Episode 21 – Stephanie Fisher – MD Hello Earth

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Audio Transcript:

VO Guy:

Hello, and thanks for coming along to And We Have an Office Dog, the digital agency podcast where we talk to agency owner directors and learn more about what makes them tick. From the things that make them similar to the things they’d rather have known sooner, where they’ve success and where they’ve learned some hard lessons. All will be revealed with your host, Chris Simmance, the agency coach, and he’ll be talking to a different awesome agency person in each episode, asking them four questions and seeing where the conversation takes us over the next 25 minutes. Okay, so let us begin. Over to you, Chris.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Thanks voiceover guy. On today’s podcast we’ve got Steph from Hello Earth. How are you doing, Steph?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I am good. Thank you for having me.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Thanks for coming along. It’s wonderful to have you on. First and foremost, tell us all about Hello Earth, why you exist, what do you do? Just in case there’s a customer may be listening or there could be someone who wants to move jobs and you are the perfect fit. So who should they come and work with?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Hello Earth, we are a digital performance agency. We predominantly work with purpose driven eComm brands and ultimately, our mission is about driving revenue for eCommerce businesses. Whether they want to build their acquisition or retention, that’s ultimately where we focus on our performance channels and the underlying message for that is we work specifically with businesses that are using the business as a force for good. Sustainability is our core ethos, but that said, if your business has a really strong mission or purpose, we absolutely want to work with you.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I mean, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to get out bed in the morning, knowing you’re doing digital marketing for an ethical business, rather than like BP.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Sorry, BP. I don’t know if you’re ethical or not, but I’m just saying. Yeah.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

They’re not.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

You dig up the world.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

How long has the agency been going for?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Just over four years now.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So you started, then you had a pandemic, and now you’re here?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. It’s a bit of a wild ride.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, over that wild ride of four years that probably felt like 50 at one point, what do you feel has been one of the biggest successes of running the agency so far?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Truly, I would say team alignment. I think with any business, particularly in the startup phase, building a team is incredibly hard.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It is.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, but building the right team is even harder and we’ve absolutely gone through those motions of finding who we really vibe with as an agency and ensuring that that energy exchange between us and the team is aligned. That’s been a major win for us and I would say we’ve probably only recently achieved that or got to that point where we can say, “Do you know what? This is a really good fit for us,” and that’s absolutely been a journey. I mean, interestingly, I actually put a post on LinkedIn over the weekend highlighting this. I’d spotted it on one of our team’s Instagram posts. They put, “I love my job,” and for me that’s when I sat back and I thought, “That’s a huge win.” That’s a huge win.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So agencies are really a product of how good the people are ultimately at the doing as well as at the following and alignment of the vision and things. And especially now, at the moment with post pandemic, lots of people who’ve sadly lost their jobs because of furlough and things like that and there are lots of people looking for jobs right now. How do you weed out, and not in a bad way, how do you find the right people that are the right fit? Is there something that you do differently there?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I mean, I think probably one thing that we’ve learned, again along the journey, is having a very clear conversation with candidates about expectations. I think when you step into an agency environment, particularly in that startup phase, there is an expectation that everybody needs to be significantly aligned in terms of what the goal is that we’re moving forward with and really having that passionate and deep connection with the clients that we work with, because it is fast paced.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

So we have almost switched some of our interview questions to talk about, like, “To be really clear, this is what the role will entail.” I think having that transparency and setting those expectations that it is busy, but it is rewarding, is something that we’ve learned quite quickly to be very transparent with.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I think, ans no matter what agency focuses or any of those sorts of things are, I think there’s always going to be days where it’s not the best of days. Either there’s a client problem or there’s some sort of logistical issues, and if you’ve got the culture right and you’ve got everyone aligned, then it makes it a little bit easier to get out of bed. Following that purpose every day is quite important.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

100%. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, like you said also, it’s having the client relationships. I think with any business human interaction and building human relationships is at the ethos of, I guess, what we do and that is super important.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

That’s awesome. I guess getting the alignment right is really big. It’s a really important thing. There’s always going to be where that’s not quite right or where that’s not worked so well, but as you say, it’s part of a journey and you’re always going to have to refine that as the world changes. What do you think though, in the last four years, if you were to suddenly get a massive injection of cash, just enough to be able to build a time machine and you went back four years and you spoke to the younger, more spritely version of Steph and you could only give yourself one piece of advice because you only just had enough money to make the time machine take you back for 30 seconds, what one piece of advice would you give yourself?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Do you know what? Probably outside of the cash situation, I would say, believe in myself more. The biggest learning for me has been working on mindset and trusting the process of building a business. I think with any business, it’s very safe to say that it works in ebbs and flows and when things aren’t going right or there’s been a bit of a tough week or a tough day, it’s trying not to let that affect you personally, because I think separating yourself as a person and as a brand or as a business is so key. I mean, one piece of advice that I think that sits quite strongly in my mind is that you can’t necessarily control the events around you, but you can control your reaction and yeah, your energy and your mindset are the most valuable assets that you can have and keep healthy in business.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely. It’s so hard though, some days when everything feels like it’s just a bit of a struggle and then someone calls up and says, “Oh, bus is late,” or, “I’m going to be late.” And you’re like, “You need to be on this call, oh my God, now.” There’s another thing and another thing, but you’ve got to remember, you can’t help these things and sometimes the world is a little bit out of your control. But as an agency owner, it’s very difficult to have to be magnanimous versus megalomanic. Sometimes you have to be a bit forceful, but you do have to realize that people are people at the end of the day.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, 100%. And situations are situations. In the same vein, there might be seasonality shift where like Coronavirus and everything that’s happened in the last two years fundamentally changed eCommerce and I think stepping into this year, it’s understanding how that shift is changing even business growth and so forth. So it’s understanding, like I said, the ebbs and the flows. Preparing for it and having a stronger mindset to really cope with the lows.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. Spot on, and I think being in eCommerce during the pandemic was probably quite a good place to be. But those year over year reports look pretty poor right now, because people have…

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

… walked back into shops. But knowing that allows you to have some perspectives so the team don’t just look at red arrows pointing down for a bit and feel, “Oh, no, I’ve done a bad job.” You’ve got to look at it in context to the world and things that are going on around it. Do you think though, if you went back in time and you gave yourself that bit of advice, would younger Steph have listened to it?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

No. I think I’ve had to learn from my mistakes 100%, and I think there’s a lot to be said to go through those learning curve, because you can only come from a place of confidence and that mindset once you’ve gone through that journey. So it was a necessary evil.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. Yeah, fair enough. No. I always say that running a digital agency is basically the most expensive MBA you’ll ever have, and the reality is that the archetypal digital agency owner is a little bit thickheaded and wants to learn things themselves or do things themselves, and you have to learn the whole hard way in that case.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And it’s expensive and it costs time and it’s a bit stressful, but you learn a hell of a lot more richly from it.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. True. Very, very true. Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Over the last four years or so, is there something that you either regret that you did the way you did it or something that you wish you’d done much sooner that set you up for the current success that you’re feeling?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I mean, probably going again, maybe back to the mindsets side of things, I think leaning into difficult conversations has been one of those core learning points for me. In the past, I may have typically buried my head in the sand or avoided situations because I don’t like conference and was like I’m just over here trying to live my most peaceful life, when in reality, I think there’s a lot to be said with leading in on difficult conversations. Because I mean, I guess the outtake for me and things that I would’ve done differently is getting very clear on expectations and being crystal clear on what you want from each circumstance, as a business leader because I think what that does is minimize the room for misinterpretation. But ultimately it’s not necessarily fair to expect that people have the same perception in a conversation or have the same goals or values as you. So that’s definitely something I learned very sharply. Secondly to that is don’t be afraid to say, “Look, this isn’t working for me and this is the reason why,” and dealing with the facts, again, over that emotion really helps navigate difficult conversations.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. I think to your first point about leaning into difficult conversations is, I mean, love them or hate them, some people really do love and some people really do hate, Jordan Peterson. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. He said, he says, “Conflict avoided is conflict magnified,” or something to that effect. And it really is. If you don’t get something head on when it is a problem, then it either escalates into another problem or causes something else that knocks on down the road. If you don’t deal with it and have a difficult conversation or have a conversation you’re not comfortable with, even if someone else might be, it escalates and it magnifies over time. And it’s really, really important to force yourself through it, which is quite hard to do.

I think if you listen to other people and understand that you have to empathize an awful lot to understand, “Okay, you pissed me off now. I’m not very happy with this. This isn’t a nice conversation to have, but we’re both different human beings who, whilst potentially grown up in the same area, we had different parents, different experiences, that you are coming at this with a different perspective to me and there’s a reason for that, so let’s work it out. I might learn that I’m wrong or might learn that we’re both wrong. We need to modify something.” But unless you come to that, it’s really hard to do.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, absolutely.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And I think core to how you seem to have built your agency, you need to have those sets of values that everyone lives to, but they’re the things that everyone agrees to be true and everything everyone agrees to work to. They may have other values, which play to their personalities, but everyone agrees that this massive overlapping venn diagram, these are the ones that we’re all comfortable with being part of, which are all connected to that vision of the future that you’re aiming for. That then means that you will go, “Oh, well, we know that we’re all going to behave in this way and we’ve all agreed that common set of value based rules around the agency.” And everything feels a lot easier then, because if I trust someone’s opinion and I trust that we’re working in the same way and I’m committed to the path, the vision of the business, then conflict often ends up being the good kind of conflict.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

In that, “I disagree with your perspective, here’s why, and here’s an alternative. Let’s discuss.” When you have that kind of a conversation, it feels a lot less painful to have any conflict.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Absolutely, and it goes back to your point before and it’s talking about you’re only as good as your team. I think that is the whole reason why they’re all aligned in the same way. It’s having those core values all pulling in the same direction and yeah, that’s where the magic happens.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

It really is and I think that you can tell the difference in certain agencies, whether it’s by the social media activities of people or whether it just be by… There’s a lot of say, agencies where lots of the staff go to lots of events and they’re always Tweeting about their experiences in the industry, or they put themselves forward for a talk. Not everyone wants to do a talk. Not everyone wants to be on a stage, but you know that you’ve got someone in the agency that really loves where they are if they say, “Hey, have you got that branded deck? Because I really want to do a talk at this meetup next week. I want to fly the flag for the place that I am part of,” or there’s people who might just like to go on Twitter or LinkedIn and say, “This is what we’ve learned about this, and have you got any materials that I can share?” It’s a good indicator that you’ve got the right group of people.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Definitely. That fundamentally is the measurement of culture in an agency.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. It’s harder to maintain these days because there’s a lot of remote or hybrid or fully remote working going on. And in some agencies, everyone’s come back to the office, but lots of people were hired during the pandemic outside of the region that the agency is. So there’s almost a system where you’ve got full-time in the office and full-time remote, and some hybrid. It’s quite hard to maintain the culture that way. So is there anything you do around that that helps?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. We commit to monthly meetups. That will either be where we’ll go and do an event, and we alternate them. Say for example, like last month we went electrical go-carting.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Oh, sweet.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. It was very good. This month it was focused around charitable donations, so we’re actually giving all of our profits to the Ukraine crisis, and then next month we are going foraging.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Foraging?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. It’s a bit of a mixture.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Well, I mean, all of that plays well into the ethical standpoint of the agency. The electric go-carts, the charitable donations and things. Foraging still stands up, but is way out there. I’ve never heard an agency take their team foraging, so you’ll have to let us know how you get on with that.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, we will.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

If you find any truffles, you may as well close the agency, because those things are worth…

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

They’re worth more than gold.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. We can retire on that.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Just get yourself a truffle hog and go take the agency team out. Just take half of what they find and you’ll be well off.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. That’s not a bad idea. Yeah. Number one goal, find a truffle.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And don’t eat mushrooms unless you know what they are.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah. No, that’s the one thing I know about.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So if there’s an agency owner who’s just started running their agency or someone who’s leading an agency right now, aspiring to take it to the next level or indeed thinking about becoming an agency leader, what one core piece of advice would you give that person?

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

I think knowing your numbers and measuring everything. One thing for me that I learned quite quickly was having confidence in your forecast, so being really clear on your margins, understanding seasonality changes. Because that can help you predict those ebbs and flows that we spoke about earlier. And the best book that I’ve probably ever read, which fundamentally changed the way we use our accountancy model was Profit First. I think that [crosstalk 00:17:22].

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, yeah. It’s a stunner, isn’t it? Sometimes there’s some books where just one paragraph in them changes your entire life and that book itself, it’s not a particularly long book, it’s not really thick with loads of diagrams and stuff. It’s really clear, “This is how you should do it.” It’s very clever. Yeah and I think you’re spot on with that. You’ve got to know your numbers and the sad thing is often, unless you’re an accountant, the numbers are a bit boring. You don’t start an agency to do reports for yourself because you’ve got to do them for clients as well. And doing all of these things where you’ve got your dashboards of your leading measures of success, you’re lagging measures of success, whether or not… I often suggest that you have a key dashboard that has red, amber, green, but only four measures per segment of the business and you can deep dive if you really need to, but they’re the leading indicators of future success or failure.

And then, like you say, when you know seasonality, you can do the right kind of cash flow forecasting. For me, it’s really boring, but it’s the sort of thing that keeps an agency going.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

It’s true. Yeah. It’s the age old saying, “Cash is king.” I think your cash flow is so pivotal, because if you have a healthy and a good cashflow, it gives you confidence in making those next decisions and growth doesn’t feel as jarring because you know that you have that cash in the business to support that.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

Bang on. Absolutely, and I think that if you start an agency off, when you start an agency off, you’re usually on your own or usually have one member of staff or something like that. And it’s really easy to have a lot of cash, but if you don’t know what it’s going to do or what it could do in the future, as in what you could do with it and what it could do to you, then it’s just as bad as not having it at all.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, absolutely. So true.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I mean, that’s a fantastic piece of advice for any future agency owners. Get the boring numbers bit sorted and if you really have to, it’s worth spending on a decent accountant to help build management accounts that are all connected to Xero or Sage or whatever you want to choose. But if you have the right management accounts, that’s great. You can connect those management accounts in a smart way to your team’s project management dashboards and things like that so you can see people, plus bank balance based numbers, and you can work out a holistic view of the measurable part of your team ar. And then you’ve got the non-measurable part, which is some nice social posts and a team that are smiling and happy when you meet them, and those things like very, very few unexpected absences and things are always a good sign that people are happy. If they’re happy and the numbers are right and the dashboarding’s right, it should just work.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yeah, 100%. Absolutely. I mean, I think our accountants do find us quite painful because we have bank accounts for everything, but you know what? That method, it works for us.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

I mean, I’m the same. I know that the accountant that ran my agency was probably one of the most patient people I’ve ever worked with, because of a similar type of thing where all the bank accounts were split out and there’s this dashboard and that dashboard, and asking questions all the time. I certainly got my money’s worth, that’s for sure. But you’ve got to get it right and if you do it all by yourself, you’ll miss something because you’re looking one dimensionally.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Yes, exactly.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And that’s tough.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

It is. Yeah. I agree.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

So know your numbers folks. That’s absolutely brilliant advice to end the podcast on. Thank you very much for coming along, Steph. It’s been wonderful having you here.

S𝘁𝗲𝗽𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗲 𝗙𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗿 (𝗚𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁):

Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.

𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (𝗛𝗼𝘀𝘁):

And on our next podcast, we’ll have a different agency leader talking about their journey along the way, and thanks very much for listening everybody.

 

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