Episode 6 – Cheryl Luzet – CEO Wagada

Listen Now:

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. Today on the podcast we have Cheryl Luzet from Wagada. She’s the CEO of the multi-award winning, I think isn’t it, Cheryl?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yes it is, yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Hello, welcome.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Hello. Hi. Thanks for having me today.

Chris Simmance (Host):

No problem at all. Thanks very much for being on. First of all, as ever, everyone who comes on the podcast gets a massive opportunity to plug their agency and tell us all about them to the millions of listeners, of course. Please give us a plug. What does Wagada do? Who is Wagada?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Brilliant. Okay, thanks. We’re a digital marketing agency, we’ve been going about 10 years and we tend to often work within in-house marketing managers and help them as their digital specialists. Quite often our clients, they might not be digital natives or they’ve don’t necessarily have the specialist skills in digital so I have a team of specialists that are able to support them. We started off as an SEO agency and then as time has gone on we’ve expanded into other services. We do a lot of social media, a lot of paid ads, content marketing, PR, that sort of thing. SEO’s become more about brand building, I think over the past 10 years so that’s why we’ve expanded what we do.

Chris Simmance (Host):

It has hasn’t it. I think once you get the basic principles passed SEO is mostly brand led, and as long as you’ve got a brand, I guess. How long’s Wagada been going for?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Just over 10 years. That feels like a milestone when we got to 10 years.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. You had a party didn’t you?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

We had a party, but unfortunately I wasn’t there because I had COVID so they had a party without me.

Chris Simmance (Host):

You didn’t come to your own 10 year party, oh dear.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

No, I was there Zoom, but it wasn’t quite the same.

Chris Simmance (Host):

You’re a box in a window.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I was a box. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Brilliant. As with ever over the next 20 odd minutes or so I’ll ask a couple of questions, we’ll have a chat. To kick things off, what do you think’s been one of the biggest successes over the last 10 and a bit years of running the agency?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Okay. Well I think just surviving 10 years feels like a bit of a success, to be honest, particularly what we’ve been through over the past 10 years.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Time takes its toll doesn’t it?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yes, it really does. It really does. I’ve definitely aged, but I think for us winning two [Search 00:03:04] Awards, that was a massive achievement, nationwide UK recognition for the work that we do. We were massively proud of that. Also, I think the work that we do for our clients, supporting our clients, one of the things that I’ve all always tried to do is to make SEO very accessible to our clients so they can really understand what we’re doing and really take them on that journey. And when I think of what we’ve done to our clients to transform their businesses and transform their turnover, that I think that’s one of the sort of biggest successes that we can [crosstalk 00:03:37].

Chris Simmance (Host):

It’s a success for sure, to be proud of that as well is quite… You could just be any agency taking money off of people and it sounds like you care about the end result as well.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yeah. Completely. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Out of those last 10 years, the awards that you’ve won, looking after the clients, what’s the head count at the minute? How many people are in the team?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

16 of us at the moment, employed, and we’ve got a few freelancers that work for us, but we are recruiting if anyone’s looking for a job. Bit of a plug there.

Chris Simmance (Host):

If anyone out of all of the people who are applying for jobs right now are looking for a job at an agency which is actually pretty cool, I recommend you get in touch with Cheryl at Wagada. There’s your plug. You get the free beers, two in-

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Thank you.

Chris Simmance (Host):

… one podcast, this is unbelievable.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Two plugs, that’s amazing.

Chris Simmance (Host):

If you could though go back and look at all of the things that have happened in the last 10 years and talk to the younger, more sprightly version of yourself, what would you tell her?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Oh, that’s a great question, actually. I feel like over the past 10 years that I’ve learnt so much and my own development has come on so much. I think things that I would tell myself, I would definitely be more ambitious.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Okay.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I think I felt at the beginning that I couldn’t do this, that if I’d thought to myself that I was going to be running an agency, employing 16 people in 10 years time, I think I would’ve said, oh, I can’t do that. That’s not something I can do. I think I would encourage myself to be more ambitious and to have more faith in myself and really just say to myself, I can do whatever I put my mind to do. And if I don’t have the skills to do that thing, then I will have to learn how to do that thing. And actually you have to up skill as your business grows and you’re forced to do that.

Chris Simmance (Host):

It’s a massive learning curve, isn’t it? Because most digital agencies aren’t set up by business owners, they’re set up by smart people who can run digital campaigns and there’s a lot of lessons along the way, as well as just general or fatigue from running businesses. Good.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Absolutely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

But here’s the follow up to this, would your younger, more sprightly version of you listen to your own advice?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Ooh, that is such a great question. Probably not, actually, because I think I probably didn’t have the confidence. I don’t know.

Chris Simmance (Host):

The irony-

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

The irony of it.

Chris Simmance (Host):

… have some more confidence and ambition and drive. I can’t do it.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I think so. I think also, the other thing I was going to say is about being proud to charge what you deserve to be paid for. And I think that’s a massive thing, especially when you’re just starting out, you think, oh, I can’t don’t charge that and just be proud of what you do and learn the value of what you’re doing.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, absolutely. I think the pay what you are worth mindset, it’s big in the management consultancy world, it’s really not at all in the digital agency world. I think part of that is obviously when you start out you don’t want to lose potential clients to price problems. And then it’s a race to the bottom and it takes a long time to start going. Do you know what actually, we should really put our prices up. And anyone listening to this, running an agency right now, have a look at your prices and ask yourself, when was the last time you put them up and do you actually think that you’re worth that and probably more probably? Probably, if you’re part of the agency owner audience, actually listening to this, you probably are worth more because you’re listening to this, you must have good taste. Therefore put your prices up.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yeah. And we find when you do that, people don’t really flinch. You think, oh gosh, when I put my prices up people are going to walk away and no one does.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Well more often than not, it’s not that they want to pay more, it’s that they’re willing to accept paying more because they can see the results are worth it. They’ve got their own internal targets and as long as you get them at the right time for their financial year, you’re usually okay. It depends the type of clients you have, if they’re much larger, where they’ve got corporate billing and things like that, it’s a lot easier to get some of these price rises through. However, on the smaller clients, you just need to time it right and make sure that they see the value of it. And I think the advice that you would’ve given yourself would’ve probably, I think you might have listened to that one.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yes. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

That ones more tangible.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Completely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Is there something that you, over the years, other than being a bit more ambitious with the growth that you regret or wish that you’d done sooner maybe?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I think the thing that… I don’t know whether regret is the right word, but something I would definitely change about the way I’ve run the business over the past 10 years is around managing the team and managing staff. And I think I felt the need, particularly in the early days, to carry the team-

Chris Simmance (Host):

Okay.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

… and I think I forgot that they were actually there to support me as much as I was there to support them. And actually when you carry people, it doesn’t really help them because then they don’t get to learn and develop and grow on their own side. And actually it just wore me out completely. I think I would definitely try harder to push people into the deep end and let me see what they can do.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. And I guess early doors that’s hard as well because you’re paying to feed and clothe people as well as as for them to support the doing of a business. And it’s really hard to let go of certain stuff. I think one of the hardest parts of being a leader is that delegation piece. And it’s not just because you don’t want them to grow, you just don’t want to risk the loss of something going wrong as well. And it’s quite hard to live by.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Let go.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Is there something in a similar vein that you’ve learned the hard way but it has set you up for this recent spate of wins and get to 10 years. Is there something that you’ve gone, ah shit, I wish I’d learned that earlier, but if I didn’t learn that lesson, I wouldn’t be where I am now?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yes. I think two things I’m thinking, very much around if you realize that a member of staff is not right, is making a decision a lot earlier about that, because actually it doesn’t help them keeping someone on in a role that they’re not good at and not performing at is actually quite demoralizing for them as well. And we found those times when we’ve kept someone on and we’ve said, oh, we’ll keep trying to support them, we’ll keep helping them. Actually, they actually become quite upset themselves about being in that situation. I think about being quite decisive in those scenarios, but then also remembering that your team is your business, so very much being picky about who you recruit. And I think in the past we were probably guilty of employing people that just sounded really enthusiastic and they just sounded really passionate and we were like, wow, we are really impressed.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

And we always had this thing where we would say, “Isn’t it odd, we only ever find one good person to employ when we interview.” And that was because every time we found the first good person, we gave them a job, so of course we only ever found one good person. Now we’re a lot more picky, we spend a lot more time over the recruitment process so that even if we find someone we really like, we interview a few more people just so we can get some balance. Obviously you have to be careful, because if you leave it too long then that person can go off and get another job somewhere else so then you could actually…

Chris Simmance (Host):

How do you manage that balance? Because I know that that’s a problem for quite a lot of agency owners in that you’ve got to balance the thoroughness from your perspective, they’ve got to be the right cultural fit as well as the right ability level fit. But they’re interviewing at five other places at the same time. How are you managing that balance?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

It’s really hard actually. And one of the things that we started to do at the end of last year is constantly recruit. We have a freelancer that works for us that is constantly recruiting and constantly looking for people so that we can get to know them a bit better before we even get into that interview process.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Okay.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Before we’ve even got to that point where we have a job that might work for them, we’ve maybe already had a coffee with them and had that relaxed conversation. You get to know them as a person before you have that pressure of-

Chris Simmance (Host):

Like a pre-approvals process.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

… I’m interviewing for a job. Yes.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Brilliant.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

And we find that that’s working really well, and when we do find we suddenly need a new member of staff because we have a big project that suddenly come in, we have then people that we’ve already got on the back burner that we can approach and see if they’re ready to make that move.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And it’s got to be two ways, isn’t it? I think if you’re looking at the way that people think these days, especially no offense to younger people, of course, but younger people typically look for the fit as well as the salary. But if they were to pick the two, the fit is often a deciding factor these days. And I think having that getting to know you phase before any jobs come up is probably quite a good move.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yeah. No, we find it works really well for us actually and it really helps us to be a bit more flexible with our recruiting. It’s been really good for us actually to have this process of constantly recruiting even though we’re not recruiting.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And within the world of digital marketing at the minute, there’s a big explosion post pandemic and there’s a lot of new business out there, but there’s also a lot of people looking for work, whether they’re new to the industry or whether they’ve unfortunately had problems with furlough and things like that. There’s a big pool of talent, but it’s you got to pick the right one haven’t you?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yeah, it’s very hard-

Chris Simmance (Host):

Got to pick the right people.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

… I think, in an interview. I think you were always constantly surprised how someone turns out because you see them in the interview and you can ask them as many questions as you want, but you don’t see the real person in the interview, I don’t think.

Chris Simmance (Host):

No, that part’s really hard. And I guess part and parcel of your getting to know them with a coffee or something like that process probably does help quite a bit because at least you uncover a little bit more than you would’ve done. Unless they’re a backend developer and you’ll never really know who they are because…

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

No. They just won’t tell you.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Exactly. That’s on a good day. Sorry, backend developers. If there was someone listening right now who was looking at maybe starting their own agency in the future in a different town to Wagada so they’re not going to be a competitor.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Cool.

Chris Simmance (Host):

If they were looking to start another start their own agency, what piece of advice would you give them?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I think I would say to them to be constantly learning, which I think we are in digital marketing anyway. And I think one of the things that I have got masses of benefit from over the years is reading lots of business books because I think it really opens your mind to different ideas and different ways that other people are thinking. And just accept that as the business is growing, if it grows as fast as Wagada did that your skills are probably not going to grow as fast as you need them to. And maybe not beat yourself up about that, but keep on learning and keep up skilling and just keep trying really and constantly evaluate what you do. And I think one of the things that the team are always laughing at me about is that I get really excited by failure because I love it when we fail because…

Chris Simmance (Host):

Guys, we screwed up again.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

We screwed up again. It tells us what not to do next time. And I think every time we fail, we’re not going to do that again. As long as we learn from that it’s something that we can cross off the list. Done that one now.

Chris Simmance (Host):

It’s only a failure if you’ve learned from it, otherwise you’re just a bit silly.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yeah. Yes, you got that.

Chris Simmance (Host):

You learn, grow, keep going, keep growing, keep learning. What if you’ve just started your agency and you’re in that, we’ve had our initial bout of success, when you just start and everything suddenly pops through because you’ve got all your referrals and all your friends have referred work in and you picked up some work overtime and things like that. Just past that little hump things start getting real and what about at that point in time, would that advice be different or would it the same advice?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I think that’s probably quite a milestone for the business, isn’t it? Because you’ve had that initial surge and the momentum is going to dry up unless you can actually start to do some outbound business development, if you can start to bring some staff in and start to really turn it into a proper business. And I think that’s the point that you need to have your wits about you really. And I think as soon as you get to the point where you think, oh, I can do this, then you are probably going to start dropping balls. Whereas if you’re constantly on your toes and being careful about what you’re doing and thinking quite strategically about where you want to take the business, then I think that’s the way you’re going to succeed. Whereas if you start to think that I’ve got this in the bag, then you’re probably going to trip up somewhere along the way.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. 18 months in you start losing that referral momentum and things like that. And it can very easily turn quite sour, not necessarily from a financial point of view, but because you start going, I keep putting the same amount of effort in everyday and no one seems to be picking up the phone and calling me, this is strange, what’s going on? But that’s when you test your metal as an agency owner, because you’ve got to hire someone to fill the chunk of work that you do in order to go out and develop the business. And that’s where quite a lot of the speaking stuff comes in and things like that. And there’s a lot of different ways of building your own marketing machine, but a proper marketing machine is essential for any agency. Not just because you’ll lose clients, but you also lose staff. And like you said, a minute ago, it’s hard to find staff so you need a bit of an outward, we’re a great marketing machine for people as well as clients. And I think that’s quite a thing to do and it costs a lot of money as well.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yes, absolutely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Which is scary when you’ve just started an agency.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Yes. And I agree, and I think we’re when you just start out you’re tempted to just get some cheap staff rather than invest in some people that can really take you forward. Whereas actually if you spend a bit more and get someone a bit more experienced, then it can actually absolutely transform what you are doing.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. I totally agree with you on that one. I made a couple of big mistakes with that in the past where I thought few cheaper people is definitely better than a few skilled people who cost more. That being said, I had one apprentice who beat the odds in that sense, he was both cheap and excellent and within the first six months of being an apprentice he was just paid whatever he was worth, he was bloody brilliant.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Wow.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Wish they were more of them. In the building of the agency over the years, what do you think has been one of the most powerful growth tools, channels, hate the word hacks, that you’ve found has worked best?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

One of the things that I’ve found most useful is talking to other business owners and other agency owners. Local networking, but also going into London to things like Search London, I found that really useful. And really jumping on any opportunity to say to people, how do you do that? What happens in your agency when this happens? How do you make that work? Because I don’t have masses of agency experience in my previous career, I was in-house quite a lot. And then the agency I worked in, they hadn’t ever run an agency before so I feel like I’m probably lacking in experience of other people’s agencies so having that ability to jump on other people and share ideas has been really powerful for me, I think. And also when I take on new staff members that have worked in other agencies, I always take them out for coffee on their first few days and literally grill them of, what was the structure like? How do you deal with this and what happened about this?

Chris Simmance (Host):

Stripping them of all the IP that they’ve learned accidentally over the last couple of years.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Absolutely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And then conversely, out of all of the times you’ve tried to grow the business is there a thing that you’ve done that you’ve just gone, no, that’s just not worth keeping up, that’s not worth the effort?

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I’m not sure. I can’t think of any particular thing where I’ve said that’s not worth the effort.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Good.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Sorry.

Chris Simmance (Host):

No, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Not everything will have been as fruitful-

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

No.

Chris Simmance (Host):

… but there’s definitely things that you would’ve doubled down on. And I think bringing people in and taking things away is great but also speaking to your peers is in incredibly powerful. I think every time I run an agency mastermind session or anything like that, the amount of good that comes from agency owners talking to agency owners about things which they all share as problems but they didn’t realize they were having the same trouble. It’s a bit like a thing therapy session in some senses. I remember I used to come away from those sorts of things and think, crikey, I’m not on my own, and have a little sit in the car before I drive home thinking, oh, it’s a bit of a relief.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

It is. And I think it gives you a bit of confidence as well that it’s not your fault that you’re experiencing these problems, that everybody’s going through the same thing.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, absolutely. And a burden shared is a burden halved or something they say. I can’t remember the specific phrase, but that kind of thing plus the support from someone who’s been through a problem that you’re facing is great. Especially when it comes directly from someone who’s in your space because they run an agency as well. Totally get it, it makes a lot of sense to learn from each other. Someone on a previous podcast recording was saying that they do a version of mastermind sessions but with other business owners who are outside of the space as well, and they get quite a lot of value from talking to someone who runs another service based business, essentially, so like a lawyer or an architect firm and things like that. Because even though the problems are different in scale and solution, they’re realistically just business problems and it’s always good to share.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Absolutely.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Which is why this podcast exists people.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

I do think agency owners are really happy to share as well, which I think is fabulous.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. I think unless your office is a corridor away from another agency, you often don’t really mind sharing because plenty of work out there, as long as you’re not cheating anyone, it’s worth sharing because like I say you can halve your burden by knowing that someone else is having the same problem and things like that. Absolutely, absolutely. Well, it’s been absolutely lovely having you on the podcast, Cheryl. Thank you very much for joining me.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Thanks for having me. It’s been brilliant.

Chris Simmance (Host):

On the next podcast we’ll have another fantastic digital agency owner director to talk about all of the cool things they’ve been up to over the years of running their agency. Just like Cheryl, hopefully not directly competing with Cheryl because they’ll have probably heard all of these great tips and taken them away. Thanks again, Cheryl, and lovely to have you on.

Cheryl Luzet (Guest):

Brilliant. Thank you.

 

Apply as a guest: