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

Once a year, our digital agency owners mastermind cohort trades Zoom squares for open skies, convening at a ranch to deepen connections forged through months of vulnerable idea sharing. For three days, members taste true community while sampling strategies for unlocking agency success. But the annual live retreat with other mastermind members promises more than stimulating discussion and delicious food. This gathering of peers breeds breakthroughs that boost business and life alike.

Between fireside chats and horseback excursions, mastermind members crystallize priorities, pressure test assumptions, and summon the courage to meet change head-on. Tune in to hear some of this year's highlights and the many benefits both the members and the team take from this annual event.

Darby Copenhaver and Jason Swenk look back on this year’s Digital Agency Experience (affectionately known as DAX). They discuss the benefits of having a couple of days for in-person meetings and how it provides a sense of comfort and personal growth for everyone involved. They also recall some fun campfire anecdotes, the best memories they take from this year's reunion, and some key learnings everyone took back home.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Digital agency experience 2023.
  • Revelations around staffing and agency values.
  • Leadership check-ins on what you need to start, stop, and continue.



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Digital Agency Experience 2023 

This was Darby’s third year at the Agency Mastermind Experience and, as always, it was unique. Most of the members had not met in person and didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, the experience created an overwhelming sense of comfort for everyone attending. The members were interacting at all times and had so much to share after a year of online meetings.

In his conversation with members, Darby could see how much they each took away. Everyone had their expectations of what they wanted to get out of the event or what they thought they needed. Fortunately, every single one expressed they got monumentally more than they expected.

When they join the mastermind, agency owners are normally filled with questions and not sure who to turn to get the answers. In many cases, mastermind discussions lead to tough questions that lead agency owners to question where they are with their business and what they need to keep growing. For others, it may lead to affirming things they already know they should do.

In many ways, it’s like group therapy. Even though you already know something, it hits differently when you’re forced to say it out loud and in front of your peers. It forces people into action in a way they might never do on their own.

Staffing Revelations Around Talent and Values

Gathering people around a campfire can foster a sense of camaraderie and create lasting memories. It’s a perfect moment for them to let their guard down and go back to their high school selves. It creates an environment where people can connect on a deeper level and engage in authentic conversations.

During the mastermind experience, the campfire was a time for reflection, collaboration, and goal-setting. The group engaged in conversations about parenting, work, and personal aspirations.

This year, many conversations highlighted the importance of considering values when it comes to your team. Jason is a big believer in evaluating team members and clients based on whether they align with the same values. It becomes an important aspect of building a successful and cohesive group. Just ask yourself, "Would I want to hang out with them at my house?"

It’s not exactly about surrounding yourself with ‘yes men’, but brilliant workers can still corrode culture. Mastermind members traded tales of top performers poisoning team dynamics.

Finding the right talent is hard, of course. But hiring mistakes grate slowly and then mass exodus eventually follows. So surgically remove cultural cancers promptly. It's the best approach to protect your team and save yourself bigger problems down the line.

Furthermore, implement the value element as part of your hiring process. Vet people based on their talent and how compatible they are with the established agency values.

Leadership Check-Ins: What to Start, Stop, and Continue?

What does your team want you to start doing? What do they want you to stop doing? And what would they like you to continue doing? These questions were part of the group discussions and led to useful realizations, even for Jason, who was asked to institute a 24-hour rule with his team.

As a leader, Jason is a doer with a tendency to act on his ideas quickly. Quick decision-making can be beneficial in some cases, but it can also lead to hasty decisions and the need for subsequent changes.

Both Darby and Stacey, the director of happiness, know Jason usually has very good ideas. He is the type of person who gets things done. There are many positives to this. He doesn’t fall into the trap of overthinking and over-analyzing. However, impulsive behavior can result in the entire team dedicating hours of work to something that may be scratched in the end.

With the 24-hour rule, they can ensure decisions are now given time for careful consideration before taking action, increasing the chance of success.

“Good is The Enemy of Great”

This was part of the mastermind’s discussions when talking about training your team to push themselves for greatness. At some point, we may feel pretty confident in what we do and our team’s success. However, there’s always room for improvement.

We all probably have an idea of what we could and should be doing to be better at what we do. However, as human beings, it can be hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone, which is where greatness lies. Training your team to always strive for greatness will ensure you’re surrounded by people who will challenge and push each other to reach their full potential.

Moreover, by instilling this mindset in your team, you’re empowering them to make decisions and take action without constant supervision. This, in turn, allows you to focus on higher-level tasks and responsibilities.

A Space for All Agency Owners Willing to Share to Reach Their Goals

So what can the members take from this members' only digital agency experience? The experience fosters new ideas and open communication that the agency owners can then take to their teams.

So many agencies nowadays are virtual which has benefits for both employees and owners. However, they also miss out on the banter and in-person interactions that come with being in an office. By making this an in-person experience, Jason and the team hope to infuse some of that creativity and problem-solving spirit into the attendees and get them back to their agencies filled with new ideas.

The mastermind is by no means a bro club. This year it was pretty evenly divided between men and women attendees. It is a place for all agency owners who need help getting through some hurdles hindering their growth. As long you're a giving, sharing, vulnerable, transparent, and honest person, you have a place to go where you can be around similar people, no matter who you are or where you come from.

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.