Author: Peter Kang

Reassessing My Definition of Success

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Definition of success (Green-Wood Cemetery lake)

In 2010, we moved into a new office a few blocks away from the Flatiron District in Manhattan. Coming from a small, dark room at a co-working space, the new office felt like a dream come true. We had a conference room, a private office for me and my Barrel co-founder Sei-Wook to share, and an open area for about six employees. I distinctly remember talking to Sei-Wook after our move and saying, “This place […]

Agency Journey Episode 33 (Y16M12)

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May was a hard month. Lots of travel, meetings, and moments, both business and personal, that tested my patience. Thankfully, I knew this was going to be the case going in, so I tried to be as mentally prepared as possible. The trick was to take things one day at a time, enjoying the occasional down moments as best I could and also celebrating even the smallest of wins. More travel, work, and personal obligations […]

Lessons from “Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service”

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Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles is a quick read (a little over 100 pages, can easily be finished in one sitting) told in a business parable style. A protagonist called Area Manager is guided by a fairy godmother-like character named Charlie and introduced to business owners practicing the Raving Fans framework, delivering exceptional customer experiences to their respective customers. Raving Fans Framework Overview The Raving Fans […]

Agency Journey Episode 32 (Y16M11)

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Agency Journey cover image - kids in wood filled shack

A key to longevity in this business is to have a lot of friends who also run agency businesses. I’ve been lucky to meet and develop relationships with dozens of agency operators over the years. They’ve inspired me with their discipline, creative thinking, leadership, and ambitions. They’ve been great sources of comfort when things haven’t gone so well for me, sometimes lending a patient ear to hear out my challenges and at other times commiserating […]

Agency Business Lessons: Distilled and Oversimplified

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I’ve written about the various aspects of running an agency business. Like any other topic, the deeper you get into it, the more nuances and complexities you encounter. However, it’s worth taking a step back every now and then to revisit some core ideas even if they may come off as oversimplifications. I present to you five agency business lessons: 1. Win New Business Winning new work from clients is what breathes life into the […]

Agency Journey Episode 31 (Y16M10)

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We concluded our trial of Roam, a virtual office collaboration tool that’s meant to evoke a sense of place online while encouraging more casual “drop-in” conversations among team members. The interface looked sleek and the value proposition was promising, so we went for a 30-day trial with our team. The 30 days came and went very quickly and we decided to send out a team survey to get a check on how people were feeling […]

Four Things to Consider for My Forties

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I turned forty years old today. I spent time with my kids, shoveled our driveway (it snowed up in Rhinebeck), got in a workout, enjoyed dinner out with Melanie, had cake with the kids, and took a long walk alone outside. It was a quiet, normal, and beautiful day. My thirties flew by quickly. It feels like yesterday that I sat down and wrote about some things on my mind as I turned thirty. But […]

Agency Journey Episode 30 (Y16M9)

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“What I am suggesting is that a dose of gratitude be injected into the process, because everything is not “bad.” We all have a long list of things to be grateful for. Never say, “It can’t get any worse,” because it can get a lot worse. I love H. Ross Perot’s definition of an entrepreneur: “Someone who is grateful for the progress that has been made and simultaneously dissatisfied with the rate they are making […]

A Beautiful Day

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Note: Right before heading to bed on a winter weekend night, I took a few minutes to remember what transpired that day. I wake up tired and groggy, but it’s 7:20 and I can hear my oldest son Grant playing with his trains right outside the bedroom. Mel goes upstairs to change our younger boy Teddy. I make a smoothie for the kids dumping bananas, spinach, blueberries, pineapple, mango, and strawberry chunks into a blender. […]

Agency Journey Episode 29 (Y16M8)

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I’m feeling positive about how we’re starting the year. This isn’t because things are all rosy and looking up. In fact, as you’ll read in the next section, we’ve had some setbacks that’s required tough decisions in the first few weeks of 2023. But what feels different about this year is that we’re starting off with a lot more confidence in the systems and structures we have in place, the result of a year-long effort […]

Agency Lead Sources and Going Deeper with Each

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Types of Lead Sources At Barrel, we’ve stumbled into a number of different lead sources over the years, and the mistake we made was in not taking the time to understand the source and how to keep the flow strong. We recognized the source and assumed that they’d organically continue coming. To start, these are the most common lead sources I’ve experienced. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means (e.g. it doesn’t have inbound […]

2022: An Annual Review

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For the second year, I’ve put together an annual review. It was, on the whole, a wonderful and memorable year. Sure, there were setbacks and disappointments, but there were joyful moments and all kinds of learnings. Once again, taking the time to reflect on the year was in itself a great reward. Highlights Watching the Boys Grow Up Grant is almost 4 and Teddy will be 2 in March. It was the first full year […]

Agency Journey Episode 28 (Y16M7)

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I have to admit that I have trouble “turning off” during the holiday season. I enjoy time with family and friends, watch a few movies and football games, read a bit more fiction, but I still come back to thinking about the business. My guess is that a lot of entrepreneurs / business owners are in this camp, continually reflecting on what went right and wrong over the past year and looking ahead to how […]

Agency Annual Financial Planning Tool

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I’ve created a spreadsheet that agencies can use to plan their finances for an upcoming year using a bottoms-up approach. With the right inputs, one should be able to come away with targets for revenue and profit. For the past ten weeks, my Barrel co-founder Sei-Wook and I have been poring over our finances, reorganizing the data, and coming up with different ways to land at our targets for next year. It’s been an enlightening […]

Agency Journey Episode 27 (Y16M6)

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agency growth goals scenario

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to express my gratitude for all the hardships and setbacks that being in this business has presented me over the years. They’ve made me tougher, more humble, a bit savvier, a bit smarter, and ever more optimistic. I remain optimistic and energized because of the wonderful people of Barrel who work closely with me to navigate all the hardships and setbacks that come our way all while sharing […]

The 10 Times Question: What Happens to Your Business When You 10X?

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In Extreme Revenue Growth by Victor Cheng, a book about developing “revenue growth engines” to scale quickly from $1 million to $25 million+ in revenues, Cheng introduces “The 10 Times Question” which goes like this: If your business grew 10 times overnight, would you be able to handle it? The question is intended to help company leaders think about what might break in the business if sudden growth were to happen and in doing so […]

The Satisfactions of a Small Business Owner

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I’ve been running a small business for the past 16+ years, and in that time, my relationship with the business has evolved quite a bit. One way to reflect on this evolution is to share the things about the business that please me and bring me joy. I’ve compiled a list of five “satisfactions” that have energized me and kept me going with the business. Satisfaction #1: An Impactful Hire I don’t think I can […]

Agency Journey Episode 26 (Y16M5)

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October has felt like an extra-long month this year. A combination of lots of personal travel, lots of in-person meetings with different people, changing routines with my family, and being sick a couple of times seemed to stretch each week out and demand extra energy and activity. All in all, it’s been a great month with a lot to reflect on. About Agency Journey: This is a monthly series detailing the happenings at my agency Barrel, […]

Agency Journey Episode 25 (Y16M4)

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I feel like our agency has been getting into a nice rhythm over the past few months. After some disruptions to our org structure and headcount earlier in the year and the adjustment period that followed, we’ve settled into a more stable mode. However, getting into a rhythm doesn’t mean things are necessarily easy. We have unforeseen issues that pop up with clients and employees that need dealing, we have financial challenges to navigate around, […]

Unproductive Thoughts of an Agency Owner

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This is a cautionary list intended to highlight the pointlessness and wastefulness of pursuing certain types of thoughts. They come from deep personal experience. As an agency owner for over 16 years, I’ve let these thoughts occupy my mind one too many times. Luckily, through introspection, coaching, and practice, I’ve been able to develop enough self-awareness to spot these thoughts and quickly dismiss them whenever they pop up. Life is a lot more pleasant and […]