agency ownerBecoming an agency owner is an intimidating concept for many people.

How do I do it?

Can I afford to go out on my own?

Where are my customers going to come from?

What can we offer that differs from everyone else?

These are all questions we ask ourselves, when we contemplate going out on our own.

And they’re all very important.

There’s no simple solution or magic recipe to guarantee success.

If there were, I’m sure we’d all choose to work for ourselves and set our own rules—live the dream!

It takes endless hard work, determination, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

I’ve been here before, and learned a lot of important lessons over the years.

Many of these are going to be key to the success of my new venture—The Neighbourhood Agency.

And I plan to succeed!

As I set out to build my new agency, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these questions, and working through solutions I believe will help me build the business I envision.

So I thought I’d share a few of my learnings, for any of you who may be heading down this path.

Build a Plan

When I started my previous company and became an agency owner, I really just flew by the seat of my pants.

I sold my home, packed up my car, and traveled across the country on a hunch.

It’s not that I didn’t think about it a lot, or take it seriously, but I honestly didn’t create a plan.

I relied on my knowledge, relationships, and skills to start it up and keep it going.

Those were all critical elements, but without a plan, I’m sure I didn’t seize as many opportunities.

We would never recommend to our clients to go to market without a solid strategy, goals, and objectives to measure success.

So why are our businesses any different?

They aren’t.

I worked on my first agency for close to 10 years, and I believe it was quite successful.

But I really have no gauge, other than the fact that I had a number of great clients, and I paid my bills.

Could it have been bigger?

Could our profits have been higher?

Why were some years better than others?

Those are questions I honestly can’t answer, because I didn’t have a plan to refer to or learn from.

I closed down that agency about four years ago, and went back to working “for someone else”.

During my stint at a larger organization, I was able to glean knowledge from many other seasoned entrepreneurs, including the importance of planning.

This time around, I started with a plan.

And I know this venture will be successful because of a plan, and not despite it.  

Learn From Mistakes

Everyone makes them, but we don’t always understand how they provide us with more learnings than any win.

Dig deep.

While my first experience as an agency owner was great, there were many things that didn’t quite happen the way I expected.

Part of it was just growing pains.

But part was due to my ignoring areas that needed attention.

It’s human nature to avoid challenges we don’t like, or decisions we’re not confident about.

But in my experience, those are exactly the areas we should focus on.

Learn from these, and take that knowledge to ensure your next plan, program, or business excels in that area.

Again, when we work with clients, we always provide them with insights into the challenges we faced, what could have been done better, and key learnings.

Make sure you do this for your own business too!

It’s a great feeling to look back and realize you’ve been able to conquer something that previously kicked your ass.

Work for Yourself, Not by Yourself

Networking is king.

Don’t know something? Ask.

Need some advice? Ask.

But, also make sure you’re open to providing the same.

There’s nothing worse than someone who’s always looking for help, but never giving anything back in return.

Stay in touch with people.

Ask them out for a coffee or beer.

Be genuinely engaged in what’s going on in their life—personally and professionally—and reach out when they have some positive news in their world.

And, just as important (if not more so), reach out when they have something challenging to face.

Just as you would with a friend or family member, ask, “How can I help?”

Don’t just be there for the highlights, dig in for the low points too.

It’s vitally important to make time for others, and help them whenever you can.

It just feels good.

And, you never know how they may be able to support you and your goals.

Mentors, work groups, and business coaches are also extremely helpful to guide you along the way, and inspire you to strive for more.

Find someone you respect, and who is knowledgeable in the areas you want to excel at, and create a relationship with them.

If you can find someone you can provide guidance to in another area, that’s a win-win.

Hold each other accountable for your progress, and take time to celebrate small (and big) wins together.

That’s exactly what prompted me to try again.  

What I’ve Learned as an Agency Owner

We want to create an environment where communications professionals from all different areas can work together to build something great, and deliver unmatched results for our clients.

We are a collective of independent and small businesses that believe we’re better together.

We’re creating an agency environment where we can all succeed independently, and as a collective, too.

I’ve been in the agency world for a long time, and I love that I can continue to learn every day.

There are always new experiences, new clients, and new friends along the way.

So, my advice, if you want to take it: take the risk.

But make sure you’re ready for it to be as awesome as you can possibly imagine.

Prepare yourself.

Keep learning.

Build a network.

It’s worth it.

Do you see yourself as an agency owner? Is anything holding you back? Share your comments below.

Betsy Cooper

With more than 20 years of experience as a strategic communications expert, Betsy founded The Neighbourhood Agency in 2018. Her extensive experience in the food & beverage, travel, health and lifestyle communications realms has allowed her to create innovative and integrated media relations, influencer, social media, events and crisis communications strategies on both the agency and client side of the business. From beer to beauty, fashion to football, she utilizes her strong leadership and communication skills to collaborate honestly and openly with clients to ensure their programs meet and exceed all expectations. Over the years, she has had the opportunity to develop, oversee and execute programs and campaigns for clients such as Orangetheory Fitness, American Express Global Business Travel, Invictus Games, Hisense, Tourism PEI, Molson Coors, Labatt Breweries, Sleeman Breweries, NFL Canada, CBC, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Nike and many others.

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