Smart Agency Podcast: The #1 Digital Agency Podcast for Social Media, SEO, PPC & Creative Agencies

How are you planning to leverage AI for marketing insights? Want to know the best tools to utilize artificial intelligence in your agency? For years, we’ve known AI would revolutionize marketing through real-time insights and automation. However, for it to provide accurate insights and recommendations, it needs a comprehensive understanding of how a company is performing in relation to the overall market. Today's guest knew this was where AI was moving towards and decided to jump to the challenge of building a platform that would best utilize these developments for agencies. He'll share his journey from identifying AI as the future for agencies to years of failed attempts at development and finally finding the ideal partner to build his vision. He also talks about what he looks for in an acquisition and how he deals with burnout.

Erik Huberman is the founder of Hawke Media, an outsourced CMO and marketing team that customizes data-driven, performance solutions to help launch, scale, and invigorate businesses. Check out Erik’s previous interview, where he talked about setting financial goals, his marketing methodology, and his book, The Hawke Method. 

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Learning to align systems to talent.
  • Why he set out to leverage AI for marketing insights.
  • Can agency owners avoid burnout?

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Agency Analytics, an automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Go to agencyanalytics.com/smart to sign up for a 14-day FREE trial and see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Early Lessons on Aligning Systems to Talent to Boost Retention

As an entrepreneur, Erik had started a few e-commerce companies and was unimpressed by the agencies he had worked with. He decided to form a small team that could assist his clients and quickly saw a positive response.

Initially, he attracted people to work with him for a low base pay and a percentage of revenue. In his mind, the sky was the limit and any one of those workers could make a lot of money under that model. However, within six months most of them were gone. This is how he realized most people are not entrepreneurial and would rather have consistency over volatility.

With this lesson learned, he pivoted to attract talent seeking consistency over shoot-the-moon potential. With the model adjusted, growth exploded and revenue was $1 million in their very first year. As expected, the growth percentage leveled off, but steady year-over-year expansion continued.

Erik realized different motivations drive people. Some thrive on uncertainty, but most need security. Neither is right or wrong - smart leaders align systems to talent. Once he matched incentives to appetite, talent and growth flourished. Know your team and they'll drive you anywhere.

Why You Should Stay Ready to Replace Irreplaceable Talent

After starting several enterprises Erik learned you’ll always be hiring and rotating key roles. Would it be ideal to find the perfect person who will stay for the next 30 years? Of course! However, life happens so now he stays ready to perpetually replace irreplaceable talent.

Except one - his strategist-turned-president partner. So far, he’s the only hire who came into the agency with an attitude of owning his work, treating it as more than just another job. He definitely earned the leap from employee to co-owner carrying that weight from day one. It’s a decision Erik definitely doesn’t regret.

When it comes to building leaders, he has also learned the importance of dedicating more time to their training. “I used to just rush through meetings with my leaders,” he admits. Now he prefers to spend time in the weeds with them and collaborate, instead of just expecting them to solve any problem that may come up.

Building a Platform to Leverage AI for Marketing Insights

Seven years ago, Erik had a meeting with Marcus Shingles and Peter Diamantes. They talked about rapid disruption and got to wondering about what was going to disrupt marketing agencies and what they do. At the time, Marcus and Peter thought it would be freelancers. Erik disagreed and leaned more toward AI as a disrupting force.

In his opinion, AI would first offer insights into an agency’s marketing channels to see what’s working and what’s not. At some point, instead of just telling you what wasn’t working, AI would also offer to fix it for you in real time. Their response to his predictions was “Well, why don’t you build that?” His company was young but he decided to jump at the challenge.

Step one had to be data. He would need data from thousands of companies to educate an individual platform. Next, he focused on building a visualization platform that would do an automated audit to show companies how they’re performing and where they can do better.

Six long years later, the platform vision was still incomplete. Three failed tech teams couldn't deliver. Then he was approached by a dashboard developer who had the missing puzzle piece. Erik had the data and team; they had the tech. A partnership was born.

Although slow, their collaboration clicked - seamless negotiations gave way to immediate execution. Today, they have over 2,000 customers and growing.

Why No Acquisition Should Move Forward Without the Right Culture Fit

For acquisitions, Erik seeks agencies that complement Hawke Media's core. Geographic fills, service expansions, strategic bolt-ons - any over $1M revenue with scale potential.

He loves founder-led shops where Hawke's infrastructure can partner to rapidly expand capable teams 8-9X in just a couple of years. However, without cultural alignment, even winners go nowhere. So beyond financials and operations, Erik probes for shared values and vision. With those locked in, holding back becomes impossible. They nourish talent and stoke significant growth.

In the end, systems may stimulate but only engage humans who are able to innovate. That's why no acquisition moves forward without the right cultural fit. The rest can be learned, but passion and purpose must already live within.

Can Agency Owners Avoid Burnout?

Before this year, Erik never understood the talk about burnout. He had never experienced it. Now that he has, he can only say it’s inevitable, despite preparation and passion. Building a business is hard. Even someone like Mark Zuckerberg, who built one of the biggest companies of our generation, has to deal with stress and burnout. It won’t always be butterflies and rainbows. Add that to the stress of the state of the world and, overall, mental health is not great for most adults right now.

Personally, he prefers to put things in perspective because stress can affect your ability to function in your everyday life. Does this really matter? Is it worth so much stress? Is it worth compromising his health for? Other than that, he makes sure to meditate and exercise and informs himself to understand the market. Being very aware of the shifts in the economy, how they have historically played out, and how you can prepare for hard times can really help reduce the fears that come with uncertainty.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you struggling to step into your own as an agency leader? Looking to rapidly grow your boutique agency? In this episode, our guest shares her journey as an accidental agency owner and how she has grown her boutique communications agency by over 75% in the past two years. She discusses the importance of focusing on the type of agency you want to be, the clients you want to work with, and the type of work you want to do. Pilaar also highlights the benefits of organic growth and embracing mistakes to empower your team. She shares some of her experiences having grown her boutique agency quite fast and the role that stepping into her own as a leader played in their success.

Pilaar Terry is the managing partner and COO of POV Agency, a fully remote boutique communication agency that reimagines how PR is done and more importantly who it’s done by. She and her partner built the agency on the belief that a varied, nuanced, and colorful perspective is a strength. Tune in to learn from Pilaar's experience and discover how you can achieve similar growth for your agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Growth by design and the importance of having a deliberate focus.
  • Prioritizing diversity and inclusion.
  • Allowing employees to learn by embracing their mistakes.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Growth by Design: The Importance of Deliberate Focus

Pilaar attributes her success to a deliberate focus on her desired agency identity, clients, and work. She and her partner have been in the agency business for 20 years, worked with tons of brands, and remained just people who do good work. This led to a lot of good word of mouth and referrals once they joined forces. However, a more intentional and strategic approach was necessary to reach their goals. By aligning their intentions with the type of agency they wanted to be, the clients they wanted to work with, and the work they wanted to do, they were able to achieve significant growth. She emphasizes the importance of creating a plan around your goals and intentions based on your vision. This was a key component in their success.

Becoming the Leader Your Agency Needs

One of Pilaar’s biggest challenges while growing her agency was coming into her own as a leader. Basically, she struggled to find a balance between the needs of the company, the team, and herself as a leader. As the owner of a small agency with a handful of employees, she defaulted to putting her team’s needs first. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing but it came to a point where it was to her detriment. She was taking on a lot of work not wanting to burn out her employees. Looking back, she knows she needs to learn to be a leader, delegate, and give constructive feedback.

What was she afraid of? Coming from working at really big agencies and now owning a very small boutique business, Pilaar was afraid people wouldn’t want to work at her agency. Any time someone chose her agency she felt grateful that they would take a chance on her. In reality, she was also taking a chance on them.

At some point, she was no longer sure she had the team she wanted to grow the agency with, even though she had hand-selected each one. Thankfully, her agency started to invest in a really amazing partner that does team training and organization development. She realized she was hiring for the wrong reasons. Once she understood this, she came into her own as a leader.

Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion at Her Agency

Working at bigger agencies helped Pilaar learn so much about structure, skills, and dealing with clients. However, she was consistently sidelined. By the time she became senior vice president, she hoped it was her time to have a voice and be valued. When that didn’t happen, she wondered what she was doing there. This negative experience served as a catalyst and her motivation to create an agency where everyone's voice is valued. It fueled her desire to create an agency that prioritizes diversity and inclusion.

At their current agency, the majority of the team consists of people of color, working parents, individuals in the military, neurodivergent individuals, and people from different sexual orientations. She aims to create an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives can contribute and be valued for their unique insights.

Seeing Employee Mistakes as Agency Opportunities

The feeling of not being valued motivated Pilaar to create a great culture at her agency, but she admits to sometimes swinging too far in the other direction. Not wanting to demotivate employees, she was operating off of what she didn’t want to be. Instead, she should have embraced the type of agency she wanted to create. She was coddling her team and therefore getting in the way of them gaining experience.

One of her biggest worries was that, as a smaller agency, her team would resent not getting the experience of handling big clients and big budgets. However, she eventually learned to lean on what made her agency unique and not focus on what they didn’t have. This way, she was able to start guiding them toward the overall vision, let them make mistakes and learn.

Agency leaders often feel a strong attachment to their reputation and may be hesitant to let others make mistakes. This fear can lead to micromanagement and hinder the learning process for their teams. Once she was able to shift this mindset and recognize that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning, she was able to create a culture of continuous improvement and development.

Why You Should Embrace Mistakes

Pilaar encourages agency owners to allow themselves to make mistakes because she wishes somebody had told her. In the end, of course, everyone makes mistakes. It’s inevitable and you will learn from it. Mistakes can also be an opportunity to restart and it’s okay to embrace that.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


What is the key to unlocking strategic partnerships in order to grow your agency? Wondering how to identify promising collaboration opportunities? The most mutually beneficial strategic agency partnerships are with tangential agencies that align in vision and share in collaboration. Today’s guest has great insight and information about what the most successful agencies are doing to find the best partnerships to grow. Learn how to identify and approach high-potential partners hungry for help only you can provide.

Alex Glenn is the founder & CEO of Partner Programs Inc., a parent company that operates Partner Program Collective, Agency Partners Collective, and Partner Hub, a platform built for agencies who want to find and manage their partnerships. Overall, Partner Programs Inc. works as an ecosystem that offers community support and training services for both sides of the partnership equation. Alex will offer his unique perspective on how agency owners are using partnerships to grow their businesses and the things they should avoid to protect their agencies.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Which partnerships offer the most growth for agencies?
  • What you should be looking for in a strategic partner.
  • A trap you should avoid at all costs.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

How You Should Be Using Strategic Agency Partnerships to Grow

According to Alex, the past five years have seen a whirlwind of partnership experimentation as strategies trickle from tech giants down to digital agencies. But what options offer the most growth for agencies today?

  1. E-commerce. E-commerce has historically been ahead of the curve in terms of software and in the agency world. Usually, e-commerce brands know they have a short window to either make it or land on their face once they launch. To make the most of their go-to-market, they need strategic partnerships.Typically, they’ll go for agencies that already have a channel of influencers, past products they’ve brought to market, and partners that will help increase the reach of that go-to-market. These are agencies that can almost guarantee success.
  2. Niche agency. After e-commerce, the typical agency partnership would be a niche agency that has demand for software, web development, etc. These agencies are so niched down that partner agencies know they won’t have to worry about them cannibalizing their service offering.

Across categories, Alex sees partners thriving by playing to niche strengths versus chasing full-service breadth. As competition stiffens, agencies build leverage, mitigate risk, and open new doors through collaboration. The future for agencies favors focused vision and allies rather than being isolated and siloed.

What Should You Be Looking for in a Strategic Partnership?

Picking partners requires savvy calculation. Alex says sometimes white labels can still drop balls, leaving you to blame. To reduce this risk, get in the habit of referring at least three partners to a client. If it all goes south, you can argue you provided two other good options they didn’t pick. You should also keep track of your referrals. If the referrals are only flowing one way, it’s time to find another partner.

Ultimately though, it boils down to your core offerings - that's the magnet attracting partners. For example, if you're a boutique creative agency, supplement with tech partners in ecosystems granting access to ready-to-go business. Even creative-focused agencies should dip into these pools of opportunity.

Initial referral wins, when reciprocated, start an upward spiral of exponentially increasing referrals. But don't waste time on partners not returning the favor. Alex sees this optimization process as the path to bigger contract proposals. So choose allies wisely, perfect your craft, and integrate into collaborative ecosystems. Then watch the referrals and opportunities multiply.

Avoid this Common Trap at All Costs

About 90% of agencies have around 20 employees and sit in a creative niche category. If this is your case, you should be looking for strategic alliances with tech partners. However, if your business is based on word of mouth and referrals, you’re basically very vulnerable.

Some big agencies will find agencies in that 90% and white label the heck out of them. It’s often the case that for those smaller agencies, the majority of their business is coming from this big agency partner. If you’re a smaller agency and your partner says “I want to buy you” you’ll of course be very excited. That is, until they want to lower the price arguing they’re your entire source of business. At this point, your valuation gets slashed and now you’re not making nearly the amount you expected to make.

Avoid the trap of having all your eggs in one basket. Vet relationships to ensure no single client consumes most of your time and resources. Monitor for hostile takeover risk where one buyer makes demand overly burdensome.

Instead, scale smartly via a three-pronged strategy: strategic partners, complemented byinbound and outbound approaches. Diversity eliminates overexposure so no single source can cripple you if compromised.

With balance, patience, and calculated growth, agencies gain resilience against predatory relationships. Don't sacrifice long-term health for short-term hypergrowth at any cost.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Become_a_Part_of_an_EcoSystem_of_Ready-to-Go_Agency_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you want to learn strategies for overcoming obstacles and fixing mistakes? Interested in fostering strong agency client relationships through communication? Today’s guest shares his journey discovering e-commerce and the strategies that helped him scale his agency under extreme circumstances. He recalls some of his struggles identifying and fixing mistakes. He also shares his gratitude for clients who recognize the process of enhancing an online business requires time and effort. Overall, he encourages communication and education between agencies and clients to foster a mutual understanding of the work being undertaken and the value it brings.

Anatoliy Labinsky is the founder of Golden Stream Media, an e-commerce growth agency that helps generate 6 and 7-figure results for their clients. In just five years, he went from waiting tables to being a successful business owner. As part of his model, he gives away some of his secrets and shares his formulas and ad templates so anyone can plug and play his winning ads.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The importance of mentorship learn from early mistakes.
  • How clear client communication and understanding leads to success.
  • How radical transparency can fuel your agency's growth.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

How Mentorship Helped Turn Failures into a Multi-Million Dollar Agency

Anatoliy has had his share of failures early in his career. His journey is certainly not one of overnight success. In fact, finding the right path was initially challenging and he felt lost. In August 2017 living in Dubai and actively seeking opportunities, he had an "aha moment" after discovering the potential of e-commerce and Facebook advertising. Intrigued by this concept, he wanted to dive deeper into these areas and understand how they could be leveraged in business. This is where his journey in e-commerce and his first failure both began.

He launched his first store and soon lost everything he had, from his main job to his part-time jobs and savings. Nothing seemed to work. Looking back, he wasn’t really looking at KPIs and tracking didn’t understand what wasn’t working and why.

Luckily, in January 2018 he met his mentor. By this time, he owned money and had several part-time jobs, but kept investing in his dream. “I was addicted” he admits. He invested $47 on each coaching call with his mentor and quickly started to realize everything he was doing wrong.

Following his coach’s advice, he made his first $8,000 in the first fifteen days of working together.

When Client Communication & Trust Trumps Early Struggle

Anatoliy’s successes started with My Kitty Cat Store and some fashion, health, and beauty stores. He was one of the first to make a health product store to alleviate back pain, which presented the opportunity to scale without much competition. From the ad perspective, it was super simple. They got results without doing any detailed research and found an audience. There was no need for storytelling and long copy explaining its benefits. A picture of the product and a short and to-the-point headline did the trick.

On the other hand, he also had some difficult campaigns that took up to seven months to start showing results. It’s been one of the hardest projects they’ve done considering there were zero results for the first months. They tried several creative solutions without seeing many sales. The most surprising thing for Anatoliy was seeing the client stuck with his agency throughout the struggles. She was very appreciative of all the effort they were putting into her business and, ultimately, could see they were getting better results than she’d gotten for herself in three years. Finally, seven months later, they found the right formula and jumped from zero sales to $27,000 in sales.

Anatoliy knew it was a matter of finding the right combination of mastering the algorithm, having the right creatives, and finding an audience. In the end, it was his team’s hard work and the client’s trust that got them over the number one hurdle for any online business, which is clients solely focusing on the money spent on advertising. There’s extensive behind-the-scenes work required to implement changes and enhance online business and not fully comprehending this will lead to giving up on projects that can prove to be very profitable.

Staying the Course and Growing with a Mostly Ukraine-Based Team

Anatoliy’s agency is now US-based but part of his staff is in Ukraine, which has of course presented unique challenges in the last couple of years. Overall, he’s very happy they’ve all risen to the occasion in the face of unique difficulties. The team has managed to stay focused on their work and not be consumed by external circumstances.

Although initially concerned about potential repercussions for his business, Anatoliy feels very grateful they’ve been understanding of the situation. Clients have demonstrated patience and were even willing to pause projects, which was surprising for him. However, it wasn’t necessary because the team was willing to do whatever it took to continue working as usual. Even in the case of straining circumstances like power outages, they’ve been able to work using generators. It may sound extreme, but the team saw work as a distraction from everything going on around them. The effort was so successful that some clients didn't even notice the challenges his team faced. They all went above and beyond to reassure clients that they would continue working despite the challenging circumstances.

How Radical Transparency Fueled This Agency's 8-Figure Success

Every agency owner has their own secret formula they keep close to their chest. It’s the result of years and years of work and people are not usually as eager as Anatoliy to share them. For his part, he’s convinced that sharing as much as he can will help him succeed. It’s the vision his mentor helped him create when he was just starting out.

He believes he’ll never have a problem finding clients or escalating your success as long as he shares his knowledge and, therefore, gets a reputation as an authority in this field. In fact, he insists this has helped them get over the 8-figure mark.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Fostering_Strong_Agency_Client_Communication_to_Navigate_Hard_Times.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you looking to grow your agency fast while maintaining a work-life balance? Eager to start mastering boundaries without compromising growth? Today’s guest talks openly about growing her agency to over $1 million while fiercely protecting her personal life by establishing clear boundaries. She highlights the ongoing need for self-awareness to identify where these boundaries may be “leaky” and the importance of having people on the team who understand the challenges you face. Learn tangible tactics for aligning your agency’s growth with your personal well-being.

Caitlin Copple is the owner of Full Swing Public Relations, a PR agency with a mission to help leaders be seen and sought after so they can reclaim their power and build the platform they need. She describes herself as an unlikely agency owner who was able to grow her agency over the million-dollar mark in less than four years. Once this milestone was cleared, she realized the power of small business owners to change the world and was ready to tackle new challenges.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Working smarter and thinking about future acquisition.
  • Aligning agency growth with team well-being.
  • Building self-aware leadership.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

 

Learning About Limits as an Agency Owner 

After a decade in marketing, Caitlin took the leap to start her agency, while still young enough to risk but seasoned enough to succeed. Exceeding her initial goal to match her salary in five months, she researched the industry, motivated to overcome dismal stats for women-owned agencies.

Caitlin credits mindset as instrumental in confronting the challenges of scaling. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot in the coaching world but there's also truth to that. We all have an idea of what we can achieve and there's something about growing a business that helps you constantly expand that vision. That’s part of what she enjoys about the ride.

Moreover, once you can generate revenue on demand, you can start setting the parameters for your life. And as someone who really values her freedom, she has really enjoyed that part of being a business owner.

Working Smarter and Preparing the Agency for Possible Future Acquisition

For Caitlin and her business partner, there was always a line in the sand regarding what they were willing to do to succeed. Working long hours and sacrificing time with family was never an option. After all, running an agency was supposed to free up their time to focus more on family. They even make sure to take five consecutive days off without cell phones or checking emails.

Therefore, the decision was made early on to try to work smarter and not necessarily harder. They sought to staff up, even though that meant their margins would be smaller. They built the agency with a very clear alignment around What's a number that would make this journey worth it? And where did they need to be in the next years to ensure the agency’s position provides options? They’re making sure they’re prepared for the future, including the possibility of being acquired by somebody who shares their values.

More recently, after making that early investment in operations, they’ve been documenting SOPs. This way, they aim to run the business more effectively and be prepared for a future sale. They started this in 2021 and have so far documented everything from onboarding to how to approach a press release.

Being very intentional about these values has helped them build the type of business they'd want to work at while still creating opportunities for their future.

Mastering Boundaries with Agency Growth Through Policy

Having people on your team who are going through the same challenges as you can be a great support for your growth. This is why Caitlin and her partner work so well as a team. They both understand the importance of drawing a hard line on what you’re willing to sacrifice for the business. In this sense, their partnership works a lot better than partners with big age gaps who are not in the same place in life.

As to their team, their agency attracts a lot of working moms wanting to be part of this boundary-honoring culture. Flexible policies, paid parental leave, instant healthcare - each perk affirms their commitment to work-life wellness. By living their values, they continue building a team as dedicated to family as success.

Building Self-Aware Leadership by Establishing Clear KPIs

Caitlin has made her share of hiring mistakes. To be fair, she also admits she wasn’t the best leader sometimes but has continued to grow and learn. Improving your leadership skills will take both humility and confidence. For her part, Caitlin recommends investing in your own self-awareness, whether paying for business coaches or whatever works for you. “It never stops,” she says; you’ll always be on a journey of self-improvement so you can show up for your organization.

How did these bad hires turn out? Unmotivated workers are not hard to spot in a remote agency. They have systems to track productivity. Anyone who is not self-motivated and committed to following the processes will not succeed.

Caitlin also tends to hire friends and has had mixed experiences with this practice. However, getting comfortable with having hard conversations and setting up clear parameters helps navigate those relationships. It’s important to set up clear expectations and boundaries from the beginning.

Having KPIs for the business and for each employee will remove the personal aspect from the relationship. This way, it becomes about data, not feelings, removing personal biases.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_to_Master_Boundaries_Without_Compromising_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are marketers going to be replaced by AI? Do agencies need to embrace AI to survive and thrive? How can data optimization maximize AI results? Our guest today discusses the impact of AI on the agency world and shares his insights on how AI is outperforming marketers and the opportunities it presents for agencies. With the rise of AI, many agencies may not survive but those that adapt and embrace AI will thrive. In this episode, you'll learn more about the future of AI in the agency industry and how data will make all the difference in the results you get using AI for your agency clients.

Bryan Trilli is the owner of Optimized Marketing, an agency specializing in lead gen for franchises. He describes himself as a serial entrepreneur with businesses in five different industries, including one that trains AI to understand images and video. Bryan is a big believer in the power of AI and will discuss some tools agencies should already be using and talk about how some of these systems can get results faster than marketers would’ve dreamed of years ago.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How AI is doing a better job than most marketers.
  • AI applications for your digital agency.
  • Using AI to interpret agency data.

 

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

An Accidental Agency Owner Who Got Pulled into the Agency World

More than being an accidental agency owner, Bryan recalls it as being forced into the business. Back in 2008, he owned a brick-and-mortar business and had to meet with agencies to work on advertising. However, he got the sense the agencies didn’t quite know what they were doing when it came to digital marketing. He didn’t want them to just “figure it out as it goes” and decided to handle his company’s digital marketing himself.

A few years later, he sold that business and suddenly found himself helping some friends with their digital marketing. This is where his agency journey officially began.

How is AI Doing Better than Most Marketers

Are most people aware of the many applications of AI for agencies? Sam Woods, writer of a newsletter called the Bionic Marketer, an incredible AI resource, developed software that can build an entire marketing campaign with just a few prompts. Unfortunately, this tool is not available to the public but it may give you an idea of what you should all be doing with AI. It provides copy, landing pages, ads, and more, all ready to use. It may sound too good to be true and it gets better. Sam has been using this tool for years for a bunch of companies and assures that it beats the control in 100% of cases. Even at 70% it would be amazing, but 100% is truly mindblowing, considering it’s just ten minutes of work.

Developments like this cause a lot of talk and spread fears that AI is here to replace us all. In truth, we’re not at a point where AI will replace you, but people who know how to use AI will. How can agency owners get ahead of this? For Bryan, as long as you’re staying informed and know what’s coming, you’ll stay ahead of the people not paying attention.

AI Applications You Should Be Using Right Now

One of the most widely known AI tools is ChatGPT. With ChatGPT, you can significantly enhance email and marketing copy by providing specific advice based on data. Effective use of AI for marketing campaigns will require a specific target audience in mind when developing email or marketing copy, rather than relying solely on average data. By inputting the data into ChatGPT and asking targeted questions, the tool can provide valuable insights and recommendations for improving the copy.

There are so many pieces that can be automated with AI. Some tools can transcribe videos and meetings, enabling easy reference and information searching. You can also use AI to convert spoken content into text. The transcriptions can then be fed into the tool, which can efficiently search and summarize the information. This can ensure efficient retrieval of information whenever needed. These transcripts and search capabilities have wide-ranging applications across all aspects of a business.

How Marketers Have Gotten Better in Their Use of AI

Until a few months ago, most people were using AI as an idea generator. Little by little, people have been getting better at using AI and training it to best serve their interests. To get the best input out of a tool like ChatGPT, you’ll need to ask clear and specific questions. By providing context about the data and its purpose, such as for an email campaign, the tool can effectively enhance the copy. Additionally, you can establish a direct connection and feed with ChatGPT to automate the feedback process and continuously update the copy based on new data.

When it comes to internal use, Bryan and his team fed their internal data on standard operating procedures into an AI tool. With this, they can ask questions like “What’s the value we assign to a call?" And it will go through all that data to find the answer. This is just an example of how using AI can be much more efficient for an agency than going through all their data to find an answer. Overall, it goes beyond helping you create better ads, every aspect of your business could be improved by the use of AI.

Staying Ahead of the Curve by Using AI to Interpret Agency Data

As much as you can, stay aware of the world of AI and how it is continually changing. Becoming an average AI user will help you be aware of the things that no longer work. Bryan recommends seeing it as a continuous thought experiment. He is currently looking at the type of data agencies keep based on the questions they ask in each client meeting and how that data could be used to create an interface that can interpret the data. It's all about how you're using all this data you have from each client. How can it help you improve your ads and targeting? Can it also help you give more detailed reports? Clients don't only want to know about the number of leads generated and the cost per lead. They want to know what to do with that information. How does it compare with last year's data? With last month's data? If Facebook is working better, what parts of the Facebook ads are working better?

Ultimately, Bryan believes that agencies that use AI to its full potential will develop their own tech stack. Essentially, don't only use off-the-shelf stuff. Connect all these AIs in a way that's unique to your agency and feed it first-party data. Your data is a huge asset and if you're asking the right questions it'll be very specific to your business. Understanding how to use this value will make all the difference in the type of output you'll get from AI.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Why_the_Best_Way_to_Harness_AI_is_Through_Agency_Data.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you want to communicate results and build trust with clients? Need to streamline reporting without sacrificing quality to show the full value your agency offers? Effective client reports are the best way to communicate your results to clients and improve their trust in your services. However, putting together detailed reports can be time-consuming unless you're using a proven automated reporting tool. Today’s guest offers an integrated solution that helps agencies offer complete reporting without having to actually build the reports. Their services help agencies save time and reduce churn. Having built his software company from scratch, he’s intimate with challenges like hiring missteps, building leadership, and learning to let go, which he also shares in this interview.

Joe Kindness is the owner of AgencyAnalytics, an automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. With Agency Analytics, agencies can connect all their clients into one system and bring in all that data to create the reports. You can even automate this by setting up those reports for your client to get monthly, or weekly, or they can log into the platform to see a dashboard.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How the pandemic sparked their growth by popularizing remote work.
  • The risks of scaling fast.
  • Learning to build a strong leadership team.
  • The right time to let go control of the agency.

 

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All In On Remote: Cracking the Hiring Code Post-Pandemic

Joe and his partner started like many agency owners by completely bootstrapping the process of building their company. It was not a straight path to success, but rather a start that took them to several stops before finding the best formula. “That first thing you try will definitely fail. And it won't be the thing that takes you to the end. But it's part of the journey,” he shares.

After starting the AgencyAnalytics back in 2010, they still had only 14 employees by 2020. Early on, they figured hiring would be the easy part. They’d already built great software, now it was time to open a Toronto office and welcome all the people who would want to work with them. Unfortunately, they found out it's very hard to scale and find great people. It took a lot of attempts before they figured it out.

What were they getting wrong about hiring and attracting the right people? Looking back, there were several factors. For instance, Joe remembers how hard it was to attract people to a remote business pre-pandemic. People thought it was a scam.

Once the pandemic opened the doors to popularize the remote model, they knew they had to go all in. They hired a recruiter, HR people, and all the support they needed so Joe wouldn’t have to handle all the interviewing alone. Soon they found a rhythm, gained some traction, and started to hire some generalists.

Expand Cautiously and Evolve to the Needs of the Market

Rapid hiring initially brought pure excitement after a decade of bootstrapping. But the thrill of scaling soon gave way to overwhelming demands. Joe added HR support, although uncertain it justified a full role. The results spoke volumes. Offloading time-consuming interviewing let Joe refocus on the agency.

This milestone embodied their measured growth mindset: Test new roles cautiously, validate impact, then scale boldly.

Another calculated risk? Transitioning from a niche SEO tool to an integrated agency solution. Though known for rank tracking, reporting capabilities showed greater potential. Months of pushing and prodding led to decisive commitment.

Joe knew niching down as a comprehensive agency resource felt right, though not without uncertainty. In the end, their courage to strategically evolve paid off.

For Joe, exciting growth requires patiently navigating uncertainty. Thoughtfully elevate support roles, validate successes, and then expand courageously. Keep your vision broad but your validations focused.

Bringing Strategy into Agency Leadership Rather Than Just People Managers

When you start hiring, you mostly hire people to do and manage stuff. At some point, however, you’ll need to bring in team leaders. For Joe, it started with understanding what a true leader’s role is. A leader is not just a manager of people. A leader brings in strategy. Therefore, being able to get to that point where you can afford or attract a person to handle the strategy is a really key moment. Joe’s advice is that once you get to that point where you can bring that person in, just do it. Don't get too caught up in the equity or the salary you’ll give them. The right person will give you a positive ROI and will be key to helping the company get to the next milestone.

How to make sure you find the right person? There’s always a chance you’ll hire a bad leader, and they’ll end up creating more work for you. Take the time to ensure you’re choosing the right person. Don't just hire the first resume that looks great because you need help fast. More recently, Joe and his partner have used recruitment firms to find leaders to ensure they run a thorough search. It is quite expensive, but they already have a wide network to pick from and will only recommend the best fit.

When to Relinquish Control and Trust Your Leaders

Even after you’ve hired great leaders, you may find it hard to let go and step away. Joe and his partner know every facet of the business therefore sometimes fall into micromanaging. Luckily, his leaders understand they have years of experience working on all things. The systems they built are not perfect; however, something there did work, which is why they were able to grow as they did. Leaders should get processes that work better for a bigger company but this can’t happen overnight because it will break everything.

Find leaders that recognize that even though you didn’t do everything by the textbook, it worked and now they need to transition that to the more scalable way. You’ll be more likely to evolve and grow with someone with this mentality than with someone who just wants to come in and change everything.

Having someone who respects the work you’ve done so far helps you, the owner, relinquish control, which is really hard to do. For Joe, it became easier once he hired the right leaders and recognized he was now the worst person in the room. The aspects of the business you’re most passionate about will always be the hardest to let go. However once you can build a team you trust, you’ll gladly step away. Moreover, you don’t necessarily have to.

The idea is getting to a point where you can choose to work in those parts of the business you most like but that the business doesn’t necessarily need you to do it.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: The_Secret_to_Gaining_Agency_Efficiency_with_Automated_Reporting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you looking to grow your agency while maintaining a work-life balance? Not sure who and when to hire to achieve your agency goals and not work yourself to death? You can find the balance and reach your goals when you hire the right team. That's what today's guest learned when she figured out how to offload the things she doesn't love and focus on what she does love about being an agency owner. As a former TV reporter turned PR agency owner, she shares her journey of growing her agency and her strategies for increasing profit while decreasing workload.

Although she used to default to controlling sales and all communication with clients, she eventually became addicted to building a team. Now as CEO, her day-to-day activities focus more on creating content that will bring organic leads to the agency. She shares her strategies for finding the right people to achieve her agency goals and wants to help agency owners understand the importance of overcoming the hurdle of marketing yourself as an agency owner in order to build your brand.

Christina Nicholson is a former TV reporter and anchor who got into PR and is now the owner and CEO of Media Maven. Christina's first job after leaving TV was working at an agency for 6 months. Her agency experience wasn't the best so she decided to leave and started to work as a “professional freelancer”. From there, she slowly started building a team and, before she knew it, she now had an agency. Her agency gives people exposure in the media without spending on ads. Christina also has an online course that helps people DIY if they don’t have a budget for an agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Reducing the owner's workload and building a team.
  • Building your personal brand to secure organic leads for your agency.
  • Getting out of sales by establishing your role upfront.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 11 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Check out Christina's previous Smart Agency interview back in 2019.

Reducing the Agency Owner's Workload and Building a Team

For Christina, the scariest part of building an agency was hiring people. She had a personal brand as a freelancer that she carefully curated with impeccable work ethics. Of course, she was nervous about bringing other people into that dynamic. However, by this time she was working around the clock, and was stressed out, and it was clearly time to get other people to help her. She initially had to force herself to back off and allow her employees to do their jobs. Eventually, she became addicted to building a team.

The big change really came once she hired a person who could essentially replace her functions with clients. This way, she stopped being the middleman between clients and her team. This person was in charge of making sure that both clients and team members had everything they needed to be successful. At this point, she realized she was still making money and didn’t have a lot to do, which was amazing.

Securing Organic Leads through Content

For her first hires, Christina started posting in Facebook groups with contacts from her time working in media. This led to a few key hires that later made valuable referrals as she grew her team. For her most valuable hire to date, she was surprised to find this person in her personal network.

At the time, she didn’t quite know she needed a director of operations. Once she was clear on what she needed, someone suggested she just post it on her personal Facebook to see what came up. Luckily, the right person quickly answered and she was able to fill the role that would change the way she ran her agency. It wasn’t a smooth process at first. Christina would continually answer emails before anyone else could. This is common for agency owners who are so used to doing things by themselves. However, it defeats the purpose of bringing on a team. Once she backed off and started delegating and empowering her team, she saw real change.

When it was time for her role at the agency to change, she started to study how she got the clients she had. She realized most of them came to her organically after listening to her podcast or her posts on LinkedIn. It was time to focus on creating more content, building her newsletter, and recording her podcast.

How to stop wasting time. Christina used to waste a lot of time on potential clients who had no idea what they wanted, no budget, and unclear goals. Now she dedicates time to qualifying her leads, asking for their budget and goals, and afterwards refers them to a team member who will be their point of contact.

Leveraging Your Personal Brand to Promote Your Agency's Expertise

A lot of agency owners resist the idea of becoming the face of their brand and start creating content. They feel this will create the expectation that clients will be working directly with them in their campaigns. This is not necessarily the case and Christina has found the best way to get that message through is by being very clear about the expectations once they sign on. There are many benefits to building your brand like opportunities for contributed articles, podcast interviews, and quotes. These will all help you reach people and attract new clients who see you as an authority and want to work with your agency. There has to be an expert behind the brand and agency owners should be that expert.

Why do people want to be a part of Oprah’s favorite things or work with Vaynermedia? It’s because of Oprah and Gary. It all goes back to the personal brand. And clients know when they sign with Vaynermedia they're not going to work with Gary himself, but that his team has been chosen and trained by him.

Getting the Owner Out of Sales By Establishing Their Role Upfront

One of the biggest concerns for agency owners wanting to get out of sales is that clients will want to work directly with them. If clients come to know your agency through your content, won’t they expect to be working with you every step of the way? For Christina, it’s about setting expectations early.

If a client specifically asks if they’ll be working with her, she explains that won’t be the case and talks about the option of hiring her as a freelancer at a much higher rate. However, she’s very upfront about why it is in their best interest to hire her as an agency. By hiring the agency, they’ll get a team of specialists working on their brand while she oversees everything. If they hire her as a freelancer, they’ll just get her.

Building the best sales team. When it comes to her sales team, Christina prefers to hire people who used to work as publicists, at newsrooms or book publishing agencies. They have the right expertise and the stories to close those sales. It takes a lot of the stress off for her as an agency owner.

Getting Over Discomfort to Market Yourself Effectively

Are you afraid of appearing "too loud" if you start to market yourself? Maybe you’re uncomfortable with putting yourself out there. Remember that people need to know about you to do business with you. You have to be known to get leads and translate them into some kind of sale. It’s something Christina strongly encourages business owners to get over or else risk oblivion.

Furthermore, that fear could stem from comparison with people online who are actually making false promises and displaying a lifestyle they don’t live. For Christine, the biggest mistake people make is believing they don’t have a big enough team or presence to get coverage. Nobody cares how big your business is or how much money you’re making. It’s all about having a story people will enjoy.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Reducing_the_Agency_Owners_Workload_By_Building_the_Right_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you worried about losing top talent at your agency? Struggling with high employee turnover that hinders your agency's growth? It can be hard to find and keep the right people to help achieve your agency's goals. Our expert guest is a repeat on the show who shares the importance of retaining employees and how you can ensure you never lose an agency employee again. Joey Coleman shares insights on how to create a remarkable employee experience to prevent turnover. He dives into the top reason employees leave and the impact it has on agency growth. You will learn practical strategies to never lose an employee again and ensure the success and scalability of your agency.

Joey Coleman has spent 20 years teaching organizations how to keep their customers and employees. How? He turns them into raving fans via his entertaining and actionable keynotes, workshops, and consulting projects. With his model, he helps companies enhance the experience they’re delivering to customers or employees and how to make it as remarkable as possible. In addition to being an entrepreneur, speaker, and recovering lawyer, he is also the writer of the recently released “Never Lose an Employee Again”.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why do companies lose employees?
  • Are you making these mistakes during employee reviews?
  • How to create a remarkable employee experience.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Why Do Great Agencies Lose Great Employees?

If you talk to most agency owners and ask why they lose employees they’ll say it’s because they were offered more money. However, the biggest study on this matter conducted so far indicates that, yes, some employees do leave for more money. Surprisingly, though, just 9% of the people interviewed left for better compensation. What did the remaining 91% list as the reason for leaving their jobs? Well, almost 1/4 of respondents left because there wasn’t a clear path for their future with the organization. They didn’t understand what could be their next role within the company. They thought they had to leave to move upward.

How do you approach the conversation about their future? Give them the option to decide. Ask them what they hope to achieve at your agency. Do they see themselves in a leadership role or do they prefer to develop their skill set? It’s important to highlight this decision doesn’t have to be set in stone throughout their time at the agency. In fact, this is a conversation you should revisit at least once a year at the annual review – which Joey believes should be a biannual review – where the employee should have the opportunity to change their answer without negative repercussions.

You shouldn’t expect a level of certainty from your creative, non-client-facing employees. When you’re dealing with creatives try to think creatively about how you manage and deal with them in that way.

What You Should and Shouldn't Do During Employee Reviews

Would annual reviews become something employees are actually dreading? It depends on the type of workers you employ. Entrepreneurs typically hate reviews and may prefer "coaching sessions." And surely you can choose to have entrepreneurial employees. However, that structure will ensure you don’t have a good retention. Instead, employees who like stability and like to know what will happen in the immediate future will almost always appreciate a review. They like to know that their work is being appreciated and areas where they can improve.

However, there are some things you definitely SHOULDN’T do, like walking into the review announcing you’ll be pointing out the areas where the employee is deficient. You also shouldn’t use that to justify not giving a raise. Instead, Joey recommends 360 reviews, where you’ll review your team members and they’ll review you all well.

He likes to structure these reviews with STOP, START, and CONTINUE questions. In this sense, you could ask employees “What are some things I should stop doing and why? What are some things I should start doing? And “What is something I’m doing that you’d like for me to continue to do?” Pay special attention to the answer for CONTINUE because that’s where you’ll learn what’s most important to them. This way, you’ll cultivate an environment of honesty and accountability without being overly critical.

Are You Incentivicing Employee Burnout?

What is the actual workload you’re expecting employees to handle? Many agency owners don’t realize that employees start complaining about not having a healthy work-life balance because that’s how much they feel they’re expected to work. We’re expecting the work time to dip into their personal lives. When was the last time you took two consecutive weeks of vacation? If you can’t even remember the last time you did that, how can your employees think it is acceptable behavior?

3 Ways to Create a Remarkable Employee Experience

  1. Recognize that onboarding a new employee should be measured in months, not hours. So many owners think they’ll quickly bring a new arrival up to speed and they’ll immediately start producing. Stop thinking that way. Instead, take everything you’d like them to learn and break it into a day-to-day framework over the course of weeks.
  2. Avoid new hires remorse. After accepting a job offer, an employee will doubt themselves and start wondering if they should’ve asked for more money or taken a different offer. This will occur between the moment of accepting the job offer and their first day in their new position. Normally, the communication they’ll get from the company leader during that time is nothing. Instead, use that time to reaffirm their choice.
  3. Get clear on your personal psychology. Whether spending time at the shrink, meditating or at a mastermind, you need people on the outside of the agency who feel comfortable holding up a mirror and be honest about how you’re showing up.

Team Time is Sacred: Prioritizing Employee Meetings

Most agency owners will move heaven and earth for a client meeting but will constantly cancel meetings with team members. Nothing destroys engagement more than giving your team signals that they don’t matter. Those are the meetings that should never be canceled. Candidly, you have more clients than employees and clients will be easier to replace.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Boost_Retention_and_Never_Lose_an_Agency_Employee_Again.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:33pm EST

Have you hit a growth ceiling? Looking to supercharge your agency growth? Eager to learn from someone who grew over 250% in three years? In this episode, our guest shares his against-all-odds journey of growing his agency by over 250% for the past three years. He pulls back the curtain on how investing in personal growth, seeking support, and building a senior leadership dream team helped propel this growth. From perfecting their hiring structure to clearly defining each new role, you’ll learn their step-by-step blueprint for scaling successfully. He also stresses the importance of investing in communities, coaches, and your own development as an agency leader. Discover how to get urgent insights on shattering growth barriers from someone who’s been in the scaling trenches. It’s time to spark your agency's growth story.

Samir Balwani is the founder of QRY, a paid media agency specializing in helping e-commerce brands grow predictably and profitably. They help clients with paid search, social media, and whatever they may need to buy. Check out Samir's previous interview, where he talks about employee happiness and productivity.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Navigating rapid agency growth.
  • Setting up an effective hiring process to supercharge your agency growth.
  • How a supportive community can expand your business mindset.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Would you like to create a magnetic agency? Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is brought to you by the Agency Mastery Attract Masterclass, a free video training series where you'll learn how to build a better agency by becoming an authority in your niche and mastering the art of client attraction. Check it out at AgencyMastery360.com/attract.

 

Mixing Agency and Startup Mindsets

Samir had the luxury of working on the agency side as well as the startup side at a large enterprise. This is why he places himself in between “accidental agency owner” and carefully planning this move to own an agency.

Working at American Express, he realized the top brands had figured out the best results come from hiring true subject-matter experts. A creative agency would focus on making the most beautiful brand product; On the other hand, a media buying agency would focus more on numbers and performance scores. That interplay ultimately leads to the best results.

This is why he advises clients against hiring a full-service agency. “You really want that back and forth to get the best results for your business,” he says. This is what he set out to do for mid-size businesses. He didn’t realize at the time he would end up creating an agency. However, the second he realized the business he was building, he focused on creating a ten-year plan for success. In this sense, his client-side experience with agencies was very useful in helping him set up his own agency for success.

Very early on he started structuring a senior and leadership team, investing in sales and marketing, focusing on a niche, and all elements he knew were key to reaching his goals.

How a Clear Long-Term Plan Helps Supercharge Agency Growth

Thinking in the long term is a key part of actually reaching your goals. It means you’ve sat down to consider what you want in 10 years or 20 years' time. This focus helped Samir clarify the agency’s mission and vision and the next steps for that to become a reality. With a success plan already in place early on, Samir had the tools to identify the next stage the agency was moving towards and what he would need to do to push his agency through the next goal. This involved careful thought around hiring his senior team, which he knew would free him up to focus on agency marketing like content creation and podcast interviews.

Growing Pains at Warp Speed: Navigating 250% Agency Expansion

Growing 250% in just three years may sound scary for most. Fortunately, Samir had no idea what was about to hit him when it all started.

He and his team thought they were prepared and had solved many things ahead of time. However, they would soon learn they were not nearly as prepared as they thought. The years of rapid growth were a real lesson in prioritization and preparing agency processes. Ultimately, this got them to a point where the agency will now continue to steadily grow without so much effort.

Thinking back, the biggest challenges included blowing past the growth stage gates most agencies go through. All agencies will go through different growing pains at different points of their growth. $250K in revenue will present different challenges than $1 million in revenue. In his case, his agency grew so fast that the issues kept changing as they were still trying to solve them.

Pro tip on team management: When you’re growing that fast there’s always a new fire; and without any time to slow down, how can you make sure you won’t burn out your team? Samir made sure to hire an HR person early on to establish an efficient hiring system, performance reviews, and all elements that would help the agency maintain its reputation in the market.

Defining Roles, Metrics & Reviews: A Formula for Efficient Hiring

An important reason people usually struggle with senior leadership hires is unrealistic expectations. If you hire someone expecting them to solve certain problems and you find yourself telling them how to solve those problems, then it’s not a very successful hire. Samir prefers to trust his senior leaders are experts in their fields. He asks them to draw out a 30-60-90 plan and lets them get right to it. “I have never not been surprised by the output when we give the team autonomy to do things the way they want to do them,” he assures. Or, as Jason suggests, assign outcomes not tasks. Sometimes the team knows better!

But how to get the right people through the door in the first place? Samir gives all the credit to his culture team and clarify on each role. Basically, they’ve clearly defined every role they hire in terms of responsibilities, core KPIs, and quantitative and qualitative feedback. In fact, they don’t hire anyone unless they have a training plan, a clearly outlined role definition, and planned performance reviews. Having all this in place before starting the interview process allows them to be more efficient in their search.

Expanding Your Worldview to Help Trace the Path to Success

Being a business owner can be quite lonely at times. Not a lot of people can understand the ups and downs of it. For Samir, being able to talk to other entrepreneurs about this experience can be redeeming at times. In fact, one of his first investments was an executive coach, after recognizing he needed to tell someone what he was dealing with and get helpful feedback. In this sense, he found great value in joining mastermind groups with fellow entrepreneurs. This provided a supportive community to share experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges.

These groups offer the opportunity to hear viewpoints from a diverse range of people, even those outside of their industry. After all, success leaves clues so being around other agency owners and taking pieces from their growth path can help you build your own silver bullet. That’s why curiosity is one of their core values at his agency and something they work hard to instill in every team member.

Going Back to Basics in Business

Many agency owners undervalue the importance of their books and how clean they should be. This is the only you'll have a clear understanding of your business. Samir’s very first hire was an outsource CFO and it was critical in setting up the business for success. He always knew their cash flow, which clients were profitable or not, and if they needed to raise their prices. This is why he recommends all agency owners focus on the fundamentals and financial backing that comes with it as a key to success.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Supercharged_Agency_Growth_250_with_an_Effective_Hiring_Structure.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

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