Oct 18, 2018

Why We Left The Big Agency...To Found A Small One

By: Josh Dougherty


I spent the decade before I started A Brave New working at a 100+ person agency. I started out as a digital copywriter and moved up through the ranks doing digital strategy and content strategy. Eventually I launched and led the agency's experience design team. I was very lucky to work at an agency whose leadership valued fresh ideas and was willing to bet on my success.

All of A Brave New's founders have a similar story. We all even worked at the same agency for a good period of time. We each were afforded opportunities and had the chance to do great things.

Sounds perfect, right? Why would you walk away from a situation like that?

All three of us did walk away from the big agency life. We decided to go all in on the small agency model. Here's why.

Principals Should Be Working On Your Account

If you've been around marketing for an extended period of time you're probably familiar with the agency hiring process. Here's how it goes:

  1. You start looking for an agency.
  2. You have a pitch meeting in which all the agency principals attend.
  3. You're impressed by what the agency has to offer and decide to hire them.
  4. In come the juniors to run your account.
  5. You never see the principals again.

We didn't want this to be the way that we did work. When you work with A Brave New one of the principals will be the strategy lead on your account. That doesn't mean they'll do everything, but it does mean that they'll be intimately involved.

We believe this type of involvement is important. You're making a big decision when you hire us. We want to repay that decision with trust.

You Deserve An Agency That Can Flex To Your Business Needs

Let me start out this section by saying one thing clearly: we believe in systems and efficiency. It's why we are super focused on running all of our projects in TeamWork.

But here's the thing: at bigger agencies, process typically becomes bloated to compensate for the large number of people touching the work. As you grow to 50, 75, 100, or bigger, it's hard to ensure that everyone has the high level of training and expertise they need to do their job well. So, processes become laborious to ensure that those deficiencies aren't exposed.

The practical consequence of this is that it can be hard to get a larger agency to jump on an urgent project for you. Mind you, it was possible to throw out the two-month email process at the big agency and get a campaign ready within a day, but it required a Herculean effort and definitely couldn't be done consistently.

We've worked hard to keep our processes light so that we can turn something around in a day if need be. And we can do this consistently. In fact, it's normal for us to be completing ad hoc work for our clients on tight timeframes while managing the rest of their retainer-based work.

If Your Agency Doesn't Have The Expertise, They Should Refer You

Big agencies have a lot of people and departments to keep busy. They also typically believe that the surest path to total domination is to provide every service for you...even if they don't have the expertise. Somehow, whenever you ask for something, they have a person who can do that work. Take it from me...as soon as they get off the phone with you, they're scrambling to find a freelancer with the expertise you need.

We have a different approach. We've built our agency around the conviction that no one can effectively be experts at everything. That's why we only do three things at A Brave New: branding, inbound marketing, and web design. This kind of focus allows us to maintain excellence. We also avoid worrying about whether we have the expertise to deliver on what we promise. We like to think our clients appreciate that.

And, if you ask us to do something that we're not good at, we have a simple solution. We'll refer you to an expert in our network. 

Your Agency's Success Should Be Tied To Your Success

This point is pretty simple. At a high-level, every agency's success is tied to the success of their clients. But down at a practical level, losing one client means a lot more to a small agency than it does to a big agency. We like that kind of pressure. It pushes us to perform day in and day out. And it pushes us to be very honest with our clients about what will work and what won't. If you don't succeed, we don't. It's as simple as that.

At the end of the day, it's your decision whether you want to work with a big agency or a small agency. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. At A Brave New, we're bullish about the advantages of the small agency. We hope that you agree. We'd also love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below.

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