50.5 Mistakes I’ve Made Running Agencies

50.5 Mistakes I’ve Made Running Agencies

I first posted this article on Linkedin in June 2018 and received a lot of great comments. People who could either relate to many, most or all of the same mistakes. Also, comments from those just appreciated the honesty and even a past client fishing as to whether point 27 is about them.

Anyway, posting it again here with the mistakes in subsections and so as not to lose it if Linkedin ever disappears…

Forgive the brain dump. I just thought I’d list out all the mistakes I could think of that I have made when running agencies. I have actually capped it at 50 (and a half) as anything more was too bruising on the ego.

If you’re in the agency world, you will probably relate to many of these mistakes. I would love to hear about your experiences, so let me know in the comments below.

Maybe this will help those just starting, or thinking of growing their agency business.

They are in no particular order so here goes:

  1. Not clearly defining our agency positioning
  2. Not identifying suitable target sectors and brands to focus on for business development
  3. Not creating compelling value propositions
  4. Not focussing on client roles to target for business development
  5. Cold calling unsuspecting prospects (unspects?)
  6. Labelled myself an outsourced marketing department
  7. Tried to sell on a ‘big agency service, small agency price tag’ message
  8. Didn’t create a compelling vision to inspire my team
  9. Didn’t create a vision at all
  10. Traded service for service on brand creation, resulting in a logo 
  11. No proper prospecting and sales process
  12. Ignored sales qualification techniques
  13. Not qualifying leads enough before investing time on proposal and pitch docs
  14. Hiring on talent and not a cultural fit
  15. Hiring on personality and not creating a personal development plan to develop skills
  16. Not checking employee candidate references before hiring
  17. Working with business advisors that didn’t know the agency world inside out
  18. Built a team of freelancers – excellent service quality, no commitment to the agency
  19. Started work before a PO arrives
  20. Started work before receiving a deposit payment
  21. Not being quick enough to chase overdue invoices
  22. Getting terms and conditions written up by a solicitor that doesn’t know the agency business model
  23. Trusting clients who say, “don’t worry, you’re going to get paid”
  24. Trusting overseas clients to pay on time, or indeed ever
  25. Sending too many progress reports
  26. Sending too few progress reports
  27. Not being firm enough with clients that are d*cks (that’s you Jenny, Don, Zaheer – might be real names, might not be ; – ) )
  28. Allowing too junior and inexperienced staff to manage demanding clients
  29. Allowing sh*t clients to treat my team poorly
  30. Not being brave enough to fire sh*t clients
  31. Not creating a marketing plan for my agency
  32. Choosing a friend as a business partner who just wanted a job
  33. Working with a business partner without alignment of vision
  34. Thinking a sales pipeline can be built in less than 12 months
  35. Buying crappy leads from bark.com (and other platforms of this ilk)
  36. Working with “partner” agencies that just wanted to screw us out of any margin
  37. Putting my agency success ahead of my health
  38. Allowing blue-chip clients to pay in 9 months rather than the contracted 30 days
  39. Not brave enough to fire underperforming staff
  40. Taking on clients for cash flow rather than alignment to team specialisms and values
  41. Insisting my team records timesheets
  42. Not preparing a proper cash flow forecast
  43. Not holding enough cash in reserve
  44. Looking for finance when I needed it and not when I didn’t
  45. Expecting client to know the difference between marketing and sales
  46. Not asking clients for references when we’ve delivered a great job
  47. Interviewing a junior marketer for a position with a client, advising against their appointment only for the client to hire them and expect to embed them with my agency – all to keep a crappy client account 
  48. Relying on one large gorilla client for more than 50% of revenues, only to lose the client when they shuffled their roster
  49. Thinking I can or should manage the IT infrastructure
  50. Not outsourcing the soul-crushing task of cash flow management and expense administration

What’s the half mistake you ask?

50.5 Not giving myself a break.

Running an agency of any ilk is hard work, and most of this stuff you learn on the job. So, remember to be kind to yourself.

If you’re repeating any of my mistakes, then stop right now. All of them are holding you back and slowing down the growth of your agency.

If you want help avoiding the common pitfalls of agency management, you should join a network of your peers. Our Mastermind forum are for groups of agencies that want to support each other through growth and not making easy mistakes. Maybe these could help you too.