The 4 Foundations of Building A Scalable Agency

It's worth revisiting one of our more popular podcast episodes because we all want to build our agency in a sustainable and profitable way. There are 4 foundations we need to focus on to achieve that. We dig into them in this actionable episode.

We can get seduced by so many ideas about how to build our agency because there are a lot of people out there telling you what you should be doing and that can be really confusing. We can end up being run ragged, pulled in 100 different directions implementing the latest idea or trendy strategy.

But at the end of the day, there are only four foundational areas you need to focus on to build a robust agency that you can then start scaling using three advanced strategies. So that is what we are digging into today.

Time Stamp

[00:00] Introduction

[01:12] The dangers of chasing shiny new objects

[01:51] The 4 agency foundations:

[02:17] Foundation 1: Knowing your audience - the importance of having a clear niche

[04:28] Foundation 2: Creating a clear living roadmap for your agency

[06:26] Foundation 3: Build a repeatable marketing system to generate a consistent flow of new leads

[07:45] Foundation 4: Convert your leads into loyal clients

[09:42] Growth 5: Client retention: How to maximise the value of existing clients

[10:13] Growth 6: Growing your team to get work off your plate

[11:21] Growth 7: Getting work off your plate and make yourself redundant!

[11:38] Grow

[13:20] Join me on my FREE LIVE Masterclass: Elevate Your Role to CEO (

[14:58] Avoid being a busy fool and focus on the things that move the needle


“n a recent poll I ran, 68% of respondents said they had one niche and 32% had several” - Rob Da Costa
“Make sure you focus your limited time on the hot prospects and not the time wasters.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

This week I'm delving back into the archives to play one of our more popular episodes and that's probably because what I share in this episode just hasn't changed and it's all about the key four foundations that you need to focus on if you want to build a scalable agency. There's no point just taking on more and more clients and bringing more staff on because ultimately, without these four foundations, your agency is going to fall over and it's going to be really stressful to continue growing your agency. So let's delve back into last year and dig into the episode of The Four Foundations of Building a Scalable Agency.

I'm Rob 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. I'm as guilty as the next person at easily being distracted away from the tasks that are going to move the needle for my business. We are, after all, bombarded by so many different things trying to get our attention, such as social media and so on. But the reality is, if you want to grow your agency and create a scalable business, then you need to get really disciplined and really focused. Yeah, it's quite simple because there are really only four foundational areas that you need to focus on in the first, say, three years of running your agency. And once you've put those scalable systems in place, you can then focus on the agency growth strategies. And there are three of those. So let me, first of all, outline the four agency foundations. These are the four areas that you need to focus on if you want to grow your agency in a scalable way that won't creak at the seams because you haven't put systems in place that are scalable, but rather systems that work for today but won't work for tomorrow. If you do that, you'll find a bunch of bottlenecks that get in your way and of course, one of those core bottlenecks is you. So let's talk about the four agency foundations and they start off with knowing exactly who your audience is. Now, it's worth saying at this point that the four areas I'm going to share with you are not groundbreaking because they're just foundational things that are maybe obvious, but a lot of agency owners skip these things because they're not the sexy trendy thing that they are being bombarded with every day. So the first area to focus on the foundation, number one, is knowing exactly who your audience is. And this starts off by having a clear niche. And then once you have a clear niche, understanding exactly who your ideal target customer is and what makes them tick. Now, I've spoken many times before about Niching. I'll put a link in the show notes to my Niching guide and also other episodes on Niching. But you know, I am a big fan on having a clear niche. Now, I think this is particularly important if you are just starting out because you might be kidding yourself that if I'm a generalist, I'll capture all the types of clients that I could possibly work with. But the absolute opposite is true, as you know. And you will find it really difficult to find clients because people won't understand what makes you different. And you will show up as a generalist, not a specialist. And at the end of the day, we will always pick a specialist over a generalist. And of course, you will also find it challenging to be profitable because a generalist is typically cheaper than a specialist. So foundation number one is knowing exactly who your audience is by starting off with a clear niche. Now, it's worth saying at this point that when I talk about niche, you really want to have one niche if you possibly can. I recently did a poll on LinkedIn asking people about their niches, whether they had one niche, many niches where they were a generalist, or whether they thought it wasn't relevant. And 68% of the audience said they had one core niche and 32% said they had several niches. But my advice to you is to start as narrow as you possibly can and broaden out over time. So if you possibly can have one niche to start with and then once you know that niche, you can then start to identify exactly who your ideal target customer is and what their pains are that keep them awake at night that your product or service can solve. So that is foundation area number one. And you need to start here. This isn't some random order, but it all starts by having a clear niche and knowing who your ideal target customer is. And then we can move on to foundation number two. And foundation number two is about having a clear, exciting, dynamic living roadmap for your agency so that you know where you are headed in the next year or so. And it doesn't matter whether you are one person or you have a whole team, you want to have a roadmap. And this is a good example of putting a scalable system in place because you might be thinking, Rob, I don't need a roadmap, I'm just trying to survive. I'm a one-person business and I don't need a roadmap after all, I'm just trying to survive. I'm just trying to get through the next year. But you absolutely do. And this is a good example of putting a scalable system in place. You need a roadmap for yourself and you will obviously get paid dividends with that once you start having a team and they buy into the same roadmap as you. Fundamentally, for many years, I've been a one-person business with a bunch of remote team members that I work with and I have always, always had a yearly plan for my agency. Now, I'm not going to go into what constitutes a great vision, but I do want to tell you that it's much more than just a finance plan. You need to look at your products and services, your team, your systems, your target market and so on in your vision. Now, if you've listened to the podcast for a while, you'll know that I always liken your vision to a journey and having clarity, obviously, to start with on where you're headed and what the destination is, but then breaking that down into saying what is the best way to get to that destination? Is it by car, by plane, by train, by foot, by bike? And then the specifics of that journey, like where we're going to stop, where we need to refuel, where we're going to eat, where we're going to stay for the night, which particular route we're taking, and so on. And that same concept works entirely for your agency as well. So whether you're a one-person agency or have a team, you need to create a compelling vision that stays alive and that you share with your team. And they are also excited to get to the same destination as you. So that is foundation area number two, which is creating your clear vision. Foundation number three is filling your funnel. And this is all about having a clear marketing strategy and plan in place so that you are consistently getting new leads coming into your agency every single day. Now, what's really important here is that you build a repeatable system, which again is why a lot of the trendy sort of coming and going ideas aren't really going to work for you. But those traditional ideas, such as building your email list, are absolutely non-negotiable and you should be doing that as well as picking one or two social media channels. So if you're in the B, two B space, it's likely to be LinkedIn and then actually using that in the correct way. And again, I'm not going to go into tonnes of detail here. There's lots of other podcast episodes that I've talked about, specifics around marketing, and of course, you can get lots of content from my website, from free training to guides and ebooks. So that is module number three. And this is all about getting enough of those ideal target customers that you identified in that no foundation to come into your agency. So you're starting to build no like and trust with them. And so this is about making sure that you have new leads coming in all the time and then you have a system to nurture them through your marketing funnel to the point where the sales conversations kick in and that takes us on to the fourth foundational model, which is all about winning new clients. So this is about converting those leads that you've generated in the Fill Your Funnel foundation and converting them into clients so that they are buying from you. And again, obviously, you want to have a system here that you can follow, that you can scale, that you can implement in a consistent manner. And so that is the fourth area, which is all about taking the leads that are coming into your agency and converting them into clients and making sure that you focus your time on the right high-quality leads and not on the info-gathering time wasters. Now, this is something that we really dig into in the self-running Agency Implementation Group, which is my mastermind coaching programme, which is just about to open for enrollment. So if you are interested in getting support from me and a bunch of other agency owners, then make sure you look out for that information. Because one of the things that I have seen a lot of agency owners suffer with is being run ragged, going on lots of prospect meetings that go cold very quickly and they find themselves wasting a lot of time and drinking a lot of coffee in the process. So you want to make sure that you are focusing your limited time on the hot prospects and not on the time wasters. So that is the fourth foundation. So those are the four areas that you need to focus on if you want to build a scalable, growing, profitable agency. So let me just recap. First of all, know your audience, so have a clear niche and identify exactly who your ideal target customer is. Again, we dig into that in the self-running Agency Implementation Group. Create a clear, exciting, longer-term vision that you've broken down into the midterm and the short term. Then put a marketing strategy in place to deliver your vision and bring in enough new leads coming into your agency. And then the fourth foundation is to convert those new leads into clients. And again, I teach all of this in the self-running agency. I just want to talk about very briefly the kind of growth phase. So those were the agency foundation phase and then there's three areas you need to focus on if you want to create consistent growth. And so, like the fifth area, if you like, or the first area of the growth phase is to retain your clients. So this is all about how to maximise the length of time a client stays with you, but also the revenue that they pay you. So this is about growing existing clients and keeping them for the long term. So that's the fifth area of agency growth, which is retention. Then the next area you need to look at is growing your team because you will quickly become the bottleneck if you're trying to do everything. And these days, when we talk about team. We are talking about many ways of filling that capacity. It could be that you hire full time in house staff. It could be that you hire part-time staff. It could be that you hire remote workers all over the world. Or it could be that you work with a freelance team. Now I don't think you can build a robust scalable agency solely on freelancers, but I do think freelancers have a great part to play when you've got capacity issues in your early days when you're trying to get more capacity and also when you need specialist skills that you don't want to have inside your agency. So for example, if you were a social media agency and a client asked you to help set up their Google Ads or some pay-per-click campaigns, then you may decide that that isn't a service we want to have in-house and that is a great time to hire a freelancer. So that is the 6th area or the second area of agency growth which is around growing your team. And your vision should be identifying exactly who and when you're going to hire these team members. And then the last area is kind of a summation or conclusion or a culmination of all the other six areas. And that is that once you have all of this in place, you can start to delegate the traditional day-to-day work that you did and almost make yourself redundant. Because now you find your role being elevated into that of more of a CEO and you're taking more of a high-level view of your agency and you're focusing your time on your superpowers and things that you're really good at doing, which is going to be around delivering that vision and creating that vision, and also around bringing in business. So that is the 7th area which is delegating your day-to-day. So that's it really. I mean, of course, what underpins a lot of what I've spoken about today are systems and processes and tech to support all of that. But fundamentally those are just the seven areas you need to focus on and make it even more simpler. You just need to focus on those agency foundation areas, those first four that I mentioned and you are going to be well on your way to building a self-running agency, building an agency that's less dependent on you and building a scalable and profitable agency. It really is that simple. We make it more complicated. We get bombarded by all these magic ways of growing an agency. We get seduced by those shiny new objects. Yet fundamentally these are just the things that you need to work on. How do I know that? Because those are the lessons I learned when I ran my agency and grew it to 25 people. And those are the lessons I've learned and seen my 350 plus agency clients learn over the years. And I've seen that the successful ones are all really focused on these areas. That's how I've managed to distil this into a success roadmap, an agency success roadmap that is fundamentally those seven areas. Now, obviously, in a 15-minute podcast, I am not going to be able to dig into any of that in any more detail and some of the other things that you need to think about if you want to elevate your role and grow your agency. But the good news is I am running a free live Master class that kicks off next week. I'm running it three times live. And it's called elevate. Your role to CEO and build a self-running agency. Three strategies to set your agency on autopilot. So I really hope you can join me for one of those. There are 60 minutes of value-packed information, plus the chance for you to ask me any questions. And we're going to dig into what I've talked about today in a tonne more detail. We're going to talk about some of the typical mistakes agency owners make, and we're also going to dig into some of the strategies. You can start to change that and we'll talk a bit more about what I've spoken about today, but in a lot more depth. So if you want to join that Masterclass, then just look out for the link below in the show notes. You just need to head over to Dacostacoaching. Co UK CEO Masterclass 2022 that is the Costacoaching Co. UK CEO Masterclass 2022. And you can save your seat. We're running it three times, so I hope one of the times and dates works for you and I will see you there. This is such an important topic. I know that you are busy, stuck in the day-to-day, stuck on the client service hamster Wheel of Doom, just trying to keep up with client demands and you don't have time to breathe, let alone think and plan. But I do think if you can allocate 60 minutes to this training, you will definitely leave thinking differently about your agency and have a few ideas and strategies that you can start implementing straight away. We all need to make sure we are focusing on the right things, otherwise, we are in danger of being busy fools. And no one wants to run a charity rather than run their own agency. So make sure that you are not only growing, but you are profitable and you are growing in a way that is aligned to your personal ambitions. And that's why having vision is so important. Anyway, enough about that. I hope you found today useful. Please do consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts. As ever, there's a link showing you exactly how to do that because that helps the algorithm. Show this podcast to more people just like you, which means I can impact more people, which is my goal with the podcast. But other than that, have a brilliant rest of your week, and I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Et. Narrator podcast.

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