Let's have a quick run-through of the four types of agency owners. By the way, I talk about agency owners but this applies to consultants and service-based b2b businesses just as easily.
So let's play a little game and figure out which type of agency owner you are currently.
We've got Skilled Producers, the Roller Coaster riders, the Operator, and the Boss.
From over a decade and a bit of running an agency, owning other types of businesses, and coaching clients, what I do know is that you can be any one of these personas at any given time, and depending on the season of business you're in you’ll have different problems. There's no right or wrong here, it is what it is. At each stage of growth when your agency or service business hits 50k a month and then 100k months and beyond, you experience a different set of challenges and obstacles with each level up.
What I want to share with you is how to understand where you are so you can move to the next phase with fewer battle scars and ultimately become that king or queen or the boss of your own financial security, prosperity and experience the freedom that you deserve.
Let’s look at the types of business owners, try to identify with one.
The skilled producer
You have extraordinary talent, hell it's why you went out on your own in the first place. You're constantly trying to meet the needs of your clients, often you're the one at the coal face and clients want YOU.
You're reading the business books, you've been to the seminars and webinars to understand what to do next and to try ‘step back’ but you're not getting around to implementing and execution. Probably because you’re so ingrained in day-to-day and direct delivery with clients.
The roller coaster rider
Many business and agency owners I speak to are trapped on the boom and bust roller coaster. This is when you win a few projects and new clients which is really exciting and then you get busy in that 'skilled producer' mode. All sorts of issues happen when you're riding that roller coaster, one minute you're flush with cash the next minute you're panicking where the next client is coming from. Riding this roller coaster is draining, it puts you in a place and space where you don't feel great about the business because you're all over the place.
The inconsistency makes it hard to hire, make decisions and invest back into growing the business to the next level. I did for all too long and it's time to crack the code for getting and keeping new clients and get off that ride before you burn out.
This is where things get interesting, the operator typically has figured out how to get sales and there's definitely more consistency in the business. However, you're now in a place and space where you're managing the needs of your producers. You're trying to do good by clients but internal battles, fire fighting, and a whole new set of challenges are rearing their heads like a game of whack-a-mole. In this phase or in this persona there's a solid foundation, although it's easy to make mistakes around hiring and this is when thinking small will keep you small.
This persona has cracked the growth code and the business is scaling. This is where mastery over sales, getting new clients, mastery over the business model, and growth has taken place and they have stopped trading time for money. There's growth in revenue and income, growth in brand awareness and they're able to invest in scaling.
The agency boss might even be starting to think about expanding into new markets, looking at ways to innovate because you have the time freedom to step back.
With every season, as you transition through each one of these personas, there are fundamental trends that you need to spot when it comes to creating your success. Let’s talk about what you need to keep levelling up.
The skilled producers and roller coaster riders are in a space and place of inconsistency. The roller coaster rider makes those sales, has to deliver the work, and as a result, you back off generating leads. The producer has consistency with winning work but then delivery is all over the place, the busier you get the less money you seem to be making and it doesn't make sense. You think you need more clients to make more money and we get into a vicious cycle over not knowing how to scale, how you're going to keep up with growing the team and growing the size of client accounts.
It’s around about this time that agencies start to think about retainer models as the silver bullet to your consistency issues. But that comes with its own health warning (ICYMI check out the previous post, on why retainers are a bad idea).
Consistency is really important to help you hit that tipping point where things start to flow and things get a little easier. Or as I like to say, the quality of your problems starts to shift.
It's no fun being in that space and place where you're always pushing, you feel like you're in a grind and that inconsistency breeds overwhelm. It does get to a point when you have a consistent level of money coming in, consistent leads, and a stream of the right type of clients that enable you to move onto the next phase or go to the next level in your business.
It's time to knuckle down on consistency because it doesn't go unnoticed by your audience and prospective clients so get that content marketing, your website updated, your outbound marketing and be consistent in getting clients like clockwork.
Now your operator knows that they need to start growing the team but that requires systems to make sure that things can run like clockwork, eventually without you so that you can reach that Boss level where you can start to enjoy the freedom that you set out for in the first place.
If you go away from your business or take a vacation, you want things to run without you. Heck, you want things to run and improve without you. And similarly, if a person in your team becomes such a key player, what if they win the lottery and don't show up to work tomorrow, you need to have efficient systems and processes so that business continuity is buttoned up.
Be a big player in your niche
This was a mistake that I made for a long time in my agency business but I'm not shy to say this. You want to be a big player in your niche, become a celebrity of your niche if you like. Often what I see is that the roller coaster riders and business operators are still trying to be all things to all people and resist niching down. Do it, niche down so that you can grow your audience and your positioning as a leader in that niche or community.
We know that if someone is looking for what you do they're more likely to engage and less likely to quibble on pricing if you are an expert in their niche. The agency boss persona has figured this out and as a specialist, they are charging more and still winning pitches.
So there you have it, a brief rundown of the types of agency or business owner. I'd love to know where you think you are in your business right now. DM me on social media or email me email@example.com and share which type of business owner you identify with. Is it the skilled producer, the roller coaster rider, the operator, or the boss?
And tell me what AHA moments you've had. Have you recognised that you need more consistency, that you need to think about systems to scale, or that you are still trying to sell to everyone? I'd love to know if you've had any ideas that you can put into action.
I really want you to remember that there's no right or wrong, it's a journey and with each step up that you make taking your business to the next level that you'll still have challenges, issues, obstacles. It's only the quality of your problems that change.
There you have it, if you're feeling stuck in any of these quadrants or personas reach out to me and I'd love to support you on your journey of business mastery.