Agency On Tilt

Sep 10, 2018 · 3 min read

Firstly, I’m no gambler.

Over the years, I have found a lot of correlation between the game of poker and business.

Playing poker teaches us some valuable lessons about the way we “cope” with the hands we are dealt, good and bad.

Poker is not just a game of luck, it’s a game of odds and skill.

For example, in our up and coming book, Agencynomics, we talk about the parallels of poker starting hands and the qualification of new business leads.

Today, I want to talk about a behaviour change that happens to agency owners, like the poker term “on tilt”.

Tilt is a poker term for a mental state of emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-emotional making irrational decisions.

Often caused from a “bad beat”.

In poker, “a bad beat” is a subjective term for a hand in which a player with what appears to be strong cards somehow manages to lose. It most often occurs where one player bets on the clearly stronger hand and their opponent makes a poor call that eventually wins with the turn of the river card being dealt in their favour for example.

In the Agency world, a bad beat is often caused by a large client (more than 30% of your turnover or a well-known brand) leaving, or an unrelated series of business setbacks that create a feeling that you are down on your luck and a this leads to creating a negative, irrational or defensive mindset.

This situation suddenly puts the owner in a position where they catastrophize the situation they are in.

I’ve witnessed this behaviour on several occasions to devastating effect and narrowly avoided this situation myself on a few occasions.

I’ve mostly avoided it, thanks to being pretty self-aware and having people around me that I trust, with their advice, even if they disagree.

Let me explain more…

I’ve met a lot of business owners that make mistakes in their businesses. Let’s face it we all do.

I made tons personally growing my Agency, and make a living today, trying to help owners not make or repeat those same mistakes so they can build bigger or better agencies.

The challenge comes when the warning signs are ignored, when the mistakes are repeated over and over again, or the business is starting to fail in some form or another.

What happens from that moment onwards is a downward spiral effect, failure comes from making the wrong decisions day in day out.

In poker, the more stoic poker players accept bad beats as an unpleasant but necessary drawback to a tactic that works the vast majority of the time.

So how do you protect yourself from these moments?

  1. Surround yourself with people with positive growth mindsets, and be prepared listen to what you don’t want to hear.
  2. Temporarily remove the negative fixed mindset people from your inner circle.
  3. Learn lessons from your mistakes, but don’t act too defensively when making future decisions. Ensure you don’t end up acting too risk-averse, and start to make a move to a more calculated risk approach to making business decisions.
  4. Be self-aware, don’t stop listening to the people around you, just because you are afraid to hear their advice!

The importance of talking to as many people who have been in your situation as possible cannot be underestimated. They will really help you to make a balanced informed decision that will really help you positively move forward. (image below).

I am confident to say that that vast majority of situations that we see that are catastrophied by one person’s mindset, can be turned around with the right people supporting you. So always be prepared to listen.

I do love a low stakes game of poker, especially Texas Hold’em. If you play too, let me know we can organise a game for agency people sometime soon?

Spencer Gallagher

Founding Partner


Written by

@cactus — The Agency Growth Experts