Back in 2008, I was introduced to the world of digital marketing and dove head first into learning everything I could. I was fascinated with the constantly changing landscape and how important digital marketing was for fostering growth initiatives for businesses.
To be honest, I didn’t set out to create and build a marketing agency. I actually started out blogging for two years and soon after that, CEOs started reaching out for marketing help because they read my blog posts. That’s when my agency, Fastmarkit, was born.
It started out slow because I had a full-time job at the time. On top of that I was pretty clear on the vision I had for myself being that:
- I still had a lot more I needed to learn and really wanted to continue being a part of the tech startup scene in Denver/Boulder, so not rushing the process was key for me.
- I didn’t have kids yet, but knew that at some point I wanted to grow Fastmarkit into a full-time gig so I could balance + integrate running a biz with raising my kids.
- I wanted the freedom to do what I love and also make good money doing it.
I do enjoy sharing my personal experiences with the hope that it will inspire and even help others do the same, so in today’s blog post, I’ll talk about reasons why I chose not to massively grow my marketing agency.
Strategic and Controlled
In the world of business, there’s this thought that the bigger you are, the better, and it’s all about just getting revenue in the door. If you would’ve asked me what I wanted in my 20s, my answer might have aligned with just making money and making it big. However, I realized a lot throughout the years. More specifically, making a lot of money doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be happy.
What I found while working for others is that the more money I made, the harder I had to work, and the more difficult it was for me to ever truly disconnect. Therefore, my goal with Fastmarkit was that I wanted to be strategic with how I approached growth. I didn’t want to grow just for the sake of optics or just making money, but wanted to make sure I laid out what that growth would look like and meant to me.
And don’t get me wrong, Fastmarkit has grown healthily since I’ve started running it full-time. I just recognize that growth for me has carried a multitude of different meanings based on the chapters I journey through.
So that brings me to my next point…
No Ego, Just Do What I Love
I realized that if I wanted to grow to a $20M-$50M marketing agency, I’d be pulled away from doing the actual marketing work, which is something that I’ve always enjoyed. My role in my company would transition to being more around HR and putting our fires. That did not interest me at all. In other words, it’s not what would make me want to jump out of bed to do it every day.
Further, my self-awareness of knowing what I enjoyed doing and the fact that I could make money doing it was more important than being miserable as the CEO of a $20M-$50M agency.
The “work” is what continues to drive me. I’m obsessed with the psychology and methodologies behind the marketing tactics that can be used to solve challenges for businesses who can’t seem to gain enough awareness, leads, and sales for their products.
Healthy Profit Margin
The average profit margin for agencies ranges between 11%-20%.
And as a rule of thumb, anything above 20% also means that you’re doing spectacular. However, I didn’t want to be just another agency that sat in the same bucket as what studies were reporting. Instead, I looked at creating an agency that was completely different from the ones I hired for work while I was employed by other companies and I wanted my profit margin above 50%.
The first two years I ran Fastmarkit full-time, I was at above a 70% profit margin, and as time went on, we grew, and needed more help. So my profit margin has gone down to 62%. Here are two key ways I’ve been able to do this:
- Operationally, I run my business as effectively and efficiently as possible. For instance, remote work is highly encouraged so we don’t have to pay for office space.
- Overhead is low and we hire subject matter experts as freelancers and contractors. Going back to my point about not wanting to be taken away from the work I love, I work with other subject matter experts who love doing what they’re doing too. It works out great because they need the work and I need the help. Win/win!
Life/Work Balance + Integration
Going back to my vision well before I got married and had kids, I knew I wanted to be involved in the growing milestones of my children. I knew that I wanted there to be balance and a sense of integration when necessary. That vision is now a reality.
If I want to get out of town for the week, I do that. All I need is my laptop, phone, and Internet access to keep communications open with my team as well as my clients.
Of course, this balance and integration gets challenging too. There are times when being a mom is much more needed and I have to find ways to ensure that my business is taken care of and vice versa. I’m not entirely sure I have everything figured out, but I know I am consistently pushed outside of my comfort zone and therefore, I am growing.
As my kids are getting older and will be starting school soon, I thought I’d wait until they’re both in school full-time to really begin scaling Fastmarkit. However, I thought, “Why not?” More specifically, why not just push for more growth now? I have figured out a nice way to really vet the types of clients I enjoy working with and now I want to push for more.
In an effort to do that, I’ve hired sales reps to help with prospecting and appointment setting. Pipeline is now filled with over 15 new potential clients and with Q4 just around the corner, I’m challenged (yet again) to step out of my comfort zone and not limit myself.