Agency Advantage 36: Mandi Ellefson on How to Scale to Freedom

Agency Advantage 36: Mandi Ellefson on How to Scale to Freedom

In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, we’re talking with Mandi Ellefson of HandsOffCEO.com, who shares how your agency can grow without losing your work/life balance.

Many agency owners feel like as their business expands, so do their work hours and stress. On top of all of that, expenses often grow faster than revenue, so at the end of the day the owner is making less money while working more hours. It’s not uncommon for a growing agency owner to make less per hour than some of their employees.

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But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it has to be that way. It’s possible for your agency to grow while working fewer hours, making more money, and dealing with less stress.

Mandi works with agency owners to help them achieve exactly that.

If you ever feel like you’re too busy running your agency to actually work on your agency, then this is the episode for you.

Download a full transcript of the interview with Mandi: Get it right here.

Key Takeaways

Getting stuck in the freelancer mindset (3:45 – 7:00)

There’s a change in mindset that must happen when you shift from freelancer to business owner. A lot of times freelancers grow into an agency, but their mindset doesn’t upgrade into that of a business owner. They’re still stuck in the freelancer mindset.

This often leads to undercharging for your services, because the freelancer mindset keeps you thinking, “I can’t increase my fees because I can’t be competitive in the industry.” As a business owner, you need to be thinking about how you can provide enough value and deliver it in a cost-effective way in order to be profitable.

While you want to develop processes to streamline your delivery of services and increase your margins, you don’t want to use that as an excuse to undercharge. Instead, if you find yourself consistently unable to provide more value and charge appropriately, you need to either find a better target market or find a more valuable problem to solve.

Your agency needs to become more standardized as you grow (9:30 – 15:00)

Mandi says the goal for all of your services is to develop a process where 80% of it can be driven by process and only 20% needs to be custom. That way you can sell it like a custom service (charging higher fees), while delivering it like a product (increased margins).

To achieve this, you shouldn’t lock yourself in a closet as the owner and document everything yourself, as is popularized in books like the “E-Myth” and “Work the System.” The trouble is, having the owners do everything is one of the biggest things that hold agencies back.

Developing processes needs to be a collaborative approach that you can use as you’re training employees to do the job. It’s an ongoing process that is constantly adding value to your business and giving you, the owner, more freedom as you go.

Work on the areas that give you immediate leverage (27:00 – 32:30)

When you’re putting together your scalability plan, it’s easy to think, “I’ve got to do these things in the right steps.” While there are things you must do in a certain order, you should fix any glaring problems first. Breaking through your biggest bottlenecks is what will free up more and more time, compounding your results.

If you’re working 80 hours a week, you may think it’s impossible to cut any hours. However, the more hours you cut, the easier it should get. It isn’t unheard for professionals to cut 20 hours off their 80-hour workweek with one tweak. If you’re already running a tight ship and only putting in 20 hours a week, there simply won’t be much fat to trim. And no matter what you tell yourself, there is always fat to trim if you are consistently putting in long weeks.

Sometimes, the things that can be cut are difficult to find, because you’re entrenched in that 80-hour workweek. You’ll end up being less productive, and it exacerbates the problem. As you work more hours, you become less productive and accomplish less. It’s a sad cycle that leads to burnout and frustration.

Find your biggest bottleneck, figure out how to solve it, and then move on to the next one. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get your time (and life) back.

Want to learn more?

Mandi is giving all of our listeners a free template for how to scale up your agency, which includes a single tweak that can help you find 20 extra hours a month. To download the template, just head over to handsoffceo.com/template.

You can also download a full transcript of this episode.

Resources mentioned:

Brennan Dunn
The E-Myth by Michael Gerber
Work the System by Sam Carpenter

Thanks for listening!

What would you do with an extra 20 hours each month? Let us know in the comments.

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