Q: I want to fire everyone and go solo

We look at the possible options for a burned-out agency owner

Q: I’ve been running a specialist marketing agency for 10 years and I’m so tired. I’ve been working 60+ hour week, staying up late to speak to freelancers, getting sick, trying to keep up with industry trends and having to work on quality control for all work going through the business (including work from my longest-running employees).

I’ve been thinking about how it was so much easier in the old days when it was just me and a small batch of clients. I’m not a good manager, only have basic systems set up and have no breathing room to change anything. Is it wrong to be considering firing everyone, including many of my time-suck clients, and starting back at the basics?

A: I can 100% empathise with you being swallowed up by your business. From our chats, you’re got a huge drive to deliver excellent work and it’s lead to success in terms of revenue but failure in terms of lifestyle.

Let’s jump in to your options and next steps…

Firing everyone

This can seem to many like a drastic step but it does make it a little easier that you’re using freelancers to complete the work. If you do decide on this option, I’d recommend giving your freelancers and clients as much notice as possible to help them transition.

Benefits to this would be:

  • Starting again from scratch with your favourite clients

  • Giving you time to bed down systems and processes that will help you scale in the future

  • Reduce your work hours

  • Potentially look at options for selling some of your existing clients to one of your freelancers or another agency. Done in a delicate way, you could ensure your clients continue to be looked after and benefit from the sale

Scaling Back

This option would involve you limiting new work, potentially “firing” some of your clients and taking a short-term revenue drop whilst you work on systems & processes. By documenting the current steps in your process, using a customer journey map or service blueprint, you’ll have a clear idea of where you could improve. Where are you getting the most customer support requests? How do you cut down on revisions and the time that it takes clients to give feedback on your work? Can you get some email automation built-in so you can update clients automatically throughout the workflow stages?

Benefits to this would be:

  • Less impact on your revenue

  • Potential to rebuild from a smaller base of clients that are better tied-in to your vision

  • Potential to drop some staff and work on your avenues for scaling more sustainably

A New Model

Perhaps you could also look into alternative models for growing your business that don’t involve you needing to do as many management tasks. Options could include:

  • Set up your business with a system where a team of freelancer professionals can work directly with clients within a project management environment. You set up the systems & processes and leave the clients & freelancers to work together. There are many ways to reduce the risks in this option of freelancers working directly with clients

  • Consider forming freelancing teams and allowing them to buy into a franchise-type arrangement for your business.

  • Find the areas where you’re a specialist in your business i.e. if it’s getting new clients, you could partner with other businesses and freelancers to pass on these leads for a fee or commission.

  • Set up a small marketplace where freelancers and clients can request & fulfil job requests. This is easier than it seems.

  • Look into alternative business models like unlimited marketing support (with conditions) so you can better package your best services in a way that is repeatable and scalable.

Hope this helps! Look forward to your comments.

Organizational Systems Setup & Declutter

Reader Question

Question: I need to know how to consolidate all our work stuff, reducing our multiple G suite accounts , goDaddy domains and gmail accounts into one simplified infrastructure for a new company and brand. I’m looking for digital minimalism and workflow simplicity and I’ve been considering Spark mail and Trello project management.

Answer: I’m definitely a fan of digital minimalism and workflow simplicity and see that you’re on the right track with wanting to use Spark and Trello. I’d recommend using either SparkFront or Help Scout email and connecting together all your email accounts so you can respond from the one space.

Next step would be to consolidate your domain names into the one provider. I’d recommend Namecheap as they has a less cluttered interface than Godaddy, have cheaper services like SSL and won’t try to upsell you on every page.

If you’re looking into Trello then I’d assume you’re looking to manage projects that are coming through from your email. I’d recommend using Trello’s email-in feature to send emails into projects and save you time with data entry. There are plenty of simple options for project management but Trello is a great choice.

We need an alternative to Trello for our CRM

Reader Question

Further details: We currently use Trello and need to improve our operations for our growing e-commerce business.  Website does not allow for auto populating information into CRM.  At this time, we need to fix what we have.  We are not interested in remaking our website now.

Could you analyse what we currently have set up in Trello, find out the functions that we need and recommend an alternative CRM? We have considered Zendesk & Freshdesk and want an easy way to transition our data over to the new CRM. We need software that allows for custom fields and will allow us to import excel spreadsheet data from the website into the new CRM.

Answer: We have worked with plenty of clients who have tried to use Trello as a CRM for their ecommerce business. The big upside to using Trello for order fulfilment is that the training time is minimal and the visual aspect of being able to move orders through a production line gives a good overview. The way that you can link up the email-in feature on boards so that orders from WooCommerce, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix etc can flow through into a new card in the first stage of your fulfilment process helps businesses avoid double-entry of data.

The downside to using Trello is that it isn’t a CRM and doesn’t built-in forms for collecting data from your website.

We’d recommend that you look into using Pipedrive with their webform feature for collecting ecommerce leads from your website and feeding the lead details through the first stage of the appropriate sales pipeline. You could then trigger a workflow so that activities (aka a digital to-do list) is created for the appropriate staff member. Using workflows in your ecommerce business will also ensure that automated emails can be sent to clients at the appropriate stage.

Get in contact if you’d like to discuss a comprehensive ecommerce CRM workflow system that also ties into online review management software, email marketing software and others.

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