All posts tagged: agency-biz

The Downstream Impact of New Business Decisions on an Agency Business

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Last week, our leadership team at Barrel spent 3 full days aligning on goals and priorities for 2020. We came away with some concrete assignments that will improve processes, enhance our service offering, and deepen relationships with our clients. A recurring theme that’s become clearer to us in the past year is that all the problems and all the successes of an agency business, when you get down to the root of things, really boils […]

Small Agency Owner Compensation

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Can an owner of a small creative/marketing/digital agency make decent money? The answer is yes, but like anything worthwhile, it takes discipline, hard work, and some luck. The business model itself is really simple: be great at sales, control costs (especially labor), do excellent work, and have a good CPA. I built a really simple model on Google Sheets to show the inner workings of a small agency’s business from the owner’s perspective.  You can copy […]

Lessons from The E-Myth Chief Financial Officer

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The E-Myth Chief Financial Officer: Why Most Small Businesses Run Out of Money and What to Do about It by Michael E. Gerber and Fred G. Parrish focuses on the importance of the chief financial officer role in a small business and how, in the absence of a full-time CFO, the entrepreneur must be willing to play the role. It’s taken me well over a decade to truly appreciate the importance of how financial thinking […]

Reflecting on The 11 Laws of The Fifth Discipline (from Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline)

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It’s been a year since I read Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline and yet, I’ve been reminded almost every single day of the lessons from the book. My company Barrel recently celebrated 13 years of being in business. My co-founder Sei-Wook and I have been there for all 13 years, and I feel like it’s only been in the past year that the two of us started to take a less reactive approach to running […]

Continually Evolving Thoughts on Talent and Hiring

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In writing this post, I wanted to make a reminder for myself about the continually evolving nature of how I’ve viewed talent and hiring, and how it’s possible that my views will continue to change in the future. When we first started Barrel, Sei-Wook and I were essentially a couple of freelancers who said yes to enough work that we needed to hire people to help us. We used Craigslist and that was the start […]

Most Common Opportunities I’ve Observed in Growing E-commerce Businesses

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At Barrel, a segment of our clients (and prospective clients who contact us) are growing e-commerce businesses doing anywhere between $500k to $5 million in sales. They are typically run by small teams (usually less than 10 people, often just 2-5 people) and have either been bootstrapped (funded with the founder’s savings plus the profits of the business) or with a small seed investment from friends and family. Drawing from my observations and experience reviewing dozens of […]

The Importance of Marketing to Existing Clients from Managing the Professional Service Firm

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Managing the Professional Service Firm by David H. Maister is a must-read book for anyone running a professional services business. For too long, I thought that a digital creative firm like Barrel was somehow special and played by different rules than consulting, legal, accounting, or architecture/design businesses. Wrong. It became quickly apparent in the first few pages of the book that Barrel operates in the same way as any other professional service firm and that […]

Systems Archetypes from The Fifth Discipline and How They Apply to a Digital Agency

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One of my favorite parts of The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge is the topic of systems thinking and how so many of the problems inherent in organizations (and even personal behaviors) stem from being unaware of the various systems at play and how these systems, when undetected and untouched, can control and determine outcomes, often in ways contrary to what you may have intended. In such situations, we’re likely to blame external forces for our […]

The Seven Learning Disabilities from The Fifth Discipline

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In Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, he introduces seven learning disabilities that largely go undetected in organizations. Only by identifying these, he writes, can an organization take the necessary steps to cure them and become a learning organization. The Seven Learning Disabilities It is no accident that most organizations learn poorly. The way they are designed and managed, the way people’s jobs are defined, and, most importantly, the way we have all been taught to think […]

The Importance of Client Satisfaction

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I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we can best get a sense of the health of our business at Barrel. There are the usual metrics like inbound leads, deals in the pipeline, and expected revenue from signed clients. There are also in-project metrics like profitability and how we’re tracking towards meeting milestones and deadlines. But the more I’ve explored this, the more I am convinced that the most important metric is one […]

Lessons from Pricing Creativity by Blair Enns

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Lessons from Pricing Creativity by Blair Enns

Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour is a book that provides rules and tactics to help creative professionals charge more for new work and run a more profitable business. It’s by Blair Enns, the founder of Win Without Pitching, a training program that helps creative professionals win more business. I’ve been a follower of Enns for some years, having paid for access to his materials, enrolling in his online course, signing up for his webinars, and listening […]

Themes from Our Partner Retreat

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This past weekend, the four Barrel partners held an offsite retreat in Old Chatham, NY to plan the company’s priorities and initiatives for 2018. The two full days of planning were incredibly productive and we came away with a roadmap that we’re very excited to execute on in the coming weeks and months. It also helped that the AirBnB we were staying at was stunning. A barn-style home, the layout of the home, the high […]

Managing Complex Change Applied to Projects

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Mel shared the Managing Complex Change model with me a couple years ago and it’s something that’s stayed in the back of my mind. I had trouble recalling all of its components, so I decided to make my own graphic version to help me remember it better. I like this model because it breaks collaborative change into five distinct elements: Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources, and Action Plan. I also like it because I think it applies as […]

The Importance of Training in an Organization

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Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for members of your department. Let’s count on three hours of preparation for each hour of course time–twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization. […]

Personal Accountability and the Pursuit of a Boring Culture

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In QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life, author John Miller offers a simple framework for handling ourselves day-to-day, both at work and in our personal lives. The Question Behind the Question is built on the observation that our first reactions are often negative, bringing to mind Incorrect Questions (IQs). But if in each moment of decision we can instead discipline ourselves to look behind those initial Incorrect […]

Revisiting Good to Great and the Stop Doing List

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I spent an hour or so last night flipping through and re-reading parts of Good to Great by Jim Collins, the popular classic business book about the qualities that make companies successful. I first read the book over 5 years ago. That was a time when I began to pick up books on business with the goal of extracting lessons I could apply to Barrel. I remember a specific part of the book that I […]

Avoiding the Effort Heuristic in Client Work

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The effort heuristic is a mental rule of thumb in which the quality or worth of an object is determined from the perceived amount of effort that went into producing that object. In brief, the effort heuristic follows a tendency to judge objects that took a longer time to produce to be of higher value. – Wikipedia When it comes to managing a team that’s producing work for clients, it’s critical that everyone working on the […]

11 Years of Barrel, Some Lessons

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Every June 1, we celebrate the incorporation of Barrel. Most years, it’s a simple toast at the end of the day. Last year, on our 10-year anniversary, we had a nice party at one of my favorite restaurants. This year, we had margaritas and ice cream. We also launched a brand new website. What I most cherish about June 1 is that it gets me thinking about lessons I’ve learned in the past year. Over […]

Designing for Clients: Thinking Beyond How It Looks

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I’ve jotted down some thoughts on design, especially for the type of work we do at Barrel. I’ll refer to them collectively as “websites” for simplicity purposes, but this can mean mobile apps, web apps, experiential interfaces and anything else that happen on digital screens. I’m going to talk about “the designer”, and in my mind this is anyone who is in the business of creating digital experiences. There are people who specialize and do […]