The 4 Reasons Many Digital Agencies Never Scale

By Jason Swenk on March 26, 2023

Not sure why you’re stuck trying to scale your agency? Growth vs Scaling? What’s the difference? There are four main reasons some agencies never scale. Today’s guest has accumulated nearly 15 years of experience in the agency business and shares how he stays focused in order to scale. He also shares lessons that helped him get through difficult and why is usually the agency owners standing in their own way of scaling.

Wayne Mullins is the founder of Ugly Mug Marketing, a boutique agency with 14 years of experience. The agency’s design approach places a lot of emphasis on content and understanding the audience to convey an effective message. Their core value is that results should never be compromised for the sake of “good” design.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Why your agency needs a north star to stay focused.
  • The difference between scaling vs. growth.
  • How agency owners sabotage their growth by not adapting.


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Why You Need a North Star 

Don’t let the name fool you; Ugly Mug represents the agency’s philosophy of prioritizing results. It originates from a quote by David Ogilvy, where he said “I rather you show me an ad that’s ugly and effective over one that is beautiful but isn’t.” This quote became Wayne’s north star, keeping him from getting sidetracked by awards and accolades. Instead, he believes that agency owners should focus on solving clients’ problems and getting results.

What’s the Difference Between Scaling and Growth?

Scaling a business and growing it is often confused, with the latter becoming a buzzword. According to Wayne, scaling involves having more free time and working only in the areas you choose. However, growth leads to time constraints and doing things you hate. To scale, you need to have the right mindset, systems, and processes in place.

4 Reasons Why Some Agencies Are Not Scaling

  1. The owner’s mindset is the main reason why agencies fail to scale. In the beginning, Wayne’s ego played a significant role, and he enjoyed being the hero who saved the day. However, he realized that he needed a clear vision of where he wanted the agency to go to communicate it to his team. That way, they could make better decisions, and he wouldn’t become a hindrance to growth.

  2. Many agencies fall into the scale hustle trap when they hit certain levels of revenue or employee numbers, believing that they only need to work harder to get to the next level. However, the key to scaling is having the right systems and processes in place, documenting them, and trusting your team to have autonomy.

  3. To scale, you need to balance alignment and authority. Without autonomy, everything is controlled, and without alignment, there’s chaos. Everyone must be aligned with the agency’s vision, and team members must have autonomy to make decisions.

  4. Ideally, you want to stay around the complexity line, which indicates that you’re growing. The faster you scale, the more chaos you feel, but if you pull back, you’re sabotaging future growth. Feeling overwhelmed means that there’s too much on your plate, and you need to adapt your processes to grow.

Wayne’s philosophy is that agencies should focus on delivering results and solving clients’ problems rather than just winning awards. Scaling requires the right mindset, systems, and processes, as well as a team aligned with the agency’s vision and autonomy to make decisions. Don’t be afraid of complexity, adapt to it, and keep growing.


Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

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