So You Want To Start An Agency? Ten Tips For Would-Be Agency Founders

So You Want To Start An Agency? Ten Tips For Would-Be Agency Founders
SHARE
THIS



With B&T’sstart your own agency‘ survey now live, here Kinetic Marketing’s MD Mark Livings reveals his 10 top tips for anyone wanting to fulfil the dream and become their own boss…

In July, our agency turned five. Five incredible, but incredibly challenging years prior, we were making a decision that you yourself may be considering now – to start an agency of your own.

mark_livings

It’s romantic to think about running your own business, developing a culture that attracts and retains great staff and delivering work you’re proud of, but as I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s also HARD!

To be frank, it IS hard, but it is WORTH IT. We now have over 25 staff, multi-million dollar turnover and a list of clients we’re proud to be working with on projects that are interesting, bold and fun.

So with the benefit of some small (but fresh) hindsight from someone who made the plunge, here’s a list of 10 tips for would-be agency founders. These are a mix of things we got right at the time, and some we found out about the hard way. Which is which will remain our little secret.

1)   Prepare for hard work

Think about the hardest you’ve ever worked. Then multiply it by 10. Then add on top of that, managing situations outside your control, developing staff, recruiting, and all the other requirements of a new business owner and also ensuring you keep the quality of your work high.

It’s tough. Damn tough. So get your headspace sorted. It’ll be seriously hard going for at least a year, if not two.

It’s also critically important to let your family and friends know not only what you’re doing, but for them to be comfortable with the idea that they won’t be seeing you as much or as often as usual. Have the conversation before you commit. If your loved ones don’t support you, don’t do it. You’ll find it impossible to get through that first tough year of new business slog with your relationships intact unless they’re on board before you open for business.

2)   Have a foundation client

If you ‘hang out the shingle’ and open a marketing agency without any prior commitments by clients, you’re making a huge mistake.

A marketing agency isn’t a convenience store. There’s no foot-traffic and no bay windows to showcase your work. Additionally, our sales journeys from first contact to first brief are very long.

Without a foundation client, you run the risk of burning through all your cash, especially if you’ve taken office space and staff on, and you may have to close the doors before you even start delivering work.

Make sure you have a client who will take a risk on you and give you their business day one. Have a frank discussion with them about billables, and plug it into your revenue modelling. Can you at least maintain the business on their work alone? If so, congratulations! You have a viable agency, at least on paper.

When you do capture that very special client number one, look after them! They’ll be your greatest asset and often your most powerful sales-force. Don’t underestimate the importance of referrals and word of mouth in business development, particularly in your first year. People talk.

3)   Ensure you have enough cash that you don’t get into trouble

Unless you’re a trust fund kid, you’re going to need to watch your cash carefully. Talk to your foundation client about how soon you can have revenue coming in. If you’re particularly resourceful, you can secure up front payments for the first few projects, or a retainer to help you get started.

If you truly want to work together, you’ll find ways to make it happen. Just have the guts and discipline to talk about finance with your clients. It’s always an uncomfortable conversation, but a critical one to have.

If that’s not an option, put up your house. Or hit up your Nan. Then pay the loans off as soon as you can.

Most importantly, don’t get greedy! Take only what you need to live on. Leave your profits in the business – you’ll need them to fund growth. You business must be able to stand on it’s own two feet and grow in a self-sustaining fashion before you start pulling cash out of it.

 4)   Have your core team identified and an active talent radar

Identify who you want to work with, especially your ‘Day One’ team. Without exception, if you’re to be successful, these guys will be sweating blood for you and your business during start up.

Almost as important, is to have identified great talent and start dialogue with them as early as possible. Yes, potentially even before you start the business, ideally months before.  Once you’ve made your decision, start having this conversation with people you think it would be great to work with:

“This is what we’re doing, if a role opens up, would you like to be part of our team?”

It’s an important one to have and have often.

This will help your business grow and for you to remain agile. This will ensure you don’t need to walk away from any incredible projects that may get offered to you and it will ensure you’re not so buried in work you can’t continue to develop more opportunities.

5)   Have your systems worked out before you open for business, so you can focus on the work

Do your research – pick the software you’ll be using and ensure you’re absolutely fluent with it. Ensure all your staff are up to scratch as soon as possible. Mistakes or spending time skilling up will cost you dearly in your critical launch period.

6)   Don’t skimp on good accountants or lawyers

A good accountant is like a mirror, and a good director gazes into it often.

Okay, that sounds silly, but it’s true. You must keep an eye on your financial position through your critical launch period and beyond. A good accountant won’t be afraid to tell you some home truths about putting on that extra resource, or buying new chairs or that fact you need to start chasing clients for their 90 day old invoices as your ATO payment is due in a fortnight.

Your friends and family will give you support and praise. Your accountant will give you cold, hard truth. Trust me, you will need both.

7)   Do skimp on your office and fit-out

I would argue that not one single marketing account has ever been won because of an office location or fit out. Well, accounts worth winning and working on anyway.

Seriously, concentrate on the work. The rest is window-dressing. You can splurge on a fit-out or fancy office once you’re well and truly established. In the meantime, you’ll need that precious cash to channel into more talent and support to start freeing yourself from client service so you can concentrate on higher-level relationship management and business development.

8)   Have an answer ready for when prospective clients challenge you on your size and tenur

“Why would we give you our business? You’re untested, with zero runs on the board and you’re a risk.

You must be able to answer this question. It is going to be asked, I guarantee it. You’ll need to be able to debunk this and give clients a reason to take you on. Those reasons will be your own, so think about them carefully and be able to articulate them when required.

A few thought starters: one thing the big end of town will never be able to compete with emerging businesses on is focus, passion for their account and importantly, agility.

9)   Find a team that wants to take the journey with you

You’re going to be asking a lot of your team, especially your Day One team as I’ve mentioned above. Hard work is the least of it.   You’ll also likely be asking them to be subject to stress and take a career risk on an agency with an uncertain future.

So why the hell would anyone want to come and work with you?

You need to be able to articulate a vision for your agency and have all staff share it. Talk about culture, and how they can help you shape it.   Talk about celebrating wins and commiserating losses. Talk about what’s important to you, what type of projects excite you and how this will translate into your agency’s reason for being and the kind of work you’ll be chasing.

We all love to be involved in something motivating and exciting. Giving people a place for their opinion to matter and the opportunity to shape their workplace culture is something not many businesses make available to their employees.

10)  Forget the PR – at least for the first year

The pages of industry journals and blogs are littered with ‘we’re coming industry’ or ’look out, we’re launching’ messages from start up agencies with zero credibility or runs on the board.

Of course you’ll never hear about the ones that didn’t make it. Very few agencies will drafts a press release announcing they’re going out of business.

I contest that trying to create or prop up a profile that doesn’t exist yet is a waste of time. You could use that time chasing new business, asking existing clients for referrals or delivering better work.

Spend those precious hours wisely. You can decide to invest it in business development, honing your internal systems or up-skilling your team or you can decide to peacock to the rest of the marketing industry (when really, you don’t have any feathers). Your choice.

In Conclusion

For those of you considering starting your own shop, it’s almost certain to be the most important and life-changing decision you’ve made so far.

I do hope you found something new or helpful in the list.

Choose your time, prepare meticulously, then throw everything you can at it and make it happen.

Good luck!

 

 

Please login with linkedin to comment

bookmybai Designworks

Latest News

Xero Celebrates The Beautiful Moments Of Small Business In New Campaign
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Xero Celebrates The Beautiful Moments Of Small Business In New Campaign

Cloud accounting software provider Xero has revealed the next phase of its ‘Beautiful Business’ brand campaign. The national campaign showcases the moments that define beautiful business, from the flexibility of remote working, to reclaiming valuable time and the chance to focus on the important things in life, enabled by streamlined accounting and business processes. The […]

What Is The Most Misleading Metric In Influencer Marketing Right Now?
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

What Is The Most Misleading Metric In Influencer Marketing Right Now?

In this guest post, Natalie Giddings (pictured below), managing director of The Remarkables Group, argues why brands need to stop with the outrageous ‘reach’ claims and tidy up their reporting metrics. I was recently a judge for a couple of local Australian marketing awards. I love giving up my time to do this because I […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
QUT Creative Enterprise Australia Accepts 10 Start-Ups Into Its Creative Tech Accelerator
  • Technology

QUT Creative Enterprise Australia Accepts 10 Start-Ups Into Its Creative Tech Accelerator

QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) has announced the 10 start-ups that have been accepted in its Collider Accelerator. The three-month accelerator is a proud Australian first which is carving the way for start-ups specialising across the creative tech verticals. Commencing this week, the 10 participating companies will receive coaching from international mentors and deep domain […]

The Works Launches Podcast With RXP Services & Global Law Firm Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Advertising
  • Technology

The Works Launches Podcast With RXP Services & Global Law Firm Norton Rose Fulbright

Expert insights on what’s trending in the world of technology, data and innovation will be discussed in a new podcast powered by The Works, digital services consultancy RXP Services, and global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. The Smart Dust podcast – named after micro-electromechanical computers that that can be breathed in to monitor the human […]

Why We Need To Make Consequences Cool
  • Opinion

Why We Need To Make Consequences Cool

Here at B&T, we have a trendy communal black leather jacket for staff to wear while suffering consequences.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Lovatts Media Acquires Nourish Magazine From Blitz Publications
  • Media

Lovatts Media Acquires Nourish Magazine From Blitz Publications

Lovatts Media has purchased Nourish magazine from Blitz Publications in a last-minute deal that has ensured the title continues to be published in Australia. Rachael Northey, CEO of Lovatts Media, believes the demand for high-quality niche magazines is growing rather than declining. Building on the successful 2017 launches of their popular mindfulness titles Breathe, Teen […]

Women In Media Profile: Elaine Herlihy
  • Advertising
  • Marketing

Women In Media Profile: Elaine Herlihy

If you've come here looking for Elaine Herlihy's famed scone recipe then it'll be the only disappointment you'll endure.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Thrive PR + Communications Opens Fifth Office & Appoints New Staff
  • Marketing

Thrive PR + Communications Opens Fifth Office & Appoints New Staff

Independent PR agency Thrive PR + Communications has announced the launch of its fifth office, opening its doors permanently on the Gold Coast and making multiple team appointments. In response to client demand, and embracing the growth of Australia’s emerging innovation hotspot, the Gold Coast will be Thrive’s second Queensland location following the opening of […]

China Social Solutions Reveal The Massive Market Brands Are Missing
  • Partner Content

China Social Solutions Reveal The Massive Market Brands Are Missing

Advertising, in its essence, is about reaching the largest number of people, in the most seamless, creative way. However, reaching a large audience can often be the biggest hurdle, so how does a crowd of a few hundred million users sound? Weibo, China’s answer to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and every other app combined, has hit […]

Partner Content

by China Social Solutions logo

How To Thrive In An Age Of Disruption
  • Opinion

How To Thrive In An Age Of Disruption

Has the age of disruption left you fearful? Well, you'll be singing Helen Reddy's 'I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar' after this.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Monash University And Y&R Melbourne Launch Wristbands To Deter Drink-Spikers
  • Campaigns
  • Technology

Monash University And Y&R Melbourne Launch Wristbands To Deter Drink-Spikers

Y&R Melbourne has an innovative wristband on campus at Monash University that detect drugs by simply placing a drop of your drink onto the band itself. Designed for widespread use across festivals, events, bars, nightclubs and other venues where patrons are already accustomed to using wristbands, the ‘Sip Safe’ wristband is equal parts a utility, […]

Global Brand Events Agency INVNT Opens Sydney Office
  • Marketing

Global Brand Events Agency INVNT Opens Sydney Office

Brand events agency INVNT has announced it has expanded its operations to the Asia-Pacific region with a new office in Sydney. Originally founded in New York in 2008 by Scott Cullather and Kristina McCoobery, INVNT creates and produces brand engagements for every audience segment, including employees, customers, partners, investors, the media, and consumers. Cullather said […]

The Copyright Agency Invites Visual Artists To Claim Image Royalties
  • Media

The Copyright Agency Invites Visual Artists To Claim Image Royalties

The Copyright Agency is inviting Australian artists and their heirs to nominate about where their works have been published or used on TV to receive payment for their copyright-protected work as part of a month-long campaign. The Copyright Agency, which recently merged with Viscopy, is Australia’s national copyright licensing organisation for the publishing, media, surveying […]

Pac Mags’ Emily Sak Joins Shopper Media Group As Its First Data & Insights Chief
  • Marketing
  • Media

Pac Mags’ Emily Sak Joins Shopper Media Group As Its First Data & Insights Chief

Digital retail out-of-home media business Shopper Media Group has announced the appointment of Emily Sak to the newly created position of head of data and insights. The new role forms part of Shopper Media Group’s expansion plan to keep up with the accelerated growth that has seen its portfolio surpass more than 220 shopping centres […]

CX Lavender Appoints Business Development Director For Melbourne
  • Marketing

CX Lavender Appoints Business Development Director For Melbourne

Customer experience agency CX Lavender has announced the appointment of Michael Rummery to the role of business development director for Melbourne. Rummery (pictured above) was previously account director of client services at global marketing and digital recruitment firm Aquent, and has held roles at a number of talent agents and recruitment firms with a focus […]

The New York Times Appoints WeThinkMedia As Its Aussie Advertising Rep
  • Advertising
  • Media

The New York Times Appoints WeThinkMedia As Its Aussie Advertising Rep

The New York Times Company has announced the appointment of media representation agency WeThinkMedia to represent its advertising business in Australia. WeThinkMedia will be responsible for all advertising in the region, including print, digital, branded content, programmatic, and events. The partnership will be overseen by Tom Armstrong, vice president of advertising for The New York […]

The Future Of Influencer Marketing: More Than Just A One-Night Stand
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

The Future Of Influencer Marketing: More Than Just A One-Night Stand

Influencers are the new powerhouses in driving stock off shelves, but brands are yet to find the right recipe for successful collaboration, according to Guillaume Deront of Gleam Futures @ The Story Lab (pictured below). Here, he argues that marketers need to look beyond purely targeting an audience and channel their energy towards building long-term […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Designing Cultural And Organisational Change
  • Opinion

Designing Cultural And Organisational Change

In this guest post, Bronwyn Van Der Merwe (pictured below), managing director of Fjord Australia and New Zealand (part of Accenture Interactive), details the four traits of a ‘living business’ – something she believes organisations have to become in order to transform successfully. The digital age has created a plethora of challenges for modern organisations, […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Media

Free TV Calls For ACCC Oversight Of Facebook & Google

In a submission lodged with the ACCC inquiry into digital platforms, industry body Free TV today called for greater regulatory oversight of Facebook and Google. The FreeTV submission identifies a number of key areas of concern: Heavy regulation on traditional media providers and almost none on Facebook and Google Questionable claims about the reach, viewability, […]

APN Outdoor Confirms Retention Of Three Key Contracts
  • Media

APN Outdoor Confirms Retention Of Three Key Contracts

APN Outdoor has used its annual general meeting to announce three key contract renewals: Transport for Brisbane, Transdev Melbourne and Adelaide & Parafield Airports, for multiple years. Company CEO and managing director, James Warburton, said: “These contracts represent an important part of our advertising offering. The far-reaching impact they provide delivers a compelling proposition and cements our commitment […]

Women In Media Profile: Olivia Warren
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Olivia Warren

It's the latest in our Women In Media profiles, and this one is so good you'll possibly get a nervous twitch somewhere.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
LIDA Delivers Series Of Animated Info Bites For Busy Marketers
  • Marketing
  • Media

LIDA Delivers Series Of Animated Info Bites For Busy Marketers

M&C Saatchi Group’s customer engagement specialist agency, LIDA, has crafted an initial eight-episode series of bite-sized animated videos designed to help busy marketers stay ahead of the game. ‘60 Second Gets’ draws on LIDA’s wealth of experience to unpack the latest industry tools, tech and thinking. Launching today, the first video, ‘Success in 6 Seconds’, […]

Naked And Gidget Foundation Want Australians To Start Talking
  • Campaigns

Naked And Gidget Foundation Want Australians To Start Talking

Today Naked launches its ‘Start Talking’ campaign for Gidget Foundation Australia; a not-for-profit that provides support for families who are affected by perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA). The centrepiece of the campaign is a powerful TVC that brings to life this common, but often hidden illness, and shows how Gidget Foundation’s ‘Start Talking’ telehealth program […]

MKTG Integrates Telstra Tracker Data With LED Signage At AFL Stadiums
  • Marketing
  • Technology

MKTG Integrates Telstra Tracker Data With LED Signage At AFL Stadiums

For the first time ever, AFL spectators will be able to view real-time Telstra Tracker player data via in-stadium LED signage, thanks to the combined efforts of Telstra, Champion Data and MKTG. By integrating the Telstra Tracker data into the LED signage at the MCG and Etihad Stadium, fans will receive contextually relevant information from […]

Westfield Shows Off New Visual Identity In Line With Fresh Digital Offering
  • Marketing

Westfield Shows Off New Visual Identity In Line With Fresh Digital Offering

Scentre Group has unveiled a new brand look and feel coinciding with the re-launch of the Westfield.com.au and Westfield.co.nz sites. This digital-first visual identity sees a shift towards creating a more contemporary, invigorated and colourful brand, reflective of Westfield’s in-centre experience. The iconic Westfield logo will continue to lead brand communications, supported with a new […]

The Age Of The Ephemeral: Why Experiential Marketing Is Compulsory This Year
  • Marketing
  • Opinion

The Age Of The Ephemeral: Why Experiential Marketing Is Compulsory This Year

In this guest post, Keep Left’s head of consumer engagement, Johanna Murray (pictured below), explains the merits of experiential marketing, as well as sharing some tips on how to do it – and do it well. Humans love to label things – especially intangible things, like time. We like eras and ages and eons because they […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine