Karl Sakas

How to KonMari Your Agency

By: Karl Sakas | March 5, 2019 | 
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The KonMari method (aka the art of decluttering and organizing) is back and bigger than ever.

And there’s a good reason why: we’re all looking for “maximum” joy.

Early in Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a stressed-out couple shares how their life has become exhausting.

They’re eager for a way to get things under control again, but they’re not sure where to even start.

Lucky for all of us, that’s what Marie Kondo is selling: order and simplification.

And her framework goes beyond organizing your home.

As an agency leader, you can use the KonMari method to make your work more rewarding by “tidying” your agency.

Pro tip: don’t sort your clients by piling them on the bed.

Rule 1: Commit to Tidying Your Agency the KonMari Way

Do you truly want to change?

Many agency leaders say they’re ready to change, but they don’t want to do the hard work.

What can you drop or delegate today to create space for the process?

The sooner you commit, the sooner you can see results.

If you have a business partner, they’ll need to be on board with making changes, too.

Later, you’ll also want to recruit key employees to help rather than carry 100 percent of this yourself.

Rule 2: Imagine Your Ideal Lifestyle

Write an “advance retrospective,” where you visualize the future as if it’s already happened.

Start by writing: “Today is <future date>. It’s a great day because…”

You can choose any timeline for the advance retrospective—a year from now, five years from now, or even the day you retire or sell your agency.

Most agency leaders write one to three pages over the course a week or two, but there’s no minimum or maximum.

Think about how you spend your time, the people you work with, and the decisions you make.

I find most agency leaders aspire to make themselves “needed, but not necessary.”

But you may find you want to stop running the agency altogether.

Want to accelerate your forward progress?

Circulate a summary of your advance retrospective to your team, so they can offer support.

After all, your team can’t read your mind.

Rule 3: Finish Discarding First

Use the KonMari method to start with your business strategies and tactics that are not working, using data to guide you.

Which internal and external processes can you discard?

The next area is tougher, as it directly impacts revenue: your clients.

Which clients are moving you forward versus just keeping your business afloat?

To triage which to grow, and which to cut, evaluate each client by their current value and future potential.

Terminating clients may take a while, depending on the cash flow impact.

Are all of your team members helping you move the agency forward?

If someone isn’t a fit, don’t terminate them immediately.

First have a critical conversation about the situation, their future at the agency, and how you can help them get to the position they want.

Since you’re likely partly responsible for letting the mismatch get to this point, give them a timeline to find a new role or position inside of the agency.

Maybe their passions lie in something – a service – you aren’t currently offering. 

That could be a fantastic opportunity for them – and you – to grow.

Rule 4: Tidy By Category, Not By Location

The KonMari method has five categories: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and sentimental items.

Here are five categories for tidying your agency:

  • Vision is about where you want to go. The business should serve you, rather than the opposite. This includes whether you lean toward an exit (equity) or lifestyle; either is OK, but you can’t optimize for both at once. You and your business partners will need to have a chat.
  • Positioning is about how focus can realize your vision. You don’t have to specialize by industry, but it certainly makes everything else easier.
  • Services Model is your mix of “think” (strategy), “teach” (training and empowerment) and “do” (implementation). It also includes the pricing model you use to deliver the services, whether hourly, milestone, and/or value-based.
  • Lead-Gen Model is how you attract new clients. With this, you can use a three-part “inbound branding” strategy: specialize, deliver thought leadership marketing, and use marketing automation to stay top of mind. 
  • Staffing Model is about roles and team structure. This should flow from the earlier categories; staffing shouldn’t “wag the dog.”

There’s rarely one “right” answer in each area.

Instead, you’ll tailor your decisions to your unique values, goals, and resources.

Rule 5: Follow the Right Order

Tidy your agency in this order: vision, positioning, services model, lead-gen model, and staffing model.

This order helps you make the biggest decisions first. As Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind.”

Once you know your vision—where you want to go and what you want your agency to “be”—you can choose or refine the positioning that gets you there.

Once you know your positioning, you can adjust your services model.

For instance, the degree to which you’ll focus on strategy vs. implementation.

Your positioning and services drive how you generate leads and how you staff and structure teams.

With your strategic choices in place, you can build out your plan and start executing.

Rule 6: Ask Yourself if it Sparks Joy

Are you excited when the week starts?

If not, using the KonMari method to make changes can help you understand what the root of the problem is, and how you can move forward.

Most people don’t have the power to restructure their work to make it joyful. They don’t have the autonomy or resources.

Yet as business leaders, we’re in a position of privilege.

Not all leaders or those with executive authority are actual leaders.

It’s up to you to make the decision on whether or not you want to lead and be the captain of your team.  

Don’t waste the opportunity—spark joy by tidying your agency today.

Have you tried to streamline or reposition your agency? Would the KonMari method work for you? Leave your answers in the comments.

Photo by Maarten Deckers on Unsplash

About Karl Sakas


Agency growth is good… unless it gets out of control. Karl Sakas helps agency owners increase their profits and reduce their stress, by conquering growing pains. As management consultant and executive coach at Sakas & Company, Karl has personally advised hundreds of agencies on every inhabited continent. He is the author of "Made to Lead," "The In-Demand Marketing Agency," and more than 300 articles on agency management. When he’s not helping clients, Karl is an award-winning Past President of AMA Triangle and volunteers as a bartender on a 1930s railroad car. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.