What Is VaynerX’s Secret Agency Growth Formula? With James Orsini

By Jason Swenk on November 20, 2019

Want a peek into Gary Vaynerchuk’s and VaynerX’s agency growth strategy? What can you learn about agency structure and growth from VaynerMedia? What does it take to become a “visionary” like Gary Vee? Great questions! And the President of The Sasha Group (a VaynerX agency) is here to share all this and more. Check out how you can apply some very Gary principles to your digital agency.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • What does an agency COO do?
  • 3 things that make a good agency visionary.
  • 4 ways to create a successful offshoot agency.
  • A golden nugget on agency growth.

Today, I talked with James Orsini, the President of The Sasha Group — an agency under the VaynerX banner that services $1 million to $100 million companies. James was also the  COO of VaynerMedia — and he’s responsible for helping align and execute on Gary Vaynerchuck‘s visions. So, how did James go from COO of VaynerMedia to President of The Sasha Group? And how does The Sasha Group help funnel clients to VaynerMedia? Let’s find out!

What Does an Agency COO Do?

James was the COO of VaynerMedia before he took on the President position at The Sasha Group. Why is it important to have a COO and what role do they play within the agency?

The Agency COO helps facilitate responsibilities and set strategies.

James explains it like this:

Gary sets the vision. James sets the strategy. And the senior leadership executes that vision using those strategies to create tangible results.

Every agency does the Tango with those three primary pillars (i.e., vision, strategy, and execution.) But it can be tough to do all of it alone. Typically, the visionary type isn’t the best strategy person. And that strategy person may or may not be good at execution. You don’t want one person trying to do all three things.

And that’s a major problem for some agency owners. We love to do everything. Not only do you not have to set strategies and execute those strategies, you probably shouldn’t. Hire for your weaknesses, and hire an A-team that can help facilitate your visions.

3 Things That Make a Good Agency Visionary

We all know Gary Vee is a visionary. He’s in the all-star category with Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel, and all of the other marketers who are the brand of their agency. Gary has an insanely popular YouTube channel, tons of clout in the industry, and a massive agency to back it up.

But what makes someone a good visionary? Is it an inherent trait? Or something you can learn?

Is it when their image transcends their agency? Is it their ability to lead, inspire, and innovate broadly? Or maybe visionaries are freak occurrences that just happen. Maybe it’s just in their DNA. Maybe we’re born visionaries…

I believe anyone can be a visionary. You just have to focus on three things:

  1. The Big Picture: You can’t get emotionally attached to projects, and you can’t sweat the small technical details. Visionaries see and communicate the big picture and trust their team to carry it out.
  2. Leadership: Gary calls himself the “moldable dictator.” He’s the main man but he’s also willing to pivot ideas and adjust plays when necessary. Hold the reigns to your agency. But be willing to listen to the ideas of those smart people you’ve hired.
  3. Find the Attention: Find what the people want — not what you want them to want. Gary Vee understands consumer attention is focused on social platforms. So, he is present on all social platforms and he started a social media agency. Steve Jobs understood what people wanted (i.e., gorgeous devices that are simple and contained.) So, he focused on well-designed devices that existed in a closed-source ecosystem. Focus on what the marketplace wants and demands.

4 Ways to Create a Successful Offshoot Agency

When your agency starts to grow, you have to start saying no. But, every time you say it, a little piece of you dies inside. After all, someone is sitting cash on the table in front of you, but you have to tell them no because you’retrying to stay focused on the right projects and clients to grow your agency.

So, why not make an offshoot agency? Whether is SaaS or a complementary service, your smaller agency can handle some of the smaller clients, and you get to keep the revenue. It’s a win-win… right? Maybe. But here’s the problem — offshoot agencies have a bad habit of failing.

But The Sasha Group is far from failing. And, with their mission statement of “we’ll help you outgrow us into VaynerMedia,” they’re setting the stage for Vayner to funnel small businesses to them. So what makes them different?

  1. They don’t use main agency resources: You can’t use the same resources for your offshoot agency as you do for your main one. Why wouldn’t they just go to your main agency at that point? They need to be separate entities with different day-to-day leadership and execution teams.
  2. They don’t just take “low budget” clients: James says big clients with small budgets aren’t “small budget,” they’re cheap. The Sasha Group only takes small businesses with revenue between $1 million and $100 million. That’s it! And they vet each one first. You need to carefully define your ideal client before you launch your offshoot.
  3. They lean in as a consultant first: The Sasha Group’s main goal is to scale businesses and be a feeder for VaynerMedia. So, they always start by being consultants first and creatives later.
  4. They bring an A team to small businesses: When small businesses look for agencies, they usually have to deal with small agencies and B-team offshoots. If you line your offshoot with A-level talent, you’ll already be a step ahead.

A Golden Nugget On Agency Growth

What does the President of The Sasha Group say is the most important piece of advice for new agency owners?

Great marketing can’t sell a sh*t product.

We’ve talked about saying no to clients due to their aggressive requirements, low budgets, or overbearing needs before. But what about when their product just… sucks? Here’s the thing — if you don’t believe in their product, how in the world are you going to effectively market it?

An agency’s success is measured by specific KPI’s. You can create the best marketing ever, but if the product sucks, no one is going to buy it and your work will be measured accordingly. And, at the end of the day, that’s going to reflect on your agency.

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