Looking to Scale Your Agency? Read This First
A physical-product business needs more inventory to scale. A digital-product business needs more traffic.
Since there’s more to it than a fixed manufactured (or coded) product, these businesses are harder to manage (and harder to scale).
However, you and I know that service-based businesses are not that straightforward. There are multiple layers of execution, systems, and components involved in their operation.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t though.
Here are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind once it’s time to scale your digital agency to do it the right way.
Do Things That Don’t Scale
“Wait... what? Isn’t this post about scaling?”
Of course, it is. But hold on a second.
It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture and only want to do things at a mass scale.
“If it doesn't scale, I won't do it.”
However, there will always be some non-scalable tasks on your plate on the way to scaling anything.
A clear example is simply learning.
Brett McHale, founder of Empiric Marketing, a successful agency, has something to say about being skilled at your agency’s craft.
“When building a successful agency, it’s key to be highly skilled at what the agency does first. It allows you to manage the account yourself for a while and it makes finding talented help a lot easier, because you understand the skills and knowledge necessary for the job.”
Also, most B2B businesses start off with some sort of direct outreach. Whether that’s talking directly to potential clients, partners, or investors.
The point is, talking to people one-on-one isn’t scalable. Nor is mastering your craft. But big things start small and snowball over time.
Get comfortable with the idea of doing things that don’t scale. Because doing things consistently well on a lower scale will make sure they get done well at a larger scale later on—while also creating the necessary momentum to achieve your biggest goals.
Wait For Signs Before You Make a Move
Scaling and hiring go hand in hand.
However, you should be careful not to hire for the sake of it but instead wait for the need to arise.
Sounds obvious, right? Not quite.
Take, for example, this question that gets thrown around from time to time in agency owner’s circles: “Who should I hire first?”
When in reality the question should be, “Is it time to hire?”
See, right timing is often a bigger contributor to success (or failure) in business decisions. Make sure there's something missing in your business before you decide to hire someone. To help you, here are just a few signs you should watch for:
You’re needing a skill outside of your circle of competence (or that of your team).
You have more business than you can handle (and need some extra hands).
You’re being overextended and consistently “wearing multiple hats.”
For most tech, no-knack-for-communications folks, hiring a sales person first might be the rational thing to do.
Others could decide to handle sales by themselves and hire more people to do the work and deliver the service.
And yet others might want to consider hiring a project manager to reduce management time and focus on other high-leverage activities.
Wait for the right time, and you’ll know what makes sense for you. Because it really depends on your needs and your unique needs only.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
In fact, you’ll need it.
There’s a lot of information out there regarding starting and growing your agency. I’m contributing a bit more to the hundreds of thousands of posts written about this topic already.
However, in this day and age, it’s not lack of knowledge that refrains people from taking action, but quite the contrary.
Conflicting advice. Information overwhelm. Analysis-paralysis.
These are all things that you'll need to push through to succeed. Expect it.
By participating in some sort of community (or even hiring a coach or purchasing a course), the chances of you getting around these things quicker improve dramatically.
It could be that you just need someone to confirm your suspicion about a particular decision you already have in mind. Sometimes the answers are right in front of your face and you just can't seem to find them.
Whatever the case might be, a fresh set of eyes can always help to prompt you in the right direction.
So don’t be afraid to pay for advice and help. If you get around someone credible and that truly has your best interest at heart, it’s more than worth its price.
Start Searching For the Big Wins
You’ve probably heard about it.
All efforts are not created equal.
Your agency will have a set of most profitable clients; you will have a set of most productive workers; most people you talk to and relationships you build will result in absolutely nothing.
80/20 or whatever the proportion might be for you, that’s completely fine.
What you should be aware of, though, is where are those big wins coming from.
What types of businesses are being the most profitable for your agency? What marketing strategies are bringing in more leads? What relationships are bearing fruit and can you build more of those?
As Devesh Khanal from Grow & Convert said about KlientBoost’s aggressive content marketing strategy, a PPC agency that grew to 7-figures in 12 months:
“The lesson here is, if you discover that a new marketing strategy is valuable, go for it. Don’t just dip your toe in.”
But this philosophy doesn’t apply just to marketing, it applies to all areas of your business.
Simply put: once you find out what brings the most results, stick to that. Do more of it. Go all-in until you just can’t any longer.
This will optimize for big wins and your business will get where you want to faster than you can imagine.
Talking about fast...
Decide How You Want to Scale (And How Much... And How Fast)
I want to leave you with probably the most important one, because these days it seems that extreme growth is a requirement in order to categorize a business as “successful.”
Year-over-year revenue growth is the metric businesses are bragging about lately. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There will always be benefits to both sides of the coins.
To extreme growth vs. growing slowly but surely.
To establishing an office vs. settling with a home-based business.
To having an 800-employee empire (Gary Vee’s style) vs. working with a dozen contractors.
To getting extra capital and blowing things off vs. owning your business 100% and not having investors breathing down your neck.
Again, it’s completely up to you. Don’t let media headlines put you off if what you want is freedom and not to own a billion-dollar agency or buy the New York Jets.
Don’t follow trends. Make your own decisions because there’s simply not a “better” way to scale your agency.
The guidelines above will certainly help. And other than that the best advice I can give you is to know where you want to grow your business to and to set goals to work towards that.
Because as the old saying goes: “If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.”