I had been there a thousand times before.
It felt like a cruel nightmare that wouldn't end.
It was New Year's weekend, and I was sitting in a ski lodge.
Everyone around me was walking around in their ski boots and coats. They were enjoying lunch and hot chocolate break after a morning on the slopes.
I was working. Agency life is a grind, and that doesn't stop on the weekends. Or holidays.
Our agency was in a growth phase. We had finally closed several retainer deals. Life should be looking up. But it wasn't.
I felt overwhelmed and underprepared.
Up to this point, my co-founders and I could keep things straight in our heads. When you only have a handful of clients, it isn't hard to keep the plates spinning.
But with things growing, we were feeling the pinch.
There I was in that ski lodge trying out another project management platform.
An hour earlier, I was SO excited. I thought I had found the unicorn. The tool that was going to solve our problem.
But now I was looking at a blank screen and a flashing cursor.
This one wasn't going to cut it either.
I leaned back in the chair and looked up at the ski slopes. They were clean and crisp. The tiny figures made their way down the hill.
It was kind of like after a whole bunch of bad dates. You start wondering if maybe the girl wasn't the problem. Maybe the problem is you.
"There has to be a better way," I thought to myself.
I didn't want to build a business that turned into a prison.
Our goal starting out was to build a business that fit our lifestyle.
But it turned out that the opposite was happening.
The agency was dictating our lifestyle.
We needed a tool to help us pull out of client implementation.
We needed to bring in others to do the work if we wanted to grow. But no one understood the processes like we did.
We needed a way to pull all these processes out of our minds and document them in a way that other people could follow.
Maybe you've been there, too.
If you're anything like me, you have thought that what you're looking for is a project management tool.
You search high and low looking for a magical combination of features and reports.
But after countless free trials and annoying salespeople, you're left frustrated and confused.
That day in the ski lodge and in the months that followed, I discovered I was searching for something bigger.
What I was searching for was a system to manage our agency. And that is WAY beyond a simple project management tool.
We were looking for an agency operating system. This system would break everything we're trying to do into repeatable pieces.
If we could make each piece of our process repeatable, that meant we didn't need to do the work every time.
We could finally start hiring more people. We could give them a system that outlined the process they should follow.
The Path Forward
Too many agencies don’t have a system in place to make a profit. They find themselves spending time on what is easy and not on what is profitable.
In 1955, Ray Kroc revolutionized the fast food industry. He created the franchise model that made McDonald's a household name around the world.
The key to their success was building repeatable systems inside a scalable framework.
Agencies need to think the same way.