How One Agency Owner Built 3 Multi-Million Dollar Agencies

By Jason Swenk on October 26, 2016

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 3 lessons on scaling your business into a multi-million dollar agency.
  • How to have growth-minded hiring practices.
  • Attracting, hiring and keeping top talent.

Lance Hollander is my guest this week on The Smart Agency Master Class. He’s the owner of his third multi-million dollar agency, Delphic Digital. Yep, you read that right. He’s been owner to three successful, 7-figure agencies. He profitably sold the first two agencies, but can’t stay away from the business and earned partnership in another. Lance swears this is the third and last… but we’ll believe it when we see it 🙂 Today he’s here to share the lessons he’s learned climbing to the top 3 times and his secrets to scaling each multi-million dollar agency.

3 lessons on scaling a successful agency

1- The right partner is critical to success. Lance says service businesses are best held by multiple people with different skill sets. And in his words – any single who would run an agency alone is both incredibly smart and incredibly crazy.

2- Strive to always be the dumbest person in the room. Surround yourself with people who are the best at what they do. You can achieve success by working with people who are better than you at what they do.

3- Always be seeking new business – even when you’re busy. Lance’s advice is 50-60% revenue from existing clients and the balance from new business. It’s very common to get so busy that you just don’t have time to fill the pipeline because you’re concentrating on delivery only to find yourself eventually un-busy with an empty pipeline.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Hiring #agency talent is like Tetris. Every piece that falls dictates your next move. Learn via @jswenk” quote=”“Hiring is like Tetris. Every piece that falls dictates your next move.” ~ Lance Hollander”]

How to have growth-minded hiring practices

When you’re first starting out, you need to hire people who can be the Swiss Army knife of your business. Your business needs people who can many different jobs with the common goal of growing. As your agency gets larger, you can begin to hire specialists in their field who just want to wear one hat.

Lance has learned if you approach hiring wanting to save money, you will not save money. You need people who can run the show without you. And in order to do that you have to be willing to pay senior staff salary. After you have a good team of lieutenants running things you can afford to hire junior staff members and save some money. And more good news – you’ll already have senior staff in place to train them well.

Ways to find & attract ideal agency talent

One hugely helpful resource is LinkedIn. Lance says he used to spend up to 30 hours per week scouring LinkedIn, familiarizing himself with who’s out there and looking for the right talent to match his agency’s needs and culture.

Then Dephic Digital went through a period of rapid growth, with 50% increases year over year for several consecutive years. The lesson they learned is rapid growth means spending time recruiting, paying recruiters or asking your senior people to recruit – none of which is ideal.

So when the agency reached about 50 people Lance hired a full time Head of Talent who is responsible for identifying and recruiting new talent while keeping the existing team happy. He says it’s the best non-billable position they have… in fact, he says they should have created the position when they were at 30 people.

2 Secrets to getting beyond the plateau

Align expectations & value. When you’re in a service business like ours, it’s important to make sure expectations and value are aligned. Do your clients have reasonable expectations? Are you showing them results they can attach value to?

Reporting is a great tool to achieve this but that doesn’t mean pulling a report and reading it to your client. It means monitoring analytics and using it to tell a story to your client.

Account Management isn’t the star. Lance’s agencies are known for keeping happy clients on retainer for 5+ years. In fact, his first couple agencies were bought by clients! He says the secret to keep clients happy is by making them the star.

Do a great job at making your key client contact a star. Complete projects on time, under budget and occasionally over deliver… when they look good because of you, they’ll remember it and want to keep you. Your end goal is to get your client promoted and start all over with the newbie.

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