The Challenges To Growing An Agency with Erik Huberman

What’s it like to scale an agency? And what challenges do you need to overcome?  That’s the topic of today’s podcast and I am joined by someone who is extremely qualified to answer these questions!  

Erik Huberman, CEO of Hawke Media and author of the brand new book, The Hawke Method.

Erik went from making only $350 his first year in business to growing and selling two successful companies.

Today Hawke Media is the fastest growing marketing consultancy in the US and has been valued at over $150 million with 250+ employees and offices across the world.

Erik was very generous in sharing the knowledge he has gained, the mistakes he has made and some key tips for planning your agency’s growth so grab your pen & paper, your favourite drink and let’s get on with the show.

Time Stamp

[02:30] Why and how Erik started Hawk Media and grew it to over 300 staff in 8 years
[03:25] Why so many marketers and agencies are not great at what they do
[06:25] What were your plans for growing the agency?
[07:00] Hawk Media’s most painful years
[08:30[ The importance of a simple business plan - use a scoreboard  - don’t overcomplicate things
[09:30] What are your next plans and how did Covid impact your plans?
[16:25] Key challenges and hurdles that get in the way to agency growth
[17:50] The importance of thinking of your agency as a SPORTS TEAM rather than FAMILY
[18:30] Don’t hire ahead (i.e. base recruitment on projections rather than actuals)
[19:15] Don't be the main salesmen as you grow
[21:00} How do you define success?
[23:45] Most successful business owners never sell their businesses! (so build a self-running agency!)
[24:50] The importance of work/life balance
[30:35] Don’t think of the challenges your agency faces as ‘difficult’ - it's an unhealthy way to look at your business!  
[32:29] Don’t get frustrated when your team don’t perform like you. They are not entrepreneurs!
[33:28} Erik's new book: The Hawk Method
[36:00] Don’t catastrophise the challenges your agency faces every day! Change your mindset from ‘problems’ to ‘challenges’


“99% of agencies and marketers have no idea what they are doing!” – Erik Huberman
“We were in our puberty stage as an agency - everything didn't quite fit! Every agency goes through this as they grow” – Erik Huberman 
“Think of your agency as a sports team, not a family” – Erik Huberman 

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 Full Episode Transcription

Hey everybody, and welcome to this week's episode of the agency accelerator. I'm Robert Da Costa, and this is the agency accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started growing and selling my agency, I know just how it feels during the ups and the downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing my and my guest experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business.

Today, we are talking all about the challenges of growing and scaling an agency and I am excited to have Eric Huberman with me. Now Eric is the CEO of Hawk media. And he's also the author of the brand new book The Hawk method, which I am super excited to read. Now Eric went from making any $350 in his first year of business, which I'm sure is something we can all relate to, to growing and selling to successful companies. And rather like me when Eric started, when I started my agency, Eric felt that he could do a better job of running an agency than others were doing at the time. And he also wanted to make sure that his agency was accessible to small businesses. So he launched media eight years later, and it's one of the fastest-growing marketing agencies in the US. And has been valued at over 150 million with 250 plus employees. So that's a pretty impressive quick track record. Eric, so first of all, welcome to the podcast. And thank you so much for giving up some of your time to chat with us today. Yeah, thank you for having me. Let me start by asking you a sort of a big broad question. Tell me about why and how you started your agency called Media eight years ago. Yeah, as you mentioned, I had built and sold a couple of companies and so I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. I was working frankly, on a tea company and I don't even drink tea, or caffeine just to get a cup of tea.

I mean, listen, I enjoy it. But caffeine doesn't sit well with me, but I thought there was an opportunity in the health and fitness space and tea. And I started working on that and was also consulting and advising a few brands. While I figured out what I want to do because frankly, I was being asked to come work for a bunch of companies and didn't want to take the job but wanted to help them anyways. So I was working with some bigger brands like Red Bull, Verizon, HP, as well as a lot of startups and just saw that some challenges I dealt with my brands were more prominent in the industry than I thought they were, which is about 99% of agencies and marketers out there has no idea what they're doing. Like many, many, many agencies are started by people that have never built a successful company. And there are many, many, many marketers that saw themselves as marketers that have never driven a successful company. And so they you know, they tout themselves as these God's gift to marketing and throw up short-sighted metrics to try to say that they're doing the right thing. And the issue is the customer, whether it's CEOs or other heads of marketing, don't know what they're doing either. And that's not their fault. Like if you're the CEO of a company, you might not be meant to be a marketer. So and then the few that are good and the 1% of marketers and agencies that are good, tend to quickly go upmarket and want to work with the bigger brands want to make more money, want to have long contracts, high minimums, all the things that make them hard to work with. And so the result is I found that there was inaccessibility to great marketing. And it frustrated me because it was something that affected me with mild companies. But it's also something that just didn't make sense to me to people that need marketing the most can't get it and so, after six months of messing around with those, I just went I'm just going to hire my little SWAT team. Still no plan to build a big company but hired seven people each with their expertise. So like a Facebook marketer and email marketer and web designer a fractional CMO, etc. and went back to the companies I was advising for and said, hey, it's all ala carte once a month cheaper than hiring in house. But the idea is we can spin up what we need when we need it, and ebb and flow as we need to and be flexible and the ideas will be accessible, but the best of what we do, and my original plan was maybe this will then parlay into being my team for my brand. And then after like a month, I realized oh wow, no people need this way more than I even thought they did. And it started to take off and from there. I just doubled down on it and it started to grow. So after seven people at the beginning of 2014, we ended 2014 with 17 people and it just scaled from there, frankly, and now I think we're about 320 even since you were sent that little piece of data.

Wow. So yeah, I mean, I think it's interesting, isn't it, especially in this day and age where you can be someone that studied a bit of social media or SEO or PPC or something and set yourself up as a marketing agency. And then I mean to do it and of course, like you say the clients that are buying you they don't understand this black, this sort of Magic Art. So they're relying on the sort of ability of the person and so it's kind of hard to separate the good from the bad these days. Yeah, that's exactly it. And it's just one of the only industries I've seen that I can manage hundreds of millions of dollars of other people's money and there's no oversight there's no test there's no certification. It's just I mean there are random certifications throughout the industry but no one looks for them. So it just it's a weird industry and I want to I wanted to create something where it was a well-known brand, but again, easy to work with so that we can solve that for small and medium businesses and we still work with a lot of the biggest brands out there. But that's not that is not the only goal. We want to work with All Brands, of all sizes and still maintain our accessibility. So tell me once you had got to seven people and you decided, okay, this is an agency this business model has legs. Did you have a sense that you wanted to get to 300 people by 2022? Or what kind of plan did you have at the beginning? Yeah, good question. I did set a plan up for the next four years of the business and it was a revenue goal and what it would take to get there. So it was I want to do 1 million the first year two and a half the second year, five, the third year and 10, the fourth year. I don't know where that came from. But that's what I weighed out and we came within 1% of every one of those goals. And frankly, one of the mistakes I made was I didn't look up to figure out what was next until we hit 10. I was so focused on we're just going to do this, that we had a couple I'd say the most painful years of the business for the two years after hitting $10 million. When we're I was like I don't know what to do now. Like I guess we go to 20 and then we didn't have 20 but we forecasted for it. And you know it turned into there was no real vision for the company and those years. You know, my favourite explanation of it. One of my friends came to work for us during that period. And he said we are in our puberty stage where like our body didn't quite fit our head and like it was just like everything was a little bit discombobulated. We were trying to hire executives but we couldn't quite afford it. We made no money those two years like we made a little bit of profit, but it wasn't anything meaningful. And for a bootstrap company, just to be clear, you lose money, you fail. So you do have to profit. And so it was a Yeah, it was an interesting time, but we had to work through it. And that's, frankly I look at almost we do a lot of m&a now and buying other agencies and I look at every agency and they all go through it at that stage like you that sort of 10 to $20 million range. It is really hard to help maintain an agency because you have to bring in infrastructure, you have to have HR you have to have, you know, some level of the executive team, but you don't have the revenue to afford. Yeah. And, interestingly, you said that your initial kind of goal was just revenue-focused.

And I always say to my clients look, a plan and a vision are a lot more than just revenue and people it's you know, it's about who you are. It's about the products and services you sell. It's about who sell them to it's about the systems and processes you need to support.

We have to simplify it though, to me, it's a scoreboard. Like if our revenues grow, we probably are picking the right assuming we're maintaining profitability to we're picking the right people, we're hiring the right people. We're taking care of our clients like we're month to month if we don't take care of our clients our revenues not growing. So it's all those things that go into that. So to me, I liked it like yes, these are there are a billion things that can go into it. But my view of at least our business and a lot of businesses I've run is it's way easier to overcomplicate than to simplify. And it's the same thing in writing too. You know, you talk about like writing a short story is a lot harder than a long story. Like, to me it's like what's the what, how do you distil it down to make it the most simple action items so that people can get their heads around it and start there. And then you get like, the more complicated you make it the harder it becomes for yourself to manage it as well. Yeah, that's very true. Because that's, you know, that's why infrastructures fail because they put so many complex systems and press exactly and enable them and they don't always understand why they're doing it. So if you've got what's your vision for Hawk media now moving forward if you're 300 people what's next is hold marketing world domination.

At this point, like it did take as I mentioned two years. So it was It wasn't until about the beginning of 2020 that I was like, This is what we need to do. This is what this business looks like. I have a vision now of what I want to do and really started marching towards that and then we started ramping up again. Of course, COVID started with a little bit of a step back because we had to change our client type. typology, not completely, but we lost about a quarter of our clients when COVID hit like right away two weeks, so we had to figure that out. But once we got through that, which didn't take that long because of the way we're built, then it's been, you know, a new vision of how we're building this business. And we've since then, opened offices in China, the Philippines, Canada, and the UK. We've expanded all across us we're fully remote. We do some of we bought agency so our agency in the UK as an office. Some of our subsidiaries have offices, but we're mainly remote with a partnership with which we work we've just found a new vision for this. We also closed our first venture fund during that time, started investing in all the marketing technology and E-commerce tech that we use. That went well. Now we've raised our second fund to be publicly announced soon but it is closed. So we have we tech star fund. We launched a financing arm and it became what's March all around this accessibility to great marketing for everyone. The idea being again, easy to work with best of what we do and how wide Can we go with that? And that's been a driving factor. Yeah, so I know in the book, you talk about pivoting, and you know that word that's been very overused in the last few years. But fin interesting to me that some agencies have thrived during the pandemic and some have disappeared and do not know what to do. So you said you reacted pretty quickly. What are the things that you did especially last quarter, for your clients? Yeah, so we lost a quarter of our clients and so the first thing I did was say, Okay, well, I don't want to fire someone in a pandemic like I don't know what this means for employment turns out it was the opposite but at the time I thought it was immoral if you didn't have to, to let people go if we had dropped 80% of our revenue. I don't think we would have had a choice obviously, but if we had the option to keep them so it was like alright, let's fight to keep our people what do we need to do with that? Well, 25% of our people are underutilized right now. Why don't we have them do some of our work, help us drum up some business, that kind of thing. So we created a board immediately with all the marketing initiatives we can use help on and a lot of people stepped up and jumped into helping on our marketing. So that was number one. Number two, we went proactive on that side. So we hosted I realized so all starting at the beginning of March of 2020, all these conferences I was going to all started getting cancelled. And so by mid-March when everything shut down, we were in the last week we were in the office, I was like there's everyone else is in the same position. We all have these conferences we're banking on to drum up business and networking and we don't have them. Why don't we throw a digital conference, throw up a Slack channel throughout the conference, etc? So April 7 of 2020 we through the quarantine conference, and I called in every celebrity or big name person I could to try to get them to speak and I got quite a few of them. And so we had like Daymond John and Anthony Scaramucci, and Dan price and Brandon Webb all these people that were really big names, talking about their different perspectives of how to navigate this situation. And Daymond John's great businessman Nancy Scaramucci. has been through a few things. But even Brandon Webb's famous Navy Seal, like from a military perspective, how do you navigate a crisis like this? And we had 4500 people I think it was a number it was over 4000 I think was 4500 people attending the session was a full day. And that our biggest event before that was 600 people that we had hosted. So like, blew it out of the water. And we did it in three weeks. And we did it for I think the whole thing cost me $10,000 But I'm pretty sure we raised 50,000 In sponsorships, so it was a huge success. For us not from financial, it's not a big deal. But more of like you know, this ended up every metric killed it. And it also set us as you know, sort of the wartime leader and I realized at that point, and like leading up to that there was a quick period where it was like we're all in this together period where everyone just wanted comfort and then people wanted information and knowledge and like what am I going to do about this? Like we can you know, wallow in it for a couple of weeks. And then what the hell are we going to do and that was like perfect timing, that we became a thought leader by association and by hosting it in the space that then everybody started. I mean, the phone was ringing off the hook. How do I navigate this? And so, in April, we dipped about 15% in revenue because that's when the loss of 25% of our clients hit but we had replaced 10% of them in April. By May. We recovered by June we had a record month.

There's a well more in that story, I think. And it's interesting that if there's one positive thing that comes out of pandemic taught is more efficient ways of working so yeah, like explain that that conference that you could reach so many more people than you would if it were in an in-person conference. And I think what I learned the most about that is we had an easy I'm just gonna be blunt like we did have a scary few weeks and then we were okay. I have a friend that had a chain of 25 gyms across Canada, Canada, I think still locked down. Like they don't know what to do with this thing. So Canada, he called me that week, the first weekend, whatever, march 15. And was like I'm not sure what to do is a friend and he decided within a few days, I've got like 400 full-time trainers. I've got a ton of clients all over the country. They all still need to work out and the trainers still need to train. I just charge them the same thing to do it virtually. So always revenue stayed intact, which is absurd. And so then he figured out a new business model that he's now scaled and raised money around. I think he's raised 2 million bucks. And he's built an eight-figure business around virtual training. Whereas I know of many other gyms that just shut down everything. So we had clients like this that like instead of trying to make a pivot and figure out how to adapt, they just stuck their heads in the sand. And so, to me, there's like a little bit of you know, Darwinism and survival of the fittest. But I don't know that fittest is easily defined anymore. I think there's an adaptability side of things that you just have to have in business because we talk about this all the time, whether it's COVID, whether it's trade wars, whether it's a world war, whatever it is. Or a local situation a riot or you put your own company getting sued, whatever that challenge is, they're always coming. And if you can adapt and shift and change and you know, play with it, well, you're going to fail. So I will just be ready for that and understand that that is the job of a business owner. Yeah, I was just talking to a client this morning and they just had their technical director resigned after being with him for 11 years and they've just recruited two other people then someone else has resigned and I was like guys, this is business as usual. It might not feel like it right now. But it is the nature of running your business. So if you can cast your mind back to the early days because a lot of our listeners will be those sort of small to mid-size agency owners. Talk us through some of those key challenges and hurdles and blockages that got in your way sort of help some other agencies that offer similar challenges.

Yeah, a few things. One, I think one of the biggest things we did wrong and those again I always point back to those two years was that 2018 and 19. Because it was you know, what felt like the rough times at Hawk media we had outgrown a lot of our team. And so we had people that did not want to like we were again we hit that 10 million mark, which was all we talked about. We didn't talk about the money we just talked about it. Like we got to get to these numbers, we got to get to the size like and then it was like Well, that's what I signed up for. I guess we're done like what you know, and so then visions got convoluted and like we had different executives that have been there since the beginning that was like I don't want to build a big business. I don't want to have hundreds of people like this sucks. I would I want to go back to 15 people and see if those people challenges and what I found is every time you double the business, you outgrow its infrastructure. And that doesn't mean that people can't come along and you know, flex into the next position. But a lot of people can't. A lot of some people can but a lot of people can't and so you end up outgrowing a lot of your team. And so, we also like a lot of small businesses. We've thought of our team as a family, and we have to keep the family intact. We evolved that thinking from family to team sports team kind of analogy, or it's like you love them, you have their back. You know we're all wearing the same jersey, but you also have to mutually perform, you're relying on that person to do well. If they can't, they've got to be off the team. No hard feelings, but that's part of it too. And so recruiting the best continues to build for what you're trying to get to. That's super important. Maintaining your profit. Again, I'm talking to agency owners that aren't raising money. And frankly, if you're an agency, don't raise money, don't get that like you're mismanaging it if you need to either.

And so, with that one big mistake we made was hiring ahead, basing our hiring on our projections, not our actuals it's much easier to make people work a little harder and flex when you're, you know, a little understaffed, then that'd be overstaffed and trying to keep above water. So that was a huge mistake we made for a while that we just kind of churned we just sat there you know, sort of hamster wheeling our business. were like yeah, we made revenue but we couldn't profit at all, which meant we couldn't invest in more growth. It was not a good situation.

And so that was a big learning. Early on, I think one of the biggest learnings I had someone told me that at least for the first two years, I'd be the main salesperson. And in my case, that was three and a half.

So three and a half years in, I was doing is still driving. We had three salespeople, and I was still personally driving 85% of revenue. And I realized that was not scalable. Now, keep in mind at that point, we were at the point I realized this was about a $7 million run rate. And I was driving 85% of it and then finally I went okay, I can't grow past this. I've kept myself out. I now have to figure out how to scale better than this. And so there's a lot longer story to this, but I was sort of motivated and you call it inspired to make that shift and that's when I stepped out of sales started pushing all the weeds that I was getting to my team. And we dipped in revenue for a couple of months, but then came back and I watched it closely. So it was a little nerve-wracking. Like I think it's gonna be okay, but let's watch this and then we got it going. So that was a big step. And then you just again, every time you double, you have to relook at the business and go okay, so we're in a new phase. What do we need to change? What are we doing and decide also, when to take those steps and growth? Because I think the other thing is, growth is expensive. So I've sacrificed profitability in exchange for growth because that's what drives me and that's what I want to do. That's not for everyone. You don't have to do it that way. And which frankly, brings up I think, the most important point, which is building your business for what you want, because we talked about self retention as the most important part of this. Like, whatever you're trying to build like you need to make sure that you enjoy it. You want to do it. You wake up in the morning ready to work because if you're having to deal with things you don't want to deal with, you have to do things it's not going to stay and it's also not going to grow because you're not going to be passionate about driving it forward. The moment you get to check out you check out as opposed to no I have more work to do. I want to keep doing this. I get to do these exciting things and you got to keep it exciting and fun and engaging for yourself. Yeah, that's such it's really interesting because one of the questions I just wrote down as you were talking, which you kind of answer was how do you define success? Because I think in the early days, a lot of agency owners will define success by money but it isn't always I know and I've said this, I got quoted on a podcast that has gone kind of viral which is interesting about I've done a lot of research on like, what does it take financially to get to a point where it's like, you're good. And it's somewhere between one and 2 million bucks a year. Every wealthy person I know gives off that one to 2 million and that's like kids in private school private jet vacation homes like and then at that after that it's just a bigger plane a bigger boat or a bigger house or more houses like or more of any of those like that's it like they're your lifestyle, you're going to the restaurants you want to go to you're travelling where you want to go to so money like there is a threshold don't get me wrong, making one to $2 million a year that a lot of money. But when people hear about 10 million 50 million 100 million like that money, then it just becomes a different challenge of what do you do with the money, honestly, and if you're responsible, you're not blowing it. Like there's a little bit of a flash culture to that I think is ridiculous. But that quick, that sort of goal of success gets accomplished quickly and then the money is just it becomes a number in your bank account. And it does. It's not liberal. And the more money you earn, the more stress you create for yourself because you got to keep earning it for you and your team, I guess on the revenue side of the business. Yes, but in terms of personal wealth, it's just another thing I get it's literally like I watch I have friend multi-billionaire friends. You go to the same restaurants, we drive the same cars we travel the same like it's not a there's not much of a difference. They might again, they might have their jet and it might be bigger, but it's not. It's not that big a deal. And so, to me, success is more about being able to do what makes you happy and having the freedom to do what you enjoy. And I feel that like part of that quote that was happening is like the reason I did this is that I been offered to sell my company for a lot of money more money than my grandkids would ever need. That the interest in the worst-case scenario is going to make more than 2 million bucks a year. So it's like that. Okay, so if that's the case, do I want to do it because I already make good money? Do I need money for anything? The answer was no. And it's a weird thing to say but then it becomes Okay, so what do I want to do? Well, I like growing and building this company. I like serving our clients. I like building a place where employees can thrive like this is very rewarding for me. And I would be doing this regardless of how much money is in the bank. And so do you think you've learned that through the wisdom of experience of building businesses before? Did you know that from the beginning, right when you were starting your first business? No, I think I learned that from this business. I think if you're like I even in 2018 When we were through that, you know, painful part. I looked at selling the business and was like what does it what's out there didn't like what I got offered, but that started me on the path of like, then the issue is part of the issue I think is we live in a world where that celebrates exits and selling your business. And so every business owner thinks that that's the point. And you realize that the richest people in the world never sold their business. It might have brought on investors or IPO but they still run it known it. I'm talking Bill Gates, Steve Jobs.

You know, Tim Cook, but he's not the founder, but Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison like these are the richest people in the United States. So even Warren Buffett, he sells things but he owns Berkshire Hathaway so like, the richest people in the world, stick with it, and all of them and it's one of those things where you look at that and go okay, so that's the path. If you can find something that is sustainable, which goes back to the first point, which is you've still you've got to build it, that that's what you would want to do. And so part of that we got offered to sell the business a year in and we decided not to and my partner and I discussed okay, if we're not going to sell, what are the things we would do if we did sell so we can make this a marathon, not a sprint that we're like not waiting to like, we got to get out of this in four years. So we can do X why don't we just do x now. And for me, it was travelling at the time. This is again, seven years ago, I wanted to see the world. So I was like I'm gonna do two or three cool trips, 10-day trips that take out five days, you know, weekend a weekend kind of thing. I'm gonna do that three times two to three times a year. I'm gonna go somewhere cool, and he wanted to play golf. every other Wednesday morning. I became a really good golfer, by the way.

And we did it and so then it was like when we got off other offers, it was like, Why, what then why? I don't need to I don't want to travel more because frankly, even those trips by the end of them I'm always like, Alright, I'm ready to go back to work. This has been enough. So what's the point? And so then I knew that I wanted this to be a platform to be able to do things like you mentioned the book and launching this book that's coming out and doing all these different things that I get to do spec learning, m&a, expanding internationally, running a venture fund all these amazing things that's what drives me is I want to get the most out of life personally. Professionally, I can't I want to experience everything, find my hobby junkie, I got my pilot's license recently. I snowboard all the time I do all these other things. And then with business, it's like okay, so now I've learned how to do business here. What do we do next? What do we break next? And I love that and it's because it also drives the growth of the business. But it also frankly, makes it we're constantly managing Growing Pains would be the best way to put it. You know, it's because I'm always throwing new wrenches in it. We bought an agency in Canada and after buying them realize that our payroll company didn't serve international employees so we had to scramble and figure that out we're still fixing it with the employees who got paid but we wouldn't have had to wire the founder money into his bank account to pay the employees for months while we figure out how to fix it. These are things that I enjoy as weird as that is. I like the challenges of growth. And so I'm constantly seeking those. Yeah, it's such good advice. I think a lot of people think that the ultimate definition of success is selling their business but when you're selling a service-based business, you have to be honest about what it's worth. And you know, I sold my agency and I was tied into a very unpleasant two-year urn out with the big balls and you know, I kind of feel like if I could give my if I could go back and tell myself something different. I'd say, Rob, don't sell it, bring the management team to run it for you and give you the space to do the things that you want to do. But I didn't know anything that I know. Now, this is going back sort of to the early 2000s. So on that side, and I think again, if the education in the market wasn't you have to sell it, you keep it for 50 years, you would have naturally come to that conclusion of like, oh, I have to bring in a team and scale that because this is not I'm not going to do this the whole time. So that's part of it. And I also so I'm in an organization called YPO. That's called Young Presidents Organization. It's a lot of very successful people and a lot of other sorts of entrepreneur groups have a lot of friends that have sold their business. And this is part of like you asked Where did this come from that I learned this impasse businesses I think this is probably the number one place I've run it that almost scares me as I watched tons of them sell their business, and then spend years not quite depressed but bored. And just trying to figure out and throwing shit at the wall to try to find the next thing. But the thing is if you've sold a business, let's say for $200 million, your next thing can't be a local coffee shop. You've got to figure out something that's going to be a win beyond that to get that satisfaction out of it. And so they start trying these crazy harebrained ideas that are all over the place that have nothing to do with their in their last is kind of how it looks. I'm not saying everyone there are plenty of people that sell their business like I want one of my favourite ones here is on my podcast Movement Watches. That's one of the founders Jake Kass and he was like I focused for a few years on my financial well being. I'm just focusing on my well being so he's like meditating, taking yoga working out all the time. Like he's like I'm gonna get an incredibly healthy state, like mentally physically. And that like when you have a purpose after the sale I think that's great, but if you're selling for the sake of selling I think you end up losing a lot. Yeah, and I can completely relate to that. I always say that once I'd sold my business it was probably meant mental health-wise is probably the worst time in my life because I just lost a sense of who I was and what my purpose was. And I didn't have a clear plan. So my advice when I'm working with agencies who want to exit is you have to have a really good succession plan. You have to know what you're going to do next. You have to be motivated to achieve that thing not just to achieve the sale because you'll probably be disappointed with it, you know what you get from it. I just wanted that. One thing. I think it's key to remember that a person buying your agency is assuming they will make more money off buying your agency than you're selling it for. That's the point. So if you could do that yourself, do you have a better place to spend your time or money like Are you done and that's a total respectable thing if you want to eat it, whether it's retired, you're just done with running an agency I get it. Like it's a nightmare sometimes. So like that's too but then I think yeah, having that alternative because the alternative is just doing nothing gets old real fast for someone that's, you know, sort of ambitious enough to build an agency. Yeah, good. I could talk to you about this for ages. I just wanted to wrap on a couple of things that to reinforce. One is this kind of concept of a family in a business and often people are very proud to say that we have this family culture. And I'm always saying that's unhealthy because when you think about dysfunctional families, that's what you end up in your agency. So I like the sports team analogy. That's a much healthier way of looking at it. And I just want to ask you one other question. You talked about three and a half years in and you were still driving the sales. And I think this is something everyone can relate to. But I think sometimes people no matter what they try to do find it difficult to extricate themselves from either the sales or from even some of the client work because the client expects them to be on their accounts. So what, in a nutshell, how did you extricate yourself? Well, let's start by getting away from the word difficult.

It's just it's not a productive word, what are the challenges? What are the actual roadblocks that stopped you from doing it? Because everyone's I'm gonna say everyone's different in that sense for me. I had three decent sellers I had already built that I already had started to try to hire. And I had to figure out how to get them as productive or close enough to me that I didn't have to do it. And so what I realized first was training them obviously and getting them up to speed and making sure that they could close at a decent rate and getting them to generate their own business. And this is a lot longer explanation. I'll try to bust through it. Then it was figured out that I was getting the best leads because it was my network sending me introductions and things and I'd build a really good partnership network. And so if I'm going to eject out of it now that I know they can close business, I need to give them the business to close. So I started giving them my leads. And then you realize salespeople aren't going to just replace you, meaning a salesperson isn't going to go drum up their own business, build their partnerships, do business development and close deals. And so then you start to divide the job up into multiple parts and so you create a closer you create someone that's prospecting, you create a partnerships person, you start to split the job up, which is pretty much every facet of the business, you get more and more siloed on what the job does. So you can create predictability. And that was the part that we learned on sales. That was probably one of the bigger hurdles that again, it's been years now. So it took three I didn't remember it, but it was Oh salespeople. aren't going to go drum up their own business, build partnerships closer, like you need to just say close the business. You're getting like that, you know, make it focused in that sense.

Yeah, that's good. Sorry to spring that question on you at the last minute you've answered that succinctly. And I think that's the mistake that a lot of entrepreneurial owners make. They get frustrated when everybody doesn't behave as they do. And I always say, Well, if they were as entrepreneurial as you they go off and run their age. Exactly. We used to my favourite wine. I love to say that when we were like six months and we had a great girl that ran our Mina department for like six years. I was talking to her and she was always just great. Like she was really, to the point smart. And I was like, you know, Marissa how do we just get our people to be more entrepreneurial? And she looks at me, she goes, I work for you. I'm not an entrepreneur. What? Like that's about as fair of a point as you can make. But if you as an entrepreneur, and she became one, which was awesome. It was a great point. It was poignant because that is I think a lot of early-stage founders fall into that, like, Why can't everyone just roll up their sleeves and figure it out? It's like, well, then they'd be your competitor as we speak your book. Is just being published, I think, and hopefully, a copy is winging its way to me but tell us quickly about

the hawk method.

Yeah, so again, shout out about the hawk method. We've run over 3500 brands at this point, we have a methodology that we use to analyze and figure out what to focus on their marketing and I realized I started getting asked to speak a lot of different conferences over the past you know eight years and talk to a lot of CEO groups on how to look at marketing and you realize back to the reason I started the company most people have no idea how it just general marketing plan works. And so I we have a framework that we teach our people that we train on that we've been successful in utilizing that I got approached two and a half years ago by someone that's become a friend to that ran a book marketing agency and said, Hey, have you thought about putting out a book? And funnily enough, I had, I had written a book, but I didn't like it. And I didn't want to put it out there. It wasn't this. It was a book about doing business without being greedy. I just didn't like how it turned out with a writer I was working with. And so I told them like I think it would be interesting to write a book about our Marketing methodology. And he we spent, you know, six months putting it together and writing the book together. And he helped me a lot in how to structure it, how to put it together. I had the content doing it and talking about it all the time. And then we edited it together and then built a marketing plan and found a publisher and did the whole thing. So two and a half year project, but we're excited because it serves the exact mission of the company which is accessibility to great marketing like now, we're able to give a book that's like here's how it works like we can do it for you. But if you want to go dive in yourself, go do it yourself. Here you go or not, at least you understand what we're doing or whoever you're hiring for marketing which is I think the biggest problem is the people hiring agencies and the people hiring marketers. They're not marketers, so they have no idea how to manage or how to even check if the person is doing the right thing. And that's what the books about is. This is the basic framework to understand marketing.

Well so listeners if you want to learn more about the book and dig deeper into obviously what Eric and I have been talking about today, then grab a copy of it. I'll make sure we include a link in the show notes. So the very last question that I asked all my guests as if you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice just starting in business, what would it be?

Yeah, it's and I mentioned a little bit this but the biggest piece of advice I got that I try to give everyone now is as a business owner. So there's just a quick story, big month in the business. I had this like what felt like a catastrophic event that I was maybe going to lose the whole business and long story but I Frank called my dad who was an entrepreneur and told him the whole story was like five-minute diatribe about oh my god, this is all going on data. And he's listening and then at the end of the night, you know, rant, he goes, Yeah, that shit happens all the time. I gotta run talk to you later and hangs up on me. I thought my world was ending and apparently that shit happens all the time. I didn't learn that lesson for three more years or so. But you realize, as a business owner, you're going to deal with the biggest problems of the business, any problems that the rest of your team can't deal with are going to fall on your plate. And so that is the job especially if you're trying to build something bigger or grow you're going to be constantly mentioned the, you know, paying the employees that weren't an issue like we figured it out right away. No one, it wasn't a big deal, but like, those are gonna pop up daily, like you're gonna have someone's gonna sue you at some point. someone's like, it's just welcome the United States at least as it sucks, but these things are all going to happen. And you're gonna have to deal with them. And so I've learned that once you accept that and you also accept the fact that you chose to be a business owner. It's not You're not forced into it. Everybody that says, Oh, I could never work for someone else. Yes, you could. Like so it's not it's an option. And once you accept that this is here, you're here by choice so you have all the power. And the job that you chose to do is dealing with the biggest problems of a business on an ongoing basis forever. I used to forget, as it took me a while to realize like the biggest companies in the world are dealing with antitrust law, wars, and all sorts of crazy stuff that affect your business when you're on a global scale. Like my problems are nothing compared to theirs and so there's no finish line. It just keeps going and once you again accept that and realize that and change your mindset from problem to challenge, like it's another challenge, you're going to have to deal with it. Then and you're doing it by choice. The whole thing just becomes more fun. Because then when these things pop up, you're like yeah, what do we can do about it? Right? Like this is how it is like let's fix it like it's just become like solving another puzzle versus like, Oh my God because I think we're biologically wired that our business being threatened is like our life is threatened. I've read things about this. So when you have that immediate almost fight or flight response when something's attacking your business, but when you take yourself out and go, no I could, I could walk away from this anytime. Maybe it's not the right thing to do. But you could just tomorrow decide I'm not doing this anymore. And so you have the choice to be here. Understand that choice. Understand that this is what you signed up for and then attack and I think it just becomes a lot more fun that way.

Yeah, I mean, mindset. Having the right mindset is such a big part of success, isn't it? So love that I haven't had anyone say that before. So, Eric, I appreciate your time today. If people wanted to find out more about you and your business, where would they go? What are the best contact details at or slash arc Obermann on any social channel? Super easy to find me.

Okay, fantastic. Well, we will include all of those links in the show notes. And once again, thank you so much for sharing such wisdom with us in a short time today. The listeners will find this super useful. Yeah. Thank you for having me.

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