How to Be the Super Visionary in an Agency That Runs Without You
Is your digital agency too reliant on you? Are you always putting out fires and answering questions? Is your team empowered to succeed without you? It’s all about being intentional with how you spend your time and creating the processes to support your role as agency CEO. In this episode, a time and profit expert shares ways you can stop being the superhero at your agency and instead be the super visionary.
Mike Michalowitz is an author and entrepreneur who focuses mostly on researching ways to make businesses run more efficiently. In this research, he noticed most businesses starve for profitability and very few achieve it. He’s been on the podcast twice before chatting about his books: Profit First and Clockwork. His book and framework, Profit First, has changed the way many small businesses approaches profitability. One of his other best sellers is Clockwork, where he disrupts the “hustle harder” mindset. He’s sharing how agency owners can reinvent their role in the agency to work less and still do the things they love.
In this episode, we’ll cover:
- Why you should strive to be the super visionary instead of the superhero.
- How a four-week vacation can help you ultimately exit operations.
- How to start empowering your team.
- Do you know the most important function at your agency?
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.
Why Your Superhero Syndrome Is Your Agency’s Bottleneck
Agency owners are commonly the bottleneck at their agency. The processes make it so everything has to go through them. It’s not efficient at all, causes a clog in project completion, and exhaustion for the agency owner. Michael calls this the Superhero Syndrome.
Many agency owners believe they are the best at everything and can fix everything. They are the agency’s superheroes. However, having a superhero fix everything ultimately weakens the police department. This is what happens to agency teams. They can become too dependent on the owner always solving issues. According to Michael, instead of being the superhero, agency owners should strive to be super visionary.
What the agency really needs is for the owner to have a clear vision of where the agency is going and then drive the team to get there.
How to Set Yourself Up as the Super Visionary
Part of having the clarity to become a super visionary is empowering your team to follow your vision, as opposed to you making the decisions. Michael believes the easiest way to position yourself as the visionary starts with one word: shareholder.
The term entrepreneur has become overused. It used to be “someone who had an idea then took the risk of organizing a team and resources to pursue it.” Now, it’s become “someone who works like an animal.”
On the other hand, a shareholder is someone who receives earnings and never says “I need to go to the company to solve something.”
As an agency owner, you’ve taken on an extraordinary risk the only shareholder. Only about 15% of the population ever takes this risk and 3% manage to do it successfully. Sure, in the beginning, you’re the only resource and work a ton. However, you should exit operations as soon as possible.
As a shareholder, you should create jobs. By doing the work yourself you’re stealing the job from people who want and need it. Michael believes viewing yourself as a shareholder, you’ll have a better understanding of your role as someone who takes care of strategic planning, vision, and creating jobs.
It’s important to remember you have the right to reinsert yourself into work in a way that gives you joy. If you love sales, then find a way to assist in sales without it being fully dependent upon you. That’s perfectly valid; just make sure the agency can run without you.
Creating an Agency that Runs Without You
How can you prepare your team for your ultimate exit from operations? Michael recommends the “four-week vacation” in which you spend four consecutive weeks away from the agency with no physical or online connection.
Why four weeks? He looked at how much time goes by before a business starts repeating cycles. Across all industries, it is monthly. Therefore if an owner is able to be away for 4 weeks, then they can be absent forever.
The challenge for any agency owner who wants to exit operations is to book a four-week vacation at least two years from now. If that gives you too much anxiety, it’s probably an indicator that you have a problem. In the end, this test is more about the agency having a vacation from you than you getting a vacation from it.
People tend to think working on the business instead of in it is something that happens after you work hard enough. It’s actually the result of a lot of intentional planning and preparation. That day may never come if you don’t plan for it.
Extending the Four-Week Vacation on All Levels
After his four-week vacation and making sure everything ran well without him. Michael’s team approached him to talk about a new problem. The agency worked well in his absence, which was great. However, his tasks had fallen on other people and now the rest of the team was too dependent on those in charge.
The answer Michael came up with was repeating the formula. Everyone would take a four-week vacation. Not at the same time, of course, and planned a year in advance as he had done. This way, everyone has to prepare processes and backups to cover while they are on vacation. As a result there’s always a backup — not only for vacations but also when someone leaves.
Life happens and this method means the agency doesn’t suffer as a result. He looks at it as an intentional fire drill to ensure a smooth transition in case something does happen.
2 Steps to Empower Your Team
- Move to a delegating leadership style. The deciding style is when you’re in control of all the decision-making. For instance, you explain a task to an employee and answer their questions when they come back with doubts. On the contrary, a delegating style is all about the outcome and empowering employees to determine how to get the end result.
- Capturing processes. SOPs are relevant but are usually stale and hard to execute because it’s a lot of information. As soon as an employee is assigned a new task, they should record training of the work. If they can teach it, they’ve mastered it. Furthermore, each new person can record new things added to the process. Should anyone leave, the new person assigned to that task can go back to previous recordings and learn.
What’s the Most Important Function at Your Agency?
The QBR or Queen Bee Role concept is about looking at what nature does and translating that to business. In a beehive, the most important function is the production of eggs. Everything else is secondary because the survival of the hive depends on it.
In any business there is one single most important activity. However, some agency owners may not know what it is. Michael teaches clients how to identify principal activity so it is prioritized and protected at all times. Most small businesses tend to think everything is important and never see exceptional progress. It’s especially important your agency team understand that important activity and their role in elevating it.
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