How to Become a Maverick

Episode 48 August 12, 2022 01:03:54
How to Become a Maverick
The Agency Hour
How to Become a Maverick

Aug 12 2022 | 01:03:54


Hosted By

Troy Dean Johnny Flash

Show Notes

Anyone who tells you that running a business is easy, is full of it!
This week on The Agency Hour, Mara Milani, a member of the Mavericks Club and the driving force behind Marameo, joins us to discuss what it takes to be a Maverick.
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Try to seek help, uh, and try to surround yourself with people that go through your struggle. It doesn't matter how, uh, but, uh, it's very important to have a community that you can rely on because, um, you know, you can go and, and spend time with your friends, but most likely, uh, you know, even when you try to talk to them about it, unless they're somebody that have a business, they, they don't understand what you're going through and what your challenges that, uh, uh, you have are. And, uh, it can be a little bit lonely, but more than anything, uh, speaking with other people and listening to other stories, uh, they really can get you thinking. And, uh, and that's the most important thing in, in my opinion, just to have that time away from the everyday operation of the business, just to think and see that there are other people out there that the first of all, they've got the same struggle as you, but also they might do things differently. Speaker 0 00:01:00 And so start to analyze why they will do things differently. And, and what's the difference between what you do and what they do. And it, it just opened up your mind, um, to just to see, you know, am I doing it right? Is it, is it right just for me or is it right generally? And, um, so that, that's, that's the most important thing. Reckon just surround yourself somehow some way with people that go through your same problem and you can talk to, and you can have a confrontation on, well, maybe not the right word, but have a discussion about the, what you're going through. Speaker 1 00:01:39 If you have a vision for the agency you want to build, then we want to help you build it. Welcome to the agency. Our podcast brought to you by agency Mavericks. Speaker 2 00:01:49 There we go. Didn't even realize we were live. Just man, love my funk music, ladies and gentlemen, this is electric counter by Goler. There we go. This is from art, royalty free music. Yeah. Try and turn this one off Facebook. <laugh> welcome to another episode of the agency, our, the podcast that is also a live stream. We live stream this into the digital Mavericks Facebook group, which I'll talk about in a moment, cuz we might be making some changes to that and I'll tell you why. Um, and it's also a podcast that's right? The wonders of technology allow us to produce a live stream here in the group and then suck the audio out and spit that up as a podcast. If you are listening to this as a podcast, please like, and subscribe, share it, leave a comment, tell us what's working. What's not tell us what you like, what you don't. Speaker 2 00:02:42 And if you are not in the group, please come and join the digital Mavericks Facebook group, where we have a lot of fun. You can see the video that we broadcast here. You can come and hang out and chat in the comments, ask questions and be a part of the conversation. Uh, we, by the way, the changes that we are gonna make is I think, and I'm just gonna announce this now without approval from the team is that we are gonna start live streaming this podcast to our Facebook page and YouTube at the same time, because frankly, we wanna get this in front of more people. We think that these stories need to be heard by more agency owners and why restrict it to just people who were in the group. So there you go. What do you think about that? Uh, let us know, uh, your feedback. Speaker 2 00:03:25 Would you watch this on YouTube? I think we did this a couple of years ago on YouTube actually. And there's a whole other engagement level over on YouTube that blew us away. That we were not, I didn't think anyone would comment on a live YouTube, but turns out they do. So we are. And the other reason, just for those of you who are into podcasts and who are into audio, the other reason that we are considering doing this is because I've been listening to our podcast and we use stream yard to produce our podcast and it compresses the hell out of the audio. And so when we, when I listen back to this as a podcast listener, I don't like the quality of the audio because stream yard is designed for live streaming, just like zoom. I love people that, you know, do their podcast in zoom and then publish the audio. Speaker 2 00:04:11 It sounds like they're in a sewage tunnel. I can hear the difference because I have a trained ear because I love audio and stream yard. Just compresses the heck outta the audio and spits it out as an MP3. So we're probably gonna move to a platform called Riverside FM, not getting paid to promote this by the way, because it records high resolution, high quality audio. I did a quick test last week. I listened to them both side by side and went, oh my God, it's like chalk and cheese. And I'm probably the only one that will ever hear the difference, but that's okay. We are probably gonna do it anyway. So, uh, stay tuned for that. Now today, our special guest is, uh, one of my favorite humans, definitely one of my, and I know that you're not supposed to have favorites, uh, but she's definitely one of my favorite Mavericks club members. Speaker 2 00:04:56 And uh, I say that unashamedly because she takes massive action. And she, what I love about our guest today is that she is, uh, when we chat, she doesn't pretend that everything's rainbows and unicorns. She's completely authentic and vulnerable about the challenges that she's having. And it's been a long journey for her to get into Maverick's club. And I said to her yesterday, this is not a pitch for Maverick's club. So you don't need to tell everyone how amazing Maverick's club is. What we're actually more interested in is your journey, how you got into the agency business. Why we keep doing this when you get punched in the face a hundred times a day, and you feel like smacking your head against a brick wall or a caravan wall as we'll talk about in a moment, why do we keep doing this when it's really fricking hard? So to help us unpack that and to share her story, please welcome to the stage Mara Melan all the way from a caravan, somewhere in Australia. Hey Mara, how you doing? Speaker 0 00:05:49 Hey Troy. I'm great. Thank you. How are you? Speaker 2 00:05:52 I'm very well, thank you for joining the show now for those that don't know, I see that you've got, got one of those lovely zoom backgrounds behind you. Usually when I'm wanna call you Laura, Speaker 0 00:06:01 It's just a, it's just, this is the caravan. This is just, it's just blurred. Speaker 2 00:06:06 <laugh> oh, you just blurred it. Cause usually when I joined you on calls and you're sitting in the caravan, it looks like you're in a first class cabin on an airplane, cuz it looks like you've the, the luggage lock at them behind you was fantastic. I love it. Now tell us why are you in a caravan what's going on? Speaker 0 00:06:24 Ah, because I love traveling and uh, um, I run a business completely remotely, so I can, I can do this. We've been traveling for about two years now. Um, so COVID hit, uh, my wife was able to work from home, uh, because of COVID and so we decided to hit the road. Speaker 2 00:06:42 Wow. What is, what does your wife do? What, what, what, what business is she in? That she was allowed to work from home? She's Speaker 0 00:06:47 Uh, she's a civil engineer. She's a project manager for, uh, polling, uh, uh, project around Australia. And um, so she's actually one of the only one in her company to be able to still work remotely. Wow. I guess she just made it happen and showed that she can be productive remotely and she kept her perks. Speaker 2 00:07:07 Wow. So, so COVID the whole world goes into lockdown. You guys are like, screw this. If we're gonna be in lockdown, we're getting a caravan and we are gonna travel around the country. Where were you when lockdown happened? What state of Australia were you in when lockdown happened? Sydney. Sydney. Speaker 0 00:07:24 Yeah. Speaker 2 00:07:24 And then when you and you and I connected, I think you're up in Queensland when you and I connected about, uh, when we got on that call a couple years ago, you're up in Queensland, right? Speaker 0 00:07:31 That's right. That's right. So like we, we left, uh, Sydney got into our little camp event at the time and then we were stationary for a while up in Trinity beach because we've got an investment property there and because of uh COVID and lockdown, nobody was going on holiday. So it was completely vacant. So we, we, we went up there for a few months, uh, and then kept going on the road. Speaker 2 00:07:55 Fantastic. Uh, now tell us how, how did you get in, how did you end up as a first of all, before we talk about that, what does your agency do? What services do you provide and what types of clients do you serve? Speaker 0 00:08:09 Sure. So, uh, we work mainly with, uh, NOFOR profit, uh, health research organization, government, uh, education. And we specialize in that custom design and custom development, uh, for, for those organization and really look at the digital and strategy side of things for them. Speaker 2 00:08:29 Uh, the agency's called ma Mayo design that I pronounce that, right? Correct. Yeah. Mamo design, M a R a M E O. And uh, good to see you're in the corporate swag there, the corporate uniform. Absolutely. Um, uh, so how did you get into this business? What, what were you doing before you started MEO design? Take us back. Speaker 0 00:08:48 Oh, wow. Uh, really I have been doing this since I was about 17. Like I just stumbled with HTML and CSS when I was a kid, I loved the internet and how it just, uh, gave so much opportunity to everybody. Um, and really leveled the around the world. I really loved that about the internet that no matter where, no matter where you're from, um, once you've got a computer and a passion to learn, you can do something for yourself. And, um, uh, yeah, just so started as a, as a game. Um, somebody at one time and said, Hey, um, you know, do you know anybody that can do website? And I'm like, I can. And I just learned it and I was about 17 at the time. And then of course, uh, you know, I did all the little things. Like I went to London for a year and I worked for an agency there to try to understand a lot of things, went to Australia and worked for an agency for about a year here. And then I just, uh, you know, freelancing here, freelancing there. I was too busy. So I had to get some stuff helping me with this. And in the last, maybe three or four years, I'm running it as a business. But up to then it was almost like a hobby, like something that I did because I liked it and it bring money in and it allowed me to have the lifestyle I wanted. Speaker 2 00:10:06 Wow. I love it. It's I remember, I remember discovering that you could view the source code of a website in a browser and thinking that I'd stumbled into some secret room that no one knew about. And I was, I was like, what, what do you mean I can, I can view the code that they wrote to make this website. This is back in Netscape navigator days, uh, for those of us who remember, and I just, I felt like I'd been handed the keys to the kingdom. Like I thought I was cheating. I thought the police were gonna knock on the door any minute and go, Hey buddy, what are you doing? I was like, this can't be right. Uh, and the, the there's a sense of immediate satisfaction. Isn't there where you, where you write some code, refresh the browser and see the changes that you've just made. It's this, this instant gratification that you are doing something that's having an impact and that is meaningful. How did you, so, so you realize that you have these skills. How did you figure out, uh, who your, who the type of client was that you wanted to work with? Was that something that you knew right from the start? Or is that a process that evolved over time? Speaker 0 00:11:16 No, no, no, no, definitely not. As I said, it were really, it was really a hobby for the first, uh, 15 years. It was something that allowed me to, you know, travel the world, work remotely work whenever I wanted not work for an employee, still get the money. Um, and then about four years ago, I started getting, um, out of referrals. So really clients that were a little bit more important, uh, and project that require more than a one man band type of, uh, type of solution. And so I started hiring and, um, it, it, it really just grew quite organically. I, I, I've never done any, any sale activity in my business ever. And, uh, it's a bit scary actually, and it's a little bit almost, uh, you know, uh, I feel like I should have done more in a way. Uh, but, um, you know, as, as you were say in the beginning, it's so hard, um, to run a business and, you know, it's not all rainbows and unicorn. And I found that even just growing organically, uh, there is quite a lot of pressure. Um, also I'm a, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. And so I really like the output to be of a certain level. And that's why, I guess we, we get all so many referrals, um, as well. Um, so yeah, it's, uh, yeah. Speaker 2 00:12:47 How did you know, how did you know that you were ready to hire someone and how did you know who you were going to hire and what did that process look like? Cause I, I know there's like I hiring my first, uh, wasn't even an employee. I think we hired a developer, uh, in India, way back in 2008, I wanna say. And I was terrified of, I, I was terrified of not been able to communicate correctly. I was terrified of having responsibility. They were just a contractor, but we basically kind of brought 'em on full time and that really put the rocket under me to go out and get more business. But I was, I had no idea what I was doing and I was absolutely terrified of the whole process. So how did you know, how did you know that you had to hire someone and how did you know who, what role to hire? Speaker 0 00:13:40 Well, for us, it was, uh, definitely developers because, uh, you know, while I I'm more like a frontend, uh, side builder back in the day, I was never like a, a, like a proper developer. I wouldn't call myself a developer ever. Um, so definitely I needed somebody technical and I hired somebody in Sydney back in the day. It was actually a student that was finishing his degree. Um, and it was, it was easy because we had this massive project at the time and he was on the project. So I knew that what I was paying him was well, um, you know, paid back by the project so that wasn't too hard decision to make. And then moving forward when I started hiring the, the, the first full time, uh, almost employee, um, that, again, the decision was quite easy because I always tried to get enough recurring revenue happening enough to pay for the wages and then go out and, and, and hire. So I never, I never hire, unless there was a specific project that I was hiring for. I never hired without knowing that I had that recurring revenue happening. Speaker 2 00:14:53 So, so this, so let's just park here for a second. What, what is, what's the recurring revenue stream? What is the service, the product that you are offering for recurring revenue that gave you that confidence to then bring on more team members, Speaker 0 00:15:06 Uh, care plans. And now since, uh, you know, pretty much last year, I started to sell as well growth plan, thanks to Mavericks. Speaker 2 00:15:14 Mm-hmm <affirmative> how did you, um, cause <laugh>, it took me a minute to figure out the care plan thing and the recurring revenue thing. And, and when I did figure it out, it was like the clouds parted, and I saw this new kind of future. Uh, how did you figure that out the care plan thing? Cause it's not, it's something that a lot of people miss, we talk to people all the time who run, who are freelancers or run agencies and they haven't got any recurring revenue. And I'm like, how the hell are you running a business without recurring revenue, the mind boggles. How did you figure the care plan thing out? Did you, would clients asking you to update sites regularly? Or is it something that you suggested to your client base? Speaker 0 00:15:52 No, I was actually really worried, uh, to suggest that at the beginning, because, uh, I felt like I was trying to trap the client into, you know, a recurring investment and I didn't feel at ease at the beginning about that. Uh, but then thanks, really, thanks to you and all the group at, uh, you know, the, the blueprint. I didn't go through the blueprint. Um, but I kind of spoke to you, uh, for a few years. <laugh> and, uh, you know, you guys were talking about recurring revenue, a lot and care plans. I think that the, even the work care plans came out from, uh, it was a bit of a, yeah, so that's what started to just give me thinking and how can I hire, you know, confidently and the only ways to make sure that I can pay for my stuff. And the only way that I know that for sure if I, if I've got recurring revenue to pay for them. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So that was, that was the, Speaker 2 00:16:46 Did you, did you get much pushback from your clients when you first started mentioning care plans? Did you get much pushback from the clients and, and how to navigate that conversation with them? Speaker 0 00:16:54 No, to be honest, I didn't, um, I thought I did, I would. And, uh, it's interesting because a lot of the time it's really our own mindset that steer us in certain direction. It's amazing how really we, we are the reason <laugh> that things don't happen and, uh, a hundred percent. So it, it wasn't, it wasn't hard at all. I did, uh, uh, you know, not everybody straightaway jumped onto the, the care plan, but then the more time passed, the more I refined the people that I like to work with and the people that I like to work with do value their digital assets. Um, and so they are willing to pay for that. I almost call it an insurance policy because, you know, they, they know that their site is gonna be fine and they don't have to think about it. And, um, you know, yeah, Speaker 2 00:17:51 There's, there's, you just mentioned something there too, which I'm totally gonna pick up and run with over the coming months, the digital assets, it's not a care plan is more than just looking after their website. Uh, in fact, I think it might be Carl in Carl few in Maverick's club who works a lot with online course creators and coaches, and he talks about managing, I think it's Carl correct me if I'm wrong, Carl, uh, he talks about managing their digital assets, like their lead magnets and their, all the assets for their courses, their workbooks, their, the video tutorials, they put together for their online courses. So it's not just managing the website, it's managing all of their digital assets and they, they could also be internal assets for their staff, like training materials, internal learning management systems, internal playbooks, and training manuals for their staff. Speaker 2 00:18:41 Anything that's digital. If you can wrap the insurance policy idea around those digital assets, it becomes more valuable then than just offering a care plan for the website. Because a lot of, unless people are actively making, unless people are, unless you're in e-commerce or you're actively tracking that you're generating leads and customers through your website, a lot of business owners and marketing teams fail to see the true value of a website. They know they need one, but they fail to see the true value of it. Whereas they ins they inherently understand what would happen if their digital assets disappeared and their website is just one of those digital assets. Right. Speaker 0 00:19:20 That's right. That's right. And I think, you know, like if you, if you have a honest conversation, there are, you know, perhaps there are certain business that might not need that type of, uh, level of care, uh, because of the stage of where they are. And that's okay. So, but I think it's, it's really just about having honest conversation with your clients and also be very clear on what your clients needs to be. And what's your target audience as an agency so that you don't go fish things that you, you really don't need in your, on your plate and be a little bit selective. Speaker 2 00:19:55 Let's, let's just switch gears a little bit and talk about your team because you know, so you've got recurring revenue, you start building a team, what does your team look like now? How many are there and where are they? Speaker 0 00:20:05 So I'm the odd one out. Uh, the whole team is in Vietnam. Uh, and I am the only one in Australia at the moment. Uh, we are, we've got five people sitting in the office in Vietnam, uh, and I absolutely love my team and I'm so proud of them. Uh, they, they are amazing. And, uh, I just spent, uh, one month in April in two weeks recently went to Vietnam and we did all this great activity. They brought me white, um, uh, Whitewood rafting, and only alpha way through the river, which was pretty, you know, I thought it was pretty mellow, but it wasn't. I realized that the whole team can't swim. So that was fun. <laugh> <laugh> seriously. Uh, but yeah, I, I, I love, I really, and it's great because we, what we have is, uh, we are a family. We, we treat each other as family and, uh, and that's something that, uh, it's, it's really important for me. We are hiring as you know, we've been trying to hire and, uh, both in Australia and in, uh, in, in Vietnam or in the Philippine, I'm, I'm trying to open up my, my opportunity here because it's been quite hard. Speaker 2 00:21:15 Mm-hmm, it's very difficult. The labor market's very tied at the moment. It's, it's, everyone's finding it very difficult to, to, uh, to hire, to find and, and bring on good talent. Uh, what does your team consist of? What are the roles that you've got in your team? Speaker 0 00:21:28 Sure. So I've got a tech lead, uh, and then I've got a front end, uh, a developer, uh, then I've got a project manager, uh, a designer and, uh, uh, and I office manager, uh, Anna is just a little bit of everything she does testing. She does the content updates. Uh, she helps me out, uh, uh she's uh, yeah, she's, she's wonderful. Speaker 2 00:21:53 Awesome. And, and how, how long have you had the team and how long have you had the office in Vietnam? What are we doing? 3, 2, 3 years now. Speaker 0 00:21:59 Uh, two and yeah, two and a half years. And recently we've moved out of like corporate office and we hired this two story home in like this beautiful setup with the surrounded by tree, with a little pond and a bridge. And we've got like our resident frog downstairs and it's, uh, it just creates that, that environment that it's, you know, it's that work life balance environment that I really like to, to build Speaker 2 00:22:26 Wow. Somewhere where you'd actually want to go to work. And it's a nice environment rather than a, a sterile corporate office. Speaker 0 00:22:33 That's right. Speaker 2 00:22:34 Yeah. Awesome. Um, and so we we've been talking, we were talking in the lead up to this show about, um, I was pretty clear that I didn't wanna make this an ad for Mavericks club, which I don't, what I do wanna talk about is a lot of people see agency owners have a certain level of success and they might aspire to, you know, having a team and being able to, you know, live in the caravan and travel around and have that flexibility. But one of the things that I wanted to unpack today is that it's not all rainbows and unicorns, that it is, it doesn't matter how successful you get the struggles just change, right? The, the challenges are just different. Sometimes they're harder, sometimes they're easier. And most of the time it's new challenges that you've never been through. So what I wanna do is just kind of, if you know, do this, I know it's a bit of a, a cliche, but if you could wind the clock back three or four years and have a chat with Mara, what would you say to her in terms of these are the things that are going happen over the next three years? Speaker 2 00:23:35 And these are the things that you need to look out for. And these are the things that you need to kind of skill up in these areas, because this is the shit that's gonna go wrong. Speaker 0 00:23:45 Yeah. Right. So the first one, I would probably say, um, I would raise my price a lot, a lot earlier. Uh, I like back four years ago, our prices they're still pretty low, but, uh, they were really, really low. And, uh, one thing that I've learned is that I actually have lost quite a lot of work, uh, because our quotes were lower than everybody else. And so the perceived value and the perceived quality of the work was perceived as a, as a lower value. Um, so that's, that's something that I've learned. Uh, and it's, uh, it's, it's good to know. Um, another thing is try to seek help, uh, and try to surround yourself with people that go through your struggle. It doesn't matter how, uh, but, uh, it's very important to have a community that you can rely on because, um, you know, you can go and, and spend time with your friends, but most likely, uh, you know, even when you try to talk to them about it, unless they're somebody that have a business, so they, they don't understand what you're going through and what your challenges that, uh, uh, you have are. Speaker 0 00:25:01 And, uh, it can be a little bit lonely, but more than anything, uh, speaking with other people and listening to other stories, they really can get you thinking. And, and that's the most important thing in, in my opinion, just have that time away from the everyday operation of the business, just to think and see that there are other people out there that first of all, they've got the same struggle as you, but also they might do things differently. And so start to analyze why they would do things differently. And, and what's the difference between what you do and what they do. And it, it just opened up your mind, um, to just to see, you know, am I doing it right? Is it, is it right just for me or is it right generally? And, um, so that, that's, that's the most important thing reckon just surround yourself somehow some way with people that go through your same problem and you can talk to, and you can have a confrontation on, well, maybe not the right word, but have a discussion about the, uh, what you're going through. Speaker 2 00:26:09 Mm-hmm <affirmative>, can we just park here for a second, because this is super, this is super interesting. There's lot to unpack here. And I, I just wanna reference Jenny Laken and who's in Mavericks club. She came to her first Madon and, you know, it's very easy when you join any community, whether it's that doesn't matter could be a free Facebook group, could be your own mastermind that you put together. It could be something a bit more formal and structured, like what we do here, but it's very easy to join a community like this and kind of get, um, you know, it's like a moth to the flame. You get blinded by the inspiration and talking to what everyone, you know, finding out what everyone else is doing. And you can, you can kind of just get sucked into the momentum. And Jenny said something to me once she said, I've learned, you know, pretty early on that I don't have to do everything Troy says, which is true, by the way, you shouldn't do everything. I say, in fact, you probably shouldn't do most of what I say. Um, and, and so my question for you is, uh, how do you know when you hear, uh, someone who has an idea or a particular approach, how do you, what's your kind of criteria for going, that's not gonna work for me or for our organization, and this is why, but I'm gonna do it this way. Instead. Speaker 0 00:27:24 I think a lot of it guts, I think a lot of it is, you know, because you, you know, you're, so there are the great thing about, uh, and again, it's not about Maverick specifically, but the great thing about a group of people that go through your same struggle. So, you know, group of agency owner is that everyone is in a different stage. We are going through the same path, but we are scattered around this pathway. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so, and we do different things. So like, for example, a great example is like that amazing podcast that you guys had last week with Mike. Um, I look at Mike and I think, geez, that is an amazing business model. And it is the opposite of the business model that I have yes. Complete opposite Uhhuh. Right. Um, um, so, and, you know, I keep thinking, because what I like about Mike business model is that it is very sellable mm-hmm <affirmative>. Speaker 0 00:28:28 So, you know, you go in five years time and Mike is, if he wants to sell the business is franchisable is sellable. There is a lot to unpack in that business model, in my opinion, but for the clients that I've got at the moment and the type of agency that I have at the moment, it would be not the right business model for me. So even though it is amazing to see what is doing, and I am actually quite interested in thinking about this almost as a second venture, potentially down the line, but it's not something that would work with my target audience and the type of clients that I have, because you can't go to a government agency or to an, you know, a university say, I'll give you a site for free. It doesn't work. We do complex custom solution. So it's completely different, but I love hearing from Mike and, uh, and that podcast, if anybody hasn't seen it yet, I think everybody should tune in because he's a legend and he's done it in a way that is so systematic that it's, it's a machine. Speaker 2 00:29:39 Yeah, it is very, it's, it's very impressive. But you can take, you can take nuggets. You, you, you might, you might get one idea. Uh, I, I, I, on the, I got off the podcast last week. In fact, I think I might have even said it on the show, but I, afterwards I said to him, dude, I feel like I wanna start another agency just to like, just to try this thing that, I mean, he's just laid it out step by step. Um, no, I'm not going to, by the way, my team won't let me neither will my wife. Um, but, um, the, but you can take one thing that, that is that he's got and applied to your business model. Right? Absolutely. So, you know, one of our other Mavericks, for example, when they started working with us, they had a local team and they were very big on just hiring locally and working out of the building and everyone being in the same room fast forward three years, I think he's, he's been in Mavericks three years now and he has a, quite a large team scattered throughout, uh, the Philippines. Speaker 2 00:30:34 And I think there are some in, uh, some in India. Um, and he's looking at hiring more and more people remotely now because he's just finding it so hard to get local talent. So, and, and that's just come from not only hearing an idea from the community, but seeing it played out and seeing other agency owners actually having success with this idea. So, you know, with Mike, for example, how do you target local businesses who need, who have a website that's either poor or, or broken or, or a DIY version? How do you mind that data? You could literally take the, the idea that he had about identifying a local businesses and then apply that to a completely different business model. You, you don't have to have his business model, but you can take one idea that he's, and it's not just an idea. He's already shown that it works and he's already got the runs on the board, and then you can apply that to what you are doing. Speaker 2 00:31:27 And so I think the merit in having access to that community is, you know, not, I mean, it, I've been through so many programs over the years where you go along and you listen to all these guest speakers talk and you make a bunch of notes, but you don't have access to someone who's actually doing it in their business because when you learn something and you apply it to your business, I reckon you probably end up with like 30% of the original idea and the rest of it, you've gotta kind of make fit your unique situation. And that's the good thing of, of that's the benefit of having access to other agency owners, again, not to make this a, a pitch for what we are doing, but any sort of community, specifically of agency owners, where you can say, Hey, I tried this and it didn't work. And here's why this is where I got stuck. And then they can help you overcome the next hurdle and the next turtle and the next hurdle. And then you look back in six months, time and go, wow, it's kind of different to where I started, but it's working. Speaker 0 00:32:22 That's right. And I think that other thing, what Jenny say is absolutely true, like there are so much input that we can take from the community, from the velocity call from the squadron call, um, you know, the math cons, but then it's really about understanding what's right for you today. And that's why we have the flight plan where we've got certain things that we need to focus on. And that's where your focus should be, because, you know, it's almost like sometimes you have all these things that you, that you get to here that are exciting, and you might wanna try, but you really have to put the breaks on and just really focus on what, what your pathway you've decided that your pathway looks like for that quarter, because otherwise it a bit too much. Speaker 2 00:33:11 Yeah. Um, by the way, for those of you who are listening, if you dunno what we're talking about, the flight plan, I'm pretty sure. And if we haven't, I'm gonna announce this now. I'm pretty sure the flight plan is available as a free resource for you to download. Someone will put a link in the comments here, if not, they'll go find it, but I'm pretty sure we've already given this away in the past. Um, grab the flight plan, fill it in. You might not know what you're doing the first time around. That's totally fine. Fill it in because what it does, this is one of the biggest challenges I find, even for us, I mean, we are, you know, 24, 25, 26 people, or whatever that touch the business on a daily basis. How do you keep that many people moving in the same direction? And I had a conversation with my business coach the other day, and she reminded me, yes, I have a business coach. Speaker 2 00:33:57 She reminded me if it's not on the quarterly plan, right? If you are involved in an activity that is not on the quarterly plan, then someone needs to have made a very good business case as to why you're involved in that, in why you're involved in that activity, right. Or you're just distracted. And it's time to get back onto the quarterly plan. And I, I can tell you, it's insanely difficult in the world that we live in with the amount of distractions and the amount of opportunity that is in front of us every day. It is very difficult to stay focused on three big ideas for three months. Right. Very difficult. So someone will put the link in the comments, grab the flight plan, download it, have a crack at it. And then just try and identify those three big mission, critical rocks. If you like that, you wanna get done over the next three months and then stick to it, right. Speaker 2 00:34:54 Stick to the plan. Emily says music to my ears. Let's stick to the plan. Yeah, exactly. We have a saying here, plan, the work, work, the plan. It's really difficult to get distracted. Um, the other thing I'll say is that if any of this is peaking your interest and you are in United States of America in September, and you wanna come and hang out at our live event for three days and do some work on your agency, then email [email protected] because we do have some tickets left to MACOM. It's in San Diego, September 12, 13, 14. Okay. Back to each over back to, um, Mara, as you've grown a team, how have, how has your role changed as your team has grown? What do you do differently now on a daily basis to where you were say three years ago? Speaker 0 00:35:41 Oh, massive, massive differences. Um, so at the moment, uh, I sometimes sites at the moment it's great. Sometimes sites get built and get delivered and I don't even know about it. So <laugh>, which is great and scary at the same time, considering the control freak that I am. But, um, <laugh> at the, at, at the moment, I mainly do strategy calls with clients, um, that are bigger clients. Um, so we do have three, four clients on growth plans. So those are clients that at the moment I'm still managing myself, but I, I have planned to hire someone in Australia, uh, that can replace, um, those kind of activity that I do because I do need to manage more the business side of things and work more on the business, but I am not doing anything else than, uh, so I haven't touched the support tickets in years. Speaker 0 00:36:48 Um, I haven't done a line of code in, oh my God. I don't even know I five years or something like that four years. Um, and I do a little bit of design still because I actually quite like it it's something that, uh, that, that, that I enjoy. Uh, but most of it is really client, uh, client relationships. And now I even got to a point where before I was actually project managing the project, but now, um, I do the call with the project manager on the call. And all I do is the call itself. And then from all the action items that comes from the call, then he takes it and deals with the, the, the team. Uh, so it's not something that I have to then follow up after the call. So all I have to be involved in is the call and then he takes it and runs it. So, and I think that makes a massive difference. Speaker 2 00:37:43 And so how you know, you're, you are a control freak. I'm a control freak. I did a, a, um, I'll be completely transparent here. I've done many disk profiles of many personality tests over the years on my disk profile, I'm basically 99.9% D which for anyone who knows disc profile is dominant, right? So there's dominant, influencer, supportive and conscientious. I'm not supportive. I'm not conscientious. I'm like a bull in a China shop. I know what I want, and I'm gonna get it and get outta my way. Otherwise I'm gonna steamroll you, uh, drives my wife crazy. We did a parenting personality test the other day, cuz we're doing a parenting course because I wanna be able to raise children to be resilient adults, uh, and, and survive. I wanna, I wanna survive that mission and it's very bloody difficult. And parenting forces you to confront your own shit. Speaker 2 00:38:31 Max is a bit Max's Wass about to have a baby too, by the way, in a few weeks, he's got no idea what's coming. Um, and you've, you have to confront your own shit when you have kids because they trigger you like you would not believe. Anyway, I did a parenting personality test the other day and it's the four different types of parenting personalities are. And the funny things, I can't remember all of them, but I remember the first one there's controlling there is um, uh, yep. Can't even remember the others <laugh> because, because that's me, I'm like, I want it done my way. And if you don't do it my way, we have to have a conversation about it. So I'm learning, I'm learning, um, I'm a control freak. I like things done my way. However, like you I've realized you can't do all the things, right. Speaker 2 00:39:21 I mean you can, but then you just stay as a freelancer for the rest of your life. And there's no, there's no leverage in that. Right. So how in God's name have you managed to get other people to do things remotely similar to the way you would do it and in a way that you are happy and, and let's just, let's just get real here. The business is going well, you are growing, you are hiring people. So you've managed to do this somehow. Right? Please. Mara, tell me for my own sanity. How do you get people to do things in a way that you go? Yes, that's pretty much how I would've done it and it's good enough that I'm happy with it. Speaker 0 00:40:05 So the first thing I it's been hard. It's been really hard to try to get out of my head because as I said, it's always about what going on in your head. I started with the projects that were not as important for the business. I know I shouldn't say that, but you know, there are always clients that are smaller clients that then, you know, you're perfect. Uh, you know, Ava avatar and, and, and so smaller micro projects. Uh, so I started with that. And what I see is that even if I removed myself from the equation, the client was happy. The team was happy. The team was growing. The team was, was getting better at doing what they were doing because I wasn't there in their way because most of the time I just get there and I, I can see that. I just don't let them do what they wanna do now if they faceplanted, they have, but that's okay. Speaker 0 00:41:05 And that's what I think I've learned recently is that if you don't let them, faceplant, they're never gonna learn. And so I'm there and I'm trying, and I can see the faceplant happening. And in the background, sometime I put some, you know, thing, just to make sure that there's just a soft landing and not a hard landing, but, uh, still I let it happen. And I think that's important because once it happens, the team really learns. If I am here and rescue them before it happens, then there's not really a, a lesson for them to learn. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So sometimes it happened that they had to stay back until midnight to finish something because you know, it wasn't done, uh, you know, for spec, but it, it was their shortcoming because they haven't seen certain things. And I was there and I was just really silently, you know, waiting to see what was gonna happen, but they, they pulled through and they're like, it's our responsibility. We messed it up. We are fixing it. It's going to be delivered tomorrow. And it did. So I think it's very important to let 'em run, uh, you know, and, and get them, let them to grow because otherwise, if you keep babysitting them, they're never gonna grow. Speaker 2 00:42:22 Had it. This is a very, very difficult thing to do, especially when there is a risk, a real risk that it is going to cost the business money. And that's your money because you are the business owner, it's not the team's money. How do you manage your, your, and, you know, I mean, we've been through a similar journey here, so it's not like I haven't done this myself, but I'm kind of teeing you up to help all of us understand when you know, it's gonna cost you money or potentially cost you money. How do you just sit on your hands and go, well, I just have to let them, I just have to let them learn. How do you not swoop in at the last minute and save the day and save the money and save the project? Speaker 0 00:43:06 Well, to be fair when the project is an important one, and I see that things are absolutely going sideways, I do swoop in because I feel like it is. So I feel I have a responsibility both to my team and to the growth of the business, but also to my clients and ultimately delivering good product to the client. It is the most important thing for me. So, but it, I do it in a way that I start like almost leaving break rooms for the team to just noticing certain things that are happening before it's too late. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So instead of, uh, instead of saving them, I, when the project is important and I see that there is that the path is not going where it should go, instead of save the day straight away, I simply leave breakrooms and let them think, and perhaps have, you know, small conversation and just that little hints and see how that gets responded by the team. And then if I say that nothing has happened at the end, I definitely am not gonna let the project fail completely just for the team to grow. And that's why I keep saying I, I started doing it on smaller project, on things that if the delivery doesn't happen tomorrow, but happen the day after it doesn't really matter. But the team then has learned that lesson on a smaller project. And I'm hoping that that lesson that they've learned, it's going to serve them good on bigger project later. Speaker 2 00:44:49 It's, um, it's really good. It, it, uh, Chris Leer talks about telling the warning story. He talks about this, particularly with clients, if you're in a client situation and the client thinks they've got their strategy figured out, and you know, that there's something they haven't thought of, you tell a warning story. And so, well, this is all great, but in three months time, you might wanna consider that this could happen. And this has happened in the past, and this is how we've mitigated it. And then all of a sudden, the client's like, oh, this is not your first rodeo you've been here before. And you know what you're talking about? And you kind of reclaim some of that authority based on your experience, you can do the same thing with the team here, which is what it sounds like. Uh, you are talking about one of the things that the guys that, um, 37 signals do. Speaker 2 00:45:27 I read this in a book of theirs called rework years ago is when these, the guys that make base camp and, uh, high rise and, and, and that software that was kind of built on Ruby on rails. They, they then also contributed Ruby on rails, back to the developer community. One of the things they do is when they bring on new developers, they get them to build an internal project. So one of the, one of the projects, they, and also campaign monitor, do this as well. Campaign monitor, who are a great Australian email marketing company. When they bring on developers, they get them to build a lunch ordering system for the internal team. So it does like, or a, you know, Hey, there's a, there's a beef jerky place down the road, build an app that allows us to, um, order beef jerky and have it delivered every Wednesday. Speaker 2 00:46:15 And that's the brief, right? And then they let the developer go figure it out. And so if it, so if they completely botch it up, it doesn't matter because who cares. It was just beef jerky from the beef jerk shop down the road. It doesn't matter. It's not, it's not mission critical. Um, how, what, and, and in terms of which is fine, if we're talking about developers or even designers or even SEO, but what about the soft skills? What about the communication? How do we get remote teams are getting people in the same room to communicate is difficult, getting people remotely to communicate across language barriers and across time zones, cultural, how cultural differences, right? How, what have, what are some of the things that you've done? Because one of the big fears I had when we start, when I started hiring people and working with remote teams, is if I reflect back on this, now the reality is I didn't want to be tied to having to mentor them right now. Speaker 2 00:47:19 I've spent years mentoring and leading a remote team, and we're in pretty good shape now. But years ago, I'm talking 2007, 2008. I did not wanna hire anyone because I, I didn't wanna be, I didn't want the responsibility of developing them and getting them up to speed. I just wanted to hire someone and have them deliver an outstanding result and not have to talk to me. Of course, that's doesn't happen in real life. So what are some of the things you've done and I'm not talking about, obviously we have slack and Microsoft teams and all that kind of stuff, but what are some of the things that you've done to actually get your team communicating effectively? And so that everyone's on the same page internally, but also with clients. Speaker 0 00:48:02 Look, I think what really helps because why, while I am remote, uh, the whole theme sits in the same office. So at the moment, I'm the only one that is the remote, actually, no, we've got VIN that, uh, is actually now living from his hometown because he's trying to start a family with, uh, with his wife. And so he's working from home for the next two years. Um, so that's, that's great, but, uh, yeah, look, I, I, I think from a, from a client perspective, uh, and I wanna touch on this because a lot of the time we spoke with, uh, within the squadron and, and, and other maps, and there is a lot of, uh, pushback about hiring people overseas. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> some people have some mental block there. Um, and you know, my team is sending emails that not even I would send to the client, I've got them Grammarly and they, you know, do a lot of, uh, I think, uh, uh, picking, uh, things that I writes to client. Speaker 0 00:49:13 And when they see some snapshot that they, like, I think that they save it and then they reward it and then they send it to them. And, uh, all I'm trying to say here is that I am so proud on seeing them, how they communicate with the client. Um, and everybody, except for maybe the designer actually communicates with the client directly. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, uh, only VA, which is a project manager and he's south African. So of course he's the one that speaks with the client and a client's meeting with me and, and, and just directly by, by himself. Uh, but I, I don't think I'm answering your question here, but, uh, I, I, I don't feel like we have problem in communicating with the client all within the team, even though we are remote and, you know, sometime we work from home and I'm always out, you know, out of that, of that, of that group. Speaker 0 00:50:06 One thing that really, really helped, I think it was Mego there for a whole month, and then now for two weeks, and that's something that I'm going to do a lot more often. It creates that team building. Uh, it creates the trust. And also I had the opportunity to speak to each of, uh, the team member and really understand what their goals in life are, what they wanna do, what they're missing, uh, what they want to try to develop their skill set. Um, and, uh, I think that's so important. Um, you know, I, I don't know if a lot of people that have a business here in Australia, or they have like a team overseas, they ever go or spend enough time with their team member, especially now in a situation where we are where team turnover is such a problem for businesses. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I think that the spending that time and, and giving them the attention that they deserve, because they are your business a lot more than, than I am, uh, because, you know, okay, so I bring clients in and I, and I manage the clients, but, uh, they're doing all the work and I, I am so grateful and I want to be able to be there and mentor them and make sure that they develop the skill that they want to develop. Speaker 0 00:51:28 And they grow professionally and personally, and feel heard and feel that they can tell their opinion, feel that they, they have a future with us. That is not just a transactional relationship. Speaker 2 00:51:46 Hmm. It's such a great mindset. It's, it's, you know, going, uh, to the Philippines and meeting our team and then having our team retreat in Thailand in 2018 was a game changer for us. Like it just brought us so much closer and, uh, it reminds me, uh, there's a great book called good authority by Jonathan Raymond. And he talks about, uh, yeah, it's a great book. He talks about, um, everyone's on, everyone's on a personal development. Everyone's on a, everyone has their own personal growth journey, right? Everyone wants to develop personally. They want to develop their skills. They want to become better communicators. They want to become leaders. Everyone's got their own personal aspirations. And yet we ask people to go to work 40 hours a week and keep that separate from their personal growth journey. And so the one thing that he talks about is let's give your team an opportunity to go on their personal growth journey during that 40 hours a week, while they're at work, the upside as a business owner is you're gonna have way more productive staff. Speaker 2 00:52:52 You're gonna have way more loyal staff, because they're feeling like they're being developed and nurtured, and that they're flourishing, and they're not just, you know, performing tasks and ticking off tasks and then have to do their personal development outside of work. Personal development is part of being a human being, whether you like it or not, if you think it's all, woo woo. That's fine. Personal development is part of being a human being. So let's allow our team to do personal development on our dime. It makes business sense. And it's also, and it's also great for reducing team churn. We are very lucky here, touch wood. We haven't lost a lot of people in organization here. Part of that is because we are a great big family and people love working here and they feel, they feel like they have autonomy. They feel nurtured. They feel well supported. Speaker 2 00:53:36 Um, and you know, the, I think it takes a certain type of leader to foster this relationship amongst team members. Um, and I think that especially when team are remote, it's very easy to just think of them as avatars in slack, who need to tick off tasks in Asana, right. And to look at the productivity and the traffic light system and go, Hey, how come we're not doing our, you know, we're not, we're not efficient enough. We're not productive enough. There's always a human story behind the outcome and behind the results. So kudos to you for, for making the trip over there and actually meeting the team and leaning into them. That's really, uh, fantastic to hear. Now. It's not all rainbows and unicorns because sometimes your team are also the very thing that make you wanna put your head through the caravan wall. Right. <laugh> so Speaker 0 00:54:28 That's right. Speaker 2 00:54:29 What, what, what happens in that situation where, you know, I love this team so much, but oh, please, somebody help me figure this out. Let's just not going the way I want it to, Speaker 0 00:54:42 Ah, I try to be empathetic and try to see where they come from and try to understand why certain things have happened and have conversation with them and, uh, and really understand what their thought process is. Uh, some of it I feel, and I can see the difference between VA, which is south African and the other team member from Vietnam. Um, and I think the cultural background has a lot to do with how they solve the problem and how they approach things. Things are getting better now that we've put our values and our mission, and we've the final, all this. So every time that somebody needs to make a decision, they need to go back to the values and they need to align that decision to the values. And that really helped recently, but still, you know, ultimately I honestly like you can't pretend that's the problem. Speaker 0 00:55:43 I think that everybody's trying to replicate themselves in others and that's something that is never gonna happen. And you have to accept that and people, people are going to fuck it up. Whether they're from Vietnam, from South Africa, from Australia, from us, you know, people make mistake and I am very open with my team going, look, we, I make mistake all the time. It's about understanding that mistake, owning that mistake, owning that responsibility with the client. That's the first thing, very important, having that conversation and more than anything, make sure that does not happen again. So yes, I like everybody. Sometimes I wanna headbutt the caravan wall and it's, and <laugh>, it's frustrating as hell because sometimes I just go, how can this happen? Like, you know, simple, simple things. Or sometimes it just feel like why is this? So I am so outraged about what just happened and you actually thought that that was okay. Speaker 0 00:56:49 Like why there is that, that, that difference in, in, in the way we, we see things, but it's a journeyman. And, and, and, and I honestly don't think that, uh, you know, it, it would be any easier, uh, with, uh, with people from a different background, culturally, uh, you know, every culture have their, their strength and their weaknesses, uh, and every person have the strength and their weaknesses and you just have to accept it. And I think that's the, the hardest part of being sometimes you think, geez, it would be so much hard to shut it all so much easier to shut it all down and just, uh, you know, charge an enormous amount of money as a consultant and call it day. Mm. But, uh, there's also so much more than that. Like the rewards of seeing those guys growing and, and doing massive leaps. It's, uh, it's, it's amazing. I, I, I love that and I love the fact that we can help more people. Speaker 2 00:57:52 Why, I mean, it's an interesting question. Like, I mean, why don't you just, why do you keep doing it? Why don't you just shut it down and charge a enormous amounts of money as a consultant and be done with it and just travel around the caravan, be a lot easier. Speaker 0 00:58:05 Yeah. Uh, because I want to retire very, very early <laugh> and in order to do that, uh, you know, I can't be just a, just a consultant. So my, what, what I'm, I'm trying to do. And I, I know that, that I have the opportunity here to do that. Uh, like, yeah, I want to build an asset that I, again, not only sell eventually, but also that I can give to somebody to manage. And so that I could be like, you know, on a very overseeing the, the business at a part-time base or, you know, like a few hour, a week type of thing. Uh, and that's something that cannot happen if I have, uh, a, a consultant business, I, I need to have a team. And also, you know, at the moment I see that opportunity is presenting in front of me, and I can do that. So why not? Like I'm trying, I'm going all in. I'm here in Mavericks and I'm, you know, trying to do everything I can to build that specific, uh, business model, uh, and, and awfully my aim. And we can come back here in five years and it's going, part-time completely, so five years part-time and 10 years full retirement. That's my plan. Um, awesome. Whether I'm gonna succeed or not, I'm not sure, but, uh, I, I, I'm definitely trying, Speaker 2 00:59:28 And you have a plan, which is, you know, like 80% of the battle is you've actually got a plan. Uh, it's awesome. Uh, it's awesome to hear that clarity, and it's great to be a part of that journey. Um, we are almost outta time. This feels like I could do this for weeks, and I look forward to hanging out in real life at live event and getting to know you, um, what are you most excited about over the next 90 days in, in the business Speaker 0 00:59:56 At the moment, we are actually going through a bit of a struggle, uh, you know, not rainbow in unicorn. So on the next three months, like if I can, you know, find those three new position to fill those seats, that would be the best thing that can happen for the business, uh, because we, we really need people to, in order to actually, uh, you know, deliver the projects that we've already have in our pipeline. But other than that, it, it really is about, uh, trying the best I can to set those foundation. And that's what I've been doing for the last year in order to, uh, to look forward, to get that goal happening in the five and 10 years. Timeframe Speaker 2 01:00:45 Love it. Awesome. Well, I'm looking forward to being a part of that journey and, uh, and hanging out in, in a, in a campground one day in the caravan and hearing how the team's doing an amazing job while you are not working anymore. I'm really looking forward to that. Speaker 0 01:00:57 That'd be great. That'd be great. Speaker 2 01:01:01 Melan. Thank you so much for joining the agency. Oh, this has been awesome. Lots of comments here in the chat, uh, people just loving this. Um, Rory says, oh, is that a caravan? I just realized how cool I know. And James Mero says the camera that you've got there. It looks like you're in this amazing Villa. It looks like this is incredible Villa. I love the, Speaker 0 01:01:19 It's definitely not a Villa. Speaker 2 01:01:20 Well, the way, where are you at the moment in Australia, where whereabouts is the caravan Speaker 0 01:01:24 At the moment we're just out of Darwin. And, uh, this weekend, if everything goes to plan, we should try to make it into Western Australia and then just go all around that loop, which means I can be in MACOM in San Diego, because I'm going to be Bush bashing in the ES, but, uh, you know, choices, but, uh, yeah, definitely be in February for the next one. Speaker 2 01:01:45 That's great. We'll try and Skype you in from the Bush Speaker 0 01:01:48 That Speaker 2 01:01:49 Way. That'd be great. Awesome. Thank you so much. Being a part of the agency hour, uh, love everything you're doing and, uh, look forward to keeping the conversation going. Speaker 0 01:01:57 Thanks, Troy, have a good day. Thanks. Speaker 2 01:02:00 Awesome. Ladies and gentlemen, that's another episode of the agency, our, uh, board to you by agency Mavericks. Of course, we are live here in the digital Mavericks Facebook group, but we are gonna open this up. We're gonna start live streaming onto our Facebook page and onto YouTube. So come and check us out there. Uh, if you do wanna be a part of MACOM, it is September 12, 13 and 14 in San Diego. Uh, this year come and hang out for three days and help us help us, let us help you take your agency to the next level and meet all the agency. Amazing agency owners in Maverick's club. We've got some great guest speakers coming along. Of course, we've got term again, go WP. And I think my web audit us sponsoring the event. So come and check it out, uh, reach out to [email protected] if you want the details. Speaker 2 01:02:42 And I think there is also a page on our website where you can get, uh, the details and, uh, book a ticket or chat to our team. I dunno what the link is, but someone, well, there it is. Agency, M a V C O N, which is Maverick's conference agency,, uh, and like, and subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast here, if it's on Spotify or Google play or the apple store or whatever it is, downcast, which is my favorite podcast app and share this with any other agency owners, you think who might be interested and might benefit from it all, look forward to seeing you again next week on the agency. My name's Troy Dean until then have a great week. Bye for now. Speaker 1 01:03:22 Thanks for listening to the agency hour podcast, subscribe at apple podcasts, Spotify pocket, audible, and wherever you like to listen, you can catch all of the agency hour episodes on our YouTube channel at Mavericks. Or you can get involved, check out our free digital Mavericks Facebook group, where we broadcast these episodes live for our community every week, along with a ton of free training. We'll see you there.

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Johnny Flash & Troy Dean host Josh Eaton, CEO of Reaktiv, a boutique WordPress agency that specialises in complex integrations and custom development. Josh...


Episode 16

February 28, 2022 00:56:04
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Borrowing Audiences with Samantha Johnston

On this episode of The Agency Hour, we catch up with one of our Maverick Club members, Samantha Johnston, to discover how she has...