Today we’re talking to Brad Ayres about his daily routine. We talk morning rituals- including reading business and finance news as well as staying up to date in the applicable industries for his clients. As a creative personality that also loves number crunching, Brad’s experience of Agency ownership is deeply dependent on delivering results. This means gathering, deciphering, and understanding the data on a daily basis, and lucky for Brad this is also deeply interesting and life-giving for him. He opens up about finding a balance of rational and emotional thinking when making important decisions, how he deals with stressful situations in business, and the significance of outside passions and hobbies on his mental health. Stay Tuned!
Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:
- Fire yourself every day. This means isolating the tasks that are time wasters for you and delegating them, focusing on the forest instead of the trees and using your limited creative/strategic thinking for things that ONLY you can do as an Agency Owner.
- Let the data determine the truth. While it can be easy to let your emotions cloud your judgement (difficult clients, downturns in your business, downsizing, etc), gather information about what’s happening and depend on the data to guide your next decision. Understanding the data will help you make more effective, logical decisions.
- Data helps you communicate BETTER. In order to be a better marketer, a better communicator, you have to dig into the data to decipher results. Brad considers this his primary role on a daily basis- and you should too! Creating strong results for your clients is the point of running a business, and understanding the data is foundational to this.
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:
[1:50] Bob opens this week’s episode and introduces Brad- who will be the focus of our Day in the Life Series today. We don’t know a whole lot about Brad, he’s a shy guy and doesn’t like to be the focus of attention- so we need a little background!
[2:32] Brad tells us about his first job interview, it was with a Mad Men-esque guy who asked him to draw a disposable cup on the spot. This was in 198, and he wound up getting a job on the design team there. Before computers, everything was still done by hand and he wound up working in illustrations and even writing copy.
[6:07] Ken asks how he got into advertising and why Brad was drawn to it.
[6:10] Brad talks about graphic design vs graphic communication. “I love that part of being able to come up with strategies… and I love commerce, so for me I could do art but I can do it in a way that can affect people, that can actually affect commerce, can make money.”
[7:30] Brad went to school for graphic design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and at the time the city had more fortune 500 companies than anywhere in the world. So there were a lot of hands-on examples of how their degrees could translate to agencies within different industries.
[9:10] Bob asks about Brad’s day these days… what does a day in his life look like now?
[9:28] Brad Typically waking up between 6 and 7, he’s a slow starter and not a morning person. Step One is getting his coffee, and his brain is wired to think a lot in the morning. He sort of over exercises that muscle in the morning, to the point that he’s almost burnt out by noon. So the day is planned according to that flow of energy.
- He reads the news to further help him wake up and clear his mind, sometimes going back for a second cup of coffee. Then it’s time for stock markets and checking on his financial endeavors (markets are open by this time) as well as general business news across different industries. He stays off of social media!
- Then he may or may not move into exercise. Before Covid hit, he was part of a 3-morning per week bootcamp workout program but has not been as consistent with it lately. He definitely feels the impact on his mental health.
[12:41] Ken asks about the comparison of having that routine versus what he walks through now. Has there been a notable difference? Is there a substantial mental clarity from working out?
[12:56] Brad talks about the power of having a routine versus not having a routine, saying that if that routine includes exercise that’s even better. He’s noticed that his back tends to get sore more often because he’s sitting for long periods of time, but there are other activities he enjoys and tries to make time for a few times a week. This includes mountain biking and running from time to time.
- After movement takes place, he jumps on a few calls for work and moves on with other morning projects (like recording this podcast!).
[15:22] Brad and Ken discuss the “muscle” of thinking analytically, and talk about the value of understanding how to rest that muscle as needed. Brad schedules his time according to this set amount of analytical and social energy, taking calls in the morning if possible but by 1:00 at the very latest. The afternoons are reserved for doing things that don’t take a lot of energy to put together.
[16:16] Ken asks what types of activities Brad schedules in the morning that are better done early than at the end of the day. Strategy meetings, thinking through processes, doing financial spreadsheets, and planning.
[16:38] Brad says that his creative outlet isn’t at the agency anymore, and that’s part of business. You have to always hire people that are better than you, and they have to hire people that are better than then. “Tip #1 for Creative people: Don’t think of yourself as #1, think of yourself as #2 and hire someone that is better than you.”
[17:48] Brad says that the majority of his strategic time is spent understanding and trying to have a really deep grasp on his client’s objectives. He aims at seeing “the full forest” and understanding where there needs to be correction and where to take advantage of new opportunity. He wants to be able to tell clients “This is where you really want to be. Let me show you who you are, where you’re going, why this matters, why it’s important for your bottom line, and what we can do about it.”
[19:15] Brad aims to fire himself every day. This means not doing the things that you don’t need to be doing, and only focusing on the things that only you can do. He calls this pain point out for smaller agencies, saying sometimes it’s impossible to not be involved in these smaller details. But you should always be thinking about how you can fire yourself from these tasks that truly can be delegated out to others.
[21:12] Brad’s roles change according to the need of clients or his team. Overall, his role is strategy and creative director of sorts. He talks about working with people who are passionate about their work and who clearly care about what they are doing. He wants people to have strong convictions about their work and to want to do a great job for clients.
[23:41] Bob talks about how Brad’s strong points are a rare combination. He’s highly analytical and scientific with a very passionate emotional side as well, and the two combined can actually be exhausting. He asks Brad about balancing those two sides of himself.
[25:56] Brad says that while it can be exhausting, he also sees it as a gift. For example, while a lot of artists tend to become ruled by their emotions the rational side of him helps to drive that fear away. “As long as I can get the info, as long as I get enough information that I can make a very informed decision, I can literally turn off the emotion.”
[27:44] Brad continues, saying that he wants his investments to be making more money for him than he could ever possibly make himself. And so every morning includes business news, financial news, updating himself in every industry and every sector- he wants to be as informed as possible about as many industries as possible. His stock portfolios are varied, so his working knowledge needs to be broad as well.
[29:10] Ken points out a couple of Brad’s strengths and habits that help him move into the day with more confidence. Consuming data in the morning helps him to get his groundings and get focused on his purpose and place in life.
- Another takeaway for Ken is a teaching of Brads, that your life is really your business. If you pull back from your actual business and look at your life as a whole, that “business” needs to be balanced and fine-tuned and invested in as well. Having a practical understanding of finances and investments and making your money work for you is just one part of being balanced on a life scale.
[31:25] Ken shares that in the last year he has realized that his all-or-nothing personality isn’t necessarily in the best interest of his full “life business” success, and he sees this as something that Brad does well.
[32:22] Bob asks Brad about being a more emotional person, and whether the typical melancholy that comes with creativity is part of his life.
[32:25] Brad says that for him, not so much. The more rational side of his brain keeps this from happening as much. He also gets very excited about technology and changes that are happening with Tesla and Elon Musk. “I think my excitement for life and things like that draw me out of the melancholy.” He talks about being able to identify things that help jumpstart him out of that melancholy if he feels it.
[34:19] Brad continues with his morning routine, saying he will spend usually about an hour with his stock portfolio. Buying, selling, trading, etc. He also looks at his cryptocurrency wallet and guages how those are doing on any given day. “I do all in on almost anything I’m interested in… I’ll be fanatical for a month or two… then I move on to something else that’s interesting.”
[36:30] Bob talks about the importance of learning and being willing to grow- that’s the common thread between morning routines for Brad and Ken both.
[38:47] Ken says that people who aren’t challenging themselves or going outside of their comfort zones also tend to have those limitations in business as well. You have to be willing to try a bunch of things and build that excitement about stepping outside of your comfort zone.
[40:04] Bob talks about how the neuroplasticity of our brains suffers from not challenging ourselves- physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.
[40:41] Ken asks Brad about the types of things he’s doing during his work day. Is he behind a computer all day? Zoom calls all day? Meetings?
[41:02] Brad says that most mornings are spent talking with clients and pushing data results. He is driven by creating results for clients, and so the data is fascinating to him. He says that some people may not care about the way a campaign goes beyond their design input or copywriting, but that’s a pet peeve of Brad’s- people who don’t care about the result, which is the whole point of the business to begin with. In order to be a better marketer, a better communicator, you have to dig into the data to decipher results. Brad considers this is primary role on a daily basis.
[44:00] Bob summarizes how he views Brad’s drive to understand, “It’s about the strategy and doing it the best way so that you can win that game.” He plays to win.
[45:41] Brad also spends a lot of time with his financial controller and works on forecasting to keep tabs on his clients and where they’re at on any given day. He also plays the role of human resources in his company, so there are a lot of tasks that take up his time regarding his employees and the hiring process.
[46:25] Ken asks what Brad incorporates into his day to ensure that he’s not in reactivity mode all day long.
[47:04] Brad uses calendar blocking to help him decrease those unpredictable tasks and possible time-wasters. As soon as a task pops up he blocks time for it and his employees schedule around that. If it’s not on his schedule, he’s not doing it!
[49:45] Ken and Brad talk about the power of processes. “I found that forethought and organization and processes eliminate basically 99% of emergencies. And very few times are actual emergencies.
[49:58] Brad is always working towards firing himself from roles and tasks that he could teach others. Slowly delegating what you can means freeing yourself up to take care of higher-level tasks that ONLY you can accomplish.