Why Embracing Change Leads to Long-term Agency Success

By Jason Swenk on January 18, 2021

Has your agency recently experienced major changes? Is it time to transition away from how you used to do things? Is it time to promote key employees or buyout a partner? Being able to adapt to the market and the needs of your individual agency is one of the best ways to find long-term agency success.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why your agency should always be open to change for long-term agency success.
  • Should you promote a key employee to an agency partner?
  • Does your agency have a succession plan?

Today I sat down for a talk with Cherie Hebert, owner and CEO of BBR Creative out of Lafayette, Louisiana. Cherie has owned her agency for over 23 years now and has naturally seen her agency experience a lot of change. She’s here to talk about how she’s found longevity and why it’s important to be open to changes as they come.

Why Your Agency Should Always Be Open to Change

We’ve always heard that one person say, “But this is how I’ve always done it.” This, for me, is always the kiss of death. If you want to be successful, whether you’re running an agency, or just in life in general, you have to be open to change.

Cherie says she started her agency as a creative. For the most part, they offered design, creative, and eventually PR. But as things do, the agency realm began to change. When BBR lost a major client and gained another who focused more on digital outreach, they knew they needed to make a change and evolve with the times. Cherie hired a digital strategist who was able to train the team on the basics of SEO. SEM, and paid search. This new person was also instrumental in helping the agency launch into the digital arena. He was also the right person to hire more digital marketing talent and be the catalyst for the change the agency needed.

Should You Promote a Key Employee to Agency Partner?

The answer is, maybe — it all depends on timing. Cherie says she has never lost an employee to another local agency. Where she loses team members is to other markets and bigger agencies that offer more opportunities. That is why Cherie regrets not offering her digital strategist a partnership role in the agency before he left.

Here are 2 reasons why you might want to offer a key player a partnership role:

  1. You can’t always compete with the bigger fish: BBR is located in a relatively small market. While they don’t have much local competition, they have lost a number of employees to out of state agencies. If someone holds an instrumental role in your agency, sometimes giving them ownership can promote loyalty and investment in the agency.
  2. Adding on a partner is an investment: BBR’s digital strategist played a big role in vetting and training new employees. He helped the firm transition to a broader scope and work with new clients. When you bring on someone that adds this type of value, it’s an investment into your agency’s future.

Does Your Agency Have a Succession Plan?

In the beginning, we have a tendency to focus on the short game. Thinking about who will take over the agency or how your legacy will live on isn’t something that typically comes at the early stages. But at 56-years-old, figuring out a succession plan is something at the top of Cherie’s mind.

Cherie has bought out one partner, with another soon to follow. She’s soon to be the sole owner of the agency. What comes next? That’s something Cherie is trying to figure out. As an agency owner, it’s something you should always keep in the back of your mind.  For starters, Cherie has decided to offer her VP’s a partial stake in the agency. I usually suggest a Key Employee Program — which protects your key employees with some profit-sharing yet prevents you from giving away ownership. (There’s more detail about this in the Agency Playbook.)

Whether you have been in the business for 5 years or 25 years, one of the best ways to find long-term agency success is to be willing to adapt and make changes when necessary. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but be true to yourself. If you do this, you’re more likely to be satisfied with how everything turns out in the end.

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Building for Long-Term Agency Success

If your goal is to achieve long-term agency success, you need to ensure you have strong processes. I have advice for challenges you will face building your agency including recognizing common agency mistakes, how to keep great agency employees in your team as well as fostering the connections made with clients. 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 experience, 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 the advice and learn even more from other successful agency experts featured on Smart Agency podcast twice every week.

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