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Starting, Running, And Selling An Agency: Life Among The Monsters

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The agency owner
Skilled
Feral
Ready for anything

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One week later
Confused
Winging it
Poorly groomed

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Life Among The Monsters
Starting, Running, & Selling An Agency
When You Have No Plan Whatsoever
Ian Lurie, & Everyone Else...

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Starting, Running, And Selling An Agency: Life Among The Monsters

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OK, not really monsters. But this is a brain dump of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences building and running a marketing agency - Portent - for 25 years, plus a few notes on selling. I screwed up plenty. Make of it what you will.

OK, not really monsters. But this is a brain dump of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences building and running a marketing agency - Portent - for 25 years, plus a few notes on selling. I screwed up plenty. Make of it what you will.

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Starting, Running, And Selling An Agency: Life Among The Monsters

  1. The agency owner Skilled Feral Ready for anything
  2. One week later Confused Winging it Poorly groomed
  3. Life Among The Monsters Starting, Running, & Selling An Agency When You Have No Plan Whatsoever Ian Lurie, & Everyone Else Along The Way @ianlurie
  4. The Prologue
  5. These are the people And they are amazing
  6. They are not a “resource” They have lives. Good days. Bad days. They screw up. In other words, they’re you.
  7. I had no plan. There. I said it.
  8. 01 Don’t make the same mistake. People take you too damn seriously
  9. 1. Maintain Sanity
  10. Important note!!!! Sanity <> Stability Sanity = good decision making, staying power, and kindness
  11. 02 You are not the cavalry There is no cavalry You are not a superhero You are a professional You are not in a movie
  12. 03 It’s Princess Bride. At best. This is not Lord Of The Rings
  13. 04 It’s not “just business,” ffs. You have permission to feel good/bad/awful Care what other people think. Then get to work Be emotional
  14. 05 Listen. Then get to work Care what other people think
  15. 06 They revolutionized how I worked Twice Hire a coach. Find a mentor.
  16. 07 Pick a treat. Be consistent. Fly first class
  17. 08 Two recessions, one banking collapse, a terrorist attack, two (at least) major wars, a pandemic Tear gassed, mugged (unsuccessfully), major earthquake, two bike crashes, son lodged a penny in his throat, daughter hit in the face with a flying wooden banana, emergency appendectomy, three major layoffs Every shitshow’s different
  18. 2. Foster Clarity & Trust
  19. Clarity & Trust Go Hand In Hand ”Clarity” isn’t about “mission.” Clarity is anything that helps you and your team make good decisions about the work, their tenure, their careers, and their lives.
  20. 09 Why: A goal How: A structure What: Metrics…? Tell everyone why they’re there
  21. OKRs Exceed the client promise SHIFTS
  22. 10 It costs you trust Praise in public Critique in private Don’t fart in public toot
  23. 11 Don’t think out loud Be careful with sarcasm Take advantage to teach/lead w/ less effort Everyone’s listening
  24. 12 Say “excuse me” You can re-establish trust When you do fart… toot
  25. 13 It shouldn’t happen often When it does, cut the cord Know when someone’s checked out
  26. 14 You’re just screwing everyone Don’t be “nice”
  27. 15 What means a non-stop trip out the door? Make sure everyone knows Have non-negotiables
  28. 16 (avoid farts of omission) Silly? No. Think of the little questions that come up: Expenses, holidays, PTO, dress code (yes, dress code), supplies It’s about the little things that can make you… Have an employee manual toot
  29. toot 17 Avoid fart ambushes On a schedule On paper Have reviews
  30. 18 HR software Time tracking Expense tracking PTO requests Have the processes before you need them
  31. 19 No matter what you do ½ your company will hate the tools
  32. 20 Do not share salaries Explain salary bands
  33. 21 Individual contributors and management Have dual promotion tracks
  34. 22 Therein lies madness Never, ever collect anonymous feedback
  35. 23 Leadership must be accessible and safe Foster access
  36. 24 Even when the world goes to shit Even if you (barely) survived Celebrate
  37. 25 “Yay! We did it!” “What would you do different next time?” Master happy teaching moments
  38. 26 Lunch with _____ Say thanks Just a checkin Try teaching Interact
  39. 27 You know a thing or two Teach the team
  40. 28 They know a thing or two Get the team teaching Remember, these are cartoons, not the team
  41. 29 Remind people Make it easy Tettra, Lessonly, Confluence, Google Docs, whatever Have a knowledge base
  42. 30 Write it all down
  43. 31 “Teach the shit out of everything” Make it part of the culture
  44. 3. The Business
  45. Disclaimer I sucked – SUCKED – at hiring. Seriously. It was legendary. I got lucky several times, then those people did the hiring.
  46. 32 …is to earn more than you spend Your main strategy
  47. 33 No matter what. Ever. No exceptions. 50% up front/1st month
  48. 34 No one gets to ask for more Get paid in full
  49. 35 Don’t bill hourly. You’re punishing yourself. You’re worth more than time
  50. 36 Trust me on this Get credit before you need it
  51. 3.5. Client Management
  52. 37 “This is a project agreement. However, if hours exceed…” Prepare for high-touch Direct team transparency Big clients?
  53. 38 Strict service level agreement Set super-clear expectations Small clients?
  54. 39 Charge a drama rate When it’s time to renew If you’re going out of scope
  55. 40 The test drive is a myth There’s never “more work later”
  56. 41 You’re there to make the client (and you) look good ”Sales are up 100%! Thank you, development team, for implementing our recommendations!” I told you so Give the praise, take the hit
  57. toot Except…
  58. toot to o t toot APOLOGIZE!!!
  59. 42 It may hurt. It’s worth it. But remember, don’t fart in public. Team first. Clients second.
  60. 43 “Thanks for your patience” Don’t apologize. Appreciate.
  61. 44 “How else can I help?” Ask The Question
  62. 3.6. Exit
  63. 45 Build to be a great agency Sell when someone recognizes that you’ve built a great agency Don’t go looking Do not have an exit strategy
  64. 46 Oy Have a job description
  65. 47 I have no clue How much?
  66. What does it all mean?
  67. …if you don’t Don’t pretend you have a plan
  68. …and people make good decisions Foster clarity
  69. The cash, the clients, the long term Tend the business
  70. Treat it as one This is a big deal.
  71. Required (OK, Recommended) Reading
  72. Everything by this guy
  73. Wil Reynolds: The Consultant’s Rut & How To Escape It https://url.ianlurie.com/consult-trap Cough Cough https://url.ianlurie.com/one-trick
  74. Ask (I’ll try to answer) @ianlurie ian@ianlurie.com Deck, links, and all that (coming tomorrow): https://url.ianlurie.com/agency-life

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