Why Agency Owners Need to Be Out Of The Business.


There is an expression we have all heard. Are you in the business or on top of the Business?

When you work for an agency it is critically important for you to be in the business. You see the security of an advertising, PR or digital employee is often based on how tight they are with the client and who owns the client relationship. The more you are in the business working hard and thinking hard about the client’s business the more successful you will be because your efforts often results in your client looking  smart.

It can also reduce their workload which they appreciate and their worry which they like much more. The benefit for you is that it makes you more bullet proof in an industry where nobody gets bullet proof suits anymore and there are still too many guns.

When you are an agency principal you need to be involved in your clients business but you don’t have to drive the bus. That’s for others to do. Your job is to grow the agency because only you are the face of the brand. You need to be the Finder not the Grinder. The outside person and not the inside person. However if you got to where you are by being in the business it is often hard to change when you are running the show.

Easy for me to write about. Hard for Agency Principals to adopt.

I meet with many agency principals in all types of fields. Some of them own agencies in close proximity to other firms that they compete with. However they are a long way apart in how they personally work. They are also often far apart on how busy they are on the New Business front.

I find that the most agency principals that are running agencies that are growing don’t feel that the need to be at the office every minute of the day. They work a lot outside the agency. They aren’t surfing. They are out meeting people, going to networking events, having networking Starbucks etc. When they are in they are also out. They are out on the internet. They blog often, or post their thought leadership on their social media platforms.

Successful agency principals know that their primary job is being the face of the brand. Sure they attend key client meetings but they are above the day to day while other agency owners are in the minute to minute.

When I meet with them I ask how is business? We are involved in a lot of pitches they say. We get a lot of referrals they say. We are looking for more people they say. We are really busy.

I try to connect with other agency principals. They are hard to meet with. They have no time. They say they are too busy to meet with me. I may not even get a response to my email.

There used to be a philosophy that an agency needs to grow 20% each year just to survive the swings of the game. The game is tougher in the New Normal. You can’t grow if you aren’t out there.

On occasion I get emails or LinkedIn invites from young New Business development people looking for help. They are inexperienced but are entrusted with agency growth and being the outside person for the agency. Why not have them do the agency books as well? You see the future of your agency isn’t with puppies but with you.

New Business growth is a commitment and that investment must come from agency principals. It’s the only way to grow.

Connect with Hank on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook:


Watch: How Agencies Can Get More New Business.

You may also enjoy these articles:

Creating an Agency Culture in the New Normal.

What Makes a Great AE Today?

The Most Powerful Word in Agency New Business is NO.


4 thoughts on “Why Agency Owners Need to Be Out Of The Business.

  1. I wasn’t aware you had these strong opinions about agencies! I run a digital marketing agency myself, and can’t agree more with the points you make. However I have never sat on the other side of the table in the US.

    We have had several business development people over the years, but the biggest deals are always done by me CEO or my husband, who is in charge of the web development team.

    Our approach to sales has changed largely after reading the book To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink (full disclosure: I was part of Daniel’s launch team for this book). It discusses the idea that every employee is a sales person, from php-coder to social media strategist. Some of our employees are the perfect fit and bring in new business.

    • Thanks for reading. You make a good point. I have always felt that everyone in an agency can be a hunter. However the Agency Principals must lead by example. Are you in Europe? Take care. Hank

      • Wholeheartedly agree that agency principals should lead by example. We are in Southern California. Fullerton, near Los Angeles.

  2. Great article Hank, I agree 100%. If you build a strong, empowered agency team then why not let them do what they do best. I always believe in building relationships “out there” and that is not possible if I was to feel chained to my desk.

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