The Power of Pause: Using Sabbaticals To Elevate Your Marketing Agency With Alyson Caffrey

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Welcome back to another episode of The Agency Accelerator! In this week's episode, our host, Rob Da Costa, sits down with the brilliant Alyson Caffrey, founder of Operations Agency. Together, they dive deep into the strategies and techniques that agency owners can implement to build a self-running agency, ensuring its success even when they take a much-needed sabbatical.

Alyson shares her invaluable insights on professionalising operations, creating systems and processes, and streamlining backend operations. She introduces her game-changing Sabbatical Method and Operations Simplified Framework, which empower agency owners to strategically utilise rest to grow their businesses.

Join us as we explore the significance of documentation, the power of consistent project management, and the role of data in overseeing progress and ensuring processes are followed.

Topics Covered In This Episode:

[00:00] Alyson Caffrey from Operations Agency discusses how to professionalise your operations and implement systems and processes that will allow you to take a sabbatical from your agency. The aim is to build a self-running agency that doesn't rely solely on you!

[04:33] Don’t be your own capture, know that you can take time off and get good boundaries.

[08:27] Agency owners struggle with perfectionism and trust which leads to poor delegation. Instead of selling their time, they should focus on creating core processes and delegating tasks to their team. 

[13:13] At what stage in an agency’s evolution should you start to document your processes?

[18:10] Keep adding to your processes to build a solid foundation for your agency

[22:55] Being numbers-driven and metrics-focused is crucial. Metrics provide insights and inform operational changes. Key metrics create structure and momentum.

[25:34] What tools and apps does Alyson recommend to support systemisation

[29:46] If Alyson could go back in time and give her youngerself, just starting out in business, a piece of advice, what would it be?


“We will have to take some time off at some point, so focus on building your business to support this rather than panicking because you're being forced to take time off.” — Alyson Caffrey
"I always say that finances tell us the truth and operational key performance indicators tell us the narrative in between the truths.” — Alyson Caffrey
“Taking action is better than waiting for perfection.” — Alyson Caffrey

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 Full Episode Transcription

Rob Da Costa [00:00:00]:

What would happen if you were away from your agency for an extended period of time? Would it survive and thrive? Or would it fall over because everything is dependent on you and everything is still in your head? Well, that's the topic that we're digging into today with my guest, Alison Caffrey from Operations Agency. We're going to dig into how to professionalise your operations and how to get the systems and processes in place so that if you chose to, you could take a Sabbatical away from your agency. So, fascinating topic coming at the idea of building a self-running agency like I talk about all the time, but from a slightly different angle. So let's jump into today's episode. 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. Hey, everybody, and welcome to this week's agency Accelerator Podcast. And I wanted to kick things off today by asking you a question. What would happen if you took a Sabbatical from your agency? Would it survive or would it fall over? That's what we're digging into today, how to professionalise your operations and how to get the right systems and processes in place to build an agency that allows you not to be involved in every single step of the way. And to explore this topic, I'm really excited to be joined by Alison Caffrey. Now, Alison is the founder of Operations Agency, an operations consulting and implementation firm. And over the past five years, Alison has helped founders and their teams to streamline their backend operations, to achieve their growth goals and to create more peace in their workday. Now, Alison has developed the Sabbatical Method and the Operations Simplified Framework to help owners use rest strategically and grow their businesses. So I hope that was a decent introduction, Alison, and welcome to the show.

Alyson Caffrey [00:02:13]:

Thanks, Rob. It was lovely. And sometimes when I hear some of the things that were involved in read back to me, I'm like, oh, who is that person? I guess that sounds pretty fun. Good.

Rob Da Costa [00:02:23]:

Well, one of the reasons I was interested to have you on the podcast is because you and I sort of approach the same concept from a different perspective. So I have a book and a coaching programme called the Self Running Agency, which is aiming to achieve the same goals as you. I e systemize your agency so you, the owner, don't have to be chained to it. Talk about the Sabbatical method. So can you briefly explain to us what is the Sabbatical method and how it can benefit small to mid-sized marketing agencies?

Alyson Caffrey [00:02:56]:

Yeah, absolutely. So the Sabbatical method is at its core function, a forcing function to professionalise your operations at your agency. And so I have been a part of, and really, honestly just been tapped on the shoulder by small agencies who the owners. I mean, they can't even take a weekend. They can't even take a week off with their families. And so what I started asking is, well, what would happen if we made that a core function of how your agency operates? What would need to be true, right, for you to be able to create some of these boundaries inside of your personal life? And so what I really created was a way to really give your agency some micro hits of rest or time without the founder to really uncover where some of those operational inefficiencies are and where the knowledge in your core team lacks. So we really go through the process to help not only create more boundaries between the owner and the business, but also to create more power, more autonomy, and more confidence behind the scenes with the team that's supporting them.

Rob Da Costa [00:04:01]:

Great. So that sounds really good. And I'm sure a lot of people will be nodding their heads when you said, well, they can't even take a weekend off or they're working super long hours. So this is a big bowl of spaghetti. That's how I like to liken it with clients. Where do you even begin with this? So you go to meet a client, and they're telling you that they are working for a much tougher boss now than they did when they were an employee. And they wish they could take time off, but they can't. So how do you even begin to unravel that?

Alyson Caffrey [00:04:33]:

Yeah, I think first and foremost, we need to understand I love the kind of beginning of the picture you've painted, that we are our captor and we hold the keys, right? This is our business. And I think that's one of the reasons why we're so challenging to ourselves is because we know that we're ultimately responsible for getting things done. But I think what the first game we need to play is the mental game of I can take time off. Right. Other things just need to happen, but I can do this. I really can commit to closing my computer at 06:00 p.m. And not reopening it back up at 10:00 to work into the wee hours of the morning. I can take a weekend off, but what I need to do is I need to be in tune with what kind of falls behind the scenes, falls apart behind the scenes. And I need to be committed to creating some systems because I know a lot of agency owners, especially my creative agencies and my web agencies, they'll say, oh, well, I'm not a systems person, or I can't do processes. And the really interesting thing is that we can. We just need to create some real consistency and real momentum in the right direction. And I think a Sabbatical is really great because it really does help you. And you don't need to take a full month off of your agency. This isn't what I'm recommending. Right. We need to start with small things, right? So even just creating the boundary around closing the computer at 06:00 p.m, or creating the boundary around taking the full weekend off, then when you come sit down on Monday, block out about an hour at the beginning of your day to take a look at, well, what fell apart behind the scenes? And how can I change my working style today to accommodate educating my team on how they can solve those problems without me? So typically what I'll recommend is just starting to record your screen at this phase, right? If you're in a position where you're a digital agency owner and you have a small team supporting you, one of the best things you can begin doing right away is just recording your screen while you're doing tasks and start to centralise your internal knowledge base so that when you are away and something comes up, maybe there's a client emergency. Or maybe somebody needs to get onboarded into one of your core services. Someone can open up this knowledge base and say, oh, great, I understand how Rob would do that. Now I'm going to go do it. And so it's really, I think, helpful to build that muscle before it needs to exist. I was actually reading something recently that said you need to take a rest, and if you ignore it for too long, it'll usually come at a really inconvenient time. I don't know about you guys, but we're all people, we're all human beings. We're going to have something that pulls us away from the business really urgently, and we don't want to have the additional mental weight of everything falling apart behind the scenes so that we can tend to things in our personal life or in some other area of who we are. And so I think creating some of these systems not only allows you to unleash the power and autonomy of your team, it creates a peaceful work environment behind the scenes. But if we need to deviate our attention to something else or if we want to focus on a new project, it gives us the opportunity to really embrace that opportunity.

Rob Da Costa [00:07:29]:

So good and so true. And I really like the kind of big context or the big framework of saying taking a Sabbatical. And as you say, it doesn't necessarily mean taking a month off. It just means being able to take some time off. And I also like the fact that you're saying, look, we will have to take some time off at some point, so be in control of what's going on in your business rather than panicking because you're being forced to take time off. How do we reconcile? This is something that I see. I think we start our own business, I think for three reasons. We want control, we want flexibility, and we want freedom. We probably want control because we didn't have it in our past job. But sometimes control and flexibility and freedom are almost at the opposite ends of the scale, aren't they? So I think by definition, entrepreneurs and agency owners are quite controlling people. So I guess do you start with their mindset before you even start trying to tackle any of the actual physical systems that they might need to document?

Alyson Caffrey [00:08:27]:

Yeah, I think one of the biggest things I tackle with, especially my small agency owners, because they're usually involved in a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, their name is tied to a lot of the outcomes that they're getting with their clients. Sometimes their clients are texting and calling them and they're the main point of contact. Right. And what ends up happening is they end up suffering from this lack of momentum in creating processes and creating systems because of their perfectionist tendencies. And what happens is they'll jump over team members who were tasked with creating some of these outcomes to say, no, I can do it faster, I can do it better. And there's a lot of things going on inside of the mind of the entrepreneur there. Right. We think that our reputation is on the line or if we don't do this, then the client won't value it as high. And one of the biggest things that I encourage my small agency owners to really consider is that not only are we in a position where we are really showing that we don't trust our team if we jump over their heads to get the result, we can't really build them up as a confident, autonomous team member. That's the first thing. And the second thing is the clients that we're working with if we can position outcomes, value-driven outcomes in front of them and not your time, this is going to be the way that your agency is able to basically grow and scale long-term. Right. If we are selling just the founder's time and just the founder's outcomes, we're going to limit the growth of our business to the amount of time and capacity that the founder has. And if we continue to work into those wee hours of the morning and over the weekends and don't take any breaks and all the things, our business and our founder are going to run right into the ground. So the best thing to do in service of a growing business and to be able to impact the folks that you want to impact is to start to create core processes behind the scenes for how you serve clients and sell that instead. Don't sell the time. Sell your intellectual property of this is how I get results for clients, or how I've done this, and I've trained a really capable team on how to do this. The tactical way that I actually really start to work on this with my agency owners is I say, hey listen, delegation 100% is a complete pipe dream, right? We can't clone ourselves, we can't get somebody to do the same exact work that we do, but we can get pretty dang close, right? We can get 80% of the way there, 90% of the way there. And try to consider that as we're beginning to work the muscle of Delegating and putting things into the hands of our team to get results on our behalf, that even some momentum in the right direction is really great. So if we want to get 30% of something off of our plate and then we come in and take it the rest of the way or if we want to get something half off of our plate right there's iterations of how this can work really well. And we don't need to just jump into the deep end metaphorically on trusting somebody implicitly with all of our best stuff.

Rob Da Costa [00:11:18]:

Now, if I could give you a physical high five, I think I would because you're definitely singing off the same hymn sheet as me. I always say that entrepreneurs and agency owners are amazing people that got their business so far, but in the end, they become the roadblock and they have to find a way of getting out of the way. And part of it is that everything's in their head, so they have to start documenting it. And the whole concept around selling value and not time is so important. I'm amazed. In a recent report, I saw that 40 something percent of agencies still sell time to clients. And I mean, it's a whole other topic. Time is not what clients are buying. They're buying outcomes. They're buying how can you solve my pain and not how long will it take to solve my pain? So I also think that clients are buying process because when a client feels that you have a robust repeatable process that takes him from A to Z and the Z is the solution, then they're going to feel really confident in that. And of course, as an agency owner, if you have done what Alison said and documented your processes well, now you can train other people. So you can start trusting that the work will be done to a good enough level to not damage your brand and to keep the client happy. They may not do it as well as you, they may not do it as fast as you. But that's always the wrong question to ask. I always say the question you need to ask yourself is will it be done well enough? And if they're following a process, then it definitely will be. So you are saying all the things that I say, which gives me confidence that I'm saying the right things. Now, some of the people who are listening to this podcast will probably be sole solopreneurs or with an Aspiration to grow their agency. So what advice would you give them? At what stage in their evolution should they start thinking about actually doing this and documenting these systems and processes?

Alyson Caffrey [00:13:13]:

Yeah, I think if you're a solopreneur or freelancing at this moment and you're selling some repeat projects consistently right, so you have the same offers, I would start to document some of those things. And even, I mean, I think, like, phase one of documentation is absolutely getting your screen recorded. We live in a wonderful digital age where we can start to compile basically courses based on internal knowledge, right? What we're doing behind the scenes, and something I'll encourage folks with is that just like everything worth doing in life and in business, everything will be iterative. Right? You'll build on this over time. You'll build this muscle you need to continue to pour into it in order for it to pay you dividends in time and resources and money and healthy teams and all the things, right? So creating an internal knowledge base on how you're currently getting results and then understanding that your commitment as an owner is just to get 1% better over time. I see so many people either waiting until they have a team to start documenting, and then a team member comes in and experiences this really disjointed experience behind the scenes or all of these half-created processes, and then they get perhaps a little worried or a little anxious about what's going to be happening behind the scenes, whether it's with their job or with the consistency on clients and all of those things. So what I typically recommend is, in the beginning, as you're creating some repeat projects, if you've done four or five websites, document the fifth one, right, say, hey, listen, I typically do websites. Here's how I typically do them. Don't know if it's going to be forever, don't know who's going to come in and help me, but at least I have the baseline process for how this is working right now to be able to start offloading it. And I think that especially when you invite a new team member or if you decide to subcontract portions of the website build-out, for example, you can be really confident that you can be ROI positive. A little bit. Faster on that account because it'll take your time, which is native, more expensive than somebody watching, like, a quick moon video on how you do something right. And then you can meet with that person and just discuss some of the high-level changes or nuances instead of kind of being in the weeds of walking somebody through something. I think that's one of the big reasons why agency owners don't delegate is because they're like, well if I have to walk somebody through this, I might as well just do it myself. But instead, if you are doing it yourself and you just prepare now you have a video, you see somebody for $30 an hour who can do some of the baseline administrative setup. Now you have a video you can send them, you can get them off on their way, and then you can go close another website project, right? So then we can start to build some of that momentum.

Rob Da Costa [00:15:49]:

Yeah. So, guys, Loom, l-o-o-m is your friend here, because that is a great screen recording tool that you can use for free, or you can use a pretty low-cost paid version and I use that all the time. So I just want to share a couple of stories to highlight what you're saying. Alison. So, first of all, a personal story for me is I mean, fundamentally, I'm a one-person business, but I have a team of VAS that I work with and a few other people. And I failed spectacularly to find a VA. That was successful with me until I realised I needed to start documenting exactly what I did and then give them a step-by-step process to follow. And so with the latest, the team I've been working with now for a couple of years, we literally have standard operating procedures for absolutely everything from simple things like reconfirming this podcast interview to more complex things such as editing and the production of this podcast. And so I think, for me, I learned that lesson the hard way and I think the advice Alison's giving, which is to start this as soon as possible, is really good. Otherwise, you're going to have a lot of pain, you're going to have growing pains. And I think it's worth remembering what works in the early days quickly doesn't work as you grow. Like, I know we probably don't do this much now, but literally, talking across the office to someone works when you've got two or three people. It doesn't work when you've got seven or 810 people. And the other thing I wanted to say I'm not going to name the name, but I worked with an agency, and this sounds crazy, but it's true that were about a 15-person agency and they had account teams so they had three or four account teams made up of an account director, account manager and a couple of account execs. And because the account directors all came from different places, they all did things their own way. So each account team did their client management in a different way, did their reporting in a different way, did their media outreach in a different way, and it was chaos. And I can't believe that they got to that point and it was very difficult to untangle that and retrospectively fix it. Whereas if they'd have fixed it when they had one account team and they'd have created these recordings and these videos and then said, this is how we do it, it would have been a lot easier road, but so much easier to scale.

Alyson Caffrey [00:18:10]:

Yeah, it's really tough I mean, just like if you consider a small savings account, right? If you're continuously putting savings aside and adding to that account, then you can tap into it when you need it, right? That's kind of like what operations is for a business, right? You don't want to be in a position where you really need access to systems and then you're in a deficit because you've just gone so long without contributing to that account. Right. And so my thought process is that it's not, I don't think, operating out of fear or creating things out of fear. It's basically just pouring another level of concrete on a really solid foundation so that when it comes time to launch, you don't just blow the whole thing up. Right. I think a lot of agency owners have to say no to opportunities, including closing new businesses and solving some of the revenue problems that they're having as they're growing and scaling. Right. We have to say no sometimes because we know that the team and the systems can't support some of the growth that we really want. And I think a lot of us, if we're honest with ourselves, we know that we don't have a problem generating new business or a problem fulfilling and all of those things. We really just have a systems problem. And it's a really confronting, I think, experience because you kind of have to pull back the curtain and say, like, okay, we're doing things a little bit wrong behind the scenes. But I think if we have the confidence and the bravery to be able to say, okay, this isn't about me, it's not about the team, it's not about how we've been doing things. It's just about committing to be better, moving forward. I think we all can get behind and get on the same page, because I've worked with agencies probably about the same size as the one you were mentioning, Rob, like, literally 1520 employees, and you pull the curtain back. And one time I was actually working with an agency of this particular size. We pulled the curtain back. We took a look at their subcontractors, their employees, and everyone who was kind of involved inside of their fulfilment, and we did a quick run on the numbers. They were also billing for time, and we came back at 130% utilised, so overutilized for the entire year so far. And so it's really confronting because I think as agency owners and as business owners, sometimes as you're ignoring the numbers, you're really saying, like, I know this is bad, I just don't want to know how bad. And then until you reconcile with what's going on behind the scenes. When I was talking with this particular owner, he's like, I don't know how I'm going to go back and ask these clients to pay us for the time that we've been spending. And so in this case, he's got to rework pretty much his entire offer and take a look behind the scenes at what's even involved. So we started looking at some operational efficiency points for him and we've been able to get him down to right on Utilise because we took a look at some of the systems behind the scenes. We noticed that there was a lot of extra time being spent in particular areas of the business. And so I think, again, it's an opportunity, right? It's an opportunity to take home more profit. It's an opportunity to be really clear with your team. But we have to face the really uncomfortable truth that perhaps we've been ignoring this for a little bit too long, but it's only a short time, let me just say only a short time. A lot of the agencies that I've worked with who have really been understanding and want to know the truth around some of the things that they've kind of been ignoring. I've only seen really positive things begin happening behind the scenes with the team, with their clients, and kind of just, again, creating that more peaceful, behind-the-scenes experience.

Rob Da Costa [00:21:32]:

Yeah, so true. I think you just need to heed the warning and the advice that Alison's giving you here because businesses get to certain sizes and then they bash their heads against a brick wall. And in order to get over that brick wall, they have to invest in certain things. And the investment can be systems and processes, it can be people, it can be skilled. So if you don't want to have a headache because you're bashing your head against the next growth brick wall, then start building the foundations now for the business that you want to be. I use this term a lot. I see a lot of my clients stuck on the client service hamster Wheel of Doom because they're not efficient and they feel like the only way they can keep their clients happy is by over-servicing and being at their beck and call and saying yes. And of course, that creates a very stressed business and it means a business that can never take a pause and invest in what we're talking about today. But no, nothing will change unless you make some changes. So it's just super important advice. I think you answered this question a bit already, but how do agency owners strike the balance between kind of keeping overall strategic oversight of what's going on in the business and with their teams and also letting go and getting the teams to be more autonomous because we're now following these processes?

Alyson Caffrey [00:22:55]:

Yeah, I think being really numbers and metrics-driven is the key here. Personally, it's mine. And I know that a lot of my agency owners share in this data analysis excitement. Right. I think creating an internal knowledge base and an understanding of how we get things done, and what's really expected there layering in some consistencies around how we're running projects. Right. So this is what's involved here. The timeline here's how we start up a project, and here's how we close out a project. So I call that project management. Rules of engagement. And then the third really big piece is obviously data to kind of oversee how all of those things are going. A lot of my agency owners will come to me and they'll say, how do I ensure that my team is following my processes? Do we take a look at how many times the documents were opened? And I'm like, no, we don't. Because do we really care how often our team refers back to us? SOPs if we have a key performance indicator that tells us that this thing is running well, as long as that number is within scope, we're good to go, right? So I usually will internally create a handful of metrics per department that really tell us how things are going. I always say that finances tell us the truth and operational key performance indicators tell us the narrative in between the truths, right? So if it's true that we're spending X amount of dollars to onboard a new client, or if it's true that we're spending X amount of dollars to acquire a client, what is the operational narrative between those two truths, right? Are we following up at a good cadence or are we collecting information at the right cadence? Do we have a form in front of our clients? And so I think even just creating some of those, again, truths or those benchmarks around kind of looking at past behaviour, we can start to inform how we might change some of our operations to fit the bill there. So I think the way that I've personally been able to get out of the day-to-day in Fulfilment, for me personally, how I've coached agency owners to do the same and help kind of implement structure is really to just layer over. What are the key metrics? What do we need to know is true in order to understand that things are moving forward in a way that we expect and that can really create some longevity and some momentum in the right direction?

Rob Da Costa [00:25:10]:

Yeah, that's such good advice. I've written down what you just said. Finance tells us the truth and Operation KPIs give us the narrative is so true. Now, do you recommend any particular tools to help with all of this? We obviously talked about using Loom for video recording, but do you have any other systems that you tend to see kind of a common thing to put in place to support this systemization?

Alyson Caffrey [00:25:34]:

Yeah, great question. I get asked the tools question. I would say probably most of all, I think a lot of folks think that having a project management tool or having some sort of central knowledge base is going to be the ticket to why things feel a little bit all over the place. I think that the best project management system is the one that you'll actually use. A lot of them do a lot of the same things. So I think committing to having one, to putting your projects in there and really creating, like I said before, some rules of engagement around those, how do we set them up consistently? How are we checking them consistently? How are we archiving them and doing kind of a recap of how everything went? Even just having those couple of administrative milestones in place is going to be a huge amplifier for any piece of technology that you actually use. And then I love Google. I think Google is, first of all, free. Second of all, you can create some of the parameters and some of the permissions through shared drives around centralising your documentation. I've run my business with my SOPs on Google Sheets coming up on six years now here in the fall. And I've helped businesses do the same thing. Really what we need to train our team to do in terms of internal knowledge-based compilation is we need to train them to go there, right? So the managers and the leadership need to be kicking people back and saying, hey, listen, you need to go find this and ask me any questions that you have after you've reviewed this. So that muscle needs to be built and the team needs to see the information as useful. It needs to help them solve a problem. So it needs to be accurate, it needs to be easy to find. And then once the internal knowledge base, let's just say, in a Google Sheet, for example, is compiled, then we can start to audition pieces of technology that fit the needs of the knowledge base. Right, versus pigeonholing ourselves into how some software developer thought that maybe it should be organised. Right, and actually organise it based on how we want to use it. So I think technology is a really huge amplifier, right? If you're in a position where you have consistent projects or you have a knowledge base, it can really help the user experience of finding things and whatnot. But first and foremost, the content needs to be created. So I always love to say in a short version that the answer is I'm typically tech agnostic and a lot of agency owners. I have an AppSumo subscription. I love me some new, shiny new technology. However, a lot of my agency owners definitely laugh whenever I say that.

Rob Da Costa [00:28:00]:

Me too. I really like that answer. I'm glad I asked you that question, even if it's a very common question because I think a lot of people think technology is the solution. And it's not the solution, it's the sort of enabler to be more efficient once you've figured out the content. So I think that's a great answer, that if you're thinking the technology is going to be the solution, you're probably going to be disappointed and you're probably going to be spending money on a piece of clunky software that doesn't actually help you because you haven't got the other pieces. Right. First of all, before we wrap this up, I'm just going to put you on the spot for a second. Really. Is there any other bits of advice there with the audience that I haven't covered with you in the questions I've asked?

Alyson Caffrey [00:28:43]:

Yeah. A lot of folks, I think, wait until they're not busy to get started creating systems. They're like, oh, well, we're just in a season of being super busy and we're not going to do this because we need a couple of extra hours or whatever. My recommendation, use loom, and do things while you're busy. It'll be a really accurate account of how things are happening in a fast-paced environment and it'll give a lot of insight into how you guys might create some more operational throughput. So I always recommend that a lot of people will tell me, oh, I just need an extra hour or two. We're going to wait until this launch is over or this big project is over. If you keep doing that consistently, it's never going to happen.

Rob Da Costa [00:29:21]:

That's very good advice. Just generally in life, right? It's imperfect. Taxing is better than waiting for some perfect scenario that never, ever comes along. So much good. And I could spend another hour with you talking about all of this. I know the audience will find it useful, but I'm conscious that we're about to hit our half hour. So let me ask you the question I ask all of my guests, which is if you could go back in time and give your younger self, just starting out in business, a piece of advice, what would it be?

Alyson Caffrey [00:29:51]:

Yeah, great question. So I would consider that there are multiple facets of running a business. And I think a lot of us, when we begin, we only do what we're really great at because that's what we think will lead us to the fastest growth point. And what I personally did and what I've seen business owners do all the time is they only do the things that they're good at full force for a while, and then they have to completely halt and then focus on another thing. And so it's very disjointed the amount of effort that we're giving in each direction. I think that what I would have done if I went and did this over again. And I've seen lots of serial entrepreneurs do this, as they'll invest an equal amount in every single facet of running the business and really train the business to compound over time based on a smaller level of input. Right. I always see this and you mentioned the hamster wheel earlier and I feel like this with kind of those feast or famine months within agencies, right? Like, you can tell based on looking at revenue trends when the agency owner is hounding down sales and doing lots of outbound and doing all these other things, and then when they pivot to focus on fulfilment. And I think having a timeline that's a little bit more consistent in a service-based business is something that I would personally do moving forward. Because I remember when I had my first son, I'd had my business for about two and a half years and I was in a position where, I mean, I'm the Ops person, right? I was definitely in a position where I was working a lot more in certain areas of my business than I thought. And so it was definitely confronting. And if I could go back, I would probably do that a bit differently.

Rob Da Costa [00:31:26]:

Yeah. I always say that when you run a business, you have to be a great juggler and you have to be able to do the thing that you do, which is what we are all good at. But you also have to be good at planning for the future of your business. So that's business development, marketing and planning. And you also have to be good at running a business so that's cash flow and all of that kind of systems and processes and HR and all that stuff. And obviously, we're not always good at those three. And I think that's one of the reasons why so many businesses fail in their first year. Let me ask you this question as well, a bit tongue in cheek. Do you think your younger self would listen to you?

Alyson Caffrey [00:31:59]:

No. And that's something I think I've developed as well in terms of being an owner and a leader, is that I think I've experienced a lot of owner leaders, especially when they consider themselves experts in a particular arena, they will stop learning other people's perspectives or other forward-thinking topics based on the fact that they just think that they're experts. And so that was a very confronting moment for me when I became a mom and I physically had to take less time inside of my business and dedicate some more to my family. It became something where I said, okay, I have an opinion on this. An opinion that helps a lot of good people. But if I'm constantly learning and constantly sharpening my axe and constantly becoming better, I need to understand that I don't know everything all the time. And I think that my mind has become much more open, both as a business owner and as a leader, to say, I understand what today's best tactics are. But I'm committed to learning more about this topic. So people that work with me three years from now will hopefully understand better information because I committed to be a lifelong learner. I think that's something that passed me might have been a little bit more like, well, no, I'm the expert and this is my opinion on the matter now. I'm a little bit more open to what I feel like I can learn versus what I already know.

Rob Da Costa [00:33:19]:

Fantastic. So true. I think we have to be a bit arrogant when we're starting our business because we have to be confident that we can be successful. But I often think, would I listen to any of this advice? And probably not for the same reasons. So, Alison, I wrap this up by saying, if people wanted to find out more about you, the Sabbatical method and your business, where would they go?

Alyson Caffrey [00:33:41]:

Yeah. Head over to I have a lot of really fun resources there, including our blog and including our Sabbatical Method toolkit. It's basically a free bank of resources where folks can kind of follow along with some of the key activities we talked about today, like recording your screen and making sure your knowledge base is centralised. I'm also on the socials at Operations Agency if you want to take a look at some of the content that we're producing. I have a cool YouTube channel called Three Minute Ops Tips, where I give some prohibitively quick information about how you can streamline elements of your service business. But yeah, I really enjoyed chatting, Rob. This is such a fun conversation.

Rob Da Costa [00:34:17]:

Yeah, thank you. I will make sure that we share all of those links in the show notes. I'm sure people will want to head over there. I'm going to go over and head over to the YouTube channel and watch some three-minute bite-size videos. That sounds great, but just want to say a big thank you for giving up your time and sharing your wisdom with us today.

Alyson Caffrey [00:34:33]:

Oh, of course. Such a pleasure. I'm really excited to share some of these tactics as I know they will improve the lives of agency owners, I mean, all over the world.

Rob Da Costa [00:34:42]:

Absolutely. Thank you.

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