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

Have you made hiring mistakes that affected your agency's growth? How long did it take you to course correct before it was too late? Wrong hires can become a cancer inside your agency that leaves you exhausted and overworked. Today’s guest started her agency as a very small operation and turned to friends when it came to hiring. However, she soon realized that friendships don’t always translate to the best work relationships. She was micromanaging, losing money, and losing confidence in her ability as a leader. In a bold move, she took control of the situation by shutting down her agency at the end of the year. She decided to create new rules, enforce them, and see who really remained after the agency’s direction was made clear. Tune in to learn she saved her agency, gained confidence as a leader, and built the team she needed.

Danielle Reid is the owner of DR and Associates, a creative agency specializing in communications, diversity, and multicultural marketing. They do brand and project development, and growth campaigns for start-ups and helps all size business and achieve results through strategies that connect while using innovation and expertise.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Rapid growth and getting to 7-figures in four years.
  • Why you should always ask for a budget.
  • Pulling the brakes to correct hiring mistakes.



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The Biggest Challenge with Getting to 7-Figures in Four Year

Danielle worked for a Big 6 agency as a senior manager for a long time and loved being the person pulled into projects that needed saving. However, she craved new challenges and eventually got bored. She left agency life to work for the Navy, a new and exciting challenge that validated her leadership talents. She realized she was the expert in the room, which fueled her motivation to one day own her own agency. After a brief stint at a corporate job she realized it was the right time to become a business owner, so she started her agency, DR & Associates.

Looking back, the growth they’ve seen since 2019 has been amazing, hitting over 7 figures in just four years. However, despite the rapid rise, pricing was the first big obstacle she struggled with. Agency owners often see low pricing as a strategy to get started and build a client list. Like many before her, Danielle wasn’t thinking about her profit margin. She figured she’d just charge low prices to have a competitive advantage.

How did she measure success? It was all about making an impact on companies she believed in. Many businesses couldn’t afford a $25,000 retainer but had great potential for growth. This approach is often driven by a desire to attract clients and gain experience in the field. However there are risks associated with low pricing. It’s important to consider the implications of this strategy and its long-term effects on the agency's growth and profitability.

A Crucial Turnaround: Why You Should Always Ask for The Budget

The first moment that represented a crucial turnaround for Danielle was her first 6-figure contract. A non-profit client needed help with social media strategy and ended up hiring her agency. She was stunned to find their budget was $180,000 but was glad to have asked for a budget beforehand. This contract dwarfed her previous record of  $4,000 so it was a huge step in the right direction.

This enormous deal affirmed her value while fueling accelerated growth. Still, Danielle doesn't apply a one-size markup. Especially with budget-limited nonprofits, proposals embody custom assessments of needs, goals, and ability to pay. Her agency balances mission and margins through context-based pricing.

Pulling the Brakes to Correct Past Hiring Mistakes

As she went through expenses at the end of last year, Danielle had the dreadful realization that she had been scammed by some employees, considering how much they cost and how little value they provided in return. This brought about a moment of radical changes, as she fired some of her team last December to figure out how to move forward in 2023.

We've all been warned about the difficulties of hiring friends. In her experience, these friends turned out to be less productive than expected. Unfortunately, it came to a point where Danielle had to babysit her employees, having to do more direction of everyone else’s duties than her own work. So she put certain parameters up, knowing these employees wouldn’t choose to return after the rules were enforced.

It was a tough lesson but it had to be done, especially considering how much money she’d lost while still having to do the work herself. She had to realize that not everybody would enter a working relationship with a friend and know how to separate the boss from the friend. Having employees who are unwilling to follow your lead will leave you exhausted and unhappy. Your agency will need direction to truly succeed and if you’re being unclear about that direction or have a team who refuses to follow it, you won’t get to where you want to be.

Since this experience, Danielle has taken full control of her leadership and reassessed her hiring decisions to prioritize the agency’s overall direction and the impact she wants to make.

Embrace the Benefits of Collaboration

Danielle encourages agency owners to not be afraid of collaboration. We often miss out on good opportunities that could help elevate and grow our businesses to new levels. Given the chance, the right collaboration could help take your agency to a Big 6 level. However, the competition mentality ruins those chances, as every opportunity for collaboration is also seen as competition. This is an example of thinking too small and failing to see the power of collaboration to further build your brand.

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.