Ep 008 | The Dark Side of Scaling an Agency Fast with Kim Barrett

Episode Highlights:

0:00 - Intro

2:51 - Upside and Downside of Fast Upscaling

10:19 - The Beauty of Slow, Sustainable Growth

11:44 - Charley’s Experience with fast Upscale

20:32 - Importance of Studying Financial Management

23:38 - Contemplations, Regrets and Things that could have been done better

30:53 - Figuring out by Yourself vs. Getting help

33:25 - Closing Remarks

Episode Transcript:

Charley: Hey guys it's Charley here, the host of the Agency Valley podcast and today I'm bringing you a different episode. I really wanted to touch on the dark side of scaling and agency quickly. I really feel like scaling an agency fast has been glorified by the market and a lot of people think that if I can just scale and grow more quickly that that's really gonna solve all my problems. So me and the wonderful Kim Barrett of ‘Your Social Voice’ decided to really talk about our own experiences in scaling an agency quickly and really the repercussions and dark side of scaling an agency fast. So, I hope you will listen to this episode. I hope you'll learn from the big mistakes both myself and Kim made when it came to our agencies. and I hope this episode saves you some of the pain that so many go through with fast growth. So, if you do like this episode please make sure to LIKE and subscribe to the show and please share it with the other agency owners out there.

[Intro Music Plays]

Charley: Hello agency owners it's Charley here, the host of the agency valley podcast and today I am joined by--I'm gonna call you my co-host now--how many episodes you come on here for? We're gonna say--Kim Barrett, the one and only co-host. How are you Kim?

Kim: I'm doing a super well, mister Charley, sir. How are you doing?

Charley: Well, I've missed you, in all honesty. So, listeners of the show: Kim's actually been away in the Maldives. His sister was getting married,which is awesome, but that meant no podcast time for us.

Kim:  It feels like I haven't seen you in so long. But, look the Maldives did come in a close second to Charley Valher.

Charley: Hey, I’m happy with that I'll take that. I think it's worthy now we've got what I would call an interesting topic---a really, really interesting topic today, which is the dark side of scaling an agency fast. Now, I think both of us has experienced this really, really felt I'm going the pain and frustration of it where I feel like in the marketplace, and what I hear from most people is like they

almost think this is the answer. Everyone wants to scale an agency quickly without kind of thinking through the other side of it, I'm really hopeful that on this episode this is what we're

going to be at a shed some light on and essentially prepare people for.

Upside and Downside of Fast Upscaling

Charley: Why don’t you tell your story on this? I have a story on this,  I’m sure you got your story as well. Why don’t you tell me your story about quickly scaling? The downsides and the even the upsides of it?

Kim: The upside is relatively easy to start off, we kind of joked about it before but really, the only thing that probably goes up is ego. When you’re growing fast and you got more money coming in, new clients and getting results, things like that happen and you’re like “Oh wow, maybe I am as awesome as my momma always said I was.” You make yourself your own little badge. The big things was obviously increase in income. When we were in a fast growth stage, and we took in a client, one of the things you would start to feel is invincible. I was already doing E-commerce, getting good results, like 7,000 a month retainers, this was start of November. We started running things, a small thing at that time. The team wasn’t big enough for the amount work we were gonna be doing. We started scaling things as they wanted, i didn’t realize beforehand that I wasn’t actually able to know the scope what was gonna be needed. This was gonna be way, way too much.

The Beauty of Slow, Sustainable Growth

Charley: I think there’s a lot of lessons you said there. I am in love with the idea of slow, sustainable growth. I know that sounds so counter-intuitive ‘cause doing something  ig--there’s a lot of excitement there.

Kim: But, going back, really what’s the rush? Yes, we all want growth and all the cool things that come with that, but it was really a problem.

Charley: I’ll be honest, I had something to prove to myself and to my partner. I think the people that scale quickly, the one that are hungry and got something to prove, it is certainly something that will test you. Let’s do it slow and profitable. And sustainable--that’s the big word there.

Charley’s Experience with fast Upscale

Charley: I had cracked the code by some mysterious luck and had an influx of clients. I’ve done a joint venture, followed by some re-marketing. To give you an idea, we had just one staff member doing about 10 grand a month and then we pushed through with 50 grand a month, to 60 even up to 70 grand a month in the space of four months. Quite month on month doubling, which was intense and awesome. In the beginning, we were pulling it off, which led to overconfidence. Gave me no reason to say no or to stop. But, I realized, I need people to do this, I’ve got a limit on how many accounts I can look after. I was doing Facebook ads and Google ads. I’m gonna hire more people. I had a person looking after Adwords. I had a person looking after Facebook. And a person looking after all the landing pages and tech and all that stuff. So I just went out there and hired two people. They were good people, but I didn’t understand cash flow. So I didn’t understand the burden of hiring two people at that point because you just three X the amount of team you have. When you have one and you go to three, that is really a painful step. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, I ran out of cash. My business on the surface was scaling like mad, I didn’t have money to pay myself. Every cent was going to the team--you might get paid, but where does the retainer start? Naively, I wasn’t taking any set-up fee. It took me months and months to undo that cash flow cycle. That ended up being one of my best lessons. I learned so much about financial management of a business which became really helpful in doing everything else. I’ll never forget that burden I actually felt like a failure.

Importance of Studying Financial Management

Kim: When I was at university, no one was running a Facebook agency. Who do I ask? What do I do?

Charley: Even then, would you have been open to this information? Probably one of the most boring subjects that existed in business.

Kim: You don’t know. You’re unaware of it. Unless you have that pain, you don’t know that. If you’re an agency owner listening to us, please do learn from our mistake. We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now, If we didn’t have those experiences.

Contemplations, Regrets and Things that could have been done better

Charley: I think there’s great value in stretching yourself, but you can definitely not go to the extremes we’ve gone through here. So I’ll ask you a different question here, Kim. If you could go back, what would you do differently? And part two of that, if you’re an agency owner who hasn’t experienced this, what are you looking out for? signs?

Kim: I think, for me, I think that when you start to think that confidence, that’s exactly when you need to revert back and double down on everything. ‘Cause I feel like when you need to take off, Imagine when you’re driving and your eyes start to lift up away from the road, but there’s many things on the road that are still going to happen. Make sure that when you do feel that momentum, moving forward, that’s when you triple--check everything and keep your eyes on your key metrics, key numbers, dashboards, the information of your team. Make sure you check in with your people more regularly. Yes, things are going well. However, always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Similar to that.

Figuring out by Yourself vs. Getting help

Kim: I don’t know if it’s a guy thing, getting help from a community, when I had no freaking ideas what was going on. Now it’s like “Charley, tell me all the wrong things going on here. Please help.”  

Charley: Charley at 22 could have been like, “I’m gonna work this out myself.” Charley today, problem comes out, not even gonna try and solve it. I’m just gonna try and find someone who’s already solved it and ask “How did you do that?”

Kim: There’s no way we could have an answer to everything. We have to get it from someone else.


Kim Barrett

Kim Barrett is a marketing strategist, international speaker and trainer, helping businesses grow 6, 7 and even 8 figures.

Kim is the Founder and CEO of Your Social Voice (YSV), an Australian based Digital Marketing Agency established in 2015. YSV helps businesses get heard on Social Media, and most importantly build engagement, generate more leads and more sales.

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