Speaker 0 00:00:00 What's the mindset around someone who starts an agency, grows a hundred clients, runs outta money, goes bust, goes and gets a cushy job at eBay, and then goes, you know what? I'm gonna jump back into that, that pit of lions and that fire that burnt me in the past because I want to get eaten alive again. Fire and a house.
Speaker 0 00:00:18 Welcome to the Agency Hour podcast. This week we are joined by the 55 Guy Benjamin Williams of 55 Knots. And in this episode, we discuss the importance of letting go of control in order to focus on growing your business, the difference between an unlimited design service and a dedicated team member, as well as why Ben decided to leave his role as creative director at eBay to create his own agency and invent what he calls his weird jail that makes him feel more stressed and more free than ever before. I'm Troy Dean, stay with us. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the agency hour, Benjamin Williams from 55 Knots. Hey Ben, how are you? Good,
Speaker 1 00:00:58 Mate. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be on the agency hour today.
Speaker 0 00:01:00 Welcome to the show. Now you are based in Sydney, is that
Speaker 1 00:01:03 Right? I am correct. Currently next to the Hub Bridge as we speak. Trying to block out the busy noise of the off ramp there
Speaker 0 00:01:10 <laugh>. Lovely. Uh, and for those that don't know, uh, just tell us who you are, a little bit about your background and what you're currently doing.
Speaker 1 00:01:18 Sure. Um, obviously Ben, Ben Williams is my name. I am originally from the Gold Coast. I'm a gold, gold Goldie Australia. I have been an a designer since I was 12. Strange. I used to, uh, I was bored and I moved to Townsville. I had to learn how to do something for six weeks, so I learned how to code websites and started selling websites the US when I was 12. So I've now 30, 36. So I've been doing it a long time. Sort of got a, got a job as a graphic designer, worked my way through corporate world rather than agency world. Worked for a lot of large corporates, telcos, eventually ended up at eBay as creative director there. And then before I dived into, started Marian Agency.
Speaker 0 00:01:52 Wow. What, what is, what does a creative director at eBay do exactly?
Speaker 1 00:01:56 Um, a lot of people like, does eBay need a creative director? Don't people just go on there themselves and list thingss? But, um, no, we're responsible for consumer side, like attracting consumers as well as, um, I guess sellers. So it's not just like a server yourself platform. If you walk around anywhere, you'll see there's bus stop signs, so's eBay on them, you know, buses with eBay on them TV shows. So my job was really basically, I was kinda like the brand ambassador for Australia to make sure that everything that came through, um, met the brand, uh, look as well as the brand aesthetics from the US of mothership, as I used to call it. And just make sure that when we were mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, doing a TBC that we spoke to the brand itself. So I was called a kind of more like the creative gatekeeper, <laugh>, but creative troll. Uh, but I, I was pushing, pushing the creative, pushing, pushing the boundaries, learning how to kind of bend the, the, the playbook as far as we could cuz Australians like to do things a little differently to other parts of the world. We like to bend it and we're, we're down in Australia, so we got, got away with a lot more. Um, but generally it was all the brand work, TVCs, the banners on, on the website. Basically every single touchpoint from a marketing point of view came through my team. Wow.
Speaker 0 00:03:02 How long were you there and what sort of team did you end up with?
Speaker 1 00:03:04 I was there for six and a half years. Um, I st Wow. Started off as a team of two and we used to work with a lot of agencies and then over time I started agency agencies probably didn't like it, but I started to become, make more of an internal agency. So, uh, we ended up with a team of 12 by the time I left, uh, we had a couple of copywriters and then the rest were designers and then like one traffic coordinator. And then we had, we still had our big agencies for like, the big, big brand sort of, you know, brand awareness campaigns. But everything else was done in-house.
Speaker 0 00:03:32 So this is interesting to me that you, our client side, you're working with a bunch of agencies, but you gradually start to build the team in-house. Why, what, what was, what was the problem you were trying to solve there? What was bugging you about the agency relationship?
Speaker 1 00:03:45 I know that a lot of your listeners are agencies. So the issue we were having mostly was around the brand guides and brand awareness. Um, and the, the struggle points or the struggles that eBay were having at the time around trust agencies want to get it, but it's not their bread and butter. So sometimes they struggle to really get deep into it. So sometimes we, we had a lot of execution agencies and we just found we didn't need those anymore. Like rolling out a set of banners at a, you know, 200, $300 each was just, I mean, it's still eBay, right? So it's like they have the money, but they don't need to spend it. Like, they'd rather spend it on, you know, the, the TVCs or the actual media buying. So, um, the more we could get it done in house, the more they could spend elsewhere. So it kind of ended up being cheaper for execution for the big age, like the big, big brand awareness pieces. Sometimes it ended up in house when the agency wasn't nailing it, but generally speaking for execution work, it just, it actually just slowed the process down.
Speaker 0 00:04:39 Yeah, that's right. That's been, that's what I was hoping that you would say, because <laugh> working with, and this, I think there's something, you know, yes, our listeners are agencies, but they should be paying attention to this because the idea is like, how do you not become, as an agency working with the client, how do you not become the bottleneck? How do you not be the thing that slows the client down? And typically that's been my experience being agency side and now being client side. We're a consumer of agency services and we coach agency, so it's all very kind of meta. But I am constantly trying to help our agency clients understand what not to do by the agencies that I've worked with in the past that just slow us down. Right. Um, and I think the le the, the more you can have an in-house team, the faster you can move.
Speaker 1 00:05:28 Yeah, exactly. And it's like, we still had two week, alas, but you know, we still have people in the business that did not care for two week, alas. So, um, things were coming through same day and, you know, you couldn't get it at live. Um, if you were going through the agency or the agency was sending at 7:00 PM and staff aren't wanting to be there until eight, 9:00 PM to traffic something and they wanna go home, it's their corporate job. <laugh>, it's not the same. Yeah. I don't have the same hustle Yeah. Culture as a lot of agencies do. So they just wanna get home and do something else. So
Speaker 0 00:05:56 <laugh> Yeah. By the way, for those listening SLAs, a service level agreement, so a two week SLA means that they, that's okay. A two week, no, I, I love the three letter acronym. Uh, I love confusing. I love confusing people. It makes us sound really smart. Uh, so the two week SLA means that the agency is on the hook to deliver something within two weeks. Right. They ha like they have to deliver within two weeks, otherwise they're penalized.
Speaker 1 00:06:16 Right? Yep. Ex Exactly. It would also be the same for internal. So, um, if like we had a campaign manager who briefed it within, within two weeks, then they, their campaign wouldn't get live, go live. Like it was very stringent. So, um, it was, it was also on the campaign manager. Mm-hmm. Internally they had to brief within two weeks or it would, wouldn't go, wouldn't happen. Well it was up to my discretion. I was kind of the, I was, they used to call me the sassy, can I swear on this podcast,
Speaker 0 00:06:41 <laugh>? Yes, of course you can
Speaker 1 00:06:42 <laugh> the sassy bitch at e at eBay. Because I was like a gatekeeper. It wasn't briefed on time. I wasn't, it wasn't happening. You'd really have to worry me to get me to say yes. So
Speaker 0 00:06:50 <laugh> love it. So then after six and a half years of this experience working with the agencies and all the challenges that go along with that, you decide to leave eBay and start your own agency, <laugh>, why? What are you
Speaker 1 00:07:05 Doing? I wanted to create an execution agency, strangely enough. The thing that I was <laugh> again, that eBay, cause I thought I could do it better. So that's, that's the reason I went into it. I also, as a creative director at eBay, I didn't know where else to go. Like, what's more exciting or more challenging than starting your own business? So it was kind of like a challenge. I was kind of done with where I asked where do I go? Creative director wise, another corporate. I didn't wanna go to somebody else's agency at that point. Cause corporate jobs quite cushy compared to working for an agency. Cause the pays better, the hours are better, there's more rules, uh, in terms of SLAs and stuff like that. So it was, I thought why not ch uh, well I not challenged myself. I had an agency back before eBay. It failed miserably. I had a hundred clients really quickly. And then money ran out and then I had basically went bust. Wow. So I thought I always had the plan to go back and do it again. Wow. Uh, so it was, it was the time to do it again. H how
Speaker 0 00:07:56 Do you, what's the, this is really interesting, uh, how, what's the mindset around someone who starts an agency, grows a hundred clients, runs outta money, goes bust, goes and gets a cushy job at eBay, and then goes, you know what, I'm gonna jump back into that, that pit of lions and that fire that burnt me in the past because I want to get eaten alive again. Like what, what's the, what, what's the attraction? You obviously see having your own business as a vehicle to something greater, but you know, because you'd done it before and it had failed, you're doing it again, you know, and then covid happened, which we'll talk about. But, but you know that it's freaking hard. Right. Why choose why choose the harder option?
Speaker 1 00:08:35 I've always, I mean, my f my first uh, board meeting I had was with my best friend when I was 10 in the sandpit. Like, I've always just wanted to do my own thing. <laugh> I was, I was trying to create merchandise to sell to dream world. Um, so I was getting like toilet paper, toilet paper holders and trying to make little tower of terrors and I was trying to call them like, I got this thing I wanna sell you. Um, it's just always been a, I wanna make it as my own on my own. And I always thought design was the way for me to do it ever since I was like 12. So I always wanted to get back there. And I think I've always had a little bit of a issue with people telling me what to do. I've always been very, I always get do what I'm told. Well, not anymore. I think I'm unemployable now, but, so I always wanted to try it again. So I dunno what the attraction is. Glutton for punishment, like the challenge. I feel like I have more stressed now than I've ever been in my life, but I'm also more free, strangely, I call it my business. Kind of like my, um, it's my weird jail that feels free at the same time. Like, I don't know. I'm free to go whenever I want. Yeah,
Speaker 0 00:09:31 <laugh>. Totally, totally. Yeah, I totally get it. You know, there's a great, I saw a great, uh, wall poster and a co-working space, uh, a couple of years ago that said entrepreneurs are those who choose to work 80 hours a week so they can avoid working 40 hours a week. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:09:46 I it's
Speaker 0 00:09:47 So good. So true. Um, so you start an agency at the end of 2019, right? You start the agency in 2019. What, what, what, what's the agency look like when you start? How do you get your first clients? How do you get your first team members? What, walk us through that process.
Speaker 1 00:10:00 Sure. So I decided to quit without anything. So I'm like, cause I know what I'm like, I'm like, if I quit my job now I'll find the clients. So I gave myself a cushy eight weeks and I've reached out to all the contacts I made at eBay, which is something I actually thought was very helpful to me is creating a network before I started my agency the second time, because then I had people I could reach out to where it's the first time I was reliant on Groupons. Like it was back in group on days. So I was doing really terrible group on Groupon things. That's how I got a hundred clients really quickly, um, couldn't service them long term. So yeah, I went out just outta my contacts. I managed to get, I have two retainers straight away. Uh, one was for a tourism company and the other one was for Woolworths. Um, just, just through my contacts at eBay. So, uh, it was a good two, two starter clients.
Speaker 0 00:10:46 And you, and, and you were doing, what were you doing for 'em? And, and was just you at that stage, right? Yes.
Speaker 1 00:10:52 So for Woolworths, they had a new, uh, advertising part click Cartology, um, where they basically draw the screens when you walk into Woolworths. So those where they advertise all the FM cgs, uh, that's another acronym. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 0 00:11:06 <affirmative> Fast Moving Consumer Goods. Yep.
Speaker 1 00:11:08 Thank you. Cause I don't actually know what, what it was, I just always
Speaker 0 00:11:11 Refer to it. Yeah. Fast moving consumer goods and everything in a supermarkets and FMCG basically. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:11:15 So basically the screens for that. And then I was helping their sales team create pitch deck to go out to the FMCG to, to pitch the screens. So that's what I started with. And that was actually a lot of work, surprisingly. Cause I had nothing from a brand point of view, even though it was Woolworths, it was lucky for me cause that was before Woolworths brand team got involved. Now it's like really hard to get anything done, doesn't go through that team. And then resd is the world's largest tourism operator platforms. So basically tourism, tourism accommodation, all like, uh, put their, their, their availability on there and they get push pushes out to like all the other platforms. So it's like one, it's like SaaS software. So I come in to do their brand. I was managing the website. Um, yeah. So it was just, that was it for my retainers. Um, and then I was taking on yeah, other clients like sip money and stuff on the other side. Cause I had a good, I knew a lot of CMOs, um, from, from eBay days. So they all kind of left eBay and they all somehow got all these CMO roles, which was really good for me when I started my agency. So that's what I was doing all by myself to begin with. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Uh, and then I, I was just hiring local freelancers when I needed to help extra hands.
Speaker 0 00:12:18 And then at some, and then, so this is 2019, right? And then at some point you decide that you want to pivot the business model a little bit?
Speaker 1 00:12:28 Correct. <laugh>. So, um, Karl Woolworth was trying to hire me, uh, and I'm like, I don't wanna be hired. I want my agency. Um, so I knew that they were gonna hire my role and essentially do what I did at eBay. Um, to me. Uh, so it started to stress me out cause I'm like, that's half my revenue in one client. Um, when and if they go. So I'm like, I need to do something else. It's gonna give me a bit more of a stable income. So that's why I changed my model to the unlimited on demand type of model. Cause I thought if I can have a lot of little clients, uh, paying little retainers, then I need to do something really drastic to upset all of them that's gonna re remove half of my income overnight. Um, so that's why I started to switch at the end of 2019 and I've went out with a pilot and sold my firsthand very easily. And then I thought, I thought, okay, this is the way to go. So I moved it from the home, like the, like landing page to the homepage and I didn't look, look back from there. And then covid hit and then I lost my tourism Regina straight away. So Wow. If, if I had stayed course I would've had no, no revenue. So it's kind of, I had I pivoted before pivoting was cool, so
Speaker 0 00:13:38 Yes. Yeah. Before you needed to, and, and at this stage, is it still you doing all the
Speaker 1 00:13:42 Work? No. Um, so we have 50, a team of 50 now in the Philippines. Right. Uh, it's still me, just me in Australia.
Speaker 0 00:13:49 Right. But when did you start growing that team in the Philippines?
Speaker 1 00:13:52 Once I changed the model, I got my first VA and my first designer in the Philippines. Because, you know, the, the price that we're charging, uh, wasn't, not worth my time, but it's, you know what I mean, it was my hourly rate was too high. So I needed to find a way to service these
Speaker 0 00:14:08 Contracts. Yeah. And what exper at that point, what experience had you had in finding talent in the Philippines? None.
Speaker 1 00:14:15 So my first, uh, few hires were horrible. They were doing everything wrong. Um, I used like really bad recruitment agencies that kind of recruited for everything. So they'd come on board and then I'd find out they were doing like a print brochure, but they were using like Photoshop. And so they were, they were just doing everything looked okay on the front end, but then when you'd ask for the, the source files or you had to send it to print, it was just completely wrong. Uh, they didn't know how to do bleed lines, like basic, basic stuff. So my first couple of highs were terrible cuz I wasn't doing it myself. Um, but it's, it's, it's a formula that I've got down pat now and I don't use anybody else. We do it all internally and so we know how to find them now.
Speaker 0 00:14:54 Hmm. How long did that take from, you know, this is a terrible, I need to fix it because also because there's something here also, like I just, I did a live stream in our group this morning and I talked about this very thing. It's like when things get hard, you either go chase the dopamine and do the easy thing or you, you buckle down and you make a mental commitment to yourself to solve this problem as hard as it's going to be because, you know, on the other side is a future that you want, right? Mm-hmm. So how long did that take you to get through that and figure out that recruitment process?
Speaker 1 00:15:31 To be honest, I think it took about six to eight months. Like it wasn't, it wasn't quick fix. You know, we'd, we'd hire some good people, we'd hire some bad people. The problem is when you put a, an application out, like in know, you know, in the Philippines you get a hundred to 200 people apply and there's literally like a couple of diamonds in that, in the rough. Cuz a lot of, a lot of people there at VAs, they've, you know, they, they've dabbled in Canva, so they think they're a graphic designer, so they'll apply to things. So you've gotta sift through all that stuff. It takes a lot of time to look, look through their portfolios, make sure they know what they're talking about, interview them and test them. So, um, it took about six to eight months to, to find good. I did end up going to a larger credit, uh, recruitment agency for a while and did find some good talent there, but it did cost a lot of money. Um, but then I just realized that they weren't, the staff weren't getting nearly as much of that money as they should. Um, so that's why I'm, I'm sorry. No, I've just do it myself.
Speaker 0 00:16:25 And so the business model at this point when, when you started out is unlimited. So it's like an all you can eat unlimited design for a flat fee, and then you have the team in the Philippines delivering then what is, so the, the and and then how long were you doing that before you started to introduce the dedicated team member?
Speaker 1 00:16:47 We started doing dedicated about a year and a half ago, but we haven't, we weren't pushing it. It was kind of like if I saw a client, which I thought would be better off on that path and I would suggest it, uh, then over time we just found that that was the better route.
Speaker 0 00:17:00 So there's a little bit of context here. Agency owners who are, uh, struggling to grow for a couple of reasons. Typically it's because they either don't have a network and they don't have leads coming in, or they don't have the capacity to deliver when the clients are coming in. So they therefore don't put any effort into growing revenue and growing sales because they know they've got a capacity issue. Right. And a lot of agency owners start out as the technician, the developer, the designer, the Google ads guy, the S SEO guy, whatever. And they get to this point where they know, I have this conversation with people every day. They, they're at, they're literally at a fork in the road where they can go. And I remember b I remember having this moment when I was developing in my business and I was doing, I was building websites and CSS pre-process came out for those of you who are who un uninitiated, essentially it was a more efficient way to write CSS code.
Speaker 0 00:17:58 And I started reading these articles on these CSS pre-process and I had this moment where I stopped reading the article and I'm like, hang on a second. I need to, to make, I need to make a decision right now about whether I'm gonna read this article and stay a developer and go all in. I'd had all these courses on Ruby on Rails that I hadn't started yet. And I was like, do I want to do that? Or do I want to be a business owner? Because if I want to be a business owner, I need to stop reading this article right now. I'd need to start reading articles on growing a team, growing revenue culture, hiring, finance, profit loss, all that kind of stuff. And someone else needs to do this in the business. I'm not doing the development. I rang my business partner at the time and I said, I'm done.
Speaker 0 00:18:41 I'm not developing anymore. I don't know who's gonna build this next website that we've got, but it's not gonna be me. We have to find someone to do it. We ended up finding a great team in India who did a lot of work for us for a few years and then I just became a business owner. But a lot of people get to that fork in the road and they keep doing the technical thing or the creative thing, whatever the thing is that they're good at because they're good at it. Right? And so they do this dance for years where they're like, I wanna be a business owner, but I can't grow because I can't find anyone else that will design websites as good as me. Or I can't find anyone else to develop landing pages as quickly as I do. Or whatever the thing is. Why, how in your experience working with agencies now with this business model, what is the the trick to actually letting go of control, having someone else start to do the design work so that you can focus on growing the business?
Speaker 1 00:19:32 Hmm. Well it took, it took me a while as well to let go, to be honest. I still do our website. It's the only thing I haven't let go of, uh, everything else I've let go of mm-hmm <affirmative>. But I think a lot of agency, well me personally, I would be like, oh, it'll be all good next time I get my next big client and the next big client comes in and then you're trying to service them and then you lose another client cuz you don't have enough time. Like you can't, like, you're just gonna get stuck at the capacity that you have. You can't service anymore clients than the capacity that you have. So you have to let go. If you wanna make more money scale, you can't do it all. So with, with us, we like to help agency owners feel like they're finding the right, the people. We have a, like a, it's like a, a free project or a testing thing that we put all of our candidates through to make sure that the quality's going to hit the nail on their head in terms of their brand and what they expect from someone to come in for that role. We don't charge for that. So that's one way we get over that hurdle.
Speaker 0 00:20:21 One of the things that I've seen work and I'm, I'm curious about, uh, one of the things I've seen work really well is, is getting a creative person and giving them a project that you've already done that doesn't really matter if, if it if they burn it or, or it's no good, right? Because it's not mission critical. The mistake I see a lot of agencies making going, well I've got this new client, let's go find a designer in the Philippines, give them the job. We've got a four week deadline and then, and then, you know, the night, night before you are up doing it until 3:00 AM because the creative talent couldn't produce. I wonder if there's any, like the most successful client agencies that you've seen come in and use this model. What are they doing differently to everyone else?
Speaker 1 00:20:59 Strangely is what you just said actually, which I, you just reminded me that that's one of the, the ways is that, um, when I ask agencies or even clients on our agencies, I have to ask for a brief that they've already executed on so that way they know where, how close was it gonna be to what they had done. Or even better if it was it better than what they'd done. Cuz if it's better than what you've done then cuz you wanna hire people that better than you. Um, that's one thing I used think I used to make. I have to do it all myself. Now. I have team members way fucking better than I am. And um, I like, and I'd rather them do it than me because I know they're gonna impress the client more than I can and in probably less time than if I tried to even get close to the, like I, I'm good at my things.
Speaker 1 00:21:38 I'm, I'm good at layout layouts, I'm good at website designs. Uh, I'm not good at animation and motion graphics. I know what makes a good animation and emotion graphic, but get me to do it, it's gonna look like shit. Um, so I'd rather I get excited when my team wows me. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think that's the thing that you need to like, let go of, like let your team, you want your team to wow you. Once they start to wow you, then you'll be like, oh hey, I don't need to do everything else. If people out there better than I am at this, I could attract more clients. Like your team can then, uh, be in your honey pot and you, you can just focus on growing the business. I know there is people out there who want to be the technician. They love being the technician and I do love being a designer.
Speaker 1 00:22:14 That's why I've got myself an operations manager mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, so that I can still stay in the realm that I like, which is design and all that sort of stuff. And I can spend most of my time there. And then my ops manager, well my head of country, he does all of the stuff I don't wanna do, like the admin people, the people stuff, compliance, like all that stuff that puts me to sleep. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I think, I think you can still be the technician in the realm of being the technician if you want to, but if you, if that's the case and you need someone to do the other side, you
Speaker 0 00:22:41 Can't do both. That's right. I'm curious. We've used unlimited design services a lot over the years and we started with you guys doing that and then we pivoted pretty quickly to a dedicated team member. So full transparency, we now have our video editor who is Rob, who we found through the guys at 55 Knots. Um, what is, what is the difference just for those uninitiated? What's the difference between an unlimited design service and a dedicated team member?
Speaker 1 00:23:05 Sure. Um, this is where I'm gonna expose the unlimited <laugh> model a little bit. I'm, I'm, I'm fresh, fresh, fresh on the market and I'm not promoting promoting it anymore. I think unlimited works for some businesses. I don't think it works very well for agencies. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the reason is that as agency owners, you have clients, clients have deadlines, which you've promised to your, your client. I'm gonna deliver that to you on Thursday. Unlimited design services generally don't work to your deadlines. They just start, it's how the model works. So generally speaking, it's unlimited briefs. It's not unlimited design. So you can put in a brief, um, they'll beca each one's different, but most of them were pretty similar. So they'll have a mechanic to, to limit the service basically, which is, I never like the wording, but you know, when you're, when you're, you're trying to do the same thing and you're competing against everybody else and theirs is unlimited and you you're going out with a unlimited version, it's not as sexy.
Speaker 1 00:23:56 Um, but the problem is people come un expecting this or you can eat buffet, but it's not really, it's might be 20 jobs a month, it depends. Um, other model. So they'll essentially, they'll, they'll dedicate or set set amount of hours to your account each, each day. Um, some do requests, uh, they all have their way of limiting it. So essentially you might put in 10 briefs, but they'll only work on one at a time. But they might only allocate two hours per day. And it's just the way they, cuz like a lot of these services are charging the same price of cost them for the talent. So there's no way that the talent can work for you unlimited and make money. So they need to get that talent to do two or three clients a day. Um, so I think that's where the, where it falls down for agencies because they have clients that they need to, you know, basically not, not report to, but like they hold their client a deadline and if they're accountable, so they're accountable.
Speaker 1 00:24:49 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Most of the time agencies don't work well on the unlimited side. They're attracted to it and I, I understand why better margins, good price point, great for their business, don't have to hire people directly. So I can see the appeal, but then they often fall off unless they're like an ad like, uh, media buying agents or an ad agency where they might do four or five ads a month. Like we still have those three, three month, three years in, they're still there. Um, but agency of a high volume deadlines just not, it's not really suited to them. The other, the other thing is that a lot of these agent, uh, services will say dedicated, um, which basically means yes, a designer is on your account, you have the one designer, but that designer is shared with three other people. Um, so it's a little bit misleading still because it's, they're not dedicated to you, they're exclusive.
Speaker 1 00:25:36 You have one designer you work with all the time, uh, which catch your brand, but then they're still spread out. They still have to make money off that designer. So that designer's probably working on two or more clients that day. So you probably still getting Yeah, yeah. Still getting rush work shared. Yeah. Yeah. So what we've found is we started to kind of hire directly for our clients, which, um, and for our agencies and so unlimited services, sorry, I'm all over the place, have about a 25% month on month churn rate across, like from all the other unlimited founders I speak to. That's the average. So they're losing about a quarter of their clients each month. So they need to constantly be top topping it up or putting all in, um, just because of the month to month. So it's a capa it's always like capacity's all always over the place.
Speaker 1 00:26:19 So one month they might be lowering capacity cause they've just had a whole lot of chan and you come in and then you get a great experience and the next month they've got twice the amount of clients, but then they haven't got the staff there. And then you'll find that, hey, it's slowed down. It's not as good as my first month. So your kind of, um, experiences all over the place. Um, but we've dedicated, which is what we call it now, our new model, which is actually dedicated, we're actually hired just someone just for you. So they don't work on any other client. They're, we have two options part-time or full-time. So part-time, they're, they're partially yours for four hours a day. Um, then they can have their own another job or whatever, or full-time, which is like we do for you, uh, where they're yours eight hours a day, which means they can meet your deadlines.
Speaker 1 00:27:02 Um, they, we can adjust their schedule to be aligned to yours. So if you're not in Australia, it doesn't matter. We can move their times around, they can work with your tools and timelines, um, or you can use ours. Um, but we just find that client satisfaction shouldn't a lot higher, our chain rate's probably gone to 5% for the entire year versus 25% per month. So for us it's a lot more stable for our clients. They're getting a better experience. The designer knows their brand. Um, yeah. So it's just, I think it's just a better option. The pricing is very similar, maybe a little bit more expensive, but the, I think the experience client side is better
Speaker 0 00:27:39 A hundred percent. In fact, you, you don't know this, but when I first discovered you, I discovered 55 knots and then it was, I don't know how I found, I don't know how I found your dedicated service. I followed the breadcrumbs and found the dedicated service and looked at the pricing and I actually said to Emily, let's use these guys to see if they're any good. And if they are, then let's get a dedicated video editor. But in the short term, let's just use these guys to do some stuff for us and see what the quality of the works like. Right. So that was always my plan was to have a dedicated team member, but I used the unlimited service to begin with just to, um, just to assess the quality of the work. And that's, and the quality of the work was fantastic by the way.
Speaker 0 00:28:18 And that's why we now have Rob on our team as a dedicated video editor. And he still works through your portal. So he still prefers to work through your system, which is fine by us. Um, he's in our Slack max talks to him most days, uh, and he's doing a great job. But we discovered Rob through using the unlimited service to begin with. Yeah. Because that was appealing. But also, I know the pitfalls because I've been here before. This is not, not our first rodeo. So I know the unlimited doesn't really work. And we are, we are not an agency. We are an agency service. We're an agency coaching company. So I think the unlimited works with, um, like I can think of a bunch of small business, like a gym for example, right? Or a coach or um, an accounting firm who don't have any creative staff in-house. They don't wanna spend time on Upwork or five trying to find creative staff. They just wanna send off a brief and then have it come back.
Speaker 1 00:29:10 Yeah. Most of their deadlines are their own deadlines, so
Speaker 0 00:29:14 That's
Speaker 1 00:29:14 Right. Get the flyer today. That's okay. They'll have it tomorrow. Like most of the time they don't. Yeah. Someone barking at them on the other side going, where is my fly <laugh>? So,
Speaker 0 00:29:22 Yeah, exactly. So I wanna talk about, um, the, the, because none of this works if you don't know how to brief someone. And we spent a lot of time getting our brief template right when we first started using you guys, because I've used a lot of design services in the past and had very mixed response. And most of the time it's been because we don't know how to brief, right? So for those who know how to do the thing in their head, but they don't know how to brief, how do you, he, what, what do you, how do you in, you know, help agencies write or a good brief? Is it, is it loom videos? Is it text? Like how do we get the information out of our head over to someone else so that they can understand what we want and then give us back what we're looking for?
Speaker 1 00:30:14 Uh, good question. So <laugh>, um, there has been some terrible briefs in my time, like one sentence and you're like, we're not gonna nail this. Are we <laugh>? So, uh, and we don't, and then the client get upset, gets upset, you're like, well, if the brief was maybe two sentences, we would be better off than one. But generally speaking, we, we've built in, into our platform a good briefing system just to help our clients. So a couple of, couple of things. If you're not a designer and you don't know, you don't know how to talk, design, speak, that's totally fine. So there's definitely a six, a six step process I like to tell my clients. And so when they join our platform, we try to encourage them to read an article that we have on, on our website, which kind of says what these six steps are at a minimum.
Speaker 1 00:30:55 I think the first thing is, um, you can never have enough detail. You know, if you, if you think, you know, should I include that? Maybe just include it. If the designer doesn't need it, then they can disregard it. But if you don't include it, um, it's just gonna annoy you later when they ask about it. So the first thing is obviously know who your audience is, uh, and express that to your designer. So you know, if it's for a ma, if it's for, for males who likes to go to to the gym, it's gonna look very different to say a female yoga class. Even though it's, even though it's the health and the fitness space, it's gonna be very different. So expressing the audience to your designer, even if you don't know it in very in depth, just a little bit of information will help.
Speaker 1 00:31:31 Um, especially if there's no brand guide to choose like, you know, the right font, colors and things to speak to the audience. That's the first, first basic step. A lot of this stuff is very, you know, obvious marketing and stuff too. So ex, excuse me, I'm not trying <laugh> I'm not trying to tell you how to market, but it, the designer needs the stuff as well. Also knowing what the outcome of the creative is. So, you know, uh, a long form YouTube video, um, is gonna be very different to a TikTok reel. They have, um, different audiences, different engagement metrics, like some needs to be fast paced with quick cuts. So telling the designer what the outcome's going to be, you know, a direct response sales ad versus an emotional story. What is the outcome you're looking for? Is it pre value content? It all really does help to tell the designer what the outcome's gonna be.
Speaker 1 00:32:14 Um, obviously unless you are briefing it to a copywriter, um, copy really makes, it makes a very important thing here. So, um, trying to leave it to your designer to write the copy, you're probably not gonna get what you want cuz they're not copywriters. Um, so crafting really good copy will obviously help as well. And sending that with your brief. Often we don't get copy. Um, it's kind of like, here's our website, make something from it. And it's like you're asking designers, first of all, our team's also in the Philippines. Um, so copywriting really does help. Cuz I've seen sometimes as well <laugh> cuz I've been learning Tagalog, um, last year. Um, so even though I know the, what all the words are, not all the words, I'm pretty good, but I'm not, not that good. I wouldn't know what to emphasize personally. So if you're working with the Filipino, you really like, they know what the words mean, but they don't necessarily know which word is like the, the big one that needs to be emphasized.
Speaker 1 00:33:08 Mm-hmm. <affirmative> so bolded, make sure they know, uh, what that word is. Otherwise they have a habit of emphasizing the wrong thing, um, or the wrong word. And then you're like, why'd you make that capital? Like, that makes no sense. Even though they know this what this sentence means. Um, that's just a, a trick. If you are working with remote talent, um, make sure you emphasize the words that need to be emphasized. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, local designers will get it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but overseas might struggle a little bit. Um, include examples of work you love, um, even past work that's been done for your brand that you love. So they know that's a good place to start. Share work you don't like or things you hate. Um, just so if you don't like yellow, tell the designer so that they don't do it like, cuz they might love yellow.
Speaker 1 00:33:51 Yeah. So things you love, things you don't like are deliverables. So actually knowing what your specs are gonna be, um, that's one big one I see all the time. It's like just, just get, design it. And then when it comes to getting it printed or whatever happens to be, like, we, we did a book for like audio, uh, sorry, Kendall. Um, we'll we'll worry about it later, but it was like a, it was like a novel, an actual novel. So like we didn't have the specs, right? So then when, when we got the novel, there all had to be redone and she had a deadline. So it just making sure, you know, your deliverables, your aspect ratios and stuff. Two other tips that aren't on the article, which I I've since learned with working remote talent is describing how you want it to feel. So I like to tell my clients to use Aja adjectives.
Speaker 1 00:34:32 So, um, I want it to feel happy, approachable, I want it to feel sophisticated. So we've got like a checklist of like all these adjectives, they're adjectives, aren't they? Sorry, <laugh>, sorry English is, yeah, thank you <laugh>. So they tick all the words that they like, so that way the designer knows, they know how they want it to feel. Um, if you dunno how to express how you want it, if you know how to express how you want it to make you feel, then that's a great, great way to, to talk to a designer. How did I need this to feel sophisticated but approachable. Um, I see a lot of brands that are sophisticated but unapproachable because they've gone down the, you know, the, I've got a Ferrari and I, and I'm not gonna smile root and then Yeah, exactly. So I'm like, I don't wanna talk to you, mate.
Speaker 1 00:35:16 And the last one is also working with remote teams, um, is letting them know that how creative you want 'em to be. I know this sounds a bit stupid, some people want you to strict stick to the brand goat. Like don't, don't veer away from it. Like if you work for a large corporate, like, we'll worse someone, you'll know that they like very stinged like to the letter playbook. So we have like an indicator in our briefing form, like how creative do you want 'em to be strict to the brand guide? Kind of go off the brand guide a little bit. Oh, it's strictly on brand, sorry, on brand. But you know, flex some creativity. Go completely wild or share ideas first. So, um, with the Philippines team, we find that they're used to being told what to do and so they get a bit scared if they're, and you know, they have opinions, but they don't feel like they can express them unless, you know, I've had conversations with my team, like, I think it'll be better if you do it this way, um, for Troy. And so they'll be like, oh, can I do that? It's not on the brief. I'm like, just, just trust me. Chill. Just, just show them both, both versions and I bet you Troy will like this one more. Um, and so then they're like, oh yeah, the client really liked that one and I wanted to do that, but I was too scared to do it. So sometimes this just gives permission for them to go full creative or not. Yeah. So that's kind of my,
Speaker 0 00:36:27 Yeah, I, I can't, I can't, you can't overstate how important that is. Like you need, especially we've found, especially the Philippine culture, you need to give explicit permission, not implied explicit permission to share your opinions. You will not get in trouble for sharing your opinions because they're very conservative about stepping out of line. So you need, if you want someone in the Philippines, a team member in the Philippines to start to think for you and come up with ideas that you wouldn't have, you need to make it very clear that it is safe for them to do that.
Speaker 1 00:37:01 A hundred percent. They're just, they're they're, they're scared unless permission, permission and they're still scared. So yeah, make sure it's explicitly known, um, or don't give 'em any information and give them an open brief. Um, then they have to kind of do it so <laugh>, which works well for us. Sometimes I'll be like, Hey guys, very up and brief up. It's, it's a sentence brief for me, but the stuff that they produce when I give them those briefs blows my mind. Actually some of the stuff they, they can do when they've given creative freedom is out of the world. Um, so definitely relax the reins a bit and go down that path and let them show you how talented they can actually be. It's amazing. Yeah. But yeah, that's probably my top tips if you wanna provide feedback. Um, cuz often the feedback process, communication problem is a process is a problem.
Speaker 1 00:37:47 Uh, loom, as you said, it's a good, good option. Uh, jumping on a Zoom call and explaining it through another great option. Um, uh, we use a talk called Go Visually, um, which is super helpful. It's actually created by a Sydney company, but I think it's, it's a US dollar thing where you can upload all your artwork on there and there's collaboration and you can, it's, it's like, um, annotations, but it's a little bit more beefed up. Uh, it's really great for video cuz you can play and pause and then write comments directly on timestamps. So, um, those, those are some, some tips on how to write a brief and then some, some feedback tips.
Speaker 0 00:38:22 Awesome. Love it. Go visually. I wasn't aware of. Um, we use, uh, we use framer.io with Rob because we're just doing video. Um, but go visually. We'll also link to in the show notes here, and we'll also link to that article on your website, um, in the show notes as well to check those out. Um, one question I had is, is hiring, recruiting, as you said before, you put a job out, out, you're gonna get 200 applicants for a role. I see. And we, I spoke about this yesterday at MAV Con, which is our event for our mastermind clients, that the fastest way to increase the capacity of your agency and therefore take on more clients and grow your agency is to partner with a service like you guys. We had a white label development service on yesterday's, one of our sponsors, E two M you know, they, they do web a development and, and, and ads and that kind of, you know, technical stuff.
Speaker 0 00:39:16 Um, they do a bit of web design, they don't do, you know, brochure design or video editing or that, that, you know, this kind of stuff that you do. The fastest way to, to grow your agency is to increase your capacity to deliver by partnering with someone like you. Because not only, not only, and what I'm trying to, what I want to get to here is I want to pick your brain about like a couple of things that you should look for when you're recruiting because not only is recruiting takes time, and I said this yesterday, I like my mantra is, never stop selling, never stop recruiting. Now that doesn't mean you need to never stop hiring, recruiting and hiring are two different things. You should always be recruiting and then hiring when you need people out of the talent pool that you've got. So we have a thing called the bench where we are always recruiting.
Speaker 0 00:39:58 If we don't need someone, we put 'em on the bench for now because we know that at some point we're gonna need to tap them on the shoulder and say, Hey, we've got an opportunity here if they're still available. But recruiting is really scary. I mean, we, we produced a course last year called the Team Accelerator Blueprint and on on one hand it kind of failed because when we put it out there and we launched it, most people came to us and said, well this is great, but we just want you to do it for us. Right? And we're like, well that's, that's really not what our business model these days. So a lot of people are scared about it. What's, what's one or two things you can do to reduce the overwhelm when you put out a job application and get 200 applicants? What's a couple of things you can do to kind of just reduce the overwhelm and get started?
Speaker 1 00:40:41 Besides going to
Speaker 0 00:40:42 Someone like, besides of course, of course. Besides going to someone like you <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:40:46 Um, I mean, we ha the best thing we have is we, we have a, well obviously we have a VA who scans through it, so it's not me doing it mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but then the problem with the VA doing it I find is that they're not necessarily technicians. So they struggle a bit to find what, uh, for us, in an instance when we had VAs doing it, it was like they didn't really know what a good portfolio looked like. Um, so it was a bit of a struggle. They could kind of look at the CB and go, Hey, they've worked at agencies so that they, they might be good and then they would shortlist it, so then me or my R director could then go through their portfolios and go, yes, yes, yes. No. So that saved a bit of time. Um, but for us, we actually hire a recruitment agent, uh, person internally. Um, so that person does all our recruitment for us, as you said, they're constantly looking for designers and that, so when uh, someone comes in, we'll be like, we, we can hire you a really good graphic designer within two weeks. Like, I mean, I know it's not instant, like unlimited is, um, but we've got it down to a fine solution now that we know we can hire someone of top knowledge quality within two weeks. Uh, for
Speaker 0 00:41:46 Most that's pretty, that's pretty fast, by the way. <laugh>. Yeah, <laugh> based on our experience of doing this a little bit last year, two weeks is pretty quick.
Speaker 1 00:41:52 Yeah, I mean we just, we're just a, we're a team full of creative people, so we know what, what makes a good creative person. So we have our creative tests, uh, we share them with our, all the creatives here and then we review them and endorse them and then send 'em back to clients. So client, all the client has to do is get on a call with us and like, Hey, this is what I need. And then, then we start sending over the, we leave the people we endorse and the tests, um, and then we hire. So for us, it's, it's quite quick when we try to do roles that we're not specialists in, I can take fucking forever. I tell you, we've been trying to hi, hire a developer, uh, for like four months now, but it's not, it's like a full stack developer. And the thing is, no one might, our team really knows much about it. Like I know h m but I don't know any of these other languages. So we're really struggling to find someone there because we're not experts in it. Um mm-hmm. <affirmative>, all the creative roles we can find really quickly. So,
Speaker 0 00:42:41 And so your specialty is for those listening, your specialty is creative team members, designers, video editors, copy animators, motion graphics,
Speaker 1 00:42:50 And you are Yep.
Speaker 0 00:42:52 And you are.
Speaker 1 00:42:53 Got it. Uh, we'll, we'll do the occasional VA because they're easy, but, uh, <laugh>, but, but yeah, we decided we only wanna stay in the area that we know we can find good talent. Cuz you know, they, from my personal experience using other recruitment agencies that do everybody, um, they just can't find you the right people. So you kind of, you kind of reach out to them thinking, oh, this will make my life easier. And then you get someone who uses Photoshop to credit brochure and then you're like, wow, that was a bad experience. So
Speaker 0 00:43:18 <laugh> InDesign, ladies and gentlemen, InDesign <laugh>. So, um, yeah, and you're right, like there's a difference between a Photoshop operator or a Canva operator and a designer. I can use Canva, but I'm not a designer. Um, exactly. What, what are you most excited about over the next 90 days?
Speaker 1 00:43:37 Um, well we're, we are obviously switching our model. Um, so we're halfway through it now, so we've ditched the unlimited, it's gone, it's dead. Uh, it, wow, I might, I might still have it cuz I, you know, reluctant for revenue, but it's gonna be called co Coco's team instead. So it's more like, use our designers on the forefront. It's gonna be the model of we find your dedicated designer full-time or part-time. I'm excited about this model because I, I love finding really good creative people for, for people and I love seeing them get really excited about the work and releasing that, the capacity. So the next 90 days, I'm, I'm hoping to sign on a least 15 new mates for, um, sorry, we call them mates. Uh, it it like, first mate get a mate. You know? So that's probably what I'm excited about to grow outside the business. Um, but it does take a lot more education from my my point re-educating our audience, going on podcasts and bad mouthing unlimited
Speaker 0 00:44:26 <laugh>. Love it. Love it. Uh, awesome. So for those listening, if they're an agency owner and they are looking for a creative team member to help unlock their capacity, what's the best way to get in touch with you?
Speaker 1 00:44:38 Uh, at the moment you can either check out our website if you wanna see how it [email protected]
au. But if you wanna have a chat, uh, you can just email me [email protected]
. Do au So that's the numbers 5 5, 5 5.
Speaker 0 00:44:51 And then K N O T S So we have an aviation theme here. You have a nautical theme in your business. Is that, and that's because you're a sailor, right?
Speaker 1 00:44:59 That's correct. Mad sailor, people always ask me what 55 knots means. Some people thought it means I, we did shit fast. Maybe it was originally because I love the power of a storm and 55 knots just like hurricane cyclone speed. Oh wow. Um, cuz we wanna make an impact in your business. It's the kind of the original love. Original. Love it. Yeah. Angle.
Speaker 0 00:45:19 Awesome. This is great. Thank you so much for joining us on the agency hour. Ben. I really appreciate your time and as I said, we are using, uh, Ben, uh, has recruited a video editor for us and doing an amazing job. So I can vouch for these guys. Check out 55 knots.com au or email Benjamin 55 knots.com au. Will put the links, uh, under the show notes here. Also check out the blog post on how to write a brief and also the link off to go visually.com. We'll put those links in the show notes. Hey Benjamin, thank you for joining us on the agency hour.
Speaker 1 00:45:47 My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Speaker 0 00:45:50 Thanks for listening to the Agency Hour podcast and a massive thanks to Ben Williams. You have such a fascinating story and we love what you've created with 55 Knots. Shout out to Rob, who is our new video editor in the Philippines. We recruited through 55 knots and we love the work that he's doing for us. Hey, don't forget to subscribe and please share this with anyone who you think may need to hear it. Now, are you getting paid to close clients right now? We are guaranteeing you can get paid to close eight new clients in the next 30 days. If you'd like to chat with our team about how you can get paid to close, click the link beneath this episode. Let's get to work.