Barriers to Agency Growth: Leadership

Do you want your agency to grow? Then you'll need to have solid leadership.

This may involve developing your own skills, hiring a team, and/or promoting others to take on leadership roles. It might sound like a heavy lift, but if your company lacks the people who have the capabilities to strategize and delegate, your agency's business growth could be stagnant, or even crippled. 

Get Clear in Your Goals & Communicate Them

As your team grows you'll need to have managers in place for each department. These manager will need to be totally aligned with you on the company mission, vision, values and goals so that they can operate independently from you without creating friction. If you yourself aren't crystal clear on your personal and business goals for the next five, 10, or 25 years, you will be unable to communicate those to your team. Without this clarity, your team will struggle to perform without handholding (and noone likes a micromanager).  

Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

What is your ultimate goal? That one thing that signals that 'you've made it' from your own personal definition of success?

Identify that goal and then work backwards on what you need to do to get there. Take that 10 or 25 year goal and identify what milestones you'd need to hit in the next five years to be on track for your big goal. Now what do you need to do this year, next year, and each year to hit that five year milestone? Now, what do you need to do this quarter, this month, and this week to be on track to hit your one-year milestone? This is your roadmap to hit your goals. 

Get Comfortable Delegating

One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do is to let go of the reigns and trust others with the outcome of their organization. If you want your business to grow, you MUST learn how to do this. Otherwise, you will become and continue to be the bottleneck that restricts the flow of revenue growth. 

Scaling up to 10

In managing a smaller team (10 or less), you will likely continue to do the activities you are strong at and can delegate out the activities you struggle with.

Hire those who have skills sets that compensate for your weaknesses so you can have strong people in every role. You could hire an Executive Assistant who can take some of the laborious tasks that don't make sense for you to do. Or you could jump right in and start hiring full-time specialists to help expand your agency's capabilities. 

If you're not sure where you need the most help, do a time study for a week and keep track of all the different things you do in a day and how long it takes you to do them. At the end of the week you'll be able to identify where you're wasting your time on things that could be done better, faster, at a lower cost rate, or just generally, by someone else. (And don't worry, it's normal to be a little shocked by the outcome of this!)

Scaling up to 50

When you start increasing up to the threshold of 50 team members you will need to hire for and delegate the activities that you're strong at. You are likely being pulled in all directions at this point. if key business operations, like sales, are still mainly your responsibility, your strengths are going to become the weakness of the company. 

Scaling beyond 50+

As you pass 50 employees you will no longer have direct relationships with all your team members and will need to have a solid team of managers who share the same values, passion and knowledge of the business who can effectively delegate to their teams. Your efforts will need to be focused on working to develop the talent of your leadership and management teams so they can be focused on working to develop the talent of their teams. The chain of delegation has become longer and it's more important for you to get it right. 

You will need to have systems for accountability, responsibility and authority in place so each team member knows what is expected of them and is enabled to do their job. You will also need timely feedback loops to identify where things are not working smoothly. 

Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you so you become the "dumbest in the room" and you are confident that they are going to have rockstar ideas and execution to help your organization grow.  

"Every business is more valuable to the degree that it does not depend on it's top leader" - Scaling Up

Four Components of Delegation

Successful delegation has four components, assuming you have delegated a job to the right person or team:

1. Priorities - pinpoint exactly what each team or individual needs to accomplish

2. Data - create a measurement system (KPIs and/or scorecards) for monitoring progress

3. Meeting cadence - receiving and providing feedback to the team or person

4. Recognition & rewards - give appropriately timed recognition & rewards for work well done

The Power of Prediction

Being able to predict the market, your competition and those you lead enables you to find opportunities and avoid disaster. When you have a small team and interact regularly with them and your customers it's easy to get the insightful feedback you need to respond quickly to opportunities and challenges. As your team grows and you lose touch with those 'on the ground' you become more susceptible to missing the beat. 

Building those internal feedback loops for information to flow through your company and enabling your skilled workers and middle management to communicate what they're seeing in the market will greatly help you to reduce those blindspots. 

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. 

Focus on what you're good at and don't get distracted by 'shiny things'. Repeating your processes again and again will help you get better and better at them. Your team will know what to expect and communicate better internally and with your clients. You'll reduce inefficiencies and overhead. You'll build a reputation in your industry niche for being really good at this one thing. Your outputs will get better. You'll build more referrals and get better reviews. 


Brene Brown - Clear is KindDocument Your Processes & Expectations

You should be repeating your processes throughout your organization. No one on your team should be unclear as to what is expected of them, who to go to for help, or what the expected outcome of any of their tasks or projects should be. As Brené Brown says, "Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind."

Map your process and make it available. Use checklists. Reinforce checkpoints. 

Communicate with Your Team

A key function of leadership is delivering frequent messaging and metrics to reinforce key attributes of the company and culture. 

You should be repeating your goals, mission, and values so that your team learns them, believes them, and lives them. 

Live Your Core Values Daily

Your core values are the 'rules' that define your culture. Live these daily and reinforce them with your expectations and your feedback. 

Reinforce Your Core Purpose

As the leader of your organization, you should be referencing your core purpose regularly and repeating it to your team and your external stakeholder. It's your 'stump speech' that reinforces your mission and encourages buy-in. 

Share your BHAG

Make your short term and long term goals known. If everyone knows what they goals are they're more likely to work to reach them. 

Current Campaigns & Themes

What's the most important campaign or theme right now? Repeat this daily and review it weekly with your team so that everyone knows what the key focus right now should be. 

Is Your Agency Lacking Solid Leadership?

This is a tough question to answer because you're putting the microscope on yourself, which is never comfortable.

All bosses feel great about some aspects of their leadership and not so great about others. Maybe you're doing great with empathy and team building but you aren't embodying accountability. Maybe you've identified your niche and have a great product but you're not so great at giving your team critical feedback in a timely manner. Maybe your cash flow and finances are great but you're such a stress case that it radiates down through your team.

If you have a hunch that your organization has a leadership gap but you're not sure how to pinpoint or solve it, contact us for a no obligations chat. We'll help you identify where your gaps are so you can grow your business and your team in a healthy and sustainable manner. 

Further Reading:

Topics: Growing an Agency, HR, Leadership

Tanya Wigmore

Written by Tanya Wigmore

Tanya Wigmore is the founder of CRO:NYX Digital and is passionate about growing healthy teams and businesses. With an extensive background in inbound marketing, search marketing, web analytics, CRO & UX, she's always finding new ways to apply optimize and improve.