By Jason Swenk on January 27, 2016

When you come to the fork in a road as an agency and business owner, you may be faced with reasons why agency selling is the best move forward. Whether that is moving on to creating a new agency or a new venture all together, that is up to you. But you can’t make concrete decisions until you sell your agency.

In this episode, I cover:

  • The big reason why I got into the agency business.
  • 3 reasons why I got out of the agency business.
  • 2 tips to consider if/when you decide to sell your agency.

One of my subscribers, Jonathan, wrote in asking why I chose to sell my digital agency after 12 years running it. Jonathan explained that he is a brand owner running a business with physical products. He says his current business has high overhead and his cash is tied up in inventory. He’d like to start moonlighting as a consultant because he thinks the agency side looks alot more glamorous with higher margins and healthy cash flow. He asks:

“What are the drawbacks of running an agency and what were your reasons for selling?”

Like anything else, there are pros and cons to agency ownership especially when it comes to agency selling. We went through all the typical stages in the lifecycle of any service business… Ultimately, I had 3 reasons for selling when I did. However, every situation is different and your experiences will differ from mine.

1- I reached my destination.

When I started my agency in 1999 I entered the business with the goal of selling it within a couple of years. It was supposed to be an easy way to earn good money during the internet boom. Turns out I loved being an entrepreneur…. So, fast forward 12 years.  We had our fair share of ups and downs. We hit some tough terrain along the way with cash flow issues. We even looked at closing the doors, but instead brought it back to a healthy and thriving agency. We had accomplished a lot by working with some really big brands like Lotus Cars, Hitachi, LegalZoom. We’d done everything I had set out to do. We had surpassed the 7-figure mark and that was right where I wanted to be. Ultimately, I had built something that someone else wanted and when the offer came in, I felt like I had gotten where I was going.

2 – I had partner problems.

It happens. My partner is a great guy and we worked well together for many years. We got to a point, though, where the business outgrew the partnership. It was just time to move on. I stayed with the company that bought my agency so that I could ease the transition for my team and be available for key client relationships. Don’t get me wrong, though. Even though the sale eased the partner problems, it created a new set of problems. It’s hard when you’re used to being the captain of the ship, and then suddenly… you’re not.

3- It felt right.

I hate to use a cliche, but it really was “the right place and the right time.” When we were approached by a buyer, it wasn’t something we had been actively pursuing but we entertained the idea because it just felt right. Reasons #1 and #2 already existed and an acquisition seemed like the solution. It felt right to close that chapter and start a new one.

Would I do it all over again?

Hell, yes. To answer Jonathan’s original question — No, agency ownership is not just high margins and healthy cash flow. There are lots of ups and downs. It’s definitely different than owning a business and carrying inventory and it has its own unique pros and cons.

However, if you love what you’re doing, you’re putting out great work and love who you’re working with, then keep doing it! When you get to the point of wanting or need out, you’ll know it. My 12 years as an agency owner led me to this incredible opportunity to provide guidance and support for other agency owners. It was my stepping stone to another great job.

Agency Selling Tips to Keep in Mind If/When You Do

1- Develop your new role. Know where you’ll fit in after the agency is acquired (if you stay at all). The transition away from ownership is a hard one. You aren’t the decision maker or main stakeholder anymore but your team may need your presence. After I finally left the newly merged agency it took me some time to figure out what to do next. Thankfully, other agency owners started reaching out for advice which led me to a new job that I LOVE.

2- Be happy with the cash payout amount. Know the value of your business and have a cash amount in mind. Don’t tie the deal to an earn-out because in my experience earn outs are designed to fail. You have no control of whether you get to collect on it or not, so don’t count on walking away with any of it. And if you do, consider it a bonus.

There are tons of ups and downs as an agency owner. Whether you are faced with managing them alone or with a partner, remember you can always #AskSwenk. And if you want detailed information on all the systems and processes I used to build my agency into something worth buying, check out the Agency Playbook by clicking here.

Agency Selling and More To Improve Your Business

Check out more of my articles and video related to agency selling to help you through the challenges you may be facing. If you found this video helpful but are searching for more advice especially looking to get your business to that next level, I can help.

You can find lots of tips, tricks and insights by checking out our insightful blogs that cover a wide variety of topics or if videos are more your thing, visit my videos on my Youtube channel!



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