Should You Start Your Own Digital Agency or Acquire an Agency?

By Jason Swenk on December 14, 2020

Should you start an agency or buy an existing one? Do you have the right skill set for owning a successful agency? This isn’t really a clear path on the right way to start an agency. Sometimes you just have to do what today’s guest did and jump right in.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Leveraging your skillset when you acquire a marketing agency.
  • 3 ways to invest in your agency’s talent.
  • Why agencies must educate clients on value.

Today I had a really interesting conversation with Joycelyn David, owner of AV Communication, a multicultural digital agency based out of Toronto. Joycelyn recently purchased a 7-figure agency after spending over 10 years as that agency’s client. She is sharing what’s worked, what didn’t, and why she decided to take the leap to acquire an agency instead of starting from scratch.

Leveraging Your Skill Set for a Successful Agency

Joycelyn, like many of us, didn’t plan to own an agency, she just kind of fell into it. But when she was presented with the opportunity to acquire one, she decided to dive in. And, like most of us, she says, if she could do it all again, she’d do it in a heartbeat.  So what gave her the confidence to know she had what it takes? An understanding of her basic skill sets.

Running an agency is very much skills-based. And it’s using those skills to produce results for clients. Before you think “I don’t have enough experience to run my own agency,” take some time to look at the skills you already have. For Joycelyn, she had spent over a decade on the client-side of the agency space and built solid relationships. She also had a degree in multicultural communications which ultimately helps her understand the needs of her clients better.

Recognize what you have to offer. Surround yourself with a team that believes in your vision. When you do, you’ll find owning an agency isn’t as overwhelming as it seems.

3 Ways to Invest in Your Agency’s Talent

Joycelyn says the most important part of her agency is the people who work there. But soon after she acquired AV Communications, she realized there were legacy employees who had been there since the beginning and then a revolving door of new employees. So what did she do? She spent time developing a better culture for the agency. Her tips:

  1. Invest your time: Joycelyn says she spends 45-60 minutes with each team member every week to check in and work on employee development. She has observed that something that may come natural or seem obvious to her may actually be a challenge for a newer member of the team.
  2. Mentorship: One of the great things about investing in your team is providing them with the skills and the confidence to pass on to junior team members. When you create this culture from the top, learning becomes organic.
  3. Formal skills development: This includes guest speakers, hands-on workshops, and even travel opportunities. There are some skill sets that can come only from engaging with other clients and getting out in the field.

Why Agencies Must Educate Clients on Value

AV Communications works with a very unique niche. They work with brands to understand and connect with multicultural audiences. So what does it mean to fight for your niche? You have to understand your value. For Joycelyn, this means helping companies understand one out of every three Canadians has a multicultural background. By ignoring this, they are missing out on a big share of the market. What unique value does your agency bring to the table?

Start with a question. Do you want to grow your market? Do you want to miss out on this opportunity? When you start with a question, you turn the focus on your client and make it about them, instead of you.

Your job, as an agency, is to offer a solution to your client. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to using your specific skills and your team to deliver. Invest in the basics and surround yourself with like-minded people. When you do this, the rest becomes so much easier.

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