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Communicate Online | Regional Edition | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Thinking of starting your agency? Read these 14 tips

Agency

Thinking of starting your agency? Read these 14 tips

Successful independent agencies can make their larger peers seem bloated and inefficient. But is it easy to just start an agency from the ground up?

We sat down with some of the biggest players in the smallest shops during the Small Agency Conference and Awards not long ago to find out what makes indie agencies tick, and to ask them about the challenges of standing up a leaner business.

Here are 14 takeaways:

  1. “If you wanna start your own agency, you should just do it, because you’re not getting any younger.”
    – Katie Keating, co-founder and creative director, Fancy2. “If your gut’s telling you, ‘Do it,’ he’s usually right. So then do it, but don’t overthink.”
    – Anselmo Ramos, founder and chief creative officer, Gut3. “If you’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit and wanna take a chance, it’s great, but it’s hard. But it’s way better than I ever thought it would be.”
    – Steven Erich, founder and managing director, Erich
  2. “What advice do I have for anyone who wants to start their own agency? I would say find a partner who’s really great at the things maybe you’re not good at or don’t even know about. You shouldn’t be shy about that. You shouldn’t be shy about teaming up. There’ll be enough for everybody eventually.”
    – Eric Kallman, co-founder and creative director, Erich & Kallman
  3. “Keeping talent and grooming talent and keeping them engaged and feeling excited is really important.”
    – Aaron Walton, co-founder, Walton Isaacson6. “You have this amazingly passionate team of people who stay with your agency because they believe in what you’re doing and they believe in the culture.”
    – Sharon Napier, CEO, Partners & Napier
  4. “Some of the challenges facing established small agencies today is that there are younger small agencies popping up and those founders have built the agencies for today’s world, whereas the established agencies have to be able to fix the plane while it’s already in the air.”
    Tim Leake, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, RPA
  5. “It’s understanding the process of managing growth, understanding when to say no. Those decisions that at times you have to make on the fly that you didn’t realize were going to be as important as they were.”
    – Ahmad Islam, CEO and managing partner, Ten35
  6. “Clients appreciate being able to get a founder on the phone at midnight, because you are gonna take that call. They appreciate having a founder in the room, because they know that you have a level of investment in their business and in their success that an employee of a larger agency may or may not have.”
    – Ahmad Islam, CEO and managing partner, Ten3510. “Jobs come and go so quickly that it’s almost a more secure job to start your own agency.”
    – Erica Fite, co-founder and creative director, Fancy
  7. “Have an idea of what you’re getting into and have a plan. When you’re starting an agency, only half of your time is spent doing what you love to do and the other half is spent on running a business, which I think a lot of people underestimate the amount of time and energy that that requires.”
    – Ahmad Islam, CEO and managing partner, Ten3512. “You are running a business, and that means that you have to have a two, three-year plan. You have to have the right financial backing and you have to make short-term and long-term decisions to ultimately look at the viability of your agency for the next five, 10, 15 years.”
    – Sharon Napier, CEO, Partners & Napier13. “For us, one of the biggest challenges as a small agency is we do, almost every single thing is project-based. And it is nearly impossible for us to project our revenues. We just have no idea.”
    – Katie Keating, co-founder and creative director, Fancy14. “From a business standpoint, as the industry has changed and grown, for some of the small businesses, cash flow is a really critical part of keeping the doors open.”
    – Aaron Walton, co-founder, Walton Isaacson

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