Episode 425: Growing Your Agency With Ryan Waterbury

Show Summary

Rob Cairns talks to Ryan Waterbury about growing an agency.

Show Highlights:

  1. When to hire.
  2. What kind of skills do you hire for?
  3. Partnerships.
  4. Automation.

Hey everybody. Rob Cairns here. And then today I’m my good friend and monthly co-host, Mr. Ryan Waterbury with me. Hey, Ryan, how’s it going?

It’s going good.

Yeah, I I 2nd that it was. I was outside earlier. It was looking like rain. The rain is blowing over. You know how that goes. And then I’ll take it because we’ve had rain the last couple nights. Last night it came in late, we had rain. And you know how that goes too, right? So.


And I see your office is rather. Quiet today for a change.

Exactly. The staff was just fed. They’re napping. They’re they’re post dinner nap.


So you know, you and I were talking about fine. And one of the things we always try and do is grow businesses. And today we were going to talk about kind of growing your agency and how to scale it a little bit. And we were thinking I think more on the personnel side, weren’t we? So what’s your thoughts on that?

You know there, there are a couple of ways that I’ve grown my agency and. There I had. I had seen a a LinkedIn post from Brooklyn Nash being content CEO and you know, we talked about, you know that that magic $100,000 number that freelancers kind of the hit and.


You know, as solopreneurs that are in the service business. You know, value billing is great, but at some point you hit a wall with that, that revenue wall or or the amount of work because you’re billing for your time. And at that point you look around and the first thing that I do is trim the fat. Look where I’m spending money and look what tools I’m using to help automate and, you know, try and streamline things. But even when you do that, and if you’ve already got good systems in place and you should if you’re getting to that revenue level. And start to look around and think. Do I need some help and you know there are a couple of ways to go about it and I’m looking at being as busy as I was in, you know, the start of 2020 when I had staff, but I’m doing it differently and it’s been kind of an interesting journey.


I would suggest the do you need help starts before you even get to that process. It might even start with the sales process. You might decide hey, maybe I need a VA to handle sales calls. Maybe I need to potentially outsource and hire a sales team to make those calls that I don’t have time to make because one of the problems. Freelancers all do is they all play the feast or famine cycle. I’m busy today I got three projects on the go so leave me alone and then they go dark for three months while they try and drum up three more. And I would argue and say it’s probably better to be busy consistently and then you don’t have that feast or famine cycle.

Ohh exactly and that’s what I was alluding to early on when I had, you know, opened up that you have good systems and you know like you, when you talk about bringing sales people on, if you’ve automated your lead flow, you have a good sales pipeline, you have automated as many of the follow up emails. Your proposal is templated. And you know the invoice, you know, for deposit is auto generated. Whenever one signed things like that.

I don’t like that word. I’m gonna stop you. I don’t like that word deposit. Let’s use the word. Initial payment or payment? One and two. Or payment one and three.

Sure. Yeah. What? However you want to phrase that, but yeah, and you know.


You get to that point where you’ve maxed out your systems and like you said, hey, maybe you want to hire someone you know to take that over to do more of that. And you know, when we talk about individual projects. Just things that I’ve been seeing lately. The small business, you know, five page sites, they’re not there anymore. Small businesses are struggling. But I’m seeing that mid market and enterprise markets starting to invest more and those are projects for me that as a solo agency, when I look at that.


And we start talking timelines. I can’t fulfill all that in my current workload by myself. So that’s when I start to look out and think, hey, do I need to hire someone or are there other ways to do it?

Yeah, yeah.

I and I would argue and say the only. A a a solo printer can only handle two to three projects a month ongoing and then maybe some ongoing maintenance. There’s no way a solopreneurs got the time to put more than two or three website builds on their plate a month. It’s just not going to happen. The timelines aren’t going to be met. It’s going to be a disaster. I don’t even like the idea of thinking of that. I’ve got two builds on my plate right now that are kind of ongoing builds, both who builds as you know, and. And I’m having enough time hard time doing anything else with those two builds beyond the maintenance side of my business that I do. So I wouldn’t, I would suggest to be very careful if you’re going to take on more work and not have processes in place.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Press. You know, I’m. I’m thinking past the the process level and you know you and I have talked over the years. Just and I think it was every other week we were we were trying out different project management tools and none of them fit perfectly. Yeah. You know, you finally get down to the one that you hate. The least I I think that’s the best way to to put that and.

Yeah, yeah. And it’s not Microsoft Project right away.


Good God, I I I am in a love hate relationship with click up their new UX. I’m just going to throw that out there. I’m not a fan of and it’s, you know, just kind of flow wise then. But I have my workflow built in there from my my lead flow pipeline, my reports, my templated web design and dev processes, my SEO templates, PPC templates are all there. That’s all built out and. I’ve maximized that, so even with automating that, you know I’m I’m down to should I get back into building my agency and I guess that’s more of the title of the of the episode, you know, where I’m looking at. I had, you know, three contractors. I was going to bring at least two of them on full time. In the spring of 2020, before my niche hospitality and and restaurants, you know, was completely Kabbalah. Completely demolished by, you know, the event. And I got back down to doing solo work and it was nice. It was really nice. For a while. It was refreshing to get my my hands dirty. Now I’m in that growth phase again where? How how can I? How can I grow? Do I go the contract route or a a new method that I’ve been working with is forming strategic partnerships and fulfilling just part of a project and working with other agencies where? Someone is maybe a stronger designer than I am and letting them handling the initial design work and maybe some of the branding and then I’m doing the development and the implementation and then picking up the maintenance on the end and doing the project management through it’s been. It’s been an interesting way to grow and the fact that it allowed, it’s allowed me and people I’ve collaborated with to take on more projects than just those two to three per. But it still feels comfortable like that because we’re only working on our individual piece. So that’s it it. It’s good and bad, but so far it’s been a good way to grow.

I agree with that. I think one of the things that. So a printers to look at real quickly is do they want to hire a V8 I mean or virtual assistant? I think that’s a real handy way to go. I’ve had one before. I’m about to go back to one this summer sometime because between you and I, I plan on enjoying my summer. So and the way to get myself out of all the stuff I. Don’t wanna do so. You know my theory. If you you’re not good at it. You don’t wanna do it. Find. Somebody to do? It for you. So I’m in that mode right now. I suspect I’ll have a a VA, and I’m not gonna go and overseas. VA. I’m actually go. Higher locally, yes, it will cost me more, but I don’t want to go overseas this time not happening.

So what test when you when you bring on a VA and that’s kind of a broad a broad term because I’ve tried to bring in VA’s at different levels before and. They’re either too skilled for the role and they’re good and they don’t hang out. And they pick up your processes and then move along on their own solo journey. Or they are very specific in that VA admin role and don’t do some of the things that I’d like to hand off. So what what? When you look for the what do you, I mean, what are you looking for? What tasks? Are you looking to offload?

No, simple things like answering emails. Keep an eye on tickets that come in. I use the ticketing system like you do. Making sure at least the initial responses get sent out so they don’t get ignored, potentially building my newsletter, which you know that’s a time suck no matter how I like to call it. That’s just the way it is and just the simple stuff. Maybe some accounting work behind the scenes that I don’t like doing. I do. Is an accountant, so that makes that side of it easy. But things like that, just non-technical tests really for me.

Yeah. And the, I think it’s the same for me the the admin tasks, those are the ones that I like doing the least. And you hit it on the head right there, accountant. I do have an accountant, but she’s more I use her not for bookkeeping and I want to make the distinction there. Bookkeeper versus accountant. They do different things.




Honestly, for for myself, I don’t do enough transactions monthly I I mean. I have web care that rolls once a month and then you know project investments from clients for projects. So there’s not a lot of bookkeeping, but that’s one of those tasks that I can never find myself sitting down to do it and I’m reconciling 2348 months of books.

And I might even hand the VA some other simple tasks, like uploading a podcast or uploading that kind of stuff, like that’s what I call consider real nominal work, and anybody should be able to do it. So that’s kind of where I’m headed. As I say, I plan on enjoying my summer. So there you go. What other what other things are you? I know we’ve talked about this and you’ve hired people before. Are you looking at hiring people right now or not? Sure.

Ah. I’m you know, I’m not sure. And so that’s the the interesting part is I started a strategic partnership with Rhonda Nygard. I think it’s almost two years now and she reached out to me with some questions on a. That needed some dev chops that she didn’t have, and she wanted someone that was familiar with Beaver Builder, which is my workflow, and someone that did more of the code side and the back end side. And so we’ve done several projects together and it works so well where if I can keep the the lead pipeline full, we’re usually working on the project in depth at different phases where. We’re still involved in the project. Yeah. Yeah, as it’s moving along. But it allows us to take more work and focus on the strengths that we have and work on the specific parts that we like. Not that I don’t like doing design, but if I can work with someone that’s better at designing than I am and. Let them come up with the concept. I I would much rather implement those designs and do the development and write code to fulfill that part of the. Jack.

Yeah. And what I would, what I would also say is you, you hit something that nail on the head and you’ve mentioned it several times today, the weed pipeline, I think you need to automate that weed pipeline. So you need to have a clear call to action on your pages, on your service pages. One of the calls to action I have is book a call. Just book it and it’s on every page at the bottom if you look, since I’ve finally got around to cleaning up my own website, it’s on the bottom of every page. It’s called action. I use make to immediately. Any e-mail that books your call goes from the called action right into my mailing software. That’s just the way it is, because the minute they booked that call, they’ve actually done work with you and legally you are allowed whether people want to admit it or not admit it or do it or not do it the minute they do work with you. Yo, I’d add them to your mailing list. So I immediately moved that you’re shaking your head at me. Why is that?

I I you know, I know. And it wasn’t too long ago where somebody found that very unethical and was was complaining. That is it normal to add someone after they, you know, you book a call, you know, to add them to your list. Absolutely. And and marketing is a numbers game. When we talk about that lead flow.


And making sure that things are coming in, I absolutely if somebody books are called me, I have the check box on the contact form. Nobody ever unchecks it. So they all subscribe to my newsletter when they come in for even the soft inquiry.


Interestingly enough, some recent leads, and I’ve been doing a little more data aggregation and and analytics on who’s interacting with my news. Better. It’s the newest prospects that interact the most often, and they they wanna learn about you learn who you are and some of the the feedback that I’ve gotten is the information that I put in my newsletter. It’s great and it’s been extremely helpful that’s been.

Of course.

A a a tipping point for some clients to sign on and to work with me. So I’m in 100% agreement with you there that. Absolutely. Keep your lead pipeline full. That’s the that’s the.

And then set and then to go with that, set up an automated system. No matter what you convert kit, even male or white, can do automated systems. Now I know I’ve been playing with send Fox by appsumo it does automated system setup and automated system. To do your follow-ups for you to do your nurturing for you and then you don’t have to do it all. It’s all done for you and that’s the beauty of automation, right? You then all that admins task is out the window and you can go back to doing what you do well.

Right, exactly. And you know, speaking about the the lead pipeline. Having that nailed down and making sure that you are continually booking work consistently. That’s that absolutely has to be happening before you even consider hiring someone or working with someone else. If you can’t keep yourself busy consistently, then you’ll you’re just adding a whole different level of stress at the end of the month, making payroll. Keeping employees busy and. So yeah, that’s absolutely the first step and I’m, you know, looking at that point that lead flows and the problem, how do you fulfill all the all the work that you have coming in, that’s the rub and one of the one of the things that I noticed this morning, I saw one of my clients, he’s extremely busy. Does a lot of the same things that I do from a time perspective in that. She tries to put too much in her dad and she did a little exercise and it was funny, she said. I want to do these X things and she said gave put down a task list and and tried to plan it out and she put it into I it was either ChatGPT.


Jim and I, one of the one of the the big two AI tools and she said make me schedule based on average time to accomplish these tasks for the next week. And it had her starting at 4:00 AM.


And ending it and ending at midnight. So when you start looking at time and the things that you need or want to accomplish like you, you know we need a good work life balance and. That’s one of the triggers for me when I’m not having that life balance and I’ve got too much of the work balance that tells me either I’m not being efficient with my time. Or I’ve taken on too many tasks and I need to look.

And usually it’s, and usually for you and I, it’s usually the latter and that’s, that’s where I sit the last couple weeks. It’s like can I can I find two more hours in a day and I’m moving stuff around like chess pieces on a chess board lately it’s gotten that bad.

I I know the feeling and you know the the most trusted people that I’d love to hand off work to and collaborate with is our is our slack group, our mastermind group. But you know what? We’re all equally busy. There’s absolutely no time for any of us to and that’s the important part of that.

That is.

You know you you start looking at your peers and it’s like, uh, what do I do?


It’s so true. Really appreciate this kind of little bit of a short one today, but I think we got our points across. Ryan, thanks as always, love doing. We’ve been doing these monthly segments almost two years now. Not over, so the great.

I yeah. It’s been a while.

People, people seem to love them. Somebody wants to get a hold of you to talk Dev, work or anything else. Where’s the best?

Most major social media platforms at one dog solutions. You can visit my website one dog dot solutions or e-mail me Ryan dot Waterbury at one dog dot solutions.

And man, have a wonderful day. Thanks as always. Appreciate you.

Yeah, you too.

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