From Drowning To Delegating: How To Stop Working IN Your Agency So You Can Work ON Your Agency

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In today's episode, we tackle a common problem faced by agency owners - being stuck in the day-to-day grind of client work.

As your agency grows, it's easy to get caught up in the tactical details and lose sight of the bigger picture. But fear not, Rob is here to share some valuable tips on how to delegate and elevate your role, so you can focus on strategic growth and innovative thinking.

Discover the consequences of staying stuck in the weeds, from missed opportunities to high employee turnover, and learn how to break free from this cycle by adopting a CEO mindset.
So grab your notebook and get ready to transform your agency in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Topics Covered In This Episode:

[00:00] Introduction to why agency owners get ‘stuck in the weeds’

[02:43] What is the problem in being stuck in the weeds and involved in all client work?

[04:30] Missing opportunities with existing and new clients

[06:11] The importance of delegation

[06:48] Block out time in your diary to focus on strategy

[07:46] Create clear scopes of work and keep focused on your core niche

[09:10] If you don’t have a team, hire a VA and delegate all low-value tasks

[09:55] Making the mindset shift

[11:45] Summarising key changes to make in 2024


“It's really stressful to constantly be reactive to clients rather than proactive. You spend all your time putting out fires and it's you who eventually gets burned!” - Rob Da Costa
“Being stuck in the weeds is unsustainable, to truly grow you need to elevate your role and change your mindset” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Rob Da Costa [00:00:00]:

Hey, everybody. I hope you are having a fantastic week and welcome to the latest episode of the Agency Accelerator Podcast. I'm your host and agency growth coach, Rob Costa. Now, running a successful creative agency is no small feat. You started this agency journey as a passionate entrepreneur, eager to help your customers through strategic design and marketing. But over time, many agency owners realise that they become stuck in the weeds of the day-to-day client work. And no matter what they do, they can't get out of it. The clients keep coming, teams expand and tasks multiply.

Rob Da Costa [00:00:36]:

And suddenly you find yourself bogged down with project management, dealing with clients, unable to step back and guide that bigger vision that you had for your agency. Now, why does this happen and why is it detrimental? Well, the more tactical work piles up, the less you're able to focus on innovation, culture, scaling vision and all those great things that will ensure your agency has lots of new clients coming into your business. And they're the perfect types of work that you want. You get caught up in a reactive cycle of churning out client deliverables. There's no time left for proactive, planning and whatever you try to do, clients still want you to work on their accounts or you find yourself lurching into rescue particular projects and particular situations. Of course, this prevents sustainable growth. And whilst you may be raking in some quick revenue, you're also burning out really fast. And by failing to strategize and systemize, your agency stays stuck at the current level that you're at.

Rob Da Costa [00:01:34]:

And of course, the consequences for this are huge. Missed opportunities, lack of innovation, burnout that's just around the corner, high employee turnover and stagnant growth. Your agency definitely isn't going to reach its full potential or achieve that vision that you had when you started out. So today we'll unpack how agency owners can get out of the weeds and I'll share some tips to delegate and elevate your role and you'll learn how to shift your focus towards a more strategic growth mindset. So let's get started. I'm Rob de Costa, and this is the agency Accelerator Podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business.

Rob Da Costa [00:02:29]:

I'm sure what I outlined in the introduction to this week's podcast is a pretty common issue and probably one that you can relate to. Either you're stuck in the weeds right now, or you've been there before. So let's kick today's episode off by talking about what is the problem of being too stuck in the weeds. Because many agency owners struggle to detach themselves from the day-to-day work as their agency grows. That's what they did when they started out and they still find themselves doing that same thing now. And it's really easy to get sucked into the tactical details instead of stepping back and focusing on that bigger-picture strategy. So why does this happen? Well, you likely started off as a solo freelancer, accustomed to doing everything yourself or you still want to please the clients and ensure quality control. But as your agency grows, that hands-on approach starts to backfire. In fact, what led you to get to where you've got won't help you get to where you want to go and suddenly you find yourself being the bottleneck.

Rob Da Costa [00:03:30]:

You end up micromanaging projects and failing to empower teams as a consequence. Even if that's not deliberate, days become consumed with client calls, scoping documents, status reports and other reactive work and before you know it, you're stuck in this vicious cycle of churning out deliverables without any space for innovation. You're unable to step back and look at that bigger picture and you're stuck on the client service hamster wheel of Doom as I have mentioned many times and of course, this takes a toll over time not only on you but your team. You end up feeling really drained and frustrated and lacking the required entrepreneurial mindset to really guide that strategic growth. And of course, your team feel disempowered. They don't feel able to take responsibility and they revert to being childlike and waiting to be told what to do. Now, the consequences of this are huge. So let me share with you some of the issues of staying too deep in the weeds.

Rob Da Costa [00:04:29]:

So number one, you end up missing opportunities as you fail to spot new market opportunities or potential partnerships or just have that kind of forward-looking mentality. This leads to a lack of innovation since you don't have time to kind of evolve and brainstorm your creative offerings. And as I said, the team ends up feeling burnt out and turnover is high because they feel overworked, underutilised and under empowered. This lack of foresight also results in the inability to keep excelling as clients needs to evolve. You're very much task-driven on the client service hamster wheel of doing, just trying to get things done rather than actually stepping back and saying how can we do this better? And doing some proactive account development planning. This results in stagnant growth staying around the same size your agency is year after year with similar revenues, that sense of taking one step forward yet one step back. And this means that you're operating as a reactive agency rather than a proactive agency and that is really stressful and it feels like you're in crisis management putting out fires instead of creating scalable systems and processes that can be delegated to others. This can lead to also client conflicts because there's a lack of clear expectations or the client feels you're very good at doing things but not very strategic.

Rob Da Costa [00:05:46]:

And of course, in the end, you feel completely burnt out from wearing every single hat in the agency. Now, guys, the message is clear here. Staying heads down on client work is unsustainable. To truly grow, you need to elevate your role. Now, if being stuck in the weeds resonates with you, here are some tangible steps to evolve your role. The first one is an obvious one, really, but you need to delegate more client work responsibilities to your team if you have one. So identify talents like project managers, good client service people, client relationship leads, and people who are really good at strategy. And then train them to take on high-level work so that you don't have to.

Rob Da Costa [00:06:27]:

Now, you need to challenge your mindset here because remember, yes, of course, they won't do it as well as you or the same as you. But the question you need to be asking yourself is, are they doing it well enough to keep the client happy and to retain the client? And if the answer is yes, then you need to let go, because ultimately this lifts a huge burden off of your shoulders. Now, you need to also block out some consistent time on your calendar for strategic thinking and planning. I call this strategy time and this should be ideally at least one full day a week or half a day a week. And you need to guard this time fiercely and don't schedule over it. Don't let others schedule over it and see it as the most important thing you're going to do this week, not the thing that can go out the window when clients start shouting. Use it as time to step back to analyse your agency's challenges, to spot opportunities and to brainstorm innovations and problems. These strategy sessions will keep you focused on the bigger picture.

Rob Da Costa [00:07:24]:

And of course, if you've got a leadership team, make sure that when you're having your meetings, you are operating in this strategic space, and not solely in an operational space where you talk about client A or employee B. Now, you know I am a big fan of having a clear niche for your agency and part of that is clearly defining your agency's core competencies, where your skills really lie. And as a consequence, stop saying yes to everything just because you think it's going to bring some revenue in the door. And avoid scope creep from clients that pull you into the tactical weeds. And you do that by making it really clear at the beginning what the scope of work is. And make sure your client understands that as well as your team. And stick to what you as an agency uniquely excel at. Say no to off-brand projects that divert your team's focus unless there is a super strategic reason for taking that project on.

Rob Da Costa [00:08:17]:

As I said earlier, hold regular strategic leadership meetings with your management team. Discuss challenges, goals and growth plans and use your vision to plot the course of the direction of your journey. Now, if you don't have that, do consider bringing in a business coach, a mentor, a business manager, or a high-level consultant and work with them to build these scalable systems to create a really exciting roadmap for your business. And then use them to help you create the mental space to work on that strategy, that vision, because this investment will deliver huge returns in the end. Now, of course, you may not be in the luxurious position to have a management team, or indeed any team at the moment. And in that case, make sure you are outsourcing or automating as many of those administrative tasks that bog you down every single day. So offload things like confirming appointments, HR, scheduling, finance bookkeeping, and some sales and marketing if you possibly can. Identify whatever tools there are to help optimise workflows.

Rob Da Costa [00:09:21]:

Use project management tools, time recording and so on because these time savings all add up and they become invaluable and they free up your space to focus on the future of your agency. I e. The Strategy now, if you put even two or three of these tips into practice, it's going to help you from drowning in client work chaos and you'll gain the clarity and the strategic perspective needed to guide your agency into a smooth growth. Now, I totally understand that making these changes isn't always that easy, if only especially if you're stuck in the tactical weeds and you might have been in that place for many years. It requires a major mindset shift. And that's why I want to tell you about an exciting opportunity to help accelerate your agency's growth. I'm hosting a free live masterclass called Three Strategies to Elevate Your Role and Build a Self-running Agency. A roadmap to get out of the weeds, shift from overworked employee to CEO, systemize your agency, and drive consistent growth.

Rob Da Costa [00:10:21]:

Now, in this 60-minute workshop, I'll give you a complete roadmap for stepping back from client work so you can accelerate sustainable growth. You'll get my proven strategies for the three secrets on how to get rid of that eternal freelancer mindset and transform into a hyperproductive and growth-driven agency CEO. No matter where you are on your journey, you'll learn how to quickly assess your current position as an agency owner and what needs to change, and gain clarity on how to unlock that consistent growth. You'll also learn about the type of agency model you should always avoid and what to do instead. And I'm going to share with you some hurdles that prevent agency owners from achieving their true potential and how you can overcome them. Now, I'll be running this Masterclass live three times. It's 60 minutes long on Thursday the 16 November at 930 GMT, Tuesday the 21 November at 10:00 AM GMT, and Thursday, November the 23rd at 12:30 PM GMT.

Rob Da Costa [00:11:20]:

This is your chance to get some hands-on coaching to become a visionary leader, not just another client servicer. So get all the details and register at so, Now let's get back and wrap up with some final thoughts. So, as we come to the end of this episode, I want to reiterate a few key takeaways. If you constantly find yourself overwhelmed and in the weeds of client work, it's time for a change. Staying heads down tactically may bring in revenue temporarily today, but it leads to burnout, lack of innovation, feast or famine, and stagnant growth in the long run.

Rob Da Costa [00:12:06]:

By delegating client responsibilities, systemising processes, and elevating your role strategically, you'll be able to unlock new levels of agency success. Focus on your unique zone of genius and build an empowered team around it. Block out consistent time for strategic thinking and strategic delivery. And don't be afraid to say no to clients that are not ideal, fit or no to scope creep. Lastly, if you need help making this shift, be sure to check out one of my free Masterclasses—three strategies to elevate your role and build a self-running agency. And I'll put a link where you can register in the show notes and get some hands-on coaching to help you escape from the weeds in 2024. Okay, so that wraps up this episode of the Agency Accelerator podcast.

Rob Da Costa [00:12:56]:

Thanks so much for tuning in. If you found it useful, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts and do share. And of course, make sure you've hit the subscribe button so you're alerted when a new episode goes live every Thursday. But until next week, keep your focus on the big-picture vision. Your best agency growth years are still ahead, and I'm really excited to go on that journey with you.

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