Agency Services: Why Cutting Back Will Help You Grow Faster with Bryan Phelps

By Jason Swenk on March 20, 2019

Are you trying to grow your agency by offering anything and everything your clients could want with your agency services, yet still feel like it’s not enough? The solution starts with knowing what you do well and what you don’t. You could actually grow easier and faster if you are self-aware and start cutting back agency services. It seems counterintuitive but it’s a strategy that is working right now.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to decide who to hire first.
  • 3 phases of agency growth.
  • Why cutting back agency services helps agency growth.

Today, I talked with Bryan Phelps, CEO of Big Leap — the SEO agency he founded in 2008. Bryan started off building websites for paintball gear as a teenager and slowly grew from a one-man startup to an SEO agency with a team of 70. Bryan is here to tell us how he grew his team and why cutting back on service offerings actually helped his agency soar.

How to Decide Who to Hire First

Do you handle the entire day-to-day of your agency? Are you the Ops, Sales, and Dev team? If so, stop! I know it can be difficult to let go of the reigns. You feel like hiring employees will make your life harder – there are people to manage and payroll to meet. But trust me it doesn’t have to be that way. Not only are employees able to handle some of those tasks, but they can bring skill sets that you don’t have.

Outsourcing and hiring are one of the first steps towards successful agency ownership. Real growth begins when you are self-aware enough to know your strengths and hire or outsource for your weaknesses.

Here’s a great question: who should you hire first? A salesperson that can help you fill your pipeline? A project manager who can manage the details of your clients and projects? Or, maybe another creative to help you push out assets? Here’s the answer: it could be any of the above. You need to figure out which role will help you the most and then move on it.

We all have weaknesses. Bryan and I agree that you have to identify yours and hire someone who can help you in that weak area. I was always great at sales, but I wasn’t the best project manager. So, I hired one – it’s that simple.

Side note: a lot of agencies I work with seem to have issues with agency salespeople. It can be difficult trying to find an agency salesperson who has the skills to both curate prospects and close deals. Guess what? (Shameless plug coming…) My partner and I developed so you can outsource the finding, hiring, and training agency salespeople.

The 3 Phases of Agency Growth

Bryan says his agency went through three major phases (so far) in their growth trajectory. Here are the milestones he identified:

1- Doing It All – Starting out is tough. When you first start your agency, you’re handling everything yourself. This is the headache stage. You have to handle sales, ops, creatives, etc. You’re working a ton of hours and wearing many hats. It’s hard but necessary.

2- Having Enough Help – This is the stage when you are at about 10 employees. You have enough team members that you can finally start to hand over things over, but you’re still pretty well involved in the daily operations. You’re still working on projects and handling clients, but you’ve got enough help that it feels more manageable.

3- Changing Operations – With a solid team in place, you can really put the business under a microscope. You can look at internal things like company culture and get really focused on core values. But you can also look at your service offering and figure out which areas of business are crushing it and which ones aren’t. When you do that, you might start cutting some of your service offerings.

Why Cutting Back Agency Services Helps Agency Growth

Why would you cut back service offerings in order to grow? Here’s the thing – you can’t be awesome at all the things. If you’re new, you may be trying to do everything. You want to be the one-stop-shop for every clients’ needs. That’s okay. You can try to do that — at first. But, if you’ve noticed that you’ve started to slow down in your growth, it may be time to choose one thing and get really laser-focused on being the best by cutting back your agency services.

Specializing or niching can be a great way to boost your growth fast. For example, Bryan’s agency grew 20% in two months after he stopped providing PPC ads. Why? Because he could hyper-focus on SEO. Specialized surgeons bring home the bacon for a reason. People want to work with the best in a given category. Be the best in your category.

You may want to develop strategic partnerships with another agency as Bryan did. He sent them his PPC business, and they sent him SEO business. That way, both agencies benefit from the partnership.

Main Points To Remember When Cutting Agency Services

So when you are looking to increase business growth by decreasing your agency services, here are the key points to remember moving forward.

If you are running your agency as a one-man band, you are more likely to make mistakes, get overwhelmed and lose clients. This is a time when hiring your team is important and your hiring process should be in the order of what role will help your agency growth. Identify areas that you are weak in, hire the best team for the job and your agency will begin to grow.

This is the beginning phase of growing an agency. As your agency grows, as Bryan mentioned, it’s best to be able to identify the different stages of agency growth and what your role should be during each stage. Once you have your solid team in place, you will be able to audit your agency overall and highlight service areas you can cut to prioritise the agency services that are your strongest and will support your business growth.

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