Agencies That Build
Adopting An Experimental Mindset - Mark Rickmeier - Agencies That Build #012

Adopting An Experimental Mindset - Mark Rickmeier - Agencies That Build #012

March 31, 2021

Mark Rickmeier is the CEO of Table XI, a UX design and custom software development firm with experience in mobile apps, building integrated web applications, and custom digital experiences. They value community, strategy, and finding solutions with an experimental mindset.

 

Takeaways:

  • Adopting an experimental mindset in your agency allows your team to have the flexibility to try new things. The immediate ROI may not be linear, but you’ll know that there is energy and passion behind the project.
  • In an agency, sometimes we are stretched thin with multiple tasks on hand. Delegate separate tasks to your team to create clear accountability to improve efficiency.
  • Empower your team to explore providing different or more services over time as the market evolves or as the clients evolve.
  • Your direct competitors can provide immense value. Building a network of trusted peers enhances this model of coopertition by directly working with peers in the industry.
  • “The single most important thing to do in onboarding is proper expectation of what success looks like. This provides a clear understanding of how they will bring value to the agency.”~Mark
  • Effectively invest in and shape your work culture by building inclusivity and making it explicit that everybody’s voices matter.

 

Links:

 

Busted Myth:

  • We associate value in meetings, getting things done and all around being busy. If you find yourself constantly booking up your calendar, then start to plan a time period when you can, as an owner, really learn or think about where you want to go as an agency.

 

Ways to Tune In:

People-Driven Culture - Pete Baumgartner - Agencies That Build #011

People-Driven Culture - Pete Baumgartner - Agencies That Build #011

March 24, 2021

Pete Baumgartner is the Founder of Lincoln Loop, a full-service software development agency specializing in Python and Django development for web and mobile systems. They value transparent partnerships in order to produce straightforward solutions.

 

Takeaways:

  • Advertising yourself as a niche agency starting off is a great strategy to get your foot in the door and be successful as a new agency. Find out what you want to be known for early on.
  • Being a remote agency, it is important to have trust and autonomy with your team. This flexibility helps staff have a better work life balance and figure out their role.
  • Having a full financial transparency within the agency empowers co-workers to clearly visualize how they are affecting the bottom line.
  • Developing virtual team culture can be difficult. Start by meeting with your team in person at conferences and grow from there.
  • Pete Baumgartner’s superpower - Flexibility “We are all trying to wear a bunch of different hats. Things are going to drop and that’s okay.”

 

Links:

 

Busted Myth:

  • “You don’t need a deep connection of people or be plugged into a network to start an agency. If you are doing good work and put yourself out there, then it will grow organically.” ~Pete

 

Ways to Tune In:

Fostering Staff Leadership - Jason Clark - Agencies That Build #010

Fostering Staff Leadership - Jason Clark - Agencies That Build #010

March 19, 2021

Jason Clark is the Owner of VIA Studio, an agency focused on transforming brands through strategy, design, development and marketing. They apply their core values of partnership, dedication and connection to drive value for their clients.

 

Takeaways:

  • When interviewing, it is important to make note of an individual’s soft skills to understand if they will be successful in an agency role.
  • Utilizing roadmaps for topics such as brand strategy or identity are useful when starting the conversation with clients on how your agency identifies it and the application process. 
  • Is client X asking for something to be created or a problem to be solved? Setting expectations before you engage with a client is imperative on how the partnership will progress.
  • “The best compliment you can give somebody who works in an agency is that they know how to listen. Having self-awareness is key to meeting with people.”~Jason
  • Are all of your staff flowing in the same direction as you? Be ready to have the conversation with staff members on what shifts need to be made to align goals and motivations.
  • Jason Clark’s superpower - Optimism, “I truly believe that your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.”

 

Links:

 

Most Fun Part of Being An Agency Owner:

  • Working in an agency, you get to build many relationships along the way and support co-workers in their career development.

 

Ways to Tune In:

Optimizing Paid Discoveries - Josh Eaton - Agencies That Build #009

Optimizing Paid Discoveries - Josh Eaton - Agencies That Build #009

March 10, 2021

Josh Eaton is the CEO of Reaktiv Studios, a boutique WordPress agency focused on making the web better through quality development and creative solutions. They are dedicated to problem solving and overcoming obstacles.

 

Takeaways:

  • Having a paid discovery vs. pre-sales process allows an agency to scope out the project, manage expectations better, and give the client a good feel for the team before signing on to a much larger engagement.
  • Create a detailed outline for work responsibilities when developing a pre-sales discovery, especially what is not included. Make sure it is clear what is going into the project.
  • “When hiring for a developer position we look for a solid software developer rather than a WordPress developer. We want someone with good habits that we can train on WordPress.” ~Josh
  • During the interview process, having a panel of people from different departments or a code challenge will give hands on insight to how the interviewee problem solves and blends with coworkers. 
  • As you scale your company, remember to keep in account your company culture. A three person company can be vastly different from a forty person company.
  • Josh Eaton’s superpower - Debugging and problem solving

 

Links:

 

Most Fun Part of Being An Agency Owner:

  • Launch date for a new site or project - “It is exciting to see the clients reaction. I also always like to take a step back during that day to talk to the team to tell them, ‘Hey, we just launch _____ for this brand name client. That’s really cool!’”  

 

Ways to Tune In:

All About the Agency - Chad Pytel - Agencies That Build #008

All About the Agency - Chad Pytel - Agencies That Build #008

November 19, 2020

Chad Pytel is the Founder and COO of thoughtbot, small studios of designers and developers collaborating closely with clients. They are dedicated to pushing the bar by continuously improving for themselves, the company and their clients.

 

Takeaways:

  • To close any productivity and communication gaps, remove the middleman between the founder and project team. “We fundamentally believe in having a small group of people who are really good at what they do working directly with clients to create something.” ~Chad Pytel.
  • Aspire to build successful products AND successful businesses. Training clients to facilitate a meeting or prioritize planning helps them be lucrative in the future outside of your own business. 
  • Set specific expectations for your team in terms of communication and holding the company philosophy. This sets the bar for your team and allows them to have a growth mindset going into projects. 
  • Training is a powerful tool that enables you to hire more people than you otherwise would have been able to and sets your team up for success. Apprenticeships and other training programs are a great way to accomplish this!
  • Whether you are a specialized or generalized company, the most important thing is to know what your model is and stay consistent to that. This provides a basis for your team to execute on.
  • Career advice from Chad Pytel, have an honest conversation with your founders about expectations and what you want to achieve before starting your company. 

 

Links:

 

Busted Myths:

  • If your primary motivation for doing consulting is to earn some money to bootstrap a SaaS product then you might get stuck on a consulting treadmill. Be clear what your priorities are and be intentional about your work early on.

 

Ways to Tune In:

The Road To Model Messaging - Michael Coogan - Agencies That Build #007

The Road To Model Messaging - Michael Coogan - Agencies That Build #007

November 17, 2020

Michael Coogan is the President and Managing Partner of MC2 Design Group Inc., a strategic and digital marketing agency, working as integrated partners with our clients to plan, execute, and achieve business goals. They are committed to producing the best partnership-based results for their clientele.

 

Takeaways:

  • We spend so much time mindlessly taking in content. Why not take that time and put it towards something meaningful to you. “If we spend 15 minutes a day reading on a topic that we want to get better on and take a few notes, then that knowledge compounds over time.” ~Michael Coogan
  • It is easy to build a list of things you need to do for your business, but focusing on what to say is where things start to move forward. Uniting messaging across departments is key to building value for the customers.
  • Unite your team under the same philosophies. This will give them a basis of how their language and messaging with clients should be. 
  • Outsourced partners are great for specializing projects, especially when there are spikes in business. This builds your network while not having to sacrifice the quality of your product.
  • Build a framework that you can teach your team in order to build a StoryBrand. Clients look for companies that will guide them through the process.
  • Career advice from Michael Coogan, life is fair because it is unfair to everybody. However, we have the opportunity to choose how we react to things and our attitude.

 

Links:

 

Busted Myths:

  • You don’t need to have a higher education to be a successful entrepreneur. You don’t need to have letters behind your name to prove that you are smart. Simply be continuously learning, reading and being creative.

 

Ways to Tune In:

Cultivating Successful Teams in Remote Settings - Jim Babcock - Agencies That Build #006

Cultivating Successful Teams in Remote Settings - Jim Babcock - Agencies That Build #006

November 12, 2020

Jim Babcock is the President of SPM Services Inc., who build custom and packaged applications for Startups and Enterprises. He specializes in consulting people to take their ideas and turn them into business.

 

Takeaways:

  • Top 3 ways to better manage your offshore team:
    • Get to know your team on a personal level
    • Develop a good specification for your product
    • Meet with them in the same duration you would with your domestic team
  • Look at your team as your partner. You need to have a contract that is flexible rather than stringent. This allows for more growth and room for expenses in the case of emergencies.
  • If you are working with an offshore team and they have multiple teams in multiple regions then you need to know that. Transparency is key to communication.
  • Be willing to work with every party and come to middle ground on when and how things need to be done for optimized productivity.
  • Don’t fall into Analysis Paralysis! Break work down into sprints to move productivity and fulfill requirements.
  • Career advice from Jim Babcock- take time to appreciate the blessings around you.

 

Links:

 

Busted Myths:

  • Working with offshore companies is only a horrible experience if you don’t manage it correctly. The offshore team needs to be managed and relationships built like they are right next door.

 

Ways to Tune In:

Building Right Relationships - Ben Callahan - Agencies That Build #005

Building Right Relationships - Ben Callahan - Agencies That Build #005

November 10, 2020

Ben Callahan is the Founder of the Build Right workshop series and President of Sparkbox, a group of web makers that develop their client’s product and team during projects and through their Build Right training. 

 

Takeaways:

  • It is easy to get distracted by our technology rather than having personal conversations. However, that one on one connection builds relationships further than any piece of tech could.
  • It is ok to mess up! Transparency is key to good communication with a client. When mistakes happen try having a mindset of continuous improvement and lean on your coworkers for support.
  • The core of a great business relationship is transparency, trust, and honesty. This builds stability and shows your clients you have their best interest in mind.
  • “There is a lot of potential reward in being a hyper-specialized company. But the risk of course is choosing an industry. If something happens external to your group then all your marketing is focused on that niche.” ~Ben Callahan
  • Bring different voices to the table when looking for solutions. “Have a workplace that has a lot of different perspectives, different experiences because that is going to bring a lot of interesting solutions to the surface.” ~Ben Callahan
  • Career advice from Ben Callahan, embrace the leader within you. 

 

Links:

 

Busted Myths:

  • Technology does not solve problems for us. There is always a person behind the tool. Building relationships is more important than building a product.

 

Ways to Tune In:

Interactivity and Connectivity - Phillip Tiongson - Agencies That Build #004

Interactivity and Connectivity - Phillip Tiongson - Agencies That Build #004

November 5, 2020

Phillip Tiongson is the founder and CEO of Potion, an independent studio dedicated to transforming the world of interactivity. 

 

Takeaways:

  • How do we communicate our unique value in a way that scales, is surprising, is reciprocal, and truly accessible? These four qualities are important to keep in mind with the call for connection in a technology demanding environment.
  • The physical world is rich with sensory interactions. However, that does not mean the digital world does not have a deep impact as well. Digital interactions have the power to cultivate metamorphic experiences through design and storytelling.
  • The relationships that you build with partners, whether they are collaborators, competitors or clients, is where new business comes from. 
  • In the future, how we relate to each other is going to evolve. “I think of Zoom right now as the iPhone 1. This is going to explode into many different special use cases and expressions...on how we send ourselves [digitally].”
  • Career advice from Phillip Tiongson, it is easy to mistake achievement for enjoying your work. Take time to appreciate everything and everyone around you.

 

Links:

 

Busted Myths:

  • We have just as much value and connection from miles away opposed to being in a physical place at the same time.

 

Ways to Tune In:

Flexibility and Focusing Forward - Carl Smith - Agencies That Build #003

Flexibility and Focusing Forward - Carl Smith - Agencies That Build #003

October 29, 2020

Carl Smith owns and runs the Bureau of Digital, an organization that supports agencies and provides the leadership training necessary to survive and thrive. Their focus on Digital Leadership, Business Development, Design Leadership, Operations, and Project Management has been invaluable to the digital agency landscape.

Takeaways:

 

  • In today’s climate, it is important to cater to your clients’ evolving needs and be flexible with them. How can you create a better relationship in the current world?
  • Generalists are what everyone wants out of individuals, but Specialists are what they want out of organizations. The most successful companies are those that are generalists, but promote themselves as specialists.
  • Position yourself as who you want to become versus who you are right now. This will help grow your business, company and community.
  • “If you have to change the fabric of who you are to accomplish something then you have lost part of yourself.” Double down on what makes you different as a company and an individual. ~Carl Smith
  • “Don’t always tell clients what is great about what they have. Sometimes it is better to show them the stuff they don’t want to hear.” ~Carl Smith
  • Career advice from Carl Smith, Nothing matters as much as it feels like it does. Leslie Peters said, “Life is a quest, not a text.”

Links:

 

Busted Myths:

 

  • There is work out there! Be flexible and open to try something different.

 

Ways to Tune In:

 

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