4 Key Agency Hires to Get You Out of Daily Operations

By Jason Swenk on July 6, 2022

Would you like to get out of your agency’s daily operations? Do you want more time to work on the business rather than in it? Have you set up boundaries and the right systems to make that happen? Have you made the key hires to help you do it smoothly? One agency owner found a way to force herself to exit from day-to-day operations in order to create more work-life balance.

Jessie Healy is the founder and CEO of Webtopia, a digital agency focused on e-commerce growth for sustainable and purpose-driven product brands. She started to build her agency around her freelance business and quickly grew it into a successful remote agency. However, she found herself basically chained to her desk and made a few key decisions to correct that.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How your values can help you select a niche.
  • Force your own exit from day-to-day operations.
  • A hiring system that eliminates 90% of bad matches.

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 e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


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Transitioning from Freelancer to Agency Owner

Jessie was 7½ months pregnant when she lost her job and turned to freelancing. It’s something she was already considering but had delayed because she was unsure how to start. She wondered: How do freelancers get business? Where do they find clients? Thankfully, it was not as difficult as she thought. She posted her skillset on a forum and started getting work right away.

Jessie started her agency as a freelancer and first-time mom who wanted a flexible schedule. As she grew her business, she first hired other female freelancers looking for the same type of flexibility. However, the workload increased and she found herself in management hell. She was chasing people down to make deadlines and attend meetings. In the end, she realized if she wanted any sort of work-life balance and growth for her agency she needed an in-house team. They continued to be a fully remote agency but as employees now, every team member is committed to the agency and committed to the process. She no longer had to chase after her team because they were online when she needed them to be. It was a key turning point for her agency.

Building an Agency as a Trusted Partner For Clients

As the amount of work grew, Jessie realized there was an opportunity to fill a gap in the market. She had worked on the client side and found that, even with a good budget and hiring experienced agencies, she could not make them show up to calls. She felt there was a gap in the market for agencies that would work as a partner for clients.

So from the get-go, her agency started to work with small e-commerce companies as their marketing department.  They focused on the creative side of storytelling as well as the science of media buying. According to Jessie, most agencies were focusing just on the media buying aspect but her agency stood out for focusing on both. They also focused on strategy, which she felt from her experience on the client side that agencies were really lacking.

How Your Personal Values Can Help You Niche Down

Jessie admits that in the very beginning she was willing to do any sort of agency work for £50/hour. She would even take on menial or boring tasks like paid search. That is until she learned about the benefits of niching down.

Ecommerce became the obvious choice for her, since she had always been focused on consumer marketing.  Additionally, sustainability has always been the most important value for her so she brought that to her agency work.

When you have strong values for your agency, eventually you’ll find yourself working with brands that share those same values. As time went on, she noticed they were working with a lot of female founders and a lot of sustainable brands. Jessie figured they were repelling brands that did not share those values and attracting the ones who did. She took to LinkedIn and started posting about sustainability. Eventually, she started working with charities and participating in tree planting activities and slowly built a clientele that resonates with her values.

Now the agency is approached more and more by sustainable brands that share her passion. As When you find your agency’s unique identifiers, implement the change you want to see in your agency and you’ll attract people with the same values.

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4 Key Agency Hires to Exit Yourself From Daily Agency Operations

When she moved to New Zealand, it put a lot of distance and time difference between Jessie, the team, and clients. She spent a year planning the move during a time when she felt she was constantly chained to her desk. She felts she was always either answering emails or jumping into meetings. Moving gave her some freedom but she knew she needed to make some key hires first.

Never be shy about hiring senior staff who have the experience to take over without the need for extensive preparation. Jessie hired four key roles to ensure everything would run smoothly without her:

  1. Head of Operations
  2. Director of Paid Social Strategy
  3. Director of Google Ad Strategy
  4. Commercial Director

With others dedicated to specific parts of the business, this freed Jessie up to focus on the 5 roles of an agency owner. Some clients still request Jessie or want face time with her so she makes time twice a week for those meetings. However, she is very strict about how much time a week she will devote to this.

It’s a change any agency owner can implement by having clear boundaries. Jessie moved to a different country, but even if she hadn’t she believes she would have eventually gone in this same direction because the way she had been overworking was not sustainable.

Setting Up a Hiring Process That Eliminates 90% of Bad Matches

Those four key roles were a critical part of her plan to exit day-to-day operations. So how did she find the best talent to hire? Two of them were promotions from within the agency, which is why you shouldn’t forget to empower your team’s growth. For the other two, her agency tested several sites but generally found LinkedIn was the best source.

They typically post the job in remote workgroups and do cold outreach, where they send messages with the job description. After that when a candidate looks promising, they have a cleverly built funnel setup. The funnel uses marketing language and leads to a series of tasks that includes written tests and videos to make sure the candidates expresses themselves correctly. This process ends with a series of interviews to evaluate both technical skills and culture fit. It is a carefully constructed process that eliminates 90% of bad matches.

Remember you must hire the right culture fit. Skills can be taught and learned, but culture cannot.

You probably won’t set up the perfect hiring system for your agency on the first try. However, it is a way to ensure that you won’t lose a ton of time in interviews with people that ultimately don’t have what it takes to be successful on your team.

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