The Real Reasons You Are Working IN The Agency And Not ON It

Oliver Duffy-Lee
April 25, 2022
5 min Read

Caution: Harsh Truths Included - This May Hurt

It's a huge problem in the agency world - Founders and Leaders spend too much time working IN the business and not ON it.

What this means is the agency leadership is too busy in the week to actually take a step back and strategise on how to improve the agency itself.

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In case you're reading this and wondering if this is you, here are a list of symptoms:

  1. You have a hugely inconsistent New Business process
  2. You have a lack of consistent leads
  3. You're not sure where your next client is coming from
  4. You have no client onboarding or delivery systems or processes
  5. You're hugely stressed and have no time for the fun parts of life

If you relate to 3 or more of the above, it's time to read on.

If you're clear on those points, stop reading here, and spend the 4 minutes you would've spent reading this patting yourself on the back and feeling very pleased with yourself.

But before we go any further...

Why is it such a problem to be working IN and not ON your agency business?

Surely, as the leader, you should be in the trenches, delivering for clients and making sure the work is getting done right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it's crucial for you to be in touch with how the work is being delivered, and making sure it's up to your standards.

Yes, it's crucial for you to be close to the clients too, making sure they're happy, but also understanding where the are opportunities to improve the results you get for them.

Yes, it's crucial for you to be close to your team, so they feel supported and have an environment in which they can excel.

If you feel that the above are working IN the business, then yes, we also need to do that.

However, not at the expense of working ON it.

Not at the expense of you and your leadership team spending regular and consistent time considering the vision for the agency, how you can improve the current quality and how you can grow even faster.

The reason so many agency owners are tired of not be able to work ON the business is because... Well... They're tired.

They're over-worked and underpaid... Yep, as crazy as it sounds, a lot of you have just created a job for yourself that's even more stressful than the one you left to start your agency!

The result?

The agency drifts.

From month to month.

Without direction.

And years of this results in tiredness at best, and liquidation at worst.

So how do we solve this?

How do we create an environment where agency owners can consistently work ON their agency and not get stuck IN it?

To answer this, we need to tackle the three big reasons this situation occurs in the first place... So let's dive in.

Reason #1: You Have Too Many Clients That Are Paying You Too Little

I understand how this happens.

You start the agency and you'll take any clients that will have you, at whatever price they'll pay.

Makes sense to begin with because you need the cash... and frankly, finding clients that believe in you and want you to work for them is cool.

But not any more...

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Because now, you have a number of - let's call them Legacy Clients - on Legacy Prices that are eating up your time, yet not bringing in the revenue to allow you to bring in team to support them.

If you ever want to consistently work ON the business, you need to let go of these clients - either by stopping working with them, or by handing them onto team members.

This may not be easy, because you may have grown very close to these clients, but they're stopping you from progressing.

Step 1 in working ON your business is to free yourself from clients that simply aren't bringing in large retainers or revenue.

Which brings us neatly onto Reason 2.

Reason #2: Your Pricing Is Too Low

Very often agency owners approach us stuck in the Pricing Trap.

Here's what that looks like:

I'm too busy to do any work on our marketing or new business.

But we're not earning enough for us to hire anyone else to help with client delivery.

What should we do?

That's the pricing trap.

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You've sold enough services to max-out your entire week. However, you haven't sold them at a high enough price to allow yourself to bring in more staff to support.

The problem is the pricing.

The solution is increasing your prices!

I'm not going to go into how to raise prices or what you should charge in this article, but if you want our Client Value Calculator, then simply DM me with 'Client Value Calc Please' and I'll hook you up.

Most likely by now you've resonated with either reason 1 or 2, or both.

However, if you're still reading and you don't think those are your issues... Yet you still feel you could work more ON your agency, then it's probably Reason 3.

Reason #3: You're Terrible At Delegating

Delegation is a highly misunderstood skill - I know this because I'm also terrible at it...

I'm in fact banned from recruitment and delegating at Authority Agency.


Because I abdicate. I don't delegate.

(Those who have read the E-Myth will understand this terminology).

Abdication is the worst form of delegation. Abdicators simply chuck tasks at people and say, here's the result we want, chat soon.

Good delegators approach things differently.

Good delegators realise that to set someone up for success in a role actually requires more time and effort for the first month or two.

Good delegators ensure that their team have the right instructions, environment and systems to help them succeed.

One reason that you may be overworked and not able to work ON the agency could be that you're abdicating and not delegating. This means that you often have to pick up missed tasks, or jump back in when the client isn't happy.

If that resonates, then seek delegation advice - not from me! - but from good, experienced delegators and leaders that know how to get the best out of people.

The Hard Work Starts Now

Once you manage to get time back to finally work ON the agency, that's when the hard work starts.

No doubt about it...

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Strategically deciding which direction to move the agency, and how to improve every facet of the business is much harder than it just ticking over.

Bigger decisions, bigger consequences and higher stakes.

However, this is where your business needs your head to be. If you, and your leadership team, aren't thinking about the strategic direction of the agency, then no-one is.

So here's your mission for this week:

Really audit where you're spending most of your time.

Look at which of the above reasons is causing you to drown in your schedule.

And take action...

Work on liberating your schedule, and carving out time every week for you to deeply think about your agency and where you want to improve.

I strive to keep Monday and Friday free from meetings. This means that every week I have at least 4 hours (often 8 or 12) to work on projects that I know will improve the quality of our agency.

Extra Tip:

Spend this newly found time considering these things in an unusual location.

Don't just sit in your office... Get yourself out to a cafe or go for a walk... This will access a new side of your brain that you're going to need to have better ideas.

Becoming An Authority Agency

For those of you that don't know me, I'm Oliver Duffy-Lee and I run a company called Authority Agency.

Our mission is simple, we want to help as many scale-up agencies to reach and win high quality international clients as we possibly can, whilst also helping the founders to get more time back in their life at the same time.

If that sounds like you, there are 2 ways we can help you immediately.

Free Training

Firstly we run a free Facebook Group and every week we put new training in there for all of our members.

You can join here:


Agency Growth Audit

If you want to move faster, you can book an Agency Growth Audit with one of our Scale Specialists. It's a super-quick, free call where we'll help outline what's slowing your growth and show you what's possible in the next 90 days.

If that's you, can you book here:

I'm very happy to be here on your journey to building the agency of your dreams.

If you ever need any advice, send me a DM.

To your success,


Oliver Duffy-Lee
Authority Agency