Thought Leadership

Finding Common Ground With My Fellow Counselors

Because our jobs are so driven by technology, I often find it grounding to go back to the basics of our profession. Attending the annual PRSA Counselors Academy conference is a crucial part of that process.

This year’s conference, which took place in Seattle in early May, was my sixth overall and first as a member of the executive committee. Next year, we’ll meet in Toronto.

For the uninitiated, the Counselors Academy, founded in 1960, is PRSA’s first Professional Interest Section. The section, primarily comprised of owners and leaders of small-to-medium agencies, is based around facilitating collaborative peer relationships and meaningful professional development.

But the core of Counselors Academy is the annual conference, where 200 senior-level agency leaders convene. And that’s when the magic really happens. The special relationships can only be formed in person, where discussions about shared experiences and challenges take place. You should see the bar at the end of the first day. The way the conversations flow, you’d think you were at a high school reunion.

These conversations encompass everything that may go through the head of an owner or agency leader, such as how to hire, create a new business strategy, understand key financial metrics, start a digital practice, and find balance between life and work. We even sometimes have open discussions about billing rates and revenues.

I’ve found a community of people who have become my tribe. We may come from all corners of the U.S. and Canada — from both big cities and small towns — but we have so much in common. Where else can I go and, without feeling like a complete dork, say to someone, “Can we talk about performance reviews?”

I do admit that every year after the conference my head spins a bit. But being part of a community of like-minded people helps me stay focused. We remind each other to pick two or three things from the conference to commit to changing and follow through on them.

Here are four takeaways that have altered the course of my firm Abel Communications for the better:

•Treat yourself as your most important client.
•Track your time.
•Build true expertise and don’t be afraid to charge a premium for it.
•Make sure to take care of yourself and have a life outside the business.

Beyond the great business lessons it provides, the Counselors Academy has opened a door to meaningful friendships. So here it is agency leaders: The Counselors Academy Conference for 2018 takes place May 6-8 in Toronto. Don’t overthink this one. Put it on your calendar now and just go.

Greg Abel is president and founder of Abel Communications, proudly headquartered in Baltimore. He is a member of the Counselors Academy executive committee. Email:

About the author

Greg Abel

Leave a Comment