Agency Journey – Behind the Scenes of an Agency Business

Agency Journey is a monthly series that details the happenings at my agency Barrel, founded in 2006. I also share what’s happening at our other agency businesses under the Barrel Holdings umbrella.

Below are past episodes along with the topics covered in each.

Agency Journey Episode 46 (Y18M1), June 2024

  • The Barrel CEO transition & What I’ll Be Writing About Moving Forward
  • Early Progress in Barrel’s New Approach to Selling Services
  • Our Partnership with Contra
  • 80 Omakase Engagements Later, What It Means for Bolster
  • Growing the Portfolio of Agencies

Agency Journey Episode 45 (Y17M12), May 2024

  • Enjoying R&R
  • Revenue Booking Struggles Continue
  • Shifting Away from Selling Hours
  • The Road to Avoiding Commoditization

Agency Journey Episode 44 (Y17M11), April 2024

  • Moving Out of 197 Grand, Barrel’s Office For Nearly 13 Years
  • Slow Start to the Quarter
  • Our Continued Search for a Sales Lead
  • Partners Book Club
  • Barrel Holdings Q1 2024 Updates
  • The Need to Meet in Person

Agency Journey Episode 43 (Y17M10), March 2024

  • Posting on LinkedIn Update
  • New Business Wins to Close Out Q1
  • Getting Organized With a 1-Page Report
  • Bolster: Going All In On the Offer
  • Looking for a Sales Lead

Agency Journey Episode 42 (Y17M9), February 2024

  • Taking Inspiration from Walt Disney
  • Positioning and Marketing Around CPG Food & Bev
  • Potential Acquisitions for Barrel
  • Simplifying Our Ongoing Offering Across the HoldCo
  • Talent, Talent, Talent

Agency Journey Episode 41 (Y17M8), January 2024

  • The Swings Between Sales & Marketing and Recruiting
  • Riding the Pipeline Rollercoaster
  • New Barrel Website Launch
  • HoldCo Momentum
  • Sales and Marketing Approach This Year

Agency Journey Episode 40 (Y17M7), December 2023

  • Lessons That Helped Us Stay Focused This Year
  • Some Wins Heading Into New Year
  • Org Structure Changes: PMs to Software Team
  • Activity at Bolster, BX, and Vaulted Oak
  • Goal Setting for Next Year

Agency Journey Episode 39 (Y17M6), November 2023

  • Life is Fleeting, Being Grateful (a Thanksgiving note)
  • Account Planning for 2024
  • A Sizable Client Going Away
  • Some Wins, Some Losses, and a Couple of Launches
  • Present Needs vs. Building For The Future

Agency Journey Episode 38 (Y17M5), October 2023

  • Partner Book Club & Barrel Holdings Meeting
  • Attending Conferences: Shopify Partner Summit, Webflow Conference, and ChargeUp
  • Barrel Retreat 2023
  • Lots of New Biz Activity But Long Sales Cycles
  • Overcoming the Fear of Rejection & What That Enables

Agency Journey Episode 37 (Y17M4), September 2023

  • Business Thoughts During Parental Leave
  • Falling Short on Revenue Goals, Rounding Out 2023
  • Leads Analysis Takeaways
  • Examining Our Business Model

Agency Journey Episode 36 (Y17M3), August 2023

  • Moving Upstate & Out of Brooklyn
  • Small Deals, But Wins Nonetheless
  • Building Momentum with Bolster
  • Drilling Down Deeper Into the Business

Agency Journey Episode 35 (Y17M2), July 2023

  • Spain Vacation & Working in Europe Time Zone
  • Celebrating Lucas’s 10 Years at Barrel
  • A Couple of Client Website Launches, Opportunity to Improve Content Experience for Clients
  • Barrel Holdings: BX Studio and Vaulted Oak Continue Their Growth
  • Rethinking Agency Marketing

Agency Journey Episode 34 (Y17M1), June 2023

  • Briefly Celebrating 17 Years
  • Outbound Lead Generation Update
  • New Business Wins & A Major Launch
  • Ecommerce Agency Summit in Toronto
  • Ongoing Commitment to Continuous Improvement

Agency Journey Episode 33 (Y16M12), May 2023

  • New Business Wins (Finally)
  • Getting Results Through Networking
  • Attending a Couple of Conferences
  • Solidifying Bolster’s Offering
  • “Culture is an Output, Not an Input”

Agency Journey Episode 32 (Y16M11), April 2023

  • The Nice Thing About Having Agency Friends
  • Slow Month of New Biz Wins
  • Trying Another Outbound Firm
  • Vaulted Oak and BX Studio Showing Strong Results
  • A New Site Launch and the Importance of Returning Clients

Agency Journey Episode 31 (Y16M10), March 2023

  • Our Roam Trial & Too Much Software
  • Business Development Reset
  • Attrition and Hiring
  • Wins & Losses and a Couple of Launches
  • ChatGPT Plus for Employees, Some Thoughts on AI
  • Zooming Out and Acknowledging Progress

Agency Journey Episode 30 (Y16M9), February 2023

  • The Tension Between Gratitude and Growth
  • Some New Business Wins But Behind Pace
  • Continuing to Strengthen Partnerships
  • DTC Patterns Podcast
  • Taking Off the Blinders Necessitates Bold Moves

Agency Journey Episode 29 (Y16M8), January 2023

  • Confidence in Our Systems and Structures
  • Navigating Setbacks to Start the Year
  • Doing New and Different Things to Generate Business Momentum
  • Taking an Inner Stance of Fearlessness

Agency Journey Episode 28 (Y16M7), December 2022

  • Trouble “Turning Off” During the Holidays
  • Mixed Results in Finishing the Year
  • Wrapping Up Strong First Full Year for Both Vaulted Oak and BX Studio
  • Reflecting on a Negative Glassdoor Review
  • Lessons to Take into 2023

Agency Journey Episode 27 (Y16M6), November 2022

  • Black+Decker Website Launch
  • Delays on the New Business Front & Learning From Lost Deals
  • New Barrel Holdings Website
  • Takeaways from Breaking Down Our Finances
  • Leveling Up Performance & Making Fearless Decisions

Agency Journey Episode 26 (Y16M5), October 2022

  • Q4 Barrel Partners All-Day and Barrel Holdings Meeting + Dinner
  • Barrel Retreat in NYC is a Success
  • Shopify Unite and SoDA GMM
  • New Business Wins and a Critical Launch
  • Tightening the Screws on Our Processes

Agency Journey Episode 25 (Y16M4), September 2022

  • Getting into Rhythm as an Agency
  • DTC Patterns, 1 Year Later
  • Progress in Marketing the Agency
  • Analyzing New Business Wins
  • Finishing the Year Strong

Agency Journey Episode 24 (Y16M3), August 2022

  • Gearing Up for Team-wide Retreat in October
  • Vaulted Oak Celebrates 1 Year of Being in Business
  • Continued Momentum with New Client Wins & Sales Efficiency
  • New Client Website Launches
  • Going on the Offensive with Talent
  • Focusing on the Basics: Revisiting and Reframing Our 2022 Theme

Agency Journey Episode 23 (Y16M2), July 2022

  • A Key Structural Change That’s Had Big Impact
  • Launching Projects & Winning New Work Boosts Morale
  • Quarterly Meetings with Team Leads, Partners, and Barrel Holdings Portfolio Companies
  • Responding to a Client Project Crisis and Doing Some Hands-on Work

Agency Journey Episode 22 (Y16M1), June 2022

  • Leveraging Audits as a New Business Tool
  • Testing Out Discipline Team Retreats
  • The System of Accountability
  • Twelve Months from Now

Agency Journey Episode 21 (Y15M12), May 2022

  • Re-onboarding 1-on-1s with the Team
  • Town Hall and a Tough Question About Layoffs
  • Patience and Enabling Execution

Agency Journey Episode 20 (Y15M11), April 2022

  • A Professional Liability Case
  • Our First Ever Barrel Holdings Quarterly Review Meeting
  • A Longtime Client Gives Notice
  • Shifting C-Suite Responsibilities
  • Performance and Standards in Managing Employees

Agency Journey Episode 19 (Y15M10), March 2022

  • A Couple of Launches
  • Boomerang Hire, Our New Director of Software Engineering
  • Staying Tight on Costs

Agency Journey Episode 18 (Y15M9), February 2022

  • Hard Realities and Tough Decisions
  • Heads Down Execution

Agency Journey Episode 17 (Y15M8), January 2022

  • New Business Wins & Outbound Action
  • Team Attrition Setbacks & Q12 Worries
  • Annual Planning Meetings
  • Simplifying the Business with Key Metrics
  • We Launched a New Portfolio Company

Agency Journey Episode 16 (Y15M7), December 2021

  • Working in New Team Members
  • New Launches & New Wins
  • Keeping It Simple in 2022

Agency Journey Episode 15 (Y15M6), November 2021

  • Containing and Putting Out Fires
  • New Launches & New Wins
  • Achieving Hiring Goals
  • Sharpening My Focus in Key Areas

Agency Journey Episode 14 (Y15M5), October 2021

  • Missing the office vibe
  • Quarterly Partner Meeting in person
  • Choppy Waters: Business Struggles & Team Turnover
  • Sports Analogy: Taking Our Eyes Off the Games

Agency Journey Episode 13 (Y15M4), September 2021

  • The unstoppable force of human adaptation
  • DTC Patterns
  • Barrel Manager Growth Framework
  • The need to refocus on client outcomes

Agency Journey Episode 12 (Y15M3), August 2021

  • Building a Talent Acquisition Discipline
  • Modernizing Our Financial Systems
  • Launching Vaulted Oak, a New Agency Business
  • Staying Disciplined on the New Business Front

Agency Journey Episode 11 (Y15M2), July 2021

  • In-Person Partner Planning Meeting
  • Mid-Year Reflections
  • Barrel Maxims
  • All Feedback is Information (How we responded to negative Glassdoor review)

Agency Journey Episode 10 (Y15M1), June 2021

  • Celebrating 15 Years
  • New Talent Acquisition Manager
  • No More Fighting Fires
  • Agency Business Model

Agency Journey Episode 9 (Y14M12), May 2021

  • Launches & New Business Wins
  • Immunity to Change Map
  • New Org Structure
  • Prioritizing Talent Acquisition

Agency Journey Episode 8 (Y14M11), April 2021

  • Wes Celebrates 10 Years at Barrel
  • Quarterly Town Hall
  • Initiatives Across the Board (Impact of coaching)
  • Leadership (Making hard decisions)
  • The Downstream Impact of Business Development

Agency Journey Episode 7 (Y14M10), March 2021

  • Leveling Up on HubSpot
  • Agency One-Pager
  • Novus Global Training
  • Busting Through the Intuitive Fence
  • Systematizing Lead Generation

Agency Journey Episode 6 (Y14M9), February 2021

  • Making Meetings Effective
  • Sei-Wook Becomes a Dad
  • Tightening Up Our Services Offering
  • Reimagining the Way We Work (Moving to Asana)

Agency Journey Episode 5 (Y14M8), January 2021

  • A Week of Looking Ahead (Annual planning meetings recap)
  • Our Director of Client Services Starts
  • Profit Share Goes Out
  • A Few of Sizable Investments (Professional services membership org and coaching)
  • Project Delays and Their Impact
  • Team Structure, Utilization, and Leverage

Agency Journey, Episode 4 (Y14M7), December 2020

  • New Business Wins Just in Time
  • Director of Client Services Hired
  • Sales Schema Outbound Campaigns
  • Thinking About Business Structure (Pod-based model and accounts)
  • Writing Down Thoughts, Visualizing Ideas

Agency Journey, Episode 3 (Y14M6), November 2020

  • Director of Business Development (Dan’s promotion)
  • Director of Client Services Hiring Continues
  • Taking Time Off
  • 80/20 Principle and Managing My Time & Priorities
  • Vision, Intentions, and Questions

Agency Journey, Episode 2 (Y14M5), October 2020

  • Promotions
  • Hiring for Director of Client Services
  • Initiatives to Make the Business Stronger (Leveraging software for the business)

Agency Journey, Episode 1 (Y14M4), September 2020

  • New Business (Wins)
  • Improving the Barrel Team Experience
  • Feedback (Team workshop and debriefs)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Recruiting and Org Structure
  • New Business Leads (Marketing to drive more)