Author: Peter Kang

Agency Journey Episode 46 (Y18M1)

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In early June, we publicly announced that I would be stepping aside as CEO of Barrel, handing off the role to longtime Barrel partner Lucas Ballasy. It’s been a couple years in the making, and I couldn’t be prouder of the fact that Lucas is more than ready to lead Barrel and take it to a new level. Check out the LinkedIn post of the announcement by me and by Lucas. My co-founder Sei-Wook and […]

A Tale of Two Agency Owners

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T and R each ran successful agency businesses for over ten years. Both their shops offered similar creative services. They each had an eclectic roster of clients including some global and national brands as well as a few smaller regional businesses. They both produced high quality work that garnered respect from peers and awards from various industry groups. Their reputation had allowed them to charge premium prices. Over the past year, both T and R […]

Agency Journey Episode 45 (Y17M12)

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Our family enjoyed a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend as we hosted some friends and spent quality time with kids in the pool, eating BBQ, and relaxing in perfect weather. Incredibly grateful for the wonderful time. I still remember the holidays of my past, when I would feel burdened with thoughts of work, convincing myself I needed to devote some hours catching up on proposals and emails. I’d often work myself up to a certain level […]

Thoughts on Reinvesting Agency Profits

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One of the learnings from running an agency business for a while is that when business is going relatively well and we’re able to generate profits, it’s critical to make some investments that can ensure that favorable results continue. You can, of course, dividend out all the profits and take home more dollars. But to protect future profits, it’s worth exploring ways to stay competitive and differentiated. I’ve jotted down some thoughts below including some […]

Agency Journey Episode 44 (Y17M11)

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This is the final month of our lease at our 197 Grand Street office. Next week, we’ll be completely moved out. We’ll be renting a desk and conference room access from our friends at The Working Assembly. It was in 2011 that we first moved to 197 Grand Street. I was on my honeymoon when Sei-Wook orchestrated the move (God bless him, he’s also orchestrating the move out). We were on the 6th floor in […]

Simple and Repetitive

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In my twenties and thirties, I sought out variety and spontaneity. Being surrounded by lots of friends, being in different places, doing a lot of new and different things. That was what felt like living, being happy. Reflecting on how my life’s evolved into my forties, especially with kids, I’ve come to see simple and repetitive as the basis for happiness. I recently had some travel for work as well as a family trip and […]

Agency Journey Episode 43 (Y17M10)

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A quick update on my LinkedIn posting activities in the first 3 months of 2024: I’ve consistently posted every weekday with the help of Deal Bridge, who keep me accountable for writing new posts and also helping to recycle some older posts for when I don’t have new ones ready. This has been going on since May 2023. Gained about 800 new followers in Q1, not a big number but steady growth.  220k impressions across […]

Pros and Cons of Small and Big Projects

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I’ve read a lot of advice over the years on the importance of being disciplined in the types of projects you go after. One has to do with small vs. big projects–going after either a high volume of small, easily repeatable projects or focusing on going after a few large, highly complex but amply budgeted projects. Try to do a mix of these and it’s unlikely you’ll have a good business. Do either one very […]

Agency Journey Episode 42 (Y17M9)

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I’ve been enjoying a biography of Walt Disney, Walt Disney: The Triumph of The American Imagination by Neal Gabler. I’m about 80% through and one of the things that struck me is how, for the first twenty or so years of the business, Disney struggled financially and came very close at multiple points to losing it all as an animation/movie studio. The financing of animation movies was risky business and it took a combination of […]

Agency Journey Episode 41 (Y17M8)

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This cycle may be familiar to many agency operators: when you don’t have enough work, you scramble to ramp up your business development efforts while cutting back on recruiting; when the tide turns and the work starts pouring in, you scramble to ramp up your recruiting efforts in order to have the people to deliver on the work, all while neglecting or cutting back on sales and marketing efforts. It often feels like we’re 2-3 […]

2023: An Annual Review

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This marks my third annual review in this format. Check out 2022 and 2021. In 2023, I turned 40 years old. I reflected on four things I want to consider as I enter a new decade of my life: gratitude, courage, service, and discipline. Looking back on the year, I’m once again warm with feelings of immense gratitude. It was a wonderful year, filled with challenges, new beginnings, learnings, and sweet memories. Highlights International Travel: […]

Agency Journey Episode 40 (Y17M7)

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Another year comes to a close – another year of countless decisions, experiments, and initiatives. Like any other year, we made plenty of mistakes and did things that were either inefficient or straight up wasteful. And while I’d like to think we learned a great deal from these experiences, I’m also sure that we’ll continue to make mistakes in the future. My hope is that we can avoid making the same mistakes over and over […]

When Agency Business Operators Get Blindsided

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This was originally posted on LinkedIn on November 30, 2023. If you run an agency, you’re going to get blindsided. Here’s a sampling of some painful blindsides we’ve had at Barrel: A long-time client that previously assured us that a large redesign project was ours suddenly informing us that they’ve decided to go in a different direction, feeling that a change was needed. A new employee after their first day on the job stops coming into […]

Agency Journey Episode 39 (Y17M6)

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On my mind during this year’s Thanksgiving weekend has been the feeling of how fleeting life can be. I’ve seen family members get older and enter different stages of their lives. It’s very possible that with some, we may only get a handful more holidays to spend together. I’ve been feeling it with my three young boys – it was just a few years ago that none of them were here and now they’re such […]

Control What We Can Control

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This was originally posted on LinkedIn on November 22, 2023. Another gut-wrenching loss where we were “finalists” for a new client engagement… Except that these outcomes are no longer so gut-wrenching. In fact, other than a momentary “ah, too bad”, we’re on to the next opportunity. It wasn’t always like this. I remember the days when an email from a prospect informing that they’ve “gone in a different direction” used to send our leadership team […]

My Personal Finance Snapshot (November 2023)

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What a difference 15 months makes. Since my last update in August 2022, my life has changed in ways that I did not anticipate. We welcomed a new child, moved out of Brooklyn, and traded in 3 mortgages plus a car payment for 1 mortgage and 3 car payments. Overall, personal finances are in good shape with monthly expenses going down and liquid savings going up. I won’t try to predict what the next 12-18 […]

Agency Journey Episode 38 (Y17M5)

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October’s been an action-packed month. Every week has felt like a full-on sprint. Thankfully, my energy level and health has held up, and overall, I’m feeling calm and optimistic. With just a couple months to go in 2023, I’m feeling immensely grateful. There were lots of challenges this year and many things didn’t go our way. However, we also learned a lot, made important improvements, and didn’t get discouraged. I don’t really have expectations for […]

From 2 Contacts to Many More

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There’s an activity that the Barrel partners have been doing for a while: reaching out to a couple of contacts per week. These have typically been former clients, industry acquaintances, other agency operators, investor types, old friends and classmates, etc. It’s been a practice we’ve kept up weekly since 2017. In recent months, we decided to up the number. We went from 2 to 4 for a few months, then from 4 to 6 for […]

Agency Journey Episode 37 (Y17M4)

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I’m taking some family time this month as we welcomed our son Xander. As a result, I’ve not been as involved day-to-day although I’ve kept up with emails and checked in with my Barrel partners. There’s a lot of down time with a newborn, especially the late nights when I’m rocking the baby for a few hours giving Mel some time to sleep before the next feeding. These moments have been good for catching up […]

Levers to Achieve Project Profitability

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A couple of notes: The following tips apply mostly to fixed fee design or web/app development projects. However, aspects of these levers can apply to any kind of services business. Achieving profitability on your projects doesn’t necessarily mean your business will be profitable. Other factors like overall team utilization, sales & general admin expenses, and non-billable staff can determine whether or not your agency is profitable. Profitability on projects is a good measure for how […]