In a recent Self-Running Agency Group Call, I was asked how much time the owner should be investing in working on the future of their agency. I said approx 30% of the time - some nodded in agreement and others said there was no way they could spend that much time working on their strategy!
Here's the conundrum: many agency owners wish they could grow their businesses but are stuck on the “client service hamster wheel of doom” servicing clients and have no time to focus on the future of their agency.
In today’s episode, I outline how you can start to change this.
[01:35] Many agency owners are so entrenched in the day to day work - that is not a good way to run an agency!
[02:05] Why so many agency owners are the bottleneck to growth?
[02:05] 9 tips and ideas to start to change this
[02:27] Tip 1: The importance of having a clear vision so you maintain control of the direction of your agency
[03:56] Tip 2: Hire as soon as possible
[05:02] Tip 3: Hire the best you can afford
[05:50] Tip 4: Be a great delegator (unlike most entrepreneurs)
[06:36] Tip 5: Build your brand rather than making the brand YOU
[07:25] Tip 6: “Train your clients” - manage boundaries with them
[08:27] Tip 7: Be less available to your clients and protect your time
[10:25] Tip 8: Build a foundation for growth: put scalable systems & processes in place
[12:51] Tip 9: Develop an entrepreneurial mindset from day 1
[14:43] Recap of 9 tips
“Hire the best you can and don’t be scared of being challenged” - Rob Da Costa
“Step off the client service hamster wheel by putting systems & processes in place” - Rob Da Costa
“Develop your entrepreneurial mindset from day 1 - be willing to step out of your comfort zone” - Rob Da Costa
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One of the questions I got asked in a recent self-running agency implementation group monthly call, where we have up to 30 agency owners get together and solve some of their key challenges was around how much time they should be spending working on their business plan. And of course, the answer is different for each agency. But roughly speaking, I told the group that they should be spending around 30% of their time, i.e. about one and a half days a week. Now a few people said yes, they do invest that or they can invest that, but also quite a few more so there was absolutely no way that they could currently invest that much time because they're still so hands-on with client work. So in today's podcast, I want to talk all about how to start removing yourself from the day to day client work. So let's get on with the show. How do I remove myself from day to day client work is a question that lots of agency owners often ask me, they know that they should be focusing on other areas such as the future direction of their agency, the strategy of winning new clients, running their agency and so on? But they are so entrenched in day-to-day client work, they just don't have any time to do that. So they see these other activities as almost extra activities if they ever have any time. And that is not a good way to run your agency and obviously, there's kind of an iceberg off the head that you can't see. And before long, you're going to hit it and you're going to be in challenging times. You see, for every reason why the agency owner is that entrepreneurial person that got their agency to where it is today. They can easily also become the bottleneck to growth because everything still sits on their shoulders. And of course, all clients want them to be working on their accounts and are not happy when they try to delegate to somebody else. So then the question I want to answer stays, and I'm going to do that by sharing with you nine ideas and nine tips. So let's start with tip number one, which is all about having a clear vision because as I said, if you don't have a clear vision, you're going to be taking one step forward and one step back. You're going to be at the mercy of external factors and you're going to feel like you have very little control. And of course when we lose control that leads to stress. So one of the first things you need to do is have a clear vision that shows you when you're going to make decisions such as hiring people or investing in new systems and processes. So it's super important that you have a vision and that you allocate time every month to deliver that vision. Now I've spoken about vision many times before. So let me just quickly remind you that you need to have a vision which might be for the next year. You need to take that vision and break it down into strategies which would probably be quarterly, and then you need to take those quarterly strategies and break them down into monthly plans. And then you take those monthly plans and put them into your diary and that is the way that you take small bites towards delivering the big vision, the big picture vision. So that's my first tip, which is to have a vision and of course, you need to have time to focus on reviewing and implementing that vision. It's not good enough just to work on your vision on an away day once a year and then say to everybody, right, come on, let's go and deliver it. And then you never look at our vision again because that is a surefire way of making yourself feel bad basically because you failed to deliver that vision. So you have to keep looking at it. And of course, keep updating it based on what you know today. That you didn't know yesterday. So step number two, tip number two is to hire as soon as you possibly can. The quicker you can get people that you can delegate work to and get it off your shoulders and get it down to other people, the quicker you're going to be able to have time to focus on the future of your agency. So you want to be hiring and again, the vision will tell you what the metrics need to look like in your agency to make that decision with confidence and clarity to hire that person. Now when we talk about hiring in this day and age, it can mean several things. It can mean, first of all, getting yourself a VA that can be based anywhere that can take some of the admin tasks off your shoulders, it can then look like hiring a freelancer so that you can get some of that day to day client work off your plate and onto the freelancer. And then of course you want to know at what point do you switch from using a freelancer to bringing in that role in the house because it will always be more cost-effective. And more efficient for you to have the role in the house. Not going into it now but it's very difficult to build your agency solely using freelancers, not impossible, but very difficult. So tip number two is to hire as soon as you possibly can. And then tip number three is to hire the best you can afford. You might start with a VA but just really get the best you can afford and get them to do as many tasks as possible. So when you're hiring, get the best person you can and don't be afraid of someone that might be nipping at your heels that's going to challenge you as long as you can manage that they are the best people that you can hire. Because if you hire someone less than capable, you're going to switch from spending your time delivering the client work to spending your time managing that employee so you want people that are self-sufficient to take responsibility, and when they say yes to a task, you're confident that they are going to get it done. So that is tip number three, which is to hire the best person you can afford. Now tip number four, which goes hand in hand with two and three is that once you've got this person, you need to be a great delegator. And I think by definition, a lot of entrepreneurs are not very good delegators because they run this belief that no one will do it as well as them or it's quicker for them to do it themselves. So you need to learn to delegate and you can download a free guide from my website on the Nine Steps to Effective delegation. This is stuff that I teach all my private clients. There are nine steps that you want to go through to be an excellent delegator and to know that once you've got a task off your plate, you're confident it will be done on time and to the level that you expect. So that's tip number four, which is to learn to be a good delegator. So moving on, if you want clients to be less dependent on you and not to always expect you to work on their account, then you need to focus almost from day one on building your brand and building that as a brand rather than the individual. So you want your brand to be known for doing great creative work. You don't want your brand to be known as you. So that's something that you can start from day one like choosing the name of your agency, the language that you use, rather than talking to the first person you're talking to third person so rather than I can do this for you, you talk about we can do this for you. So you want to focus on building the brand away from the individual so that when clients buy your services, they're buying the brand and not expecting to buy you So that's tip number five. And tip number six goes hand in hand with that, which is that you need to train your clients now training your clients always sounds like a really strange thing to say. But you have to train your clients to understand that whoever is working on the account, needs to trust that you've put the best person for the job onto that account. You need to train your clients to have realistic boundaries so that they are not always trying to get hold of you at strange times of the day. You also need to train your clients about who is the right person. They should do well. If you don't, they're always going to defer to you because they think you know, then get to the top. Then they're going to get the best answer but you need to train your clients to understand. If you talk to Jane rather than me you're going to get a much more hands-on incident response and if you come to me so you need to train your clients about the right people to talk to as well. So work hard about building your brand. Tip five, then tip six is training your clients to expect to talk to the best person for the job and that they trust. You will allocate the right person for them. And tip number seven kind of goes hand in hand with that, which is that therefore you need to be less available to your clients. Don't run this mindset that if you don't jump the minute the client asks you to jump then they will dislike you and leave you because that isn't true. So you need to be less available. And of course, that means then you've got time to focus on what you do best. And what you do best will be driving the agency forward focusing on strategy, business development and all that kind of stuff. But if you're entrenched in client work on the client service hamster wheel of doom, then you will never have time to focus on the things that only you can do that you do best. So part of that is being less available. So what you want to do is you want to start ring-fencing time in your diary, where you almost see that time as a really important meeting which of course is non-movable. And then when you schedule that time, know exactly what you're going to do to fill that time before you get to that time slot. Because if you've just got time in your diary that says okay, on a Wednesday afternoon, I'm going to focus on strategy.
And you get to Wednesday afternoon, and you've got loads of things on your to-do list. And because you're not sure what you're going to do with that strategy, you just get rid of it and you focus on the client tasks on your to-do list. So rather than not happening, give yourself the best chance to ensure that you do the time you've blocked out in your diary. You want to know exactly what you're going to do. So if you've scheduled Wednesday afternoon to work on strategy, then maybe from one to 2 pm You're writing three emails that are going to be sent out and then two to three, you're writing a proposal, and three to four you're working on a workshop that you're going to deliver and so on. So schedule your time in your diary and therefore you will be less available to do the client stuff that they're trying desperately to want you on their account because you haven't trained them very well. Okay, so that's tip number seven, which will be less available. Okay, tip number eight is all about building a really solid foundation and infrastructure that will enable your agency to grow and isn't just fit for purpose today but will work in the future as well. So that means putting systems and processes, documenting your standard operating procedures and so on. So what you want to be doing is putting two systems in today that will be fit for purpose for tomorrow and that means as you add new people into your agency, the systems that you've got will still work and they can quickly adopt them. And that means that the customer will get a consistent experience whether you're working on the account, Jane is or Fred is. So I would encourage you to think about the systems and processes that you need to put in place. Now by that I mean software systems but I also mean documented systems and one of those documented systems is your standard operating procedures. So these documents like how do you work with your client when you're setting up a new campaign for a client? What does that look like when you're writing a brief or a proposal or an outline of a strategy for a client? What do they look like if you spend the time documenting them which I know can be tedious? They will have huge benefits for you. And a lot of my clients do this. And indeed I've done it for myself. So I documented all the things that I outsource to my VA team, and that means that they're getting up to speed is so much quicker than it would be and there's I've also part of those standard operating procedures is I've shot quick tutorial videos so people can watch them and I use loom L O M to do that. So check out that you can get it free, and it's a great screen recording piece of software that then gives you a URL link because it's cloud-based that you can then share that video. So document your standard operating procedures so that when you slot someone new into your business, they can follow those and that means that the client will have a consistent experience and that Tip number eight is perhaps the most important, maybe the most boring, but also the most important tip. If you want to grow your agency and you want to have all the clients not demanding you to work on their account, and you want to step off the client service hamster wheel of doom, so that you can focus on the future of your agency. So that's tip number eight, which is to build systems and processes and consistent standard operating procedures for the agency that you want to be in the future to grow in a pain-free way to become the agency. My last tip. Tip number nine is that it's super important that you develop an entrepreneurial mindset when you are running your agency. And you need to have that entrepreneurial mindset from day one. Don't have a Freelancer mindset because you will be stuck as a freelancer ever, evermore. But have the entrepreneurial mindset and let's just dig into what I mean by that. So an entrepreneurial mindset is someone that has a clear vision. They are spending time working on that vision as we've just talked about. They're fantastic at delegating because they recognize they need to empower other people in their business, whether that be freelancers, remote workers or in-house staff. They are good at standing in other people's shoes, their team shoes, their client's shoes, their partner shoes, and building really good emotional intelligence and empathy. And they are willing to get out of their comfort zone. And that's super important because if you want to apply steps one to nine, you have to get out of your comfort zone. After all, your comfort zone might be delivering client work or your comfort zone might be hanging on to control of everything. And if you do that, you're going to attain this one person Freelancer mindset and you'll never get work off your plate and you will never grow and going hand in hand with the entrepreneurial mindset person also is open-minded. They listen to other people. They are willing to do things differently if other people have ideas that are not theirs. And they are wanting to keep learning and again, if you hire the best people you possibly can, then you're going to learn off them as well as the learning of you.
So there you go. In a really short 10 minutes, there are my nine ideas and tips of things that you need to do so that you can remove yourself from the day to day client work, step off the client service hamster wheel of doom, and have enough time to focus on the future of your agency. So really quickly recap number one is having a clear vision. Number two is to hire as soon as you possibly can. And number three is to hire the best people that you can afford, and don't be afraid of being challenged. Number four is to learn to be an excellent delegator to get work off your plate. Number five is to make sure you're building your brand and not your brand as an individual. So the clients are buying the brand. And number six is to learn to train your clients to get good boundaries and manage their expectations. Number seven is to be less available to your clients and allocate time to focus on your strategy and your vision. Number eight is building robust systems and processes and documenting your standard operating procedures for the agency that you want to be in the future. And finally, number nine is to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. So if you focus on those nine steps, those nine strategies, then you are going to start to have your clients expect you to be on their account and you'll start to delegate work to other people. So I hope we found that quick-fire episode of the podcast or the video useful. And if you did, please make sure you hit subscribe. Please consider leaving a review especially on Apple podcasts because the algorithm will show the podcast to more people and of course, I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of the agency accelerator podcast.