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I recently met with a new client who is approaching the 100 employee milestone. We got to talking and what we kept coming back to one thing, scaling an agency is a royal pain in the ass! Don’t get me wrong it’s awesome too, but there’s one thing it’s definitely not: easy. Scaling is hard, and it’s certainly not for everyone. So you’ve got to ask yourself, to scale or not to scale? That is the question.
When you first started your agency you probably dreamed of the day when you’d be as successful and revolutionary as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Then once you actually started your agency you probably quickly realized just how much work it takes to get there. News flash, the real headaches haven’t even started yet.
Scaling comes with its own unique set of headaches. They’re so frustrating because they’re not what you do! You probably opened your agency because you’re the best software coder in the northern hemisphere. So when you start getting hit with legal jargon and endless forms your head is going to spin! Yet that’s exactly what’s going to happen once you hit the 7 figure mark or have 50+ employees. The game changes, you can’t just spend all day coding! Suddenly you’re dealing with the department of labor, human resources, health insurance, and the IRS. Your profit margins start to go down because of all of these new expenses. But you’re still growing and scaling, and so are your numbers, so you’re still making more and more money! But at what cost?
So before you try to get to that point you need to do some soul searching and ask yourself, is scaling my agency really what I want to do? Or do I want to try and squeeze as much profit as possible out of my current agency?
Scaling isn’t the only option for making more money and it certainly doesn’t define your success
Keep in mind scaling isn’t the only option for making more money and it certainly doesn’t define your success! You can become a boutique agency where you focus on doing one specific thing within one specific niche really well. You can hyper focus and only do social media management for underwater basket weaving companies in the state of California. This means you don’t have to scale and go big. If you’re the expert in a niche you can charge super-premium prices and get away with it. This agency model allows you to have a healthy work-life balance and make an honest living, and isn’t that the ultimate dream?
Honestly…. that dream isn’t for everyone. In my first agency, I had to scale, I needed to do it to prove to myself that the country guy from Mississippi without a college degree could run with the big guy. And against all odds, I did.
And I hated it.
I started my agency because I loved working with small businesses, getting in the trenches with them, and coming up with creative solutions to their problems. But I wasn’t doing that anymore. Instead, I was spending all of my time in leadership team meetings and talking with CPAs and attorneys. I was making money and successfully scaling, but that wasn’t why I started my agency.
So you’ve got to ask yourself, why are you doing this? Where do you really want to be in 5 years? Or 10? It all comes down to what you want out of your agency. Do you want more profit? To leave a legacy? To revolutionize an industry? Or just to be able to spend more time with your family?
Whatever your answer is will determine you and your agency’s future.
Ultimate your agency’s destiny is in your hands and your hands alone.
It may not be easy and your answer may change over time, but you need to have an answer so you know what path to walk down. So talk to your spouse, best friend, parents, or trusted employees and get their opinions. Then look in the mirror and figure out what you really want, because ultimate your agency’s destiny is in your hands and your hands alone.
Scaling can be great but it isn’t the only measure of success. Now you must decide, to scale, or not to scale?