It’s a common story: You start a shop because you love the work. Design, development, strategy, PR, copywriting or what have you. As more clients come in, you hire a person…and then another. Suddenly, you’re running a business: handling sales, client services, recruiting, operations and other tasks. You’re earning your MBA by fire.
Your agency is growing, but at a price. You used to feel good about the work, now…not so much. How do you get back to the days of being engaged and excited, and take control of your agency before it takes control of you?
Growth is Good, Unless It Gets Out of Control
Karl Sakas knows this story well. A management consultant, executive coach and fourth-generation entrepreneur, Karl’s advised hundreds of agency owners worldwide, combining 20+ years of consulting with experience at two digital marketing agencies.
Over the years, Karl has identified some common pain points that agency owners experience while scaling their companies. If you’re tired of being pulled into everything, feeling like you’re mismanaging client expectations, struggling with important decisions or just want to keep yourself on track, there are some strategies to help you succeed. Let’s dig in.
1. You’re Pulled into Everything
As an agency owner, you’re pulled in 100 different directions a day. It’s easy to find fault with your team, but to diagnose the problem, you first have to isolate it. If people come to you, and don’t know what to do, training may help. If people do know, but are struggling to implement solutions on their own, then it’s more about practice. Scenarios or ride-alongs can help alleviate people's dependence on you.
And if it’s a case where things just aren’t working, it’s worth having a conversation. Maybe people are just unclear about the best way to work with you, when to approach you and what you expect from them when they do. Setting parameters such as internal office hours outline your preferences clearly, giving you time to focus on what matters most, while still being accessible to your team.
2. Client Expectations Aren’t Set
By its very design, client services work is reactive. Clients reach out with needs, you need to respond and your response may or may not be to your client’s liking. Oftentimes, managing expectations is just about communication. Initiating conversations with clients on how they define success and what they expect from their agency can surface gaps, and give you a foundation to outline the best way to work together.
3. Leaving the Present to the Future
Looking forward to the future can cause angst for anyone, especially when it looks somewhat bleak or there are tough decisions to make. Add in the weight of carrying your business and team, and it’s that much worse. When wrestling with an important decision, try conducting a “business premortem,” or “advanced retrospective.” You’re basically mapping out what the future would look like for different paths. The process, as much as the outcomes, may provide insights on which course of action is more appealing and a better plan.
4. Staying on Track
The struggle is real. With everything going on in your business, and no one to check up on you, it can be hard to stay on track. But there are ways to add accountability and efficiency to your business on a regular basis. Simple accountability tools such as email scheduling can help you keep important to-dos top of mind. You can also set time aside to meet with a coach, or connect with fellow owners at peer events such as Owner Summit, Biz Dev Camp D.C. or Owner Camp Bend. With a sounding board and someone or something to hold you accountable on a regular basis, you won’t fall into the trap of losing focus or steam.
Lessons Learned & Shared
What challenges have you run into as you've grown your business? Comment below and let us know what you've experienced, and how you prevailed.
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