100th Episode Milestone: 40 Pieces of Advice

Welcome to the 100th episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast! This is a huge milestone and I am super excited we got this far.  And we have only just begun!

Two years ago I started this channel and I promised myself that I would commit week in and week out to record episodes, and it’s amazing how far we got.

For this episode, I wanted to come up with something special.

During this journey over the past 2 years, I had over 40 guests on the podcast and, at the end of our conversation, I always ask them what piece of advice they would give to their younger selves starting out their business. So I decided to collate 40 of the best answers and give you an episode full of expert and valuable advice.

Grab a pen and paper and get ready to take some notes because you’re going to be taking away so much from this episode.

Time Stamp


My idea for the 100th episode


Don’t be intimidated when you go to meetings. Sally Alexander from Episode 4


Market to your niche. David Miles from Episode 6


Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. Sophie Walton from Episode 8


Be yourself and understand your identity. Lee Jackson from Episode 10


Commit to a niche immediately. Roland Gurney from Episode 12


Focus on what you’re good at and have fun. Steve Bustin from Episode 15


Be clear about your outcome and be honest with yourself. Ian Laurie from Episode 17 


Develop a healthy relationship with failure and lay down strong foundations. Miha Matlievski from Episode 19


Learn from your mistakes. Laura Evans from Episode 21


Speak to someone who has done it already. Pietro Ranieri from Episode 23


Invest in learning how to run a business. Susan Boles from Episode 25


Believe in yourself and listen to other people who have gone before you. Jez Kay from Episode 27


Be patient. Dan Englander from Episode 29


Remember that people are at the core of any good business. Grant Jennings from Episode 31


Don’t be too regimented in your thinking. Chico Chakravorty from Episode 33


Be as informed as possible: knowledge is power. Marc Convey from Episode 35


Have enough capital to get through the first 6 months and do your research about your audience. Tracey Burnett from Episode 37


Get a customer first. Jim James from Episode 39


Start earlier. Brad Smith from Episode 41


Focus your efforts on the things that only you can do. Darryl Sparey from Episode 43


Be strategic when approaching your business. Lindsey Pickles from Episode 45


Focus on what you love and what you are good at. Remeny Armitage from Episode 47


Know what sets you apart from the competition. John Ashton from Episode 52


Just do it, go for it! Lucy Snell from Episode 54


Good enough is good enough. Miranda Birch from Episode 56


Don’t procrastinate. Steve Slotow from Episode 58


A good job doesn’t always speak for itself.  Don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder. Melanie Coeshott from Episode 60


Find some people that you look up to and follow them. Sam Wright from Episode 62


It’s okay to say no to things. Brent Weaver from Episode 64


You can be or do absolutely anything you want. Piccia Neri from Episode 66


Everything is going to be alright. Romans Ivanovs from Episode 68


Say ‘yes’ to things that scare you. Marcel Petitpas from Episode 70


Keep up with tech and know that it’s ok to seek help from others. Michelle and Christian Ewen from Episode 72


Trust your employees more. Ugis Balmaks from Episode 74


Niche your business and start building your email list. David Miles from Episode 76


Focus on one thing at a time. Richard Kennedy from Episode 78


‘Try fast and fail fast’. Adam O'Leary from Episode 82


Go with your gut feeling. If it doesn’t work, there are always other options. Anthony Burke from Episode 87


Be braver, take action. Katie Street from Episode 89


Be more confident. John Horn from Episode 91


"Don't let people intimidate you. You're there for a reason." - Sally Alexander, Managing Director at Ambleglow

".. you're going to make mistakes, so get out there. Start making some mistakes and use that process to learn from." - Laura Evans, Creative Director - Video and Podcast Producer of Let's Talk Video Production

"..try fast and fail fast." - Adam O’Leary, Co-Founder of TrustScout

"be focused on what you love to do and what you're really good at, then go for it. Never give up. " - Remeny Armitage, Co-Founder of Brilliant and Human

"Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth." - Sophie Walton, Owner of 3twelve

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 Full Episode Transcription


Over the past two years of having guests on the podcast, I always ask them what advice they would give their younger selves, just starting in business.

There have been some fascinating and varied insights, and I thought to celebrate episode 100, we would put all of their answers together into one episode.

So below, you will find the answer from 40 guests grouped into categories.

If you don’t want to read the whole document, these are our guests' core messages.  

Just these 23 pieces of advice, in themselves, are super valuable:

  1. Work on a winning mindset

  2. Listen to your instincts

  3. Be brave

  4. Be authentic

  5. Be inquisitive

  6. Be willing to fail and make mistakes

  7. Play to your strengths

  8. Don’t be a perfectionist

  9. Get advice from an expert

  10. Develop yourself

  11. Enjoy the journey

  12. Build strong relationships

  13. Have enough capital

  14. Win a customer/proof of concept

  15. Get a customer and proof of concept

  16. Learn to say NO and stay focused

  17. Everything will be OK!

  18. Stay abreast of the latest technologies

  19. Trust (your team more)

  20. Chose a clear market position

  21. Get your pricing right from the start

  22. Don’t underestimate the value of a plan

  23. Build Your Email List Sooner!

Work on a winning mindset

Sally Alexander, Managing Director at Ambleglow:

I think I would say to myself, don't be intimidated when you go to meetings. I've sat in so many meetings in the past, but certainly when I first started in my career, when I was talking to clients and thinking, "Do I know enough?" "Am I good enough?". Actually, the very fact that they've requested a meeting is because we're the experts.

Then, I'd say, "Don't let people intimidate you. You're there for a reason." I guess the best analogy is if you've got a dishwasher that's broken, I'm not going to come and fix it. I would get an expert in. So, don't be intimidated by people in meetings. You're there as the expert. Have fun, enjoy it and own it.

Lee Jackson of Agency Transformation:

It's to understand my identity and stop trying to be something that I'm not. That guy who was in my years ago stood in front of that camera wearing a suit. Trying to be something that I wasn't, which was therefore attracting the wrong type of people.

I would just go right back there and say, "Do be yourself and pack your identity." Because it all starts from identity, everything else just naturally flows.; this is pretty much no rocket science at that point. That's the one thing I really wish I'd nailed years ago. I've built websites for years for anyone, and it's only when I worked out who I was, who I wanted to attract that things really started to change. 

Steve Bustin, Award-winning Keynote Conference Speaker and Event MC & Compere:

What I would say to my younger self is to play to your strengths. Know what you're good at. Don't be scared, or don't be ashamed of what you're good at. I've always been somebody who enjoys standing up in front of an audience.

I was that kid in the assembly at school who wanted to stand up and do things. I was always doing readings at church and mastering things. I've always enjoyed it, but it took me a long time to recognise that it was actually a useful sellable skill. I would say to my younger self that to recognise your strengths, play to those, and have more fun. Have fun with it. I'm a big believer in particularly running around business, and it needs to be fun.

If you're not enjoying it, do something different. We're going back to what we said earlier about Sunday night blues. There has to be enjoyed. There has to be satisfied and not just monetary satisfaction. If all you're doing is to generate money, I think that's a problem. You're not going to get a chance to rerun this career. You might enjoy it while you're doing it. Absolutely, greater strength and have some more fun. That was what I would say to my younger self.

Lucy Snell, Founder, and Creator of Lucy Snell Online:

I think it would just be, just to go for it. As in the old kind of Nike slogan, “Just do it.” Because I first had my idea for my online teaching and the Agency Growth Academy years ago. I even started it years ago but never finished it. What was holding me back? If I'm honest with myself, it was fear. 

Fear of putting myself out there. Actually,  I think that now a lot of businesses and moving this way. Aren't they? In terms of If they're looking to launch something. They will look just to launch an MVP rather than get something really polished just to test it. I definitely just think that don't be afraid to take those little leaps because there's no harm in failing. We can only learn from the mistakes that we make along the way. 

Piccia Neri, UX expert, focusing on human-centred design:

I would definitely say you can be or do absolutely anything you want. Do not believe anybody that gives you limitations, that says you can't possibly do that, or that's going to be too hard.No, just don't. This is the main thing that I would tell myself and anybody else. 

Listen to your instincts

Anthony Burke, Social Media Director at Brits in Dubai:

I've tried a couple of different things, and I'm quite pleased that I have. I'd always say, Go with your gut. If it works then, it's fantastic. If it doesn't, then more options.

I think that the younger me would have maybe, have lots of doubts. I mean, eventually, I've done things, but I think I would have done it a lot easier and a lot earlier. I would say, "Just go with your gut feeling if it works from tough. If it doesn't, there's always other options." I think you're a long time dead as well, so you kind of got to live your life because the possibilities now are endless. I wish we had the opportunity. 

Now you know me at 50, what I had when I started doing my own thing because I've worked in various industries, and my first business was 20 years ago. It's still alive and well today. Sometimes I wish it stayed within that. Yes, I just think it's nice to have choices, and a good feeling is a massive one. If you think it's a good idea, get the right advice. Speak to the right people, don't just maybe go hang out with them.

Be brave

Katie Street, Found and Managing Director of Street Agency:

I think the biggest thing that I've probably learned is just to be braver, I am very action-focused, and I'm very much someone that goes with my gut feeling in life. But I think when I was younger, I would look to other people for reassurance and maybe hold back and wait before I took action. 

Then, I would say the biggest thing is just to try things. Your worst thing is something might not work quite right. But you will learn very quickly that it's not going to work, right? Take action as quickly as you can, and doing things would be my advice to my younger self.

Be authentic

Lee Jackson of Agency Transformation:

I have been bullied all my life at school, and it was hell. I hated school. I was always scared. I always felt like I had to try and become somebody that I wasn't. So this is very easy for me. That is to be yourself and to recognise who you are. I listened for a very long time to who I thought I had to be because of these bullies. I created a persona that wasn't real. That wasn't the real Lee. I did the same in business as well and clients believers as well.

I tried to create this whole persona of Lee. The guy in a suit and tie, who's very professional, who's very confident, and just created this entire persona. I did it in my career and moved my way through businesses. It works, don't get me wrong, but the entire time I was miserable. I was working with people that I didn't resonate with; people who were horrible and who I didn't like. All of the above did it in business, attracting clients that were not right.

Then, a few years ago, when I launched the podcast and finally decided to just show up like me, a goofball who loves Star Wars. I love programming. I love old machines, like programming in basic and doing stuff on the raspberry pi. I like to wear a cap, skinny jeans, and a hoodie. Rack up, just be me and all of that sort of stuff. The moment I started being myself, everything changed. We began to attract really great clients.

I've signed hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of contracts in skinny jeans and a hoodie in big corporate London offices. Nobody batted an eyelid. Then, I would say be your freaking self. I would tell myself that over and over again. Be true to yourself.

Be inquisitive

Chico Chakravorty, Founder and Managing Consultant of Doing Diversity Differently:

I think the first thing I would say is don't be too regimented in your thinking or your approach. I had a very solid career path that I was following, and I had a certain job title that I wanted by the time I was 30. I got there at 26 and absolutely hated it. But that enabled me to completely change who I was and what I found my passion for again, which was really critical.

I think doing that by combining that with not being too regimented with the concept of being inquisitive or curious. Trying to learn as much about the world as possible or about processes in the office as possible was something that took me a while to get to. I think if I'd had that mindset first off, it would have been really useful. 

But, it was something where I then later questioned when I was working for a health insurance company. Why do we do it this way? Then, I was able to do things such as reduce our timeframe to enter into new geographic markets by 70% or exceed our business case expectations by 250%. 

Be willing to fail and make mistakes

Laura Evans, Creative Director - Video and Podcast Producer of Let's Talk Video Production:

I think one piece of advice would be that you're going to make mistakes, so get out there. Start making some mistakes and use that process to learn. The opportunity with my own marketing is to make some of those technical mistakes.

That's where I get a bit more experimental or stuff that I produce for myself that isn't necessarily released. It's just an experiment but just be prepared to make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up about it. Use it as a point of learning.

Miha Matlievski, The Fail Coach - Business Mentor & Adviser to Entrepreneurs:

The number one thing is, develop a healthy relationship with failure. It's a logical one, not an emotional one. Then, lay down strong foundations, first in yourself and also in everything you do. 

Marc Convey, Managing Director of 23 Digital:

I'm very much like a forward-thinking person, so I often think that if I could go back and tell myself something, you know, would I?

I think sometimes you have to allow your younger self to make mistakes. I think it's through those mistakes that you make that you learn the most. If I went back and talked to my younger self when just starting our business, I wouldn't really give any specific advice. What I would just say is, just be as informed as possible. 

Knowledge is power. I'm just a sponge for any new information. It's just to make sure that that was properly instilled in me a few years ago because they're getting more and more like that as I get older. We would like that to have instilled in me a little bit more when I was younger.

Adam O’Leary, Co-Founder of TrustScout:

What I would definitely say is try fast and fail fast. That has become one of the main building blocks of my business. Because if I go ahead and when I first started in business, I would work on projects for six (6) months at a time or nine (9) months. Even if it wasn't profitable, thinking that it takes so much effort to go out and start a business that it makes sense to kind of work for free for six (6) months or twelve (12) months.

Then, the reality behind it is that if you can just get it in front of enough people and see what the conversion rates are and how much you're making from it. In 24 hours, you're going to be way better off because you're going to have all those misses, and then you'll be able to find those couple of winners that will allow you to scale at that kind of exponential rate. 

Play to your strengths

Darryl Sparey, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Hard Numbers:

To answer that question, if that's OK, the first is to buy stock in Apple, Google, Microsoft and Netflix. When I was 20, 21, or 22, I had my own business, right fish out of water. I had no idea about anything, and I had to learn. 

They talk about being a startup. You're kind of building the plane while you're trying to fly it. Well, like, imagine learning what an aeroplane looks like while you're trying to build a plane and while you're trying to fly it. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way when I was that age. I think the one big lesson that I learned is still trying to teach it to myself today. I still have to remind myself, and I still don't get it right every day.

It is focusing your time and your effort on the things that only you can do and that no one else can do. If you find yourself spending time on something that you know someone else could do, but you just fit. Think that you haven't got time to show them or that it would just be quicker for you to do it or anything like that. You're wasting your time. Have a word with yourself and get some help from someone else to do it.

Don’t be a perfectionist

Miranda Birch, Director and Founder of Miranda Birch Media Ltd :

I am a recovering perfectionist. I can spend ages doing things. What I've learned and what I wish I'd known when I started in business is that perfection is illusory. You can spend hours tweaking, dotting I's, crossing T's, and trying to make it perfect. But actually, as far as your client is concerned and your deadlines are concerned. Good enough, really is good enough.

Even if you're doing something rough, if you're putting your expertise and your knowledge down on paper, video, or whatever. Actually probably is good enough, and perfection can waste your time. It can delay deadlines. In the end, it's just a source of frustration. So, if you're building a business around expertise and knowledge, the chances are you already have a head start. You already are meeting standards that will satisfy your clients. Then, please don't strive for perfection. 

Steve Slotow, Chief Operating Officer of Globital Marketing:

I would say, don't hold back and don't procrastinate. Back in those days, the state 10 or 15 years ago, procrastination was bad. In the world we live in today, procrastination is tenfold worse because the world is moving away quicker. Then, any procrastination I reckon you put in now and you actually do now affects you 10 times worse than it would have 10 years ago. That's something I would say to myself, "Listen, get off your ass. Stop thinking about doing it and just do it." Because I believe that if I had taken that advice all those years ago, I'd be in a very different place. Definitely, on social and social media, I think that's 100% true.

You can't sit around waiting. I think another piece of advice I'd give is don't care too much about what other people think. Thankfully, I've never been that hung up on what other people think. But even with that said, I could have cared less, a little bit less. People aren't really that interested in what you're up to. Only you are interested in what you have to do. Just do it because I think that the more you try and put into it, like you say, persistence.

Get advice from an expert

Pietro Ranieri, Executive/Group Managing Director of Ranieri Agency:

If I was going to ask someone for advice or advise myself, the first thing I'd get them to do is to make sure they spoke to someone who had done it already and just so that they know the thing that they're trying to do.

Make sure they speak to that person that's already done it and succeeded or failed at it. Because I think the one who fails at something probably has more advice to offer than the one who succeeds. Because if you've only ever been successful at what you're doing, it's great, but you're still in this bubble of whatever you touch works. At some point, you're going to make a mistake.

Jez Kay, Remote Communications Consultant from Just Jez:

What do you think now is true? Keep believing it and listen to people who are on track with you all the time, and focus on what they're saying. I think it is. I think I would have certainly learned a lot if I'd had a bit more self-belief and been open to more advice.

Sam Wright, Managing Director of Blink SEO:

I will probably say to find some people that you admire. Some mentors that you look up to and follow them. I think that's something I kind of really lacked earlier on in my career.

I've done most of this stuff by myself without someone else involved. I think I could have learned a lot more and quicker if there were people around with that kind of expertise. Looking back, I think I would have seen some quite big improvements quite quickly if I had gone and sorted that out. I imagine this is something that lots of other people would say as well. 

Christian Ewen, Director of Write on Time Ltd:

It's OK to put your hand up and seek help from experts within any chosen field. 

What I mean by that is, we were very guilty, right at the beginning, of trying to do everything on our own. Not only we'll be trying to run the PR agency and show up in a way that we knew that we were experts in, but also we were trying to do a myriad of other things as well. We were not so great at things which we didn't particularly enjoy doing so.

When we began to learn the value of outsourcing, and we had a lot of people telling us to do that who have been in business for a lot longer than we had, that started to open our eyes. It gave us a massive energy boost. It allowed us to focus on what we knew we needed to be doing to give the most value that we could. Also, just trust other people to do other aspects of the business that are so important and let them take care of that.

It's sort of one of those things where you can pass it over. Trust that person, people, or organisation to do it for you. Then, it just frees you up to really get enjoyment and fun, as we talked about earlier. Look at the things you are open to that you want to focus on. So, I wish that we had taken that step earlier to have outsourced quicker than we did. That's more of a recent thing for us, to be fair. 

Develop yourself

Susan Boles, Virtual CFO & Operations Advisor of ScaleSpark:

I think the best piece of advice, the thing that's been a game-changer for me, is a willingness to dig in and learn. Being willing to understand what is happening behind the scenes really empowers you to make better choices, make different choices, and understand why you're making a choice. 

My best advice that has been pivotal for me all the way along is to invest in learning about how to run a business. Most of us spend time. We come into the business. We know that we want to do the thing that we want. 

Maybe we come in, and we like doing web design. Then, we should start a web design agency. There's not a great methodology to learn how to run a business. Well, they don't teach it in school. They don't like handing you a card when you become a business owner that says, "You're a business owner. Here's what you need to know." Spending time learning how to run a business will really pay huge dividends. 

Enjoy the journey

Dan Englander, CEO and Founder of Sales Schema:

I would just say be patient—a marathon, not a sprint sort of thing.  Try to enjoy yourself a little bit more; trying to be less stressed all the time about trying to make some super successful business within a week or whatever. I think that's probably the main advice I give myself. 

Brad Smith, Director and Founder of Succeed Digital Consulting Ltd:

Start earlier. 

I'm currently almost 39, and I joined the digital world when I was 20. It took me a couple of years ago to think I should just be doing this for myself. I'm so busy.  Kind of helping everybody else, I actually love what I do every day.

I genuinely get up, and I love making a difference. I love working with agencies. I love tackling their problems and their challenges and helping to solve them. My simple summary is that if you've got an idea in your head and think it can work, make it happen. Be willing to fail fast. Learn from it, pick yourself up and go at it again.

Remeny Armitage, Co-Founder of Brilliant and Human:

I think, be focused on what you love to do and what you're really good at then go for it. Never give up. 

When I start setting up on my own, I was probably a bit too broad. My background in marketing business has done that for 20 years for agencies. But then when I went out on my own, I sort of thought, Well, I'll do everything. The more I did it, the more I realised that what I wanted to be doing was nurturing and building those relationships with clients—looking at how to engage better with clients to turn them into advocates and friends. I think it's being as focused as possible on what you want to be doing instead of trying to broadcast everything you can do.

Build strong relationships

Grant Jennings, Managing Director of Creative Blend:

The piece of advice I would give would just be to remember that people's relationships are at the core of any good business. I don't mean that just your team is the core of the business. Of course, they are also how you conduct yourself at a networking event. How do you speak to people? 

The fact that you don't have to run a business to be successful or be sales all the time. Just helping people is enough and is a sign of your character. Sometimes putting people together because you see a need in a sort of demand. There is some sort of benefit for that individual. I think it's quite common that when businesses start out, they're quite closed. They don't like to share at all. We were certainly like that at the beginning. Just to be a little bit more open, remember people at the heart of this and enjoy.

Have enough capital 

Tracey Burnett, LinkedIn Strategist of Leads To Success Global:

That's an easy one because I think the biggest number one tip is to have enough capital to get you through the first six months and enough to get you some experts' support. Because there's nothing worse than thinking, "Oh my God, I need a client. I'm not going to pay the mortgage next month." or "I'm not going to feed my kids." It just kills your sales, and it kills your mindset, which kills your sales.

If you've got enough capital in the bank to last you through six months. Also, enough to get some expert support because we have to wear many hats as business owners and we're not experts in all those areas. You need to be able to identify what your strengths and weaknesses are. Where you need help right from the get-go. 

The other thing is, do your research in terms of the audience. I understand what's going to encourage them to spend money with you. What results do they want to see as a result of working with you? Because if you haven't cracked that, you're not going to go anywhere. That's why I call it my unshakable business foundation. You should do all those things right in the beginning to give you the best chance of success. 

Win a customer/proof of concept

Jim James of EastWest Public Relations:

I would give myself the advice that I took to get a customer first. A business doesn't exist without a customer. It's a vanity project, otherwise. Before I went to Asia, the first thing I did was I got a customer. That is the advice I'd give myself and anybody looking to start a business because, without a customer, you just got an idea. 

Get a customer and proof of concept

Melanie Coeshott of Blue Diamond, Award-winning Career Coach & Mentor:

I believed that a good job would speak for itself for a long time. It took me a long time to realise that a good job doesn't speak for itself. You can do the best job in the world. If nobody knows that you're doing it or if the right people don't see that you're doing it, then you can just sit there doing a good job for a long time.

Look for ways to make sure that the right people know that. That doesn't mean that you've got to be going away around blowing your own trumpet all the time, but I think there are ways where you can make sure that you're getting the right exposure or informing the right people of what you're doing. The other thing is, don't wait till somebody comes in, taps you on the shoulder. Yes, it happens sometimes. I've been in that fortunate position, and I've also been frustrated by other people who have been tapped on the shoulder.

But actually, the biggest movements for me have been when I've got off my bottom out of my chair and gone actually and found those opportunities. Sometimes they were there waiting to be discovered, and sometimes I created them as well. A good job doesn't always speak for itself. Don't wait to be tapped on the shoulder. 

Learn to say NO & stay focused

Brent Weaver, CEO of uGurus LLC:

I think it would probably be this quote I read in a book called Essentialism, "I still am not doing a great job at living this value, but the idea of less the better." That there's so much opportunity in getting good at fewer things. Also, it's OK to say no to things. If anything is not OK and the path to success is turning down opportunities and taking the opportunities. You do have that you commit to and go all-in on that idea.

Sooner, I think that was one of the biggest limiters to us scaling that I just didn't have that discipline to say no. Then, when I finally said no to a really big shiny object, I started saying no more often like we saw the business grow. That's something that I think if I had learned that lesson sooner, I think it could have accelerated something a little faster. 

Richard Kennedy, Managing Director of Arken Digital:

Other than buying as much Bitcoin as I possibly could, I think I would say just to focus on one thing. There are so many different elements to it; it's not just link building, it's not just technical, it's not just content, there are so many things. I would just focus on one aspect of it because as the industry is growing, you have specialists in all these different areas. I would just say just to focus on one thing and one market. 

Everything will be OK!

Romans Ivanovs, Founder of RIU Media:

I haven't had any regrets or disappointment, to be honest. I've made the right decisions, and it's been great so far. I guess the only thing I would probably reinforce is believing that everything will be alright. 98.99% of things that I've been afraid of, never realised. It's just been in my head, and knowing that it's most of the things you worry about, whether it's business or how it's going to affect your personal life, will never become a reality. It's just a bit of illusion and imagination, I guess. 

Marcel Petitpas, Co-Founder and CEO of Parakeeto:

I think one of my biggest fears, when I was younger, was choosing the wrong thing and wasting my time. Looking back, nothing that I did over the last decade ever made sense while it was happening, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect. I can see every single project I've worked on. Every single business I've been involved in is serving me today. That's probably the word of advice like, "Don't worry about it." Just say yes to things that scare you, and you'll be fine. That playbook has worked pretty well for me so far. 

Stay abreast of the latest technologies

Michelle Ewen, Director of Write on Time Ltd:

Well, my advice would be to keep up with tech. I remember being a journalist fresh out of university, and at that point, we were still pitching to the nationals on a fax machine. We were still using yellow pages and the telephone directory to ring round and bind story leads. The curve that journalism has gone on since I graduated in 2001 has been huge.

The number of new technologies that have come out and social media has obviously revolutionised everything. Also, I think a key strength has always been to evolve with that. When anything new comes up to be an early adapter, you can help all the people coming down the line to upskill. 

For me, I would say always be at the forefront of new tech. Even if you are not a technical person, use it as a user to understand how it operates, and then you can leverage that to push your agency forward.

Trust (your team more)

Ugis Balmaks, Founder of Recruiter Mill:

I was thinking about that, and the answer I came up with is that I would want to trust my employees more. That's something. Actually, I'm still struggling with and working my way through. Because it always feels like I'm the person that knows how a business should run. I started it. Of course, I can only help them by being involved. 

When I take a step back and reflect that it's not always true, I'm just saying that it's not always true. I'm also conscious that I need to let my employees grow and put them in a position to grow the business for me. Not necessarily; I'm always the person that's doing the growing. Then, that's something I wish I'd started earlier. I've now started, and I'm still working through it. I think many people have had a similar problem, but I think that is a good fight to fight. That's what I'm trying to do. 

Chose a clear market position

David Miles, CEO of The PPC Machine Ltd:

Be very clear on who it is you want to market to. If I had found it, I wish I had discovered the niching concept many, many years ago. Because since I started doing that, it's definitely changed the business for the better.

It makes the work more enjoyable. It means I can charge higher fees. It means I'm not so stressed running around trying to service lots of different clients. I think that would be my advice to my younger self. Find a niche and market to that niche. 

Roland Gurney, Found and Senior Copywriter of Treacle - copywriting for agencies:

I would go back and tell myself to commit to a niche immediately. Because although we had lots of fun doing lots of jobs and meeting lots of people, they're being lots of variety. We actually were probably more stressed and more underpaid for the work that we were capable of at the time.

I know, it feels like I'm slightly labouring the point, but we would have just gone in at the point where I had an inkling that I wanted it to be an agency for agencies. To just have gone in there and saved the 12 months of coming in our ring. 

John Ashton, Founder of Write Arm, The KitchenTable Community and Freedom of Information Ltd:

It would be to work on your proposition to really know what you are, what sets you apart from the competition, and why clients would want to hire you. I didn't do that when I set out. 

When I set out with the proposition, we write, "Oh, by the way, we can also do your website, and we can also do your photography," and so on. Because I knew a couple of people who could do that, it was useless as a proposition. It was only when I began to think about the culture that is all part of this and what I was about, why I was doing this, that I developed this proposition. We are a flexible writing resource for marketers, and as soon as I say that to clients, they get it.

The light bulb goes on, and they want to talk. Whatever you do, maybe people listening to this are at the start of their agency journey. There might be a designer, a video maker, or a web developer, and they will say, "OK, well, I'm a designer. That's what I'll offer." "I'm a web developer. That's what I'll offer." But you've got to think more about what you are and what you do. That might be something sector-specific rather than the way you do business.

It has got to be at the core of your identity; it has got to be easily understood. It's going to be the reason that people will pick up the phone for you and answer your emails. It's going to be easily comprehensible. There's no point in saying that we just do this; name the skill that will get you nowhere. That's the single most important thing that I would tell myself. 

Get your pricing right from the start

Sophie Walton, Owner of 3twelve:

A couple of things very much harked back today niching concept, Rob. I wish I had done that colour from day one rather than come across as an agency that offers something for everyone and also huge things.

Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. That is something that I have struggled with since starting my agency. Certainly, I was afraid to charge XYZ-ed in the early days because I had massive imposter syndrome. I wasn't confident enough to charge the fees that I wanted to, which in short, attracted some clients that were great for me or great for my agency. Then we're; be strong, be confident, and know your worth.

Don’t underestimate the value of a plan

Ian Laurie, Founder & Creative Director of Snow Digital Media:

There's a couple of pieces of advice. The first one is just to try and be clear about your outcomes. I think starting a business is an incredibly exciting thing to do. I think you immediately get wrapped up in just trying to make money. I think once that starts happening; it's just so exciting. You just sort of carry on doing that without necessarily looking to the future. I think the other thing is I certainly looked around me, my sort of peers, and thought that what they had was exactly what I should have or should strive for.

For example, an office with 20 people, being empty and sitting in the office on my own. It took me quite a few years to realise that it really wasn't me. I think you've got to be able to sort of take time out and be honest with yourself and honest with the skills that you've got and say," Am I where I need to be?" "Am I really happy doing this?" Because you're going to be doing it for a long time, and it's something that you've made yourself. So If you're not happy doing it, then there's something wrong.

Lindsey Pickles, Director and Co-Founder of Bright Dials:

I tried to do too much too soon in my career and wanted to have my own business. I would tell my younger self to be a bit more strategic about approaching that because it's taken several attempts to have my own business and where I want to be. That would be my advice. 

Build Your Email List Sooner!

David Miles, CEO of The PPC Machine Ltd: 

Start building your email list because, again, that's something that I only really started focusing heavily on a few years ago. I'd have an even bigger if I started doing that ten or twenty years ago. I mean, my email list is a massive asset, and as I said, it was where the majority of my members have come from my membership programme. Imagine if I'd started building that 15 years ago, then it would have been even bigger and better.

Be a Little More Confident

John Horn, Managing Partner at StubGroup:

I would say be a little more confident. What I mean by that is, when you're just starting out in business, as I'm sure you know, It's so easy to have that imposter syndrome.

I have no idea what I'm doing. All of my competitors, they have it all figured out. They're doing a fantastic job and how do I get into this space? Just realising that everybody is figuring it out everyday. The market is always changing. People look like they got it together but we're all we're all figuring it out. If you invest that time, that energy and that intelligence into what you're doing. If you're truly meeting a market need, caring for the businesses you're working with and the clients are serving then, go forth, do it and things are gonna work out. 

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