Barry O’Kane: Welcome to this bonus episode of Happy Porch Radio. Janus Stabik from Bristol based agency, Mayfly, and I had an amazing conversation about growing a successful agency and providing ongoing support services efficiently and profitably.
In fact it was so amazing that we couldn’t fit everything into that episode. Hence, this short bonus episode. These few gems about growing pains of an expanding digital agency are amazingly valuable and I didn’t want you to miss out. So here you go.
Janusz Stabik: It’s funny because it all seems so clear now (laughter), actually, speaking about it now. But it wasn’t so two years ago.
Barry: When you were going through it?
Janusz: Yeah. The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. It all seems so clear and common sense.
Of course projects and support are so different, they should have different teams. Of course project-wise (laughter) they’re so different, making those decisions, going through those kinds of things at the time–again in a period when you’re small and still a lot of business change and growth going on–it was a challenge at the time but very clear now.
Barry: Yeah and that’s exactly it. I mean I ran a small agency in Edinburgh for ages. You kind of, you’re just constantly firefighting and running around and not able to step back and think, ‘Oh wait, the vision of a better way of doing this.’
Janusz: You mentioned the word firefighting actually and that probably typifies years two and three for us, I think, when we were in the midst of it.
The other thing that we did that I didn’t mention actually was when I setup Mayfly with my ex-business partner, we were two developers and we were contractors working at another agency. We had this great opportunity, we, we effectively were handed a project on a plate that to be outsourced to us. That set up the company for us.
But we didn’t know how to run a business at the time. You know we were two developers that were used to sitting in basements (laughter) and writing codes. So, when we were small it was easy. So we’re, you know, between two and five it was easy because you’re very much involved in day to day. But between five and ten, it was horrible because you employ your first managers. But you don’t know how to manage. You don’t know how to get the most out of your managers. You think just by employing a manager or a project manager that they don’t need guidance from you. And you don’t have to guide them. So between five and ten was very painful.
So we engaged with a business consultant about 18 months ago. He was key actually to helping us with, you know, splitting the project management and account management. Splitting the support and project work, implementing performance management, implementing structure and reporting and incentives and budgeting and all these kind of stuff.
And, like you say, that’s given me the step back. That’s allowed me to work more on the business than in the business. Having that external impart from somebody else as well was something that was invaluable.
Barry: Out of interest, who was the consultant?
Janusz: So he is a chap called Paul Neck. He’s based in Bristol. He’s worked with a lot of creative companies. He came in, I had a chat with him for an hour and he had immediately–you know, I offloaded of the firefighting headaches I was having. He within 20 minutes, he understood it. He understood what the challenges were. He made some very sensible suggestions. I was like, ‘Wow, okay yeah. Hadn’t seen that. Maybe if we do this…’
It just all made sense. So we’ve been working with him pretty constantly for about 18 months. There’s grants you can get from the government as well to help with these kinds of things which really helped us out at the time.
Barry: So there you have it. Incredibly valuable from someone who is actually applying that advice to his own agency. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. See you next time on Happy Porch Radio.