October 2020 marks the tenth birthday of Erudite Agency. It is not quite the birthday celebration we would have wanted (as a team that likes to celebrate together), however, we do want to reflect and celebrate this milestone in several digital ways.
Firstly, and in the spirit of giving back, we want to offer a free ten-hour audit to any registered UK Charity. This will be selected at random by an independent third party from your nominations. If you know a deserving charity struggling to grow online donations in the current climate, please make your nomination here:Choose A Charity
Secondly, we will be featuring a collection of perspectives on technical marketing from industry friends we have made on the way, who have been close to us in this ten-year journey. In addition, a second article of SEO tips from ten emerging voices in the industry.
Finally, as the captain of this ship I wanted to reflect personally on some of the mistakes I have made, or the things I might have done sooner, which may be of help for any others in the industry thinking of growing an agency or just starting out.
Have a Plan From The Start
When I left Yahoo! I was sure of only one thing, which was that I loved search and wanted to stay in the industry. I took on a few SEO projects and turned out to be fairly decent at driving results, so a business (originally called theMediaFlow) sort of happened unintentionally.
It wasn’t until a few years in that I really started a plan, or had an ambition for the direction of the business and whilst I wouldn’t change this due to the lessons learned I’d recommend that anyone looking to start an agency business start with goals for the end of year three and plan out your strategies to get there.
Find Someone to Be Your “Boss”
It is lonely being an agency owner, particularly as a sole director. In addition, it is a lot of responsibility when everyone in the business is looking to you for direction and inspiration. You won’t always know all the answers immediately and you won’t always be certain of every decision. What matters more in these situations is to understand your business purpose and ethos. Choose a course of action that befits this purpose and ethos and above all, stick with it.
“What matters more in these situations is to understand your business purpose and ethos. Choose a course of action that befits this purpose and ethos and above all, stick with it.”
To help and support you I would strongly recommend you find your own “boss”. This could be a mentor or a non-executive director. Somebody with experience to coach and challenge you. It can be tempting to lead accountable to nobody but yourself (and HMRC of course), but without challenge and direction you will inhibit your own potential.
Personally, I recommend TAB (The Alternative Board) which is a really cost-effective way to access a coach, as well as a shared board of directors who will keep you accountable, challenge you and support you.
Invest in Your Own Development
We were today years old when I realised that our per-capita training budget did not include an allowance for me. That is a slight exaggeration, however it was this year.
Whilst I have always attended industry conferences and kept my discipline knowledge fresh, I realised that I have completely neglected my own career development from a formal training perspective. This is obviously a huge oversight and much as from a mental health perspective it is important to “fit your own mask first”, so is it true from a leadership perspective.
Never Lose Sight of What You Love About Your Work
Going back to the “have a plan from the start”, if your own plan is one of growth there will be a point at which you should be working on the business and not in the business. Personally, this is an aspect of running an agency that I love almost as much as technical SEO and data analysis. For me, it wasn’t that difficult to leave the service delivery aspect behind and allow those smarter than me to take that aspect on.
That said, there may be times when you find that you’re working on aspects of running a business that you do not enjoy or are not particularly adept at. Whilst work isn’t about doing all the fun bits all the time, there is a point at which you need to understand and accept your limitations and look to distribute work accordingly. If you are a brilliant tactician, you don’t have to be a brilliant managing director, even if you are the company owner. Build a strong senior team according to the company goal requirements and do not be precious about giving up pieces of work that you don’t enjoy or are not as strong at.
“Build a strong senior team according to the company goal requirements and do not be precious about giving up pieces of work that you don’t enjoy or are not as strong at.”
Hire People Smarter Than You
As a leader, you may need to be decisive and take the casting vote but that does not mean you should be the smartest in the room. At Erudite every single member of my team is smarter and faster than me at performing the duties they were hired for. For me personally, that is one of the things I find most rewarding.
It’s been a wild ten years in business, and I hope the next ten are successful for all of us in this industry. If you think I can help you in any way with your personal career development please get in touch.Talk to Nichola