It's that time of the year again, where I stop, take a pause to look back on my year and evaluate what went well, what didn't go so well and what I have learned. So that’s the focus of today’s episode.
In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share all the things I did in my business that worked well, the not-so-good stuff and the key learnings.
Based on these learnings, what am I going to do differently next year?.
I know you can listen to lots of gurus online who claim to have all the solutions and paint an amazing picture of themselves and their business. But I wanted to be really honest in sharing this: the things that I screwed up with, the money I spent on things that I shouldn't have, the things that I did well, and the plans I have for next year.
What went well for me in 2021?
The importance of assessing metrics
My 4-day working week
What didn't go so well for me in 2021?
Fixing my website!
The importance of having a strategy and plan before jumping into execution
What are my key learnings for the year?
- There are no shortcuts!
- Do your due diligence before you work with any suppliers
- Keep focused and avoid shiny objects
- Keep a record of all your software subscriptions
What I am going to do differently in 2022
- Launch a new website
- Streamlining and measuring my marketing
- Focus on YouTube content
Keep distractions at bay!
Use more batching
Keep focused and do less!
“...there are no shortcuts. Every genuine, robust business development strategy delivers in the medium to long term, and so if you're looking for instant gratification, you're always going to be very disappointed...” - Rob Da Costa
“...you need to keep focused, have a plan for the year as there are lots of shiny objects competing for your time and there are no quick fixes.” - Rob Da Costa
“Remove all the distractions and keep focused on the task at hand.” - Rob Da Costa
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It's that time of year again, where I want to stop and take stock and share with you the things I did in my business. What went well this year? What didn't go so well? What are my key learnings? And, what am I going to do differently in 2022?
I know you can listen to lots of gurus online who claimed to have all the solutions and paint this amazing picture of themselves. But, I want to be really real and honest with you guys, so I want to share the things that I screwed up this year, the things that I spent money on that I shouldn't have done, as well as the things that I did well and, as I say, my plans for next year. That's what this episode is all about, and let's get on with the show.
So let's start with the positives. What are the things that went well for me in 2021? I already have one online group coaching programme as well as my private coaching. The group coaching programme is called the Self Running Agency. It's like a mastermind group where they have access to online content. We get together once a month as a group; answer questions and network. Then, we have expert guest trainers come into the group and we have a discussion forum. That typical sort of mastermind set up and it's been really good.
We've got thirty (30) plus members in there at the moment and we get new members every month, which is fantastic. But I realised that the programme wasn't serving the entire agency world that I wanted to target. There are a bunch of people who are smaller or freelancers who may not want to be part of a programme like that, but they still want some support.
Then, I took the business development aspect of the Self Running Agency and I created a self, standalone programme called the Agency Selling System. This has everything to do with business development; positioning, niche marketing, sales, client retention, growth and everything to do with that.
We launched that programme this year. It went really well and It's still going well now and. Then, most recently we've launched another programme called the Build Nurture Convert Blueprint. This is all about list building and email marketing because I am such a believer, as you will know, that building your email list is so important and it's the best way to win clients over the medium to long term. We recently launched the Build Nurture Convert programme, which creates a suite of three (3) online programmes plus my private coaching, so that's gone really well.
Another thing that went well finally this year is the fact that I managed to hire a really good virtual assistant. I've had a whole bunch of false starts with virtual assistants. Either they over-promised or under-delivered as they got really busy and they stop providing the service levels or have just disappeared. I've tried working with VAs which is in the UK and India.
Now I'm working with a VA team where they have a model of like a project manager who reports to me and then she manages some other people who might have specific expertise. For example, in editing podcasts or videos, writing or creating social media.
It's a really good setup. I mean, I only have one person, then she picks the other best people for the job, and that has worked really well. I think the thing I've learned there is you need to communicate really regularly. We have a call every Monday and you need to document your standard operating procedures or your working practices so that you can expedite the learning process for them.
Get them up to speed quickly and make sure they are consistently doing the work, no matter who's doing it. I documented all of my standard operating procedures. I did not only write them but I also used Loom, as a way to video something, so I could show them as well through video what is in my written documents.
Finally, the next thing that I've started doing in 2021 is measuring more of my marketing activities. I tell my clients that this all the time, but I don't always do it for myself. I just have a simple Google sheet. I'm measuring every email I send or social post so I can see how well it's doing. Therefore that helps me do more of what's working and stop doing the things that aren't working rather than just doing them because I always do them. We are all time-poor, so we need to make sure we are as efficient with our time as we possibly can be.
The next thing I did was a big thing for me this year. From the beginning of September, I started working four (4) days a week and this has been a goal for several years. I've had several false starts with this where I sort of promised myself. It's lasted a couple of weeks, then a client has said, “Rob, can we talk on Friday?” Of course, I say yes and then immediately that fifth day has gone out the window. But the difference this time is that I know what I was going to do with that fifth day.
If any of you know about me outside of work, I'm a campervan owner. I decided to document all that I've learned with buying my camper van, owning it and travelling in it. Also, as a newbie, what did I learn? Then, we created a YouTube channel that's been going well; growing steadily and growing a mailing list.
Ultimately, I'll be able to monetise that. That's the thing that I have been doing on my fifth day. Also, to be quite honest, I could do with more than just one day because it takes me five (5) or six (6) hours to edit a 10 to 15 minutes video every Friday. I get at least one video out a week, but that's the difference. Because I know that's what I'm gonna do on my Friday, and I need to keep it free. It's meant that I'm saying no to people who want to book Friday with me, and I'm really consolidating the four (4) days a week.
That means you also have to be very efficient and very organised because I'm basically trying to do five (5) days of work condensed down into four (4) days. It is possible, and if that's a plan that you want to follow, then it's absolutely possible. I'm sure I will record more content on that in the future. That's some of the highlights of what, really well for me. Let's spend some time talking about what didn't go so well.
First of all, when I launched the Agency Selling System, that's the business development online programme. I used webinars to launch it, which I think are a great strategy and I still use them. I also hired someone who was supposed to be running Facebook ads for me. I've tried and failed in the past regarding Facebook, Google and YouTube ads.
I've hired people that haven't worked and haven't really listened, but this time I was recommended this person. I looked into them and they looked pretty good. They had these things they said made a lot of sense. They had some good recommendations on the website and things started pretty well. They were quite expensive, to be honest, but things started pretty well.
Though, there are a few little red flags early on, like they missed a few deadlines. They weren't good at communicating and I'd have to chase them. Then we got close to the launch and the campaign just wasn't delivering new people into the webinar, which was the purpose of it. Then, I sat down and had a debrief with this person, they were like, “Well, Rob, we've done this with so many clients. We've used the exact strategy with you and it hasn't worked, so I don't know why.”
Which is very frustrating to hear, right? As a customer, you don't want to hear that. You want them to give you some solutions and not just only say that it didn't work. Of course, they weren't interested in refunding any money. That was an expensive exercise in trying to shortcut a way of getting people to sign up for my webinar. That just didn't work. Also, I think on that note you just have to remember that there are no magic solutions and no quick wins. All these shiny objects are trying to distract us, but actually, they tried and tested things to work.
The next thing I want to talk about is my Frankenstein of a website. My website has evolved over time. It's partly hosted on WordPress and partly hosted on Kartra and sort of cobbled together, so the look and feel aren’t always consistent. Then, the sort of knife in my heart regarding the website was that I recently was talking to a prospect who was a referral and they said to me, “Oh, yeah, X person referred me and they said Rob is really good but don't look at his website because that's not a very good representation of him.”
I was like, ok. The client didn't tell me this, but the prospect did. Then, I dug a little bit deeper and by the way, the prospects become a client. I went and asked a couple of other people who I knew would be honest and they gave me sort of similar feedback that it's perhaps looking a bit tired and not consistent. That's something that I have got sorted out, which I'll tell you a bit more about as we get into plans for 2022.
The last thing that didn't go so well for me is that I started several projects that I was absolutely convinced with the right thing to do at the time, but then they sort of 40% of the way through, I realised this was not going to work, and it was a waste of my time. I think that reminds me and you of the importance of having a strategy and a plan before you jump into execution. Because I think a lot of time we need to make mistakes to remind us of what we already know.
I knew that's the case, but on these couple of projects, I just jumped straight because I was very eager to get going. I didn't really think it through, and then it sort of petered out and it didn't go anywhere. That was a waste of time and a bit of money as well. Those are some of the things that didn't go so well for me in 2021.
Then, let me just talk about the key learnings that I've got from that experience. First of all, there are no shortcuts. Every genuine, robust business development strategy delivers in the medium to long term. If you're looking for instant gratification, you're always going to be very disappointed even though people will promise you that. You need to invest the time so that you get the delayed gratification further down the road, and I've been reminded of that this year.
I also think another key learning is to really assess any vendors that you work with and any suppliers that you work with. Don't just take their word for it, or take the written testimonials on their website or a couple of videos they've got. Instead, do your due diligence and dig a bit deeper than that. Go and try and talk to some of their customers. Try and talk to more than one, if you can. I know that doesn't guarantee anything, but it means that you need to slow down speed up, my favourite expression. Due diligence first to get the right person on board.
The third thing is related to the first point, which is you need to keep focused and have your plan for the year. There were lots of shiny objects competing for our time, and there are no quick fixes. So, if you have a plan for the year, you focus on executing that plan and you really thought that plan through, then that's what you need to focus on. Anything that comes along that provides opportunities elsewhere, think very carefully whether you want to pursue them or not.
The last key learning, which is never a surprise for me, is that you should really keep a record of all the software and the app subscriptions that you have because I decided that I want to consolidate some stuff. I started trying to work out how much I'm spending on various annual subscriptions and It was really surprising.
I created my list and then a couple of other big costs came up of recurring subscriptions that had completely missed off that list. As you buy things, keep a list because sometimes you end up paying for two different services that are very similar, and you'll be surprised at how much money you're spending every year. I certainly was.
Let me share with you some of the things that I am going to do differently for 2022. Not surprisingly, one of them is I'm going to launch a new website. I've commissioned a web developer who started on the project now. I'll be moving the whole site back onto WordPress and creating a much more up to date look. Making it functionally easier to navigate. Also, consolidating some of my pages because I have lots of free e-books and guides.
I'm on a project at the moment to review and not update them. Decide whether some of them are still relevant or not. I'm not giving too much content out to the world. Not because I'm worried about giving too much away, but because I know when you offer people too many choices and options, they don't know and they don’t choose.
Then, you need to be much more guided. Look out for the new website and hopefully, people will look at it and go. Yeah, that's really good rather than saying to not look at Rob's website. That's one of the strategies that I am implementing in 2022.
Another one is streamlining my marketing. Keep measuring, monitoring and more streamlining. I'm going to be focusing on three (3) key areas in 2022. Cutting out some other things. First of all, I'm going to keep focusing on building and nurturing my email list because I get 80% of my business from that, and you should be doing that too.
I'm going to be focusing on my podcast. This is Episode 98 and I believe we're nearly in episode 100 which is a really exciting episode to lookout for. Also, I've been running the podcast now for two (2) years, and it's now got enough momentum that I'm getting 10,000 downloads a week of the podcast. It is a good reminder that you have to be in it for the long run. Slow and steady wins the race. We’re in a hundred episodes in 2 years, and it's taken that long to build that kind of audience up. So keep at it, is the message for all of these different marketing activities.
Then the third thing, I'm going to double down on creating and promoting YouTube content. My YouTube channel for Da Costa Coaching has been around for a long time. The contents are pretty good, but I haven't tried to optimise anything. I haven't really promoted the YouTube channel, and hence I haven't got a tonne of subscribers at the moment. But we're hoping to change that by making sure we're creating really focused content that's useful. Getting our tagging and our searching right. Also, promoting the channel as well.
Those are my three (3) focuses; the YouTube channel, my email lists and my podcast. I'm going to try and stop doing a lot of other things that I've been doing. The next thing I really want to do is to try and keep removing all the distractions and keep focused on the task at hand. I'm getting better at that and that’s definitely a journey that I need to go on. I need to practise all the things that I preach. Turn off the distraction to keep your email off when you're doing things like this.
Finish a task because it's quicker to do that than it is to get distracted. Remember, there's no such thing as multitasking and so on. To that end, one of the things that help with that is batching. That means, like setting up the studio and recording four (4) or five (5) videos or podcasts or writing three (3) or four (4) emails in one go. It is much more efficient. If you can spend the time planning that rather than do one then go and do something else. Then come back and do another one. I'm going to try and batch more in 2022.
Then the last thing, which isn't so much done differently but more of a focus. I want to make sure that I keep working on my four-day working weeks. I keep the Monday to Thursday time really efficient and get everything I need to get done in that time.
For me, as I say, my focus for next year will be on the mailing list growth, the podcast growth and YouTube channel growth. I will be focusing on just selling my three (3) programmes plus my private coaching. I won't be launching any more programmes because that's more than enough. I want to make sure I'm keeping adding content that is valuable to my audience in those programmes and keep members engaged, so they complete them as well.
Finally, I'm going to keep using webinars as a really good way of building credibility and authority with my audience, and making sales as well. Those are the kind of focuses for 2022. That's my honest review of my year. I'd love to hear what worked well for you and what didn't work so well for you. Also, what are you going to do differently next year?
I love hearing from you guys, so please do drop me an email and let me know. I hope this episode has inspired you. In fact, I hope all of the episodes throughout this year have been really useful in you; growing a sustainable, profitable and enjoyable agency.
As ever if you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review because that helps the algorithms show it to more people, which means I can help more people just like you. But other than that, have a great rest of your week and I will be back with you for the 99th episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.