How to Deal with Agency Mergers and the New Partnerships That Result

By Jason Swenk on November 6, 2019

Wondering if an agency merger is right for you? Curious how do those new partnerships work? And what do you do if they don’t? Taking the leap with another agency can be a strategic move. Maybe you want to grow faster or combine skillsets. Whatever the reason is, here’s everything you need to know about agency mergers.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Should your agency leverage the gig economy?
  • How to know if an agency merger is right for you.
  • #1 way to make agency partnerships work.
  • How to cope with agency partner problems.
  • How one small change can impact agency culture.

Today, I talked with Adam Williams, CEO of Magneti — a branding and digital agency out of Colorado. Over the years, Adam has founded a variety of startups ranging from publishing to construction companies. When Adam decided to take the leap into the agency space, he was well-prepared for the business side, but he needed scale and some extra creatives on his side. He’s here to share the story of why he decided to merge with another small agency to tackle some bigger clients.

Should Your Agency Leverage the Gig Economy?

The rise of the gig economy is massive for agencies. Are you worried your agency doesn’t have the creative scale to capture big clients? You can leverage the gig economy to deliver those creatives. Are you worried onboarding costs are going to sink your agency? The gig economy can help you deliver at a fraction of the price.

The secret is creating processes for external contractors to follow. Once you have the processes down, you can scale-at-will. Want to deliver a massive project for a new client? No problem! You can scale up with freelancers quickly and easily.

Hiring freelancers is a no-brainer for most agencies. Just make sure you’re hiring the right one!

How to Know if an Agency Merger is Right for You

There are a million reasons to merge your agency with another. You may be experiencing a growth spike that’s forcing your business into new roles you need help developing. You could have a big client you need a little help with. You may want to grow super fast. Or you may even want to fulfill some agency responsibilities you’re, well, not good at (like taxes, billing, or even HR.)

The only way to know if a merger is right for you is to ask yourself some questions, like:

  • Does this agency offer services my clients need?
  • Do the owners have skillsets I don’t have?
  • Does the agency have scalable processes we can adopt?
  • What does the agency’s book of business look like?

When you start answering those hard-hitting questions, the merger answer will smack you in the face.

#1 Way to Make Agency Partnership Work

If you do decide to merge, it could mean bringing on a few new partners. And this can be a serious pain if you’re not ready. How do you make it work? And how do you prevent bad partnerships from tearing your agency apart? Here’s the secret — it’s all about empathy.

You have to care about the person on the other side of the table. When you’re making agency decisions, think, “how would this impact my partner’s family?” Make it personal. Because let’s be honest. Sometimes, we get angry at our business partners. It’s natural. But you always have to dig deep and remember who they are as a person and why you ventured into business together, to begin with.

You can get mad at each other — but you have to respect one another enough to be empathetic. But, what do you do if it just really isn’t going to work?

How to Cope With Agency Partner Problems

Is your partnership just not going to work out? It’s ok! You don’t have to explain. But you do have to break up with them.

At this point, the only question you have to ask is, “who’s buying out whom?” If you want to remain in the driver’s seat, you have to execute a successful buyout. Here’s the thing. If you were empathetic during your entire partnership, this part is probably going to be easier than you think. Make sure everyone walks away happy, don’t let it impact your day-to-day work, and smile when you’re done.

How One Small Change Can Impact Agency Culture

Sometimes, having agency rules can disorient workers. Your team needs guidance and structure, but not a list of rules to follow. If you have a giant paper filled with rules hanging in your break area, it may be time to rethink your strategy. Your agency culture should create rules without having to write them down.

Check this out — Adam’s agency only has 3 rules:

  1. Over-communicate.
  2. Nail the details.
  3. Have fun!

Those three simple things capture so many different little things. They’re easy for team members to remember, and they’re rules that have scale.

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