Author: Peter Kang

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 […]

Agency Journey Episode 24 (Y16M3)

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We’re gearing up for a team-wide retreat in NYC in mid-October. We’ll have 30+ people from all over the country (and a few from outside the US) coming in for a few days of team bonding and various activities. The planning is both exciting and challenging – we’re trying to balance out having enough planned activities vs. giving people the space and room to hang out with each other. The primary goal of the retreat […]

Building Willpower

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“What Stoics discover, though, is that willpower is like muscle power: The more they exercise their muscles, the stronger they get, and the more they exercise their will, the stronger it gets. Indeed, by practicing Stoic self-denial techniques over a long period, Stoics can transform themselves into individuals remarkable for their courage and self-control.” (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life) I came across this highlight the other day and made a mental […]

My Personal Finance Snapshot (August 2022)

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It’s been a little over a year since my last update. In that time, there’s been a lot of changes to the financial side of my life. The biggest factor has been the purchase of a 2nd home, which has introduced all kinds of costs. Also, my stock portfolio, heavily concentrated in growth tech stocks, took a huge hit through the first half of this year, wiping out most of my gains from 2021. You […]

Agency Journey Episode 23 (Y16M2)

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Reflecting on the past few months, the most important change at Barrel was having our Director of Software Engineering report to our Chief Experience Officer Lucas Ballasy, away from our Chief Technology Officer Wes Turner, consolidating all team production functions under Lucas’s supervision as the Experience team. The level of cohesion has improved greatly, and I feel like the different disciplines are starting to get on the same page with daily stand-ups and increased knowledge […]

Continually Evolving Thoughts on Talent and Hiring Vol. 2

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Almost 4 years ago, I wrote down some thoughts I had been having about talent and hiring. These were the main points I made: A great hire can instantly bring new energy to the team and elevate the output of the entire company. A jackpot hire–perfect cultural fit and impactful contributor–is incredibly valuable. Investing in recruitment functions (e.g. 3rd party recruiters and in-house recruiting resources) to go beyond inbound applications and to proactively find talent. […]

Transformative Books We Read Together as a Leadership Team

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Incorporating Reading Into Our Planning Meetings At the start of each quarter, the four Barrel partners meet for an all-day planning meeting. The format of this meeting used to focus heavily on identifying various issues in the business and putting our heads together to see if we could resolve them. The goal of each planning meeting was to come away with a solid slate of key initiatives to accomplish over the next 90 days. Five […]

Agency Journey Episode 22 (Y16M1)

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This time last year, we were wrapping up a record-setting quarter at Barrel. We had landed more business and booked more revenue in that quarter than at any point in our 15-year history. We were confident that we had finally cracked the code and would scale up to new levels. Things were looking up, but little did we know that the next 9 months were going to be some of the toughest ever, including a […]

Strong Company Culture vs. Weak Company Culture

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What is Culture? If I’ve learned anything in my 16+ years of running Barrel, it’s that there’s no magic bullet when it comes to creating and sustaining a strong company culture. Culture–and in the context of this post, I’m talking about company/organizational culture–is a slippery concept that can mean different things to different people. In some definitions, it encapsulates the behaviors, values, and attitudes of the people that belong to the company. In others, it […]

Agency Journey Episode 21 (Y15M12)

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This is the last episode of Year 15 – it’s wild how fast the last 12 months happened and the roller coaster ride we’ve been on as a business. Looking back to last May, I was feeling pretty good about the record level of new business deals we were landing and also eager to roll out major org changes to set us up for scale. A year later, we’ve struggled to keep apace last year’s […]

Resisting the Urge to Problem Solve

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The siren call comes several times a week–someone on my team is navigating a challenge, usually having to do with a client or between team members. Whether through email, Slack, or on a Zoom call, the person usually starts by providing me with some context and then highlighting the problem. The person then concludes with a question that immediately sets my mind ablaze: “What should we do?” Having been in hundreds of situations dealing with […]

Ten Reminders for When Times Are Tough

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In our lives, we come across tough times at one point or another. The degree, intensity, and duration of the situation may vary. It could be personal, professional, family-related, financial, health-related, or any combination happening at the same time. For me, one aspect of growing older that I’ve appreciated is the expanding toolbox of concepts, experiences, behaviors, and mantras to meet these tough times. Make no mistake, I still struggle with the stresses of my […]

Agency Journey Episode 20 (Y15M11)

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Towards the end of last year, we had a client engagement that did not go well. Without getting into details, here’s what happened: the matter got so serious that we needed to get professional liability (errors & omissions) insurance involved. The insurance company assigned us a lawyer and there was a date set for mediation, where, hopefully, we could settle on an amount and move on. This case hung over us like a dark cloud […]

The Emotional Bank Account Applied to Agency Business

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The Emotional Bank Account Concept The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is one of the most popular and best-selling personal development books of all time. I’ve had a copy since college when a friend gifted it to me, but I didn’t truly appreciate its lessons until recently, when I revisited the book for our quarterly Barrel Partners meeting, where the four of us shared our respective takeaways. One of the […]

Agency Journey Episode 19 (Y15M10)

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We’ve been steadily plugging away with the business–cleaning up at-risk accounts, cutting costs, launching projects, and winning new work. As I mentioned last month, my focus is ensuring that we’re executing as a company and holding each other to high standards. I think we’re headed in the right direction. About Agency Journey: This is a monthly series detailing the happenings of my agency Barrel, founded in 2006. You can find previous episodes here. Highlights A Couple of Launches […]

8 Ways Client Projects Get Delayed and How to Avoid Them

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I’ve lamented in numerous Agency Journey episodes about how client project delays at Barrel have been absolutely killers in terms of profitability. This happens primarily with fixed-fee, fixed-scope projects. These projects typically come with a detailed outline of requirements, specs, activities, and other deliverables along with tentative timelines for delivery. Anything not captured in the contract could be considered “out of scope” although this will depend on the specificity of the original statement of work […]

Agency Journey Episode 18 (Y15M9)

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It’s much easier to publicly share and write about business when things are going very well. I almost thought about skipping this month (or perhaps never writing this series again) because frankly, it’s been a very tough period for me as an agency owner. The business has struggled in various ways, and there’s a measure of shame and disappointment in talking about how things haven’t been going well. However, after much reflection, I’m convinced that […]

These 25 Ad Headlines from 60+ Years Ago Work Just as Well Today

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Inspired by How to Write a Good Advertisement Every now and then, I’ll pick up How to Write a Good Advertisement: A Short Course in Copywriting by Victor O. Schwab and skip around for inspiration. It never fails to get me thinking about marketing and copywriting with a fresh perspective. Drawing on 44 years as a copywriter (from 1917 to 1961), Schwab shares timeless insights about the fundamentals of good copy, the psychology behind great ads, […]

Agency Journey Episode 17 (Y15M8)

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Barrel Agency Journey Episode 17

Every now and then, I’ll take screenshots of meeting agendas and notes from exactly 1 year, 2 years, and even 3 years ago and share it with my partners. Part of the exercise is to show how similar themes pop up over and over again, but the more important reason is to reflect on how our understanding of certain topics has evolved and deepened over time. We often cringe at the shallow, surface-level understanding of […]