Category Archives for "Podcast"

Staying In Control Of The Direction Of Your Agency

Why do so many agency owners aspire to build an agency that is less dependent on them (i.e a self-running agency) but completely fail?

They end up building a business that they work for (instead of working for them) with the worst boss in the world!

So in this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I explore how to ensure you build an agency on your own terms: one that you stay in control of and one that ultimately could be running itself.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[0:00] 

The 4-day work experiment from Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast

[0:45] 

The concept of running a self-running business

[2:26] 

Staying connected with your mission and vision statement

[3:18] 

What does real success look like?

[3:53] 

How to reconnect with your ‘why’ in running an agency

[4:29] 

Transitioning from face-to-face coaching to online meetings

[6:00]

Why I can spend my winters in South Africa

[7:43] 

The importance of focusing on the journey and not just the destination

[7:57] 

How I am moving towards becoming a ‘digital nomad’

[9:05] 

What are the technical equipment I need 

[9:59] 

Understanding how to best use a VA and the structures I use

[11:47] 

What I am doing this year to take control of how I want to run my business

Quotations

“We are surrounded by stories of super successful entrepreneurs who make it sound so easy and have supposedly made their millions and are trying to tempt you to strive for the same thing - it’s almost as if - if we don’t aspire to that then we are failing.” - Rob DaCosta

“..growth in a financial sense doesn’t always mean success.” - Rob DaCosta

“..wait for some future point when everything will be better and forget to live my life within the constraints of what we are able to do now.” - Rob DaCosta

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Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

 Full Episode Transcription

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts last week, which is Amy Porterfield’s online marketing made easy, and she was talking about an experiment that her business has been doing to move the whole organisation of about 20 staff down to a 4-day working week without losing any revenues in their business, and indeed ensuring that they met their ambitious growth targets. It was really interesting to hear about the positive and negative aspects of the experiment, the things that they've had to change, e g. moving all their meetings down to a maximum of 30 minutes rather than an hour or more, and indeed whether they will keep doing this after the 90-day experiment is up.

It got me thinking back to the concepts of the self-running agency that I've been talking about and teaching for the last couple of years, and the importance of making sure that we are running an agency on our own terms and not just chasing the next shiny new object or the next revenue tear, because that's what we feel we should be doing to be successful. We're surrounded by stories of super successful entrepreneurs who make it sound so easy and have supposedly made their millions, and then they're trying to tempt you to strive for the same thing.

It's almost as if if we don't aspire to that, we are failing. It's crazy when you say out loud, right, and it seems to take you so far away from the key reasons of why you would start your own business in the first place. So in this episode of the podcast, I want to remind us about that. But I also want to share my personal story of some of the things that I'm doing to make sure I'm running my business on my own terms. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DeCosta.

I'm not sure where this is instilled in us, but it's almost as if we don't aspire to grow our agency by, say 20% year on year, then we're not being successful and indeed others. But perhaps more ourselves, if I'm honest, judge our success based on this growth. But that might well not be what you want. You might want to create a lifestyle business and focus on maximising profits, or you might want to focus on being a social enterprise and making a difference in your community. There's a whole myriad of reasons why we run our own agencies and why we started our own agencies. And it's super important that we stay connected with that mission. And we create a vision every year so that we know we're headed in the right direction rather than just being pulled by external factors or by the things that we tell ourselves we should be doing. The problem is, as I mentioned in the introduction, that we're bombarded with social media posts and ads of Instagram people standing in front of expensive yachts that probably aren't even up. There's telling us how they built their agency and how they can help you do the same.

But it's important to remember that this might not be what you want, and growth in a financial sense, doesn't always equal success. Let's face it, if you were growing your revenues, but you're hating what you were doing and you get really stressed and working long hours and perhaps even getting physically ill, then would you deem that as success? I know I certainly wouldn't. And sometimes, you know, we have to learn that lesson the hard way by going down that route to get to a certain point where we say no, having more money isn't necessarily the thing that makes me happy.

So in the spirit of openness and sharing, I want to talk about some of the conscious choices that I'm making in my business and my life as we are coming out of the pandemic. And I'm sharing this in the hope that it might inspire you but also give you permission to reconnect with the why like, “Why did you start your agency?” What do you want to be?” and, “How can you do it on your own terms?” Because, let's face it, one of the reasons we start our own business is because we want control. But we're not careful, and we're not making these conscious decisions and choices. Then suddenly, one day we can wake up working for this monster that we've created and having a much harder boss than we've ever had in any kind of job that we had in the past. So anyway, here are some of the things that I am doing and choices that I am consciously making. So first of all, prior to lockdown on the pandemic, I would spend probably three or four days a week travelling to head to clients in London, on the train or driving up the motorway or even getting on a plane. And it was a super ineffective use of my time because let's say I was taking a train into London, which would take me an hour and a half, and then I would perhaps coach one or two clients and then I would come back in a very crowded trainer and probably standing up most of the way for another hour and a half. And that would be my day. Whereas the pandemic force, of course, was all online. And now I do my meetings by Zoom, and that means that I could possibly do 3-4 even 5 meetings or coaching sessions in a day if I chose to.

So I made the conscious decision to not go back to that face-to-face coaching life because I think coaching online can actually be more effective because you can do shorter sessions and more frequent sessions. I have a couple of exceptions to that where I will travel to a client because they're either very local or because I really need to be sitting face-to-face. So, for example, if I was doing some strategy work with a client for the day, it would be very difficult for both of us to concentrate that long online, so I would then go and sit with them. But that's probably the exception and not the raw. And it probably happens once every two or three months rather than two or three times a week. So that's my first conscious choice I'm making not to go back to doing face to face coaching now. Prior to the start of the pandemic and indeed, at the start of the pandemic, I used to spend every January-February of each year in warmer climes, typically in Cape Town. And, of course, the pandemic has paid for that. In fact, I only just got back in 2020 before lockdown happened, so I was fortunate to not be stuck in South Africa during the start of lockdown. But having done this two or three times now, it's really shown me that I can completely viably go to another country and spend an extended period of time. So I'm not just there on holiday and actually get into the rhythm of working. And of course, one of the great things about South Africa is not only that their summer in January-February, but also they only have a two hour time difference to the UK, so that really makes the working day viable. You can rent pretty cheap. Airbnb is out there. The cost of living is much lower than the UK, so that is something that I aspire to do every year. But of course, as I said, the pandemic has put paid to that. But that will be something I'll be doing again. But in the meantime, I find myself sort of marking time and waiting for this fictitious point in the future when we might be allowed to travel again. And then I realised that I'm doing exactly what I outlined in the introduction, and exactly what I advise my clients not to do, which is to wait for some point in the future when you think everything will be better and forget to live your life right now and enjoy the journey.

So you know, when we're talking about vision, Sometimes clients tell me that when they hit this milestone, things will be great and they're busy with their business. But of course it might take them a year or so to get there, and they don't think about that journey. So I want to encourage my clients and myself to make sure I'm focused on the journey and not just the destination. Of course, right now there are lots of constraints on us. I can't go and spend my time abroad. But another thing that I've been working towards is becoming more of a digital nomad, which is a term that lots of 20 year old Instagrammers bound around while they live their lives on an opioid in Bali.

But as I said, I've proven for the last few years that I can work in a different country and be just as efficient and continue to serve my clients and my audience when I'm sitting at my desk in the UK or sitting at a desk in Cape Town. Now, we are taking one step further because we've just purchased a motor home. And whilst I'm not quite ready to become a socks and crocs, I am excited to be able to find some beautiful places in the U. K. And then hopefully in the near future in Europe where I can travel, explore, and work. And you know, technology really does make this easy impossible to do now because you can get great mobile WiFi setups that you can get solar panels and all that kind of stuff so I can run my computers and record these podcasts and edit videos, and all that stuff whilst being in different locations.

So I haven't taken delivery as I record this podcast, but we're just about to. So we've been busy researching all the tech that I'm gonna need, like mobile WiFi and off grid energy solutions such as solar panels and lithium batteries and all that kind of rubbish. And who knew that there was a whole world of tech and terminology to learn? And right now I'm revisiting my physics level by reminding myself the difference between amps, watts, and volts. Now, by the time you listen to this episode, I will have been away for the first few weekends. So if you want to know how I got on, just reach out to me and I'll let you know. So that's a really exciting project and a new adventure for us. And, you know, I have no idea what the outcome will be. I might hate it, although we've done it a few weekends before, but I'm hoping that I will enjoy it and I can explore parts of the UK that I haven't seen and do it in a pretty inexpensive way. 

Now, the next thing that I have been working on because I've made lots of mistakes with this is getting my kind of team structure in place. So I've tried various virtual assistants. I've tried using a virtual assistant to organise my diary, someone else to do my audio podcast editing, someone for video editing, someone for copyrighting. And it's been really difficult to project manage and they've been really different qualities. So sometimes I find myself trying to delegate and then having to rewrite it, and telling myself those stories like it's quicker to do it myself. So I finally got a structure in place that is really working, so I'm working with a VA company, and my main point of contact is the project manager there. And then they have a team of people that have specialist skills. So they have someone who is really good at creating artwork for social media, someone who is good at editing audio for podcasts, someone else who is great for video editing, and someone who is good for writing content. And I'm only dealing with the project manager. And then she is managing all these other people, and so far that is working well. And that is enabling me to pump out a lot more content and also for me to be able to focus on my superpower, which is creating the content, not necessarily editing this podcast or writing the show notes. So if you are a freelance personal or one person agency, then really think about how you can delegate to a team of people, even if they're just virtual people that you hire for a few hours a week, and I'm going to be recording more about my VA structure and I'm going to actually interview my via on a future episode. So look out for that because, like I said, I think I've got this concept of having a project manager, and then a public publisher and editor working well for me. So I want to share that with you. 

So that's what I'm doing in 2021 to take control of how I run my business. As I said, I think I was starting to fall foul of this idea that when the world opens, I'll be able to start doing things I used to do and pick up where I left off. And I think many of us felt that would start to happen at the beginning of 2021, but here we are halfway through the year and whilst the vaccination is rolling out well in the UK, things haven't really changed in terms of being open and travelling. And to be honest, most countries are not opening their doors to us right now. So rather than continue to mark time and wait for some notional point in the future, I'm creating the kind of working environment that I want based on the constraints that exist right now, and who knows what the future holds. But this whole situation reminds us to live more in the present, and I guess that's sort of the theme of my podcast today, which is to stop marking time and waiting for things to happen in the future. But take control of them now and realise that you have choices and you can make whatever you want happen. And remember that success isn't determined by you growing your revenues 20% year on year on year on year. And so make sure you stay connected to the reason why you run your agency. So I hope this episode has given you some food for thought, and if so, please make sure that you leave a review. I agree. Be eternally grateful. Hit the subscribe button to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes, and I'll be back with you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Creating an Online Programme with David Miles

Have you ever dreamt about earning passive income, (i.e. earning money that isn't directly connected to selling your time)?

Have you ever thought about taking what you deliver for your clients and turning it into an online programme, a course, or a membership site?

A number of my clients have so I thought it would be a great topic for a podcast.

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am joined by David Miles, CEO of The PPC Machine.

The PPC Machine is an agency that helps mortgage brokers generate high-quality leads from their website using PPC and website optimisation. 

David shares how he's taken his PPC services and developed an online membership programme. We explore why he choose a membership programme over other online models, we look at some of the tech he has in place to run his membership, and the challenges and pitfalls he experienced as he developed his programme.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[2:37] 

What was the catalyst to begin exploring and creating an online programme?

[4:43] 

How to explore different online models- from membership programme to one off courses. 

[5:37] 

The reasons for choosing membership model over a standard course 

[8:05] 

Understanding the structure of an overall online programme

[13:04] 

How to encourage members to take action for online learning success

[14:04] 

What is the current status of David Miles’ PPC online programme?

[14:50] 

The biggest challenge in creating an online programme

[17:40] 

The component parts and tech tools that best work for The PPC Machine

[21:06] 

Tips in selling membership programme

[23:38] 

What advice to give to the listeners who plan to take their business online?

[27:21] 

Tips in pre-selling an online programme

[29:20] 

What are the things that David Miles would have done differently if he were to start over again?

[30:41] 

How to determine the pricing for an online programme

[34:16] 

What would David Miles’ advice be to his younger self?

Quotations

"Moving your 1-2-1 services to an online programme makes your business more scalable. You can reach more people." - David Miles

“I think a really good bit of advice that you don't need to have everything ready at launch. In fact, if you're launching a programme yourself, you need to create a minimum viable offer..“ - Rob DaCosta

“..no one is going to judge how good your programme is by the quantity of content. You don't need content about everything. You just need to have good quality content.” - Rob DaCosta

“Launch with a minimum viable product so that don't don't feel you've got to spend six months or a year creating something huge before you launch, because the big risk if you do that you might be creating something that nobody wants and then you've wasted a year of your life, so decide what your minimum viable product is.” - David Miles

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

“I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode.” If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please hit the subscribe button below to be sure you are alerted when new episodes are published.

 Full Episode Transcription

If you've ever dreamt about earning passive income by money that isn't directly connected to selling your time, then this episode's gonna be one that you don't want to miss. Now, if you've ever thought about taking what you deliver for your clients and turning it into an online programme, or course, or a membership site, then that's what we're talking about today. I'm excited to have David Miles from The PPC Machine, who is actually our second repeat guest, and we're talking all about how he's taken his PPC services and turned them into an online membership programme. We'll talk about why he decided to do this, why he picked a membership programme over a different model, and some of the tech and things that he's had to get in place in order to make sure that he can run the programme and talk about how he launched on how successful he's been in some of the pitfalls on some of the things that he would do differently if he were starting again. So, as I say, if you've ever thought about taking what you teach and turning it into an online programme, then this episode is one that you won't want to miss.So, let's get on with the show. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DaCosta. So, welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I'm really excited to have back with me; in fact, David Miles from the PPC. David is a long standing client of mine, and he runs, as I said, the PPC Machine, an agency that helps mortgage brokers generate high quality leads from their website using PPC and website optimisation.

Now David was actually one of my first guests on the podcast in episode 6, where we talked about niching, and David shared the benefits he's seen since niching into the mortgage broker sector. So welcome, David. Welcome back David. Is there anything else you wanted to add to my introduction? No, I think you already know me quite well up to something, something a lot quite nicely. So, good to be back. Excellent. Well, it's well, it's good to have you back. Now, you've been running your agency for a number of years in its current form and today we're talking about taking kind of like the bricks and mortar work that we do and moving it into some kind of online programme. So I was really interested to hear from you what the catalyst was for you to begin exploring creating some kind of online programme, online community for your audience. Yeah, I know this is one of those things I'd I'd talked about I thought about doing for years and lots of people said to me over the years, or you should take your training and, you know, move it online. It's more scalable. You can reach more people and all that kind of thing. And, I suppose, as with a lot of people, the catalyst for doing something that you've talked about for a long while was when the pandemic hit last year. Because obviously that two things firstly, in that initial for six weeks, when the business world just kind of stopped, you know, regardless of what kind of business you're in, everyone seemed to stop and now want to commit to anything in the world ground to a hole that always he gave people like me a lot more time to think about.

Okay, well, now I've got the time to do it. X once said that I've talked about for years. Um, because the other thing was, I physically couldn't deliver one-to-one  training to people anymore, which, you know, that wasn't solely what business was about. It was a significant part of it. So those things together really gave me the opportunity and the kick up the bum, to actually get on and start thinking like, how can I take what I've been doing in training rooms and one-to-one with people over the years and turn that into an online offering.

Yeah, I guess it's a soft panacea that many people see with an online programme in that they are limited by their time when they're doing what you and I do, which is typically one-to-one work with clients, whether that be training or coaching. Actually doing the work for them is a consultant like you do when you're running a PPC campaign for a client. And if we take it online than this promise of kind of making money in your sleep and, you know, being much more scalable And I guess you and I both know that promise a bit of a misnomer really. So I think the first thing I would say to people to our listeners is that if you've ever dreamt about creating online programme that absolutely go for air but realise that you know, it's a different kind of effort and work that you need to put in to get the revenue as opposed to the one-to-one work. So now you settled on a membership model in the end. So I'm interested to know why that was on what other models you explored. Because I guess if someone is thinking about taking their consultative what they do and creating online programme, then they will be thinking about these different models. So, how did you explore and conclude that a membership model was the right thing for you? Yes. Obviously there's two ways you can. You can sell online training on my courses. Yet that's the selling is a one of thing. Here's my course, give me £1000, have my course all this the membership model, which is what I went for. But as you know, Rob, you initially I went down, the more traditional sell it as a stand alone course. And a few reasons for our transition to the membership model ready. Firstly, the biggest reason I think is it. But a membership model allows me to offer more support and ongoing help to the people who buy by the court or by what is now programme that includes for courses is one of its elements. And the reason why I think that's so important is one thing I learned very early on when I was doing face-to-face training and you know if mining public training courses, where on things like Google Ads and social media and staff, and we have 10 to 20 delegates on each call. And the busiest point in the day for me is the training on a full day course was always the lunch break, because the lunch break was when the people who had a question that perhaps they were too sharply to ask in front of walls or, you know, they have reflected on something while they were having their sandwiches. Actually, I didn't understand that bit. That will be when they all come over and want to talk to the trainer. So you know, if anyone listen to this is ever run public training, you're now as well as I do. You don't really get to eat lunch. That's your full on part of the day. You can relax when you get back into the training room. Well, that's something that the online courses, you know that it doesn't exist. But lunch break doesn't happen. And so what I didn't want people to buy a course on, then never do it or never finish it because, you know, I suppose you could argue. Either way, I've got their money. So why do I care? Well, actually, because my reason for doing this is I want to actually have people learn new skills and be able to do this stuff themselves, and so I actually want people to finish. But yes, I want the money, but I want to finish the course as well. And that's why if I turn into a membership, then I can offer that ongoing support, hand holding, and coaching to help them through the courses. That was one reason for it and the other reason was I felt if I sell it as a standalone course, it's kind of set in stone that this is what you get. Whereas I know that the nature of what I trained on your traditional marketing world is always changing, involving and new things are coming along. So I wanted to be able to say, Well, this is This is the training you get as a bare minimum, but I'll be adding new stuff as time goes on as new things happen and I learn new things and new things come out. Whatever. Because that only works if people are gonna membership model club, just giving people new content for free or time. Yeah, that were reasons.

And to share with the listeners the sort of structure of your overall programme. So when someone signs up, what do they get? What are the various component parts? Yeah, so is aimed at mortgage brokers and financial advisors who want to generate more enquiries, more leads from their own websites basically. So, when someone first joins the programme, they get what I call a road mapping call with me where it's a half hour call to work out. You know where they're at the moment. That's the other thing. People joined the programme. You know, some have done no on my marketing. Some have done a fair bit. And that's why again, with the membership, you can flex it around what fits each individual. So I helped him work out, whether at the moment, what their priority should be. And then they've got access to a whole library of online courses covering all the different things on the road. Mapping core allows me to recommend to them you should start with this course or that course, because I don't expect people to work through from course number one to course number 20 whatever necessary in that order, it might be. But I talked to one person, and it's clear that they don't have a good value proposition on their website. So I would say things like going to do the course on value propositions. Or maybe, you know, they've got a great website, but they're trying to run some Google Ads also right, going to start with this course. I'm glad so I can point people in different directions. They got that whole live your courses. But the most important thing is that they get us apart. The programme is once a fortnight. They get a group coaching call on line with me and the other brokers, and the idea of that is, each time, their hour long call. And each time I have a sort of start to topic. But I talk about for 20-25 minutes about live training. So, like the one we did a week or so ago, I was talking about how to use email marketing. A couple weeks before that, we were talking about how to write a better copy for your website, and then the second half are the People asking questions either on what I've just spoken about or whatever they're working on that moment. So, you know, we had someone recall last time who had been setting up some Google Ads campaigns wasn't getting as much traffic from it as I thought they should do, and I looked at it, live on air with them and said, Right, if you change this and this and this gives you all the others are learning from that as well, and that's what I think sets it apart from just paying £1000 from online course, and there's a community is, well online community who can ask questions, get support and answers from me and other brokers and everything.

Yeah, good structure and obviously that's a similar structure to my coaching programme, the self running agency. I think people buy courses and people buy books with great intention of reading them all, completing the course. And then life gets in the way and they never do. And there's this whole group of kind of course collectors that probably you and I have both been guilty of. And I know lots of listeners will relate to that. And so whatever we can do to encourage people to actually, you know, follow the content, and implement the content, and participate in the forums and the group cause and so on the better.Because at the end of the day, this is about, you know, like you save people, making a difference in their business route, content you that you offer. The way I do it is, if you've got those fortnightly coaching calls, if all you do as the bare minimum is come to those at least means once a fortnight. You're spending an hour working on your business and working on your marketing. But, you know, so having much life gets in the way, you've got that kind of lock in the diary and often you only have to do one  thing. We did a coaching called a couple months ago about the importance of social proof and online reviews. One of the guys on the call. One idea that I've given I actually went away, implemented it and got an extra 80 old reviews on his Google reviews within 24 hours, you know? So where if he hadn't come to that call, he could have done that at any time, and the idea I gave wasn't rocket science, but if he hadn't come to that call, he'd never have never gotten around to doing that.

Yeah, that's fantastic. And of course, you know, we do this like you say. We want to make money, but we do what we want to make a difference. And we know that we can help people. You know that for me, the catalyst of creating my courses self running agency implementation group was because I was having so many of the same conversations over and over again with my private coaching clients that I thought, Is there a way we can expedite this? And we can actually save some time on our private calls by me saying that I should go watch module three lesson for, because that you can dig into that in your own time at your own pace.

There's lots of associative downloads, so that was my catalyst and I call my group and implementation group because it is all about doing. It's not just about watching that. I don't want people to watch these programmes, Mehta said. Because a lot of people do watch courses. For what Mehta said, they have great intentions of implementing what they've learned and then they don't implement it. So I'm much more like watch a 10 minute less and get stopped, go implement it, and then we go on to the next thing. So tell me so you've launched this, so I go on, you know that that's not unique to be online world.I get back to the days when I vanished, additional training company. We found something that people would come on a cause, and they would leave with all good intentions. But they would have what we call F.T.I,I failure to implement on one of the things actually there to try to address that was I would be doing it with a Google Ads course and saying like, you come on, if you come on my full day good glance training calls. If you want, you can upgrade and come back for a half day implementation workshop a few days later, a week and that people found that really useful because they turned up to our offices with the laptop and I spent half an hour putting into practise what we learn. You did two things that made them got that time blocked out to do. If it also crucially, I and the other trainers were on hand, so if they got stuff we needed reminding something you could do it. And that's kind of what I'm finding recreate here really in the online world.

Yeah, that's great. I think you know anything we can do to encourage people to take action not just learn is really good. So now I think you've been running this programme for about what, six months now. So tell us how it's going. Yes, we launched beginning of November and it's going really want the numbers of the numbers, members growing months by months with no as yet done huge amounts of marketing around. I'm just starting have a bit more because I pushed to get more people on board, but primarily the people who've joined so far being people who were already aware of and when I do, we're already on my emailing list, comes out my free Facebook lives and stuff like that. And yet the people have said Yes, we you know, we'd like more of this basically So they're the ones who've joined right. And what would you say by reflecting back on the last six months? What would you say the hardest part of putting this kind of programme together, launching it and then marketing is? Funny enough, I don't think creating the content is the hardest part, even though that 40 what most people you have people listen to this thinking of doing this. I bet the thing was putting them off is thinking, Oh, my God, I've got a whole lot online courses. I can't possibly do that. I don't have the skills at the time. I don't have whatever. Um, I don't think that is the hardest part again. Another beauty of the membership, you don't have to launch with everything completely finished if you've got your core offering of course is there, and again if it's a membership like mine. But it's not all about the courses. It's more about the fortnightly coaching. Then you don't need to have this huge finished product before you launch. So I think that's one of the other is the thing I thought would be the biggest challenge for the biggest hurdle that she wasn't. I would say that the hardest thing is probably, you know, it's getting people to engage, getting themselves, joining the community, and come to the things because I know that those who do turn up to the coaching, I love it and get great value for it. But as we always think, there's always some who you know, unable to make it or don't turn up and you know, that's the hardest thing is you could take a horse to water. And I know from completing preach owners they have similar problems. 

So yeah, I completely agree. I mean, it always makes me laugh that the hardest thing the way I run my programme is like people have to submit the questions in advance of our group calls, and it's sometimes like getting blood out, always get the questions and they always come in at the last minute. But sometimes they're literally coming in and nine o'clock when the cause of 10, even though I stopped sort reminding everybody the week before, I think a really good bit of advice that you just shared there is that you don't need to have everything ready. In fact, if you're launching a programme yourself, you need to create a minimum viable offer, which is something that you can start selling and is the bare bones of your programme. Because the input you get from your members is really gonna help you shape what the future of it is and what new content you need to create. So like you said, a lot of people will be thinking I've gotta create this massive compendium of 80 said of will. This content is gonna take me months and months and months and therefore they never get going. But the truth of it is you don't need to have everything ready. And actually, you know my programme isn't a membership programme. It's sort of like a nine month programme. And, I still imagine content and I've been running my programme for a year and a half now and are still adding new content as I feel it's relevant. I think another piece of advice I would give is that no one is going to judge how good your programme is by the quantity of content. You don't need content about everything. You just need to have good quality content. 

Talk to us a little bit about the tech because I think the other thing that puts a lot of people off is all of the component parts that they need to put in place to make this work. So tell us a little bit about the tech that you're using and what you explored. You know, I think that can be because there's somebody from choices of tech that I think part of the problem can be is not even getting your head around how to use it. It's that potential overwhelm off. There's just too much, too much choice. The system that I'm using is probably not the most straightforward, to be honest, because I'm one of those people who likes to kind of take the best bit of software for this job and combine it with the best bit of software for this job. I liken it. To back, back in the days when, when before MPs reason, people listen to music and proper for a high five. But there were some people who would like to go out and just buy the Amstrad all in one system because it was simply plug in that worked on. Then there were others like me who would like to go out by, you know, the Marantz CD player in the name and per normative and then connected altogether and similar with software. So my set up is not the most simple, but it works for me, so I use a system called Thrive Apprentice, because part of the Thrive suite of products that my whole website is built on. So Thrive Apprentice, is their module for creating online courses. All my courses created on that I I use Vimeo for my video hosting. So if I want to create a cause, basically I create the PowerPoint slide deck to go with it like you would for a real world training course, and I go through that screen recording it. I use a philosophical Screencast-O-Matic for doing the screen recording. She's really great. It's a low costing. It cost me. I don't know, something like £70 a year, I think if I had to guess. But it is not a significant amount of money, and that does all the screen recording it's got video editor built into afterwards. After, if you could take the recording you've done you can tap and tail it, you can edit out the arms and the ours. If you've, I screwed up a bit, and you could recall innovation over the bit that you've messed up. It's dead easy to use. It's not got tonnes of video editing features, but that's nice, because then it's not confusing. It's got all the ones you need for doing a course creation. I then under that video, and then I could create my lesson in. So I've apprentice and saying, Pull this video in.I can put the lesson notes in there. So that's what I used to creating that kind of online content. My group coaching calls, no fancy tech involved there. It's a paid Zoom account. I set up the Zoom meeting and the link out on the agenda is people beforehand and may join the call, and what I do with all of those coaching calls is because they themselves are, you know, whenever growing library of useful stuff. So I record them all via Zooms record function, and I just turned those into a video but available to the members afterward, and for my community I use platform called Mighty Networks, which is kind of like is basically where you can create your own private version of Facebook really. And yes, I use that to host the community. So that's sort of how I did with all different components, better on the other. The other main component is to actually sell the membership and take people's monthly payments. I use Strivve Card and my plug in forward press that runs the member database is called WishList Member. That's what it's called. So I'm using different bits of everything I know. I know, the other extreme. But I know you use Kartra, which basically has almost components all in one package.

So if people like fiddling with the tech, you know, then you could do what I have done. If you just want an off the shelf, thinks I'm in a car trouble. I've heard people speak highly of MemberMouse as another thing, but kind does the whole lot. Um, But one of the one of the things I did, you know early on, was quite a reading member of membership systems and then I think that's it's important to get that right, migrating for one membership system for another is quite a pain. So I would definitely get that right. But with the other stuff, you know, if I suddenly decided I didn't like video anymore or I wanted to put my courses are different thing. It wouldn't be that difficult to move the videos from one platform to another or something like that. But moving all your members off one check out system one member into another. That's a bit more of a headache. So put the time and effort into getting that. 

Yeah, good advice and I will put links in the show notes to all of the tools that David just mentioned. In case you want to look at them, and as David said, you know, I think we both went through a fairly thorough assessment. In fact, prior to me moving to Kartra, I used to host some in the individual training courses on Teachable, which is a specific of course platforms. That's a really good platform for taking payments and delivering the content. But it didn't do enough from membership perspective, I guess. So. I decided to move to Kartra and as David said, cultures and all in one platform. So I host my videos. There are hosts of my course programmes there. I will take all the payments there. I have more female marketing's hosted in one platform. The advantage of that is it integrates really well and it's more straightforward. The disadvantage is it's not as flexible, so the way what David ,so talk about was like picking best of breed tools and then collecting together on what I do is making the connection piece really easy, but perhaps compromising in some aspects. Although place things like Kartra getting better all the time.

And as you said, there's other tools, like MemberMouse and Kajabi is another well known to all. So what advice would you give to somebody else if they were thinking about their listening to this and they're listening because they thought about how can I stop selling one toe, one work? How can I take what I know and put it online? What advice would you give them? 

There were two things I would say. One you've touched on already is go with the minimum viable products that don't don't feel you've got to spend six months or a year creating something huge before you launch, because the big risk if you do that, if you might create something that nobody wants and then you've wasted a year of your life, so decide what your minimum viable product is for launch, and commit to launching when you have that level of product that level of membership available. And the second thing I would say it's really important is create a waiting list and this is something that I did when I launched mine. If I were going back in time, I would maybe spend longer launching the waiting list. But I'm impatient, so I didn't but the beauty how you're waiting it is so wonderful about here. If you start telling people you know, people on your existing mailing list PPL existing clients contacts, prospect whatever your database of contact is, you start telling them this is what I'm visible I'm working on, this is coming. Are you interested? You want to join the weight of this? And I I did that. It's totally an obligation I have said to people for a number of occasions I'm creating this programme. This is the outline of what it's gonna look like, what the components and if you're interested in being one of the first to know when it launches, you know, and getting in a special founder, members price and all that kind of thing. Then just click here. And that added on the waiting list on that meant that at the time when I actually launched, I forget how many I had on the waiting list. But it wasn't a vast number was up 50 to 100 people. Maybe it meant I had that call of people who basically already committed. Then you did it by new rough. It was gonna be in the programme. May knew what it was gonna cost them. And so I said anything that the same, right? It's launching on this date, and that was like a week beforehand. So you're building up the anticipation and when I actually opened the doors that was right. This is it. I, you know, got me my 1st 10 sign ups, like within the first hour. And beyond, that is what you know. It's good from the commercial point of view, but it gets some money coming in for the membership straightaway. But more important in that it immediately validates that you've done something good because you've told you what it is you're gonna be selling. Okay? Not part of the money yet, but they've said we're on the weight of this. We will do as soon as you launch it, and then a decent percentage of those actually do. Do it when the time comes. You think? Yes, I have got something here, which is why I've got a viable product and that gives you the impetus of inside right now. Interface of how to do. How to grow membership, how will get more people into it. You know, whatever. I think it's really important that we don't want is a membership where you've got two members. But if you're doing things like group coaching calls or whatever because no, it doesn't hurt that much energy does it. If actually it's only hit you and two people. 

Yeah, I'm really good advice that I think the thing I would say to anybody that's thinking about doing this is do your research and do your validation and the only way you really validate that programme is by someone buying it because someone might tell you that they're interested. But telling you they're interested in parting with their cash are two different things. So, as part of your research and your validation, you need to pre-sell your programme using a minimum viable offer. And at that stage, you probably don't have any content created, you just mapped out what it will look like. I'm gonna put a link in the show notes to guide that I've created on validation and research to help people go through those steps because, you know I've launched at least seven programmes in the past without doing this, and they've all been failing to one degree or another. So it was only after literally seven courses here over the last probably 6-7 years that I realised I needed to do this validation properly before I launch. Of course, there's a big difference between you thinking you know what your audience wants and your audience actually wanting something, so I think that's really good advice. 

So, I think something else to say is that, that validation idea isn't unique to just memberships. So if you were doing the more traditional launching of one online calls, you can still do that validation and at minimum viable product. So if you say you were doing, you know, of course, that was ultimately going to have 30 lessons in it. You could launch it and start selling it when you've created, say, the first 5 or 10 lessons. And you decide to most people, you know, the other lessons will be delivered over the next two months or something. Because again, that means you can actually, you know, test out the actual idea about getting some people onboard and if you know, if you've created your first 10 lessons and you're starting to flag a bit and think it always is hard work for nothing motivates you like having a load of people who've paid for the other 20 lessons and who are waiting to receive them. So don't don't think about those things as just applying for membership to be transferred to ordinary one of the courses as well. 

Yeah, for sure. And like you say, there's nothing like putting something in life to motivate you to get stuff done. Is there anything you would do differently if you were going to start again? Would you do anything differently that you've done so far? I think the thing I said about making the waiting list period a bit longer. Probably would really do that differently next time, and I suppose another thing I would do would do differently by the one thing that might I suppose I did try and create. This is a one off course and then transitioned into a membership. So, knowing what I know now, I would have done it as a membership from day one on. That would automatically have made the waiting list period longer because the waiting list would have been building up while I was creating Well, all the courses and scratch. Whereas by the time I did my waiting yes, I already got a lot of the stuff I needed ready to launch. So, yeah, I think extending that phase would be something I would do differently. But other than that, no, I think that that's the main thing, that's the beauty remembers you could. You could tweak it and change it as you go through. You know, it's something that you've got members saying, Oh, be really nice. If the programme included this or, you know, this hasn't happened to me But if people said, Oh, we'd rather only have a coaching called once a month once a fortnight or you can make those changes as you go. So I don't think you have to have everything set in stone like from day one.

Yeah. No, absolutely. Let me ask you a massive question and see if you can answer in one minute. Just I’m concious of time. One blast. And maybe this is a separate poor castle together. But one aspect that we haven't discussed is pricing. Like, how on earth do you work out? How much to charge, whether it be a one off fee, several payment fee like I have in my programme or monthly recurring membership fee? How did he start figuring out the pricing? 

I've no idea. This's a short answer.It's a a massive, massive question. And, I've read so many different theories on pricing and what you should do, it shouldn't do with it. The route I've gone for with it is to try and keep it as something where it's a low monthly amount because: a) I don't want people to be thinking too hard about whether to join in the first place, or b) whether to keep their membership going. I don't want price to be a barrier to them, to them coming on board. What I would say is, don't get obsessed with what each individual person is paying. Because if I looked at you know what someone on my membership gets for the monthly membership they pay, I'm setting myself way too cheap. What I do instead is look at what is my total revenue from the membership on DH there? Actually, we had that work. So you know, when I look at the time it takes me to go and do to group coaching calls per month, for example, I think, Yeah, that's actually I'm content with that as an hourly rate or whatever, you know, whatever you want to call it. So I would say, price it such that people don't have to think too hard about joining and don't have to think too hard about staying. Think about the value that they're getting for it. But the problem with that is you have memberships cover a huge range of things. Some people run memberships and online courses where what you're teaching someone is somebody with their hobby, you know? So maybe you've got a membership about how to play the guitar better. Well, that's mostly only gonna be their hobby. Will never get a return on that investment. Other than the pleasure I get from playing the guitar better with something like my membership, I can price it at the higher end because if you're a mortgage broker joining this, if it gets you just one extra client per month from what you learn from this, you know that's put another £1000 a month on your on your bottom line. So I think that's what you think. You're pricing thing. What's the actual value to the kind of people are joining this? How much could it change their business or change their life and therefore, what will be willing to pay for it? But I would rather than you have a lot of people paying a low amount of money than have you know, 10 people paying me £500 a month because I want that, I think. I guess I grew that. 

And of course, one of the ways you can and get some sense of pricing for whatever your programme is going to be in whatever topic it's gonna be for whatever market is, just to do some research and find out what other people are charging. That's a good starting point. I also think in the early days, I know both you and I did this is that you have assault founders rate and you almost use that as a way to get people through the door early because you tell them the price is going up. And, what you need to do is start a low rate and then increase the price until you reach a point where you've hit that soft, sweet spot, which is the right fee for you and the right fee for your market as well. So, like so it was probably an unfair question to ask you right at the end, but I just wanted to get that one in. 

So as you know, the last question, I ask all my guests, and I deliberately asked David not to go back and listen to episode 6 to see what he said before but I'll do that after this. If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? Well, I haven't been back and checked, but there are actually two bits of advice because I think since you asked me that in episode 6, I think I got asked on someone else's podcast and gave a different answer. So I'm going to give both okay. Advice I would give to my younger business self are niche your business because I didn't do that until about six years ago, and I wish I'd done it sooner. And the second piece of advice would be start building your email list because again, that's something that I only really started focusing heavily on a few years ago. If I'd started doing that 10-20 years ago, I'd have an even bigger at me. My email list is a massive asset, and, like I said, it was where the majority of my members have come from for my membership programme. Imagine if I started building that 15 years ago, it would have been even bigger and better. So start building a list, too. 

Yeah, two great piece of advice and, you know, my listeners will know that I bang on the drum about both of those. And sometimes it's really hard to get people to figure out that you're building your email list is gonna be one of your most valuable assets, and it'll be one of the most valuable asset. So if you want to sell your agency and it's certainly going to be the sort of pool that you swim in and fishing and if you can make that pool's biggest possible. And of course, as we all know, nitching your agency means high price is easy if your clients to find you and easier to look different to your competitors. So good piece of advice. I will go back and check out what you said on episode 6 to see if it's the same works on a different. But I'm not sure if I don't think we've ever had either of those two piece of it as advice before.

That's always great, David. It's people listening to this, and they want to find out more about you and particularly check out your programme, where would they go? If you go to the website, which is ThePPCMachine.co.uk. Always stuff said if they specifically about the programme. It's ThePPCmachine.co.uk/PPP  because the programme is called the Predictable Part Mind Programme (PPP). And obviously they want to connect me, I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter was updated miles, you know, all the usual places. Yes. 

So we are scribing this down, we will add all those links into the show notes, so people can check out what we've been talking about today. See what yourselves page your programme looks like get some other ideas but wanted to thank you today for joining us David, this has been a topic that I haven't talked about before. But it's interesting. And I think like you said, the catalyst has been the pandemic that more people are starting to think about taking their agency work and moving it online in some form. But they often don't know where to start. I feel such a huge task. So I hope that the advice you shared with people today will help them make that journey a little bit more pain free for them. Hopefully, thank you very much. for has been a pleasure chatting to you as always. And, yeah, I hope it's giving people some useful advice. We'll see you again soon. Bye!

How To Be Productive With Your Limited Time

One of the things that all agency owners, freelancers, and indeed any kind of business owner is short of is time. But how do we separate being a busy fool from using our time productively?

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast,  I want to share with you five (5) ideas and strategies that will help you become more productive. Now, these are ideas that I use in my own business, and I also teach my clients so I know that they will work, and I know where they will work for you.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:57] 

How to be successful in running a business

[3:01] 

The importance of having a plan for your business

[3:56] 

5 tips to becoming more productive

[3:59] 

#1 Create a daily schedule

[6:13] 

#2 Delegate, delegate, and delegate!

[9:38] 

#3 Limit your email checking – ideally twice or 3 times a day

[12:42] 

#4 Use technology to aid your productivity

[15:46] 

#5 Create space for  ‘thinking time'

Quotations

“..remember, if you want to make a difference to how efficient you are, you've got to do something different.” - Rob Da Costa

“The golden rule is to make sure at the end of the day you have ticked off every item in your to-do list rather than just creating a longer list which feels very dispiriting and is a really typical scenario.” - Rob Da Costa

“..my favourite expression which is, ‘Slow down to speed up.’” - Rob Da Costa

“At the start, you really need to think about how you can make these ideas work for you rather than sitting there thinking why they won't work for you. You also need to be disciplined in implementing these ideas because, after all, it takes 21 days to change a behaviour. So, be determined to stick with your new strategies, and find a way of holding yourself to a count.”- Rob Da Costa

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Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

 Full Episode Transcription

One of the things that all agency owners, freelancers, and indeed any kind of business owner is short of is time. But how do we separate being a busy fall from using our time productively? That's why I want to tackle in this episode of The Agency Accelerator. I want to share with you five (5) ideas and strategies that you can start using that will help you become more productive. Now, these are ideas that I use in my own business, and I also teach my clients so I know that they will work, and I know where they will work for you.

So to get the most out of this episode, listen with an open mind and figure out how you can make these ideas work for you rather than thinking you're the exception and they won't work. So let's get on with today's show. Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DaCosta. Today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Loved by agencies around the world, Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web hosting related complexities, leaving users free to focus on growing their businesses and clients.

The platform offers unmatched performance, reliability choice, and 24/7, 365 support. The act is an extension to your own team, making Cloudways the ultimate choice for growing agencies. Now, at present, Cloud Ways is offering an exclusive discount for The Agency Accelerator listeners. So visit cloudways.com and use the promo code AA20, that's AA20 to get a discount of 20% off your first three months on the hosting platform of your choice. OK on with today's show. I've always said that to be successful in running any kind of business, you need to be a great juggler, and you need to be a great juggler of three (3) key tasks.

Firstly, delivering great work for your clients. Secondly, running your business. That means staying on top of your finance, your ad men getting your invoices out on time and then thirdly, focusing on the future of your agency to ensure that you've got a consistent pipeline of new clients waiting in the wings to work with you. So that you never lurch from that awful feast to famine cycle that I've spoken about many times before. Now, whilst I appreciate many of the ideas I'm going to share with you or not groundbreaking original, I think it's always good to be reminded of what we know.

And we forgot  and all, perhaps, what we didn't know, and also to be held to account to implementing some of these ideas. And remember, if you want to make a difference to how efficient you are, you've got to do something different. You can't just hope things will change. So that's what we're covering this episode with the five (5) tips that I'm outlining. Now, let's start off by talking about the importance of having a plan, and whilst this episode isn't about planning for your agency, we've talked about that before.

You do want to make sure that the way you spend your time is driving your agency forward to delivering that plan, rather than just being a busy fall and going around in circles. So you're going to want to make sure that your daily schedule is taking steps towards delivering your monthly objectives, and they take steps to living your quarterly annual yearly plan. You need to ensure that you're getting the balance right of client delivery, business development, and planning for the future, and running your agency. That's those three (3) balls that I talked about in the introduction.

And if you get this right, then you're going to avoid feast and famine, and you're gonna have a consistent pipeline of new business whilst also do a great job your current clients, and that is going to give you an awful lot less stress, and you're going to have a clear sense of direction. So, the first tip I want to talk about is about creating a daily schedule, and my advice to you is that you plan your next day and you get a really good habit of this of planning your next day at the end of the previous day.

And then in the morning after you've reviewed your emails, you will visit your schedule for the day. And if any email actions need to be scheduled, you can put them into your plan. Now, a couple of tips here. Firstly, overestimate how long each task is going to take, because you need to be able to cope with the unexpected. All those things that you didn't know when you planned out your day, but undoubtedly will happen. So overestimate how long things will take so that give you some space to cope with the unexpected and, secondly, use a tool for scheduling.

Now I use a tool called Marvin as my daily scheduler. I find it really easy to use and it sinks with my phone, and with my diary, and I find it really, really useful now. I've got no affiliate to that, so you can use your own solution if you know one. But I'll put a link in the show notes to this toolr. And as I said, there's no affiliation. I just actually like the tall and it works really well for me, and it has timers like that sinks my diary and my phone, So it's easy to use.

You know, we all have random ideas when we're in the shower or walking the dog, and you want to be able to capture them so it all like this will enable you to do that. Now, of course, some people prefer pen and paper, and that's absolutely fine. But the golden rule about planning all days to make sure the end of the day, you have ticked off every item in your to-do list rather than having a to-do list that was even longer then it was at the start of the day, which is often what happens when people just write a long list of things to do.

They take things off and get them done. But they keep adding more and that is not a good way of keeping you motivated. And it feels really dispiriting to see list that actually ends the day longer, whereas if you do this properly and you get really disciplined about it, then you will get to the end of your day and you will see every single item ticked off on your list. You will then allocate time to plan the next day, and you just feel like you are in control. Now, on the point of having too many actions in your to-do list.

My second tip is to delegate, delegate, and delegate. So, we need to focus on our superpower. That's the thing that you are really great at doing, and most importantly, only you can do because, of course, we think we're great at doing everything. But what the things that only you can do, and they usually look like being the figurehead for your agency, creating that plan and doing business development, and we want to get someone to support it with a lot of those other tasks, so a lot of your admin task can be outsourced.

If you're just starting out or you're one person agency, then get yourself a virtual assistant. Obviously, if you've got a team, you can start delegating more. But one thing I would say about delegation is we need to break those stories that we tell ourselves that stop us delegating. You know, I haven't got time to show, but someone it's quicker to do it myself. They won't do it as well as me. Those air holes, just stories that stop us delegating it and you're asking yourself the wrong question because it should never be while they do it as well as me, because the answer will always be ‘No,’ of course it should be, will they do it well enough to do a good job? And the answer will become ‘Yes,’ if you think that way, but just challenge yourself when you're thinking. It's fine talking about delegation, but it takes me so long to show someone how to do something than it does to do it myself. Well, sure it does in the first couple of times, but after that they'll be able to take that piece of work off your plate. So this is a really good example of my favourite expression, which is “Slow down to speed up.”

Just delegate, if it effectively to somebody, make sure you're really clear. Make sure they understand what's expected of them. Make sure they understand the deadline. Make sure they understand what the output is. And if you slow down to articulate that really carefully, then they'll do a good job. Whereas if you delegate poorly, which is what a lot of people do because you kind of know what you want them to do in your head. But you don't communicate that very well. Then, of course they're gonna fail, and then you're gonna perpetuate their stories, which was all well, I knew they wouldn't be able to do what I might do it myself.

And I've suffered from that myself in the past, and I really challenge myself on that. And now I have a really good set up of project managers, and content writers, and social media schedulers, and podcast EPT editors and video editors that are supporting the running of my business. Now doesn't mean I have a huge team. It just means that I use a virtual assistant who uses some other people to get all these things done. So I'm liaising with, like the project manager in the neck, getting other specialists to do that work now.

One thing that I've done that works really well is I have documented my standing up standard operating procedures. So how to upload a podcast? How to edit a podcast, how to upload an email, just showing the people that I'm delegating to exactly how to do it. And I've also shot short videos, so that they could go back and watch these videos, and that just makes their learning much quicker. And it saves me having to repeat myself a number of times, and I use Loom, L-O-O-M, which is a fantastic tool and it's free, and I just shoot short video showing someone have to log on to a particular piece of software, or how to edit, or whatever it is.

So, that is definite example of slowing down to speed up. Document what you want someone to do. Delegate it carefully and they will do it. But just remember that my second tip is to delegate, and that you need to focus on your superpower. And let's move on to my third tip, which is a bit of a motive one, and that is to do with your emails. Now. I think we should all be limiting our email, checking ideally to twice, or maybe three times a day.

So first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and in the evening. Now I can hear your screaming as I say this and your thinking ‘Listen, I can't possibly do that. My clients expect a much quicker response,’ and sure they do. But you need to do two things here. You need to train your clients, so that they understand that if something's urgent, they will call you, or they will use some kind of other messaging like Whatsapp. And you need to explain to clients when they start working with you and other team members, how you check your email.

So, explain that you're only check your emails three times a day. And in between that, turn your out of office messaging on to explain: “I'm not at my desk at the moment. I check my email three times a day. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.”  So you're managing expectations. And, of course, with new clients you can tell them this at the beginning. We are, I think, completely addicted to emails. And I think this is why this tip is such an emotive one, because people like to feel needed.

They like seeing that little outlook dialogue box peeing up in the corner of the screen. But it is such a distraction. We’re like, you know, we're losing that battle against all these apps and tools that are fighting for our attention. We're losing the battle. So if you want to get focused, if you want to be efficient, then just check your email three times a day and otherwise turn your outlook off and sender, put you out of office on and explain to your client. And the other thing I would really recommend to do even if you won't do what I just said is to turn that dialogue box off, go into your settings, and where it says notifications, turn off the one that says ping up every time an email comes in because it's so distracting.

And if you're trying to focus on doing a complex piece of work, like writing a proposal or getting ready for a presentation or developing a new product, and you're seeing these boxes opinion in the corner, they're just a big distraction. And it will take you so much longer to get that deep thinking piece of work done than it would if you turned off those notifications and didn't get distracted. I think a really good aspiration that we should all strive toward is to get our inbox down to zero at the end of every day, and you even might wanna have your VA give her first pass of your email so that they can identify the important ones that you need to respond to.

And there are also lots of really great email management tools that will automatically filter your emails for you and put them into different folders. And one of those tools that I use is called SaneBox and again, no affiliation to this. I just like it. So I put a link in the show notes to that as well. And what that does is you set up some certain rules and it will filter your emails, so that you know the ones that you need to attend to today, and there might be once that kind of like information or emails that you might want to read in the future, and it will automatically follow them for you. That's a good way of managing this because we should all aspire to get our in boxes down to zero. Tip number four is an overarching tip, which is to use technology to aid your productivity. Such as SaneBox and Marvin I've already talked about. But what other tasks can you automate? While there are tools like Zero for accounting and bookkeeping, which has personally made my life so much easier, and the time that I now spend a bookkeeping which, to be honest, is not my favourite thing to do has probably been halved because it just works in a more intuitive way, connects it'll bank account he just makes that process easier.

So let's just think about some other tools that you could use as well. So from a communications perspective for project management perspective, I use Asana. But you can also use Trello or Monday, and these are just good tools for communicating with teams, especially when you are working remotely. Or you're using people in different countries or even just for yourself project managing, so that you stay on top of stuff and you can get alerted when you need to do things, you don't drop the ball, so that's project management and communication.

I use Grammarly for all of my email content, like it's like a first past spelling and grammar check, which is super useful. I use Google Drive for sharing content with my team. And from a social media perspective, I use Buffer, but you confuse things like Hootsuite so that you can schedule and send out posts on all the various different platforms you use without manually having to do that. I use LastPass for my password management, and I'm sure most of this is familiar to you.

But the last two really good tips from a productivity perspective on that is that I use voice to text for all of my writing. So I use on Mac. You just set up a key that when you press brings up the microphone, and I speak my content first of all, because that is much faster and it gets the content would be much quicker. But it also captures my tone of voice, and I take this approach of write fast, edits slow, so that is a really great way of writing quickly.

So that's what another tip and then the last tip, which I've already mentioned his use Loom to record videos. Now, I use Loom to do some training with my team so that they could get up to speed quickly and have a reference. But I often will use Loom when I'm replying to clients as well. So the client has said, ‘Hey, Rob, what do you think about this? Or can you look at this for me?’ I will usually do it in read real time, startling video and review their email, all the content they've sent over in real time and then just send them an email back. Now that's much quicker for me.

Andi also create a lot more engagement. Imagine if you've got a prospect who has reached out to you, and rather than just sending them a long email. The first thing you do is send them a video going. ‘Hey, Jane, it's really great to meet you. Thanks for your email, had a quick look at our website, and this is what I think.’ And if they receive a video like that, then it just is a great way of building that kind of connection that relationship quickly with your client.

So that's tip number four, which is all about using technology to aid your productivity. And my last tip, tip number five, is to give yourself some time and space to have some thinking time now. Thinking time is something that I teach myself running agency members. And it's one of the first things we cover when people join the programme and it just give you the time, and the space to plan, to think, and to take that high level view off your business so that when you launch back into the detail doing your stuff, you know that you're focused on the tasks that will move you forward.

Thinking time also gives you the opportunity to be creative, and to focus on the future. And that might include things like new products and services. And it certainly gives you the time and the space to think about how you could be more efficient in the things that you do. Now, we are so stuck on that client service Hamster Wheel of Doom, where we're running 100 miles an hour just to keep up, and we start a day with 100 emails. We've got too many things on our to-do list.

We got too many demands on us. And if we don't create space to do some thinking time, then we're just never going to break that cycle. Now the secret to thinking time is to do it every day, and to do it at the point in the day when you're most alert and your most creative. So scheduling some thinking time, for example straight after you've eaten a heavy lunch might not be the best idea. But if you're a morning person like me, then start off your day with half an hour thinking time to plan, to problem solve, and to create.

This is definitely a key strategy to avoiding being a busy fall, and to ensure that you're spending your limited time on the things that will genuinely drive your agency forward. Okay, so those are the five key strategies that I wanted to share with you today. I know that they're not groundbreaking, but hopefully they've reminded you of some things that you may have forgotten. Or maybe you've learned some new things, and I would definitely recommend that you implement these five (5) things into your agency. So number one was creating a daily schedule.

Number two was as soon as you can possibly do this, start delegating, even if that means hiring a VA for a couple of hours a week to start with. Number three was only look at your emails 2-3 times a day, and turn off your dialogue box, and put you out of office on the other times, and explain to your clients when you're available, and obviously tell them it's urgent. They can call you on work towards inbox zero. Number four was to use productivity tools to get you as efficient as possible, and to automate tasks and to improve communications. And then number five was to allow some daily thinking time to plan, and to problem solve, and to create.

Now, as I said at the start, you really need to think about how you can make these ideas work for you rather than sitting there thinking why they won't work for you. You also need to be disciplined in implementing these ideas because, after all, it takes 21 days to change a behaviour. So, be determined to stick with your new strategies, and find a way of holding yourself to a count. Of course, reward yourself when you do those things. Now, if you want to learn more about this then I have a suite of e-books and cheat sheets to help you with mindset, with productivity delegation, and time management.

And they are all part of my productivity pack, which is free, and I'll put a link in the show notes, so that you can grab them. But I hope you found today's episode useful, and I will be back with you next Thursday for our next guest interview on The Agency Accelerator Podcast. And if you haven't ordered it, please hit the subscribe button, and please consider leaving a review on Apple podcast because it helped me reach a wider audience like you. Other than that have a great week and I'll see you next week.

Recruiting Staff in a Challenging Climate

Recruitment is such a hot topic at the moment. I know everyone is finding it tough, so today we’ll be talking about the biggest challenges in recruitment.

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, we are joined by Ugis Balmaks, who runs his own recruitment company, Recruiter Mill that helps agencies hire great staff. He shares some interesting insights about the current state of the industry, the recruitment process, tips on how to recruit people, and how to give yourself the best chance to be successful.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[02:50] 

Ugis Balmaks’ back story on how he started in recruitment: his first hired employee, his biggest learning experience in recruitment, and more about his company.

[6:35] 

Pros and cons of hiring an in-house staff vs remote worker

[9:00] 

How to recruit people during these challenging times in the U.K

[11:16] 

Do’s and don’ts in recruitment

[14:36] 

The marketing funnel steps in the recruitment process

[18:58] 

Tips in filtering job applications

[22:22] 

How to assess cultural competence during the interview

[26:23] 

Why honesty is the best policy throughout the recruitment process

[27:37] 

Difference between hiring employees directly and outsourcing through a recruitment agency

[30:11] 

How to choose the right recruitment agency 

[33:12] 

Why you should get involved in the recruitment agency decision making in hiring

[36:08] 

What is Ugis Balmaks’ best recruitment advice?

Quotations

“So often in life,  learn the lessons in life the hard way and they are the best lessons that we learn.” - Rob Da Costa

“..that's kind of was a huge wake-up call to what can happen if when hiring is done poorly, which it was at that time. And it led me to kind of start and explore how I could hire better.” - Ugis Balmaks

“Hiring is such inexact science that someone can show up really well at the interview, but then they fail to deliver spectacularly once they start working.” - Rob Da Costa

“Yeah, it's almost like any other marking funnel where you see the numbers and when something's not working, you can see exactly where it's not working, and then you go in and I can fix it.” Ugis Balmaks

“You have the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes and see what this that they're not, including kind of really try to put them into shoes of a person that would want to work with you, or that you would want to hire...” - Ugis Balmaks

“My favourite expression which is ‘Slow down to speed up.’ Like take your time, go through these steps… because you want to hire right.” - Rob Da Costa

“No one else knows your business better than you do… But your gut instinct is also going to give you a lot of safety and security.” - Ugis Balmaks

“Hiring the best people you possibly can afford, so that you can delegate down and relinquish as much control today as possible.”- Rob Da Costa

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

 Full Episode Transcription

Recruitment is such a hot topic at the moment, and I know everyone is finding it challenging. In fact, I had my group coaching call today, and we were talking about some of the biggest challenges that each of the members have, and recruitment came up time and time again. So this podcast episode is really timely, and I'm excited to be talking with Ugis Balmaks today. He runs a recruitment company that helps agencies hire great staff. And he has some really interesting insights to share, including thinking about your recruitment process in exactly the same way that you would think about a marketing funnel.

And he also shared some really good tips on how to interview people. And we apply my favourite expression, slowing down to speed up to make sure that you are really thorough in the recruitment process of that, when you hire someone you know you're giving yourself and then the best chance to be successful. So, another action packed episode and let's head over and have a chat with Ugis. Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach Rob DaCosta.

Today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Loved by agencies around the world, Cloud Ways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web hosting related complexities, leaving users free to focus on growing their businesses and clients. The platform offers unmatched performance, reliability choice, and 24/7: 365 support. The act is an extension to your own team making Cloudways the ultimate choice for growing agencies. Now at present, Cloud Ways is offering an exclusive discount for the agency accelerator listeners. So visit Cloud weighs dot com and use the promo code AA20, that's AA20 to get a discount of 20% off your first three months on the hosting platform of your choice.

OK, on with today's show. Hey, everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I am really excited to have with me today, Ugis Balmaks from Recruiter Mill. And today, we're talking everything to do with recruiting stuff, which is such a big frequent topic that I am having with my clients at the moment. So, I'm really excited to have you just with me today. Now, normally, I would give a bit of background information, but I would rather you just did that himself because he can share with you some of the stories, both the good and the bad of what he did that led him to create Recruiter Mill. So, welcome to the podcast, and yeah, we hand it over to you. Thank you so much Rob. It's an absolute pleasure to be on. Yes. I wanted to tell a little bit more about myself and what led me to even start working in recruitment. So I actually used to run my own business. That was not an agency that was an information product business. And, of course, I had to hire for that business.

And yeah, the first person I hired was about six years ago, and that was completely atrocious. I'll be honest with you. And yeah, we can even go into some of the details of what happened. So it was a developer that I hired. I didn't know. I didn't know much about development at the time, but what happened, what I didn't realise is that everything he touched basically broke. So, whenever there was something that was working after he worked on it, it didn't. And so after not a very long time, we realised, okay, our passion is not going to get any longer.

But on his last day, what he managed to do was introduce a backdoor into our system. So for a few months, we noticed that our sales, they're kind of dipping, but we couldn't put our finger on it. And finally, we got some weird customer support. I think it's where people are saying, ‘Hey, I bought a course from you. Where's the content? What's going on?’ And so, what happened was that the developer who managed to break everything else actually successfully worked on the back door of our development system.

And he was following some of the cells towards his own account. Of course, finally we figured out with some help from some good friends. But yeah, that's kind of was a huge wake up call to what can happen if when hiring is done poorly, which it was at that time. And it led me to kind of start and explore how I could hire better.  But since then, you know, it wasn't always that awful. And I actually managed to hire quite well afterwards. And, sorry.

So it wasn't always this awful and I managed to hire quite well afterwards, and my business grew quite large to high seven figure mark revenue. So I was quite happy about that. And when I sold my business, I was looking at the next thing I could be doing. And I just kept seeing, a lot of my friends were asking for advice specifically in recruitment and one of those friends, like he kept coming back for it for advice. And at one point I even did a hiring interview for him just to show how it's done properly and after the interview.

He's like, ‘This is excellent.’ I wish you could just do it for me. And that's one kind of the light bulb went off that I actually could be doing this for him and for other people. And funnily enough, now we're hiring the six person for that friend of mine, and I was only six months ago. So yeah, that's kind of how I got started in recruitment. Yeah, it's funny is that we so often in life learn our lessons the hard way, and they are the best lessons that we learn.

And you know, one of these I'm always trying to do on this podcast is be really honest and share their bad as well as the good. So that's that horror story of the developer that you're talking about, or well, I hope that other people haven't had that issue of them finding a backdoor into your software. I'm sure a lot of people will recognise that. You know, hiring is such an inexact science that someone show up really well at the interview, but then they fail to deliver spectacularly once they start working.

So, let's kick off with a big topic. First of all, one that I muscle the time, which is talk about the pros and cons of hiring an in-house person versus hiring a remote worker, especially in this very changing world that we currently live in, where actually those lines are getting a bit lower blood because in-house workers, for the last year I've had to be remote workers, but what would you say the advantage of me, hiring someone that's gonna be a full time employees in my office versus hiring someone that might be somewhere else across the world?

Absolutely. So how I look at this is I tried to keep the end in mind and on my personal end, and what I'm going for is that I'd like to have a business that's an asset that's generating income for me, but also that's worth something. And if I treated as something where I hired help here and here or there on these people can be really good. But it all depends on me at the end of the day. To me, that's not a business. To me, a business is something that can run on its own.

If need be, I can step back for at least for a while, and hopefully in the long term, for a longer time. And because of this, for me it was never really a question because I know I want a business for myself, to build a business. I want to build a real team with people who can run it by themselves eventually. Yeah, yeah, and I completely concur with that always, I believe, although I know this isn't a hard, fast rule. But if you try to build your agency solely using freelancers, then it's like building houses on quicksand.

And, another good point that you've made is that you're not really building much equity into your business if you're just hiring freelancers. And you know I'm all about building the self-running agency, and you can't build a self running agency if you are completely intrinsically stuck in the agency as well. During, while recording this as well in the UK anyways, we started to come out of the pandemic, and it's been an interesting time for recruitment, and I thought, maybe this will still happen, but I thought that it would become easier for agencies to find good people.

But in the UK, for sure, it's not true, always still really difficult for people to recruit. So what's your take on that at the moment? Yeah, in my experience, it actually has been a good time for hiring, and I think that the theory is kind of clear to anyone who thought about it is that there are many people who lost their jobs, many talented people. So now they're open to the job market. And yeah, for this, for the same number of jobs there, there are a few more people applying for them, so you should be getting better candidates.

And generally, to be honest, that's what I'm seeing. It's hard to comment between UK and the global market, ‘cause my clients they usually work for the English speaking market, but the candidates are coming from all over the globe. But, yeah, I can think of a person that used to be, being in airline. And now, of course, that's no longer a viable option for him but a super talented person, and we were able to tow him for one of the clients. They also run an agency or a friend of mine runs a photography information business.

And so he hired a person that used to be in charge of photography for cruise ships. So he was running a team of 80 people, I think so. Somewhere on that scale and his team is not that big. It's maybe around 20 people. So he got someone again, really, really experience, really talented, just because their industry no longer offers viable options for them. So, for in my experience, it has been good in recruitment. You know, I think maybe in the UK it's because we have I pretty robust furlough scheme.

So a lot of people are still being paid by the government to not work. And it will be interesting in September 2021 when that ends, whether we will then suddenly find it a lot easier. But I have certainly been having conversations, my clients who finding it, challenging to recruit. And I had, you know, conversations morning where clients tried to find a design director, and it's just really difficult moment. But I said, I think here people are just staying put where they are and keeping their heads down while they're on furlough.

But when that ends well, you should see what the fallout, what the fallout is. So just talk it through like the recruitment presses. Can you share some, if you were advising someone on hiring someone, can you share with them some of the do's and don'ts that they should be focusing on when they're recruiting. Absolutely, and there's so many tactics that I want to share today, and I think we'll get to the best ones. But I think it's worth starting with kind of the mindsets and how you should look at hiring in the first place.

So I've kind of going through you through three stages of having a mindset about hiring. So the first one was gonna I didn't know what what I was doing and and you heard a horse or your earlier, and that's that's what it led to. And there were other mistakes that where maybe not spectacular but still quite bad. And that's kind of not knowing what to do. And usually you end up copying someone else, you posted general job ad,  and yeah, on my first interviews, I had no idea what to say.

The interviews didn't seem productive. I didn't feel like I was learning about the candidates, and that's kind of one approach. Of course, you don't want to be in that approach. The other kind of way to approach hiring is what I call the headhunting model, where your rider approaching people in LinkedIn. But even more commonly, you ask every single friend of yours. Are they interested, you probably have a few people that you spotted over the years that you think.  Yes, I would like to work with them somehow, someday.

Then you ask, your employees used to do the same thing, and I've messaged or kind of scroll through my friends list on Facebook at least six times when I was in this stage, kind of hoping to find something, someone that I haven't thought of previously. And that's not a bad approach. Honestly, many of my first best hires where people that someone else recommended or that I knew from contacts. But it is a limited approach because I'm at least not the kind of person that goes out and networks and meets a lot of new people.

And the people I meet usually own their own businesses, and they're already looking for someone, so they're not really helpful in these terms. So the last approach and the one I've kind of evolved to is treating hiring as a marketing funnel. Basically, So, yeah, making sure that you know who you want to approach, making sure that you know where to approach them, how to approach them, help to filter them later on the process and that's brought me by far the best results, because then it's kind of. Yeah, it's almost like any other marking funnel where you see the numbers and when something's not working, you can see exactly where it's not working, and then you go in and I can fix it.

And that's been by far the biggest breakthrough for myself and then everything else around it is tactics, kind of figuring out where to post, what kind of job ad to write, and so forth. Then, yeah, I'm happy to show that. But this one mindset, which was the biggest one for me. Yeah, I guess it's interesting as well, because you also have to like a lot of my clients are agencies with sort of 5 to 20 staff,and they might be trying to hire their next big person, but they need to have a positive mindset about their agency that this person should be honoured to come and work at the agency and not,  ‘Oh my God, I will be so pleased if they chose to come and work with me’ because I think it makes recruitment much harder. So there's that mindset of peace. I'm just interested in the whole marketing funnel analogies. That's really interesting. Can you just got it, iIf you could break that down a bit and look at some of the component parts of that funnel from a recruitment.

Absolutely, and over the years, kind of. It's not even necessarily working with my client's. Initially, I started sharing with other businesses ‘cause it was kind of a pain point for us, kind of a painful for them, And everyone's trying to figure it out, and kind of learn about it, and we learn to get her in. What I see now years later for many of them who also implemented a similar approach successfully, is that they're always kind of the same steps. So the first step is knowing who you want to hire, and that's not as simple as it may sound.

So, what you do there is kind of list all the attributes and all the things that you were looking for in a person away usually break it down is what I'm looking for in anyone. That's that I'm working with, so general attributes that make a solid team player and someone I like working with and then its role specific attributes that I'm looking at. Some people call this the top score card, and I think that's a fine name on. That's pretty much the first step realising, Okay, who am I really going for?

And a great way how to realise what are those attributes that you should be working with and how I first came up with him, was looking at every single person that I worked with in the past and kinda of realised. Okay, what's great about them, what's not so great or people that didn't work out, why didn't it work out. And by the end of this exercise, you come up with a few around 10, maybe attributes that's that you were looking in someone, and yet then you kind of know, Okay, now we know them beforehand, and when someone applies, I can kind of run them against the checklist and see whether they'll be a good fit or there's already that I see now this is a deal breaker for me.

I just can't work with this person and because you have this mindset that you mentioned previously. You don't have just anyone who can walk into a gum. This is hired by you. If you don't have that mindset, then you have the confidence to say no to someone who might even look good otherwise. And that's the first step that into the process. Yeah, that's really interesting. And then what's next after that? So next, you have to kind of learn about the brawl and that's kind of also works in the first step, but you have to know who you're going for, and then you have to really understand the person.

So I'd say you're hiring a link builder, which is a quite popular position to hire for it could be anything else really that you're hiring, could be a video editor, could be in main marketer. And one thing that I often like to Google is what's awful about being a link there, what's awful about being a videographer, or customer support person, and I kind of read some forums, spread it, Quora of whatever it is, and I understand what did this that they don't like about the job and I compared to my job and see oh, can I offer something that people usually don't don't receive in these roles and kind of try to approach him from an angle.

Yeah, I'm providing something special between these hundreds of job ads they could be choosing between. They should go with me because I have something no one else has, and that's that's the second step. Another thing to do here is to go on actual job boards. So first of all, you need to find them and see where you could find a person that you're looking for. See if they're more ads like the one for your position. Because if there aren't any of unfolding, builders are going, though they're no videographers air going there.

No, If no one's advertising there, the videographers won't be going there. So then you know it's not worth boasting there as well. But if there are, if the job ads are there, then you can look what everyone else is saying. And usually they're not that good. So once again, you have the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes and see what this that they're not, including kind of really try to put them into shoes of a person that would want to work with you, or that you would want to hire on kind of make them., yeah, make them want to work with you. You know much that Zagat So that's some really great tips, their ecstasy doing that research. So now we're at the interview stage and we're sitting down with these people. What's your tips about separating the superstars from the kind of time wasters, useless people, That's all. Yes, so my number one tip is actually to get rid of the people who would waste your time in the first place. So before I go to interviews there, a couple more steps. A number one is the application and so what I see people usually doing is some of your cover letters, send me your resume and we'll get back to you. And to me, that's kind of an awful approach, to be honest, because whenever someone's writing a cover letter, there's no set standard. There's nothing, there’s no guidelines. So whatever they write in there, it's kind of hard to judge. Of course, if it's completely awful, it's full of mistakes or the sentences, that makes sense. Of course. Then you can disregard them. But if you want to hire someone good, which, of course you should want. Then it's much harder to learn anything from a cover letter.

So what I do in my application forms is ask a few specific questions and I even give instructions to how they should fill out the form. I say ‘Show off. Don't be shy to do it. We want to work with the best people. So show us why. Why? You're one of them. Give us thorough answers. Give us complete answers. Don't skip fields.’ Yeah. Instructions like that. One word like those. And then from the application, you can see often you can see in seconds, OK, This person will not fit because they skipped questions or they're not giving me one sentence answers, and you'd be shocked how many people you can just discard by doing this. It's 80 to 90% of people don't make it to the next step. And so that's one step. And this is kind of how you filter everyone who was definitely not up for the job and of course, you can also look at their experience and see. OK, this looks like a very solid person, but they just don't have the experience that you're looking for. So the other thing that you do once people have passed application stage is you give them a test job on, and that is how I like to look at things here is that this is the best predictor of how well they do an actual job.

So if you give them something that they will actually have to do on the job, and they can do it well, chances are when they come on the first day and they have to do the same thing, though, they'll keep selling. Whereas if there's someone who can do the job or they can do kind of poorly Uh, yeah, probably not much is gonna change by the time they join your team. So I've also had this experience where I learned okay, I can be having these awful people that are making backdoors into my development system.

So let's really check for a fit and that they are a good person and check references and so forth, and that needs to be done. But you also need to check for their technical ability so that they're able to really do the job. And still to this day, most people, if they're able to do the job really well fit. Yeah, usually we can figure out. So yeah, that would be my number, number one. Have them do something. Show them their input.

Because from the interviews, people might appear really cool. Really nice, nice people. But if they can do the job, that doesn't help you. So you need someone who can get things done. And how do you assess cultural fit as well as competency? So I think in a small agency, having someone that's gonna be a team player and fit culturally is almost as important as their competency to actually do the link building or the graphic design or the website or whatever it is you're hiring and force her any thoughts on that cultural fit piece?

Yes. So that's the other important part. And there is a really helpful resource for that I recommend to anyone who's taking hiring seriously. I mentioned the business owners that I've talked to in the past, and the ones who follow this framework, they pretty much hiring is not a headache for them any more. And the book and aren't the best way to learn about this is called ‘Who: The A Method for Hiring’ , the author's last name I believe is Smart, and that's one resource that I can recommend.

They kind of go through the entire process, but especially this checking forfeit stage of the interview process really, really thoroughly, and they pretty much have a foolproof process that you need to follow. And so, I can talk a little bit more about the process just to give the listeners a better idea of what it's all about. So, what you do is in the interview stages you go through after you screened them. So you get on a quick call and ask a few questions and see that you have this.

This seems like a reasonable person to talk to, and usually they are. If they can complete the job, then you move on to a much longer interview, the kind of brand name for it called top grading on. And in that interview, what you do is go through every single job on their resume and you ask the same about 10 questions. So ask: How did you get this job? What did you have to do? What were your responsibilities? What were your successes? Mistakes? What did you enjoy most? Enjoy least? How is it working with your supervisor and what with a supervisor tell about you? And, why did you leave the job? I think those are pretty much all the questions that we always ask. And these injuries take about three hours. So in three hours, it's impossible to fake. So the real you is gonna show up. And I actually tell candidates that it's a good thing because we're trying to learn about each other. So we're not not trying to hide anything. And before both of us invest hundreds of hours into training and on boarding and leaving our jobs sometimes, that it's a good idea to spend these few hours in advance and kind of really, really get to know each other. So, yeah this process is so worth it, because in these three hours, you pretty much learn everything you can, at least in this amount of time of other person. And by the end of that call, you have a great feeling of what they'll be like. And what is great is that no one's perfect. So you also learn about what are the potential weaknesses, and you can already start thinking about him. Okay, can I work with this? How can I work with this? And usually they're awesome candidates.

They have one or two flaws, and because you know them in advance, you were kind of already working around them. And that's not only great for filtering candidates, but also learning about them, and kind of working with them effectively once you’ve hired them. So, yeah, I can only recommend this. Yeah, I really, really love that bond is interesting because I've done a few interviews with clients, and when you ask them those negative questions. Sometimes they get a bit flustered about it because, of course, they prepared in their head or the positive things to say.

But now I'm asking the negative things, and I always think if someone says, ‘Oh, I can't think of anything negative,’ then that's a big black mark against them. Because, of course, we can all think of something negative about where our skills are strong as other areas and we need to show a human being in the interview. So if we're not willing to review that, reveal that. And for me that would be a bit of a warning flag that perhaps they know the right handed it absolutely.

And that's why I have a little script for by introduction of every single in tribute that I do. And that's one of the things I say. That's no one's perfect. But we have enough experience to realise that we take these things into context and kind of take the good with about. But we do expect honesty. And if there's no honesty, that's that's a much bigger red flag then than anything about that ever happened. So yeah, if someone's not willing, open him up about things. There's usually a reason to be honest, and it's better to stay away from that.

So to the listeners, you just is really encouraging you to do the thing that I tell all my clothes all the time. My favourite expression, which is slow down to speed up, like take your time, go through these steps that we've just been talking about, be really thorough, don't feel that you can't take three hours to do an interview because you're only a three-man agency. Of course you can't, because you know you want to get that hire right, and you want to make sure that they will be able to do the job and they will also fit in.

So let me ask you one other big question that's always asked to me, and I know that you're gonna have a slightly biassed answer to this, but that. But I'm still interested to hear your view. Should I am looking to recruit, should I use an agency or should I do it myself? Yeah, I'll definitely have a biased atmosphere, but so I mean, I guess it depends on where everyone has had, but, um, yeah, it's such an important part of the business. That's, I've just seen so many changes by what happens before you.

You're hiring, right, and what happens after that. It's really, really important to get it right than, whether you use an agency, whether you read books, whether you learned from someone else. Just Yeah, it is something you have to get, right? So whatever way you get it right, make sure you do it. And, of course, as always, doing things on your own is the longest path. So if you have six years like I had tio kind of spend in getting hiring rights and for some reason it might be the right choice.

This, because they're building for really the long term, then absolutely go, go ahead and learn about things. If you're unsure and there's seven other fires that you need to put out, then I would encourage getting help. Yes, you're giving me the plight answer. But I'll give you. I'll give the arts. This is what I would tell my clients is to hire an agency because we, our clients to hire us because we're specialists and we should do the same thing when it comes to recruitment and fundamentally, you either have time or money and most agencies don't have tonnes of time.

There are already stretched in 20 directions. They think it's going to be much cheaper Tow, try and do some LinkedIn advertising or some advertising on one store or wherever, and then they get inundated with a million CVS that they need to work through. And most of them are rubbish and, you know, and suddenly then they're rushing through the interview, and then they make a higher and then it's a mistake. And then suddenly, as costume way more in time and probably money that it would have done if they'd have reached out to a good agency in the first place.

So my advice to all of my clients, its bite the bullet spend the money upfront with an agency like yours so that they get the right person, because that is worth a heck of a lot of money. Hiring the wrong person isn't just costly in terms of, you know, the money that they paid. That person is costly in terms of the impact on the business, the other team members and the clients. So my advice is hire an agency. On that note, how do we separate again?

Another unfair question to ask you, but how do we separate the good agency from the not so good agency? That's a great question, and I wish I had a good answer here because I'm also working with agencies, and that before that exact reason cause I want certain things that happen in my business. But I just don't know how. And I would rather spend my focus on the very, very, most important things one or two that I definitely need to get right before I start. Like trying to every single little thing but hiring an agency, I mean, so why I. Sorry.

So let me just interject because I'm misinterpreted. I mean, I've decided I want to refuse a recruitment company to hire someone like you. I'm talking to three different recruiters. How do I decide which is the good ones and which is the not so good ones? Uh, yeah, I see what you mean. So I kind of look at and anything else that's that you'd be looking at when hiring the agency. What's are there? What sort of risk are they taking on? When do they get paid and what are their incentive structure? And kind of go buy those things and more specifically in recruitment. So one thing that to look out for is how much and when do you pay? So, of course, every agency will want a little fee upfront because they're investing some work but the bulk of their kind of return or their income should be based on success, I believe, because you only get the benefit when you get the employees. So they all should also should only get the benefit when they get an employee.

And the other thing is how they approach hiring and what what is their lead time. And that's one of our brand promises is that will hire as strictly for you as we hired for ourselves and many times has happened where I talked a client out of hiring someone because I just see it won't be a fit. I've made this mistake before for myself, or I've seen other people making this mistake. You don't need to do it and they're appreciative. That's that. I'm telling them these things, but yeah.

Ah, it has to be kind of a thing that that they're willing to do, and I don't know how to cheque. Put out beforehand, maybe from references or abuse. But that's a really important thing, because it's the most natural thing in the world. If you're getting paid when you deliver someone, then you're what you're gonna want to deliver a soon as possible. And sometimes you're not checking for the quality of what you're delivering. So that's one thing when I'm setting up my business that I'm looking out for, I can forget this.

And I'm telling every single employee of mine as well that this is not something we can afford to do ‘cause yeah, we want to work with our clients for the long term, and we don't want to just make one hire, we want to make several hires of course.That's a very huge thing to look up. Just a last quick question, because this came up this morning with a client. So I said I'd ask you, I told them I was in fear in you today.

What should be the guarantees that is there a typical example of a guarantee that a recruiter will make like we will return if the person leaves within three months to get this much back? If they leave in six months because this client telling me that they had someone that cost a lot of money to hire. But they left after eight months frustrated with the recruitment company. And I was like, well, I'm not sure you can really blame the recruitment company after eight months that person's height left.

Maybe you need to look at your own management processes in that. God, I don't know what your view is on that. Yeah, so on that 18 months is a long time to expect kind of some sort of reimbursement for hire that state for that long. But one thing I would recommend for is you are looking out for is actually being involved in the hiring process. So you want the help and you want someone to kind of show you how things are done and do bulk of the work. Once the decision is made, you at least want to participate, and you want to review the candidates in detail.

You want to at least watch those long interviews that you're recruiters hopefully doing. And if you don't have a good feeling about the kind of guy you think something's off, then you're probably right in. No one else knows your business better than you do. So for that person, that's that. I see this question. I would ask, how involved were you actually in the decision making process? And if they were, unfortunately, that's on them. Yes, they have to be, I don't know. But I think one thing I said to him, what you just said, which is good to hear is that you can go through this process, but you also need to listen to your gut instinct. You can measure them against roles, responsibilities and job descriptions, and you can have application forms and tests. But your gut instinct is also going to give you a lot of safety and security. And I think we quite good at ignoring. I got sometimes. Absolutely, and one thing that I've also painfully learned over the years is that there's never been and that's like not actually about hiring, tt's about keeping people on the team. I never made a mistake firing someone on my team and I've made many mistakes by not firing people.

So whenever you were in that situation, you probably have to do it, you have to master the courage to do it and to bring it back to recruitment. If there's a candidate that's you really want to take home But in your gut, you feel No, it's not gonna work. You shouldn't take that person cause that never, never, ever works out. If there is someone who you feel great about, it may work out. May may not work out. Then you shouldn't trust you. We got in a positive sense.

But if your gut is telling, you know that, don't you listen? Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with that. I think that's true in business, in all senses, isn't it? Okay, so I'm conscious of time. But let me ask you the question that I ask all of my guests on, which is, if you go back in time and give your younger self just starting out in business. One piece of advice, what would that be? Yes, so I was thinking about that then the answer I came up with is that I would want to trust my employees more. And that's something.

Actually, I'm still struggling with and kind of working my way through because it always feels like I'm the person that knows how the business should be run. I started. So yeah, I can, of course, help them Only helped him by being involved. But I'm just saying when I take a step back and reflect that it's not always true. And I also I'm conscious of the fact that I need to let my employees grow, need to put them in a position where they can actually grow the business for me.

Not necessarily. I'm always the person that's doing the growing. So that's something I wish I've started on earlier and now started them. I'm still working through it. So I think many people have had a similar problem, but I think that is the good fight to fight. So that's so that's what I'm trying to do. A great piece of advice, and I'm always, always surprised that I've almost never had the same response to this question in the with the guests I've had on the podcast known you know, must have had 40 guests.

Now, that's why I love asking that question. Such a good piece of advice you know entrepreneurs, a terrible letting go and relinquishing control. Yeah, if you want to build an agency that's less dependent on you and you want the flexibility and freedom, you have to be willing to relinquish control because you can't have one without the other they'd like mutually exclusive. So I guess on that note, hiring the best people you possibly can afford so that you can delegate down and relinquish as much control today as possible.

Listen, you just thank you so much for today. I always know I've had a good guest on the podcast when we go over time and there's so many more questions to ask. But we'll get you back at some point in the future. We can dig into some of these things in a little bit more detail. I know the listener, they're going to find this episode really useful, especially some of those kind of funnel steps that you outlined. And I will also put a link in the show notes to the book that you mentioned.

But if people want to get hold of you and find out more about Recruiter Mill, where is the best place for them to go? Yeah, absolutely so the best place is to go to recruitermill.com and so you can learn a little more about my kind of hiring philosophy and how I approach it and hopefully learn something from that. If you'd like to work together, the best thing to do is to book a call and my approach there is to have a 30 minute strategy call.

So in those 30 minutes, we kind of outline What are the things that need to be done? And if you have the resource, if you have the kind of willpower to go through that journey, I'm happy if you do, if you'd like to work to get it afterwards, that's of course. Also, an option yeah, going to our website recruitermill.com is that the best thing to do. Fantastic. Okay, so we'll put that into the show notes as well. And I just want to say a big thank you for your time on the podcast today.

Thank you so much. I hope you'll agree. That was a really action packed episode, and I hope you had a pen and paper and took some notes. If not, then head over to dacostacoaching.co.uk/recruitment and you can grab a summary of the key points that you just made today. And don't forget to check out the show notes for the book that he mentioned, and obviously links to his business as well. Other than that, I will see you next week for the next episode.

By the way, make sure you've hit subscribe on, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcast. Otherwise, have a great weekend and I will see you next week.

Simplifying Your Life!

Life’s been a bit crazy for me in the last few months. I’ve been juggling so many things that led me to feeling burned out. I realised I need to work smarter and start doing less whilst remaining as effective as I was before. 

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share what I have been doing to simplify my life and get renewed focus for my business.  

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[01:55] 

There are so many distractions and noise in life that put pressure on me to do more of so many things. I realised I need some kind of filter to work out what I really need to keep doing and what I can stop doing - all whilst remaining productive and effective.

[04:10] 

Use the 4 Ds of Eisenhower’s Square to assess tasks - Can I DITCH this task? Can I DELEGATE it to somebody else? Can I DEFER it? I have to DO it.

[04:52] 

I’ve added 2 more Ds and an A. 

[04:56] 

The A is Automate. Are there tools or systems I use to run my business that can be automated? (Example: Appointment setting)

[05:46] 

The fifth D is does a task make a DIFFERENCE?

[05:57] 

The sixth D is do I enjoy DOING it?

[06:17] 

Six things I’ve done in my business to simplify and give me renewed focus.

[06:37] 

# 1: Reconnect with my vision.

[08:06] 

# 2: Put a pause on a time-intensive mastermind group I’m part of. 

[09:13] 

# 3: Choose the focus of my social media efforts.  I chose LinkedIn as my main social media platform.

[10:24] 

# 4: Resurrect my Youtube channel.

[12:17] 

# 5: Stop being distracted by new shiny objects!

[12:59] 

# 6: Work with a project manager who will manage other specialists’ tasks for the business.

Quotations

“Is this really driving my business forward? If the answer is ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘No’, then we really need to ask ourselves why we’re doing it.” - Rob Da Costa

“Doing something because you’ve always done it is not a good reason to keep doing it!” - Rob Da Costa

“All of the things you’re doing are there to help you win new business and be excellent at client delivery.” - Rob Da Costa

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

 Full Episode Transcription

Life's been a bit crazy for me in the last few months, which has resulted in me juggling lots of goals and working long hours. You know, the typical lifestyle of the entrepreneur. However, it got to the point where I feel a little bit burnt out. And so I realised I needed to be smarter, and start doing less whilst remaining is effective like I was before. So I wanted to share this journey with you in the spirit of openness, never trying to look like I have it all sorted and perhaps most importantly in the spirit of sharing so that you might learn something that you can apply to your agency as well.

So that's what we're going to talk about in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I hope this will be really useful for you, a bit of a different episode, but let's get on with today's episode of the show. Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach Rob Da Costa. Today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways, loved by agencies around the world. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web hosting related complexities, leaving users free to focus on growing their businesses and clients.

The platform offers unmatched performance reliability choice and 24/7 365 support. The act is an extension to your own team, making Cloudways the ultimate choice for growing agencies. Now, at present, Cloud Ways is offering exclusive discount for the agency accelerator listeners. So visit cloudways.com, and use the promo code AA20. That's AA20 to get a discount of 20% off your first three months on the hosting platform of your choice. OK, on with today's show. I don't know about you, but it seems that more and more, and more frequently we are surrounded by so much noise and so many distractions, with people telling us how we should run our businesses better, ads showing people standing in front of shiny, expensive cars, telling you that they made millions and you can do.

Every week there's a new book out by an entrepreneur. And of course, there are loads of social media platforms and new things coming along like clubhouse. And of course, there are coaching programmes just like mine, that help you grow your business do we're just surrounded by so much noise. And as I said in the introduction, life has been crazy for me and I've been juggling lots of things and kind of putting pressure on myself to doom more of these things. There's definitely a feeling of FOMO. So for example, when clubhouse came out, I was one of the lucky people.

I guess that got an invite very early on. I thought, right, I must join that. And then I remember spending a Saturday, just kind a listening into different conversations and then suddenly feeling overwhelmed, because if I was going to do that properly, I really needed to find time to do it. I was also a member of a mastermind coaching group that met three times a week on a needed can commit a minimum of five hours a week to do that and because I wasn't managing to do all of that, I started feeling like I was letting myself down, letting the group down and I was spending lots of money on that programme every month as well, so something needed to change.

I needed some kind of filter to work out. Why I really need to keep doing, and what I could stop doing while still remaining productive and effective, and serving my audience, you guys plus, of course, developing my content, and delivering my coaching, whether that be the one to one private coaching or one of my group coaching programme. So it's just a lot going on. And I'm not saying any of this because I'm looking for sympathy from you, but much more because you could probably relate to this as well.

And I just want to share with you as I come out the other side of that. Some of the things that I have done to simplify my life and hopefully you can apply some of this, too. Now you may have heard of the Four D's of Eisenhower's Square, where we talk about running tasks through this filter of The Four D’s. So ‘Can I ditch this task?’ And if the answer is ‘No,’ then you ask yourself. ‘Well, if I can't ditch it, can I delegate it to somebody else?’ And if your answer is ‘No,’ then you move on to the third thing, which is, ’Can I defer it?’

So can I do it on the latest date? And the answer's no to that. Then you say, OK, I have to do it. And I have always used those Four D’s to quickly assess tasks that I'm doing so that I don't get distracted by things I can quickly get done now, but they're not really important. This is all about separating the important from the urgent from the nice to do. Why taken those Four D's and I've added two more D’s an A to it, and I think that's really, really helped me.

So the A is automated. So I think when I look at tasks now, I always thinking, are there tools that I can automate. And a great example of that would be email automation for the systems that I used to run my business. For example, appointment setting, where  I use YouCanBook.me for my calendar system. But I've also is currently before on Kartra, which is the main CRM system that I use that also has a calendar booking system. That's a really good example of taking a task that can be quite time consuming because you compare diaries, and swap notes and all that kind of stuff and then just automated.

So that's my sort of fifth element to The Four D’s, which is the A for automate. But then the other two that I've been using recently which have helped me really flter things, is just to ask myself, ‘Does this task make a difference?’ That's number five. So when I look at moving my business forward, does this task make a difference and if the answer is? No, I really gotta ask why I'm doing it on the sixth day is, ‘Do I enjoy doing it?’ and if I don't enjoy doing it, but I've just been doing it because I've always done it, which is what so many of us do. Then I'm using that as a filter to say, ‘Do I really need to do this?’

So, using that filter of The Four D’s plus the A plus the two extra D's, the six things that I've done in my business over the last three months. There are simplifying things that are giving me renewed focus, that are making me feel like I'm in control of my day and my week without working crazy hours. Andi, I feel like I'm moving the dark forward, so I want to share with you what those six things are. And number one is the big game changer for me, it's such an obvious thing.

It's something I tell my clients to do it. It's something I work on with all my clients, but like many of us, I don't do it for myself. Enough, and that is reconnecting with your vision. So what that's enabled me to do is to figure out what I want to do over the next couple of years in terms of growth, in terms of focus, in terms of revenue, in terms of product development. And it's also enabled me to stop chasing things that others telling me that I should do or I should have.

There's a real danger that we look at, for example, our revenue figures every year and say I must grow by 20%, 30% next year, and we said that at a target. And then we just do that year in and year out, without ever stopping and saying, ‘Is that what I really want?’ So, I think reconnecting with my vision has been so powerful because it becomes a framework for making decisions about whether I do things or not. So I spend a day when we had some son sitting in the garden with my remarkable, and just using the template I teach.

I used my private clients using on myself to capture my vision and say OK, where I want to be in the next year on the next year after that. And that has really helped me apply the next five things. That's the number one thing that I've done, which is reconnect with my vision and stop chasing things that others are telling me I should be doing and actually start thinking what I really want to do that will make me happy, that I will enjoy on will give me the things that I need.

So the second thing I did, which sounds really counterintuitive given that I sell a group coaching programme, is that I put the pause on a time intensive mastermind group that I was part of. And this group is great and I'm still part of the group. I was part of like a premium part of the group but it was just taking a tonne of time, as I said earlier is taking me about six hours a week. It was costing me about £1000 a month and I was missing half sessions because I was busy with other stuff, and that was causing me stress and  I felt pressured, and there was a huge relief when I said that I need to put the pause button on this for the next few months to focus on a number of other things.

I simplifying my business. So that's the second thing I did, which was put pause on some of the external help that I was getting and actually just give me some time to implement what I've learned, and get my systems right, and make sure that I'm doing the things that I'm learning in a sort of best practise way. So, it was the second thing out of the six changes that I made it my business. The third thing I did was really focus my social media, and decided to focus on LinkedIn as my major social media platform because that's where my ideal target customer hangs out mostly. And I have spent lots of money, for example, on Facebook Ads, and I have tried to build a Facebook group, and some of you might even be part of that group and what's not closing any of that stuff down.

I'm certainly not spending any money or Facebook Ads at the moment, and it just isn't a major platform. And most of my clients tell me that they want to use Facebook for staying in touch with the family and looking at fluffy animals rather than being interrupted with business things. So, I decided to focus on LinkedIn as my major platform, and pause the effort I'm putting into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now that doesn't mean I'm not going to keep posting on there. I'm just not really putting the major effort.

When I spend time on social media now, it's always in LinkedIn, and it's not on those other platforms. So that's number three, which is really focused down on LinkedIn, and stop focusing on some of those other platforms. The fourth thing I decided to do, which will take more time actually, is to resurrect my YouTube channel. I have had a YouTube channel for awhile, and I have probably about 70 videos on there providing culture over the years, but I've never really promoted. I've never really thought about you know, the CEO aspect of it.

And let's face it, remember that YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google. So it's a great platform, provided we think about SEO with the content that we're putting out, tagging and all that stuff. So I'm putting a renewed effort into that. And why am I doing that? Well, because if I go back to those six D’s, one of them is, ‘Do I enjoy doing it?’ And actually the two kind of things I really enjoyed doing most is recording podcasts and shooting videos, and I'm fortunate that in my home office I've got a studio set up.

So it's really easy now for me to record a video. And the more you practise getting in front of the camera, the more comfortable you get just like anything. So I'm going to be putting some renewed effort into that and that that's going to look like taking some of the guests podcasts that I shoot because we recorded video for them and putting them on to YouTube, creating smaller videos from them, plus creating some more YouTube content. So little pluck it. If you're not part of my YouTube channel, then please head over to youtube.com/RobertDaCosta or one word Robert D-A C-O-S-T-A. It's a very simple and you can hit subscribe.

You can look at some of the YouTube videos on there before. Obviously, I'm now going to try and grow that channel, and we'll be putting more focus on it. So those are the two kinds of social media things that I will really be focusing in on which is LinkedIn and YouTube. So that was my fourth strategy. My fourth thing that I'm cutting down on number five is stop being distracted by new shiny objects, and get a grip of hell FOMO. Oh, so like I mentioned earlier, clubhouse would be a good example of that where I jumped on board quite early on.

I probably could have put a big focus on that, and it's obviously a big grain channel. But what I didn't want to do is what I've done often in the past, which is kind of dabbled a bit but not really done it. And then you waste a lot of time, but you don't get any value from it. So I just made the decision that I'm not going to focus on clubhouse because it's just a distraction. It's a shining new object. It's the latest trendy thing, andI need to focus on the core things that will make a difference that I enjoy doing.

So, that's number five and then number six the last one, which is probably the biggest thing, is that I have worked with a number of different virtual assistants and copywriters, and I've tried to find some podcasts edited and show note writers and I've had varying degrees of success with that. But I've always had to be the project manager. There's pulling it all together that's chasing people out for content. On some of the time, I felt like it actually wasn't saving me a lot of time because the quality of the written work wasn't very good and I had to rewrite it, and I don't want to fall in that trap that a lot of my clients do who are not good delegate is because they think it's quicker to do it themselves.

But when it really is quicker to do it yourself, you need to do something about it. So change the structure of that, and thanks to the coaching programme that I'm part of they just taught me this concept of hiring a project manager and then hiring some delivery people. And so that's what we have been putting in place in the last few weeks. Really. So we now have a project manager that looks after all of the stuff that I just talked about. So they will take the raw footage for this podcast and they will make sure that it gets edited on.

They will make sure that the show notes get written and they will make sure that it gets uploaded to my podcast hosting platform, and then they'll make sure that some social media posts get written. So I've got a project manager, who is then managing some specialists who are managing my admin for, you know, reconfirming client employments, managing the creation of the podcast, both from an audio editing and a show note perspective, but also video editing, and also creating social media posts from the podcast, and from my weekly email, and then doing some admin like up loading the content to my platforms. And this is going to save me a tonne of time.

And I think I'm finally nailed this, like a lot of you who were listening. I don't aspire to grow my business by hiring lots of in-house staff, but having this project manager, who then manages these other people and make sure that not only things get done when they need to get done. But it's also the first kind of gatekeeper point for quality control is just changing my world completely. So if you're really busy, this is a really good structure that I would encourage you to do so if you're looking at outsourcing aspects of your work, the key person you need to find is the project manager who can be the shepherd to make sure that all the things that getting done, and also the gatekeeper to make sure that they're the first point of contact for quality control before get things get passed over to you.

So that's probably the biggie number six, which is hiring a different structure for my virtual assistant, and my content creation, and copyrighting, and video editing, and audio editing. So lots of stuff go into making these podcasts and getting them broadcast out and then shared out, as I'm sure you're more than aware with the marketing that you do. So those are the six things that I've done to simplify my life. So first of all, reconnected with my vision, really sat down and thought about what is that I want to achieve over the next year and in the next couple of years, break that down into quarters and then in two months, and then make sure that the things that I'm doing every day of driving towards delivering the month and in the quarter than the years goals, and not just doing things because people telling you that I should be doing them. The second thing I did was put a pause on the intensive mastermind group, but I'm still part of the group. I'm just not part of this premium programme that's giving me back about five hours a week, which is amazing and taking some stress away from me.

We shouldn't be doing things of it's causing us a lot of stress. The third thing was to focus just on LinkedIn. And the fourth thing was YouTube, and for my social media and stop really putting too much effort into Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. That doesn't mean I'm abandoning them. It just means I'm not getting a tonne of effort in. The fifth thing kind of aligned to that was to not be distracted by new shiny objects such as clubhouse. And then lastly, to put this new VA structure in place. And I already feel like a weight has come off my shoulders. I already feel like I'm going to be dropping less balls, and I already feel like I don't need to work 10 hour days and a Saturday in order to just keep up with the volume of activity that I had self-created. That actually wasn't always moving the needle forward. And that's one of the filters that we have to be asking ourselves, which is ‘Is this really driving my business forward?’ And if the answer is ‘Well, I'm not sure’ or ‘No’, then we really need to ask ourselves why we're doing it and remember doing something because you've always done it is not a good reason to keep doing it, especially if you can't measure the effectiveness and the ROI. Because at the end of the day, all of the things that I'm doing ,and all of the things that you do are there to win new business, and to be excellent at client delivery and to make sure that the product or service you're delivering is as premium as it possibly can be. So, that's why I wanted to talk about today. Like I say in the spirit of honesty I wanted to share with you.

Some of the stresses that I've been feeling over the last six months and how crazy life has been, and how that resulted in me kind of just stopping, taking stop, and saying there must be a better way on and what do I need to do to keep my sanity but also keep my business. So I hope that helps, I love you to share this episode if you found it useful, please do consider leaving a review, hit the subscribe button, and I will be back with you next week for our next guest interview.

But until then, have a brilliant riff of your week and a great weekend. And I will see you next Thursday!

How to Use PR in Your Agency with Michelle and Christian Ewen

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am excited to be joined by Michelle and Christian Ewen, owners of Write on Time Ltd, a Public Relations (PR) agency.  They have a vision of helping business owners to grow and thrive through positive media coverage and industry awards recognition. This episode is all about PR and how it fits in your marketing strategy. 

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:39] 

Michelle and Christian’s story of crossing from journalism into the agency world 

[2:45] 

Tips and tricks on starting to do PR for your business

[4:52] 

How Michelle and Christian Ewen found their calling in the middle of the pandemic!

[7:55] 

Importance of having PR in your marketing strategy.

[9:20] 

When an established media or publication writes about you, it helps not only to amplify your message but also to strengthen your credibility.

[10:21] 

If you can get your organisation mentioned in an article in a key publication, it is a big help for your SEO strategy.

[11:15] 

How  to measure the effectiveness of your PR marketing strategy

[15:24] 

How to manage clients in setting the right PR goals for their business

[19:04] 

Tips and tricks on starting to do PR for your business

[24:32] 

The Pros and Cons of a husband and wife working together

[31:33] 

Stay tuned for ‘The 5-Day PR Challenge’ by Michelle and Christian Ewen

[33:25] 

What advice would  Michelle and Christian Ewen give their younger selves?

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

  1. • LinkedIn: Michelle; Christian 
  2. Write on Time Ltd

 Full Episode Transcription

So, welcome everybody to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now, today we are talking all about PR and how PR fits in your marketing strategy, and I'm really excited to have with me today, Michelle in Christian, you in from right on time. Now they are both two former journalists who've turned to the dark side and become PR pros, and then spent decades writing stories. And they've been featured in many of our biggest newspapers. Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner, and coach Rob DaCosta.

Today's episode of The Agency Accelerated Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Loved by agencies around the world, Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web hosting related complexities, leading users free to focus on growing their businesses, and clients. The platform offers unmatched performance reliability choice, and 24/7 365 support. The act is an extension to your own team, making Cloudways the ultimate choice for growing agencies. Now, at present, Cloudways is offering exclusive discounts for The Agency Accelerator listeners, so visit cloudways.com and use the promo code AA20. That's AA20 to get a discount of 20% off your first three months on the hosting platform of your choice.

OK, on with today's show. So welcome, and why don't we start off by telling the listeners a bit about your journey from crossing from journalism into the agency world of P.R. Well 100% because we have effectively done what is known as going to the dark side. So myself, and Christian have both got extensive experience of writing for newspapers at a local, regional, and national level. And we have both independently gone into PR. Christian went through the private sector route. I went through the public sector route.

We've come full circle now and created our own PR agency, but we like to feel that, having actually been in that decision making. See, having chosen stories that get published. That's what gave those really insiders insight into the kind of stories that work so well for the press. So that's kind of a bit of our U.S. pay as former journalists coming into the PR territory. Yeah, what made you decide to start an agency then? Well, we've always had a longstanding ambition to work together. We actually met each other in a newsroom.

That's all the way back in 2012. So we fell in love like Glorious and Clark in the newsroom setting working together in the environment and then us. Instead, we went on our own pathways. But we always dreamt of returning to that co working together as husband, and wife. And because we'd learned all these skills from the private and public sector. See my career’s natural progression to set up our own PR agency. It's just where we found our kind of flow. If you will, it's where we felt most comfortable, kind of pulling together all our different skill sets on really helping people, particularly to find the confidence to take those first steps towards publicising their business.

I think that's our real strength. Yeah, I completely agree. And I think it was really important to Michelle and I that we showed up in a way where we allowed our own personalities to shine through as well. We wanted to be quite distinctive in how in how we show up in the world and try to teach what we know in a way that we feel is quite original and maybe a little bit, sometimes a little bit of reverend or maybe a little bit think outside the box, but still get into the ultimate objective, which is to help people to harness power of PR and use it for the wrong God. Yes.

Oh, for sure. I mean, I see you showing up all over LinkedIn, and that's where we met. And you know, you guys have a really great presence there. And like you say, Christian, your personality shines through, which I think is so important. We can't, especially small businesses. We can't show up his soul, faceless corporations. It's interesting. I was doing some, and with my group coaching programme last week, we had this amazing LinkedIn trainer on one of the questions the group asked her was, should we show up on LinkedIn with our company page or our personal page?

And she was like, you need to shop on your personal profile every single time because, you know, businesses do business with people they don't want to have these faceless conversations. So, you know, I completely agree with that. How long have you been running the agency now? Since 2017. Yes, so it's on. It's kind of evolved in that time as well, because we started out very much doing PR for people. So we were kind of behind the scenes people doing all the pitching on behalf of businesses.

And then, when the pandemics jocked in March last year, a lot of our clients were in the manufacturing, retail, and hospitality sector, so they weren’t able to work. So obviously the PR needed to be pulled back at that point on. That's when we first started to deliver our services online and actually step into more of a mentorship and training role to kind of pass along the skills that we've got so that people could do that own PR on its works out really beautifully because obviously working with a handful of clients, we could only have a small scale impact.

But over the course of the pandemic, we have been able to deal with so many different businesses in so many different sectors, and we really feel like we found our groove with that. Yeah, we feel like we found our calling. Since running, for instance, The 5-day Challenges for free and things like that. We've been able to help literally hundreds of business owners to identify great story ideas, to build their confidence and to help them really, really start to think about using PR in a positive way, but also to show them that it's important to be consistent with it.

Don't just do it as a one off thing or something that you do every now and again, and then you pick it up and put it back down. You've got to be persistent and consistent, really important. That’s cool. Yes. So, I mean, if we get a chance, we can pick this a bit more. But you guys are a really good example of, you know, using that awful word of pivoting during the pandemic and being able to react quick enough to keep serving your audience and obviously, you know, keep revenue coming in.

So, it sounds like you've had a pretty decent time in a very challenging time with the pandemic by doing more of this mentorship, and I guess reaching more people. Yeah, I think it's kind of pushed us into a position that we would have hoped to have got to eventually anyway, because obviously you can only have a finite number of clients when you are doing the doing yourself. But the model that we're working at now is literally helping those to reach hundreds and hundreds of business owners, and because what we teach is applicable to every single trade in sector.

Because it gets down to the real core of identifying quality news stories, it means that we've not got a limitation on who we can work with. We have seen literally people from like accountants all the way up to people in the science community using the same process, and getting results in really key publications for them. So, we're really happy with where we've ended. All right now, you couldn't be more, couldn't be happier with the journey we take and then yeah, okay, Well, like, say, if we get a chance, would come back to that because I'm interested in learning more as some of the listeners will be.

So let's just talk about PR from an agency's perspective, you know, the agency wants to grow, they want to build their brand, and they want to win more ideal business, and they probably do this by focusing on having a social media strategy. They may well even do some paid advertising. But in my experience, a lot of agencies they’re not really thinking about using PR. So, tell us about why they should and wear it where it fits in that overall kind of marketing and new business strategy.

You go ahead, you're on the floor. We're very polite because we're a husband and wife team, as you’ve been able to tell. We're really trying to move off the top of each. Definitely, we’re going to talk about it in a bit. But carrying that might when we do start talking over the top future without question. The brilliant thing about PR is you can do and you absolutely should be doing social media. And we certainly don't say PR is a replacement for other kinds of marketing. Activity is all part of a really holistic approach to improving your visibility. But with social media, you can keep plugging away and speaking to exactly the same audiences all in one but gradually and incrementally grows. But when you actually do succeed in securing really good publicity in key trade publications, the serve of your ideal client or that have got really credibility attached to them, that's when you can really amplify your message to literally thousands and thousands of people. We've worked with people who've had regional coverage in newspapers that have got readerships literally in the millions. And that's when you can really start to get in front of why wide scale big numbers of people who could all potentially convert as a client. So this is very much about amplification. But it's also about credibility because obviously, with your social media, you can write whatever you want within reason on your own platforms. But when a newspaper chooses to write about you, they've got established readership.

They're very credible publications that can actually increase how people perceive you. You kinda see these phrases like “I’ve seen names”. We've got really big tick names that really attract credibility back to your organisation. And the second point I would mention is excellent for SEO. So, if you can actually get your agency mentioned in an article in a real key publication that has got a really good ranking on Google. Then that's really gonna help from your SEO strategy, and things like actually getting blue tick verification on Facebook.

One of the questions that is asked as part of that process is can you direct us to any media coverage? So if that is on your ambition list is well, then making sure that you have a solid media strategy is really important. Yeah. I mean, you know, you know that you're preaching to convert ‘cause I ran a PR agency for 11 years, so, you know, I totally buy into that. But I think like I said, when I'm talking to a lot, my coach, my agency clients, and we're looking at their marketing mix on their new base strategy.

PR often isn't a partner And I think one of the reasons which is the million dollar Question that you must be asked all the time, is how do you measure it? Because that is, You know, if I'm sending out an email, I can measure open rates. If I'm you know, looking at social media, I can look att, engagement and likes and comments already. How do I measure the effectiveness of my PR strategy? Yeah, for us. One of the things which we do turn to is that we are able to establish with clients the circulation of the publications which are being targeted.

That's usually very important. That's something that we could go away on research at the key metric. That is a key metric and circulation figures. If it is a title that still has a physical hard copy version, because countries what people may believe they do still exist, there has still think it's 25 million people in the UK that still take a regular newspaper, however, that being alone a weekly or daily. So we are able to give figures like that. So, it does give them an idea if they are able to then get in front of that number that there is a level of attraction so few for you to be able to say, for instance, a big regional city title where we live here, the Liverpool Echo that's got six million readers in total.

So you know that if you're going to get into that particular publication, there were going to be millions of people who have got an opportunity to view that to engage with it, to interact with it online or to respond to it in some way. And it's not uncommon at all, which is obviously the name of the game, the people to get back in touch with those and say that as a result of appearing in such a publication. Somebody then reached out to me and said, I want to work with you so those are obviously great results as well.

That is evidence that using PR canon doors leads to costumes coming on board because they've had a chance to learn a little bit about you as a person. They've become attracted to you in that way, and then they've gone ahead, and instigated a business transaction. So there's definitely a sculpt for that. Ultimately, that's the key measurement, right? Do you have new customers come into your business, and if you've got the right systems in place to data capture the journey that they've come into your business on that consign post?

That PR has had an influential role in that, Then that's Kay on. We have very common real life examples, like the coach that we worked in Manchester appeared in The Manchester Evening News, and within 24 hours she had five new enquiries from people seeking information about her coaching packages. And that is very clear, draw the dots the line back to that coverage, so it's in some ways. While you might think it's the hardest thing to measure, it's often the clearest because if somebody comes to you and says, I saw you in the paper, tell me more about what you do.

You can measure that instantly. Yet the beauty of it is that if you're appearing in a newspaper piece rather than an advert, then you're there based upon your old merit. Because the news story that you've shared is there because it has got home at a connection with the readership that's being targeted. So there's always that unique level of authenticity that the newspaper article Curries that is completely in its own will to anything else really that exists, you know, to have that feeling of making it into the paper and have that ability to.

Then, you know, we hear a lot about people who will keep their clippings, you know, they'll have a scrapbook all they'll frame them on, display them proudly on their office walls and that type of thing. There is something very special about securing that coverage. And then when people do walk into, say, a bricks and mortar premises and they can see that coverage adorning their walls, it looks very impressive. It all already creates a conversation starter, and then it gets people really, really thinking about wanting to do business with that company because you can see the credibility is literally coming through the walls.

So it's very, very powerful in that spats as well. Yeah, it's funny, isn't it? That there is all these trendy new things coming and going. But it's still the traditional marketing strategies such as PR and, you know, it building your email list and networking and all that stuff. That is the solid foundation for everything. And I think we should all be doing it now, let me ask you a question of something that happened to us all the time. I worked in tech, and so our PR agency focused on tech sector.

We would meet a potential new client, and we would ask them what they're trying to achieve from the PR. And we were sitting with the CEO as someone they go, I'd love to be in the Financial Times. And you think you thought we roll our eyes and think. Well, okay, what do you do when you get someone stating a ridiculous? Well, not ridiculous, but a very ambitious goal that actually might be more ego based than actually supporting their business. That is such a good question.

And it does happen all the time. You sit down and the two things that people say towards us: I want to be in Forbes, and I want to be on the couch with Holly and Phil. And we're like, have you been in your local newspaper? And said “No, no I have not even been in my local newspaper.” But what we say is don't discount that. We would never say that can't happen. But have that as a stretch goal. And, we also say to think about your ideal customer. So if you are for example, an agency that specialises in working with people in the financial sector, having some coverage in the publication that serves that sector is much more likely to convert into paying customers in your business.

This is a piece in Forbes that's being read by millions and millions of people, admittedly, but are they necessarily going to come back and spend many money with you? So we certainly don't say don't go for the big tick objectives but also have a strategy that's based on what's going to convert, and make it most likely that I'm going to get sales into my business. And so that's how we tend to approach things with people. We have become known for providing healthy challenge ways. Do that with everybody that we come into contact with and who we have a business relationship with.

We're always happy to hear what their goals and dreams and objectives are, as you said, drop quite rightfully, always very respectful of their ambitions. But there has to be a bit of a reality cheque sometimes, and it has to be about working smarts and doing it in the right way, making progressive steps, starting at one level, building up that little bit of credibility through the press, establishing some credentials, revealing a little bit about your story in your background and then you can start to work towards those TV radio opportunities or the big hitters, such as a Forbes or Time magazine or which have a publication happens to be that people have mentioned she was, Yeah, I did.

A really interesting interview for the podcast is coming out in the next. The next actually probably would have come out by the time this one goes live with someone called Marcel Petitpas from Parakeeto, and we're talking about profitability, but he had a really good point to make this very salient to this point. And that is that when you first meet a prospect or a potential customer, you have to manage them, and you have to show up as a consultant and be equal and guide them on.

If you don't do that, you're setting yourself up for all sorts of problems further down the line to do with, you know, the relationship, but also to do with profitability and margins and all the rest of it. And this is a good example, right? So someone says I want to be on Holly and Phili’s sofa, and they work in the financial services, then you immediately know that's all about their ego and know about something that's going to, you know, actually engage with the customers and ultimately bring them more business.

So it's your job as the consultants to solve. Steer them as you said. And if you had this idea, this public hard question, I don't know. But if you could give, the listeners saw three or four tips on what they should be doing if they start thinking about PR because I suspect that some people listen to this probably haven't even thought about media relations is part of their strategy because they probably think that's what corporates do. And you know, we don't have the time resource budget whenever so what tips would you give someone like that if they were just going to start out thinking about doing some PR?

So the first thing we always say is try to understand your own PR personality. So are you a person who is more comfortable with being on camera or perhaps talking than you are writing on? If that's the case, then saving your energies for radio opportunities, TV opportunities, and potentially YouTube channel guest expert spots or even corp house, which is obviously taking off massively at the moment. So focus your energy in that direction. Conversely, if you are that person who needs more time to think on these, perhaps a little bit more introverted, or you like to take your time to put together a story idea or a proposal, then focusing your energies on newspapers and magazines and trade journals is going to serve you best.

So the number one thing is, we always say is understand your PR personality, and  what we try to say is identify where you are now, but also building some realistic stretch goals. So if it is that you have an ambition to be on the radio, practising on being courthouse for now would be a really good way of finding your voice, finding your talking points so that when a radio opportunity comes up, you feel a little bit more prepared for that. So PR personalities K a good tip as well.

Just to use Michelle's example, if you are hoping to make that radio appearance one day, is perhaps having a goal of going live on your own Facebook page just that you can practise your presentation. You’re doing it there in front of people that are friends, that are family there, a trusted audience. They're people that Khun, just maybe give you a little bit of constructive feedback. But you know that you're doing it in a scenario that isn't the real deal, but it's giving you that chance. 

For instance, you just work on things such as how you sound, how you come across your visual presentation. You know, whoever you want to have a particular local backdrop to what you do. These are all things which, if you were doing a visual and broadcast, these will be important. But for practise and just rehearsing and getting things right, focusing on what key messages you would like to be translating to people and how you get them out there, that's really, really good for practise as well. So considering doing a Facebook live or LinkedIn video could be a good way of just help me to prep for the real thing.

Yeah, we also say that the thing with PR is people focus on what they want to sell, so they're like, I want to sell my programme, I want to sell my course. I wanna sell my service package. They make the mistake of approaching a reporter with something that is, in fact, an advert on. That's why the end. You end up being shunted to the advertising team and ask to spend some money. So we always say, bring it back to news value. What are people going to be interested in?

What are they going to engage in? So, we always say a people first strategy rather than a product and service, that's strategy. So that involves looking at your business from a people perspective. What the interesting human interest stories within that on often that could be the journey to how you actually came to settle your agency. It could be a huge sense of why that's propelling your business or a significant life challenge that you've overcome on its being prepared to in a very controlled way. Lift the curtain a little bit and show people who you are.

So you're not just this faceless organisation, this faceless agency. It's about giving people the opportunity to get to know, like entrust you so that when they need a service you offer you become their first port of call. So really focusing on the news value that you want to offer, as opposed to the endgame of selling a product will put your thinking in the right lane. Yeah, so that's such a good piece of advice. You have to have a point of view and you have to have an opinion, because if you don't, then the journalist is gonna get bored and it's really funny.

Actually, that I use is a coach. Now. I use so many of the tips and tricks that journalists used to use, like what you would do media training with clients when they were about to sit with a journalist, and we would talk about some of the tips and tricks they use. And now I teach some of those in a different context to my client's, whether it be interviewing a potential employee or, you know, just kind of getting the best out climb when I'm coaching them. But you know, you have to have a point of view if you just go in and you, like you say, try to sell.

Are you going with very generic like the same thing everybody would say. But when we were putting clients forward for feature articles in the media. We would say, look, this journalist is probably talking to five people, and they're probably going to use two quotes from those five people. So if you want to be one of the two out of five you have to have an opinion on, you have to be controversial where you possibly can and you know you can't just give the corporate, you know, the corporate spill.

And, like you say, we'll try to sell because Jonas are cynical beasts. So they are going to get very turned off by the by that approach, that's really good advice. Let's just switch tacs because I'm self conscious of time. And one thing I'd really like to touch upon is the fact that you work together as husband and wife now. Personally, for me, I am interested in that, because I I don't know why, but I have a lot of husband-wife clients, and I have a lot of the partner clients. And so I suspect in the agency world, your setup is pretty similar.

So tell us about what that's been like. The pros, and the cons, and the pitfalls and the boundaries, and all the things that you need to put in place to working each other. Yeah, it's a big question, isn't it. Should I start now? Yeah, you go. Yeah, I think it's really important, first and foremost, I mean again, it's one of those questions when when you answer, I'm trying not to sort of got fall into saying anything cliche to stereotypical, but I suppose it's because it's free.

The biggest thing I think for us is about compromise. It's really, really, really important that we both feel that when we're talking about any given thing regarding a piece of work that we might be undertaking for a client, or we're actually discussing the strategy of how to take our own business forward, that we both have the opportunity to feel that we're being heard. And sometimes it can be quite tricky. If we are in different directions with that, it could be that I might be down one end of the road to Michelle might be, you know, down the end of the road round to call on one of the roads again. So, it's important that we try wherever possible to speak to each other respectfully, which we do to take our time, considering each other's thoughts and feelings, because we're both experts of what we do.

So that can be difficult sometimes, when you kind of have that niggling thing to think. Well, I actually feel that I'm correct here completely, before that. That isn't always. The case usually ends up happening is we take a breath, think it through, listen to each other, and then we will reach a point where I feel like my contribution or my thought is being heard and reached some level, and then and then vice versa for you. It's never a way where it's my way or the highway. Neither of us do that with one another.

We love and respect each other too much to do that. We value each other's ability to do that. We compliment each other in terms of their things, which Michelle is certainly better at doing than I am. But then there are things that I feel Michelle would agree, hopefully, that I'm better at doing some other things as well. So it's about playing two to the strengths is very important, recognising where one of us needs to maybe take a backseat, and let the other one take the lead. Hopefully, we've done that a little bit and demonstrate that today on the podcast of how we answer questions. And yeah, I think it's just always about as well as trying to train to have form, and all that might sight seem a bit silly. But we try shopping in a way where we are educating people and we want to be informative. I think someone wants to call us entertainers, which we were happy to be called that. But I think it's important at the end of a working day, we remember that we're not just business partners. That's something that you do, you really need to think about that. You don't let work on work or work related matters continue to dominate that you know the life that you have outside of work.

You know what? The end of the day, we're a couple. We want to have a marriage as well as having a business relationship. So sorry to interrupt you, but how do you manage that, though? Because I would say that's the biggest challenge. How do you make sure that when you're on holiday, you're not talking about work or when you're It's the weekend and you haven't got much to do that you don't just lurch back into work mode, because I know that is a problem for a lot of a lot of my clients and just tell it, talk to us about that.

So, I think we are. We've kind of learned over the past three years to set some boundaries. So if we are going for a day out, we might confine work chat to the journey on. Then when we arrive at the place where we are, we're present and in that moment, and that is something that kind of works quite well for us, I'm the driver in the relationship. I love to drive when I'm driving. That's when I tend to have my most great creative ideas. And when I like to talk things through. So we keep that conversation in the car, and then when we get where we're getting, too, that's when our personal time begins, and we can catch each other in the sense that if we are drifting into  work chat.

One of this will be like, hang on, let's part that from one day or let's park that for the more name on one of the things. That we always do at the end of every working day is review our to do list, cross off things we've achieved, update for the next day on that allows us to draw a line under the working day, and moving to our into our private life after that, Yeah, we have, umm, pretty much that philosophy that once we closed the office door over, that door was shut into is physically and it's metaphorically shut.

And then we don't do anything. Then, until that door was reopened the next working day, and that's when the work, think and resume again. So that's really important. So yeah, good advice. And you know, I'm a big fan of Michael Herd, and I use his concept of morning and evening rituals, which is kind of what you're talking about, you know? So my morning away starts off with my cup of coffee, and that's the signal to start my day, and I review my to-do list.

And at the end of the day, I review my to-do list, create the next day's, close everything down, and I clear my desk. And I'm ready to go for the next day, so I completely concur with that. And I think you know, you guys have done really well if you can get those boundaries in place because I think, you know, years ago I used to work with my partner and it was a challenge of kind of being to work all the time and invade. Using tough solved slides back into work mode, and almost become the easiest discussion.

One thing you said, Christian,you kind of said in an almost apologetic of flip ways about having fun. And you know what you know myself, strap line from my what I do is helping agencies grow in a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable way, because I think too many people grow their businesses, and they get fixated on this fictitious end light of the end of the tunnel, and they forget that they're actually supposed to enjoy the journey along the way. And, of course, we all know that often we never get to that light at the end of the tunnel. So we better make sure what present and enjoy the journey.

So I think that that is a fundamental part of what we do. It's like if you don't, you know, enjoy being in a broader sense, what you're doing and you don't have fun doing it, and you need to do something else. So I, how heartedly off buy into that. There's lots of things. Yeah, there's lots more things we could talk about, but I'm conscious of time. I was interested to hear about your 5-Day Challenge, but maybe if there's a link, we can include that in the show notes.

And so, if people are thinking about starting PR than that seems to me like, that would be a good thing for them to do. Yeah, we have run the 5-Day Challenge four times in the past 12 months. And altogether, over a thousand people have taken part. Today, every single one of them have been either business owners, or authors in lots of cases, or artists, anyone who's kind of got on entrepreneurial slant to what they do. We have had some agency owners involved in that process, as well as.

And basically, we take people from Day 1. We assume from a baseline level that they've never been in the press. Some people have before, and they just need to revisit that build back up. But we take everyone from having no story, no clear newspaper or outlet in mind, and no structure or process to pitch on Day1 but on Day 5, we are very strict in that. By Day 5, people will literally have press send on a fully formed pitch with a central story idea to a publication of their choice. The reason we do that is we don't want it to be a dress rehearsal, or a dry run, because that pushes people into procrastination. They didn't never end up hitting send. So we want to really help people to make that journey over the course of 5 days, in a really supported, and calm way with lots of fun involved, and lots of information involved, and a really value packed learning experience. So that's kind of the nature of our 5-Day Challenge.

Okay, so we can include some links to that. Is that a free challenge or is that I paid for service? It's completely free. We've done four so far. So the best way to find out about future challenges is to follow us on social media, and also on website. But we can include the links for you. For you for that, Rob. Yeah, sure. Okay, so last question before we wrap things up today, and a question I ask all of my guests, which is, if you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice when you were starting out on business which, admittedly, is not that long for you guys.

But what would that piece of advice be? Okay, we should go one at a time. Yeah. You wanna go first? Well, my advice would be keep up with tech. I remember like being a journalist fresh out of university, and at that point, we were still pitching to the nationals on a fax machine. We were still using yellow pages on the telephone directory to ring round and find story leads. On the curve that journalism has gone on since I graduated in 2001 has been huge. The number of new technologies that have come out on social media has obviously revolutionised everything.

And I think a key strength of ours has always been to evolve with that. So when anything new comes up to be an early adopter on, then you can help all the people coming down the line to upscale as well. So for me, I would say always be at the forefront of new tech,and even if you are not a technical person. Use it as a user just so you can have an understanding of how we operate, and then you can let reach that to push your agency forward. Yes. Okay.

And from my point of view. How about you, Christian? Yeah, from my point of view, I think that’s myself and Michelle would have saved a lot of time and energy that we expended had we have reached the conclusion earlier that it's okay to support your hands up, and seek help from experts within any chosen field. So what I mean by that is that we were very guilty, right at the beginning of trying to do everything on our own. So not only we’re be trying to run the PR agency and show up in a way that we knew that we were experts in.

But we were also trying to do a myriad of other things as well, which we were not so great up, and things which we didn't particularly enjoy doing. So when we began to learn the value of outsourcing, and we had a lot of people telling us to do that. Who’ve been in business for a lot longer than we are that really started to open our eyes. It gave us a massive energy boost that allowed us to focus on the things which we knew we needed to be doing in order to give the most value that we called and just to trust other people to do all the aspects of the business which is so important, and let them take care of.

That is sort of one of those things where you can pass it over, trust that person or people or organisation to do it for you and then it just frees you up to really, really get enjoyment and form, as we talked about earlier looking at the things which like you open that you want to be focused on. So why do you wish that I had taken that step earlier to have outsourced quicker than we did? That's that's more of a recent thing for us to be fat. Yeah, yeah..

Good advice. I think we all need to identify what are our superpowers and delicate everything else as much as we can. Because, you know, I always talk to people about what their value of their notional hourly rate is, and the concept of a notion really rate is how much is an hour of your time worth. And if you're on, this is not about you know how you shout clients because you should never sell time. But if you are doing a task that is worth less than your notion hourly rate, then why you doing it?

Why? You aren’t outsourcing. You should all be doing tasks that at your hourly rate or higher, because those the ones that are going to move the needle forward for your business. So, great advice. It's always good to hear these things because we might all think we know them, but it's really good to be reminded of it as well. And just on your point, Michelle, when I was, you know, when I was running my PR agency, it was fax machines. It was printing off press releases, stuffing them in envelopes, put them through the franking machine.

There was no internet back in the early 90’s when I started agency, so they're very different world to the one that we are in now. And in some ways it was simpler, and it was way less distracting. And in other ways, of course, there's so many new ways of reaching our target audience. So, it's sort of pros and cons. Anyway so, we will include your contact details in the show notes. But if people want to find you, what would be the best way for them to do that?

But the absolute best way to connect with those is on LinkedIn and Facebook. Those of the places that we are most active, and see you will find us as Michelle Ewen and separately, Christian Ewen on LinkedIn. And our surname has the unusual spelling of E-W-E-N, and then over on Facebook. We are right on time, UK and again, please feel free to send us a friend connection request on Facebook, because we are active on our personal profiles as much as we are on our business page.

Eso anyone who wants to come into our world, we’re always sharing little prompts or advisory points or just a little bit fun. Lots and lots of pictures of our car, if that's your thing. Anyone who wants to just come and have a little bit of fun but also learn some really key skills about moving their PR strategy forward come and hang out with us on social media. Yeah, of course. We all know that social media is all ready for our pets anyway. Don't wait.

I will confirm that you're suddenly on LinkedIn. I always read your content. You're reactive on there, and you produce great. You share great content, which means it gets lots of engagements. You're a good advert for making that stuff work. So listen, thank you so much for your time. Today has been really interesting. I feel like there's other areas that we could have touched upon today. But I hope this has inspired you guys listeners to think about how media relations fits into your business. And also think about the best ways of you getting out there, as Michelle said, whether it be written or on video ,or audio, like these podcasts ,or compounds. Go and start doing it because it is such a great way of reaching a wider audience.

And as you guys said, it's also a really good way of building kind of endorsements, and credibility, because it's seen as much more credible than a paid ad. So I really concur with everything you said today and just want to say, thank you so much for your time. She has been an absolute pleasure, and we're so appreciative of the chance to speak to your community thoroughly. Enjoyed it. Thank you, everybody, thank you Rob.

The Importance of Building Partnerships in your Agency

Today, I want to talk to you all about partnerships. Partnerships are a really smart way for small businesses to win new businesses. They give you reach far beyond your own audience, and managing one relationship can deliver several clients and new leads into your agency. 

So in this episode, I want to share with you the two types of partnerships you should be pursuing and some dos and don’ts in finding and managing partners.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[02:01] 

Why partnerships are such a good idea 

[03:00] 

The two types of partnerships you should be focused on

[03:44] 

What are marketing partnerships?

[06:34] 

What are new business partnerships?

[07:39]  

How to create your ‘Dream 50 List - a target list of people that you would like to partner with either from a marketing or new business perspective

[08:13] 

How to work out a strategy to approach your target marketing partners

[12:26] 

The importance of addressing your potential partner’s fears of getting into the partnership and as well the benefits

[13:18] 

5 key benefits of partnerships 

[14:07] 

5 key fears your potential partner may have

[15:18] 

Pitfalls to avoid in building partnerships and what to do to avoid these errors

[20:23] 

Wrap up - Partnerships are a really smart way to reach a much wider audience

Quotations

“If you have an amazing partner, then they deliver you multiple clients in one year.” - Rob Da Costa

“Your ideal partner is someone who is targeting the same kind of customers that you are trying to reach but they are offering a different product or service.” - Rob Da Costa

“When you’re doing your outreach, you have to answer that question of what’s in it for them.” - Rob Da Costa

“Effort in is less than the results we get out.” - Rob Da Costa

“Partnerships are a really smart way to reach a much wider audience.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Hey everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now today, I want to talk to you all about Partnerships. Partnerships are a really smart way for small businesses to win new business, they give you reach far beyond your own audience. And managing one relationship can deliver a number of clients and new leads into your agency. So in this episode, I want to share with you the two types of partnerships you should be pursuing, and some do's and don'ts of finding and managing partners. So let's get on with today's show. We've been talking a lot about partnerships recently in my Agency Implementation Group, the self-running agency. So I thought it would be good to record an episode talking about the importance of partnerships as part of your marketing and your business development strategy. So let's start off by just kind of thinking about why partnerships are such a good idea. If we don't have any partnerships, and we are focused on new business ourselves, then that limits us to the audience that we've built in our mailing list and our social media and so on. And also, it means that we have to build a lot of one to one relationship. So we have to go and find that customer and build that relationship and win it, and so on, and so on and so on. However, when you have a partnership program in place, it no longer is a one to one relationship, but a one to many relationships. And what I mean by that is that if you have an amazing partner, then they can be delivering you multiple clients in one year. And you're just focused on managing that one relationship. So it's a one to many relationships. And that is really the key reason why you me and everybody else should be focused on partnerships. Now we're gonna talk about some of the things you need to do and some of the pitfalls shortly. But let's just talk about the two types of partnership that you can build.

And I just want to say about both of these, before we jump into that, that the ideal partner is someone who is targeting a similar audience to you, but with a different product or service. So let me say that, again, your ideal partner is someone who is targeting the same kind of customers that you're trying to reach, but they are offering a different product or service. And we call this a shoulder niche. So you want to find partners who are in a shoulder niche, similar to you. And as I said, there's two types of partnership that we're going to begin today. There's marketing partnerships, and there's new business partnerships. So let's start off with marketing partnerships. Obviously, we need to make sure that we are constantly building our brand and promoting our products and services to our audience. But if we want to expedite that growth, then we want to do the same thing, but to somebody else's audience. Now, if your partner is promoting you to their audience, then you are already warm, and you're almost pre sold slightly because they by association are making you credible. And that is one of the great reasons why partnerships are so strong, because you're no longer in that kind of cold, top of the sales funnel place. But you're actually already somewhat further down the sales funnel, because by association, their audience thinks they're credible. And if they're referring you, then they think you're credible too. So a marketing partnership can mean many things, it could be that you really like being on podcasts. So you reach out to podcasts who are targeting the same audience to see if you can be a guest, it could be that you want to do something similar but on a webinar, so you want to be a guest on somebody else's webinar, or even run a webinar on their behalf that they promote to their audience, it might be that you have an amazing piece of content that you know, is going to be really valuable for your partner's audience. So you offer it to your partner, they will promote it out to your audience. And of course, they land on a landing page, they type in their email address, they can download this valuable piece of content from you. And now you have got that email address to nurture in your email list as well. So there are a whole number of different types of marketing partnerships. But the point is here is that you want to get in front of your partner's audience. And you want to be promoting your product or services by providing some value. And in return for that you're going to get their email address so that you that you get them on your list and you can start nurturing them. Now often partners that we look for, like the ideal partner is either going to be a similar size to you, or even more, ideally, one or two steps up the ladder. Now occasionally, you might want to target partners that are a whole number of steps higher up the ladder, but they're of course much harder to actually engage with and get committed to. So when you're putting together your dream 50 which is something I'll come on to shortly, make sure that you have a few really aspirational partners that are whole number of rungs higher up the ladder but most of your partners or on the same rung or slightly higher than you, because it's going to be easier for you to reach out to them, engage with them, and get some kind of commitment. So that's the marketing partner, the whole point of that is that you get in front of their audience, and you provide some value, and therefore you can build up your mailing list or just your reputation with our audience. Now, I'll talk in a moment about how to reach out to these people. But first of all, I want to talk about the second type of partnerships. So the first type is marketing. The second type is new business. And this is where you're going to partner up with a company who will refer you directly into a specific client to provide some services. So the point is here, that you're building a relationship with a company that has an audience that often asks them for your services. And you almost become their preferred supplier, when you refer you in. So I have a few people like this, early this week, I had a client reach out to me saying that they have a customer that's looking for new website, could I recommend anybody. And I have my preferred website, developers and designers that I know and trust. So if I refer them to my customers, then I know that they are going to do a good job. And of course, that's going to help me and not damage my brand. So that's the second type of partnership, which is a new business partnership. And you're going to want to have a small number of both marketing partnerships, and new business partnerships. And to start working out who you want to target for marketing and new business partnerships, you're going to create your dream 50 list. This is a target list of people that you would like to partner with, either from a marketing perspective or a new business perspective. So what you want to do is create a spreadsheet. And you want to start listing those people who are in a shoulder niche, i.e. they're targeting the same audience with a different offer, you may know them, you may not know them, they may be really aspirational, or they may be people that I like so just a bit bigger than you. And you're now going to work out a strategy to reach out to them. So your dream 50 spreadsheet is going to list who these people are, who the key contact is. And you're also going to start to list out some of the ways that you're going to approach them. So let's just talk a little bit about that now. And from a marketing perspective, let's talk about this podcast. Because every week, I get at least three or four people reaching out to me to try and get their CEO or MD or whoever, onto the podcast as a guest. And I really see the good, the bad and the ugly of how people do that. And the really bad way is to send me an email that says my SEO is amazing, we've got this amazing product, I think he should be on your podcast. And I'll always reach back to them and say, well tell me why on which podcast episodes you enjoyed. And of course, you know full well that they haven't even listened to the podcast. And they're not going to get anywhere with that. The problem about that, that's all about them and not about you. And so when you're doing your outreach, you have to start off by showing them that you understand them. So in my case, that would be saying, hey, Rob, I've listened to Episode 10 and Episode 72 of the podcast really enjoyed it, I thought it was really insightful. However, there's an angle that you didn't discuss, and my blah, blah, blah, would be really great at doing that.

And that's very different to starting off talking about you. So that's one thing that you want to do is you need to show your potential partner that you have done your research, that you understand them. And the first thing they're going to think of when they get an email like this or communication like this is what's in it for me, why should I partner with you, because a lot of the time, they won't even know who you are. So you need to tackle that straightaway and talk about the value that you can bring to their audience, either from a marketing perspective or from a new business perspective. And talk about that straightaway when you reach out to them with that first engagement, which might be an email, it might be a phone call, an online call, whatever. Now your dream 50 list becomes a bit of a CRM. And of course, you might want to actually put all of this into your CRM system, because you want to know what you sent to somebody you want to know what your follow up date is and what your next action is. And you also want to have a series of prompts if they don't get back to you because of course, probably five out of 10 or eight out of 10 aren't actually going to respond to you. So you want to follow them up. Now one kind of rule of thumb, which is a really good rule of thumb, for me running my business for a long time, is that you need to be a rock filer. And what I mean by that is, if you're not willing to follow something up to its end degree which might be Yes, we'd love to pop top partner with you or no thank you. We have no interest whatsoever, then you shouldn't start that in the first place. And I see a lot of people start you They, they do that outreach, and then they kind of give up because they didn't hear back, you need to pursue it too, without being annoying, of course, but you need to give it a good go to get your feet, get some feedback from your potential partner. So that's building your dream 50 list, sit down for an hour, and try and brain dump as many potential partners as possible. And you can categorize them as marketing partners, or new business partners, but just brain dump list, and then you can start to flesh it out. Now in the self running agency implementation group, we have lots of tools and templates to use for this stuff. So if you're interested in finding out more, then reach out to me and I will tell you all about it. And I'll put a link in the show notes, because partnerships is one aspect of what we cover in the self running agency where we look at your future vision, we look at your new business, which of course is where partnerships fits in, and we look at developing your team. Now one point I will just want to re emphasize again, is that when you're doing this outreach, you have to answer that question of what's in it for them, because that's exactly what they're thinking. We're all busy, we all get these types of communications regularly. And we've got sort of five seconds to capture someone's interest. So you need to really make it very clear very early on what's in it for them. Now another thing that you need to do, and you're not going to do this in your initial conversations, but if things move forward, and you start having face-to-face conversations with potential partner, you need to make sure that you are addressing the fears of getting into a relationship as well as the benefits. So what typically happens is we will sit with someone and we will talk about all the benefits of why we should partner together. And you know, those ones are sort of obvious. But what we need to be mindful of is meanwhile, the other party is sitting there running a bunch of fears in their head about this. So if you address those fears head on, you've got much more chance of moving the discussion to the next stage. So, let me just really quickly tell you that there are five categories of benefits, and there are five categories of fears that you need to address, I'm not going to go into this in a ton of detail, because again, we dive into a lot of detail in the self funding agency implementation group, but the five key benefits are revenue. So obviously, if I partner with you, we both have the opportunity of getting more money into our agencies, loyalty. If I refer people in my network, then I'm building more loyalty with my clients. Because if I refer someone and they really helped my client, like with the website example I used, then the client loves me even more referrals is an obvious one. But if I partner with someone, I'm going to get new referrals. And the other two are all about protecting my network. Because if I refer people in my network, those people are not going to start trying to get them to leave me and go and work with somebody else. And the fifth benefit is knowledge. So what knowledge can I gain from my referral about my customer that I might not know myself? So those are the five categories of benefits that we will often address. But now let's quickly talk about the five categories of fear. So the first one is "Do I trust you?," because obviously, that's you know, fundamental to everything. The second one is "If I refer someone to you, am I going to lose control of that client relationship?," so that second one rather.

The third one is"What is the quality of advice that you are going to give?," and then the fourth one is "If you have a team, is my client going to get consistent quality advice from you?" And then the fifth one is "How much time is this relationship going to take to manage?" Now those five fears you can't always do anything about. But if you just get them out on the table and talk about it, then that is a big step forward, rather than just ignoring them. But just trust me, that's what's going through your head or your your potential partners head. So address the five benefits, but also make sure you talk about the five fears and you counter them where you can, and you acknowledge them where you can't. Now those five fears and five benefits apply to both marketing partnership and the new business partnership. So, I just wanted to wrap this up by sharing with you some of the pitfalls to avoid that I see people making time and time again, and I'm sure you'll be able to relate to some of these, and I've certainly made some of these errors in the past as well. So, I think it's good for all of us to be reminded of these. So the first thing is what I said earlier, it's about not being tenacious, like having one meeting, and kind of both agreeing that you're going to do something and then not really following it up. And then of course over time, things disappear. And then you might bump into that person in six months time at an event and you feel a bit awkward because neither of you have really pursued what you said you would. So remember, if you're going to pure partnership, you need to be tenacious and follow it up. So don't so my advice to you is that when you have that first meeting, you do two things you try to set an action on you and an action on them, because that will keep the dialogue going. It'll also make it easy for you to talk to them without feeling awkward. And the second thing to do is to try and get a date in the diary for the next meeting. So the second pitfall to avoid in that first meeting, is that you make a commitment to them. But they don't really make a commitment back to you, or the promises you make each other are too vague, like, Oh, yeah, let's touch base again in a few months time. And of course, you know, don't well, that that's not going to happen. And what you want is someone to be honest with you, if they don't feel like there is a good partnership opportunity, it's much better for them to say that and for you to give them the space to say that than it is for them to make vague promises, because that makes them feel slightly less uncomfortable. The next one is, again, don't start something if you're not going to pursue it just so you have to have asked yourself that at the beginning, am I going to follow this through, and if you're honest with yourself in the answer's no, then don't start it in the first place. The next one is about partnering with someone where there is really in balanced value. In other words, it might be really good for you, but not so good for them, because if that happens, or of course the other way around, so you're going to do all the work, you're going to really help them but you can't see what you're going to get in return. Partnership relationships have to be balanced. And if they're not, they're gonna quickly fizzle out from one side or another. The next thing to avoid is partnering with someone that you really like, but they are not in your shoulder niche. So their audience is not your audience, and you may really be helping them. But that's not really gonna help you. And I've made a few mistakes like this before, where I've partnered with people, for example, who are helping people launch their online courses, which is something I really care about, because I do that. But that isn't really my audience, I might provide value by being a guest on a podcast or writing a guest blog or running a webinar, but it isn't really targeting my audience. So, sometimes we get into bed with people we really like. But if they're not targeting your shoulder niche, you're in danger of wasting a lot of time. Now, the next pitfall to avoid is having too many partnerships. So it's really difficult to manage, and you can't apply all the things that I've mentioned earlier. So to that end, I would encourage you to only have one or two marketing partnerships, and one or two new business partnerships, because you can't manage any more than that, as effectively as I'm telling you that you should, if you have a lot more. So this is not a numbers game, you need your dream 50 list, and you're going to prioritize it and work from the highest priority down through that list. But your goal is only to have one or two of each of those types of partnerships at any one time. Now, once you've got those partnerships, another thing you need to make sure you don't do is that you don't assess the effectiveness of the partnership, you just keep doing it because you perhaps find it difficult to say that this isn't really working, or you really like the person or you're just not assessing, is it giving me the outcome. So when you set a

partnership up, you need to set some delivery goals, and you need to discuss those goals with your partner. And you also need to set them for yourself. And you need to regularly review them to say is this partnership worth the time that I'm investing, because remember, we always want to be working to this equation of effort in is less than the results we get out. So the effort we put in is less than the results we get out. In other words, our time investment is delivering the results we expected and not the other way around. So if the partnership isn't delivering, then have that conversation with your partner, and either agree to go your separate ways, or agree to make some changes to the partnership. Okay, so that's what I wanted to talk about today. Partnerships are super important for small agencies. And it is so much easier to manage to partnership agencies that might give you for 5, 6, 7, 8 clients a year than it is for you to go and find those eight clients yourself. Now, of course, these are not mutually exclusive, you're going to have partnerships as part of your new business marketing strategy. But you're also going to be doing your direct marketing, and your direct new business outreach as well. So you want to just have a combination of these things. It's not one or the other. But as I said, partnerships are a really smart way to have this one to many relationships and reach a much wider audience. So I hope that was useful for you. Like I say, it's something that we have been talking a lot about in my self-running agency implementation group. So if you want to learn more about the dream 50 partner list how to the specific outreach strategies, then consider joining the group and as I said, I'll put a link into the show notes. But other than that, I hope you found this useful. Please make sure you smash the subscribe button, share with your colleagues. And also please, please, please consider leaving a review because it really helps me get this podcast out to a wider audience and help more people which is the reason why I run the podcast. Other than that, have a great rest of the week. A fantastic weekend and I'll be back with you next Thursday for our next guest interview on The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Profits, Margins and Pricing with Marcel Petitpas

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am excited to be joined by Marcel Petitpas and we are discussing everything to do with your agency’s profits, pricing and margins. Another action-packed episode so grab a pen and paper and be sure to take notes!

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:02] 

Let’s start by welcoming Marcel Petitpas, our guest for today’s episode. He is the founder of Parakeeto, which aims to help agencies become more profitable. Parakeeto is a software platform that helps users to create data-driven estimates.

[1:40] 

The importance of focusing on agency pricing and profitability.

[4:11] 

At what stage of an agency’s growth should they start implementing time-tracking systems? 

[7:06]  

The importance of understanding your business processes.

[8:05] 

Pitfalls and tips to early prospect discussions

[14:02] 

How to maximise profitability of a project?

[16:27]

How to calculate Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)?

[19:07] 

What are key metrics for agencies to look at? Differentiate between Gross Margin and Average Available Rate.

[25:20]

How to make team members more commercial

[28:51] 

How to implement the Agency Profitability Flywheel in your agency?

[33:32] 

A business paradox: Slow down to speed up

[34:14] 

What are the best strategies to raise your prices?

[35:58] 

The ideal approach for value-based pricing.

[36:34] 

Word of advice: “Say YES to things that scare you!”

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Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

  1. • www.parakeet.com 
  2. • Agency Profitability Flywheel
  3. • The Agency Profit Podcast  

 Full Episode Transcription

Marcel Petitpas
Their ability to subsidize misquote projects over servicing with their own evenings and weekends is basically maxed out at that point and that's usually the forcing function that starts to get people reaching out to us and looking for a solution to this because they're going, I don't understand. I'm busier than I've ever been the whole team is busier than we've ever been and yet I'm afraid I won't make payroll next week, what the hell is going on and that's where we have to start digging into the numbers.

Rob Da Costa
Hey, everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now not only do we have a great guest this week, but we have an action packed, actionable episode all about finance profitability and everything to do with making sure that you are not being a busy fall but growing a profitable agency. So without further ado let's get on with today's episode.

Voice Intro
Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host, agency owner and coach, Rob Da Costa.

Rob Da Costa
So welcome everybody to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now, I'm really excited to have with me today, Marcel Petitpas. Marcel helps agencies become more profitable and he's also the CEO and Founder of Parakeeto, a software platform that helps agencies create data driven estimates using the time tracking data that hopefully they record. Now this is music to my ears because it's something I'm always telling my agency clients about that they must track time and I guess that's something that we'll dig in to more in this episode. So today, we are going to focus on agency pricing and profitability and this is such an important topic if you want to grow your agency in a profitable and sustainable way and you don't just want to be a busy fall. So welcome, Marcel. Can we start off by you telling us a little bit of background? And how and why you started Parakeeto?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, great question! So my first ever business was an agency. I was doing virtual reality services for real estate agents so going into houses creating virtual tours and it's funny I actually just did one this weekend because we're planning on selling our own house next week. So that was a bit of a flashback to those days and that was kind of the first time that I was exposed to these challenges of trying to scale a service business on thin margins and you know how much risk there is in scope creep and this is one of those things where you go into a house and you try to estimate it based on square footage and then all of a sudden, you know, a shot doesn't come out right or the lighting isn't good and you know, what you plan to take four or five hours to shoot ends up being an entire day and I ended up leaving that business because there was a lot of price pressure in our market at the time. Real estate was very flat it was a buyer's market and agents were being very stingy with how much they were willing to invest to sell their homes and I realized very early in that business that there was not enough margin of my services to hire other people to do the work. And it just so happened that I hated the photography and stitching and creating of the virtual tours. I prefer like running the business that was what was interesting to me. And so after kind of doing that I became interested in tech and I want to start a tech company and then a friend of mine who ran a software company or software development agency out of boise came to me one day and said hey, I can't answer simple questions without building spreadsheets, and I can't find a solution to help me with this problem. You know simple questions like did we make money on our last project and did we scope this right? And can we take on this new work? Do we have enough capacity? When should we hire right questions that we're all asking ourselves in the agency every day that require data from different places? And so I you know I resonated with that having experienced this and that's what kind of set us down this path of saying, how do we make it easier for small agencies to have the same access to important information that big agencies have so that they can make better decisions and ultimately scale and grow without running into all the cashflow problems and margin problems that we see so often?

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, so it's such an important topic Lee, before I jump into my first question, you've made me think of another question which is, what stage of an agency's growth do you think they should start thinking about putting systems like this and even like basic systems like time tracking but then those dashboard systems to help you understand you know how profitable you are and you get off the I talk about clients being stuck on the client service hamster wheel of doom where they're just constantly servicing clients and they have no time to ever look at this data and actually think about, are we being profitable? Can we do this in a more efficient way? Did we get our quoting right, or do we need to do differently in the future and sort of what stage in an agency's growth should they start thinking about this?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, I mean, so there's a should and then there's when they usually end up doing it, as early as possible is my answer like even if you're just freelancing but you have a vision to start hiring other people. You should start modeling what it would cost you to hire other people and start tracking how much time it takes you to do things so that you can project. You know to some reasonable extent what your margins are going to look like when you start outsourcing and you start hiring other people to do that work for you so even if you're a solo person right now. I would say it's important to start thinking about these things. So as early as possible is the answer but when do I see people start to do this it's usually when they're closing in on double digit staff numbers. And the reason for that is usually a person can't be really effective with more than about 8 reports 8 direct reports and that's usually the agency owner. You know when you're up to eight 9-10 employees the agency owner is the person that everyone directly reports to. They're capping out, and their ability to subsidize misquote projects over servicing with their own evenings and weekends is basically maxed out at that point. And that's usually the forcing function that starts to get people reaching out to us and looking for a solution to this because they're going I don't understand, I'm busier than I've ever been the whole team is busier than we've ever been. And yet I'm afraid I won't make payroll next week. What the hell's going on? And that's where we have to start digging into the numbers.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah. So I think it's great answer. And I think if I'd been asked that question, I would have a client was asking me that question, I would say exactly what you just said which is start putting these systems in straightaway I always tell my clients you need to start behaving like the company you want to become. If you want to make that transition in that journey as easy as possible and I think systems and processes are a huge part of that I think sometimes people think they're cumbersome and they can get in the way. But of course, the absolute opposite is true, right? If you get the right systems and processes in place.

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, absolutely. I get that pushback all the time of like I don't want this to hinder our creative process or all of our projects are so different from one another that like how can we ever create a process around this and then the reality is that having some rails down, really help you become more consistent with the creative output. And every experienced creative that I've spoken to the thing that really sets them apart from some of the younger. You know more eager creatives is that they've realized that they have a process. And I think you kind of deny that when you're early on in your creative career. And you, you want to believe that it's some kind of like divine inspiration that comes to you in these moments but like that's not really a sustainable business model. Your clients aren't waiting for you to have like a lightbulb moment in the shower they need you to deliver this thing on Friday. So you need to understand what is your process we're getting in that space where you can start to have this output. And it's in your best interest to start to document that and start to set up the way that you and your team works so that you can do this on command as opposed to you know just waiting for the right moment to have a you know, an output come to you so to speak.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, and I think you know if you want to build an agency that is not completely dependent on you. As the agency owner, then you have to put these systems in place and the sooner you do it the less stressful you're going to have in your agency's growth. Otherwise, all eyes are on you and you know all the weight sits on your shoulder and every single client will want you in their approach and their project as well.

Marcel Petitpas
Absolutely.

Rob Da Costa
So. So let me just let's just go back to the beginning. So I'm just interested to get some thoughts from you on some pitfalls and tips that agencies should be mindful of when they are sitting with that prospect. And they're discussing a project and then they're being asked to go away and scope it out and put together a proposal. What are the kind of pitfalls and tips that you see that you could advise people on at that stage?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so I think one of the immediate things is not understanding that you start training the client on how to treat you in the sales process. And if your posture in that sales process is going to essentially set the agreement on what the relationship is going to be. So of course, early on in your agency you might not have a lot of authority in the space. You might not have people coming to you wanting to work with you because they see you as you know the thought leader in the business problem that they're uniquely trying to solve. So you might not have quite as much leverage but understand that there's a difference between a client that reaches out to you to work with you that's referred to you or you have authority in that relationship. So leverage it be very deliberate about. Hey, this sounds like the problem you want to solve. Let me walk you through our process for how we solve that. Here's the first second third, fourth step, start setting the expectation that you're going to take the lead and clients like that a lot of the time. You know like they don't want to have to tell their agency and micromanage their agency to tell them what to do but I think a lot of agencies fall into that kind of dynamic with their clients which immediately puts a lot of risk on scope. Because if the client is the person that's determining the scope and they get to change it whenever they want, then it's almost impossible for you to do what you need to do to have operational efficiency on the back end. So start with understanding your posture and where your leverage is in the sales process and start coming to the client with confidence and with the process, even if you're making it up on the spot. At least you're training them that you're going to be taking the lead and then the second thing is start to separate pricing and scoping from one another. They are related but they're not the same thing scoping is about what it costs you to deliver work to a client pricing is about what the client is going to pay you. And I think a lot of times even like time and material shops that are not really time and material shops are lying to themselves when they say like, you know I asked this question all the time how do you structure a contract with the client? They go, Oh we estimate how many hours it's going to take and then we build them on time and materials. And then I go, Okay, cool. Well, what if it takes you you know an extra 200 hours to get the thing done that you thought you were going to? Are you billing all those hours back to the client? No. So okay, so you're really pricing a flat rate you're just using scoping as a way to come up with that flat flat rate is and you're not giving yourself any additional compensation for the risk that you took on by doing that. So start to learn how to separate scoping from pricing and understand that the pricing conversation with the client really doesn't have to be related to the scope at all. And in fact, if your services are of high relative value to that client. For example, if they're hiring you for your specific expertise in an area or if the relative value of solving that problem is very high for that business. For example, if they have a million dollars in sales a month on their e-commerce website and you can double their conversion rate. Well, that is significantly more valuable than you know the other company that's doing $10,000 a month in sales on their e-commerce website. So understand what the relative value is use that to drive the price up and you scoping to make sure that there's enough margin there that you're hitting your goals. But don't put yourself in a position where you're taking on all of the risk with very thin margins. And then you know, eating that on the back end which is where we see a lot of agencies fall into cashflow problems.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, it's really interesting, I talk a lot with my clients about value pricing which is kind of what we're talking about here. I think in that you know when you're doing the scope you're working out like you say how long it's going to take. What resources you need, and all the rest of it but that's not really what the clients buying client actually doesn't really care how long it's going to take except in terms of delivery. They don't care how long the agency is going to take. And I always use a dentist as a as a good example of this, like when you go to the dentist and you know, you've got really bad toothache and the dentist gets rid of your toothache and you walk up to reception and they say that's 300 pounds please! You would very rarely say Wow! that's a lot of money for 15 minutes work. And if you did the dentist would probably turn around and say, well if I took three hours to get rid of your pain 100 pounds an hour would that make it more valuable to you and you go. No, of course not because I'm thinking to get rid of my pain as quickly as possible. That's value value pricing and it's kind of what you're what you're talking about here. And I think it's it caught those two things that you talked about are really intertwined because if you meet a prospect and you show up as an equal to that prospect then you can have conversations around how the piece of work you're doing ties into their business bigger business goals what's understanding what the value of it is to the business and then of your pricing against that even though you're working out the scope as well. Then you are much more likely to be you know happy with the amount of time it takes versus the fee that you're charging. I had a really good example of this a couple of weeks ago I have a PR client and they had they want a new client and when they spoke in this process about some of the key goals to measure that project the client said we would really like to get our CEO on radio, blah, blah, blah, whatever the radio station was. And because one of the PR people in the agency used to work at that radio station she was literally able to pick up the phone. Make a phone call within 10 minutes achieve this massive objective that other agencies hadn't been able to to deliver. Now if all they charged the client was the time it took that person to deliver that they'd make no money. So you know, they obviously didn't and they put the what's the value to the client. So I think there's some really good nuggets in in what you just what you just said. So, let's just move that on to now we've got the scope of work and we've agreed the brief with the client. What are your thoughts around? How do we make sure the project we are delivering? Is process profitable? Again, what are the mistakes you see agencies making? What advice would you give to an agency to make sure they can maximize their profitability?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so the first thing is making sure that you're designing the project to have enough margin from the start. And I think this is the first place where a lot of folks get very confused. And there's a lot of mud in the water in the industry about what the best way to even calculate this is. So in our mind the best practice around this is focus on gross margin at the project and client level. So what does that actually mean? Well, essentially what you're looking at is you're going to have a total amount of fees and then depending on what kind of services you're offering maybe some of that is passed through revenue, right? It doesn't actually belong to you. It belongs to other vendors that you're partnering with to get this solution done. So that might be Facebook for ads. It might be some print company to do print. It might be some video production company for video production, right? So take all that money out because that doesn't actually belong to you it's not your revenue it's just passing through you as an entity and then look at what I refer to as agency gross income. So that is the money that belongs to you that you're responsible for earning with your team's time and effort by getting deliverables done and delivering them to the client. So take that AGI number and then what you want to do is subtract your direct labor cost and the way that we want to calculate direct labor cost is not including overhead in that number. And so I just want to pause and double click on this for a moment. I think a lot of people try to get to a net profitability number when they're scoping projects or trying to estimate project profitability. And I think that that's kind of a huge waste of time. It's not really easy to do, it's a lot of additional effort. And what insight does that really provide for you not much your overhead doesn't shift at the same rate that your gross margin does the things are not really truly related. So what you want to do is think about what is the gross margin target that you need to hit consistently, so that you can afford 25 to 30% of your AGI going to overhead and still have a margin that you're happy with and then just start focusing on that gross margin number because it's way easier to calculate. And it's going to be way easier to compare projects to each other. If you're not including overhead because that's a variable that's going to change at a different rate. Whereas if you homogenize everything on gross margin then you can compare all your projects over any time horizon and understand you know how things are moving compare services to one another compare clients to one another and understand where you make more money. So with that said how do you get to the gross margin number you take your AGI against that's revenue minus pass-thru. And then you subtract your direct labor costs. Your direct labor cost is very simple to calculate. It's your team's salary plus whatever benefits they have health, dental stipends for equipment, etc. so they're fully loaded costs divided by the amount of time that you bought in their employment contract which for most people is 2080 hours of their year 40 hours times 52 weeks. And yes we are including their vacation time in there. We're including their paid time off we're including all of that stuff it's a gross margin. We want to remove all the variables that are going to change from person to person from agency to agency so that we have a nice flat metric to track our earning efficiency on so that we can use it horizontally we can compare it to the industry it's a nice useful metric that's simple. That's how you get to gross margin your target should be above 50% 50 to 70 is a good range. If you can shoot towards the top end of that 70%. You know if you have more risk in the project if you feel like there's a contingency there of 10 to 20%factor that in. So you know, if you're consistently hitting 70% margins on your projects. You're probably going to have a gross margin across the whole agency at the end of the year of 55 - 60%. Because you'll lose a little bit on pay time off and vacation and gaps in utilization and slow times. And then you'll be able to carry 25-30% overhead and you should still have 25-ish percent margin left at the end of the year to put in your pocket to compensate you for the risk you took for starting this business. And then everyone's happy. And you should be able to achieve that at. You know 65-70% utilization for your entire team annually. You don't have to work everybody, you know 60-70 hours a week to make that happen. I think that's a misconception in the industry. And a playbook that a lot of bad actors have run for way too long. That is not valid and really bugs me.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, that's so interesting. It's, you know I run a group coaching program with about 30 SME agency owners. And I get asked this question all the time. And I really like the way you've simplified that I'm gonna have to steal that and use it with my clients because they say to Rob, what what should my margin what should what should buy IBM in my margin today? And you know sometimes clients are working on such that although their margin might not be calculated exactly how you've outlined but they're working on such low margins. They're working like 20% margin and then they end up being a busy fall because it just takes one thing slightly to go wrong and they've lost even that 20% margin and then they become a charity because they're doing the work for free so they're really useful really useful to know. And then when it comes to like I don't know your system really well. But what would you say some of their key metrics that agencies should be measuring on ongoing basis? I mean you've already alluded to some of them in in the margin that you just explained but any other kind of key metrics agencies should be looking at so they can measure all this stuff.

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so the way I look at it is there's kind of like two levels of the business that you're going to pay attention to. There's the client and project level which you're usually going to look at on a much tighter time horizon. You might look at that weekly bi weekly or monthly that just kind of depends on the rate of change in your agency. So if you do a lot of like small quick turn projects you're going to look at this more often if you do bigger projects that take you know a longer time to mature. You'll, you'll have a longer time horizon to look at this on but on the client and project level really what you want to have as an earning efficiency metric. And you want to pay attention to like utilization or effectiveness for your team. So essentially what that means is we'll start with earning efficiency. It's a metric that allows you to understand And how efficiently does your team earn revenue and you want that again just like gross margin to be a nice flat homogenous metric that you can use to compare across all of your projects or across other agencies as well. If you have the opportunity to do that in a peer group in a coaching program so on. So there's two metrics that I like for that the first is gross margin. Gross margin is a little bit harder to get to it's a little more costly because you have to factor in the individual cost rate of every person that worked on that project. So you know if you have some technology to help you with that like a time tracking tool that has cost rates included in it then that's great you could probably do that fairly automated. If not, another option that I like that's very very easy to track is what I call average billable rate. And that's really just taking your AGI number your agency gross income and dividing it by the number of hours that your team worked against that project. And that gives you essentially your actual hourly rate at the end of the project. And what you can do with that is look at your average cost per hour for your team. And that'll give you a rough sense of what your margin actually was in that project. And then you can easily start to compare all your projects to one another. So you might look and say like hey! you know, when we do website redesigns. We average $180 an hour but when we do like the content retainer on the back end. We average $153 an hour, and you can start to get these levels of insight of you know. Where are we more or less efficient? What projects were more or less efficient? And that's where you can start to have really insightful conversations with your team about why, why are we way more efficient over here and way less efficient over here? Is there something about our processes or something about the way that we scope that we need to adjust. And those process improvements that come out of those conversations is what really starts to close the gap from both sides. You know, you're going to have the data which tells you did we do what we thought we were going to do on this project. And then you're going to have the process which is going to start to help make things more predictable. I think that's a misconception about scoping is that the data can fix everything but the reality is sometimes we're trying to scope things that are just hard to scope because our processes are very well defined for how we do it in the first place. So efficiency is the first thing you want to track again that either gross margin or average billable rate. Utilization is the second thing you want to pay attention to and that's really just how much of your team's time is being used for earning revenue in your business. And it's important to look at those two things at the same time because I think traditionally a lot of people have focused way too much on utilization. And that comes from being in the time and materials world. If you don't run a time and materials agency utilization is not the most useful metric for you to be paying attention to because it doesn't actually indicate it's not a great precursor for your success. Your utilization might be through the roof but your average billable rate is tanking. That just means you're over servicing clients. So you want to look at those two things next to each other. And the way we calculate utilization is it's really objective. This is another thing that's got a lot of money in the water, what is billable time? Right, is it just time that your team is being productive? know the definition in our case for the purpose of these calculations is time that your team is spending earning revenue for the business doing work on client projects. So if they're working on your website that's productive but it's not billable time. And some people start to get upset with that. And it's like well, if you're upset about that it means you're holding your team accountable to utilization. And you should just stop doing that because it's not useful. It's not useful for them, it's not useful for you hold them accountable to earning revenue hold them accountable to being efficient. And if they don't have enough billable work to do that's your fault not theirs. So try to make it so that you're giving your team enough work creating enough clarity for them managing projects and and resource planning people effectively enough that they have the opportunity to hit 70-ish percent utilization on a net level on an annual basis week to week, that's probably 80 to 90 on the high end. If you can do that pay attention to utilization pay attention to your average mobile rate and those two numbers are good. You're averaging 65-70% utilization and your average billable rate is 2.5 times higher than your average direct labor costs then your P and L should look fantastic at the end of the year. And you probably don't even really need to look at it that often for being honest because you've got lots of gross margin there and you're being efficient. So that's at the project and client level at the agency level that's where you're going to go to your accountant your bookkeeper and it's going to be P and L stuff. So that's where you're looking at gross margin targeting about 60%. You're gonna look at overhead spending you want to keep that below 30%. And then that should leave you with a good. You know net margin at the end of the year to pay yourself and then overhead. You want to generally be paying attention to how much you're spending in each area administrative costs that's usually 8 to 12% of your AGI sales and marketing eight to 14-ish percent. But you can over invest there of course, if you just want to grow fast and then lastly, facilities so that's like your rent or if you're at remote team it's how much you're giving your team for stipends. Basically whatever costs you to put in a working environment over your team's head 4 to 6% of AGI so when you add those up 25 maybe 30% on the high end. If you run a remote team you might be able to get that down closer to 20. And that includes your salary as the owner. By the way, if you're not doing client work then you're you fall into admin or sales and marketing because that's probably what you're doing with your time. So yeah, those are some metrics and benchmarks to look at but I would encourage everyone to don't overthink or over invest in the P and L and the financials. If you're early on start paying attention to your client and project metrics the P and L will take care of itself if those numbers are good.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, brilliant advice. So good. So many really good, great nuggets there. I find it really interesting that a lot of the time agency owners are not making their teams commercial enough. So the team members just don't have access to so much of the information you've just talked about. So what they're tasked with doing is doing a great job for the client with no sense of how many hours it should take and, and behold they over surface the client. The client might be delighted with what they've done. But now of course they're created refer their own back because the client asked them to do more work and has this expectation that it will be delivered at this high level. So is that something you see as well? And would you agree with me that we need to make all our staff commercial because they need to be in control of these numbers?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, I mean I think this is how you change the entire dynamic around time tracking. And there's, there's this is a bit of a double edged sword, right, I think a lot of employees resents the idea that they have to track their time. Resents, you know a lot of this stuff because they don't see how it's being applied to making their lives better and making the agency better for them. And a lot of times it's not being used in that way. So that's part of the problem but really if you think about the the flywheel here that makes your agency more profitable it has to involve your team. And that flywheel is we estimate how much time it's going to take us to do something. We measure if it took us that much time or not. Then we talked to the team about why there are gaps between our expectations and reality because the team is the best you know set of resources to like surface actual granular insights from the ground floor. I'm like what happened during this project. And then that should inform process improvements that in turn make things more predictable. And if we do all these things, well, the end result for the team should be when we schedule you to work 40 hours on a project. It takes you that long and then you go home in the evenings and on weekends. You don't have to because like the deadline is rarely the elastic part of a project, right? So when we under scope something who pays for that the team does and they pay for it with their evenings and weekends. So that's part of the conversation of like, we're gonna engage you in the process of using this data to make the agency better and this is what you're going to get in return. We're gonna be more profitable that means we can pay you better. It means we can have cool perks for the office. It means we don't have to lay you off the second that we have a dip in utilization or new business loads up. It means that you know, you get home on time more consistently. These are all the benefits to them. And that part of that is getting them involved in the conversation of here's the data that we're seeing here's how it's impacting us. And we'd love to learn from you what opportunities exist for us who you know make this better?

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, it's interesting because I think time tracking fails so often because people did the team members are not given a clear context. So they think, oh, you're want me to do time tracking? Because you want you don't trust me, and you want to, you know, keep an eye on exactly what I'm doing and making sure I'm not on Facebook or something. And actually, that's completely the wrong context. The context is everything you just outlined. And if people just slow down a bit and spend time, it's kind of selling that and communicating that to their team, then they would be much better. I mean, Blimey, when I ran my agency, we're talking 15 years ago, we we did many things wrong, but one of the things we did right was time tracking. But in those days, time tracking was an Excel spreadsheet. And that was much tougher than the tools that are available now that make it so much easier. I mean, a lot of my clients use tools like harvest, and I think your power key to connecting with harvest, doesn't it? So you can, you know, take that information and use it in a really kind of smart, intelligent way. And I think you sort of talked about this already. But how do we get smart about feeding that back into future work? So I've done this project, I've done this analysis, I've talked to my team, I'm, what do I do to take those key learnings and then help not make the same mistakes when I talk to the next client about a project and I, you know, over promise and all the rest of it.

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so we have a four step framework on how to implement what we call the agency profitably flywheel into your agency so this is the in the consulting work that we do this is we're just basically helping people implement this. If you want to learn how to do it on your own for free. We have a video course that you can grab absolutely free, and it includes all the templates and spreadsheet templates that we use for reporting and stuff like that with our clients so you can grab that at piercy.com forward slash toolkit, and I'll make sure to send you the link, Rob in case you wanna include that in the show notes.

Rob Da Costa
But we'll include that in the show notes for sure.

Marcel Petitpas
The high level of it is there's two feedback loops we need to create one is about data. It's about what was our estimate and what was our actuals and the reason that a lot of folks don't even get that part installed is because when you hold up their estimate for the project and you hold up a timesheet they look completely different. And so reconciling those two things together requires massaging the data figuring out like okay, well this task for wireframing, the design, UX, copywriting, whatever is, is that design as a copywriting like, what do we estimate this against. And so because there's so much resistance, we don't do it. So the first step is actually auditing the way that you structure your assumptions of a project and your scope document. And the way that you structure your time tracking data and making sure that they match up so that the resistance to answering that questions as low as possible. That creates your first feedback loop that you can within a minute or two go in and run a report at the end of the week and say, did we spend as much time on these projects as we thought we would? And break it down at in very high level buckets? Generally, you want to align those buckets to how you resource plan. So they're generally going to be functional roles, design development, project management, account management, etc. If you can do that well, that creates your data feedback loop that's the objective part. Now, I think where people get steered wrong, is they get excited about this idea of having data help them answer questions and then they start to try to rely on the data to answer all the questions. And that's a recipe for disaster because what that does is it pushes you to start adding way too much complexity to your data schema. So now you're asking your team to track time on a sub task of a sub task of a deliverable within a phase within a right and now your data schema is just totally unmanageable. All these problems about reconciliation come up again. So the the right answer there is keep that simple, keep it high level, and then use it to inform where you spend your time talking to the team, about the areas of the business that need attention. And it's in talking to the team about hey, this project was way more efficient than the other ones we did last month. What did we do differently on that project that allowed us to do it? And you know half the time that we expected? surface the insights. Oh, we did this thing it worked out really well. The handoff between Dev and design was different this time. And that was like awesome. It's like, cool. That's an amazing insight. Do you guys think you could create a process, we could do that again next time? And now the team is bought in because they came up with the idea they're immediately seeing how that process would benefit them. And then it's about carving out the time for them to actually build, maintain update processes. And it's in seeing the data. And then having the processes get more and more defined that we gradually close the loop and get to a place where we can very confidently scope projects. And what we've realized and the you know, the almost four years now that we've been doing consulting in the spaces, without accurate assumptions about the scope of a project. You can't really build efficient operation systems for your agency. You can't resource plan effectively. You can't plan for profitability effectively scopes of work are the foundation of almost all of your operational systems that are related to forward visibility. Which becomes more and more important, the faster that you start to grow. And the faster you need to start hiring people. So if you can install that process, get a data feedback loop, and then a people feedback loop and have that essentially just bake into the way that you run your business credit cadence around that. So it's always happening then you should start to see your scopes of work get to within 10% of what you thought they were going to be that is a perfectly acceptable level margin of error. And that will, you know create so much more predictability so much more for visibility for your agency. And hopefully, it'll get everybody back to a regular 40 Hour workweek. And it'll also allow you to plan time to work on the business and not have it just constantly get cannibalized by client work which. Of course, is what we see happen all the time. Yes, great!

Rob Da Costa
Such great advice. Again, I think one of my favorite expressions I use all the time is slow down to speed up. And this is definitely one of those examples because what I see happening is clients lurching from one project to another and they may do like a project wrap up call with the client and get some feedback from the client about what went well and what didn't but they probably don't do that whole feedback loop both on the project time and also the team input as well. So I would really encourage people to listen to this and, and apply it and figure out. You know, it's a vicious circle isn't it because if you don't get all of this right, then you're over servicing clients and you've got no time to do anything. And then you're over servicing clients. And you've got to find a way of breaking that cycle.

Marcel Petitpas
So and I want to double click on this, because there's a lot of folks that are listening that might be stuck between a rock and a hard place on this. And this, this might resonate with you as well Rob. Like, maybe you're doing retros now for you try to do retro, sometimes you get them in sometimes you don't. And then the team surfaces all these ideas of a processes that should be improved. Everybody agrees that they should be implemented. And then every time you try to schedule the time to allow somebody to space to work on this it gets bulldoze by client work. It gets bulldoze by and it's just constantly getting pushed back, push back, push back. If that's happening to you then that's a sign that it's a sign that you need to do this even more because what it means is the time that you plan for client work is not the amount of time that it's taking and of course, you're going to cannibalize the 40 Hour workweek before you start eating into evenings and weekends. So any scheduled time for work The business is gonna get taken away. The way that you create a little bit of space for that is you raise your prices. And that is like an easy way you raise your prices that allows you to, you know, ideally start spreading projects over a little bit of a longer time horizon. But the mistake I see a lot of people make is they just raise their prices. And then the pain is kind of alleviated. It's like taking a painkiller. And then they think, okay, the problem is gone now. But that problem that you, you don't know how long it takes you to do work, it's still there, and it still needs to get solved. So use the space that that creates to actually start getting these processes in place. And that's how you kind of get over that hump, and get to a place where you can actually start working on this consistently. So if you find yourself in that kind of trap, that would be my advice is like, just raise your prices by 15 or 20%. Use that breathing space that it creates to just start attacking this scoping and process problem. And you know, by the end of this year ideally, you'll be in a place where you're like. Wow! I can't believe we ever run our business that way.

Rob Da Costa
Yes, great. Another great piece of advice. I find especially clients that don't take a value pricing approach and they sell on day rates or hourly rates are really fearful about raising their prices. And so I spend quite a lot my time trying to get people over that so that they can do that. But here's another reason to do that. Because it will give you that breathing space to look at your, your systems and processes and get some of this stuff, right. So listen, this is such a great conversation, we could go on for hours. But this episode is packed with really useful advice. I really appreciate that myself. Now, a couple of things. 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. One piece of advice, what would it be?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, I think one of my biggest fears when I was younger was choosing the wrong thing and wasting my time. And I think looking back nothing that I did over the last decade ever made sense while it was happening. But it makes perfect sense. In retrospect, I can see how every single project I've worked on every single business I've been involved in, is serving me today. So that's probably the word of advice is like don't worry about it, just say yes to things that scare you and he'll be fine. And that that playbook has worked pretty well for me so far.

Rob Da Costa
Good, good advice. Your fear sometimes keeps us stuck, doesn't it? So feel the fear and do it anyway. Last thing, so I will make sure I include the link to the toolkit that you mentioned in the show notes, but people wanted to find out more about Parakeeto, well get in touch with you, Marcel, where would they? Well, the best place for them to go be?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, absolutely! So head on over to parakeeto.com. There's lots of information on the product there. And if you want to connect with me directly find me on LinkedIn, Marcel Petitpas, PA, there's not a lot of us and I'm wearing the same shirt and all my social profiles are easy to find. And if you download the toolkit you'll get emails from me. So you can just reply to those if you want to have a chat, get on a call. I love to nerd out on agency profitability. So if you're hearing this, and you just want some advice on how to better implement these systems, I'm always happy to find some time. So don't hesitate to reach out and make sure you check out if you're you know, listening to podcast consistently check out the agency profitability podcast or sorry, the agency profit podcast. I can't believe I just messed up my own podcast, the agency profit podcast where we talk about stuff like this all the time. And it's, you know, I think a great outlet for talking about this side of the business that doesn't get as much attention as new business, unfortunately but it's equally as important in my mind.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, and I confess. You know, this isn't a sort of deep understanding of financials isn't my area of expertise. But this is so insightful. And I've certainly learned a lot. And you've helped me answer some of the questions that my clients ask me. So I know, listeners will find this really useful. I'll also put a link to your podcast in the show notes as well. So just want to say a huge thank you for giving up your time to share your wisdom with us today on the podcast.

Marcel Petitpas
My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Rob Da Costa
What a great conversation and what an episode action packed and full of useful tips to help you make sure that you're getting your pricing right and you are as profitable as possible. And I don't know about you but some of the stuff that Marcel shared with us today got me thinking a bit differently about how I run my business. And I hope that that has done the same thing for you because that is what this podcast is all about and having fantastic guests like Marcel. So if you enjoyed the episode, please make sure you hit the subscribe button, share it with your colleagues and please consider leaving a review as it helps us we'll reach a wider audience. But other than that, have a fantastic rest of your week. And I'll be back with you next week for the next episode of the agency accelerator podcast.

If you would like to learn more about how to increase your agency's profits, margins and pricing then sign-up for my LIVE workshop.  Click here or the image below to save your seat.

7 Strategies to Avoid Feast or Famine in Your Agency

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I want to talk about how to avoid feast or famine in your agency.  I’ve been through it twice myself and was determined there not be a 3rd time! So I developed a series of strategies that I now share with my coaching clients and am sharing some of them with you today.  

So in today’s episode I share 7 strategies to avoid feast or famine.   

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[02:00] 

Let’s start by painting a picture that you will no doubt recognise.  It’s all about being stuck on the ‘client service hamster wheel of doom’! But how do you break this cycle and get off the CSHWOD?

[03:17] 

The bad decisions we make when we are in a space of famine. 

[03:45] 

My experience of being through the feast or famine cycle twice!

[04:45] 

7 Strategies to keep a consistent pipeline of new clients coming into your agency

[05:35] 

Strategy 1:  Ringfence time to work on business development

[07:00] 

Strategy 2: Get clear on your ideal target customer

[08:36] 

Strategy 3: Get your pricing right

[09:49] 

Strategy 4: Build a robust biz development plan – do a few things and do them consistently well.  Work out how to move them through the sales funnel of KNOW-LIKE-TRUST

[12:40] 

Strategy 5: Focus on building your mailing list

[14:50] 

Strategy 6: Build your brand so it's not just you (Your Self-Running Agency)

[16:00] 

Strategy 7: Delegate as much client facing work as possible

[17:18] 

A quick recap of the 7 strategies

[20:04] 

Outline of how The Agency Selling System can support your business development

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Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

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Growing Your Agency Using A Remote Workforce

The Agency Accelerator Podcast

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am joined by the founder of RIU Media, Romans Ivanovs. 

Romans shares with us how he has been able to build, recruit, and manage his agency by hiring freelancers rather than in-house employees.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[03:09] Building an agency using freelancers

Starting as a freelancer, Romans has found that hiring freelancers was the best approach to building his team and also the most budget-friendly and low risk!

[05:14] Managing the day-to-day 

Romans recognises that being a great leader is the key to successfully growing an agency. You need to be a great delegator and trust your teams to deliver tasks.

[08:49] Recruiting team members

Though it may feel challenging to assess potential freelancers remotely, Romans recommends you take it slow and be diligent. Recruit against competency and fit. Ask yourself, will I get along with this person? Are they a team player? 

[12:37] Signing contracts

Whilst signing non-disclosure agreements and contracts is standard, Roman relies on intuition, trust, and verbal agreements. Up until now, it’s safe to assume that this strategy has worked! 

[15:18] Measuring and monitoring performance

When managing a remote workforce, it’s vital to be a great communicator. Weekly Zoom calls along with daily messages on Slack help a great deal. The key is to hire people who go the extra mile and are problem solvers.

[19:22] Hiring the next person

We discussed the challenges of growing organically and Romans cited that when the workload has become mentally demanding and too time consuming, this is usually a clear indicator to find the next person.

[21:01] The Future of RIU Media

First and foremost, the priority is to earn more industry credibility. And the only way to do this is by working with bigger, direct consumer brands like magazines or industry influencers. Next up is to open an office in London and build an in-house team.

[22:54] Joining the Mastermind Programme

The opportunity to work with other agencies from a variety of fields is what initially attracted Romans to join The Self-Running Agency implementation Group —especially learning from more established agencies. Realising that everyone struggles with the same issues forms a sense of community and helps you feel like you’re not alone.

Subscribe to The Podcast

“I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode”<– If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency. 

Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not subscribed, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Subscribe now!

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“I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode” If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, hit the subscribe button below to make sure you don't miss out on any future episodes. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not subscribed, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out.

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

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