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How to Scale Your Agency — Overcome the Wizard Complex

At UGURUS, a business school for digital agencies, my team and I spend thousands of hours a year consulting and coaching owners in groups or one on one. Our aim is simple: To help you achieve freedom in your business and life. One of the ways we do that is by helping digital agency owners work ON their business, not just IN them. “When you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.” -Michael E. Gerber, E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It For agency owners, achieving freedom usually means: Working fewer hours (less than sixty is a start) Making more money (getting paid a healthy salary) Sitting in fewer seats (helping you do better work) There’s a commonly-accepted fallacy out there that most entrepreneurs are working towards an early retirement and days filled with sitting on the beach drinking fruity cocktails. However, most entrepreneurs I meet love the work they do, and have no intention of retiring early. The standard definition of the term “exit” in entrepreneur-speak is to sell your business, but most agency owners I meet aren’t anywhere near this point. They haven’t built a company that is worth anything beyond themselves. They’re involved in every aspect of the business from generating leads, converting those leads into clients, and delivering the work. They’ve built themselves a job. A stressful. Demanding. Underpaying. J-O-B. For these owners, “exit” means being able [...]

By |June 26th, 2018|

Four Questions To Ask Before You Think About Adding A Minority Partner

Agency owners want to reward their best employees and prevent them from leaving. Obviously, the best way to do both is to offer equity or to become a minority partner in the agency, right? Not so fast. Crafting a pair of golden handcuffs for a model employee sounds like a great idea, but when those handcuffs are forged from the company’s own foundation, the proposition gets dicey. A model employee might be vital to the agency’s success, but initiating the transition from worker to owner can have far-reaching consequences. In fact, the world watched it happen two years ago: Former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stepped down after the company saw its worst U.S. sales slump in more than 10 years. Not surprisingly, Thompson happened to be the poster child of an employee-turned-owner. Starting in 1990, he worked his way up the fast food chain’s echelons from project manager to staff director to regional manager and, eventually, to CEO. As an agency owner who’s searched for a successor myself, I’ve seen the pitfalls. Before taking the leap to take on a minority partner, ask yourself the following: 1. What is a minority partner, really? Minority partners are a myth. If you offer someone part of your business, that person will act like a fellow owner — and not a minority one. He won’t think in terms of percentage of ownership, but in terms of haves and have-nots. In his mind, even a sliver of ownership puts him in the “haves” camp, and he carries all honors and benefits thereof. In some cases, that means the minority partner brings great ideas that drive the agency to new heights. In others, he slows down operations and starts fights [...]

By |October 25th, 2017|

Attention CEOs: Accomplish more by doing less

Most CEOs are doers. They’ve built their businesses from the ground up and revel in the satisfaction their successes bring. But they can’t do everything themselves, and that’s OK. So, what should these doers actually do? When do CEOs delegate, and when do they take the lead? As a fellow CEO, I’ve contemplated this very question. I’ve found that involving myself in day-to-day tasks and issues can quickly consume my time and infringe on long-term goals. But CEOs need some level of involvement in every aspect of their business to make sure the company is on track to reach its long-term goals. The question isn’t deciding which areas to pay attention to but how you should interact with each aspect of the company. Resist the Urge to Do The balance between involvement and “doing” can be difficult to achieve because CEOs didn’t reach executive status by sitting back and delegating tasks to others. They got their hands dirty and took care of the nitty-gritty details. But once you’ve established processes and hired a dedicated staff, dissociating yourself from every decision can be difficult — and jumping into daily disputes can put your company at serious risk. For example, Chuck is the CEO of an advertising agency who used to head up the digital department. When his team is slammed and trying to meet a deadline, his first inclination is to dive in and help. However, spending a week writing code and testing a website isn’t the best use of his time because the areas that require his attention won’t get covered. As a company grows, it’s important that employees do their specific jobs so every aspect is taken care of. If Chuck loses sight of [...]

By |September 19th, 2017|

Why You Can’t Wait for That Magical New Business Person to Arrive

I’m not afraid to admit that during tumultuous times, I harbored a secret fantasy. Like many stressed-out agency owners, I dreamed of a magical “new business person” who would join my team and, with barely a trace of oversight, begin to sell the agency night and day, acquiring profitable new clients. But that mythical new business specialist is just that: a myth. Unfortunately for those of us wanting to stay in dreamland, this fantasy will only hurt a business. Not the Merlin You’re Hoping For The vast majority of new business specialists never pan out. Most agencies aren’t set up for that person to succeed, so he actually ends up costing an agency money. The reality is, agency owners want that magical new business guy because they don’t want to do new business themselves. They think there’s some kind of secret to it that someone else possesses. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but the best person in your agency to drive new business is the owner. Prospects want to talk to a business owner about business problems. You probably know that you have different conversations with them than anyone else on your staff. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you should do new business entirely by yourself, but you shouldn’t abdicate that control to someone else and walk away. Fulfill Your Own Fantasy The key to confidently stepping into the role of “new business guy” is simply improving those skills. Just like joining a gym for the first time, you may feel like an idiot at first. But as you develop your skills, you’ll grow more comfortable and successful. These three tactics will help you improve your skills and ensure that [...]

By |July 24th, 2017|

Hey agency owner — it’s time to learn how to share the sandbox and work with other agencies

Building client relationships and working with other agencies can be challenging, but it is vital for your agency’s long-term success. In fact, one of the agency/client trends that is toughest for most small to mid-sized agencies is learning how to and accepting the idea that you’re going to have to work with other agencies.  The whole agency of record model is crumbling and more and more clients are telling the marketplace that they prefer to work with multiple agencies. When AMI partnered with Audience Audit last fall to do some primary research with CMO types, one of the things that popped off the page was how prevalent this attitude is.  Many of our respondents worked with 3+ agencies and thought they were better off for doing so. The reasons they opted for multiple agencies varied but the predominant message was — “no one agency can be excellent at everything. We would prefer to buy subject matter expertise across agencies.” The other thing the respondents told us is that they hate it when agencies bicker and try to throw each other under the bus.  They end up distrusting and often firing the bigger whiner among the agencies.  (You can download the research report here) Who comes out on top?  The agency who finds a way to work well with the others.  The agency who busts a hump to coordinate their efforts and actually recognizes what the other agencies are good at and takes full advantage of those talents. Why?  Because then you are actually building client relationships. You are doing what’s best for the client, rather than worrying about the lost billable hours.  Because then you are acknowledging other agencies has something to contribute.  Because then you are [...]

By |March 31st, 2015|
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