Digital Agency Growth Starts with SOPs and Delegating

By Jason Swenk on July 30, 2023

When was the last time you took a break from your agency? Do you stress out just thinking about taking time off? Do you feel like everything will fall apart with you? This is usually the case when agency owners need to create SOPs and delegate more to their team. Getting serious about SOP documentation levels up your agency, sets up the team for success, and increases its overall value. It starts with an important mental shift and understanding your agency will actually benefit from you taking a step back.

Today’s guest is a process and systems expert who focuses on establishing all the necessary systems and procedures to make sure you have something to lean on. If you’re doing all the agency work, you’re rarely able to put 100% into anything. This is why she focuses on teaching how to leverage rest and create simple systems to increase your agency’s longevity.

Alyson Caffrey is a systems and process creation expert and the founder of Operations Agency. She helps founders get their agencies out of their brains and centralized to help them be more impactful. She’s also the author of The Sabbatical Method: How to Leverage Rest and Grow Your Business, a guide to help return business owners back to their families. With it, founders learn that taking a break can increase your business’s longevity, uncover some inefficiencies, and professionalize operations.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Taking a step back increases your agency’s value.
  • Simplifying SOP creation to have an immediate impact.
  • 3 keys to successful digital agency processes.


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Why Agency Founders Need to Be Intentional with Their Time 

Like many service-based business owners, Alyson hadn’t planned to start an agency. She was working as an Operations Manager in Colorado when her husband got a career-defining opportunity that meant moving cities. Not long after that, she was approached by several former clients to continue providing some services, and she was suddenly an accidental agency owner providing SOPs and operations support.

With no children and her husband occupied in the military, Alyson had a ton of time to dedicate to her business. This meant she was able to serve clients at a really deep level in the beginning. However, when she became a mom she was confronted with the need to take time off.

As the operations expert, Alyson knows she should’ve had her processes documented, but like the cobbler’s children with no shoes, she had not prioritized it. She now attributes the birth of her son to finally being more intentional about the time she spends working in her business and making sure she can spend time away from it, too.

Taking a Step Back Helps Increase Your Agency’s Value

Agency owners work very hard to build a business with the idea that at some point, they’ll have freedom and the ability to take breaks. However, once the agency starts growing it never seems to be the right time to take time off. Many agency owners are they’re forced to decide between their agency and their personal life. That means missing important events and strained relationships. Alyson says for her it was a high-stakes moment when she realized there was a problem.

It all starts with a mental shift and understanding you’re selling a transformation, not your time.

Many agency owners think they’re the only ones that can lead their business to success. However, once you remove yourself from the equation of day-to-day operations, the agency’s value instantly drives up. When you can step away from the agency to recharge, or even just to work on the business and not in it, that single benefit is a game changer.

Three Steps You Can Take to Start Empowering Your Team

Where can you start to systematically take action to make the necessary changes? Alyson started by changing how she performs inside her business.

  1. Screen recording. Instead of just going in and doing the work, Alyson started to screen-record while she did it.
  2. Become the advisor. Next, she provide the resources and guidance for her team to get the results but didn’t do the work for them.
  3. Test the framework. Alyson decided to test out her client-facing frameworks with her own team to see which processes they could set up using them.

How to Simplify SOPs and Have an Immediate Impact on Your Agency

Although the process of creating SOP’s and documenting processes can take time, Alyson saw results almost immediately. After screen recording her processes, she was able to delegate some things to her client success manager. This small act freed up some of Alyson’s time so she could focus on more important elements of the agency.

Start with the administrative tasks, which can be delegated overnight once you record the process. Things like sending client reports and scheduling meetings do not require a special skill set. Nothing will fall apart if you, as the agency owner, are not doing it. You can focus on other areas of the business while still allowing clients to feel supported without your direct input. Also, setting up a way to centrally locate all processes helps your team have independent access to information without needing your help.

Do you need an Operations Manager right away? In Alyson’s opinion, no. Most agencies can wait until they’ve grown to maybe 30-40 people, depending on the type of agency. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all idea. Some owners can achieve results on a smaller scale. You can start by delegating or offloading just 20% of your tasks and still have a small win.

Are Your Digital Agency Processes Set Up for Failure?

Alyson says agency owners need to understand there are two states of operations. There’s operations creation and operations management. Usually, people want to skip right to the management part.

Often, agency owners want someone to come in and take over operations management without taking the time to first create the pathway. According to Alyson, this is largely why agency owners get burned with hires. They hire someone to do something without providing the tools for this person to get familiar with their role.

Furthermore, creating something that isn’t maintainable sets up failure. You can have fancy spreadsheets and automation but if you don’t understand how to maintain them, these processes go out of date fast. Building a system that needs less maintenance ultimately results in a better system that lasts longer.

3 Keys to Successful Digital Agency Operational Processes

  1. Clear Expectations: We’ve all been there with projects that have a thousand revisions, take too long, or go out of scope. Start by taking a close look at those projects and get some SOPs to ask and answer: What’s in scope? What’s outside of scope? What’s the timeline?
  2. Standard Operating Procedures: You need to document absolutely everything around how you deliver your core services. A lack of centralized SOPs creates a limit on how much you can grow.
  3. Transparent Reporting: There’s no need to overcomplicate this step. Focus on measurable KPIs around your projects. Are they on time? Within scope? Are they coming back error-free or an acceptable amount of minor errors? You want to gain visibility into how things are functioning overall to help you lay a foundation to get to the next level.

Your Digital Agency Can Grow In Your Absence

Some owners don’t want to hear this but the reality is your agency can grow in your absence. Stepping away to take a break gives you the opportunity to get to the next level. When climbing Mt. Everest, one of the main reasons climbers fail to reach the summit is the lack of altitude acclimation. This means climbers don’t take enough breaks at strategic points to prepare themselves for the next level.

In the end, reaching the summit is just 15 minutes of celebrating success. The fun part is the climb. Prepare your agency for joy in the day-to-day, not just in reaching the summit. Stop working weekends or into the evenings. Stop missing important events or skipping vacations. The trade-off is sacrificing daily operations for the joy of reaching the summit.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

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