Should You Acquire an Established Agency or Start Your Own?

By Jason Swenk on January 22, 2020

Would you like to be your own agency boss but not hesitant to start a business from scratch? Tired of having a boss? Think you can do it better? Ready to run things yourself? Most times these are the reasons most agency entrepreneurs start their own agency. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the way you do it. Another viable option is to acquire an established agency to give you a jumpstart.

In today’s episode we’ll cover:

  • How to find the agency that’s right for you.
  • 2 tips to make sure you don’t pay too much to acquire an agency.
  • 3 keys to finding success at with your newly acquired agency.

Today I had the opportunity to talk to John Kadlic, CEO and owner of Parallel Path. Parallel Path is a digital marketing agency focusing on the health, wellness, and lifestyle industries. John worked his way up in the agency world, eventually becoming president of a large digital marketing agency. After 22 years in marketing, John was ready for his own agency. But John didn’t take the conventional approach and start one — he bought one! Discover why John took this approach, and what he learned along the way.

How to Find the Right Agency for You

Why buy an agency when you can start your own? John wanted to take advantage of the hard work someone had already put into their company. John bought Parallel Path on his 50th birthday. He says at this point in his life, he was willing to spend more money, in exchange for not having to invest the extra time. John didn’t have to spend time finding clients or hiring staff, they all came with the acquisition.

Buying an agency is a great option for people who don’t have the time or desire to start an agency from scratch or who are looking to grow their existing agency. The downside is, it requires a larger investment.

So how do you find the agency that’s right for you? John says his process started with a little soul searching. He took some time to figure out what he liked about work, what he didn’t, and what energized him and got him excited about his job. Then, he made an outline of all the things he was looking for in an agency. Having a clear vision of what he was looking for not only helped John narrow his focus but also made it easier for his team to suggest potential agencies.

2 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Pay Too Much to Acquire an Agency

Okay. So you’ve found your dream agency. How do you make sure you don’t pay too much? Buying an agency is like buying a house. Owners take pride in their “baby” and often ask for more than what it’s worth. Buyers, on the other hand, are looking for a deal ~ the acquirer’s idea of fair valuation is often much lower than the sellers. How do both parties find common ground?

  1. Surround yourself with a good team: John had a strong team working with him throughout the entire process. His team included an experienced lawyer, a financial adviser, and a private equity expert. Make sure you hire the right professionals who will give you honest, sound, financial advice.
  2. Data, data, data: Buying an agency is an emotional process for all parties. While you may not be able to eliminate the emotions altogether, the less they are involved, the better. Stick to the facts and always have benchmarks, figures, and numbers to back up your offer.

3 Keys to Finding Success at Your Newly Acquired Agency

You’ve bought an agency, now it’s time to make it your own. But wait! Now is not the time to go in and change things up. John says new owners often want to jump in and get their hands dirty. But this is almost always the worst thing you can do. To find success, you need to appreciate what you are getting into.

  1. Take it all in: We get it; you’re excited and ready to make big changes. But you have to respect the process and team already in place. If you go and change things up right away, you’re likely to upset your team and clients.
  2. Implement structure: It’s important your team understands what is expected of them and how you will hold them accountable. John says he uses EOS, implementing accountability charts and weekly leadership meetings.
  3. Create a vision: John waited about 5 months before he made any big changes. At this point, he met with his team to discuss the vision moving forward. Letting your team know you respect the past and including them in your vision of the future will help gain their respect and find success as an agency moving forward.

Whether you’re buying your first agency or acquiring another agency to grow an existing one, it’s all about the process. With a careful plan, a solid vision, and respect for existing systems, you’ll be on the path to success.

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