The SharpSpring Agency Growth Series features a curated lineup of some of the top influencers in digital marketing. We could not be more excited about the awesome group of great minds we were lucky enough to pull together for this fun and informative agency-focused series.

The free series is made up of 14 unique web sessions, all with a livestream Q&A segment, and all focused on helping agencies accelerate their growth.

Sessions feature digital marketing superstars speaking candidly about the industry topics they know best and are most passionate about. And we want to make sure to share the love – so, in addition to providing recordings of the sessions and live Q&As, we’ll also be posting key takeaways here following each session.

Here’s a look at some favorite key takeaways pulled from our recent Agency Growth Series session, “Agency Operations: Work Less + Earn More” with digital marketing expert and “agency therapist” Karl Sakas.

Karl Sakas on why it’s good to be optional

When you are optional on a day to day basis in running your agency, you are, well, just that, you’re optional. You don’t have to be there. You don’t have to make every single decision. You probably don’t have any day to day client contacts. You still work with clients in some capacity, but you’re not the first person they call when something needs to happen. Optional is really helpful if you’re looking to sell your agency, if you have an exit in mind. Whether that’s in the next couple of years or a bit further out, the more optional you can make yourself, if you’re looking to sell, the easier it’ll be to sell and probably the better offer or offers you would get. Because after all, you’re optional. You’re not critical to marketing and other aspects of leadgen. You’re not the one running the marketing automation campaigns for your clients and things like that. 

Karl Sakas on “swim lanes”

What are swim lanes? Swim lanes are making it clear who’s in charge of what and who is not in charge of what. So, for instance, if you’re at an agency that has multiple business partners, ideally each of the partners is in charge of specific things and you don’t have overlapping responsibilities. Why? When you have clear swim lanes, it’s easier for people to make decisions because it is primarily their decision. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t seek input or get input from others, but ultimately the goal is that there is one decision maker in each area. Maybe one of your team members is making decisions about creative and marketing outputs, another person is deciding about business operations, another person is deciding about sales and about marketing. There’s going to be some overlap, of course, and you probably wear more than one hat. The key thing, though, is that there is one final decision maker in each major area.

Karl Sakas on the importance of coaching

You need to hire the right people and you need to coach them on improving. They’re not just going to magically get there. I was working with a client who was frustrated that, you know, when they shared certain things with the team, the team wouldn’t just start doing what they said. And ultimately, you know, as I dug in, I found that the agency owner would share something and then expect that everyone could just read their mind and apply it. That’s not the case. Even if you have a great team, you know, what I describe as “new rope rather than wet twine.” Even if you’ve got 100% new rope and you’ve hired the right people, they still need coaching to help them improve on getting things done. 

Karl Sakas on which roles to hire to move things off your plate

It depends on where you are now. If you are early in running your agency and you are the client contact for everyone, part of the goal is to get some of that off your plate. But it’s easier to outsource some of the more back office activities, your subject matter expert roles. So I’d start with that. Depending on what your agency focuses on that could be a marketing implementer. It could be designer, it could be developer. The idea is that you get that outsourced perhaps to freelancers initially. You continue to be the client contact if you continue to do project management. And then over time, as other people are doing more and more of the highly billable work, your subject matter experts, eventually you can start shifting some of the project management and or account management off your plate.

Karl Sakas on being a boss

It’s really easy to be a bad boss. It’s really hard to be a good boss. Yet if you commit to improving as a manager, as a leader, you absolutely can. And in terms of where to start, I would start by getting some feedback from people you trust, people who know you and are willing to give you honest answers about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. One way to look at that is a model called Warmth and Competence, which comes from the book “The Human Brand”, by Chris Malone and Susan Fiske. And the idea there is that whenever people are interacting with you or with a company, or what have you, there’s warmth, there’s competence. Ideally you’re high warmth and high competence. Competence is to get the job done. High warmth is you make people feel special. Most people tend to skew one way or the other as they interact with clients and as they interact with people. As a manager, try to identify where do you struggle and then find ways to build on that weakness.

Karl Sakas on making your client the hero

My advice in 2021 and beyond is to find ways to make your client the hero and your agency is the helper. Now, what’s the difference about that? Well, ultimately, when you make your client the hero, you are about helping them accomplish their heroic goals, whatever those might be, whether it’s growing their business to sell it or just hitting their KPIs for the coming quarter. And when you make your clients the hero, your agency is positioned as their core helper. And you know what? Your clients are going to keep you forever because you’re making them the hero and you are the critical helper in the background. If you’ve ever had one of your clients take an idea that you shared and they presented it to their boss as their own. You know what? That’s a win. You are the helper in the background making them look good. And so I think that’s an important opportunity.

If you’re looking to watch Karl’s full-length Agency Growth Series session, you can find the recording on our website right now!

And, if you missed any of our previous Agency Growth Series sessions, you can easily check them all out right here:

Optimize Conversion Rates for Clients with Neil Patel

Positioning Your Agency with David C. Baker 

Turning Conversations into Clients with Tom Martin

Driving Momentum for Your Agency and Your Clients with Shama Hyder

How Agencies Can Successfully Sell in 2020 and Beyond with Drew McLellan

What SMBS Want From Agencies with Chris Brogan

Influencer Marketing & SEO with Rand Fishkin

Grow & Scale Your Agency with Jason Swenk

SEO for Agencies with Ann Smarty

How to Create Ridiculously Good Content with Ann Handley

Selling Video Services to Clients with Amy Landino

Rebecca Wentworth