fast I would start learning first hand. Right out of the gate, I was working hands-on with tasks for clients and learning new approaches to managing the different aspects of social media like scheduling, strategy, creative content planning, and more.

What is the best part of your internship? This is hard to limit to one thing, but I would have to say the people.  There are many talented, bright, encouraging and intelligent people to learn from and to use as resources but at the same time, it is a small company where you aren’t being ignored.  You can ask questions, get critiques and share ideas, without feeling judged in any way whatsoever. The comfortable culture allows you to take away knowledge that you can apply to other areas beyond social media.  Whether you are interning for a Social Media Manager role, or on the creative/design side of the agency, you can still learn from other departments and figure out how to benefit from those different skills and resources.  What’s important in your work environment (and life in general I suppose) is who you surround yourself with. I can say that this culture is ideal for growth, learning, and self-confidence.  We also have a lot of fun along the way, which is a huge bonus!

What can you tell us about Adam or your supervisor? I’ve had the good fortune to work with Adam, The President, and Sara Lerner, The Managing Director intimately over the past couple of months.  Adam and Sara have been inspiring leaders that I will continue to look up to and learn from, regardless of where I end up in the years to come.  Adam has a great philosophy about life and business and is a mentor that is available to everyone who is a part of the company. He has developed a bulletproof method of creating success for clients and the employees at Sircle. Sara is a super smart, strong leader who has mastered the art of multi-tasking, problem-solving and developing strategy methods for social media that will yield success for all clients.

The advice you would give to a future intern? Attention to detail is the most important thing in everything that you do or create at Sircle. We work in both social media and service, so it is very important to be spot on with communication and deliverables. You must really be on the ball to be successful, that is for sure.

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On the long and winding road of entrepreneurship…

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Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It is a constant barrage of stress, issues, fires and losses, balanced (only sometimes) with flickers of greatness and short-term wins along the way. I have heard it often compared to jumping out of an airplane and only first starting to build the parachute mid-air. I think that visual is a fair one.

We are living in a time, where it seems kind of cool to run your own business and I think it is seen as the easier option when compared to being an employee at someone else’s business. It is not, this I can promise you. Sure, calling yourself a founder and hanging out and not working all day is very easy. Actually creating an enterprise that is built to last and showing continuous growth year over year, is a very different task. If you want to win in that game you need to know that:

1. The buck stops with you: You are now responsible for all of the decisions. Entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to create something from nothing, which you cannot generally accomplish when working for someone else. With this upside, comes the downside of making all of the big decisions about what must be done, when and how. You can’t wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell you what to do, you must make them happen for yourself.

2. You must always be working on “the now” and “the later”: You need to execute efficiently on the day to day work, while also planning and prospecting for the future. As an entrepreneur, you have to project your mind forward and think about next month, quarter, year etc. Nobody else is out there bringing you new business, managing your renewals and developing the brand. It is grounding to know that what you do, or don’t do, today, will have an impact on your business down the line. This creates a sense of urgency and forces the winner to constantly put in the “extra reps” to produce better gains.

3. You have to have thick skin and be able to endure rejection: When you try and sell your products or services you are certain to hear a lot of no’s. It never feels good, but it is much more personal and harder to take when it is your own baby. You have to be able to set (and then stay) the course, despite the many rough water days that lie in your path.

4. You have to constantly be learning and tweaking: You can never have a “set it and forget it” mentality.  I think a lot of entrepreneurs want to set up their business, get it to a point where it is humming and then work less and enjoy the fruits of their labor. While that might be the case for some very lucky ones, that is definitely an outlier. For most of us, you need to be iterating, researching and modifying processes each and every day. You cannot get comfortable and can never put your feet up and relax. It is a constant uphill climb, and while it is ok to look down and be proud of what you have built from time to time, you do need to look upward nearly all of the time.

5. You must know your numbers:  While this is admittedly not my strongest skill, it is such an important element of success.  Meaning, if you aren’t watching cash flow and managing your pipeline religiously, it can be game over, real quick. You need to set substantial “reach goals” and drive towards hitting them from an offense POV constantly.  On the defensive side of the ball, you need to plan for potential puddles along the path and manage your overhead each month. I personally lean towards being more aggressive and investing in my people (compensation, perks, food, and fun) and marketing (website, collaterals, video), so I need to make sure I score a ton of points on offense to win my games.

8. You are always on: As an entrepreneur, especially one with employees and paying clients, it is an all the time thing. While you definitely have more control over your hours and location, you will always be thinking about the business. Usually, those thoughts are about what can go wrong and/or what you are not doing well. It is an interesting feeling of never being good enough, which is an uncomfortable and sometimes defeating view for most.  There is no reprieve, it is always there.

At the end of the day, you have to be totally focused and committed, super gritty and the kind of person who is ok with constantly being consumed by your brand and it’s success.  Plenty of people are in this role without these traits, and they will not make it long term. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse, it is just the way it is. It might take a very long time to build, and you might never feel as though you have truly succeeded. I can say that the road is long and winding, but beautiful and exciting too. I wouldn’t have it any other way…

 

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Why I am the Derek Jeter of social media…

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I know this one is a stretch, but hear me out.

So we are both originally from the tri-state area and both were accepted to The University of Michigan in the mid 90′s. Granted he did go on to win the World Series and Rookie of The Year Honors in 1996, while I had a 3.0 GPA and countless hangovers. Despite the rough start, my gritty spirit kicked in and I rallied back to have a 3.7 GPA because I wasn’t going out like that. I digress…

So we both moved to New York and spent our whole careers here. Every single day we got up, put on our uniform and went to work.  We both have confidence but rarely brag.  Both of us are, “rip your face off” competitive, yet we always compete fairly and honorably.  We despise losing, but would never cut corners to win. It really is about legacy over short-term gains, and that is what ultimately earns respect and admiration from others. #Re2pect

Being “The Captain” of my team it is imperative to remain even-keeled. I never get too high when we win new business or receive referrals or accolades, and I brush it off when we lose a pitch or have a client leave the agency. When running your own company it is a long season so to speak, and you need to go in knowing you won’t win all of the games.  Just like batting, if my career average is .300 I am a Hall of Famer.

We both work in highly competitive industries and have tons of competition, but never really sweat them. We know that we just need to work hard, put in 100% effort and just do what we are expected to do, and the rest will work itself out. It really doesn’t matter what the others around us do, because if we play our game then we will win.

We both married supermodels (at least in my eyes) and we are both gentlemen in how we approach the women in our lives. We are excellent teammates and always have the backs of those around us. Life is a marathon and how you treat people comes back around for sure. Act as if…

I even love how he partnered with Jordan, (my childhood hero) for a brand deal. Both are fierce competitors, but if you want the benchmark for doing things the right way personally and professionally then I have to go with Number 2, the best that ever did it!

 

 

 

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Its all about the ‘tude

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I have been practicing a new routine of late and I have found that it has really elevated my mental game and overall work output. I call it the ‘tude check and I will break it down for you here.

I create set slots on my calendar to signal that I should check in with a mindset, and reminds me to zero in on a specific and sometimes overlooked area of focus. As disciplined as I am (or at least think I am) I still find that this set calendar date with my brain really helps make sure I keep the commitment and really think about it tangibly.

1- Attitude- Here I remind myself on Sunday nights how much I love what I do, how much I cant wait to get into work and how much I am committed to building a really successful company for me, my clients and my employees.  I am a pretty focused and upbeat guy anyway, but that reminder is just a little nudge in that direction to make sure I am employing the right attitude to win.

Every week at that time (when I am in a great attitude mindset) I literally draft an email to my entire team and set the stage for their week. I read articles that motivate me to push harder, work deeper and never sit back and coast. I even pick out the Monday morning Instagram post for my company that will set the stage for us to kick a@# and take names that week. The right attitude sets the altitude for the week for sure.

2- Latitude- On Wednesdays around 3PM, I have been doing what I call a coordinates check in. I have written before about how I try to regiment my days/weeks and cover a lot of different areas for my company. So at this time, I stop and look at my compass (if you will) to gauge where I am at for the week? Am I ahead or behind pace? Is there anywhere that I need to pivot or adjust?  This allows me to course correct for Thursday and Friday and make sure I over-index in any area(s) that is/are lagging or that just needs heavy focus given the ever changing landscape of running my own business, especially one in the service space.

3- Gratitude- I have also written before about having a “gratitude attitude” and it is really so important for your mental success. On Fridays I will spend time sending some sort of thank you message to a client, employee or referral partner to let them know I am truly thankful for their contribution to my success personally or professionally. Sometimes I will even just call a parent, to check in and let them know I am thinking of them and want to see how they are doing. I do this because it is the right thing to do and to be honest it selfishly feels good which helps fill my tank with some good energy.  Once again after a week in client services, it is a much needed reprieve from the constant barrage of negative energy (sometimes warranted and much more often, unwarranted) that comes my way.

I wanted to put this down in a post, so I could share it and potentially convince others to “cop a ‘tude” too. Being positive, thankful and focused on staying on course and not getting too distracted or off target is obviously a smart approach to business and life in general. This is just a roadmap to potentially help you get there.

 

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On why I sometimes feel like a personal trainer…

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When clients hire Sircle Media it is very much like hiring a personal trainer.  At this point, (April 2017) they know they need smart social media management for their business, very much like a person knows they should make good diet choices and work out consistently.

When they begin with Sircle, things are awesome for the first couple of months. They are hopeful, attentive, responsive and full of energy.  It is really amazing and we immediately see an improvement in the quality of their content, the consistency of their engagement and if they truly listen, in the results (be it growth, reach, interaction, traffic etc.)!

There is a real parallel here to working out with a trainer. Right out of the gate you psychologically feel good, because you sense you are taking the right proactive action to improve how you look and feel.  You start to get consistent in your efforts, because that accountability partner makes you stick to a schedule and you see some early results. Those could be increased energy, stamina, dropping a couple of pounds OR just that false sense of immediate muscle mass increase that many feel, but isn’t truly there so early on.  Either way, things are good…

Then with both, you often hit a flat period. Results don’t pour in as fast and you start to question the value of the efforts.  With social media, this often leads to quick pivots that include cutting back on paid efforts, reducing or eliminating influencer outreach and/or missing scheduled meetings and punting social media while you focus on “more important initiatives” for the business. With training this can mean missing sessions, reducing efforts/reps/sets or even cheating with stress meals and focusing on other areas of your life, like work, family etc.  Truth is that in both cases, you need to figure out how to balance the social media/training with those other items if you really want to succeed.  It has to be in addition to, not in lieu of.

The main reason for churn at Sircle is when a client loses site of the marathon view and focuses solely on the sprint results. When numbers are flat, they often ignore any of their own contribution to that and will come at us aggressively looking for a silver bullet that will magically turn things around. We explain that they need to remain holistically committed to the cause and need to keep their head down and focused on the end goal. There is no ROI on any one tweet, but there is real fruit if you are patient and let the vines grow their grapes.

With training, it is very easy to blame them. You question why you aren’t seeing faster results, why things have plateaued and whether or not you should seek a new teacher. First off, the real long term results take awhile to see. Secondly, you might be sneaking doughnuts at night (which to me is the same as not spending Ad dollars on Facebook mind you) which will compromise results greatly.  Only the client/individual knows the real truth there.

When you leave a trainer, very much like when a brand leaves Sircle, there is typically a precipitous drop off across the board. Clients move on and we see their imagery, cadence and frequency take a big dip, as well as their engagement and growth efforts. It is so obvious, and just like with a trainer it reflects poorly on us, when they leave and “gain weight and get out of shape” so to speak. We literally have to either remove them from our website or tell new prospects the exact date we stopped working together, so they can see the difference between good (with us) and not so good (post us).

In the end of the day, your north star needs to be that you are fully aware that remaining committed to social media and personal training, is the right play long term. You wont survive professionally or personally if you dont figure out both. You need to then attack either with an unwavering commitment to it.  Most often, switching agency or trainer is not the right answer and working on listening more and developing that relationship more fully is.

I am actually amazed by how many of my former clients still come to me personally with questions, and still respect me and what we do so much, despite having moved on.  They usually know what they had and are fully aware about how things have turned since they left. My recommendation is to lean in, rather than leave with Sircle and the gym.  That is how we start to really see the results and reap the benefits together!

 

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On having confidence in the work you do…

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That was my senior yearbook quote and was something that was instilled in me by my amazing parents. You don’t have to be the best at everything, but you have to have the confidence in yourself that you can do anything.  It is very important to believe that each and every day.

I have found that true self confidence is the real differentiator between winners and losers in the workplace.  Whether it be my employees, or our counterparts and client accounts, the ones who believe in what they do and back it up with hard work win.

When employees lack confidence it shows in their work.  Therefore, I try very hard to be a good leader and to create an environment where it is clear that they have the skills to succeed and need to lean forward in their efforts.  I tell them that if I critique them it is not because I don’t believe in their ability.  On the contrary, it is because I genuinely believe they can do it, but are practicing bad habits or not concentrating and/or believing in themselves and that is keeping them from succeeding.

When clients lack confidence it shows in their commitment to the work we do.  If something bounces sideways, the confident clients brush it aside and see it is part of the journey.  The clients (or employees at the clients) who lack confidence, will freak out and have doubt as soon as there is any adversity and/or if things take longer than expected. Therefore, I try to create an environment with them where they feel they can be open and honest and express their concerns, so I can then address head on and assuage them.  If they don’t and remain 50/50 in their commitment to the effort, then they greatly compromise their ability to succeed.

Social media is a long game, especially if you want to do it right. Confidence in the cause is mission critical to it’s success.  Lack of confidence puts them at a great disadvantage and limits their ability to think outside of the box and bank wins.  It comes down to this:

Social media is essentially the internet and social networks are a major part of the ecosystem. If you believe in your product or service and you believe that online is a place to communicate with potential customers, then you need to be confident in both and convey that effectively and consistently in all that you do. Never waiver and remain committed to winning the game.  If you do that, you have won even before you have started.

 

 

 

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On navigating highs and lows in business…

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When running your own business, you are constantly dealing with crap. Its just the bottom line, and not everyone is built for that.  I signed up for it and I choose to deal with it in a positive and productive way in the macro. That being said, the reality is that it can be very tough and tiring in the micro.

Being an Entrepreneur, especially at the helm of a service business is much more grind than glory.  You constantly have to navigate volatile and erratic market conditions, different (and often counter productive) client personalities and employee development and idiosyncrasies, while also maintaing an offensive mindset, despite being mired in defense on the daily. You must be razor sharp and always tweaking and improving, otherwise you can lose….quickly.

Just this past week our company signed on 2 new clients, both of whom came from referrals who are very pleased with our service. Good stuff, right?  In the same week however, we had to fire an irrational and unprofessional client (first ever, but probably not the last) AND we had one client notify us that they wouldn’t be renewing at the end of their contract, despite us executing on every original KPI, especially a 10 to 1 ROAS via paid social over the last 10 months. Completely illogical!

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We all face ups and downs each week and it is our ability to absorb, digest and adapt that makes all of the difference. You need to always remain on an even keel to win. Never let a good deed get you too high and more importantly, never let a misstep get you too low.  Maintain balance and take everything as a lesson and a chance to evolve on your journey.

Remember, “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 

-Charles R. Swindoll

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