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