How to Overcome Burnout as an Agency Owner (And Maintain High Energy Levels)
A huge problem for many agency owners is burnout. And it arises if they lose sight of their superpowers. Discover how you can best deal with the issue.
I recently worked with a strategy and branding agency that faced one of the most common pitfalls in this industry. Initially, they had some success, earning about $5 million in revenue. They specialized in their niche, and the clients were happy.
But over time, the agency moved away from its area of expertise.
Besides strategy and branding, they started offering a multitude of other services. The updated list included web design, digital media, and social media. And they were involved with so many customers that they transformed into a full-service agency.
The problem was that despite having ample resources and expertise, they couldn't keep up with the increased workload.
In fact, the business nearly closed its doors since it lacked appropriate staff. They took on work they should never have taken on in the first place, and many team members weren't trained on the new services the agency offered. As a result, customer satisfaction plunged.
The agency owner was in a particularly bad spot.
Instead of being in the driver's seat of his dream agency, it was basically their clients who dictated how things would work in the agency. He now had limited control over the operations and felt disconnected from the agency.
Desperation kicked in, so they turned to us to get back on track.
More importantly, I advised the owner to forgo their current marketing approach.
Rather than serving a wide range of industries, they should go back to what they did best – strategy and branding. After all, this was their superpower. And focusing on it provided better results and helped the owner overcome their burnout.
This is something that agency owners should follow to ensure their profitability and avoid overwhelm.
Understanding Your Superpower
My client bounced back because they reactivated their superpower. But what exactly is a superpower in the context of agencies?
You can determine your superpower by asking yourself this question:
What's the reason I founded my agency?
You'll realize that your superpower is something you do exceptionally well. Nobody else does it as well as you, and you've mastered the particular skill. Also, you've crafted it for many years and know it like the back of your hand.
As demonstrated by my client, problems occur when your superpower is less prevalent in your agency. Many business aspects may not be built around it, and your team can no longer understand your superpower as a result. Your business may have changed drastically since the launch, and it's become hard to tap into your biggest strength.
To undo this, you need to go back to basics and regain the vision of your superpower. Otherwise, you'll face the same issue as many other owners – your clients will run your agency instead of you.
What Happens When You Don't Use Your Superpower?
Losing sight of a superpower can happen for various reasons. However, the primary problem is that owners can't refuse client demands.
Customers may ask you to perform a service you don't know anything about, and you accept their proposal without considering the ramifications. And it’s because you fear losing your clients if you say no.
But this decision often does more harm than good.
You take on new responsibilities, creating a grueling workload that drains your energy. It also leads to burnout and causes you to lose a lot of money.
Because what you’re doing is not your superpower.
You didn't spend years crafting and mastering the new services. So, you end up with numerous offerings within your agency that you don't render very well. And your clients don't get the desired results, compromising your relationship with them.
This scenario is quite common and typically makes your customers turn to another agency. They're not happy with your work, which you should never have taken on in the first place.
If the number of such services is too large, the chances of scaling your company are slim to none.
You may have introduced them to accommodate several customers, but you wouldn’t get to carry them out correctly. And since there aren't enough employees with the necessary expertise, it will curb the agency's growth.
Now, you might think that minimal staff training will do the trick, but that's often not the case.
Remember, your team members joined your agency for the same reason you started it – they want to do what they do best. Whether your staff consists of digital media experts or graphic designers, you can't command them to move to other jobs. For instance, they may know nothing about SEO or web design, and assigning these duties to them will cause burnout.
To make matters worse, this approach veers away from the reason you started your agency.
You strived for excellent work, partnering with specific clients from a niche industry. And you helped them achieve their goals efficiently and streamlined their business with high-performing services.
Accepting any customer that knocks on your door doesn't align with these values. You’ll settle for subpar work since, as mentioned, you’re afraid of losing a client if you turn them down.
Running a successful agency requires you to adopt a different mindset.
Rather than taking orders from your clients, position yourself as a high-level consultant. Your prospects will perceive you as an expert and value your offerings, allowing you to steer the direction of the project and charge more for your services.
Simply put, don't take on more work simply because they asked for it. Tell them you've designed your agency to operate according to your vision and superpower. You can’t accommodate what they want that’s out of scope.
Now, if you've lost sight of your superpower, you need to explore and redefine it. Determine and dispense with any offerings within your business that go against your mission.
You'll reignite your passion, enabling you to perform great things for your customers and scale faster. The risk of burnout becomes virtually non-existent in such a wholesome environment.
Play to Your Strengths
A variety of obstacles can arise in your agency if you're afraid of refusing your clients. Besides reduced profits and dissatisfied team members, larger workloads can take a massive toll on your well-being. You can't manage so many new customers, and you’ll burn out.
Fortunately, this obstacle isn't insurmountable.
All you need to do is regain the vision of your superpower and redesign your agency around it. You'll be back in the driver's seat of your company and enjoy your work once again.