How to Be an 8-Figure Agency Without a Huge Team

By Jason Swenk on September 9, 2020

Think you need to have a big team in order to be a big agency? Curious how 8-figure agencies can stay healthy and profitable? Are you looking for a way to provide a better, more efficient experience for your clients? When it comes to running an agency, bigger isn’t always better.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Does agency team size matter?
  • How to grow profits without growing your team.
  • Why project-based agencies shouldn’t take retainer clients.

Today I sat down with Jon Paley, owner of The Vault, an ad agency/production company based out of New York City. Jon’s agency runs off a fairly small team (10 people), yet manages to bring in 8-figures. He’s here to discuss why he chooses to keep a smaller team and how he has used it to his advantage.

Does Agency Team Size Matter?

When I talk to agency owners, there are usually two metrics they use to measure success — profits and the number of people on their team. There’s a common misconception that as you grow, you need to increase the size of your team. But if you’ve been listening to me for a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about the way a small team can work to your advantage.

When Jon created his agency, he had one thing in mind, to remove the typical agency bureaucracy. With larger agencies, it often feels like you have to go through layer after layer just to talk to the right person. Jon knew if he hired the right people, his agency could do a lot more with less. Without all the layers and red tape, Jon can quickly determine if a client is a good fit, and if his team has what it takes to take a project on. In the end, the team is more productive, the clients are happier, and Jon can be confident his agency delivers what the client expects.

How to Grow Profits without Growing Your Team

I hear you, “but what if my client needs something my team can’t do?” This is when it makes sense to work with freelancers. In most cases, the quality of work is great and you aren’t stuck with the overhead of a permanent employee. So how can you make freelancers work for you?

  • Determine who’s essential on your team. Your account managers and team executives should be full-time employees. These are the people who know your brand, understand your vision, and help you build important client relationships.
  • Build a database of preferred freelancers. Just because a person’s not on your payroll, doesn’t mean you can’t work with them frequently. Create a database of freelancers who consistently knock it out of the park so you’ll know where to turn first when you have a specific need.

Why Project-Based Agencies Shouldn’t Take Retainer Clients

Jon says he’s noticed some agencies claim they are a project-based firm but structure their relationships based on a retainer. When you do this, you’re not operating from a place of success. These relationships have very different demands.

Many agencies move to a retainer structure because they want more predictability. But if you focus on building the pipeline full of projects, you’ll find you can have the same type of success. Plus, you’ll find many of your clients are referrals from previous project clients.

You don’t always need to focus on building a bigger team to find continued growth. Much of the time, it’s not about how many people are on your team, but rather who is on your team. When you focus on quality instead of quantity, everything else will fall into place.

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