BABA, better known as the Build a Better Agency Summit was held for the third time in 2023, hosted by the well-known and loved Drew McLellan. Drew is an agency owner as well as the owner of AMI, the Agency Management Institute, a place for agencies to talk/do/share on anything and everything that makes us special. And we are all special. 


Our CEO, Jay Feitlinger and I travel together once a year for this particular event geared strictly toward supporting the growth and development of agencies. There is no other event in the U.S. that hosts as many agency owners and makes the impact quite like BABA. It’s an investment in resources and it’s 100% worth it.

What We Learned

It’s not like Vegas, I’m definitely free to share the amazing insights we gained, and how we will use them to better serve our clients and team members.


The research presented by Susan Baier and her agency is incredible. She shared with us the motivations for clients of agencies as well as their pain points and wish lists. Clients still appreciate excellent communication and are looking for recommendations more now than 2-3 years ago. Clients wish that agencies got to know their teams and understand their internal operations structures. Her research also noted that clients need agency budgets to be flexible and to have project goals shared with them. 

Developing Leaders 

It is always a topic of interest that also seems like a moving target is developing leaders within the organization. Sitting in a few roundtables were agencies sharing a myriad of tips for both failures and successes. One of the stumper questions asked was, “How are you documenting and establishing what an emerging leader looks like?” To be honest, no one at my table of 10 had yet done that. The conversation regarding ‘Stay Interviews’ was also enlightening, and some new ways to communicate with team members emerged. Like asking “What skills do you have that you don’t feel like are being utilized but could be?” 

Artificial Intelligence (AI )

This is such a hot topic and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. From client requests to legal concerns, AI is a topic that all agency owners are working overtime to stay in front of. Without any case law to guide us, we are a bit in the wild west when it comes to IP and protection. Guidance from the legal expert at the roundtable centered around refreshing contracts and keeping a flexible, but documented, approach to the use of AI. One thing agencies are furiously working on is their prompt engineering. The strategy of the prompt will be area agencies can be at the cutting edge to serve their clients and themselves. At the roundtable, we were the only agency to have a company-generative AI policy as well as a prompt engineering guidebook. One of the benefits of BABA is that everyone is generous with their resources, and we love giving as much as receiving. 

It can feel like you can’t possibly take two or three days to absorb anything new, you’re barely treading the innovation waters as it is. What BABA does is help validate, bring clarity, and connect like-minded and forward-thinking individuals doing great work. There are also innumerable deep chats over a meal or a cocktail, or three, and nothing quite connects like a bit of disconnect. I often struggle to make time for new ideas as I love being a tactical executor of our business plans, but the deep conversations about the future of work on small and large scales are inspiring and bring new energy I didn’t know I needed.

If you’d like to know more about what we learned, or about us, contact me.