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

Is the wrong prospecting process bringing you clients who are just not a good fit? Are you feeling trapped in a contract with clients you wouldn’t choose to work with again? Building strong connections with clients based on common ground and understanding can significantly impact the success and fulfillment of partnerships in the agency world. Today’s guest saw her first agency end after all partners lost their passion for the work. The reason? Working with clients who didn’t fit the agency’s personality left them all feeling stuck and overwhelmed. After selling and starting over, she has made the right prospecting process a focus of her new business and is seeing the results. Tune in for insights on starting over the right way after selling an agency that wasn’t working out.

Jodie Ball is an agency owner specializing in search engine optimization helping clients scale and grow. She has a decade of experience in SEO and digital marketing and uses a data-driven, non-siloed approach to capture target demographics at pivotal points during their decision-making process. Jodie shares her journey of building and selling her first agency with partners, along with the challenges and successes she experienced. She now enjoys the freedom to choose her clients and work with people she wants to work with.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How the wrong prospecting can lead to agency frustration.

  • Ensuring your vision aligns with your prospects.

  • Selling and starting over the right way.


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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 and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

When Clients Don't Align: The Path to Agency Frustration

Jodie’s agency journey started when she was an intern helping build websites for musicians and got the amazing opportunity to work in the search engine optimization of an Amazon-owned business. She sort of fell into the role of executing an account for Amazon, a path she would have never imagined for her career. Later on, the people who first contacted her for that project called her when they decided to build an SEO agency and eventually became her business partners.

The Amazon gig helped them gain credibility as they started and grew their agency. Initially, she worked on sales and strategy and had to wear a lot of different hats as she and her partners figured out the agency.

After starting off with a bang with Amazon, Jodie’s agency went on to work with high-end fashion retailers like Skims and Good American. They stayed within the fashion niche to leverage their expertise and reputation in that area and attract clients who valued their industry knowledge and experience.

However, they fell into a pattern of taking on clients that didn't fit their agency's personality and started to feel stuck and overwhelmed. This led to stress and ultimately made the business less enjoyable. Five years in, her partners were now too busy for the agency and it seemed there was not enough meat left on the bone.

Basically, it seemed clients did not have a full understanding of the value the agency was providing. This resulted in unhappy clients and frustration on both ends. Looking back, Jodie sees their reporting was not complete enough to communicate the full extent of their results.

How to Find The Right Prospects: Correcting Past Communication Mistakes

Agencies must establish clear channels of communication with clients from the very beginning and consistently update them on the progress of their projects. By setting expectations and goals upfront, agencies can ensure that clients are aware of the value they are receiving and can better appreciate the results of their work.

There are certainly many things they could have improved which Jodie now implements in her new agency with her current understanding of prospecting that helps eliminate the wrong prospects since the beginning.

A lot of it has to do with educating the client during the onboarding process. Clients may not always be familiar with the intricacies of digital marketing, SEO, or other services offered by agencies, so it is crucial to take the time to explain these concepts in a way that is easy for them to understand.

Jodie finds that many times with clients the business model is a really great fit for the agency but the person they’ll be communicating with is not there yet in terms of understanding or being in the right mindset. This is not necessarily insurmountable and agencies can empower these clients to make informed decisions and better appreciate the work being done on their behalf.

Looking forward, Jodie would like to focus on growing the team, scale the agency to reach the 7-figure mark and retire to live a more relaxed lifestyle.

Selling an Agency and Starting Over the Right Way

As the partners' passion for the agency waned and problematic clients drained the joy from their work, discussions about a potential sale arose. Initially, Jodie resisted - in her early 20s with minimal living expenses, she felt ready to keep battling for their vision. But her partners craved more stability and Jodie admits their backend costs were spiraling out of control.

Then a familiar company came calling, sharing a business partner and needing project management with solid SEO chops. When Jodie's team opened their books to this potential buyer, the numbers spoke volumes - they were tanking fast. So they accepted a decent exit package and walked away.

For Jodie, the transition back to employee life quickly confirmed her entrepreneurial itch. Just selling websites at a corporate gig felt like a downgrade from the autonomy she once had. The realization cemented her future path - that the risks and rewards of building her own venture were worth the fight.

It was a bittersweet closing chapter for that first agency but Jodie emerged with the unshakable tenacity and determination to build something even greater in her next iteration as a founder.

Get Paid More with a Foot-in-the-Door Offer

Revamping her client onboarding has been enlightening for Jodie. She now deeply appreciates the value of an exploratory conversation to truly get to know prospects. In the past, she learned the hard way that seeming like a good fit upfront doesn't guarantee long-term alignment.

These days, Jodie's process kicks off with discovery calls and initial questions, but quickly dives into extensive conversations searching for that essential common ground. It's a critical step to prevent getting trapped in contracts misaligned with her agency's core. For Jodie, there must be a palpable connection - a sense you could comfortably chat with this person as a friend, beyond the business transaction. Without shared fundamental beliefs and values, any working relationship is doomed.

The next step to improve this approach would be to offer a "foot-in-the-door" to collaborate on high-level planning. This offer vets both sides - proving the client's seriousness and fit, while showcasing Jodie's agency value with some initial results. It's a win-win for rapidly progressing viable prospects toward full-scope engagements at well-deserved premium fees. With good results on this end, clients will see the value you bring for their business and be willing to pay a higher ticket to get there.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Do you dream of running a big agency? What’s your target number and how do you think you’d handle the added stress of an increasingly larger team? Today’s guest is the leader of an agency colossus: an over half-billion-dollar behemoth with around 4,000 employees spanning the globe, a scale very few founders could even imagine. He’ll share invaluable insights into engineering colossal expansion, the leadership mindset needed to wrangle this growth, and how his team handles agency valuations in their search to continue the agency’s growth. Tune in to this must-listen episode if you're looking for inspiration and practical advice on taking your agency to the next level.

Dimi Albers is the global CEO of DEPT, an agency that has seen phenomenal growth over the past eight years. He shares the pivotal moment back in 2014 when the partners at Dept decided to shift their focus from being a Netherlands-centric design and tech agency to becoming a global player that covers the full digital customer journey and the strategy behind acquiring 33 agencies.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The road to scaling to $500M.

  • Lessons from a cultural mismatch.

  • Inspiring your leadership team.

  • Elements to consider for an agency valuation.


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Taking a $500M Agency to Global Markets

Back in 2014, Dimi’s agency made the pivotal decision to expand its services and target international clients. They wanted to transform from a design and tech-focused agency into a company that covers the customer’s full digital journey. This strategy was considered relatively unique and presented an opportunity for growth. At the time, the agency had a very good reputation in The Netherlands and was valued at 15 million USD.

To support their ambitious plans, the agency partnered with a Dutch private equity firm. This partnership provided the necessary resources and expertise to accelerate their growth, despite initial reservations about working with a private equity firm.

Even with capital backing, they remained relatively conservative in investments. Dimi focused on establishing profitability for core revenue drivers within a tight 12-18 month timeframe. The agency pursued a two-pronged growth strategy - mergers and acquisitions supplemented by nurturing intrapreneurial talent to drive organic business wins. Organic expansion from existing client relationships delivered a steady 25% annual growth rate, which compounded as M&A activity layered in.

For Dimi, scaling an agency is fundamentally a people business and requires making sound decisions consistently rather than betting on a few big moves. It may sound boring, but he cautions against the idea of explosive growth and highlights the unglamorous but crucial factors like hard work and incremental smart choices.

His agency methodically built its value proposition in the Dutch market first. From this solid foundation, they gradually expanded into Europe, the US, and ultimately APAC - advancing to new geographies only after careful evaluation of their capability strengths and each market's receptiveness. This thoughtful, capability-driven approach to global scaling enabled successful service expansions into new territories.

Trusting Your Gut: Lessons from a Cultural Mismatch

Quite early in their journey, when they were far less experienced, DEPT partnered with an agency that ended up being a cultural mismatch. This was the sole instance Dimi can recall facing such an issue. Being a first for him at that stage, Dimi admits to underestimating how long it would take to recognize and address the disconnect.

Ultimately, even though the merger was a sound financial decision, the misaligned team needed to be merged with a more culturally compatible group to rectify matters. Looking back, he thinks he could have made faster decisions by just trusting his gut. It’s possible to determine with a high level of certainty whether a partnership or hiring decision will work out after speaking with someone for a certain amount of time. In this sense, he’s learned to trust his intuition and instincts in business.

How To Deal With “Difficult” Clients at Your Agency

Dimi's agency evolved from being generalist to niche-focused through strategic mergers and acquisitions. As specialized firms joined, it opened up new service offerings and vertical markets like Amazon advertising expansion across Europe.

Their vision for growth centered on meeting client needs first. Starting with establishing a strong portfolio in the Dutch market, they then expanded across Europe as demand grew. For Dimi, prioritizing client satisfaction and value delivery guides their expansion more than conquering specific regions.

Within the agency, discussions revolve around ensuring both client and employee happiness take center stage before finances. Dimi meets daily with clients for meaningful dialogue on how his team generates value. He also connects with internal teams to gauge engagement, workload balance, and overall well-being.

When challenging client relationships surface, Dimi emphasizes communication to understand root issues, turn situations around through solutions, and either improve dynamics or mutually part ways if necessary.

Balancing Innovation and Strategy in Agency Growth

Scaling an agency requires clarity about some key questions. First of all, WHO; Who do you want to go after? Who do you need to hire to achieve this? Who do you need to become? Additionally, Dimi has also learned to think about the WHAT and HOW, because he’s found there’s a big difference between people who are good at defining the “what we’re going to do”, and the ones who are good at the “how we’re going to do it”. Instead, of looking for the unicorn who is good at both, he recommends looking for the brilliant WHAT people and the brilliant WHO people. Working and collaborating with individuals who complement each other's strengths requires self-awareness and the ability to recognize one's own limitations.

As a visionary who is mostly concerned with the ideas or the WHAT Dimi has run into some challenges when it comes to the structure systems an agency needs once it starts experiencing growth. In the past, he’s been slow to listen to the "how" people, who have a more cautious and strategic approach, which is something he continues to work on.

How to Inspire Your Team to Dream Beyond What is Logical

Although he admits to not being the best manager, Dimi knows his strength lies in inspiring people to think beyond what is logical. And he does it by setting the example. When he and his partner created the plan to expand and scale globally, everyone thought they were crazy. However, once they reached their goals in record time, they proved the sky was the limit.

Their vision not only challenged the team to think bigger but also provided a clear direction for the organization to strive towards.

Inspiring your team is about achieving something unique. It’s not necessarily about numbers and growth, it can also be about craft. Show them the impact they’re having. For instance, if you work with non-profits, show them how their work is helping change the world for the better. Reach beyond their perceived limitations and you’ll be motivating them to keep going.

Additionally, he also highlights the importance of vulnerability and personal connection. As a leader, Dimi openly talks about his mistakes. This vulnerability creates a sense of authenticity and trust within the team. It allows team members to feel comfortable sharing their struggles and mistakes, fostering a culture of learning and growth.

Key Considerations for Successful Acquisitions

Dimi’s agency has been acquiring agencies for some time as part of its expansion plans. For him, there are two main elements for a successful merger: capabilities and geography. Beyond that, they’ll consider:

  • Culture: It is the first and most important aspect they’ll consider. Can they see themselves working and growing with their team?

  • Quality of their work.

  • Quality of their second and third generations: Basically, they look beyond the founders. Do they have a good team around them who are ambitious enough to keep growing and running the business once the founders decide to scale back?

  • Numbers: His agency has excellent growth and margins, so any agency that joins them must be at that level so it doesn’t devalue the whole when they join.

8 Elements to Consider When Doing an Agency Valuation

While a general rule of thumb is that an agency making a million in EBITDA could be valued at four times that amount, there several factors that contribute to much higher multiples paid for agencies with exceptional qualities, such as:

  1. Growth rate: The faster an agency grows, the more valuable it becomes.

  2. Market: The markets that the agency is addressing also play a role in its valuation. Agencies that are targeting larger and more lucrative markets will generally be valued higher than those targeting smaller markets.

  3. Team: It’s important to have a talented and capable team. A strong team can contribute to the agency's growth and success, which in turn increases its value.

  4. Profitability: The margin percentage, or profitability, influences an agency’s valuation. Higher margins indicate a healthier financial performance and can lead to a higher valuation.

  5. Addressable market: Agencies operating in markets with more potential for growth and expansion will generally be valued higher than those in smaller markets.

  6. Popular and sought-after capability: Agencies that specialize in a highly in-demand area, such as AI technology consultancy, will be valued higher due to the premium placed on their expertise.

  7. Recurring revenue: Agencies that have a significant portion of their revenue coming from retainer contracts are considered more valuable than those relying solely on project-based revenue.

  8. Revenue concentration: Diversification of clients and revenue sources is preferred and can contribute to a higher valuation.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Scaling_an_Agency_to_500M_with_Dimi_Albers___Ep_674.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am MDT

Are you looking for motivation to get your agency off the ground? How has your client acquisition strategy evolved since you started? Have you tried building client communities to foster a competitive spirit that will lead to client wins? Today’s guest is a young entrepreneur who turned to marketing as a teen knowing college just wasn’t for him. He focused on learning and building a solid base and now has 400K/mo SMMA and has purchased another two agencies. He and his partner understand their strengths lie in getting businesses off the ground and recognizing potential for growth in partnerships. However, they’re still figuring out how to scale to eight figures. Tune in to learn from his inspiring journey and his tips for successful mergers and acquisitions.

Matt Shields is the founder of Estate AI, an agency that seeks to shift the paradigm for realtors who rely on referrals by teaching them how to run a business with consistent opportunity flow.  Matt is a young agency owner who has achieved impressive success in a short period. His determination and entrepreneurial spirit led him to purchase his first SMMA course at just 17 years old. Now, with over $425,000 in monthly recurring revenue, Matt shares his unique approach to acquiring agencies and achieving high profit margins.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Matt’s client acquisition strategy.

  • The $2,500 ad that got them a $1,000,000 win.

  • Building communities for client success.

  • Top tips for buying and selling your agency.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio

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 and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Outgrowing Self-Doubt to Catalyze Agency Success

At age 17, Matt felt school wasn't the right path for him and wanted to try a different entrepreneurial approach. He purchased a $597 marketing course that taught him key skills - sales, outreach, onboarding customers, and Facebook ads. However, as Matt took his first steps into entrepreneurship, the biggest hurdle had nothing to do with practical business tactics.

In that crucial first year, Matt was forced to face deep inner fears - the fear of failure, rejection, and not being good enough. He realized he needed to work extensively on his own psychology and overcome limiting beliefs about his young age and ability to successfully build a business. Confronting these mental roadblocks proved just as important as mastering the outward skills.

Although Matt eventually reached a good place and found success, in his view he never fully overcame self-doubt. Getting too comfortable would mean stagnation, which he wanted to avoid. While he conquered early fears around sales and now thrives in that area, he continues to face the challenge of overcoming fears of leadership and leveling up his mindset.

It's a constant process of self-improvement, because as a business grows, so too must the entrepreneur grow personally. Most recently, Matt has focused on becoming disciplined enough to consistently take action on the hard things, regardless of his passing feelings or mental resistance.

The Evolution of His Agency's Client Acquisition Strategy

Matt scaled his first agency through the strategic use of free trials. To attract initial clients, they leveraged LinkedIn automation, Facebook direct messages, and cold email outreach. This approach worked particularly well when they started emailing gym owners to offer free trial services. They completed around 70 free trials over 6 months - but only for prospects they knew could convert to paying customers. After that 6-month ramp-up period, they were generating $20,000 in recurring monthly revenue.

This early method provided valuable entrepreneurial experience. However, Matt's agency has since evolved its approach to client acquisition. They now rely on paid advertising and use the same systems they sell to run their own growth campaigns. This strategy rocketed them from $10,000 per month to $150,000 within just 3 months, hitting $350,000 in monthly revenue by their first year - all through paid ads.

To fuel this exponential growth, Matt and his partner reinvested all profits into paid media spending and building a robust sales team. They also recognized offering a compelling guarantee in their ads was crucial for conversion. Rather than innovate from scratch, they analyzed competitors' guarantees and modeled their own to be slightly better than existing market offerings. Matt believes that SMMAs don’t need to innovate, just pay attention to what works and do it better.

Their simple but realistic promise - "10 listing appointments in 6 months for realtors" - resonated powerfully with their target audience. This honed, benefit-driven guarantee helped attract a steady stream of new clients. However, Matt cautions that overused or unrealistic guarantees can become saturated and erode trust over time when not thoughtfully implemented.

A $1,000,000 Win from a $2,500 Paid Ad

According to Matt, the agency’s most successful ad was sparked by this philosophy of “paying attention to what works and do it better”. Imagine a fun, catchy music video that racked up millions of views and shares for them. For Matt's agency, that viral sensation was worth a cool $1 million in new business - all off the back of a single $2,500 ad spend!

It was a stroke of brilliance sparked by a clever HVAC ad Matt discovered. He immediately contacted that production company with a request: "Can you take this same awesome concept and adapt it to the real estate niche?"

One week and $2,500 later, the magic arrived - a fresh, industry-tailored spin on the original video that immediately resonated and took off like wildfire.

By keenly observing what's crushing it, repurposing ideas executed extremely well, and layering on innovation for further gains, he unlocked exponential success, which underscores the importance of truly understanding your audience, leveraging existing momentum cleverly, and constantly elevating your approach to stay ahead of the pack

Building Communities for Client Success

Scaling so fast, it’s fair to assume that Matt’s agency had a hard time combating churn. He does admit in the beginning the agency was not securing many deals for their clients. Despite this, clients were still happy and satisfied, a trend he also observed in his first agency acquisition. This did change a bit after the expansion of the sales team, which meant the agency’s founders stepped away from sales. To address this new low, Matt and his partner created a client community modeled after Alex Hormozi’s client mastermind concept. By bringing clients together, providing coaching, and inviting experts, they aimed to foster a competitive environment that motivated them to excel and achieve success.

The implementation of the client community proved to be a game-changer for the agency. The competitive nature of realtors within the community sparked a desire to outperform each other, leading to increased effort, dedication, and ultimately, success.

Furthermore, Matt emphasizes the role of a free Facebook group in building this community. He and his partner purchased an existing Facebook group within their niche, which had 8,000 realtors. This acquisition proved to be a valuable resource, as it provided a platform for interaction, engagement, and the opportunity to showcase their expertise. The free group served as a stepping stone for potential members to become part of the main paid community, as they were already familiar with the agency's values and offerings.

Most recently, Matt has improved by leveraging industry expert coaches. Recognizing his own limitations, he pays experts to advise clients directly. This provides high-quality guidance while ensuring his team gains deep real estate knowledge, significantly improving account management.

Lessons Learned from Early Mistakes in Community Building

In the very beginning, Matt and his team would keep their community members engaged doing eight calls per week to talk about strategy and progress. However, he now sees they were overdoing it. It was one of those early mistakes he now takes as a lesson learned. Rather than only giving people the best, the calls started becoming diluted.

Bumping up the number of calls offered resulted in a decline of their show rate. Clients didn’t have the time to show up for so many calls per week and didn’t know which ones to prioritize. Instead, make sure the quality is solid and you’ll keep people coming back.

Another early mistake he’s learned from was not establishing clear core values from the get go. He now sees the importance of being firm and upfront about the community's values, and giving potential members the option to opt out if they do not align with those values. This approach not only filters out individuals who may not be a good fit for the community but also attracts like-minded individuals who are eager to be part of a group that shares the same values.

The Top Tip for Buying and Selling Your Agency

Matt and his partner have acquired two agencies by leveraging their expertise and reputation and recognizing their limitations. With a respected reputation within a specific group of people and his partner’s coaching company adding to their perceived value, they’ve managed to draw people and sell their vision for the partnership.

For their first acquisition, it was difficult to come up with a valuation since the agency had been around for less than a year. They relied on a multiple of one-time EBITDA, although Matt admits lacked knowledge in the area and trusted his partner to make the decisions. Nowadays he would just bring in a broker to provide a legitimate valuation.

He’s since also learned the importance of legal agreements and the role of lawyers in creating these documents. In their initial partnership, they created their own agreements. However, Matt now recognizes the need to involve a mergers and acquisitions lawyer to ensure that the agreements are legitimate and protect all parties involved.

For the second acquisition, Matt met an agency owner who had a lot of potential but seemed stuck in his growth, making only around 10k a month. That owner wanted Matt to be his coach, but he would only consider getting involved with his agency as a partner. They eventually cut a deal and the partnership began with a revenue-sharing agreement and phantom equity, which eventually evolved into a flat retainer and phantom equity. This partnership proved to be successful, with the agency's revenue increasing significantly under the speaker's guidance.

Pro tip: When it comes to taking phantom stock in a partnership deal, remember that sometimes small business owners change their minds when the business starts to grow and claim less access for you under the guise of it “just being a phantom stock”. To protect yourself, make sure to always get a lawyer. It's going to cost you more in the very beginning, but it will protect you later on.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_Matt_Shields_Built_A_400K_mo_SMMA___Ep_673.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Do you find it hard to stand out on LinkedIn? Have you tried making connections there only to feel bombarded by spam? Our guest today is here to rescue your LinkedIn presence from obscurity. She specializes in coaching agency owners to transform their profiles into irresistible client magnets. During this chat, she goes over some of the most common misconceptions about LinkedIn, her concept of writing a “love letter” to your target audience, and why trying to be overly professional won’t work on this platform. Tune in to learn how to make the most of LinkedIn and differentiate yourself in this crowded digital platform.

Nicole Osborne is the founder of Wunderstars, a brand and marketing coaching program designed for agency owners and online businesses. With her help, entrepreneurs get to the bottom of how to stand out on LinkedIn. She discusses the importance of being authentic and sociable on the platform and shares insights on how to fix the common LinkedIn mistakes agency owners are making.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What’s working and not working on LinkedIn.

  • How to write a love letter to your audience.

  • How to connect through vulnerability.


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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Blueprint: Do you need help accelerating your agency’s growth? If you’re having trouble scaling your agency, maybe you're just too close to the identify areas where you need the most help. This is why we're setting up a free strategy session with our Scale Specialist Darby where he’ll walk you through a framework for scaling your agency faster. Just schedule a chat with Darby – no string attached – at Together, you'll figure out your next steps for scaling your agency faster.

Rapport Building: The Secret Weapon to Make it in Marketing

As a teenager living in former Eastern Germany, Nicole had to help out with the family’s market stall sales after both her parents lost their jobs. She was tasked with selling sunglasses and, initially, she felt awkward and shy. However, she soon realized that building rapport with potential customers was essential to successful sales. By engaging in friendly conversations and making people feel comfortable, Nicole was able to draw them in, make the sale, and get referrals.

Reflecting on this experience, she realized that many agencies, despite being excellent at marketing their clients' businesses, often struggle to market themselves effectively. They fail to overcome their fears in order to become more visible and successful on platforms like LinkedIn.

Initially, agency owners may feel the pressure to portray themselves as uber-technical experts on LinkedIn. However, Nicole suggests that being authentic and talking about everyday things can be just as effective as long as you keep your ideal clients in mind.

Not Growing On LinkedIn?  Try This

LinkedIn has proved to be THE platform to be in for many agency owners. However, a lot of people have negative perceptions of it. Even though some still think of it as a “boring” platform, it has evolved over the years, transitioning from a strictly professional and corporate platform to becoming a more sociable and engaging one.

In this sense, Nicole encourages agency owners to be authentic in how they present themselves on the platform and not stick to an outdated overly professional style in their posts. This is the only way you’ll succeed in utilizing LinkedIn to connect with people on a more personal level.

Of course, there’s no denying that interactions can get quite spammy on LinkedIn. To this, Nicole counters that email marketing can also get very spammy, yet everyone uses it to promote their businesses. Likewise, as long as individuals focus on building genuine connections, the platform can be a valuable tool for business development.

It’s important to avoid immediately jumping to a sales pitch without first assessing if there is mutual value and benefits in the connection. Instead, engage in conversation and find common ground. By taking the time to get to know each other and finding shared interests, individuals can establish a solid foundation for a meaningful connection on LinkedIn.

Approach LinkedIn as a real networking event where you would hopefully not just talk about yourself but also actively listen and engage with others. Treat it like a virtual networking party and you’ll have global reach that will allow you to work with international clients and grow your personal brand across the globe.

From LinkedIn With Love, How To Find Your Ideal Clients

What works on LinkedIn is something that can change over time, like with any social media platforms. For Nicole, one thing that will never change is the human element, which is why you should always show up as yourself.

Instead of putting on a professional mask, start by thinking about what your ideal clients need and focus on that. It’s an approach she links to writing a love letter. Ask yourself what would appeal to your audience? What would they find interesting? What is it they're struggling with? What is it they're really hoping to achieve? Showcase your agency's culture, creativity, and problem-solving abilities and present yourself as a guide to help them get to where they want to be.

As to letting your authenticity shine through, don’t forget the importance of the human element. In this regard, while she’s all about making processes more efficient, Nicole advises not to lean too much on automation because it may hinder your ability to connect with potential clients on a personal level. Understanding your target audience and what resonates with them is crucial to bringing personality to these interactions, and it can’t be effectively done if you’re solely relying on AI tools.

Additionally, agencies should avoid outsourcing without providing a thorough brief and should be cautious of using appointment setters who may spam potential clients. These approaches can come across as impersonal and may not effectively showcase the agency's unique value.

Pro tip: Create polls that tap into your audience’s pain points. By reaching out to those who participate in the polls and engaging in conversations, agencies can provide value, offer tips, and potentially encourage further discussions about their services.

Ditch the Superhero Complex: Connect Through Vulnerability

One mistake agency owners make in how they present themselves on social media platforms is thinking they need to appear as superheroes who have everything figured out. In reality, people feel much more drawn to the vulnerability of someone admitting that they got to this point after making many mistakes. By sharing personal experiences and lessons learned, agency owners can establish a sense of relatability and authenticity, which in turn builds trust and credibility with their audience.

Additionally, having the confidence to talk about your mistakes can help you stand out. If you post like everyone else you’ll blend so much into the background that no one will ever notice you, which is certainly not the point of marketing. By being willing to share embarrassing or outrageous stories, you can differentiate yourself from competitors in the crowded social media landscape and capture your target audience’s attention.

Furthermore, focusing on specific social media platforms that align with your target audience will also help you stand out where it counts. For Nicole, LinkedIn is a platform where professionals are actively seeking learning and networking opportunities. She advises agency owners who’ve tried to use LinkedIn in the past and not seen results to rethink their strategy by following these steps: show up as your authentic self, write as if you’re writing a “love letter” to your audience, be vulnerable, and be visible.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_to_Stand_Out_on_LinkedIn_with_Nicole_Osborne___Ep_672.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Are you running a full-service agency? Have you already considered niching down? What about broadening your services once you do? Today’s guest built an agency that became a world authority on Google ads. Even though he eventually sold, he now believes more growth may have been possible with patience and the vision to expand his services after niching down, which he calls the “hourglass method”. Tune in to learn about his early failures and successes as a young entrepreneur, the lessons he takes from his years of experience and selling his agency, and why he believes agencies are the future of most businesses.

Kasim Aslam is the founder of Solutions 8, a highly successful Google Ads agency and the host of the Perpetual Traffic podcast. After seeing his dreams crushed by a financial collapse and rebuilding to reach the highest successes in the industry, Kasim talks about the importance of having a strong business partner and lessons he took from selling his agency. Tune in to gain insights from Kasim's experiences and learn valuable lessons from his agency success story.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why it’s okay to start broad before niching down.

  • Becoming an authority on Google ads.

  • Attracting potential buyers to your agency.


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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 and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Ending Up $150,000 in Debt in His Early 20s

Despite having sold the most successful Google Ads agency and knowing few people have ever gotten to that level of success in the industry, Kasim is quick to acknowledge he’s not the brains of the operation. The joke between him and his partner is that Kasim made promises and his partner kept them, which worked out really well for both. After growing their agency which they sold in 2022 to now, for the first time in two decades – he’s an employee.

In recalling his agency journey, Kasim first remembers his greatest failures. In his early 20’s, he was working in the banking industry building software right at the time of the financial collapse of 2008. “It was the best thing that could’ve happened” he says looking back. He was making way too much money at a young age, had just bought his first house, a car, and was spending way more than he should have. However, once he lost his job he was quickly reminded that he did not actually own those things and ended up losing them. He was just 22 years old, $150,000 in debt and felt his life was over.

The lack of funds to float a percentage of a software building project had him searching for other types of web work. Website maintenance quickly led to website development, SEO work, and eventually to his agency, Solutions 8.

The Secret to Choosing The Best Niche For Your Agency

Starting an agency after a personal setback can be a daunting task, but Kasim managed to rebuild from scratch to have a profitable business with 15 employees. However, he went too wide on his offering and soon found it felt like having eight different businesses.

The agency was certainly profitable but he was miserable. The business could not run without him and he was working 12-hour days. At one point, he tried to sell the business. “I kept trying to get rid of it,” he recalls. He never got too close to actually selling it, since the valuation offered by brokers didn’t come close to his expectations and he knew his books were a mess, which made the agency much more difficult to sell.

Many things needed to be fixed, so Kasim hired his current business partner with the intention of having him run the agency. Right away, his partner started to highlight issues that could be fixed. Having someone in the trenches with him reignited Kasim’s passion for the agency and soon they were working on growing it together.

The years of running a full-service agency were incredibly stressful, but Kasim sustains it was the best way to eventually find success in the right niche. “You can’t niche down right off the gate because if you do, you’ll pick the wrong niche,” he says. In his view, it’s okay to start broad as long as you have the intention of niching down.

Once a niche is established and successful, Kasim suggests branching out to add related services or offerings. It’s the hourglass formula – start broad, niche down, branch out – to maximize your business’ potential and cater to a wider range of clients.

How His Agency Became the World Authority on Google Ads

The Google Ads piece of the business started by adding this offering to his real estate business. He picked the best Google Ads agency he could find and the partnership went so well that Kasim was soon sending agency clients their way. On one hand, it killed his margins but it was turnkey so they handled everything and all Kasim had to do was sell it and hand it over. Eventually, he started selling Google Ads as a supplement.

It was Kasim’s partner who first suggested the agency should start selling Google Ads.  Although initially hesitant, fearing that it would limit their scope, Kasim eventually recognized the value of specializing. Having first focused on building sales and client support, he was ready to build the fulfillment piece by niching down.

Does he regret selling someone else’s services? Not at all. Kasim’s message to agency owners is that it’s okay to resale somebody else’s product while you’re still figuring out your niche; just remember the importance of owning the relationships and providing value beyond being an affiliate.

As his agency grew and became three times the size of the partner agency, issues started to arise. He needed more resources from the partner agency to meet the demands of his expanding client base. However, the partner agency was hesitant to invest too much, fearing they could easily take their business elsewhere.

Negotiations for a new agreement between the two agencies turned sour and, ultimately, Kasim resorted to swiftly building an entire fulfillment team in India by targeting Google's offices there. The transition was not without its challenges, but with their previous experience with the partner agency they soon became a niche authority.

When to Sell Your Agency and How to Get More

Kasim did end up returning to the idea of selling, now in a better position to get the valuation he expected. He had even received numerous unsolicited offers for his agency, with some of them coming from reputable venture capital firms. However, he was advised to prioritize a disciplined process and not settle for the first offer that came his way. So he conducted a competitive process exploring multiple options to secure the best deal.

Interestingly, Kasim notes that the offer that eventually caught his attention came from a company backed by SoftBank, based in India. He had initially set his sights on offers from Silicon Valley companies. However, his mentor saw potential in this particular offer due to their "buy-side mandate," which made them a serious contender.

In terms of the price, Kasim admits he sold his agency for lower than he could have negotiated. However, it was an all-cash transaction with light due diligence and a short timeline, indicating that the buyer was serious and had the necessary funds.

In terms of timing, he firmly believes he sold just in time, with AI about to replicate what they did. This way, he was able to capitalize on the demand for his agency's expertise and avoid potential hurdles in the future.

Reflecting on what he could have done differently to potentially negotiate a higher price, Kasim knows he could’ve explored other options and engaged in more negotiations. However, he doesn't dwell on this, as he is satisfied with the terms of the deal.

Learning to Craft a Compelling Story to Attract Potential Buyers

Even though he doesn’t regret the selling price and moment, there are some things Kasim would’ve done differently with the agency. For instance, one of the main missed opportunities for revenue growth was the failure to pursue other avenues of monetization.

Looking back, he sees he could have doubled his revenue if he had added Facebook ads to his agency's services. Despite specializing in Google ads, many of his clients expressed interest in running ads on other platforms, such as Facebook. However, he became too focused on what was working and didn't explore these opportunities further.

Kasim realizes that he should have focused more on showcasing the potential growth of his agency, rather than just its current success. In this sense, he also missed the opportunity to tell a compelling story about a company on the brink of exponential growth that could attract more buyers and potentially increase the value of the company. With this, he’s learned that not only having strong financial performance but also crafting a narrative that captures the imagination and potential of the business.

Why Agencies Continue To Be The Future of Business

With new experience and perspective gained after selling, Kasim now thinks about the importance of taking risks, trying new things, and learning from failures during the early stages of your career.

Starting out young gives you the opportunity to experiment and try out everything and figure out who you are. This is true for anything in life, including entrepreneurship. Of course, this means you’ll also mess up a lot, and that’s okay, as long as you stay true to your character.

If you do this in your twenties, you’ll have an idea of what you want to give a serious try by your thirties. With a better perspective, your forties will be the time to cash out.

For his part, Kasim emphasizes the importance of confidence in one's abilities, which he believes comes from having enough experience. By now, he has built multiple successful agencies, and once you have achieved something once, it becomes easier to replicate that success. For his next steps, he would love to broaden his horizons but also keep in mind that the agency model is the future of business. Despite the challenges and saturation in the agency space, Kasim believes in its potential and his ability to excel in it.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Does your agency offer web design services? What is your perspective on creating impactful agency web design? What do you think of how most websites are currently utilized? Today’s guest is an expert in website design with a growth-driven approach to agency web design. He’s been working in web design ever since the early days of the internet and believes nowadays many businesses are building low-quality websites focused only on sales. In his opinion, websites should have a strong technical foundation and create a journey that leads to engagement and conversions. Tune in to learn about his passion for creating impactful websites, how he developed a very effective foot-in-the-door, and how he’s embraced podcasting as a way to attract the type of client he wants to work with.

Mark Bevington is the CEO and founder of Ninedot, a website design and development agency that takes underperforming websites and turns them into the best-selling tools for their clients. Mark shares his insights on the limitations of traditional websites and the importance of growth-driven design. With over 23 years of experience, he sees a need for websites to evolve and adapt to changing analytics and customer preferences and allow for easy updates that align with business evolution.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to provide value in web design.

  • WebCare as a foot-in-the-door strategy.

  • Using a podcast to create meaningful connections.


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Three Differentiating Factors that You’ll Find in Any Quality Website

With over twenty years in the industry, Mark has seen a lot as a marketer and agency owner. When he started his agency, the internet wasn’t really a thing, so they focused more on print work and newsletters and eventually moved to digital. However, some things remain unchanged because they’re at the core of a solid business strategy, starting with quality, which has taken a hit with the onset of AI.

In his opinion, since the pandemic and the surge of many new agencies that don’t work with the necessary standards, it’s become common to see crappy work all around. It can be challenging to differentiate quality work from garbage in the context of website design and development. Here are some differentiating factors:

  1. A reputable agency or designer takes the time to thoroughly analyze the client's business, target audience, and goals before embarking on the project. They conduct research and gather relevant information to ensure that the website aligns with the client's brand identity and effectively communicates their message.

  2. A well-designed website is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and optimized for different devices and browsers. For Mark, UI and UX have become such buzzwords and most people don't understand what that means. It’s not just about getting a client from point A to point B. Behind that should be an understanding of the experience based on the journey you're creating.

  3. A website should not be a static entity but rather an evolving platform that adapts to changing market dynamics and user preferences. A quality web agency conducts A/B tests, analyzes user behavior, and makes necessary adjustments to improve conversion rates and achieve business objectives. Garbage work, on the other hand, lacks this growth-driven approach and fails to leverage data to enhance the website's effectiveness.

Affordable Website Support as a Strategy for Long-Term Success

Mark’s web design agency has always provided some degree of web maintenance for its clients. However, as clients continually asked for a more affordable dedicated website support option, the agency developed a new service called WebCare. Through this service, his agency helps clients properly maintain the core functions of their websites by having an expert team keep a watchful eye out for technical issues. As Mark notes, most clients are brilliant at their actual business but lack the technical knowledge needed to run a website themselves and need reliable, judgement-free support to maintain it.

WebCare is all about maintaining a website as a long-term investment. While the aesthetics of a website may become outdated over time, proper maintenance ensures it continues to function effectively.

Additionally, it’s become a very effective foot-in-the-door offer for them. If a client comes to them with an underperforming site, they can offer this affordable option instead of hitting them right off the back with an expensive rebuild and get the relationship going. Being able to show quick wins to clients is a key element in building trust and further extending that relationship.

The Game Changer: Embracing Change Through a Mastermind

As a business owner, Mark acknowledges it can be difficult to allow himself to be vulnerable and open to change. Because of this, his business was at a point profitable but still not at the scale it could have been.

In this sense, becoming a mastermind member has proved to be the game changer for his agency’s growth as well as an emotional roller coaster.

The first 12 months were all about changing everything he thought worked about the business. Despite the initial challenges and doubts, the results of implementing these changes have been impressive in year two. Of course, success does not happen overnight and it requires time and effort to see the desired outcomes, but the mastermind has provided him with the necessary resources and support to implement the changes effectively.

After a year of establishing the right processes and SOPs, Mark now realizes how inefficient they really were with him handling too many tasks outside his expertise area. He needed to find people to handle these tasks. It was an investment – both financial and it terms of time – to get it right, but it’s been definitely worth it. This shift has brought newfound freedom to spend more time on personal interests and taking the time to think, implement, and try new strategies to grow the business.

Creating Meaningful Connections & Reaching the Right Audience with a Podcast

Even though his podcast it’s still in its early stages after launching three months ago, Mark loves podcasting as a way to connect with others, share stories, and create meaningful connections.

It all started as a way to reach more clients in the pet industry, since this is work Mark enjoys so much. A podcast seemed like a good way to get in contact with adoption shelters, animal centers, and independent pet companies.

Although he had initial resistance to the idea of starting a podcast, after discussing it with his colleagues and receiving encouragement, he decided to give it a try. It turned out to be another great benefit of being a mastermind member. The encouragement he received from the team pushed him to get into a world he now enjoys very much, with the experience not only serving as a marketing tool but also as a way to build unique relationships and friendships.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Are you trying to grow your SMMA but can’t get past the referrals stage? What’s holding you back when it comes to continuing your growth and reaching eight figures? Today’s guest may not have written the book on how to start a SMMA, but he sure read it from cover to cover and then threw all the rules out the window. He is a young agency owner who started out with dreams of outgrowing his post-college job and gaining the sort of independence and success he knew could come from entrepreneurship. He endured long months of looking for his first client and the hardships of trying to stand out before finding the right niche. Tune in to hear about the challenges and advantages of being a young agency owner and his experience and insights in growing a SMMA.

Stevie Johnston is the young entrepreneur behind Digital Ox Zero, a specialized marketing agency that offers turnkey digital marketing solutions, expert appointment-setting services, and business coaching for Chiropractic, Dental, and Integrated Medical Clinics. Stevie niched the niche and doubled down on a bold strategy, allowing him to scale his modest digital agency from operating out of his apartment to a $500K/month recurring industry-leading powerhouse with over 20 employees.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Finding the right formula for SMMA growth.

  • Going beyond referrals to build a scalable agency.

  • Focusing on creating a steady recruitment pipeline.


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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 and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 Unlocking His Marketing Potential & Finding His Drive

Stevie describes himself as a Tai Lopez case study, as it was one of his ads that inspired him to build his own agency. He figured if he managed to get at least ten clients to each pay him $1,000 per month he’d be able to have freedom, travel, and enjoy life as an agency owner.

Having recently graduated, Stevie found himself working his same college job at 23 and feeling stuck. He knew something needed to change and entrepreneurship offered a straightforward solution to his desire for a better life.

Tai Lopez’s ads promised exactly the type of opportunity he needed to do something different. It seemed simple, but of course he soon realized it was actually very hard. However, it was a proven business model so he trusted that getting through the learning curve would land him on the right path. He held strong for seven months waiting for that first and ended his first year with 20K in revenue.

But how did he stay motivated? Even though he had a hard time finding that first client, Stevie felt this was his chance. Going back to working at the juice bar was not an option. He felt he had a lot to offer as a great communicator with good work ethic; he just needed that first client to make it work.

Once he had his first clients, prospecting, learning sales, and working 10-14 hours from his small apartment was nowhere near the pain of going back to a job that only offered financial constraints and lack of freedom.

Initial Turning Points & Finding the Right Formula for SMMA Growth

The big turning point for Stevie was finding the right niche. Although he started out working with chiropractors, which seemed focused enough, it was still hard to stand out in a market with so much competition. When a client asked him to help them advertise their spinal decompression machine, he found a specialty within a specialty that actually needed attention and had lots of demand. Focusing on this niche he not only saw more consistent results, he became a niche leader.

A more specialized focus also helped justify a higher price point, which helped him get to 20K. As the agency continued to grow, however, Stevie realized they had no big differentiator. Anyone can run ads and it seemed like everyone did at that point, which started a big race to the bottom while high turnover rates were impacting his agency’s growth.

It was very frustrating to realize that his clients weren’t getting the results they wanted as they kept complaining the leads were bad. In an attempt to keep a client, Stevie offered to take over sales calls for one month. It was his moment to “get in the trenches” and figure out what was not connecting. That month they 4X the amount of leads turned into appointments. The model did work, they just needed someone at the phone with basic sales skills, energy, and that would follow up with clients.

As momentum built, Stevie first hired a dedicated sales associate and then continued staffing specialists internally, subsidizing expenses by raising prices. It was the differentiator they needed. It required more employees, more expenses, and a lot more headaches, but they were solving a problem no one else was willing to solve. As a result, referrals went through the roof, churn plummeted, and prices continued to climb.

Building Systems to Create a Scalable SMMA

As the agency gained more clients, the demand for their services grew exponentially, largely due to influential clients in the industry spreading the word about the agency's effectiveness.

This rapid growth came with the pressures of going from a small team of two to having ten employees and an office. They needed to set goals, track key performance indicators (KPIs), and develop effective hiring and training processes. The overwhelming nature of these tasks prompted Stevie to seek guidance from Judge Graham, a prominent figure in the agency space who had achieved a significant exit and subsequent sale of his agency.

With this guidance, Stevie began implementing a more structured approach to building his agency. This included focusing on enterprise value, establishing values and meeting rhythms, and honing hiring and management techniques. The goal was to create a scalable agency that could continue to grow and provide value to clients.

Going beyond referrals

Throughout their growth, referrals remained a significant driver of business for the agency. The influential clients who initially spread the word about their services continued to refer new clients, contributing to their ongoing success. However, at 400K high turnover rates became a problem again. With referrals bringing in five to eight clients per month and the agency losing eight clients per month, they found themselves at the same plateau as they did at 50K.

This realization led Stevie to understand the limitations of relying solely on referrals for business growth. Referrals alone were not enough to sustain the agency's growth.

It was time to start focusing efforts on inbound and outbound marketing, starting with paid ads. Additionally, he started building a sales development representative (SDR) team with two people responsible for cold calling potential clients and setting up demos for the agency's account executives. This new channel of outbound sales proved to be successful, as the agency was able to land five clients in one month solely through cold calls.

With the SDR team starting to bring some good results, Stevie’s already thinking about establishing other channels to drive growth. Agencies should aim to have at least two channels in order to break through the million-dollar mark in revenue. Once this milestone is achieved, additional channels can be added to further scale the business. For Stevie, it’s just something you have to do if you’re serious about year-on-year growth.

What Next: Focusing on a Full Recruitment Pipeline

Now close to hitting eight figures, Stevie has been meditating on what it takes to get to the next level. What people say about “what got you here won’t get you to the next level” is ringing very true to him as he reassesses the agency’s core values.

One key aspect he realized could be holding them back is not having a full recruitment pipeline, which is why he is hiring a full-time recruiter. Once you’re around the 20-million mark, it’s time to bring in a dedicated recruiter instead of relying on external recruiters and paying fees. As your agency grows, having a pipeline of talented individuals will be just as important as having a pipeline of clients. This way, agencies can better position themselves for success and overcome challenges associated with rapid growth.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_Stevie_Johnston_10Xed_His_SMMA_To_500K_mo_Recurring___Ep_669.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

What kind of culture do you promote at your agency? Do you keep track of things employees say are hitting or not hitting the mark about the culture? How has your culture changed since the pandemic? Today’s guest runs a 260-employee agency and has put great care to ensure that work flexibility and employee happiness are a big part of their culture. She believes giving employees reasons to stay at her agency are much more beneficial than the work of having to constantly replace key roles due to high turnout rates. Tune in to learn about the ways she has reintroduced in-person activities while keeping a mostly remote workflow and how she makes sure employees feel heard.

Jane Crisan is the CEO of Rain the Growth Agency, a fully integrated performance-based agency based in Portland, Oregon. Her agency offers agency a unique approach to scaling brands with deep expertise in media, creative, strategy, and analytics. With more than half of their employees working from all over the country, they’ve made a commitment to having a flexible-first workforce as a way to keep employees happy. Tune in to see their journey to small independent business to a multimillion-dollar agency and the struggles to maintain a flexible work culture following the pandemic.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Mapping out the path for employee career progression.

  • Building community while respecting work flexibility.

  • Making a deliberate effort to create culture.


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Sponsors and Resources

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Making Sure Employees Feel Heard & Can Express Their Concerns

Like many businesses, Jane’s agency took the pandemic as a chance to open up its doors to talent from all over the country. It was a great opportunity to grow the agency, which started 25 years ago as a small independent agency and now has around 260 employees.

Getting access to talent they probably would’ve never been able to relocate to Portland was a huge advantage and it also meant committing to being a flexible-first agency. Jane puts a lot of effort into maintaining low turnover levels, and although she knows there’s no magic solution to making everyone happy, there are a few things she’s found are very important to creating a sound work environment. For starters, the agency conducts a yearly all-employee survey to gather feedback and identify areas of improvement. This survey has been conducted for the past 10 years and allows the agency to track trends and address any concerns.

The Importance of Mapping Out the Path

Over the years, the number one thing that came across with the annual survey was career progression. To address this, the agency invests time and resources in helping employees see a future within the organization. They employ a talent management assessment system called the "nine box," which assesses an employee's potential for growth and where they currently stand in their career. This system allows them to identify high performers, future leaders, and individuals who may need additional support or training.

The agency is also very committed to quarterly goal setting and tracks whether departments and individuals are setting and achieving their goals. For Jane, no matter the size of the agency, goal setting a priority and holding employees accountable helps creates a culture of continuous improvement and personal development.

Having a clear growth track can help tremendously to keep people motivated. Instead of shifting people's goals every quarter, at Jane’s agency the senior team sits down at the beginning of the year and establish career progression goals for each employee. This long-term approach allows employees to have a clear vision of their growth trajectory and helps them stay focused on their objectives throughout the year.

Additionally, the agency conducts quarterly check-ins to ensure that employees and their managers are on the same page and to make any necessary adjustments. Sometimes employees may find that their initial goal to be managers didn’t turn out to be what they expected and want to change paths. Many individuals excel as individual contributors and may feel miserable when forced into management positions. This is why it’s so important to help employees discern their strengths and interests, guiding them towards the most suitable career paths.

Mastering the Remote Agency Balancing Act

As a mostly distributed agency, Jane confronts an ironic challenge - remotely fostering the connections that sustain a thriving culture. Granting location flexibility wins employee applause yet strains community ties essential for engagement.

Seeking solutions – and since employees themselves expressed missing in-person interactions – Jane orchestrates annual on-site summits converging far-flung teams under one roof. Finally pairing names to faces, coworkers bond face-to-face, forging ties persisting long after their Portland return.

Supplementing yearly reunions, virtual initiatives facilitate camaraderie despite distance. Happy hours, trivia and Slack channels give employees seeking camaraderie space to interact casually. Laughter and levity still permeate daily experience.

While remote work poses undeniable engagement obstacles, for Jane flexibility prevails as a strategic advantage with proper caretaking. Her creative efforts to nurture connection amidst constraints highlight that distributed teams can thrive through unity-focused systems.

With purposeful community-building as a priority, employees feel recognized, valued and bonded through shared experience - the foundation for an agile, resilient agency built to go the distance. Though staying remote requires constant creativity, with the right workplace culture any isolated gaps soon disappear.

Cultivating Connective Tissue Through Deliberate Building

Jane understands a thriving agency relies on thriving teams. And cohesive teams demand deliberate culture cultivation. Hence the urgency of making connection central to company identity - binding individuals to collaborative community. Deliberate culture builds strong teams, so her focus is on creating and maintaining a set of values, behaviors, and practices that align with the company's goals and objectives. When a company takes intentional steps to cultivate a positive and inclusive culture, it lays the foundation for building strong teams.

For Jane, one of the key aspects of deliberate culture is the emphasis on connection and community. She prioritizes regular team meetings, both in-person and virtually, where team members have the opportunity to interact and collaborate. By fostering these connections, team members feel a sense of belonging and are more likely to stay with the company for a longer period.

Over time, the priority placed on genuine human relationships cements loyalty even amidst competing opportunities. When agency priorities align with employee values beyond paychecks, retention risk reduces.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.