How to Build a Long Lasting Digital Marketing Agency

By Jason Swenk on April 27, 2014

In this episode, I chat with Richard Warner.  Richard is the founder and CEO of What’s Up Interactive, a business he started 24 years ago and took from “high tech” fax company to successful digital agency. He is also a nationally syndicated broadcaster, entrepreneur, and business expert.

First who, then what.

The “first who, then what” principle from the James Collins book Good to Great, spoke volumes (no pun intended) to Richard. This principle is all about getting the right people on board. Who is going to fit in best with your culture and who is right for the company at the time? Then figure out where they fit within the company. “As we maneuvered, it turned out they weren’t the right people. But some people who couldn’t find success here, almost always found it somewhere else.”

He also warns against hiring for growth, a trap many fall into, especially in their early days of business.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Demand must dictate hiring. Only hire because you grew, not because you want to grow.” quote=”Demand must dictate hiring. Only hire because you grew, not because you want to grow.”]

You need a board.

Richard wants you to have a Board of Directors. More specifically, he says “Go, go, go! No matter who you are, you need a board.”

A board is key to avoiding certain mistakes and an opportunity to solicit the opinions of people who are more accomplished.

How do you go about convincing people to be part of your board? Reach out, take them to lunch, explain the level of commitment, payment, and full-on woo them.

He also recommends you find yourself a mentor, regardless of where you are at in your career. Why?

[clickToTweet tweet=”No matter what, you need someone to push you and help you learn from their mistakes…” quote=”No matter what, you need someone to push you and help you learn from their mistakes so you can hopefully avoid making the same ones.”]

Building a great business means, removing yourself from working in the business. It is hard when that day comes and your people do not need you in the day-to-day operations. There is an emotional low but you need to realize that your role needs to change to setting the vision and direction of the company. Only then can you have scale and extreme growth.

Rates to cash flow.

When asked about assessing his pricing structure, Richard recalls that when they mixed up what they were selling and looked at their pipeline, they realized it was time for rate changes.

Take a look at your competitors, and set your rate off of the result, the value, and not off of how long it will take you to complete the project. Otherwise, you run the risk of mucking up your cash flow.

But cash flow problems are a real issue for many of us. How can that be avoided? Richard attributes good cash flow maintenance to discipline and healthy margins. He also advises having a good money person either on your board or on your team.

Why am I here?

“Part of what makes you who you are is the fact that you’ve blazed your own path.”

You’ve had the vision of how to make your company a success, and now you’re there. Except, you’re suddenly feeling confused; maybe even angry. As the CEO, Richard remembers realizing that his team was so good they didn’t need him in every meeting or making every decision. He felt lost and somewhat resentful.

His advice for those finding themselves in the same state of confusion, “Once you grow beyond ‘I have to do everything and be in control,’ that’s when you grow.”

Would You Like To Get Access To A Proven Agency Framework For Growing Your Agency?