How to Build a Great Agency Instead of Just a Big One

By Jason Swenk on November 25, 2020

Do you feel like agency success is tied to the size of the team? Have you ever self-conscious of the size of your agency? Have you been worried about how the current economy is affecting your business and your clients? Change is a painful part of growing, but it’s one of the best teachers when you’re looking to build a great agency, not just a big agency.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to move forward during an economic crisis.
  • Why your ego could be holding your agency back.
  • Why fast growth isn’t the best solution.

I talked to Mark DiMassimo, Chief Creative at DiMassimo Goldstein, an agency he founded in New York in 1996. In the early years of the agency, Mark hit the ground running. By 1997, DiMassimo Goldstein was the fasted growing agency around. Within a couple of years, the agency had offices in San Francisco, and New York, and Mark was featured on the cover of a magazine. And then the dot com bust hit, forcing him to take his staff down from a peak of 114 to 30. Mark shares the way he learned that a big agency team doesn’t always correlate to the agency’s level of success.

How to Move Forward During Economic Crisis

“One of the most important things I learned is what a pleasure and an honor it is to do this business. What a pleasure and an honor it is to be able to think, dream, learn from great business leaders, daydream, write, have visions, have a chance to get visions produced to work,” Mark said. Even though the industry pain points of deadlines, uncertainty, competition, he still feels a little sheepish calling it work.

Mark has had the unfortunate experience of letting dozens of good employees go and yet he says those difficult times are all the more reason to do what needs to be done to help the business survive them. You loved the agency when you started it and when you started to grow it. The challenge is continuing to love it and carrying over that sense of pride you have even during the dark times.

Why Your Ego Could Be Holding Your Agency Back

Have you noticed that agencies are judged by the size of their team? But judging success level by size isn’t accurate. After the dot com bust, Mark found himself in therapy and learning to meditate. He learned to leverage his skills to take advantage of any skill he could use to help ally the vision he had of his agency with where he was. One of the lessons he learned during this phase of his life and his agency was his ego only really matters to him.

“People don’t really care. They care about you as a person, but they don’t care if you grew and sold your agency. They don’t care if you didn’t.”  Letting go of your ego and the need to feed your ego by growing your agency whether you need to or not helps you gain freedom. And that freedom allows you to make your agency into what you want it to be.

Letting go of your ego is also important during your agency’s tough times. Having the ability to reach out to others for advice, without worrying about what they might think another tool for achieving your vision of creating a great agency.

Why Fast Growth Isn’t the Best Solution

Change is what makes us necessary, Mark says. Dealing with the way change impacts clients is probably one of the reasons you started an agency. Mark says it is equally important to be upfront with your clients when you’re dealing with changes within your agency. Because your clients are in the world of business, they understand the need to be lean and focused. While creating a solution to whatever problem your agency is struggling with, communication and transparency go a long way in building goodwill with your clients.

The best solutions generally have one main ingredient: time. Mark learned the hard lesson that fast growth is not good growth. No business can really be successful running on high speed forever. If you’re growing too fast, you likely haven’t come up with contingencies if the industry inevitably changes. And if you’re currently in the midst of a changing industry and only now trying to chart a path to the future, you will not have it perfectly figured out right away. But you can certainly have fun while you figure it out.

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What’s Next?

When you recognise how to build a great agency rather than a big one, you are on the right path. However this might not be the only challenge you face in growing a great agency but don’t worry — this is where I can step in.

In addition to helping scale faster, I have advice for common agency obstacles such as dealing with bad agency clients, how to build authority for your agency and more. If it’s challenging growing your business, I have agency growth hacks, the best ways to improve management of your business as well as why building a remote team can be beneficial in the long run.

Learn more about my career as well as tips, tricks, and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

You can learn more from my experience from my Ask Swenk series and my videos on my Youtube channel. Check out advice and learn even more from other successful agency experts featured on Smart Agency podcast twice every week.

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