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Building a B2B agency: The first eight years at Fox Agency

Posted by: Ben Fox on 11 September 2019

We recently presented our new five-year strategy and growth plan (more on that later) to the whole agency at leafy Weetwood Hall – a chance to get everyone away from the day-to-day and come together around a shared vision for the agency.

As well as being a great opportunity to look ahead, it also presented an opportunity to take stock, reflect and see how far we’ve come over the last eight years – and to ponder some of the lessons we’ve learnt along the journey.

 

Shared commitment trumps everything

We were so, so lucky to have worked with some great people in previous roles – people with whom we have shared values and who we could genuinely trust. As soon as possible we brought these people on-board to help drive us forward, keep us sane and hold us to account.

Eight years on, these people are still with us on the journey and we’re eternally grateful.

Everyone is winging it

We think we’re crap at everything. Genuinely, we think that our processes are all-wrong, that we’re the least-efficient agency on record, work is never quite as amazing as it could should be…we feel there must be a better way of doing stuff.

But the more we build the team, the more talent we bring in from elsewhere, the more industry peers we meet and the more we read and listen to other agency owners – the more we realise that everyone is in the same boat.

There is no silver bullet to running an agency. There is no holy grail. It’s simply a case of taking steps to improve, every single day.

Strategic partnerships are the dogs

Do great work. Bring solutions. Be great to work with.

And, build strategic partnerships with larger, more established companies in complimentary fields. It works and it will help you jump about five rungs up the ladder.

Values matter

We didn’t believe, but now we do: shared values really matter. Get them nailed, communicated and embedded across your team as quickly as possible. We left it far too late to realise the importance (and we’ve still not properly embedded them!).

Exercise together – it’s good for the soul

One of the best things we’ve done (to date) was to introduce paid-for group PT sessions for the whole company. Not everyone takes part (which is fine), but those who do, find them amazingly worthwhile – extremely challenging, sometimes cold and wet, but rewarding, nonetheless. If we pulled them now there would be a bloody revolt!

Specialism is what makes you special

‘Do one thing well’ says the Unix Philosophy (and a million and one blog posts) – but it is 100% true.

How can an agency possibly be amazing at everything, for every client, in every sector?

It can’t.

By hanging our hats on B2B we instantly brought clarity and direction to the agency.

We knew exactly who we were and who we were right for.

Look further afield

The world is full of opportunity. Yes, there are a zillion and one agencies out there, but they’re not all great and they’re not all making it happen.

Look beyond your street, town, city, county, country and continent – keep pushing it and embracing further afield. Not only will you unearth new opportunities, but you’ll get to meet some great people (and bag some decent travel opportunities, too!).

You definitely feel the lows more than the highs

Some days it can be really shit.

Some days you lose pitches, some days you lose clients, some days you mess something up and the shit hits the fan. Some days you don’t get paid – despite being promised and it being 100 days overdue. Some days you have ‘people problems’. Some days you send an email by accident and get that sinking feeling.

Other days you win a pitch, deliver a great project, pull it out of the bag, get paid up-front (OK – this never happens) or see a member of your team ‘smash it’. Some days you hold an all-agency meeting and realise you have some great people; some great clients and you do some amazing work.

But you will always feel the lows way, way more than you do the highs.

It’s a hamster wheel

Once you’re on – it is impossible to get off.

It is continuous. Every month you start from zero – yet every month there’s payroll to hit, bills to pay, clients to bankroll and the pound of flesh to pay to the joyous folk over at HMRC.

There’s always something urgent to sort. There’s always something in need of fixing. There’s relationships to build (and to fix), and opportunities to nurture. There’s new processes to implement and new starters to induct. There’s projects to manage, creative to review, dev to check, performance to optimise, suppliers to coordinate and a million and one other things.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s to the next eight years.

 

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