Rob Da Costa
Author Archives: Rob Da Costa

Talking finance with Susan Boles from ScaleSpark

Today, I want to dig deep into some of the decisions you make early on in your agency that can have a HUGE effect on how your business develops in the future. We will be discussing:

Do you charge hourly or do you use value-based pricing?

Do you make sure you and your team use time tracking?

Are you sure you are making the best use of your time?

In this episode I am delighted to be joined by Susan Boles, virtual CFO and owner of organisation, Scale Spark.

We are going to be discussing all of the above and everything else in between to help you be sure you’re running a resilient and efficient agency.

[02:02] What are the common types of challenges most agencies seem to have?

[06:41] Your money mindset will have a HUGE effect on you and how you run your business. You may find that this is something you have to address, in order for you to reach your full potential as an agency owner. 

[09:25] People tend to structure their agency based on their experience as an employee at previous agencies. Why is this a problem?

[14:03] “Why are you doing it that way?”

[16:18] Let’s dig deeper into package pricing and the importance of tracking your time. 

[24:40] When you have data about how long a task takes, you can start to find more efficient ways of doing those tasks!

[27:48] Susan gives her 2 top tips for new agency owners.

[29:38] If Susan could go back in time and give herself some business advice, what would it be?

Resources 

ScaleSpark website 

LinkedIn

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

How to be productive with your limited time

Time is our most precious commodity. Once it passes we cannot get it back so we need to make sure that we are using it effectively.

During the pandemic, we have all been working from home and our boundaries can easily get blurred. For many of us, the consequence of this is that we are working longer hours.

But the question is…. are we being productive with our time, or are we being busy fools?

A while back, I wrote a block post called Being a Busy Fool and it is by far my most popular post. Lots of people are searching on Google for this because they suspect they are being a busy fool and are looking for solutions to being more productive with their time.

So, in this blog, I want to share with you 6 strategies that I use myself, and share with my clients, that are super pragmatic concepts that you can start implementing in your working day to make sure that you are as productive as possible.

Get Clear Boundaries

The first tip I want to share with you is to get really clear boundaries in your working day. Currently, many of us fall out of bed and move straight into our office and start working. We then spend a bit of time reviewing emails or messing around on social media. And then our day starts on. Then maybe we don't have a lunch break and we continue working. Our energy fizzles out towards the end of the day when you're exhausted. To compound this, many others have blurred our boundaries even further by working at weekends in brackets because let’s face it there hasn’t been much to do whilst we’ve been stuck inside).

To counter this poor practice, you need to make sure that you have a sense of arriving and leaving work. If you're fortunate enough to have an office at home, then you can close the door and turn off your computer- clearly demarking the end of the day. To further earmark the start of the day, it’s also a good idea to still be dressing for work (i.e. don’t spend all day in your PJs

This tip is sort of obvious thing, right? But sometimes we just need to hear these things being said again to remind ourselves.

It is also a good idea to have a clear desk policy (that helps create a clear mind policy).

Have a clear desk and clear mind policy

If part of your evening ‘close down’ ritual is clearing your desk then it helps signify the end of your working day and it means when we start our day the next day, we begin with a clear desk (like starting the day with a blank sheet of paper) and consequently, a clear mind. The alternative is to end you day with a messy desk - with papers lying around everywhere, your computer still running with loads of windows open. You start the next day trying to pick up where you left off and quickly feel overwhelmed and stressed!

I know personally that I feel so much better when I arrive at my desk and it's nice & clean and I restart my computer. So, I try to make sure that I have a clear desk policy. Tidying up, clearing my desk and filing paper is part of my end of day ritual which brings me to tip 3 and that is having a morning and evening ritual.

Morning and Evening Rituals

Now, this is something I've borrowed from Michael Hyatt and his book Free to Focus.

The concept of a morning and evening ritual ties into the boundaries tip. Having a morning and evening ritual means that you are going to start and finish your day in the same way, every day.

A simple idea that will have a significant impact.

Let’s look at my morning and evening rituals as an example.

The first thing I do without fail every morning is to make a cup of coffee. I can't start my day without it! The action of making a coffee is like a trigger point to say my working day is starting. The second thing in my morning ritual is to go through my emails (I only check my email at 4 points during the day, so this is point 1). I try and delete as many emails as I can. I flag those that need answering, and if create any significant tasks, I make sure I schedule them in my day.

After cleaning my emails, I review and amend my schedule for the day (I use a tool called Marvin for scheduling but a sheet of paper or whatever your preferred app is will do). The key here is to make sure you allocate some time to plan your day before ploughing into your tasks.  And remember that when you read new emails, they may have some impact on your scheduling.

A good practice for scheduling is to overestimate how long task will take so that you allow some flex for interruptions that no doubt will happen during the day without throwing your schedule out the window.

Your goal is to tick everything off your to-do list for the day rather than creating a long list that never gets any shorter (we’ve all been there!). So, if you have new tasks coming in during the day, don’t just add them to your list but rather think when you need to schedule them. And if it has to be done today, what task in today's schedule are you going to defer to tomorrow or the next day or delete altogether?

So, after making a coffee, cleaning my emails and scheduling my day, I then just focus on the first task in my day. And that is my morning ritual!

My evening ritual looks very similar to that. I'll check my emails again (for the 4th time). My goal with emails is to try and get the mailbox down to zero. I will flag any emails up that I need to address, and I start to roughly outline tomorrow’s schedule. Then, most importantly, I close all my apps and shut my computer down, clear my desk, file any paperwork and I am done.

The key point about morning and evening rituals is that I know exactly how my day is going to start. And I feel like I have some control over my day because I've just invested time in strategically planning my day (which of course is the same way we need to approach our business) as opposed to just sitting down and asking “Okay, What's the priority? What's the big thing? Who is shouting the loudest?”.

The is a psychological benefit to this too - I can have two days that are the same, where I complete the same tasks.  The first day I've sat down and scheduled my day and at the end of the day, I feel accomplished. I feel like I've moved forward. I feel like I've done everything I needed to do.

The second version of that day - I don't schedule anything. Rather, I just sit down and get on with things. And at the end of the day, I don't feel a sense of accomplishment. I have this nagging doubt that there's something I missed. I'm not sure whether I'm moving forward, so it feels like I am just firefighting.

So, it's really important from a psychological perspective that you plan your day as well.

Use your time wisely

Staying with a focus on using your time in the most effective way, the 4th tip is something I have written about many times before and that is allocating your time across 3 ‘pots’ of time: strategy, revenue and admin.  It doesn't matter what you do or whether you're a one-man-band or 30-man agency, all of this applies.

Let’s do a quick refresh on what these three pots mean.

Time management

Revenue – how I am earning money this month

Your revenue time covers all tasks that involve your earning money this month i.e. client work that is already on the books. Simply put money today.

Strategy – how we will earn money in the future

This is all about money tomorrow. Everything you're going to do that's going to help your agency earn money in the future. This includes business development, marketing, proposals, pitches, networking - everything that will create opportunities for you in the future.

Admin – tasks that are costs and keep your agency running

The admin pots include tasks such as HR, managing your team, recruitment, finance, invoicing, credit control etc. All those really important tasks that keep your agency running but are a cost.

So that's a quick definition of these three pots. Now, when you’re scheduling your time, you need to get an appropriate balance across all three.

Imagine the agency owner that's just focused on delivering great client work and has no time to work on strategy. What does the future of their agency look like? They will be busy in the short term and then everything is going to fall off a cliff.  They don't have many opportunities in their pipeline because they haven't focused enough attention on strategy.

Similarly, imagine an agency that is focused on strategy. They may well have a full pipeline for the future but they're going to have major cash flow issues in the short term because they don't have a lot of client work on their books.

And lastly, if you get busy with revenue and strategy but at the expense of focusing some time on admin then you're going to quickly have cash flow issues because you have no time for invoicing or credit control!

So, the key here is to get the balance of your time across Revenue, Strategy and Admin right.

If you are not sure what that balance should be, I have an exercise that you can do to track your time over a couple of weeks to work out what your balance should be. You can access the tool here.

Otherwise, a good approximation is to spend around 60% of your time in revenue, 30% of your time in strategy and 10% of admin. So that means 60% delivering client work, 30% working on the future of your agency and then 10% working on the admin, (which is 1/2 day a week).

What does your split look like and how do you make sure that you get that balance, right?


The Notional Hourly Rate

The 5th area I want to talk about is the concept of a notional hourly rate.

Now, if you know me, you know I never want you to be selling hours to clients, so this might sound a little strange! But that's not what I'm talking about here. You should be value pricing and value selling to clients (which is a whole other topic!).

The concept of the notional hourly rate is really simple and is a good way for you to consider whether you should be doing a task, delegating or ditching it. Let’s say that notionally, an hour of your time is worth £150. Then the question you want to be asking yourself with all the tasks that you do is “Is this task worth £150 or more, or is it less than £150?” And if the answer is it's less than £150, you should be asking yourself, “why am I doing it?” (and you should probably be delegating this to somebody else).

If you're doing work that's worth £50 an hour instead of £150 then that probably means it's stopping you doing some work that's worth £150 on more (and that often looks like strategy work).

I use this is a quick yardstick for myself when I'm planning my day. Should I be doing this, or should somebody else be doing it?, or should I not be doing it all?

So, if you can delegate then delegate as much as possible, It might be that you have a team of freelance staff or a VA.

The 4Ds

This is another quick way to assess if you should be doing a task or not (and works in conjunction with tip 5).

The 4 Ds are: Ditch it, Delegate it, Defer it or Do it.

For every task, (especially one that’s less than your notional hourly rate) you should be asking yourself, can I ditch this task? Is it something that I need to do? If the answer is yes then ditch it and move on to the next task.

If the answer's no, then ask yourself can I delegate this to somebody else and don’t kid yourself - don't tell yourself Well, I could, but I haven't got the time or what they won't do as well as me. Those are not good reasons not to delegate. If the answer is yes, then spend the time delegating effectively.

If the answer is no, then ask yourself, can I defer it? In other words, can I do this at a later date, or does it have to be now? And if the answer is yes, then defer it and. schedule it for a later date.

If the answer is no, I can't defer it then you need to do it so schedule it for today.

Now I've added in 5th element to the 4Ds, which is 'Automate It' because there are so many great apps and useful productivity tools. That means sometimes we can get more efficient by using automation (e.g. email marketing systems, which can automate so many aspects of email marketing etc.).

The importance of having a plan

My last tip in this blog which will help keep you focused on the tasks that matter and keep your agency moving forward, is to make sure have a plan (which you will have developed during your strategy time).

I recommend that you have a one-year plan, which is broken down into quarterly plans, then monthly and weekly plans.  And if you have a management meeting, (which I highly recommend you do), then you use your monthly plan as the basis for the conversations in the management meeting to ensure that you are all thinking strategically and not diving into an operational discussion.

So, these are my 7 tips that to help you keep focused and productive:

  1. Make sure that you get really clear boundaries about when you're at work and when you're not working.
  2. Have that clear desk policy so that you start each day with a blank slate.
  3. Create a morning and evening ritual so that you start and finish the day in the same way.
  4. Break your time down into strategy, revenue and admin - making sure that you get the balance of your time across those three areas right for you.
  5. Understand your notional hourly rate and evaluate tasks against this rate
  6. Use the 4 Ds (Ditch it, Delegate it, Defer it, Do it) and I added in Automate it
  7. Have a plan for your agency for the year, quarter and month

Apply these techniques and you will find your productivity and focus increasing, and motivation improve.

Time management

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Scaling and succession planning with Pietro Ranieri

Today’s guest just so happens to be the first EVER employee I hired in my agency CIT, many years ago!

Pietro Ranieri worked at my agency for 9 years before leaving to set up on his own and I wanted to get him on the show to discuss his journey from freelancer to running and growing an agency, and to the point of selling his agency.

He went on to buy his agency back (we discuss why!) and he now has a number of offices around the world!

If you’re thinking of making the move from freelancer to agency owner, or if you’re thinking of scaling and maybe ultimately selling your agency, then this episode is for you.

[05:26] What made Pietro make the switch from freelancer to agency owner? With most of his clients based in the US, Pietro had become somewhat of a night owl which lead to an unhealthy and lonely lifestyle…

[09:37] Ranieri has a clear niche in consumer electronics, which has worked well for his agency as everyone knew they are the “go-to” experts. But what happened when he took on clients from outside of his area of expertise?

[16:22] Are you running a proper agency, or do you just have a bunch of assistants working for you? If you want to scale, you need to be able to step away from doing the client work.

[20:37] If you’re really looking to scale, it’s important you learn to distance yourself from the being the first point of contact, so the clients don’t become attached to you. Pietro and Rob delve into WHY this is so important and HOW to go about it.

[25:59] The process of selling your agency can be a very long and draining process. If you want to sell your agency, you need to know what to expect and how to properly prepare for it.

[35:15] if Pietro could go back in time and give himself some advice, what would it be?

For more info on Pietro's agency, Ranieri Communications, visit the WEBSITE.

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

The Self-Managed Agency

Imagine having an agency that runs itself.

No more slogging over client work day in, day out. No more 15-hour days to ensure you meet the next deadline. No more dealing with multiple clients all wanting to speak only to YOU.

This is something many agency owners dream of yet fail to achieve. However, if you really want an agency that runs itself, it most certainly is possible and I’m going to show you how to do it:


[02:01] If your hourly rate is £150 and you’re doing tasks below that level, you need to start delegating these and focusing only on the tasks that at level of your hourly rate or higher.

[03:51] You need to build your brand to be your agency not just “you”.

[06:23] Why you absolutely must hire the very best people you can afford, and not just a bunch of assistants.

[07:49] How building a management team as soon as possible will make it easier to move your agency forward.

[08:55] There is an art behind being a super effective delegator and learning this is so important if you want your agency to grow to the point of not needing you! Make sure you download my free e-book on delegation HERE.

[10:37] Do you have a plan that you visit every day to ensure you’re always moving your agency forward?

[13:00] You can’t build an extension on your house without foundations as the extension will fall down. Similarly, you can’t grow an agency without getting the fundamentals right.

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

Video Production with Laura Evans

Video content is dominating the world right now, but for so many of us (myself included for a long time!) the thought of getting in front of the camera can put us into a cold sweat!

Laura Evans runs a video and podcasting company called Let’s talk Video Production and I was super excited to have her as my latest guest on the Agency Accelerator Podcast.

We are going to be talking all things video and podcasting and why you should seriously think about adding these into your marketing strategy, if you haven’t already done so.

[3:49] Me and Laura both have experience of being made redundant but this can sometimes be the best thing to happen to you!

[6:20] Laura explains why businesses ought to be using video as part of their marketing strategy. Many of us are still fearful of this, but both videos and podcasts can be a great way of building a relationship with your audience, so it’s important to try and overcome this fear. Remember, it’s not all about you, it’s about your audience and the value you can bring them!

[11:25] Different methods work for different people when recording videos. Whether you use an autocue, post-it notes or you just wing it, do what works best for YOU.

[13:17] Laura gives some great tips for someone planning on recording a 2-3minute video on their own (without a production company!) including some awesome affordable gear suggestions.

[20:40] What is the ideal video length can how can video content help with your SEO?

[25:54] Podcasting is great for visibility but can it help you get more clients? 

[32:50] If you could go back in time and give your younger self some business advice, what would it be?


To find out more about Let’s Talk Video Production and their services, visit their website or email Laura at [email protected]

Links Mentioned In The Ep:

Starting Video Production With Low Costs

Microphones for starting your podcast


Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

The Ultimate Guide To Growing Your Agency During These Challenging Times

agency growth

Why on earth would I be writing a blog post about growing your agency during these challenging times when many agencies are just struggling to survive? 

Am I just not in touch with the current environment or what is going on in the agency world right now?

The truth of it is for every one agency that is struggling to survive, another agency is doing well and able to focus on growth.

I’ve seen two types of company during this crisis:

1

The first kind has decided to sit it out, furlough their staff and hope they can weather the storm. 

2

The second kind has been galvanised into action, pivoted their business or suggested to the client how they can pivot their business and supported them through the process.

You need to be the second type of company.  And to do this you need to speak to your clients frequently (whether they’re working with you currently or they have put you on pause) and make sure you are listening and serving them.

So let’s explore some practical steps you can be taking:

Use this time to learn more about your client’s wants and needs

We all like to think that we know our target audience well and armed with this knowledge we create our sales & marketing content.  But how well do we really understand our clients?

You might have done some work on defining your ideal target customer or customer avatar, but if you want to take it to the next level you need to talk to your clients and learn more about their pains and gains.  Right now there has never been a better time to talk to your clients because they’re more likely to have the time and inclination to spend 30 minutes discussing their business. During this interview, you want to identify the PAINS that they have, that they are trying to move away from and the GAINS that they want to achieve - that they are trying to move towards.  You are looking for the repeating patterns here and if you can interview between 7 and 10 clients then you’ll be able to identify these patterns. Use the recurring themes to inform the content that you create and the products/services that you deliver.

This is exactly what I do and it ensures that the content I am creating will be of value to my audience rather than just things I want to write about.  That is one of the key outcomes of doing this exercise (the other is producing products and services that your audience wants and needs – more on that later).


Have a plan

agency planning

I get it! A lot of us have been in survival mode and can’t think beyond the end of the month let alone six months, a year or even further but it’s a fine balance between reacting to ever-changing needs of today and trying to survive versus having half an eye on the future and having a longer-term plan (albeit one that you need to frequently revisit as this new world unfolds) for growing your agency.

I normally work with my clients on a long, medium and short-term plan. A long-term plan is usually 2 to 5 years (this is your vision).  The mid-term plan is usually one year and includes a quarterly breakdown (your strategies) and then from there, we have a monthly plan (your ‘to-do list’ for your business).  This is the document that you will use to run your monthly management meetings to ensure you’re focused on working on the business as opposed to operational discussions about the business.

I appreciate during this current period we need even more granular than I outlined above so I have created a weekly plan with measures, and you can grab your copy of that here.

Pivot where necessary

Agency growth

“Pivot” is one of those annoying words that we are hearing a lot in the business world right now but what exactly does it mean for you?

It means finding new ways to service your existing audience or finding a new audience.  For you, that looks like refining, amending or creating a new product or service or looking for a slightly different audience to your traditional audience and most likely, it is a combination of those two.

Don’t make the mistakes that many have made (and indeed I’ve made in the past) and that is assuming that you know what your audience wants and needs. So you invest a lot of time, energy and money in turning this new idea into a product/service to only launch it to crickets.

If ever there were a time to use my favourite expression of slow down to speed up then this is it! You need to first of all test your idea and validate it with your audience BEFORE you start marketing and selling it in earnest. This is a process of refinement. To do this you create three target groups and test you’re offering with group 1.  Using their feedback, refine it and then rinse and repeat with groups two and three. If at the end of this process you have had positive feedback and pre-sold some of your product then you know your product has been validated.

This is such an important topic that I’ve created a new e-book guide that takes you step-by-step through this process including templates for questionnaires and for letters you can grab a copy of that here.

Become a good listener

Being a good listener is an art and one that perhaps we all think we are good at but if there were ever a time to listen to your audience and hear the clues that they tell you about what they need from you, then now is that time.

Clients all have ‘jobs to be done’ and they have certain pains about those jobs that you can solve and gains that they are looking to achieve by getting that job completed.  If you can identify these jobs to be done and the pains and gains and market your business against that you’re much more likely to win new client business. Listening to your audience means marketing yourself against what your audience needs rather than what you have to offer so consider if your website and your outbound communications are they resonating with those pains and gains, and jobs to be done or are they just telling them what a great company you are, what your products & services are and who you’ve done it for before - because if you’re taking this old approach you’re not going to be winning new business.

This is a topic in itself for a future blog post but I felt it was important to include a reference to it in this post.

Get the balance of your time right

I’ve written quite a lot in the past about how leaders of agencies need to be allocating their time effectively and perhaps this is more important than ever right now, whilst we are working remotely from home which probably means working longer hours and/or having distractions such as kids at home, so we need to get even more disciplined and structured with all time.

If you want to continue growing your agency during these challenging times then you need to make sure you are allocating enough time to working on the strategy for your agency. This includes everything to do with how you are going to earn money in the future.

Time management

Learn more about allocating you time (click on the image)

A quick reminder: we can split our time across three ‘pots’

1. Revenue: (how are you earning money today) so this is all the client projects and retainer work you currently have on your books s

2. Strategy: (how you to earn money in the future): business development, sales and marketing

3. Admin: everything you do to run your business.  The ‘lifeblood’ tasks that keep your business afloat (finance, HR etc.)

No matter what kind of complicated labels we try to apply to our work, pretty much everything we do falls into one of these three categories. But while each of these areas matters, they don’t all matter equally. Particularly not for you: as the agency owner, your time needs to be spent in a deliberate manner for maximum impact.

You want to be making sure you’re allocating the right balance of your time across these three ‘pots’. There is a tendency right now to be doing as much as we possibly can to keep our clients so we are investing a greater percentage of our time in revenue but those agencies who are going to flourish and grow are also allocating equal amounts of time into strategy and strategy today might look different to what it did a few months ago. 

My advice here is to get structured with your day and schedule time across these three areas and create a list of things you do in each of these three areas.  I have created a simple tool you can use to help with this.

The second really important thing is to get good boundaries because when we are working at home the boundaries can easily get blurred between your working day and your personal time.  One approach that helps me is having morning and evening rituals (link?).

Focus on marketing your agency

Marketing plan

I have had lots of questions from my audience asking whether they should be marketing in this current climate. You see they are worried that if they send out content it could be seen in bad taste and feels inappropriate.

My response to this is a resounding YES YOU SHOULD marketing to your audience provided you are continuing to serve them and one of the ways you will achieve this is by applying the points I’ve made earlier in this article.  LISTEN and produce content that is truly adding value (as I am attempting to do in this blog!).

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of building your email list.  Consider this:

Do you know why eBay bought SKYPE?

Do you know why Facebook bought Instagram?

It's not for the reasons most people think....  

It was for their subscriber lists. eBay wanted SKYPE's 54 million members across 225 countries. Facebook wanted Instagram's 30 million users.

Why?  Well for every email subscriber you have on your list you can potentially earn £1 per month from them. Have a list of 100? That's £100/month. 10,000 in your list? £10k per month (or £120k/year!).

Also, consider that you OWN your list where you 'BORROW' your contacts on platforms such as LinkedIn. There are always new marketing fads that come and go but email marketing has always been one of the most cost-effective ways of generating new business.

I have been discussing the power of the email list for a long while and I encourage all my clients to make building their email list of potential buyers a central part of their marketing strategy. And I encourage you to do the same.

If you don’t have a list today then start one and set a goal of having 50 people on the list by the end of the month.

I have written about HOW to go about this and WHAT to send you list in this FREE guide.

OK so that’s your mail list but what else should you be doing? 

You can’t go to networking events, but you can get online – and the key here is to hang out in places that your ideal target customer hangs out and your research will tell you that. Also, think about how you can use LinkedIn to make connections and build empathy with those connections this is particularly true if you work in the B2B space.  Don’t be one of those annoying people who send out a connection request with a generic message and then send a sales message immediately you accept them.  That is a sure-fire way of being blacklisted! Instead, provide value to your audience.  Remember your goal (as with all your marketing) is to focus 80% of your time providing value and 20% selling. 

In conclusion

When times are tough we have to work extra hard and extra smart to find and win business. I have run my business through 2 recessions and now this current pandemic and have lived by that belief and it has served me well.

The key to growing your agency is to use your time smartly and get the balance right and have a consistent focus on sales & marketing – whilst communicating with your audience in an empathetic way do this consistently and you will be filling your pipeline with eager potential customers.

If you want more details on how to continue growing your agency in this challenging time, then grab a copy of my FREE guide on agency growth.

Creating a sustainable & profitable agency

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Why you should embrace failure with Miha Matlievski

What an incredible story my next guest has!

I am joined by Miha Matlievski today, who talks about his business failure and how he rose from the ashes, even after losing absolutely everything in a very short space of time. We also discuss mindset and emotional intelligence, and how you absolutely must have these both in check, if you are to succeed as an entrepreneur.

[01:45] A quick history of Miha…. He built up 4 successful businesses and a personal net worth of over $15million. However, this all came crashing down in 2009 after a phone call from his bank. He very suddenly found himself with no businesses and debt of $5 million. However, despite such a huge blow and even thinking of suicide for a while, he kept on fighting, built up a new successful company and is now known as “The Fail Coach”.

[08:39] Miha realised that a big reason he lost everything so suddenly was because his businesses had no foundations, so when the crisis came, he had nothing to fall back on.

[11:30] Miha discusses how he bounced back from learning how to be present. Mindfulness and emotional intelligence played such a huge role in his resurrection.

[16:22] It’s only when you take full responsibility for your failings that you will begin to succeed and remember….nothing magical ever happens inside the comfort zone! 

[23:22] We discuss the importance of emotional intelligence as an entrepreneurial business owner and why most entrepreneurs make it harder for themselves by not asking for help, when it’s usually right in front of us.

[27:57] What advice would Miha give to someone just starting out or looking to scale their existing business? Hint… be very careful of these so called “gurus”…

[37.18] If Miha could go back in time to give his younger self some advice, what would it be?

To find out more about Miha, visit his LinkedIn profile or go to his website.

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

Using video in social media with Ian Laurie

Standing out from the crowd when it comes to marketing your business is getting harder and harder these days and posting the odd blog just isn’t enough anymore.

So, in this episode I’m joined by Ian Laurie of Snow Digital Media and we are going to be looking at the importance of adding video into your marketing strategy, in particular using it on LinkedIn.


[02:50] Ian shares his journey of running his own business and discusses the dos and don’ts of running your own agency. It can be “lonely at the top”. Ian shares his experiences of working with business partners. You obviously have to have shared values and make sure you’re on the same page otherwise it won’t work, so how did Ian find the experience?

[08:24] Ian remembers what it was like to experience the peaks and troughs of running your own business, especially near the beginning.

[11:00] Why should video be part of a marketing agency’s strategy and why is LinkedIn the platform we should be focusing on right now?

[15:08] Is it ok to post video content using a third party app or should we only post natively?

[17:01] Ian discusses the ideal length and content for a video on LinkedIn and he reminds us why we need to make sure we grab the audience’s attention within the first 5 seconds.

[24:00] Ian loves video podcasts. They are the perfect for creating lots of small pieces of content from one big piece of content.

[27:24] So… that‘s all good and well talking about how to do videos, but how do you get BETTER at doing them? 

[29:53] Rob asks Ian what advice would he give his younger business self?

 

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

Save yourself time, money and heartache by validating your ideas before fully developing them

how do you validate your idea?

Background

Picture this:  

You’re walking the dog or standing in the shower and you have a brainwave of an idea for a new product, course or a new business idea. You get very excited by this and sit down and start fleshing it out and then put it into action.

After many weeks and late nights of work you’re finally ready to launch.  You’re very excited to get your product or business out there so you launch with a big fanfare but sadly to little response.

When we think we know what our audience wants, when we are absolutely certain our idea is a sure-fire winner, when we believe we know best for our clients WE HAVE TO FIRST VALIDATE OUR IDEA.

Now I am guilty as the next person for enacting this scenario.  About six years ago when I decided to create my first online course, I did absolutely no validation because I was so sure that people wanted to know how to start their own business. I even came up with a snappy salesy title of How to start your own business & gain financial freedom within 6-months. And guess what – it flopped.  Undeterred and without learning any lessons, I moved onto my next sure fire million pound making idea (!) which was all about selling. I was absolutely sure that everybody wants to know my secret sauce for selling so I created my next course “Step by step guide for generating new sales for your business” and guess what, another flop! 

How many times was I going to repeat this before I learnt my lesson - which is, we may think we know what our audience wants but unless we go and validate and test our ideas first, we are doomed to a cycle of repeated failure.  And this applies to an online course, a business idea, new product or service, and particularly at the moment, any ideas for pivoting your business.

So let’s backtrack somewhat and rewind to that ‘in the shower’ ah-ha moment. What should you do next?

Coming up with ideas

First of all, we need to take a more scientific, methodical approach to coming up with ideas rather than relying on those ‘in the shower’ moments.  Now of course those ah ha moments can be the inspiration for an idea, but you then need to go and research if the data supports the idea or not.

An obvious first approach would be to Google your idea – does it already exist? (if yes, then good because that tells you there is probably demand for it).  If yes, then is your idea a different variant or is there room for you too?  If no, then what is similar or are you creating something that no one wants and hence, no one has tried to create it before?

You can also use your own data to work out what ideas might fly.  Look at the Analytics data of your website – what content has really resonated with your audience?  How about your email marketing?  What emails got the most ‘opens’ and ‘likes’?

This are all clues or breadcrumbs that will lead you in the right direction.

how do you validate your product

Validation process

Now we have established that our idea has some merit, before we dive head long in turning it into a course or product , we need to do some validation and this validation process will tell us two things: Firstly, it will help us validate if our idea is a goer or not and help us refine the idea and secondly, as part of the validation, we want to presale to at least some of our audience before we even start writing one word or line of code of the product/course.

Now the validation process is designed to give you reasonable certainty that your idea will have a sustainable, growing, paying audience rather than wasting months building a final product or course that nobody will pay for!  The end result of the validation process is confirmation that your idea is viable.  This is confirmed by achieving a desired number of pre-orders or waiting list of customers.

Validation isn’t a guarantee of success and it most certainly isn’t easy. It’s not as simple as putting up a waiting list and hoping people miraculously discover your offering & fork over their hard-earned money for something that doesn’t exist yet (trust me I tried that too!).

Validation is designed to give you your first paying customers and foundation for future growth.

Think of it this way : if you follow the validation process and it turns out that no one is interested in your business idea, product or course, then consider how much time, money and heartache you’re going to save yourself by establishing this at the early stages before you’ve invested too much energy into your idea.

So now hopefully you agree with me that you should slow down to speed up and validate your ideas first let me outline a little bit about the process.

The process

You need a mailing list of at least 200 active contacts before you can start doing this validation so if you don’t have a list of that size I suggest before you embark on any kind of product development you focus on building that list of followers (download my free guide on building your mailing list).  Alternatively, if you decide to validate via one-to-one calls you’ll need at least 60 people to talk to.

From your research you need to write a short (1-3 pages max) description of your business, product or course idea.  Next you need to create a short survey (I use Google Forms for this) to send out to your audience (or to ask over the phone).  In this short survey, one question you will ask is ‘do you want to buy this product/service/course?’

The next task is to create the emails you will send out to your audience – the first asking your reader to read the short description and complete the survey, and the others to follow-up and chase those who didn’t respond to the first emails.

Using your email list (or phone contacts), divide your list into 3 x groups of 50 (or 20 for phone calls). Send out your email to group 1 and a few days later chase any update haven’t responded. Use the feedback from this group to refine your messaging and then rinse and repeat to group 2. Refine your messaging once again and send to group 3. 

Of those who responded, if 10% indicated their interest to buy then you have validated your idea and you can move into fully fleshing out and developing the idea, and focusing on your sales and marketing strategy, knowing that it is something that your audience is interested in.

I know this can feel a little tedious and a laborious process, and one that impedes your excitement to getting your idea launched but trust me if you follow this process you will come out the other side confident that your audience likes and wants your idea rather than assuming you know that they need it.  

Right now this is particularly important because we need to be selling painkillers not vitamins to our audience and this validation process will ensure that you have identified the pain points that your product, service or course can solve for your ideal target customers.

27-page Step-By-Step Guide - How to Identify & Validate Your Idea

If you are interested in a step-step guide on exactly how to do what I outlined in this blog, including the exact emails and survey templates, then grab a copy of my 27-page step-by-step guide on selecting and validating your idea BEFORE you go to market.

Why are we all so scared of public speaking? Interview with Steve Bustin

Fear of public speaking is an incredibly common phobia and affects around 75% of the population. As business owners, many of us (no matter how much we hate it) are unable to avoid public speaking situations thanks to meetings or presentations – in fact it’s a crucial part of building our agency. So wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we could learn to cope with it a bit better, or even crazier….learn to enjoy it?

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator, I am joined by award-winning keynote conference speaker Steve Bustin, who is going to be sharing some great tips and advice on how we can improve our own public speaking, better prepare for it and ultimately, not be so terrified by it!

[1:14] Steve has a very colourful business background and his passions and focus have evolved over the years. Starting as a BBC journalist, he then went into PR before realising what his true passion was: speaking and training others how to do it well.

[7:10] Let’s unpack some of the interesting points Steve just mentioned about his past experiences including being led by opportunity and the effects that losing a big client can have on your business.

[9:36] Steve discusses the Sunday night blues and how life is too short – and what to do about it

[11:23] There is a trend of people moving away from the retainer model within agencies. Could this be a good thing?

[13:35] Rob asks Steve why he thinks public speaking is the second biggest fear after death! Why do we care so much what people think of us? Steve also explains why we need to train our staff with the skills to be great leaders and that includes learning how to be a great speaker.

[20:41] Steve shares how he helps people overcome their fears of public speaking and he explains why you’ve got to have passion for whatever your talking about, otherwise how do you expect your clients to be passionate about it? And we must remember, we all present differently and that’s a good thing!

[23:18] Rob takes us back to a workshop he hosted and the importance of managing your ‘internal dialog’. Also, why do so many of us never rehearse our presentations before the big day? Surely this will help to get rid of so much of the anxiety we feel before speaking?!

[27:31] What is the perfect structure of a presentation? Why does great structure tend to revolve around just 3 main arguments? And how can you grab the audiences’ attention?

[34:00] Rob asks Steve what happens if you can see people yawning in the audience during your presentation? Does this mean you’re too boring and should stop right now?!

[37:40] Steve gives 3 brilliant top tips for improving your own public speaking

[44:56] Rob asks Steve: “if you could go back in time and give your younger self some business advice what would it be?”

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

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