Episode 373

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If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re thinking, “I’m doing too much,” or “I don’t have time to be creative anymore,” get comfortable because this episode is for you. Today, we’re talking about optimizing your agency workflow through outsourcing and hiring so that you can get your hands out of everything and get back to doing more of the work you love.

Manish Dudharejia of E2M Solutions is an expert in white-label outsourcing, agency workflow optimization, and hiring the right people to do the tasks you don’t need to be completing. In this episode, we’ll discuss what a white-label agency is and the value it can bring you, how to find the right mix of experience and trainability in new hires, project management, niching, and why you must find more free time as an agency owner.

Don’t be an obstacle to your growth. Instead, outsource and hire people who want to scale with you. You’ll quickly find that your time finally becomes yours again.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
agency workflow

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why agency owners are frequently stretched too thin
  • The right combination of experience, value, and trainability to look for in new hires
  • What can white-label outsourcing do to ease your workload?
  • The importance of having solid processes and workflows
  • Why niching matters when scaling your agency
  • The do’s and don’ts of niching and scaling
  • Why you should be obsessed with freeing up your own time

“You start getting into trouble where you are running short of time because you want to accomplish more, but you can’t because you are doing many things that can be done easily by someone else.” @Manish_Analyst Click To Tweet “Not everyone can afford highly experienced. If possible, you want to go after moderate-level experience, so you don't end up paying a lot and don’t have someone to train from scratch.” @Manish_Analyst Click To Tweet “Running as an agency owner and leader, your job is to find order in the chaos.” @Manish_Analyst Click To Tweet “You want to introduce new services that are most beneficial to your clients, but at the same time, it should not dilute your profit or your attention from your primary offering.” @Manish_Analyst Click To Tweet “Be obsessed with freeing up your time. People think if they get free, they’ll get bored. It's okay to be bored because boredom will lead to creativity.” @Manish_Analyst Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Manish:

Resources:

Manish Dudharejia:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run. Traditional digital media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build A Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ, will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road sellable. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McClellan:

Hey everybody. Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. We have been on a six-week travel JAG for peer group meetings and some consulting and I have to tell you, it’s pretty good to be back in the home office back in Denver and back with the beast. It feels good to not be traveling. Okay, granted we’re getting on a plane tomorrow, but we’ve been home for a couple weeks and that feels good.

It is a busy season for us always at AMI, that’s October, November, run up to Thanksgiving and then things slow down, but I just do want to remind you that we have a couple seats left for Money Matters, which is December 5th and sixth in Orlando, Florida. And, we are teaching the other two workshops, Build and Nurture your Agency Sales Funnel and Mercer Island Group is back with a brand-new workshop all about the written tools that we use to secure an opportunity to pitch for a piece of business. Case studies, cover letters, RFP responses, proposals, how do we write all of those in a way that earns us the opportunity to sit in the conference room as a finalist if it’s a formal shootout kind of a thing or how does our proposal earn us the right to have the business?

They’re going to take real life examples and show us what is and isn’t good about them and help us improve. So in fact, if you are an attendee, one of the options you have is to have some of your materials critiqued potentially by Mercer Island Group, which would be a super added value for you. It’s absolutely free, when normally obviously they charge for that. So if you are interested in that, head over to the Agency Management Institute website and under how we help find workshops and you’ve got Money Matters, you’ve got Build and Nurture your Agency’s Sales Funnel and you’ve got Get It Right, which is the Mercer Island Group workshop. Check those out.

All right, so let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So his name is Manish Dudharejia and he runs a company called E2M. And what they are is they are a full stack, white label digital agency that serves mostly agencies. What I want to talk to him about today is not the work that they do, but I want to talk to him about his observations because he works with, I think it’s over 150 agencies, and we’re going to talk a little bit about what agencies do well when they outsource and what they struggle with. Particularly some of the places where he observes, it’s interesting, an agency owner observing other agency owners that he observes that agencies get themselves into trouble. I think it’s going to be a really interesting conversation and I am anxious for you to meet him. He’s a delightful human being. So, let’s jump over to him and get started.

Welcome to the podcast, thanks for joining us today.

Manish Dudharejia:

Thank you Drew. Thank you for having me. Excited to speak with you today.

Drew McClellan:

Tell everybody a little bit about your background, what you do today, how you got there, so they can of understand how so much about agencies.

Manish Dudharejia:

Yeah, I run E2M, I’m the founder and CEO of E2M. I started E2M 10 years back, in 2012, with a clear problem to solve. Helping agencies solve bandwidth and capacity problems. I think regardless of the business you do, you really want to understand your strong position in the ecosystem. What real world problem are you solving, right? I was observing the space, the entire internet space 10 years back, and then I realized that there is this agency ecosystem where there are so many agency owners who really want to scale and grow their agency business, but they do not want to run into operations related pain and problems, and that’s where I thought to start E2M and started this agency. The rest is history. It’s been 10 years. As we speak, we work with 150 plus digital agencies all across the US ranging from all different sizes. From solar agency owners to enterprise level agencies as well. We mainly help them solve the bandwidth and capacity problems with our wide level services.

Drew McClellan:

Okay and you’ve got about, I think you said before we hit the record button, about 160 employees?

Manish Dudharejia:

That’s correct. As I speak, we are a team size of 160 plus experts. That includes WordPress experts, software experts, SCO experts and content experts.

Drew McClellan:

Okay. All right, awesome. You have a unique vantage point where you are seeing hundreds of agencies every year and you’re watching them work from afar, but then you’re also having to work with them. Let’s talk about some of the observations you’ve made of where agencies get themselves into trouble and how you interact with that. I know one of the things you talked about was that, and this is something as you know as a podcast listener, that I talk about all the time, but one of the things you mentioned to me is that agency owners try to do too much of the work themselves and they’re stretched too thin. So can you talk a little bit about your observations there?

Manish Dudharejia:

Sure. I think what happens with the agency owners, and I’ll speak specifically about solar to small midsize agency owners where they try to accomplish a lot by themselves. I’ll go a little bit on the deeper side why it happens. Generally what happens, the kind of role we are into, we get that role into our head very quickly. So it kind of happened with me as well. A few years back I got that CEO role into my head and when your role is starting to take over your personality, a lot of time it happens that you stop thinking about what is your true potential. As a CEO I used to get involved into literally everything. I wasn’t doing purely micromanagement, but some sort of, and then you realize that this is something you start getting into trouble where you are running short of time because you really want to accomplish more but you cannot just because you are doing a lot of things which can be done easily by someone else.

I follow a lot of creative and smart people on Twitter and then Noel is my favorite guy. I don’t know, you might be reading about it, his Twitter handle is Noel [inaudible 00:07:47], he always speaks to ask a simple question to yourself. If you are doing any job, is that something, can you get it done by someone else? If answer is yes, just outsource, otherwise do it. You should be doing all the creative stuff and just get everything else outsourced and get it done by someone else so you can use your potential to do that most creative things.

One of the most common observations I have seen over the last 10 years, like agency owners, if their background is design, they will still be involved into design, which is fine, right? But you still have to get away from that in order to scale your agency. To give you my example, my story is my core background is in SEO, purely [inaudible 00:08:38]. Which I’ve been doing since 2007, it’s been 16 years and I used to do it since last few years, still 15 or 16 and at one point I had to decide to move away from that. I was still getting involved into clients project strategy, which is fine, I still love doing it, but at some point you have to get away from that. So then you can enroll into something which you are meant to do as an agency owner. Because there are a lot of things on a strategy side, on a marketing side, defining on a processes side, on a branding site. So at one point few years back I decided okay, I really want to decrease my involvement and started building a team. Since then, we have never looked back in terms of growing our company. Often it happens that agency owners themselves become an obstacle to growth.

Drew McClellan:

That’s right. Yeah, we talk about this a lot that agency owners, with all good intentions become the bottleneck in the workflow, and that’s because they’re not doing just their job. One of the things that I talk about a lot is that an agency owner’s job is very unique. There are things that an agency owner has to do that no one else can do.

Manish Dudharejia:

Yes.

Drew McClellan:

And if they’re too busy doing design or account service or whatever it is, then the reality is the agency owner’s job doesn’t get done. Nobody does it.

Manish Dudharejia:

Yep.

Drew McClellan:

Right? So, talk about how when you, were still in the sitting at your desk doing SEO for clients, and when you decided to stop doing that, what happened to your growth potential? What happened to the speed at which you grew?

Manish Dudharejia:

Yeah, the speed was obviously not which I was anticipating, which I was hoping for obviously, because like you said, I was the bottleneck for a good intention. The challenge was that you still want to solve your clients in the best way and still want to free up your time. Your intentions are good. Whenever you do this transition, you want to make sure that your clients should not feel any difference. Obviously when you move away from your job, main primary role, you’ll obviously get it done by your team member. So you want to make sure you hire the right people and one of the mistakes, which I always made is, I was trying to find people who are exactly like me and that was the biggest mistake I made and I failed terribly. Then I switched the mindset where I was like I’ll have to find the people who have the right traits, and skills is something I can still train.

I hired a person who wasn’t having too much experience in SEO, but he was exactly able to think like me. When you want to free up your time you want to look for people who can do that job where the right mindset, where the mindset like you, the rest you can still train because obviously they need to know the basics. You don’t want to hire someone who is just a grad from a college or university or school. The most important thing you want to find is the right traits the person should have and rest you can train, and then you start delegating gradual.

One of the things which I would advise agency owners is, let’s say right now you are doing a customer service or a project management. Let’s consider a customer service. You are handling an account manager. Now, when you are hiring someone and you want to delegate that team, you have to start speaking highly about your account manager to your clients from-

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, right. You have to talk them up so they don’t feel like they’re getting the B team, right?

Manish Dudharejia:

That’s correct, yeah.

Drew McClellan:

Absolutely. And again, I think that is A, part of hiring somebody that you can talk up, that you’re proud of, that you’re excited about all of that. And one of the things that a lot of agency owners are talking about right now is we used to hire kids right out of college. They had very little experience but they were inexpensive, we could afford them and then our whole plan was we were going to train them up. I think one of the things that has shifted in this post COVID world where everybody’s not in the office every day, where your people are hybrid, is that it’s much more difficult.

We counted on the fact that the young employee was going to hang out with some of our senior people or us and they were going to learn by observing. Now the way many agencies are working, that becomes much more challenging. It’s hard to put a 23-year-old in front of a client and say you know what, she’s got this, she’s awesome, you’re going to love her. Now there are some 23-year-olds where they come ready to put out in front of clients, but a lot of them need a lot of grooming.

So to your point, part of an agency owner’s ability to get out of the day to day, to get back to actually doing their job, is going to be thinking about at what level they hire. Do they have to hire somebody with a little more experience, with a little more client service savvy, if you will? If they’re going to put them in front of the client without a lot of training and without somebody else with them. Which is the whole goal, is that you don’t want to double up your team.

So you’re right, I think being mindful of A, what am I doing? That’s a great question to ask. What am I doing that somebody else could do?

Manish Dudharejia:

Yeah.

Drew McClellan:

I think the other part of that is they don’t have to do it exactly how you do it. They just have to get the outcome that you would’ve gotten if you had done it. So, what am I doing that somebody else could do? How do I actually focus on what my job is versus what everybody else’s job is? And three, who can I hire to take out some of these tasks? I think most agency owners grew up in the agency business. So they were an account service person or a writer or a designer or they were in the code or whatever, but they grew up in the agency business. The one thing that they are absolutely confident they’re good at is what they’ve done for decades before they own their agency. I think it’s a natural achilles heel, if you will, to lean in and do the things you’re really good at that you can do really efficiently and fast because you think this is great, I’m fast, we can bill more, we’ll make more money. But again, that means nobody’s doing your job. Right?

Manish Dudharejia:

Here is from my experience, few things I can share. First when you want to hire someone, I understand a lot of agencies are going after hiring kids who are just getting out of school, which is fine. So, it’s okay to hire highly experienced or moderate level experience or just someone like kids passing out from the school. All you just have to … obviously everyone have a different budget. Not everyone can afford highly experienced. If possible, you want to go after moderate level experience so you don’t end up paying a lot and you do not have someone to train from the scratch. However, that is nothing like that you cannot hire highly experienced people. If you want to hire a highly experienced people, this is an exercise which I do, you want to make sure they are very open to the change. A lot of times what happens, people who are highly experienced, they’re resistant to change. When you are specifically hiring highly experienced people, you want to ask them the one question, how many times did you have to change into your previous jobs in order to be successful? Right?

Drew McClellan:

Right. And what did you have to change?

Manish Dudharejia:

Yeah, what did you have to change?

Drew McClellan:

I mean you want to know that they were adaptive to their employers methodologies-

Manish Dudharejia:

That’s correct.

Drew McClellan:

… and systems and process, right?

Manish Dudharejia:

That’s correct. If the answer is no, they did not have to change at all, you don’t want to hire that person, right?

Drew McClellan:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s such a great point. I mean, if somebody’s five or 10 years into their career, they think they’ve got it, they know how to do it. They do, but they may not do it the way you want them to do it.

Manish Dudharejia:

Exactly.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

Manish Dudharejia:

In order to do that task, specifically with hiring the highly experienced people and if you identify they have not had to change in their previous jobs, they are definitely not the right hire because they will be very resistant to changes which you will be producing to them.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Manish Dudharejia:

For a moderate level you just want to see traits. Do they got the right traits. So I always give this example of my classic example is, let’s say if you are hiring a project manager, essentially the project manager is the person who should be really good at dealing with people. Now, if you take an example of any PMP certification courses that are happening outside, they only talk to you, they only teach you about how to manage the projects, different types of project management methodology like a child, but they don’t talk about how to deal with people. How to build a rapport with people, some of the leadership qualities. So, those are the things you really want to test with people when you are hiring some moderate level. Then now, exactly they should be really good at observation that should be curious. One of the good things I read recently is a product managers or project managers without curiosity become a liability to the company all the time.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah. Well, the reality of a project manager is they have to be good with people because they’re trying to get the entire agency to do things that they may or may not want to do in a timeframe they may or may not want to do them in. So you’re right, and I think the other part of that is the curiosity is an interesting point because every day they’re presented with problems. We have too much work here, we don’t have enough work here,