I still remember those late nights at the office, juggling multiple projects, eating junk food and feeling completely overwhelmed.
One moment I’d be testing some updates on an app from a team member. The next I’d be trying to write a social media strategy for a canned fruit company.
I was knee-deep in work and on paper, we probably looked like we were a thriving agency. The truth is, we were far from it.
Our business had been struggling for a long time, and in order to simply keep the lights on, we were taking on anything that we could invoice.
“Jack of all trades”
We were not choosy as you can see from this list:
- Layout a new menu for a local takeaway
- Build an estate agents website
- Develop a new app for iOS
- Create a social media strategy
- Auto generated personalised PDF email campaign
- Provide CRM consultancy
- Logo design for a consultant
- Design a brand for an IT company
- Write the copy for a Pharma campaign
- Manage an ad campaign
- Artwork for an industry magazine
- Print management for multiple clients
We were saying yes out of the fear of failure, and were spreading ourselves thin, delivering work that we were not necessarily qualified in. Our theory was we’d say yes, then work out how to do it later.
To our credit, we’d eventually deliver but only because we worked ridiculous hours, and haemorrhaged any potential profit in order to get the project over the line.
In our desperation to keep the lights on, we had figured that casting a wide net would bring in more business. We prided ourselves on being adaptable, thinking that our willingness to tackle any challenge would be our saving grace.
Instead of being our lifeline, this approach became our “Achilles’ heel”.
We found ourselves swamped with projects that drained our time and energy, leaving little room for personal life, and even less for profit.
The turning point
One evening, after a particularly challenging client meeting, our team sat down for a heart-to-heart. It was evident that something had to change.
Something interesting happened. We started asking ourselves questions. The first and most obvious was WHY!? Why were we doing this to ourselves, why were we still trying to keep this sinking ship afloat? Why didn’t we just close up shop and all get jobs?
This was SUCH a healthy question to ask because it forced us to focus on what we were doing and ask ourselves and answer the following four, game-changing questions:
Why were we running this agency? Was it just to pay the bills? If so there were many other ways to pay the bills. Or was it something deeper? What had our original dreams been? What impact did we want to make?
Spoiler alert: It was something much deeper than paying the bills!
What are our strengths? Having reminded ourselves why were were clinging on, we discussed our strengths. What were we really good at, and what did we really enjoy doing? If we could do one or two things every day, what would it be?
We realised: We were amazing at developing memorable brands, and building websites.
Given our strengths, what unique problems could we solve? Looking at our past projects and clients, what had we delivered that both solved an expensive problem and delighted the client?
For us: Award winning, timeless and recognisable event brands, and flexible cost effective websites for conferences and exhibitions.
Who do we serve? By looking at those past projects, the answer was clear: event organisers, exhibition managers, and conference hosts.
We had the talent to help them, we understood the industry, we love all it stood for, and we shared the vision of bringing people together and making memories.
The answers to these questions painted a clear picture of our agency’s identity, from our core motivations to our strengths, the unique solutions we could offer, and the clients we could best serve.
This wasn’t just an accidental business strategy session; it was a deep dive into our agency’s soul! 🤣 #Deep
What we did next
As a result of this conversation, we had, for the first time in a long time, a true understanding of our identity as an agency. We began the process of streamlining our services, passing on any new projects that didn’t match with our rediscovered identity and went all in on the events industry.
This shift didn’t happen overnight of course, but as we became more aligned with our true identity, the transformation was real! Projects were completed efficiently, client relationships flourished, and our all important bottom line began to reflect the value we were delivering. (Yes, we started making money, paying down debt and turning those red numbers green!)
In hindsight, this was the turning point for us. It taught us the invaluable lesson that in business, as in life, it’s essential to “know thyself”.
By understanding and embracing our true identity, we not only survived but thrived. Our agency went on to grow, and morph into two unique businesses. Once delivery amazing brands, the other a SaaS website platform.
As I write this, we’ve powered 1000’s of event websites over the years, and right now manage over 700 websites on a daily basis. We’ve continued to stay true to our identity, and it has continued to pay dividends.
How about you? Have you asked why recently?