Every agency experiences cycles of growth and sometimes growth can stagnate or even decline. It can feel frustrating and sometimes even defeating, especially with all the mixed messaging out there around how to deal with it. Do you focus on a new marketing platform? Or sales strategy? Do you reach out to your referral network? Or find new ways to serve your current clients?
In this episode, we talk about the real reason why your agency might not be growing (hint: it has nothing to do with sales) and areas of your business that you can examine and revamp so that your business is set up for growth in 2023!
Hey everyone. Nicole here and welcome back to the show. Today we’re talking about what it is that you need to do inside of your agency to make sure that it actually grows in 2023. And oftentimes I hear agency owners talking about how they feel like they can’t continue to grow the way that they’re currently operating and that something needs to change, but they don’t really know what.
So I just got off leading a masterclass on how to grow your agency the right way in 2023. And when I say the right way, what I mean is to grow an agency that provides a great experience for all of your people, your clients, your team, and yourself too.
Oftentimes when agencies are growing and sometimes what can give agencies a bad name is that as they’re growing, they are getting more clients and making more money, and something has to give. So maybe the client experience drops, team experience drop. They experience turnover on both clients and teams, and it’s very reactive. And so I’m on a mission to help agencies grow in a way that makes it a better place to work for everyone involved. A better company to be a part of, no matter what side you sit on.
A lot of times we hear about ceilings in business and hitting a ceiling, and when this comes up, a lot of times we think about revenue ceilings. So it’s like, “Oh, I can’t break through $20,000 in my business or $30,000 in my business, or $50,000 in my business.”
But I don’t think what we talk about enough is that the same thing can happen on the operations side, where you can actually hit an operational ceiling in your business to where you can’t grow your operations any further. And it prevents you from bringing on more clients and making more revenue.
And so sometimes when people are having a revenue problem, it’s not really the sales and marketing, that’s an issue. It’s really the operational side that’s preventing the business owner or whoever’s responsible for marketing from going out and turning on that faucet of new clients that are coming in.
This happens whether you have one contractor or two contractors, or 10 or 20 employees. We all have times where we experience operational ceilings, and what I want to talk about in this episode is what’s going on and what you can do about it so that you can continue to grow your company without you or anyone else in your business being the bottleneck.
I have a client that says that she doesn’t want her business to rely on her, but she also doesn’t want her business to rely on any one person.
Because when we have a business that relies on individuals, individual people, what happens if they want to leave, what happens when they leave? It is very likely that if you have a company for 5, 10, 20 years, you’re not going to be working with the same people. It just doesn’t work like that anymore, typically.
So what are some signs that you’re hitting this operational ceiling? It could be that your finances aren’t working. You can’t quite figure out how to continue to grow while continuing to hire the team that’s needed to serve your clients while still paying yourself. It could be that you have a team and right now you are spending a ton of time answering questions or a ton of time trying to get people up to speed, a ton of time hiring and just managing that it doesn’t allow you to do your role and responsibility at your company as the CEO.
It could be that maybe you’ve delegated client work, maybe you’ve delegated client work and management, yet you still can’t leave. You still feel uncomfortable leaving for a few days or a week or a few weeks because you’re afraid that things are just going to fall through the cracks.
And it could be, like I said before, you just can’t take on more clients the way things are currently operating. So the real reason why you can’t grow your agency right now is because your operations aren’t matching your level of business and not just your level of business right now, but where you are going to be growing to in the next six to 12 months.
And so what is needed is for you to revamp your operations to be able to grow to the level of business that you desire in 2023.
So I talk about the comparison when we talk about your foundations of your agency, and I compare it to a house foundation. So if you are looking, and maybe right now your business is like a three bedroom house and you want to make it a six bedroom house.
You can’t build a six bedroom house on a three bedroom foundation. It won’t hold. It won’t last.
And so a big mistake that I see agency owners making. Is that they know that they wanna grow. They’ve already experienced a level of growth, and so they start implementing the same strategies that they’ve been implementing.
But it doesn’t work as well because those foundations haven’t been updated. So this is a big reason why right now. The end of the year, I am running a 30 day agency accelerator program where we focus on revamping your agency foundations to be able to support the level of business that you’re looking to bring in 2023.
We talk about. The foundational elements of your agency, so really examining and auditing your clients, your offerings, creating more scalable offerings based on where your business is at right now and what you’ve learned over the course of the past six to 12 months. We update and streamline your delivery process so it works better with team support based on everything that they’ve learned over the course of the past six to 12 months.
And then we take a look at your financials so that you can continue to grow your team and pay yourself and pay your overhead. And that again, like there’s not something that’s giving. We want to know what is, it needs to happen financially for you to be able to support this level of business.
And so if you’re interested in learning more about that we kick off the week of November 28th.
So you can head over to nicoelejacksonmiller.com/accelerate to learn more about that program and it’s a really great time of year because you can get this all in place and done so that again, you can have that six bedroom foundation that you can, really build upon in 2023.
Okay, so let’s go back to the different levels of what you are going to need to do operationally in order to be able to grow next year.
So the first is your foundations. So like I said, the foundations of your business is what holds everything together. And when people come to me saying that they have a team issue, a communications issue, an expectation issue, I like to find the root cause. Oftentimes, usually, the root cause comes from the foundations.
So the problem is that a lot of times people address the symptoms. So if they have a team member that’s not working out, they fire the team member and hire someone new. And while of course there may be a time where you have everything set up and the team member just isn’t a good fit, and yes, you need to release them and you need to release them in a timely manner. It will happen.
However, if there are issues that you need to address as a company to address the root cause of some of those problems, you want to do that first because maybe that team member is great and skilled and a great values match for your company, but they don’t have the systems and structure to be able to be successful at your organization.
Or let’s say you fire this person and then you bring on someone else and they have the same exact issues, right? Think about how much time and money that is wasting in your business. If you have ever hired anyone you know, the amount of effort that goes into that team member, and we put that effort in knowing that we’re going to get a return, right?
That we will be removed from client work so that we are able to focus on other activities inside of the business, whether it’s updating other operational aspects or focusing on sales and marketing. There’s other things that you need to be doing as a CEO, which is why we invest in team to deliver client work.
So if you’re putting in all of that time and energy, and yet, you have more of a foundational issue that is going to waste thousands of dollars and hours of time, which is, time is worth money as well. So this is why doing these operational audits are so important, which is why the foundations are so important.
So the first thing that I have people look at when they look at auditing their operations is the very base level, the foundations. I have them audit their clients. I want to make sure that they are working with ideal clients because that impacts everything else. And if you’re at the level where you have team members, I highly recommend having your team members rate and review their clients every three to six months so that you have that feedback, especially if you’re not working with those clients directly. It’s helpful to have team feedback and then updating your ideal client so that as you are growing your business, you are not only A. Only accepting new clients to work with, but you’re also building your scalable offers and your streamlined delivery process based on ideal clients, not non-ideal clients.
This is a big problem I see a lot of business owners say, “Oh, well, this client wanted this thing and that thing and this thing.” And my first question is this an ideal client for you right now? And not just you for your team. Big, big difference.
So when you first started your business, if you were the only one delivering services, you may have found that you worked really well with certain types of clients. In certain types of packages, maybe there were a little bit more customized. But as you grow a team, those things need to change and shift. Okay.
And then lastly, the finances. To be able to know that as you’re growing. That the revenue that your company is generating is able to pay your direct expenses to pay team for client work, to pay your overhead, and to pay yourself too.
And as you grow, you may start adding in leadership team, department heads, and that’s typically overhead expenses and we want to see: where are you financially and what goals do you need to hit in order to be able to bring in this level of support? There’s lots of different strategies for that, but that’s kind of the basics.
The next area that you focus on and want to audit is your team. So how is your team performing out of the things that you have already delegated? Delegated? Are they be being done well? Are they being done on time? Is it the level of quality that you expect and is your team set up to take full ownership over their areas?
The next thing we want to look at is, as long as that’s set up well, and being done correctly, then we want to see what else needs to come off of your plate and what does the strategy look like for you to continue to get more and more work off of your plate when it comes to client work, if you’re still involved, but also management and leadership, right?
That’s the next thing that we wanna delegate. We want to match that with your financial strategy to make sure that you are delegating things, not just the right things, but at the right time so that your business can support it.
And then with team, we also want to think about standard operating procedures and training.
So there are two different levels of processes that you want to have inside of your business. The first level is very, Step by step. So this is what we do First, we do second, we do third, we do fourth. Once you get to the level where you are delegating strategy, creative process, and decision making, you’ll need another set of processes and guidelines for your team to follow so that they are able to make decisions and strategic decisions without you.
And this is where I hear from a lot of business owners. They’re like, “Well, it’s, this is so hard to hire for, or I might have to pay someone a lot of money to come in and have the expertise to be able to do it.” And while, yes, we want to make sure that you’re hiring in the right person with the right expertise level, we also want to make sure that you are setting them up with the guides that they need to be able to act on behalf of your company and to be able to deliver in the way that you promise your clients that you deliver.
And this is something that regardless of the level of expertise of the person, you still have to be able to provide these guidelines for them. So that’s almost like level two of creating these processes and procedures.
So the next phase and the last one I’m gonna talk about today is the management.
So taking a look at your communication strategies, how and when you’re communicating with your team to make sure everyone’s on the same page if you have a leadership team or managers, taking a look at when you’re connecting with those leaders. And then also when they’re connecting with their teams.
Documenting roles and responsibilities. As you grow and as you look towards what you might be changing in 2023, seeing, are the roles that we have in our business right now- the roles and responsibilities working for us, not only right now, but where we plan to be in six months.
So if you’re at the point where you are still the manager in your business and you have team doing client work, you know what might need to shift in terms of the roles and responsibilities down the road?
Maybe you might need to bring in a manager. You may start with a hybrid position where perhaps you have someone on your team that’s doing some of the client work that also has experience with management, experience with your company, has expressed interest.
Maybe they move up to a manager level, but it’s important that you have very clear roles and responsibilities for what that entails, so that they have that direction, even though they already know what it’s like to work at your business. Or maybe it’s hiring in someone totally new. Taking a look at based on where we want to go, what do the roles and responsibilities look like and what needs to shift?
And then obviously team success metrics. So sharing with your team the expectations that you have from the work that they’re doing, the role that they’re in, and sharing it with them, getting feedback making sure that you’re both on the same page.
So those are really the three areas. We have the Foundations. The Team. And the Management piece. And then there’s a last piece that’s called Growth. And this is really where we take these evaluations and we implement them regularly and focus in on internal growth projects so that you can move from being a little bit more reactive in the business to being proactive in the business. So that you aren’t forced to make changes, but instead you make empowered decisions and you make changes before it becomes a disaster.
Because agency owners are so busy doing a lot of things, we see little issues pop up or little red flags and just kind of cover our eyes or keep looking down and keep moving forward. And then eventually a disaster forces you to change.
We need to flip this. No more. If you’re in a position like this right now, I need you to decide and commit to even as uncomfortable as it may be to actually take a look at some of these issues, to do it. Because this is what is going to make you a better leader.
It’s going to allow your business to actually be able to grow throughout the next few years. If we ignore problems, they’re just going to get worse.
And so really stepping into the driver’s seat of your business and of your agency and being the CEO. Sometimes it feels really uncomfortable, but the more that you do it and the more that you practice it, it does start to feel a little bit easier. We become more resilient as business owners.
Okay, so to wrap this up. The real reason why you can’t grow your agency is likely because you are operating based on old ways of doing business. And you have hit a operational ceiling inside of your business.
So your takeaway, your goal, your homework, is to start focusing in on shifting and auditing and evaluating your operations, starting with your foundations so that your business is set up for growth in 2023.
And if you wanna do this with me live, we have an awesome opportunity happening in just a few weeks where we can get together and really revamp your foundation so that you can build the agency that you want to build and your foundation will hold it.
There will be a solid foundation in place that you can continue to grow your agency. If you’re interested in learning more about that, you can head over to nicolejacksonmiller.com/accelerate and I will see you next time.