Author: Peter Kang

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 […]

Lessons from The Joy of Selling by Steve Chandler

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The Joy of Selling by sales consultant, coach, and speaker Steve Chandler is a small 132-page volume that anyone can quickly finish in a couple of sittings. But inside this skinny volume are some very potent ideas and concepts about selling that have continued to stick around the back of my mind long after my first read. I highly encourage anyone, even those not engaging actively in an official sales role, to check this book out. […]

Cost, Frequency, and Value in Discretionary Spend

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A Quick Thought Experiment Discretionary spending refers to purchases of non-essential items. It’s what you do with income after you’ve paid for housing, utilities, other bills, groceries, personal hygiene, household items, and whatever else you deem essential to keeping life operational. The most common discretionary spending items are luxury goods, entertainment, recreation, and travel. In this thought experiment around discretionary spending, I focus on wines, dining out at restaurants, and trips/vacations–the areas where I personally […]

2021: An Annual Review

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I’m switching things up and instead of focusing on habits and goals (see previous years), I hope to start a new tradition with an annual review of the past year. Since I’ve written extensively on what’s been happening with Barrel throughout the year (see Agency Journey), I’ll focus more on highlights and activities outside of work in this review along with some thoughts on the upcoming year. Major Highlights Welcoming Teddy On March 10, 2021, […]

Agency Journey Episode 16 (Y15M7)

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The last month of the year really felt like an all-out sprint at Barrel. We launched websites for clients, began new engagements, and closed new deals–a mad dash to set ourselves up for a strong start in 2022. Thankfully, we have some time to rest up and recuperate before things pick up with full force in January. About Agency Journey: This is a monthly series detailing the happenings of my agency Barrel, founded in 2006. You can […]

Common Opportunities in Growing E-commerce Businesses Vol. 2

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Prelude: Check Out Volume 1 Over three years ago, I wrote about common opportunities I saw with growing e-commerce businesses that approached Barrel for help. These were low-hanging fruit opportunities that could make immediate impact for many businesses. While new software, services, and approaches have become available, the original list of opportunities still remain very relevant: Google Analytics Setup & Campaign Tracking Email Automations Product Photography Image Size / Website Speed Product Organization Product Recommendations […]

Agency Journey Episode 15 (Y15M6)

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The past month has been a whirlwind of activity at Barrel, not to mention a number of stressful happenings at home especially with our two young ones (e.g. sleep regressions, potty training mishaps, school challenges, getting sick, etc.). I’m so grateful for Thanksgiving and the chance to rest up and slow things down a little bit before one last push to end 2021. About Agency Journey: This is a monthly series detailing the happenings of my agency […]

Networking: Tactics and Lessons for Connecting with Other People

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If there was a skill I wish I had worked on earlier in my career, it would be networking, which I define as the act of connecting with other people, sharing stories, finding common interests, and developing long-term relationships. I consider myself pretty average when it comes to networking, but I wanted to share some tactics and lessons I’ve picked up along the way and found to be helpful. I also figure that writing these […]

Agency Journey Episode 14 (Y15M5)

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Missing the Office Vibe I’ve started going into the office at least once a week. It’s been a great change of pace from being in my home office (bedroom) and a chance to serendipitously run into people I know and catch up with some folks face-to-face. We decided to keep our Manhattan Barrel office even as offers to fully sublease it were available. We’ve sublet some desks and also let friends and Barrel Venture Partners […]

Exploring Personal Dreams

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I’ve been making my way through The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands by Jean-Noël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien (see my Twitter thread of highlights & excerpts from the book). It’s an informative and fairly dense book about the qualities of a luxury brand and what these brands can do to maintain their status and business health. The authors define the “essence of luxury” as the desire for social stratification, […]

Agency Survival: Handling Challenging Times for the Business

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We’ve been through our fair share of ups and downs at Barrel including some close calls on remaining solvent as a business. Through these rough times, we’ve learned some approaches to help us be more resilient as a business. More importantly, we’ve learned that the ability to survive (and eventually bounce back) requires a mindset that can hold two opposing views: the worst-case scenario where everything burns down in flames and the optimistic view that […]

Agency Journey Episode 13 (Y15M4)

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The Unstoppable Force of Adaptation I sometimes find it frightening to realize how quickly we as humans adapt to new situations and take for granted or get used to situations that, just days or weeks ago, seemed out of reach or a very remote possibility. This goes for good things, unfortunate things, and everything in between. We are adaptation machines. We’ve been making a great deal of progress on many fronts at Barrel. We are […]