Agency Success Trait #2 – Structure


Summertime is here. I look forward to hearing about all the summer plans from everyone ambitious and chill alike.  Our youngest son just graduated high school, this might be the most bitter sweet summer to date. Seasons change.

In case you missed the last newsletter where we discussed the first trait of a successful agency…Discipline. After connecting, interviewing, or working with a couple hundred agencies, the next several newsletters will discuss what I’ve identified as key traits to successful agencies.  Today we discuss trait number two, Structure.


I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. 

Structure Defined

n. the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex

v. construct or arrange according to a plan; give a pattern or organization to. This industry can be incredibly challenging. Dealing with demanding clients and a diverse team, while striving for creative and effective work, presents a trifecta of difficulties. In this complex world we navigate daily, having a well-defined structure becomes crucial, providing a sense of comfort and confidence.

Navigating the Valley of Death

Running a modest agency with minimal structure can work to a certain extent. However, the abilities and number of key individuals ultimately determine the limitations. Some agencies hit that wall with fewer than 10 team members, while others can push it up to 15. Regardless, insufficient structure will eventually come back to haunt you. This is what’s commonly referred to as the “Valley of Death.” I’m not sure who coined the term but I find it quite fitting for agency struggles. 

During this critical phase, agencies face a grueling uphill battle, and many fail to overcome the challenges or opt to retreat. But for those who manage to emerge on the other side, they ascend to the prestigious A-list of agencies, where life gets a whole lot better. Some attempt to quantify this phenomenon based on headcount, but in my experience, it lies somewhere between the point where the limitations of a lack of structure end and the solid foundations of a well-established structure begin. Think organizational structure, consistent and updated standard operating procedures (SOPs), and a thriving culture.

I remember my own “Valley of Death” quite well.

*Image generated with my first trial run at AI art.  

An Agency Story – Featured Episode

Episode graphic for "An Agency Story" podcast with guests Amy Hage and Brittney Trahan - hosted by Russel Dubree

The conversation with Amy and Brittney was one of my most fun to date. When you can mix business savvy and laughter, you know you have a good recipe. 

Have a great week!


“The Backboard” 

Looking to Sell?

PS. I have an agency I’m connected with that is on the lookout for some agencies to acquire as part of their growth strategy.  Quick bytes on criteria are:

  • $150K to $1M in annual revenue.
  • Open to a wide array of service lines to include web, PR, general marketing, advertising, media, and more. 
  • Probably the biggest plus is that they are not requiring the owner to stay, so this can be part of an exit strategy.  

Let me know if you’d like to entertain a conversation! 

AI and Your Agency

PSS. I recently attended a conference with large group of agency owners.  AI and what it means for the future of agencies was certainly a hot topic. I’d love for you to share your thoughts and examples on how you’re using AI in your agency. 

It would be cool to do a panel discussion or something similar for a special podcast episode!

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