DiscoverSmart Agency Masterclass with Jason Swenk: Podcast for Digital Marketing AgenciesCan Your Agency Grow Effectively with a Team of Contractors?
Can Your Agency Grow Effectively with a Team of Contractors?

Can Your Agency Grow Effectively with a Team of Contractors?

Update: 2020-10-28
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Agency life has always been very dynamic but now more than ever. Today's agency employees have different needs in order to have a work-life balance. Many don't want or need traditional office hours and prefer to work as contractors. Have you ever wondered how to adapt your agency to fit those changing needs? Are you interested in strategies to transform your team? A team full of contractors is a great way to decrease overhead and increase your profits.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • What is the "upside-down" approach to recruiting agency talent?
  • Can an agency be successful with a team full of contractors?
  • How you can keep your employees focused.

Today I chatted with Scott Gillum, the founder of Carbon Design, a marketing services organization. He is also its sole employee. Carbon Design has adapted its agency's services to meet the changing needs of today's economy and today's professionals in a way that provides them with efficiency and positive growth. He's here to share the way his employment strategy reduces overhead, improves function, and leads to greater degrees of team loyalty.

What is the "Upside Down" Approach to Recruiting Agency Talent?

Scott is proud of the "upside-down" approach he has had for finding potential employees. He started by looking for the top talent and hiring them, then built his agency and service offering around their skillset. Instead of filling a specific role at the agency, he hired the right person and then created the job for them.

He when he started, he wasn't just looking for traditional employees.

When Scott's wife was looking to re-enter the workforce, they discovered major challenges--and she wasn't the only one struggling. Today, many people are eager to be stay-at-home workers. They're freelancers. They're people with small children or people working as caregivers for elderly parents. These employees want and need a place to work, but they can't work in a traditional setting.

Carbon Design makes it possible for them to have it all. By providing flexibility, the agency also provides purpose and meaning, allowing people to live their lives while still maintaining a fulfilling career. They set their hours. They choose the projects they can accept. And it works.

Can an Agency Be Successful Without Permanent Employees?

Scott is the only full-time employee at Carbon Design. He has team members. He has a person who runs his operations and two individuals who are taking over specific lines of business. Those team members are responsible for pricing, delivering, and putting teams together. However, all those roles are filled by contractors.

This strategy offers several advantages. First and foremost, the agency carries little overhead. Scott doesn't have countless employees he needs to keep busy. A traditional agency has to "make it up somewhere" when business is slow. Eventually, that means a client will take on some of those costs. At Carbon Design, however, that's not the case. Instead, the team gets paid based on the work they complete: a solid, deliverable model.

The average tenure of people on the Carbon Design team is around 15 years. They're trusted partners. They deliver on time, know the client's business, and have earned the right to represent the company. They're team members--and more importantly, they want to be there.

How You Can Keep Employees Focused

When dealing with contractors, it's important to keep them focused on the agency.  "I worry about it every day," says Scott. He knows his contractors are definitely working with other organizations. Keeping mindshare and building culture is incredibly important. They want to work with the agency, not for them. As a result, it's critical to keep people engaged. What he's doing, however, works. "You're more likely to not have the same people there when you're dealing with an agency than you are dealing with our people," he shares. His team doesn't want to go back to a full-time agency unless they have to. "Our people don't leave because this is the lifestyle they want," Scott points out.

At Carbon Design, they offer mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Reinforcing those factors for the team is critical. They are also well-compensated for the effort they put in. On average, if these contractors were working as full-time employees, they'd be making an average of $200K. They also don't have to feel as though they are in competition with each other. Carbon Design builds projects and teams: the teams who have the right skills to complete the projects and deliver on the clients' expectations.

It's a unique model--but it's also one that is becoming increasingly common. Can your agency grow with this model? There is an increasing number of employees going remote or looking for ways to connect with the office without returning to a traditional work environment.

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Can Your Agency Grow Effectively with a Team of Contractors?

Can Your Agency Grow Effectively with a Team of Contractors?

Jason Swenk: Marketing Business Strategist, Agency Consultant and Advisor