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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast


Feb 26, 2020

Summary:

If you’re an agency leader, you’ve got a “how it all began” story. Whether you set out to be a mega-influencer in your field, or like many, you stumbled into owning a running a company as an afterthought of following your passion. Yet we’re all inundated with the notion that we HAVE to be getting bigger. If you’re not growing you’re dying, right? While that is true, growth doesn’t necessarily mean size growth. There is a point when you have to ask yourself “Should I be scaling this?” In today’s episode we break down this question and dig into the WHY behind what we all do. Contrary to popular belief, scaling is actually NOT a necessity, and size doesn’t coincide with success or profit! In fact, it’s quite the opposite. So we all must ask ourselves, “Should I scale the business, stay where we’re at, or stop this business ownership altogether?”

 

Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:

  1. Agency leadership is innately fraught with hardship and challenges, so having a strong foundational WHY behind everything you do is what will pull you through those hard days.
  2. Growing your business to be the BIGGEST isn’t always the way to go- in fact, growth purely for the sake of growth is one of the fastest ways to kill your joy, culture, and bank account.
  3. Get mentors! Bring in outside people. Whether that means hiring someone you trust to break down the financial side of things for you or having a group of peers (like this podcast!) that can speak to your pain points and expose them alongside you- it is VITAL to allow yourself to hear and receive feedback in areas that aren’t your expertise. 

 

About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob: 

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken: 

 

Show Notes:

  • [1:47] Ken: Oftentimes, people fall into agency ownership. “If you're a plumber, you’re not going to fall into being a plumber, it’s laid out for you.”
    • You’ll be searching for freedom at first then fall into ownership.
    • Brad: You fall in love with the craft, and either you’re good or you aren’t. And as you try to make a life of it, the process of growth and longevity become the true. 
  • [3:03] Bob introduces the topic: How, Why, and Should you Scale your Business?
    • Cultural default is growing to be the biggest and the best.
    • Knowing your limitations and motivations changes the way you go into ownership. 
  • [3:53] Bob’s mindset was to create a life worth living & that he wanted to live outside of work. So he wanted to create a boutique agency, keep it smaller and be a thought leader in the space & serve clients well.
    • “My motivation was always to be a thought leader in a space, to serve my clients well, and to fund what was most important to me.”
  • [5:00] Ken adds that that level of self-awareness is rare in this space- understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing and making sure that THAT is at the core of what pulls you through the business growth process. This goes against the idea that entrepreneurship and massive influence is the goal for everyone. 
  • [6:16] “The grass is always greener” mentality is pervasive “It’s greener if I can grow it that way.”
    • The REASON for all of this is so important.
  • [7:10] Brad speaks on business ownership as a young person. It includes being able to support your family and the pressure of keeping that stability underneath them. 
    • Brad went into business without a long-term exit strategy. Some people start with that in mind. It’s important to know what you want, even if it’s not an exit strategy per se. 
    • Your company should serve you as well as those who work within it- defining it early on is great and important but also knowing yourself and finding your Why is just as important.
  • [9:23] Bob: Starting a biz when you’re in your early 20’s compared to your early 40’s is very different. 
  • [10:15] Brad: Starting biz means that as you grow there will have to be casualties in other parts of your life. Young people in biz don’t often realize that. The reality of humanity in business is that there will be sacrifices you have to make, choices you have to make. 
  • [10:57] Ken: Speaks on knowing what you’re best at and staying in that wheelhouse. Culturally, we put certain personality types on a pedestal, but truly we need all types and all wheelhouses in a business. 
    • “There is danger in having people in leadership roles who don’t need to be leaders, who aren’t aware of their limitations and strengths.”
    • There are things you’ll HAVE to be good at in order to succeed in business. Some will enjoy that process, others will not.
  • [13:00] Bob speaks on leadership skills, “I believe leadership skills can be developed, 100%.”
  • [13:15] Brad says that leadership has to be INTENTIONAL about learning and growing. The more you can pick it apart and figure out where you can grow, the better.
    • “They say the best leaders are spending 25% of their time learning and growing themselves.”
  • [14:15] Ken: There is danger in doing something because you believe it’s what you should be doing- it’s a trend.
    • Headcount is a status symbol in agencies these days- falling into the pressure of increasing headcount just to increase it
    • Often what culture idolizes is wrong, and that reflects in business
  • [17:15] Brad speaks on how growing has taken more money, growth means more responsibilities and maintenance internally. Office culture is challenging to maintain as the company grows. 
    • When asking how your business is, everyone wants to talk about growth as a status symbol
  • [18:15] Brad: “Maybe the culture should be that it’s good to stay steady, produce great products, create great profit, and also have your company serve you and your employees well.” 
  • [18:20] Bob: Positive Growth is a metric today for ecommerce, but other things are
    • “What’s your motivation for having the business and what are you gonna do with it? This will trickle down in culture, and it can be destructive if you’re not careful.”
  • [19:56] Ken: “Those metrics are important. But they shouldn’t be how you measure your own success.”
  • [21:00] Brad speaks on capitalizing on growth- “Looking at why you want to grow reveals a fear; that a client may leave, even for reasons that have nothing to do with you, and you always want to make sure you can support your staff… so that you don’t lose resources… that are part of your awesome culture. Businesses run on people, and they take a long time to grow and build into your business. I need to always have a ‘new business’ mentality.”
  • [22:48] Ken iterates: “Your business needs to be healthy, regardless of size, and it needs to innovate. These are requirements, and then you have the choice of goals and THEN the questions of should you be scaling really comes into play. You can not scale and still be healthy and innovating.”
    • You want to tailor your growth plan to your own agency, and understand that your portfolio of clients is as even as possible, so that you're never relying totally on one client to support you.
  • [25:30] Bob asks if it’s a value to bring in someone that can help you understand scaling.
    • There is great value in having conversations with third party people and outsiders to think through the health of your culture and your business. 
  • [28:13] Ken speaks on large shifts at Metacake: “I hired a friend who came in and started asking questions… that I’d never thought of before. Are you tracking time? How do you categorize your expenses?” 
    • It created awareness around what is accepted as status quo in the agency world but is very dysfunctional in the rest of the world.
  • [30:00] It’s important to bring in third-party perspectives because sometimes you need that outside opinion to be further away from the heart of the business. It’s important because when you have someone giving you advice that you know you can trust, you begin to have the confidence to be YOU.
  • [31:00] Ken: “Someone once told me that comparison is the enemy of joy. And that’s so true in life and in business… If you’re leading a business, you might see others and they look so cool from the outside… but turns out they all struggle with the same things. They’re NOT cool, and they’ve got the same problems, maybe even bigger problems. So don’t just do something because you see it and you think you should. For me, outside advice has given me the confidence to be who we were made to be and do it really well.”
  • [32:00] Bob: “Finding your own individuality, and your own agency collectively who you are as a team is so important because you can try to imitate and learn best practices, but… Ken you’re always saying you can be the cheapest, the only, or the best. You need to choose which one you want to be because those are the only ways you’re going to scale and grow and be successful as a business.”
  • [33:45] Brad: Part of the growth that agency owners go through requires asking for extra help and guidance. It’s important in making the correct decisions, learning to let your guard down at first and jump over that fear of admitting that you don’t know everything.
  • [35:42] Bob: How do you know if you’re really ready to start a business? 
  • [36:30] Ken: “I think being self-aware and confident enough to say ‘Hey here’s what I’m best at. Maybe I should be scaling this. Maybe we should be staying right where we’re at, or maybe this is not for me.”
  • [37:03] Brad asks Ken: “Would you do it over again, knowing what you know now, would this be the right type of business?”
  • [37:15] Ken responds: “I have this abstract feeling that I should be maximizing talents… whatever talents I’m given, I should be doing the most with that… and that’s what drives me. I’m excited to get up and chase that.”
  • [40:20] Bob speaks on the manifestation movement in the last 10-15 years. “Visualizing success, for athletes… works very well. If that was the key to their success, that would be one thing… People think you just get clients and hire smart people, make a ton of money and get on Forbes… dreaming and visualizing is healthy for that athlete but he’s also conditioning all day every day… that work they’re putting in is more than just visualizing. None of them would ever say it was easy.”
  • [42:45] Ken: “I think business ownership or really doing anything at an excellent level, just being a great husband, wife, whatever, takes intentional conditioning over time… and the truth is, it’s hard work.” 
  • [43:20] Brad talks about how the decision to start a business impacts others as well. Those that are doing life with you have to be bought in and supportive if you want to maintain healthy relationships with your family. 
    • Are those people supporting you knowing there WILL be hard times? 
    • You’ll bring some of that stress home, how will that impact them? 
  • [45:00] Ken: All of this ties back into the question of why you’re doing it. “If you don’t like WHY you’re doing it, then all that stuff sounds insane.”
  • [46:00] Ken speaks on the health of your internal team- your income must serve not only you but your team. If your business can’t serve you and your team, if it can’t be self-serving in a way, then what’s the point of trying to effectively serve others?
  • [48:00] Bob brings the conversation back around to the love of business and the joy in ownership. “I am unemployable from the sense of- I can’t go to a corporate setting, sit in a desk, push paper all day long, check in at eight, and check out at 5… I would get fired in the first week. I have to be doing something creative, I have to be with people, I have to be having some sort of strategy and I have to be challenged every day. It’s a joy, and there are a lot of positive things to think about.”
  • [49:00] Ken: “It’s important to be aware that you’re not doing something because someone else says you should do it.”
  • [49:20] Brad: “I feel like I own a little bit more of my future, I determine if it sinks or floats… and so even though sometimes I don’t do well with the stress, I still love that flexibility  to determine where i feel I need to go and what I want to do.”
    • “I think that’s what makes me do what I do so well, that I have such a joy to work and feel an ownership to my clients’ products and services… I kind of live vicariously in my own business to other businesses that we serve.”
  • [51:07] Bob: “Those things are, if we’re honest, that creativity of creating something out of nothing and… to be a part of that, to be a catalyst for that, is a huge source of joy and satisfaction.”