This Wednesday, e-commerce aficionado, Rachel Jacobs, joins us to discuss bringing value around the key phases for efficient agency growth. Usually, this occurs in the following order: pipeline, people, process, and profit.
About Rachel Jacobs
Jacobs is the number one trusted advisor for e-commerce agencies across the globe. Her business (ecommercepartnerships.com / ecommerceagencygrowth.com) is dedicated to maximizing agency efficiency and enabling agency owners to get out of the day-to-day of running their agency so they can focus on taking it to the next level.
As former COO of a leading Shopify Plus agency, Rachel has since acted as fractional-COO for over 60 e-commerce agencies internationally, helping them implement best practice systems and processes to scale profitably.
Leading authority in systematizing and scaling e-commerce agencies, building scalable retainer models, and coaching high-performing leadership teams, Rachel work with e-commerce agencies to simplify the next steps in scaling their e-commerce agency.
When Rachel isn’t talking all things e-commerce, she’s either whipping up a culinary delight, dousing herself in the sea, or hiking up one of the many gorgeous mountains in Gran Canaria, where she currently resides.
Points of Interest…
- Why Rachel niched into e-commerce 1:44
- Key phases for efficient agency growth 6:09
- Moving from Pipeline to subsequent phases 8:54
- Knowing who to hire for efficient agency growth 12:15
- Process for establishing efficient agency growth 20:32
Why Rachel Niched into E-Commerce
Having had the privilege of hanging out with Rachel (not to mention the incredible community of founders she’s been intrinsic to building), at a recent event in Rome I can personally attest to her wonderful and infectious mindset. In short, Rachel’s coaching is most definitely on point!
While she’s successfully made the transition from agency to coaching, I’m keen to learn why she specifically niched down to eCommerce, and what it about the field that she believes creates this unique context and set of challenges…
“When you’re talking about things like, profitability for an e-commerce agency, sometimes it’s the difference between success and failure. When you have a marketing agency, an advertising agency, or PR agency – that profit and loss value based pricing doesn’t translate particularly well for an e-commerce agency.”
Rachel’s background in branding, tech, plus the agency space has also provided her with a large network of founders who appreciate her unique perspective! Because she knows e-commerce and the tech industry, Rachel knows how to build out these retainer models based on certain technologies, plus experts across other realms (such as us here at Parakeeto) who can give a collaborative dig out if/when required.
So, rather than wasting time going around the houses, failing with a few different things that don’t work, and wasting money, clients go to Rachel and say, “This is where I need the solution. Point me in the right direction for me.” There are lots of amazing agency coaches out there, and if it’s specifically eCommerce you need help with, then Rachel is your woman. She has solutions to those specific problems – everything else, however, she can point you in the right direction of someone more qualified within her network of experts.
In short, the more niche you are, the deeper you’re able to go with the right people. This is an ecosystem Rachel has managed to cultivate, and something which I delve into further ***from 5:06 minutes onwards***
Key Phases for Efficient Agency Growth
Rachel and I have both seen countless agencies encounter the same specific patterns, and ceilings, over and over again. Therefore, I want to spend time unpacking the key stages of growth that she has witnessed agencies experience. What are the situations and struggles they face as they hit said ceilings?
“Starting from the bottom up, the three key phases for growth in my experience are Pipeline, People, and Process. Following that is Profit… A lot of agencies come to me at the first phase and they’re like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m struggling with my pipeline.’ Well, you just gotta do it. There is no silver bullet.”
So, let’s say you work in e-commerce and you need some help, what type of questions would Rachel ask you, in order to get a gauge of where your business is at? Well, pretty simple questions, actually, such as:
- What size is your business?
- How many people are on your team?
- Describe your management team…
- Tell me what your profit looks like…
As soon as those answers are provided, Rachel can ascertain whether they’re running above average, below average, and what exactly their pain points are. There is no crystal ball required or wizardry at play; this is merely the magic of niching down to such a point whereby key questions will unlock a wealth of insights.
“All I have to do is communicate; these are problems, these are solutions. The customers I wanna work are the ones that are attracted to me. From there, I decipher if they fit into my community. If not, I don’t work with them.”
Typically, the Pipeline phase of proceedings is the toughest nut to crack. In Rachel’s experience, it changes as your agency starts to grow.
Moving from Pipeline to Subsequent Phases
Business development, and keeping your pipeline in fine fettle, is a continuous process. However, what is a good indicator that your agency is ready to move on to Phase 2, that being People?
“Once you reach ten to 15 people, then your pipeline generally ceases to be the main issue. The problem then tends people orientated. Hiring the right people, building the right people on the team, and having a management team in place is very important if you – as agency owner – are still stuck on sales.”
Usually, if you find yourself stuck on sales, you’ll probably be very frustrated at not being able to focus on the growth of your business. Therefore, in Rachel’s experience, hiring more People and nailing your Process pretty much go side by side. Why?
“Because you need to have the process in place, to hire the people, to scale the team. Otherwise, it’s a load of people just running around doing whatever they think is best for them, which is super unprofitable.”
Knowing who to Hire for Efficient Agency Growth
OK, so you’ve figured out how to get work in your pipeline. Then, you’re sorting the right people, for the right structure and processes. What are the recurring issues Rachel tends to see at this stage?
“A lot of people have the wrong people in the wrong seat, or sometimes the right people in the wrong seat – or, indeed, the wrong people in the right seats. It’s a combination of any of those things. So I have to fire a lot of people through the agencies that I work with. I have to recommend that people are just not the right fit.”
It can be very tricky motivating agency owners to let go and not be so emotionally tied to the people that have got them to that stage of their business. However, it’s about looking ahead and not being afraid of putting the agency’s needs above everything else.
Sometimes, there are people working in agencies that are exceedingly capable they just – as Rachel puts it – “don’t give a shit.” You can will them to care a bit more, to become an absolute legend in their role, but you can’t flog a dead horse. Either they care, or they don’t.
A similar ethos could be applied to Process side of things – when you have your optimum management team in place, that is. Sometimes your most established Project Manager won’t be the best fit for your Operations Management role. Why? Because Operations are all about knowing what fire to put out on the fly. ***Both myself and Rachel discuss this further from 13:36 minutes***
Process for Establishing Efficient Agency Growth
I’m not just saying this because I clearly LOVE PROCESS, but there is something truly magical about delegating the creation of it to your team. Why? Well, because they do a good job of it – plus there’s so much more bought into the process when they create it themselves.
Moreover, in business, the most important questions to answer don’t involve ‘What’, but rather ‘When”. The sequencing of things really becomes super important. When it comes to process, does Rachel see clients focussing on the wrong thing at the wrong time?
“Of course, I’m biased, but I do see agency owners investing in working with coaches who aren’t in their area of expertise. They get a lot of amazing advice, but it doesn’t really pertain to them, necessarily.”
How do you know if this has happened to you? Well, you’ll probably feel pretty amazing about it, and enjoy your coaches’ company, but it won’t drive results. Thinking of people as the solution to a problem isn’t good process. Then, when you focus on process, don’t overengineer it to the point of perfection.
Ideally, think about it this way initially: if you have 20% of the process and 20% of the people, then it should feed back into the pipeline.
I see the same thing; all this focus is on people, when really the problem is you don’t have an excess amount of business coming in the door. That’s your biggest problem. Once you’re having to turn away work because you have too much – until that’s true, then there’s just not quite as much value in going deep down the people or process path ’til that issue is boxed off.
As agency owners, you need to be focusing on the right parts of your business – if you want to scale efficiently.
See more from Rachel…
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! We have helpful blogs designed to bolster your agency profitability, such as How To Calculate Your Billable Employee Cost-Per-Hour.
Our next installment of #APP, on September 21st, will see Marcel chat with Gregory Hickman. Our previous blog – Episode 94 with Amanda Hamilton – can be viewed here…
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