How to Avoid a Growth Explosion and Enjoy Agency Life Instead
Do you want to scale your agency but fear growing too fast? Today’s guest was part of the exponential growth of a big-name agency and never thought he’d want to work in the agency business as a result. However, he took the lessons learned from that experience and grew his own agency making sure to work on what he loves and build a team around what he doesn’t.
Hernan Vazquez is the co-founder of Scale Driven, a digital agency that helps clients develop high-level marketing strategies that generate revenue at scale. He was part of the success of Frank Kern’s agency and its eventual failure when they grew too much, too fast. He later took those lessons to start implementing the benefits of developing your own brand to grow your agency faster.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- Why you should do what you like and hire for what you don’t.
- Why it’s normal to question owning an agency.
- Lesson learned from fast, exponential growth.
Sponsors and Resources
Wix: Today’s episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out Wix.com/Partners to learn more and become a member of the community for free.
Hernan has been in the digital agency business for the past 14 years. Throughout his career, he always did media buying, SEO, and paid media work for a few clients. He was also the marketing director on the client side for several brands.
At one point, when he was feeling burned out from all the work, Hernan sat down and wrote out the amount of time spent on each job, the revenue per hour it brought him, and the fulfillment he got from each. In the end, agency work was the most profitable and fulfilling. So he decided to go all-in and the agency went from being an afterthought to being his sole focus.
Do What You Like and Build a Team Around What You Don’t
Hernan has built several teams for agencies and he has always been involved in every aspect, from operations to marketing. However, those experiences have helped him realize he does not enjoy the operations portion of the business as much. If he were to start over, he would hire leaders faster.
Oftentimes, agency owners are a bit cautious when it comes to starting to fill roles in the agency. This is commonly out of fear they won’t sustain the business enough to make payroll. This was certainly the case for Hernan, but now he realizes there are creative ways to compensate and motivate employees independent of revenue and cash flow.
For instance, he later hired someone in charge of recruiting and developing new talent. He offered that person a percentage of revenue and they accepted. He is now building a sales team and the sales director was offered a similar deal. As he has learned, you don’t necessarily need cash flow to afford those salaries; you just need the right people who share your vision and can maintain mutual trust for building the agency.
Hiring people who excel in areas where you don’t allow you more time to focus on the things you truly enjoy. Being self-aware of what you like and are good at is the key to knowing what pieces you can delegate, eliminate or hire for.
It’s Normal to Question Owning an Agency
Agency owners can get to a point where they are working on things they don’t like and feel exhausted. Many feel like prisoners to the agency they’ve built and this is typically when they start looking for a way out.
For Hernan, he was working as Frank Kern’s main ad guy and then transitioned into the role of CMO. He ran ads for 30+ clients and also did some coaching for Frank’s students. When the agency started to grow, he also had to hire media buyers and train them. However, when Frank partnered with Grant Cardone and the agency saw exponential growth, going from 30+ clients to 220+ clients in eight months was a huge adjustment.
The team went from a handful of people to a staff of more than 60. They were also getting a lot of different types of clients, which is not what they were used to. The problem with explosive growth was, that although the revenue and demand were there and they were hiring people to keep up with the demand, they just couldn’t catch up to the demand operationally.
Hernan was stuck hiring and training a lot more media buyers and handling the ads for many more clients while also running the marketing for his own agency. He understandably ended up burned out and wanting an exit from the agency world.
Lessons Learned From Fast, Exponential Growth
After a year of feeling burnt out, Hernan observed other agency owners who really enjoyed the work. “What are they doing differently?” he thought. The difference was they were operating in their area of expertise.
Hernan is a marketing guy who really enjoyed that aspect of the business but got stuck deep in operations. That’s why he no longer enjoyed the work. He thought if he could just rebuild that concept of the agency on his own terms and without compromising on the things that he didn’t like to do, it would work.
One of the things he learned was it’s not about having an endless supply of clients but about having the right clients. They were at one point taking anyone and everyone and servicing all types of companies from webinar funnels to car dealerships. He knows now, it’s better to grow slow, find what you’re best at and be an expert in one area.
If you build a system, it will get you enough potential clients so that you can pick and choose, you’d guarantee that
- You’ll only do the work that you can deliver on.
- You can charge the right amount.
- It won’t take too much time.
Some agency owners fixate on building a big agency they’re willing to sacrifice anything for it. They’ll end up 60 years old, realizing life passed them by and they didn’t enjoy it.
The Importance of Creating a Personal Brand
For agency owners, creating your own brand is as important as growing your agency’s brand. It is the best way to turn on the faucet and bring in the people you need. Of course, the goal isn’t bringing in more clients than your team can handle but rather being able to pick and choose the clients you want to work with.
Hernan and his team have been working on rebuilding his personal brand. After being on both sides of the equation, he sees having benefit of hiring for a role that puts a lot of value and brings in clients. Now he’s starting to apply this and it is impacting the business on many levels. As expected, they get a lot more people wanting to work with them, but they are also very motivated from the start and they stay longer.
His message for agency owners is doubling down on content and putting advertising dollars behind that content for your ideal demographic. This is the #1 strategy that has a long-lasting impact on your business.
For the 3 Golden Rules on Scaling and more on scaling your agency, click here to be redirected to Hernan’s page.
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