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

Would you say your agency is like your baby? Could you be so emotionally attached to your business that you may be stifling its growth? Today’s guest will share his experience growing an agency and the turning points that allowed him to make real progress in its growth. From learning to communicate his agency's vision in a way that inspired buy-in to the surprising struggle of carving out space for a personal life amidst the chaos of entrepreneurship, his biggest challenge was letting go of the belief that he alone was the driving force behind its success. Tune in to learn his valuable lessons and tips for agency success.

Suken Shah is the owner of Envision Marketing, a digital agency that works with clients to find the right strategy that will them find success online. They mostly work with small businesses to help them build their website, SEO presence, and get more leads. Suken shares insights and stories from his 10 years of agency growth and the mindset shift required to see real agency growth. Tune in to learn his valuable lessons and tips for agency success.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The problem with calling your agency “your baby.”

  • Learning to communicate your worth.

  • The power of communication and transparency.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio

Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to and get a free trial just for Jason’s listeners!

Embracing the Entrepreneurial Leap & The Unexpected Realities of Agency Life 

Suken never had concrete plans to establish an agency. His journey into the world of digital marketing began when he was offered a teaching opportunity at the University of Nevada. Eager to excel in his new role, he delved into digital marketing, eventually formalizing his business as an LLC and initially running it as a side venture. He approached the transition from his corporate job with caution, gradually embracing the potential of his digital business as it gained traction.

As he embraced his new role as an entrepreneur, the most unexpected aspect of owning an agency was the sheer amount of effort required to build a team, attract and retain clients, and steer the business in the right direction. Suken was taken aback by the challenge of taking breaks and carving out personal time amidst the demands of the business.

Initially, he anticipated owning a business would allow him to maintain a similar income level as with his corporate job while having more free time. However, the reality was markedly different. As an agency owner, he found himself being the first to arrive and the last to leave, bearing the brunt of responsibility and often being the scapegoat for any misstep.

Driven by the fear of losing clients, Suken dedicated himself to client acquisition and business growth. His commitment to delivering exceptional results led to organic growth through client referrals, solidifying his agency's reputation.

The Problem with Calling an Agency “Your Baby”

Suken is still navigating the process of relinquishing control over certain tasks, acknowledging that it's a work in progress for him as a business owner. Delegating tasks used to be a struggle for him as he wanted things to be done a certain way. His agency, in many ways, has been like his 'baby', making it emotionally challenging to entrust control to others. This emotional attachment is a common experience among business owners who have poured their time, energy, and passion into nurturing the growth and success of their ventures.

After years of dedicated efforts to witness the gradual growth and success of an agency, it has become a source of immense pride. However, this attachment can sometimes lead to decisions being influenced by emotions rather than what is truly beneficial for the business's growth and success. Moreover, tying one's identity exclusively to the business can also impede growth by hindering the ability to delegate tasks and gain trust in the capabilities of a team. When a business owner views themselves as the sole driving force behind the agency's success, it may be challenging to empower team members and entrust them with greater responsibility.

Gary Vaynerchuk and VaynerMedia is a great example of how to do this right. He’s an incredibly successful agency owner, podcaster, and YouTuber yet he would most likely refer to himself as a creative and describe his qualities rather than define himself by what he’s doing at the moment.

Ultimately, building a successful agency requires a shift in mindset from being a hands-on entrepreneur to becoming a strategic leader. This transformation involves acknowledging one's strengths and weaknesses, delegating tasks, and empowering employees to take ownership of their responsibilities.

Quantifying Your Agency's Value Beyond Billable Hours

While having made progress in this area, Suken acknowledges he is still in the process of determining how to accurately price the agency's services based on the value they offer to clients. Quantifying the value of the services provided involves a deep dive into self-discovery and self-assessment and can be quite challenging, as it is a subjective process that evolves.

It is most likely inevitable to undercharge clients at some point and it did happen to Suken; however, through experience, client feedback, and a proven track record of success, agency owners can develop a better understanding of their worth and the impact they have on their clients' businesses.

An essential step in determining the agency's value is to begin tracking results. Whether it is revenue, leads, or website traffic, measuring metrics that are crucial to clients can effectively demonstrate the impact of the agency's work. This approach will assist in effectively communicating the agency's value and setting prices that align with this value. Suken began taking measurement more seriously around five years ago and has since become more disciplined and proactive in this aspect.

The Power of Communication and Transparency with Your Agency Team

Suken's top priority this year is to enhance agency communications, and he knows the work starts with him. He places great importance on actively engaging with team members and clients to ensure alignment and progress toward shared objectives. As part of this, he plans to conduct regular meetings and encourage team members to communicate extensively with clients through various channels.

Moreover, he advocates for transparency when it comes to addressing project challenges. He believes in openly discussing hurdles and potential issues with clients, rather than solely focusing on successes. He emphasizes the value of honest conversations, as he believes they can lead to effective solutions. Instead of the common practice of masking results or showcasing only positive outcomes, he believes that honest dialogue can foster trust and positive relationships with clients.

Furthermore, Suken's team has gotten better at preparing and communicating comprehensive plans to clients. They have established a thorough onboarding process, involving multiple team members in client meetings and documenting essential information to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal. This commitment to transparency and collaboration not only builds trust with clients but also sets the stage for the successful delivery of results.

Creating Effective Connections Strong Team Culture

Running a virtual agency, Suken is aware that building rapport virtually is not the easiest thing to do. Still, it can be effective in creating a sense of connection and understanding between parties. In any case, effective communication goes beyond just meeting in person. It also involves actively listening, showing empathy, and being present in conversations.

Furthermore, clients are becoming more aware of how technology can streamline processes and reduce costs, leading to a shift in expectations when it comes to meetings and communication. Being mindful of these changes and finding ways to leverage technology to improve efficiency will help agencies adapt to meet the needs of their clients while still delivering high-quality services.

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: Suken_Shah_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am MDT

As an agency owner, have you explored the possibilities of content creation? Has it proven effective in building an audience or generating leads? Today’s guest is an agency owner who has been writing books and collaborating with different publications for years. However, he finds that, for marketers, content doesn’t really bring a lot of leads. For him, it’s all about the credibility and trust you build through that content. He’ll discuss why content creation nowadays is all about credibility and learning to adapt to leverage new tools. He’ll also share why he chose an agency model that veered away from the more common use of RFPs and how it helped him tap into a well of talent waiting to find a meaningful job. Tune in to hear his thoughts regarding RFPs vs, referrals and the tools you should be leveraging in your content creation.

Scott Gillum is the founder and CEO of Carbon Design, a B2B marketing services firm that uses the power of audience insight to increase conversations, engagement, and revenue for clients. Scott shares how his agency has evolved its model to focus on efficiency and effectiveness for midsize companies by utilizing all contractors.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The agency model that helps you tap into a well of talent.

  • Moving away from RFPs.

  • Why content is KEY.


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.

Building an Agency Model Around Work-Life Integration

Since his start in the industry, Scott has been always intrigued by engagement rates and frequently referred to Gallup’s data – a multinational analytics firm that conducts workplace consulting research – and found the results were frankly concerning. In the 25 years that Gallup has been measuring employee engagement rates, it has never been above 32%. Additionally, at least 15% of the surveyed employees felt actively disengaged.

Scott also worked as a management consultant for a while and observed people usually leave their jobs to attend to family life responsibilities like taking care of their kids or sick parent. He could see how much they struggled to balance both and ended up disappointed. Around this time, he was in conversations with an agency that offered him to work on a different and very meaningful project.

He pitched the idea to build a model that would allow an agency to tap into a well of talent looking for meaningful work but have to deal with the difficulties of being a main caretaker. “There are 5 million stay-at-home moms looking for meaningful work. It’s unused capacity we could tap into,” he explains.

The decision to engage solely with contractors also significantly influenced the agency’s operational approach. Scott notes they operate entirely on referrals, focusing on inbound leads and project-based work rather than traditional retainers. This is how his agency has operated for the past six years.

Referrals over RFPs: The Power of Building Relationships in Agency Business

In the agency world, one of the traditional approaches to acquiring clients involves responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs). These documents outline the client's requirements and ask agencies to submit proposals detailing how they would meet those needs. However, there is a growing trend among agencies to rely less and less on engaging in the RFP process. It’s a shift that highlights the power of building relationships and trust with clients, and the benefits that come with it.

In their six years operating, acquisition of business has been the hardest part for his agency. Being 100% referral-oriented, they don’t typically respond to RFPs, don’t believe in retainers, and focus exclusively on doing good project-oriented work, building trust, delivering quality work, and fostering long-term relationships with clients. Their goal is that clients are completely satisfied with the results and hire them again.

For agencies seeking to move away from RFPs, a potential approach could involve offering a reduced fee for a consultation to gain a better understanding of the prospect's needs. Spending at least one hour to build a tailored plan based on the client's input can demonstrate the agency's commitment. If the client approves the plan, they can choose to engage with the agency, or implement the plan themselves. If the client is dissatisfied, they receive a full refund.

How do you respond to an RFP? Watch this 2-min video for Jason Swenk’s answer.

Content is KEY:  From “Publish or Perish” to “Adapt or Die”

Writing, podcasting, and video creation are great lead generators in sales and things agency owners are encouraged to do to attract clients. However, as an author for several publications and books Scott finds that marketing is much more about building trust, establishing relationships, and ultimately driving business growth.

Content creation allows agencies to showcase their expertise, build credibility, and connect with their target audience on a deeper level. By consistently putting out valuable and engaging content, agencies can attract new clients, retain existing ones, and differentiate themselves from competitors. In Scott's case, he predominantly produces informative material based on client research and experience. Two additional ways for him to leverage his writing to build relationships could be to:

1. Approach industry experts for interviews, thereby enhancing audience trust and fostering connections, and

2. Take his research and advice to other formats like audio and video.

With the widespread popularity of audio podcasts and video content, it's crucial for agencies to adapt their content strategy to align with their audience's preferences. The emergence of AI tools that facilitate script creation and video editing underscores the need for agencies to be open to experimenting with new formats and embracing emerging technologies to remain relevant and competitive.

Establishing Trust Through Content: The Role of Credibility and Experience

With content creation becoming much more accessible thanks to AI tools, the other side of the coin is that a lot of bad content is thrown into the mix. According to Scott, some of this content is concerning because it has no knowledge or research to back it up. “We have a generation now that understands marketing tools but doesn’t understand marketing very well,” he says.

Credibility will make the difference between audiences more keen on either receiving well-researched facts or the opinion of a trusted source. In this sense, experience will play a crucial role in establishing credibility. The audience will typically look at someone’s practical experience in a particular field before offering opinions or advice. For instance, young life coaches who may not have experienced enough in life to truly understand and guide others will likely have low credibility compared to their more experienced counterparts.

Ultimately, credibility and experience go hand in hand when it comes to creating content. By combining a strong knowledge base with practical experience, content creators can establish themselves as trustworthy sources of information and opinions. This, in turn, helps build a loyal following and enhances the impact of their content.

AI Tools You Should Check Out in 2024

AI tools have been ubiquitous in the past year, and this year promises even more potential for those in the industry looking to leverage their capabilities. Scott utilizes widely used tools such as ChatGPT 4 and has recently partnered with Cassidy, a company that offers AI tools for website content creation and image generation, which can also aid in brainstorming. Scott finds that other tools frequently require updates, leading to the need for continuous adjustments to yield accurate results. In this sense, Cassidy seamlessly integrates with G Suite, allowing it to analyze files, proposals, emails, and more to facilitate content creation.

This type of AI tool can be extremely beneficial for small business owners and agency owners who are juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities. With the right information, AI tools like Cassidy learn from you, work for you and can help content creators save time and effort by automating certain processes and getting assistance in pulling relevant information from past projects. Will AI replace agencies? No — and learning to efficiently use these tools opens a lot of doors.

Overall, Scott remains optimistic about the potential of AI tools to be additive rather than replacing human workers. He emphasizes that AI tools can assist teams in finding past project work, pulling relevant information, and overall making the job easier for content creators.

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: Scott_Gillum_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

Are you fed up with the revenue roller coaster? Ready to get off and build an agency business model focused on sustainable profits? Maybe you’ve heard the saying "revenue is vanity and profit is sanity.” Our featured guest today experienced significant sustainable growth after breaking free from the “revenue trap.” By shifting the focus from revenue to the bottom line, he saw a remarkable shift, leading to financial stability and long-term sustainability. Listen or read to discover how this agency owner navigated through adversity, turned his business around, and expanded his team to more than 700 members.

Robert Berkeley is the co-founder of EKCS, a creative agency specializing in turning ideas into multiple assets. His team works with brands, agencies, and media companies as an extended team that helps them overcome creative production challenges, gain efficiencies, and improve ROI. Robert shares insights on partnership dynamics, dealing with negative people, and the importance of course correction when a business is heading in the wrong direction.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The key to partnership longevity.

  • Escaping the revenue trap.

  • Balancing client acquisition and retention for manageable agency growth.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio

Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to and get a free trial just for Jason’s listeners!

The Key of Partnership Longevity: Respect, Trust, and Value Alignment

Despite their different styles and personalities, Robert and his partner work very well together thanks to a shared set of values and mutual respect. For Robert, their differences mean they can be great in the sum of their parts, which has been proved time and time again over twenty years together.

Business partnerships really are like marriages and their success often hinges on respect and trust between the individuals involved. Without respect, there’s no trust, and without trust there’s no way to make it work. In their case, Robert and his partner have a fundamental desire to maintain that respect, which keeps them from overstepping boundaries and helps make decisions that align with their shared values.

In their partnership, all major decisions are taken together and they would never make a key hire or approve any major move without the other’s knowledge. This allows them to communicate honestly and have each other’s back if those decisions don’t go as planned. When there is respect in a partnership, there is a willingness to listen, compromise, and work together towards common goals.

Navigating Declines in the Industry and Pivoting to Profitability

With two decades of experience in the industry, Robert and his partner have weathered their fair share of setbacks and missteps. One of the biggest examples of this happened around their third year in business. They hadn’t quite broken through and did not have authority in the industry. Desperate for business, they eagerly pursued any opportunity that came their way.

Their initial foray into Google Ads led to a promising prospect in the form of a newspaper, which seemed like a solid bet at the time. Being good at what they did, they succeeded where others failed. However, the newspaper industry's rapid decline soon rendered their services obsolete, forcing them to reevaluate this niche.

After refocusing their efforts and downsizing the business by approximately 20%, they successfully navigated through challenging times. Seeking new avenues to leverage their skills, Robert recognized the potential in serving markets that prioritized quality over price, leading them to collaborate with creative teams. Many agencies and brands have creative teams but lack the resources or desire to manage production in-house due to fluctuating demands or limited creative capabilities. This became their main target and the right formula for his agency’s growth.

Why Focusing on Revenue is a MISTAKE

Looking back, Robert realizes that before pivoting, he and his team were overly focused on chasing profits rather than prioritizing revenue, which turned out to be a regrettable mistake. As the agency expanded, it became tempting to chase top-line dollar and assume that the costs would take care of themselves. However, focusing on profit means prioritizing the bottom line and ensuring that the business is financially stable and sustainable, making strategic decisions to maximize profitability and minimize costs.

One key lesson Robert shares is the importance of forecasting and planning for growth. By closely monitoring predicted revenue and aligning all departments within the company, including finance, operations, HR, and technology, his agency anticipated their needs and made informed decisions about hiring and resource allocation. This approach ensured that when a client required 20 or 30 people, finance was aware of the impact and costs, and HR was prepared to start recruitment.

Having a system in place ensures that new business won’t overwhelm the agency and prepares the business for growth without being caught off guard by sudden changes in demand. Robert also learned the importance of embracing CRM tools. Many agencies underutilize their CRM systems, missing out on valuable insights and growth opportunities. Rather than treating it as a glorified rolodex, investing time and effort into configuring and optimizing your CRM system can fully leverage its capabilities.

Pro tip: After many years of mocking the idea of having a business coach, now Robert says he wouldn’t do without one and it’s a move he highly recommends to all agency owners.

Setting Manageable Agency Growth by Balancing Client Acquisition and Retention 

In recent years, his agency’s efforts to build a more sustainable operation have led them to focus on a more customer-led approach to service delivery, instead of an operations-led approach, which supports their growth mission.

Looking ahead, Robert believes a 20% to 30% growth rate allows them to grow successfully and sustainably while maintaining their EBITDA and continue providing a great service for clients.

If you have a similar goal, remember it's crucial to consider churn when setting growth targets. Despite the agency's success in retaining most clients over the past four years, Robert acknowledges the impact of churn. For instance, if the agency plans to add $1 million but loses $200K due to churn, plan for $1.2 million growth instead.

Furthermore, it's essential to allocate a budget not only to acquiring new business but also to nurturing existing client relationships. Upon reviewing their client portfolio, Robert recognized the untapped potential for providing additional value. The agency is now actively working on demonstrating to clients how they can further benefit from the relationship to achieve their business objectives.

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: Robert_Berkeley_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

When was the last time you stepped back to evaluate whether your agency's strategy is truly aligned with your core mission and values? Is your team buying into the overall vision? Are they motivated and understand their role in the vision? If not, it’s time you start integrating vision and strategy for more effective results. Today’s guest has set himself the mission of saving small businesses from failure by teaching them how to combine their vision with effective strategy. He thinks agency owners should think about strategy a lot sooner to avoid moving blindly with no particular purpose in sight. In t his episode, you’ll learn how having a clear vision statement can motivate your team and drive growth.

Jimmy Newson is the founder of Moving Forward Small Business, a membership-based organization that helps businesses grow and achieve their goals through practical and actionable advice. As a business and growth strategy consultant, Jimmy has worked with organizations of all sizes, but his specialty lies in working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. Jimmy is also a contributor and member of Leadership Network with, where he shares his expertise on small business management and growth.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Integrating strategy for clearer and more effective results.

  • Why you should rethink and adapt your strategy.

  • Building a purpose-driven team.


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.

Strategy Can SAVE Small Businesses

At his organization, Jimmy’s ultimate goal is to save one million small businesses from failure by 2050. Why small businesses? According to Jimmy, 99% of businesses in the United States are small businesses and the failure rate among them is alarmingly high. “You have to start questioning why that is,” he says.

Jimmy's personal experiences have given him a deep understanding of small businesses' challenges. Despite working with large organizations, he deliberately maintains a small team and leverages available technology to bridge the gaps. His goal is to empower small businesses to thrive by implementing effective strategies that ensure financial success and long-term sustainability.

Is a clear vision enough to create this sustainability? Jimmy highlights the need to create a business plan that aligns with your vision, mission, and purpose. He also stresses the need for a strategy that outlines the rules of engagement and guides decision-making. This strategy will become the guiding force that will keep the organization on track and allow business owners to make decisions that align with their vision and mission.

Once established, new opportunities for your business should always be examined under the guise of “Does this align with my strategy?” By aligning opportunities with their strategy, business owners can ensure they are moving in the right direction and avoiding potential pitfalls.

Is it Time to RETHINK Your Strategy?

Most agency owners start out being good at something – whether Google ads, website building, etc. – However, once they step into the role of entrepreneur, they encounter various unfamiliar aspects of the business. “You don’t have to be good at all these things,” Jimmy clarifies, “but you have to be aware of them.” It’s about figuring out how to address these aspects of business without shouldering them on your own, which would probably not provide the best results.

The logical step is to hire a team and start delegating tasks. However, before that be sure to build a strategy that provides a path to reduce uncertainty around the future of your business. By developing a roadmap for their business, agency owners can navigate challenges and obstacles with greater ease.

Additionally, Jimmy suggests reevaluating and revising the strategy regularly to evolve and refine your vision and strategy and thus adapt to changing market conditions.

Building a Purpose-Driven Team to Cultivate Employee Motivation and Commitment

Once you’ve established and integrated a strategy into your agency’s mission and vision, how do you get people joining your organization to buy into that vision? They should be aware that their role isn't just a job; it's a mission fueled by the agency's core values. This is the power of having a compelling "why" behind your agency's vision.

As Jimmy emphasizes, people aren't just motivated by products or services; they crave purpose. When employees believe in the organization’s mission and values, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work.

Having a strong "why" behind the agency's goals can help employees self-validate their reasons for being there. This sense of purpose not only benefits them but also the organization as a whole.

As a leader, it's your responsibility to provide employees with the necessary tools and support for success, while highlighting the significance of their work. Helping them see the bigger picture and understand how their contributions make a difference will significantly boost their motivation.

This is a key lesson that Jimmy learned the hard way, leading him to now refer to key team members as stakeholders. To him, a stakeholder is anyone associated with your organization who should be aware of their importance in its mission and purpose.

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: Jimmy_Newson_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

Is your agency leveraging CRMs to tailor personalized client experiences and nurture long-term client relationships? Are you tracking customer interactions from first message to delivery? In the dynamic world of agency-client interactions, CRM tools play a pivotal role in streamlining operations and enhancing customer experiences. Today’s guest has made customer satisfaction his focus even since his start as a graphic designer and now offers a CRM system designed specifically with agencies in mind. Tune in to learn valuable insights on client management and relationship-building strategies for agencies.

Steve Holm is the CEO of Copper, a CRM company that helps agencies track clients from initial interest to project delivery. He discusses the importance of building better relationships with clients and shares his background as a graphic designer and his experience in digital product development.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How design can translate to customer value.

  • Crafting a success path for designers at your agency.

  • How to effectively use CRM to navigate customer relationships.

  • One CRM designed specifically for agencies.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio

Understanding How Design Can Translate to Customer Value

Steve's journey began as a graphic designer, crafting yearbooks for elementary schools using InDesign. He then transitioned to digital design at an agency collaborating with Facebook on feature and product development. Through his network of industry connections, Steve ventured into partnerships with various companies, eventually assuming a leadership role in product management.

His background in design and product management equipped Steve with the skills to create a vision and roadmap for his company based on the impact they aim to have on customers.

Since the beginning, Steve has seen that design can directly impact customer satisfaction and, as a result, business success. To him, the most important thing to keep in mind as you design is “what is the value this is giving to customers and how can I make a connection between my design and the value they’re receiving?” Making this connection leads to increased revenue or reduced turnover.

In his view, this approach translated well into the role of CEO, as he understood the significance of prioritizing customers, designing with the end consumer in mind, and working backward to the technology, rather than starting with the technology and trying to sell it. It’s a philosophy very similar to that of Steve Jobs, who believed in designing products that cater to the needs and desires of customers.

Establishing a Clear Path to Success for Designers at Your Agency

As a designer who eventually transitioned to management roles, Steve knows that trajectory depends on the person. Throughout his professional journey, he has strived to elevate the role of design within strategic discussions to provide more avenues for designers to find fulfillment.

Establishing a clear career path for designers, encompassing both technical expertise and management responsibilities, is crucial for retaining top talent. However, not all designers aspire to or are suited for managerial positions; some excel as creatives and prefer to stay in that role. The problem is that in certain organizations managerial roles are perceived as the sole route for designers to have a significant impact on the broader vision.

At his organization, Steve focused on granting design a strategic role in project development. Addressing the issue of impact makes it easier to understand a designer's motivations for role transitions, their objectives, and how to support their success.

When designers only see themselves getting ahead by moving into manager roles, Steve perceives it as a flaw in company operations. Designers should have more participation in strategic decisions. By exposing them to the right conversations and strategies, agencies can leverage their expertise to drive innovation and create customer-centric solutions.

Navigating Your Agency’s Customer Relationships with CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a crucial aspect of any business and, as such, agencies should provide world-class relationship building across every touchpoint in the customer journey. It’s the way to engage prospects and close more deals, as well as, retain existing clients to grow those accounts.

With ten years of experience in CRM and looking at it from end to end Steve believes it’s important to provide the utmost quality at every step of the process. How are you engaging with customers from the moment they reach out? How are you interacting? Are you making sure to get feedback on what went well and what can be improved post-interaction? The right answers to these questions will help you remarket and grow your business from existing clients.

For Steve, a key practice in this process is to have a CRM that tracks all these interactions, documents, and tasks for the post-sales, and project delivery stages all in one place, as well as trying to automate as much as you can. Automating relationship building at scale will allow you to improve overall efficiency across the customer journey.

Two Key Aspects to Get Better Results from Your CRM System

The main problem with CRM is data integrity because it is only as good as the data you put into it. Do you have the right data in the system? Without accurate and up-to-date data, the CRM system becomes ineffective and may lead to missed opportunities or miscommunication with clients. In this sense, Steve recommends automating data entry and integration with other tools such as email and calendar platforms to ensure your CRM system remains reliable and useful for managing customer relationships.

Another key aspect of using CRM effectively is customization. Different businesses have unique workflows and processes, so it is essential to have a CRM system that can be easily customized to fit specific needs. This includes setting up multiple pipelines for different types of customers or projects, and being able to adjust and tweak the system as needed to align with changing business requirements.

The CRM Designed Specifically for Agencies

Copper CRM, Steve’s business, recently reset their focus to relationship-intensive businesses, such as agencies, consulting firms, and financial services, which rely heavily on building and maintaining strong relationships with their clients, rather than focusing on high-volume leads and deals.

Copper serves as both a CRM and project management system, which sets it apart from similar businesses. This integration allows clients to seamlessly track the entire client relationship, from pre-sales to post-sales, in one tool.

With Copper, agencies can focus on growing their business knowing their CRM is set up for success.

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: Steve_Holm_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

How do you prioritize between family time and business responsibilities as an entrepreneur and parent? How is that balancing act working out for you? Being an agency owners and a parent can be a bit of a mess and there’s no magic formula to balancing parenthood and being an agency CEO. For some parents, this means a lot of guilt about not spending enough quality time with their kids or not being 100% focused during family hours. Today’s guest started her entrepreneurship journey while eight months pregnant and has been constantly learning ever since. She’ll share some of the boundaries she’s learned to uphold to protect her family and rest time. She also explains why hiring was a daunting but key step towards improving both her personal and business life.

Audra Brehm is the owner of Brehm Media, a social media marketing agency focused on the beauty and fashion industry. She’s been on the podcast before talking about raising agency prices and why it does not scare away the right clients.

As a business owner and a mother, Audra discusses the challenges of balancing life and work, going back to starting her agency while eight months pregnant and learning to embrace imperfection. Tune in to hear insights on making it work and finding success in business while navigating the demands of family life.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The boundaries need to balance motherhood and being an agency CEO.

  • Embracing imperfection to find work/life balance.

  • how hiring the right team will set you free.


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.

The Balancing Act of Being a Mom and an Agency CEO

Balancing work and family is a common struggle for many individuals, especially for moms running their businesses. Audra jumped into the adventure of being a business owner while still eight months pregnant with her second child.

It was not exactly her plan. Freshly moving to Colorado and interviewing for jobs, she was presented with the choice to either relocate to Florida for work or start her own consulting firm with that brand as her first client. Being a self-declared bad employee, the possibility of becoming a business owner appealed to her even while eight months pregnant and she jumped at the opportunity.

Although excited about launching her business post-baby, managing both her business and family proved to be a challenging task. Many working moms grapple with the fear of neglecting their families while pursuing their professional goals. The initial years were particularly demanding for Audra as her business demanded a significant amount of her time. Over time, she learned to prioritize her time commitments alongside her financial objectives. Failing to uphold self-imposed time boundaries can lead to feeling torn between family and business responsibilities. Now she has non-negotiable boundaries such as being present during weekends or after a certain hour.

Does this mean she advises postponing starting a family until after establishing your agency? No. There’ll never be a perfect time to have kids, just like there’s never a perfect time to start a business. Audra’s advice is to stop pushing things off and just treat both with care. If you aspire to have a family and run an agency, you will find a way to strike a balance. It's a challenging juggling act that requires diving in and taking action rather than waiting for the ideal moment.

Finding Work/Life Balance Through Delegation and Goal Setting

Like Audra, many agency owners experience the guilt and stress that often come with trying to juggle both family and business. She’s found the way to be present in both aspects of life is to set clear boundaries. She has also learned to delegate tasks, set goals, and communicate with her children about the demands of her work. This open communication has allowed her to involve her children in her business and help them understand the importance of her work.

Similarly, Audra prioritizes quality time with her husband, who also serves as her COO. They have intentionally set aside dedicated hours each week to simply enjoy each other's company without discussing work or family matters. This practice helps them nurture their relationship beyond their roles as parents and business partners, preventing burnout from an exclusive focus on work.

Of course, accepting imperfection will also be key to finding peace as you try to balance both worlds. Audra believes even the smartest and most successful people have figured it all out yet. It’s a real struggle to maintain a good family life, be an engaged significant other, and have a successful business all at the same time.

It’s a grind all the time and it’s okay to acknowledge that,” she says.

As a mom and a business owner, Audra knows giving herself grace and recognizing that it is okay to make mistakes or fall short is not only ok, it’s essential.

Hiring, Firing, and Finding the Right Employees to Set You Free

One of the key lessons Audra strives to impart to her kids is that you don't have to wait until retirement to start living life to the fullest. It's possible to build a thriving business while raising a family - the key is learning to find joy in the journey, through both the highs and inevitable lows.

Will there be challenging days where you feel stretched thin as a manager and parent? Absolutely. But there will also be triumphs when everything clicks into place. The path is about embracing the ebb and flow.

For Audra, one of the biggest game-changers in her work-life integration has been making the right hires, even if it represents an initial financial strain. Once intimidated by the prospect of expanding her team, she can attest that leaping to bring on supportive talent was one of the best decisions for her agency's growth and her own sanity.

With around 15 employees now, Audra can step away trusting her team will handle everything. "Are we the biggest agency? No. But I can walk away and come back without anything going up in flames," she remarks.

Of course, building a solid team is an ever-evolving process. It requires having the humility to learn from hiring missteps, the courage to make staffing adjustments when someone isn't the right fit, and the wisdom to provide learning opportunities that unlock each person's potential. By staying open-minded, nimble, and committed to continuous improvement, agency leaders can assemble a talented crew that propels the business forward while enabling a sustainable work-life balance.

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: Audra_Brehm_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am MDT

Gary Vaynerchuk and Steve Jobs both became the face of their brand, but could this marketing strategy cost you when it’s time to sell your agency?  How can you avoid becoming the brand to build a ‘sellable’ agency? Today’s guest is an entrepreneur who has successfully started and sold four businesses. He discusses the value of personal brands in relation to company success and delves into the challenges faced by service companies in building assets compared to tech or SaaS startups. Tune in to learn about common mistakes made by agency owners when considering selling their businesses and the pitfalls of an obsession with scale.

John Warrillow is the founder and CEO of The Value Builder System, a sales and marketing software for business advisors to find, win and keep their best clients. In addition to having started and exited four companies, John is the best-selling author, Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to add value to your agency.

  • Build a ‘sellable’ agency.

  • Equity rolls vs. earn-outs.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio

Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to to get a free trial just for Jason’s listeners!

How Businesses Fall into the Revenue Pitfall

Agency owners and service-based businesses often fall into the trap of overvaluing their companies when considering selling them. This common mistake is rooted in their relentless pursuit of growth and expansion. As a public, we tend to idolize big companies as opposed to good companies. This can turn into an obsession that leads agency owners to focus solely on increasing revenue, rather than building systems and processes that can make the business less dependent on the owners and founders.

This fixation on growth typically results in rainmakers focusing predominantly on their sales expertise, which, while driving business growth, also increases dependence on the founders. Paradoxically, this dependence diminishes the overall value of the business. For John, the obsession with growth does agencies a great disservice by creating a culture of focusing solely on revenue.

Consequently, businesses become so intertwined with the owner's presence that they essentially create a job for themselves rather than an asset that can thrive independently. This realization can be a bitter pill to swallow for many agency owners, especially when they recognize that their ego often drives these attitudes. By subscribing to the notion portrayed in "Mad Men" that their primary role is that of the charismatic pitchperson, they inadvertently create successful jobs rather than valuable assets.

An Easy Method to Add Value to Your Agency

So how can you avoid the revenue pitfall? John recommends agency owners take their CEO hat off from time to time and replace it with that of the parent of the business. In this sense, rather than micromanaging employees to hit revenue goals, empower them to take ownership of their work. They will feel greater pride and engagement, enabling the agency to thrive with or without you.

By prioritizing long-term sustainability you can increase your agency’s value and make it more attractive to potential buyers. It's not just about winning big clients or receiving accolades, but about creating a valuable asset that can stand the test of time.

John also introduces the concept of assessing agency services according to how "teachable, valuable, repeatable" (TVR) they are to make strategic business decisions based on this. The TVR framework encourages agency owners to assess each service based on how teachable it is to their team, how valuable it is in terms of differentiation from competitors, and how repeatable it is in terms of recurring revenue.

According to John, aency owners should focus on services that score high on all three criteria, as these are the services that will ultimately lead to a more sustainable and scalable business. This is not necessarily easy. Getting rid of some low-scoring services may mean walking away from 90% of your revenue. If this is your case, you can jettison the lowest-scoring services at least once a year.

Striking the Right Balance as an Agency CEO

Building a business that can run without you and that you can eventually sell will also require you to make the transition from agency owner to CEO. This means assuming different roles like setting the vision for the agency, being the face of the organization, understanding the financials, and coaching and mentoring the leadership team.

Personally, John disagrees with Peter Drucker’s notion that the two key functions that a CEO should focus on are product development and sales/marketing. In the context of an agency, the CEO should prioritize activities that drive revenue and attract new clients. “If you’re doing those two functions, your business is worthless without you” he argues.

CEOs who are too public-facing and personally branded may undermine the value of their agency when it comes time to sell. This is because potential buyers may view a highly visible CEO as a risk factor, leading to a larger portion of the deal being tied to an earn-out agreement. Therefore, CEOS need to strike a balance between being the face of the organization and focusing on the core functions of sales and marketing.

How to Avoid Becoming the Brand: Tips for Becoming a “Sellable” Agency

Would VaynerMedia continue to thrive without Gary Vaynerchuk? Just like Apple continued to grow without Steve Jobs, the most important element of that business is Gary’s framework and methodology. What people like Steve and Gary did very well in each case is that the brand supersedes the individual.

In Gary’s case, many people might not realize who he is as a creator or tie VaynerMedia to him. In any case, building a powerful brand that can grow even in your absence is all about branding processes and not just people. Of course, a strong personal brand can be beneficial but it is also essential to establish the processes that drive the business. By doing so, agencies can create value beyond the individual personalities of their founders or leaders.

For agency owners who include their name in the agency name, John suggests branding the processes; for instance, “3 things we do before onboarding a new client”. Codify and brand these processes to create a more valuable and attractive asset for potential buyers. This way, agencies can demonstrate a level of consistency and professionalism that goes beyond any individual's involvement in the business.

By establishing and branding the processes that drive the business, agencies can create value that is sustainable and transferable, ultimately leading to long-term growth and success. It’s something you can do in stages and could take 2 or 3 years complete. It’s an important element of reducing dependency on individual personalities and create a more valuable and attractive asset for potential buyers.

Equity Rolls vs. Earnouts: One of these will cost you MILLIONS

The classic way an agency is sold is you get approached by the buyer who says they’re willing to pay X multiple for it. However, once you take a closer look at that price, it’s really 40% upfront, with the other 60% tied to an elaborate earn-out component where you become an employee of another agency.

Alternatively, John highlights how private equity companies are increasingly doing "roll-ups" to consolidate agencies, especially in ad tech and tech-enabled services. In an equity roll deal, the seller gets some cash upfront but rolls the remaining amount into an equity stake in the entity owning the agency. This provides pros and cons compared to an earn-out model and gives owners more control over the transition.

Equity rolls like majority recapitalizations allow owners to sell just a portion of their shares to receive some liquidity. This payout offers financial stability to pay off debts or invest elsewhere while still having skin in the game to take risks growing the agency. However, selling a majority stake means giving up decision-making control. Owners must be comfortable with a new role and adapt to having outside stakeholders that may bring conflicting interests, especially regarding earn-outs or integrating services across divisions.

For its part, an earn-out means you’ll lose control of the agency, so be aware of the potential pitfalls of this structure. Instead, Jason suggests a different approach where the seller prioritizes receiving cash upfront and maintains control over the company until the earn-out or period of time is completed. This gives the seller more agency in the sale process and reduces the risk of losing control over their business.

All in all, as a seller, be aware of what the acquirer is trying to do, their motivations, and how that aligns with what you want to determine whether or not an earn-out makes sense for you.

Prepare Yourself Against the Potential Pitfalls of Acquisitions

There are potential pitfalls in agency acquisitions and it’s important to be cautious when considering selling or merging with another agency. Typically, as a seller, you have to be aware of the fact that you’re becoming a minority shareholder and giving up entrepreneurship for a job. Just be vigilant and protect your interests.

Do your due diligence when considering an acquisition and thoroughly evaluate the potential buyer and ensure that the terms of the deal are fair and beneficial to the agency. Furthermore, be wary of offers that may seem enticing on the surface but could ultimately result in a loss of control or value for the agency.

The most important way you can protect yourself is to understand the true value of your agency before entering into any acquisition agreements. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by promises of high valuations or potential growth opportunities without thoroughly evaluating the risks and potential drawbacks of the deal and ensure that all parties involved in the acquisition are aligned in terms of goals, vision, and values to avoid potential conflicts down the line.

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: John_Warrillow_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Do you have enough of an appetite for risk to trigger exponential agency growth? Have you considered strategic partnerships as a growth strategy? Today’s guest changed the music scene for entrepreneurship and managed to grow his agency from $2 million to $16 million in just two years. How’d he do it? After getting past common initial struggles like developing sales and hiring the right people, he focused on strategic partnerships and found the right formula to scale his marketing agency. Tune in to learn from his incredible growth story and strategic approach to agency success.

Alex Rossman is the owner of Rossman Media, a socially led digital marketing agency that serves brands of all sizes to help them grow online, with a particular focus on social media. Rossman’s award-winning team is positioned for global expansion. He discusses the importance of having an appetite for risk and thinking long-term about company growth.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Learning when to hire employees.

  • 8Xing a digital marketing agency.

  • How to minimize the risks in an agency acquisition.


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.

When to Hire Employees For Your Agency

Alex started out as a musician and was actually signed by a record label and touring at some point, all while maintaining a corporate job. However, the corporate job was draining and the music gigs weren’t profitable so he needed another way to balance his creative side while using his experience with sales and marketing. This led to his start in the agency world back in 2017.

Over seven years of steering his agency, Alex pinpoints hiring as his biggest challenge. Though his hands-on experience gave him insight into each role's requirements, finding candidates who could confidently take the reins proved difficult. Like many founders, Alex struggled to prioritize - should he start by beefing up sales or operations?

Eager to scale rapidly, Alex also fell into the common trap of over-hiring. Buoyed by high growth, he staffed up quickly rather than strategically. Soon he was building the plane while flying it, scrambling to course-correct profitability and organization.

To surmount hiring hurdles, agency owners need self-awareness around strengths, weaknesses, and business stage. Rather than focusing on rapid growth alone, smart hiring means filling gaps with experts who complement the existing team. This prevents overstretching capabilities and sets an achievable path for sustainable scaling.

Looking back, Alex wishes he balanced ambition with patience. Hiring is never easy, but by aligning roles and capabilities to the agency's most pressing needs, founders can build a thriving team equipped for the long-haul.

Centering the Utilization Rate to Increase Agency Success

Having learned from over-hiring missteps, Alex now centers his growth strategy on utilization rate and team optimization - two pivotal aspects for agency success. By closely tracking utilization, he ensures his team effectively spends time on client work, driving productivity and profitability. Now, Alex and the team rate incoming leads as high, medium, and low, which plays into how they decide to hire based on the amount of work they’ll have in the coming months.

Focusing on high-impact tasks and leveraging each team member's strengths, or "superpower," will also help you ensure you’re optimizing team performance and maximizing productivity. This approach not only benefits the agency but also serves the individual team members by allowing them to excel in their roles and contribute to the company's success.

Moreover, with an adaptable mindset, Alex continuously reevaluates team efficiency as the agency evolves. Assessing performance, identifying improvement areas, and adjusting roles over time is key. This may involve revisiting responsibilities, offering training, or reallocating resources to tap the highest potential impact.

8Xing HisAgency in Just Two Years

The driving force behind the remarkable growth of his agency lies in strategic acquisitions. As the agency owner, Alex has diligently focused on enhancing services for clients and nurturing relationships with both clients and employees. Additionally, he dons his investor hat to assess the industry's current fragmented landscape. Recognizing an opportunity, Alex leveraged mergers and acquisitions to bring on board companies that not only aligned with the agency's culture but also addressed operational gaps.

In 2022, their pivotal acquisition involved the purchase of a complementary social media agency, a move that facilitated horizontal integration and bolstered the management team with fresh talent and clientele. Buoyed by this success, they have subsequently completed three more acquisitions, significantly fueling their expansion.

The Required Mindset Shift for Explosive Growth

In the competitive agency world, organic growth hovers around 10% and, for Alex, thriving in this environment requires embracing a new mindset that welcomes calculated risks. For this, agency owners must step back from day-to-day operations and chart a course for where they envision their company in the next five years. This long-term perspective is essential for pinpointing growth opportunities and forging strategic partnerships that can propel the agency to new heights.

In light of this, Alex initiated discussions with agencies he had built strong relationships with over the years, exploring potential mergers. His approach was all about identifying the right agencies to acquire that align with his goals and values.

Successful mergers and acquisitions can yield numerous benefits, such as bolstering the management team, expanding the customer base, and venturing into new industries.

Of course, strategic acquisitions will also require agencies to assess the potential risks. “Do not think that you’re just buying a company to multiply your company by two or three,” Alex advises. Factor in potential setbacks like employee and client retention issues to better prepare for the challenges that may come with integrating a new agency into their existing operations.

Trying the Acquisition Growth Strategy? Minimize the Risks

For agency owners considering the acquisition growth strategy, Alex suggests starting small to minimize risk with the initial deal. In his experience, they began by acquiring a small lifestyle business with strong client retention and a vision that aligned with their agency's goals. Subsequently, they progressed to larger acquisitions with the second and third deals.

By effectively integrating and expanding these smaller acquisitions, the agency can confidently pursue larger opportunities. For funding, Alex eventually explored debt financing to support growth beyond what the agency's profits could sustain. This allowed them to secure the necessary capital for larger acquisitions and expedite growth. However, it's important to exercise caution when taking on debt and avoid personal guarantees to mitigate financial risks.

Agency Integration: How to Succeed after Mergers and Acquisitions

The hardest part of agency growth through acquisitions is not the buying process, but rather the integration and scaling of the acquired agencies. Successful integration requires careful planning, clear communication, and a focus on aligning processes, systems, and cultures. You don’t want to come in and suddenly change everything that made that agency what it was.

Alex advises against quick changes and instead embraces the existing culture, systems, and processes of the acquired agency. Don’t rush into making changes that could disrupt the organization. Instead, take the time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the acquired agency, identify key personnel and clients, and create a timeline for integration that can lead to a smoother and more successful transition.

In this sense, having a dedicated team or individual responsible for integration can also be beneficial. Alex handles some of these tasks and then hands them off to his directors. However, he’s planning to turn this into a dedicated role and have someone focused on identifying synergies, streamlining operations, and ensuring a successful transition for both parties involved. By having someone dedicated to integration, agencies can avoid overloading existing leadership teams and ensure that the process is given the attention and resources it deserves.

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_Alex_Rossman_8xed_his_Agency_in_2_Years___Ep_677.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Would your agency keep running and growing if you had to take a month off tomorrow? Or would it all fall apart? Which systems could you start implementing right now to keep this from happening? Today’s guest went through difficult times last year and his focus wasn’t fully in the business. These struggles proved to be too much for a recent purchase, which he had admittedly rushed; as that acquisition started falling apart and becoming a burden, it started to take a toll on mental health. In the end, he had to sell. Now he thinks carefully about the processes and systems that must be in place in case of an emergency. Tune in to learn how he navigates his agency to allow himself time to focus on the things that are more important than money.

Robert Lee is the owner of Lesix Media, a real estate-focused agency that thrives on doubling clients’ productivity, sales, and marketing through innovative frameworks. Robert discusses his experience buying and transforming an agency that now focuses on helping real estate professionals, commercial roofers, political candidates, and organizations. He shares insights on finding a consistent path to growth and how setting up the right systems will allow you to take care of your mental health.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to use direct email to leave a lasting impression.

  • Avoid regret by trusting your gut.

  • More important than money: prioritizing mental health.


Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio

Sponsors and Resources

Copper: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or your sales process. Head over to to learn more and get a free trial.

From Young Freelancer to Entrepreneur Needing the Structure of an Agency  

Robert has been working with political candidates and organizations for around fifteen years. Starting as a freelancer who thought he could do it all, his understanding of what an agency was grew with experience. The more he learned, the more he appreciated the structure and organization needed to truly succeed. This wish to become a more formal and organized business was the idea behind his plan of buying into a direct mail agency. It was a natural transition after fifteen years in the business to grow a team and have a business he could grow.

In the end, he didn’t just buy into an agency but outright purchased one. They were one of his vendors around 2017 and it was actually a long process to complete. He already had the political marketing business and had plans to transition that business from just fulfilling mail projects to becoming a full-service agency.

Using Direct Mail to Leave a Lasting Impression

His agency currently focuses on helping political candidates and organizations spread their message. However, up until six months ago they were all about direct mail and were responsible for a lot of junk mail for real estate agents and commercial roofers. For Robert, direct mail may get a lot of hate but it can be impactful in a variety of ways. “You don’t have to use direct mail for everything, but don’t count it out,” he argues.

Personally, he favors sending obnoxiously large pieces because there are a lot ways to make it really creative and get people’s attention. It’s important to think outside the box when it comes to designing and executing direct mail pieces and there’s a lot of space for impactful designs, such as die-cut pieces and pop-up elements that leave a lasting impression.

Avoiding Regret in Your Agency by Trusting Your Gut

Looking back, there are many things Robert would do differently in that process to purchase and transition the agency’s services but the biggest one is to trust his gut. The company he acquired was a mom & pop shop with no sales processes in place. Despite having reservations about this, Robert chose to move forward with the purchase.

Instead of waiting until they created the necessary sales process and revisit the acquisition after a year, he argued against himself and went ahead with the purchase. As a result, he faced challenges and struggles that could have been avoided.

Basically, their sales process revolved entirely around the owners and referrals. There was no lead generation. Under these conditions, it wasn’t really a business so much as a job these owners built for themselves and were now trying to sell.

For his part, Robert had been planning this acquisition for a long time and was nervous he would lose the opportunity if he asked for more time for them to resolve the issues.

It was a valuable lesson in business. With those problems, the agency became more of a burden that needed his constant attention. It was not structured in a way that allowed Robert space to face these challenges and soon became an issue that took over his life.

In the end, he was forced to sell that business and, even though it was the right choice, he recognizes that if he’d listened to himself from the beginning, he could have avoid the headaches. In the quest for growth and success, it is essential to trust your instincts and listen to that inner voice that may be warning you to slow down and reconsider your actions.

More Important Than Money: Prioritizing Mental Health

Robert’s experience can be a great lesson for agency owners thinking about selling their business in the future and who are too involved in sales, marketing, or operations. If you’re too involved in any of these aspects and haven’t created a plan for someone else to take over, then you’ve created a great job but not an asset that you can sell one day.

Personally, Robert believes it’s important for agency owners to have those systems in place to prioritize mental health and rest whenever necessary. Last year he experienced two losses that left him lost and affected his ability to focus on the business. These times of personal crisis really underscore the importance of having a business set up to give you the time to handle a crisis. Without the proper time to grieve, he knows this grief would have eventually bled into his decisions and magnified the agency’s issues.

It was a reminder that running a business is not just about making money and achieving success, but also about taking care of oneself and prioritizing mental and emotional well-being.

Build a Machine, Not a Job: Structuring Your Agency for Sustainability

Reflecting on his experience, Robert realizes he should have invested more time upfront in developing structured processes and aligning his team towards shared goals. Though he had begun implementing some procedural tweaks, more robust and documented systems would have better prepared the agency when crises hit.

Many agency owners assume that building a business will automatically grant them freedom. However, in those critical early years, it often feels more like a noose around your neck. The end goal should be constructing an agency that runs smoothly without you, liberating you to focus on other pursuits.

In Robert's case, while his team was already taking ownership of their responsibilities, he still lacked a clear structure for making pivotal financial decisions. This resulted in undue financial risks, like retaining employees who did not align with the overarching vision. Though difficult, removing these individuals would have saved time and money over retaining them.

All in all, thoroughly systematizing processes and instilling a unified sense of purpose across your team early on is necessary so your agency can persevere in your absence. With a robust infrastructure in place, you’ll be able to focus less on maintaining day-to-day operations, and more on innovating and guiding your agency into the future.

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.