Continuing yesterday’s post about the Pros & Cons of the move from being a freelance marketer to creating a marketing agency, I’ve been asked several times, “why?” My first gut response was “why not??”, but then I took careful consideration of those pros and cons, and came up with several reasons that I would want to build an agency. Each one of these reasons has its own background, both for me personally, and generally for anyone who goes this route.
I do not enjoy working alone. As an introvert, I get my energy from my alone time, but I really enjoy talking it out, solving problems, white boarding plans and solutions with a team. I’ve made far too may solo mistakes to think I have all the answers, so even just running an idea by someone else to see and hear their reaction is incredibly helpful. As the saying goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I think working with a team is the number one reason I would expand from a solo freelance practice to an agency.
Building, growing, and working with a team has its challenges, lots of them. I’ve held leadership positions that I absolutely loved, and then I’ve led teams that frustrated me to no end. At CWNP, we started with two of us and peaked at 12. Hiring is hard…really hard, and the earlier the hire, the more magnitude that hire has on the entire organization. The more I’ve read and seen and heard and witnessed organizations here in Atlanta starting small and being very intentional about culture and hiring, the more I look forward to doing it. We were not intentional at all about culture at CWNP, and at times we suffered greatly for it. If I knew then what I know now…but I didn’t, so I can only go forward, and I look forward to that challenge.
This one is my “why”. My clients have a story to tell, and they hire me to tell it through various media. The more I can offer the client, the better I can serve the client. I cannot do it all, and will never pretend to be able to do it all. In fact, I’ve taken great joy over the past few years in saying, “No, I have no idea how to do that, but I can find someone who can, and make an introduction.” That simple line of thinking has led to some great relationships with other marketers. All of those relationships have led to serving the clients better and more effectively. Serving the client is the end game. That is the goal, the “why”. All the other successes, perks, and revenue are a result of that why.
I can shout from the rooftops as loud as I am able, and only a certain number of people will hear me. When you have a team of people shouting – or whispering – about what you do, the effect is multiplied. Everyone has a different network, and leveraging everyone’s network brings more and more opportunity. That’s exciting, even for this introvert.
All of a freelancer’s eggs are, by definition, in one basket. That’s challenging, exciting, risky, and dangerous all at the same time. As I said yesterday, you only eat what you kill, and if you don’t hunt, you don’t eat. When you have a team, everyone has each other’s back. And everyone contributes to the meat on the table.
To build an agency is to play on a team
When I think of this aspect of the journey to build an agency, I compare golf or tennis with a team sport. As Jordan Spieth fell short of the greatest Master’s comeback of all time, it was all on him. Yes, his caddie was there every step of the way for encouragement and sound advice, but Spieth had to make every swing. He may have even relied on his playing partner, Justin Thomas, for some motivation, but ultimately, Thomas was out to defeat Spieth, and would have if he had the opportunity. So it’s all on the player.
On any team sport, it takes the entire team to win the game. Even the smallest effort or mistake by one single player can cost the game. That reminds me of the final play of the NCAA Football National Championship this year. You cannot lay all of the blame on the cornerback who blew his coverage, but his mistake was the killer. You cannot give Tua Tagovailoa all the credit for the win, since Coach Saban had to have the brilliance to put him in the game and take out his starting QB. In other words, no single player wins or loses the game, even though it may seem that way.