3 Steps to Building a Successful Agency of 100 Employees
Do you ever wonder what the big guys with over 100 agency employees are doing to be successful? Wonder what it takes to truly be a full-service agency? In order to have a successful agency, do you have to live in a large city like New York or LA? Careful planning and an understanding of your clients' needs is vital to building an agency and a large team able to provide a variety of different services.
In this episode, we'll cover:
- Having a long-term plan for your agency.
- Mentoring your agency team.
- Why technology is more important than physical location.
I talked to Reid Carr, the CEO of Red Door Interactive, a full-service agency headquartered in San Diego that works with a number of well-known clients. Eighteen years ago, Reid decided he hadn't found a place where he wanted to be, so he created one. Since then, he learned a thing or two about growing a successful agency of 100 employees. Here are some steps he learned from the experience of providing full-service in an age of rapidly evolving technology.
Step One: Have a Long-Term Plan
According to Reid, the most important thing he did for Red Door happened before the business even began. He took a business plan writing class and developed a business plan workbook. And the plan wasn't just what he was going to do in the time immediately after starting the business. It was a 10-year plan, and while it did address revenue and how many team members he planned to have, it focused on other aspects of the business:
- Ensuring that the team members who were hired to work for the agency were properly trained and given the freedom to excel in the service area where they were hired. Also ensuring resiliency in each service team by cross-training. This makes recovering from a team member leaving easier for those who remain.
- Creating value for clients by integrating services and hiring experts in each service area. This broadens out the overall strategy for each unique client through an emphasis on communication between the service teams.
- Develop a portfolio of work to show prospective clients. Reid said this is often difficult for an agency just starting out because they have to get jobs to show work. In the early years, Red Door did a lot of pro-bono work for non-profit organizations as a way to develop a portfolio of work.
Step Two: Mentor Your Team
"I love having a bigger team," says Reid. "Foundationally, with a bigger team, there are a lot of people helping each other out, as long as that is the culture you have developed."
Reid says developing a culture of teamwork and success is a matter of hiring smart people and giving them reasons to want to stay, as well as helping them to progress to each new structural level. A lot of individuals who work in the marketing agency industry tend to be young and often show great leadership skills but little managerial experience. "So you're working with managers," he says. "And you're managing managers and you're managing managers who are managing people."
So what is the secret? "The relationship you have with your managers is the relationship you have with your company," says Reid.
Step Three: Technology Matters More Than Location
There's an old adage in the real estate industry: Location, location, location. That adage is often heard in the marketing agency industry, as well. Reid believes many clients are hesitant to work with agencies located in other markets. Small town agencies are particularly at a disadvantage. Likewise, there are many agency owners who believe they can't offer all services or attract large clients because they're not in a big market.
"Location doesn't make you more valuable," Reid says. "It doesn't offer any value other than exposure and access to certain things. Specializing and being the best is what makes you valuable." There is also a lot of value in people living and working where they feel most comfortable. The technological evolution provides the opportunity to offer more services, as well as the opportunity to be successful from anywhere. This means you can hire amazing remote talent to work from anywhere and service clients from all around the world.
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