Episode 310:

At Agency Management Institute, we have repeatedly found ourselves in the position of helping agency owners figure out their exit strategy. Ideally, we’re talking about this many years before they’re ready to execute on whichever outcome makes the most sense for them and their agency. The typical scenarios are: Just making a fantastic living off the agency until you’re done and then closing up shop. Others want to sell to an outside buyer. But for many, the ideal scenario is to sell the agency internally to someone they’ve been grooming as a successor. This is often where we come in to assist.

Any sale is complicated, and everyone wants it to go as smoothly as possible. Which is why we’ve identified some common mistakes and the best ways to avoid making them. They’re all understandable and easy to make choices, but fortunately so are the fixes so you can just avoid them all together.

Whether you’re thinking of selling your agency in a year or it’s much further down the road, knowing what to avoid now is the best first foot forward.

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.

Selling The Agency Internally

Selling The Agency Internally

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The problem with gifting employees shares
  • The importance of hiring outside guidance
  • The need to fully structure the deal
  • The lack of an owner’s transition plan
  • The mistake of not being prepared emotionally
“You want to know from the very beginning that they want this. That they are hungry for this. That they are willing to sacrifice for this. Because all of those things are what it actually takes to run a successful agency.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “You have worked too hard for too long building your agency for you to give it away for free.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “At the very least, you want somebody who understands agency life, who is vested in making this a win-win for everyone, and who is willing to have really hard, candid conversations with all of you, so that it's happening on all sides.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “There are so many elements to this that you really do have to have a formal plan about how we’re going to do this before the first transaction.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “One of the things the new buyers need from you is they need you to get out.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “As the owner, you’ve got to have something that you’re so excited to do and so passionate about that you are ready to walk away from this huge investment - this big chunk of your heart - which is what your agency and people are.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

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About the Author: Drew McLellan

For 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies, and then started his own (which he still owns and runs) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops, and more.

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for agency owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with over 250+ agencies every year, Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written several books, including Sell With Authority (2020) and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”