Professional development for agency owners and employees (featuring Mike Rhodes)

A conversation with an agency owner focused on helping to develop talent and foster success in others.
Mike Rhodes on Chats with Chip

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In this episode, we go Down Under for a deep dive into the business of WebSavvy, a Melbourne-based digital marketing agency founded by Mike Rhodes. He explains why he chose agency life over being a helicopter pilot, advice for fellow agency owners, effective team training, and much more.

Mike is also the founder of AgencySavvy, focused on education and training for agency owners. He is the co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords with Perry Marshall and Bryan Todd.

One of the most striking parts of this conversation is just how much Mike is focused on improving his team and sharing knowledge throughout the agency community. He talks about an innovative professional development program he has for his own employees, as well as the work he is doing to help make other agency owners more successful.

Quotes

  • Mike Rhodes: “Getting out of your inbox is one of the best things that you can do as an agency owner. And obviously, we all believe that we can’t afford to do that, can’t afford to hire someone to help me with that. But I think we can’t afford not to.”
  • Chip: “It’s important to, as agency leaders, to remind ourselves that a lot of our teams may not be as comfortable speaking or presenting. And so to find opportunities for them to get that experience is great.”
  • Mike: “If you’re listening to this in 2026…Yeah, we used to have these things called screens.”
  • Chip: “Agency owners, generally speaking, haven’t done a good job of defining what it is that they actually want to achieve. Because once you know what you want, then you can start fencing things off, you can start setting objectives, you can guide yourself better.”

Resources

Transcript

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Agency Leadership conversations, the Chats With Chip Podcast. I am your host, Chip Griffin, and my guest today is Mike Rhodes. He is the founder and CEO of WebSavvy in Melbourne, Australia. Welcome to the show, Mike.

MIKE: Lovely to be here, Chip. Thanks for inviting me.

CHIP: It is great to have you. I appreciate you getting up bright and early in the morning over there. It’s anytime you have these conversations between the US and Australia, somebody is going to get it stuck to them on the time zones. And I appreciate you taking the hit this time.

MIKE: Not a problem at all.

CHIP: So tell us a little bit about WebSavvy, if you would.

MIKE: Sure. It’s been going about 13 years. And we exist because we believe that businesses deserve a digital agency they can trust so that they have the freedom and the time to get on with building the business and doing what they’re brilliant at. I think most business owners are overwhelmed. And I I suffer from that sometimes. There’s – you’re wearing a dozen hats, and there’s a million things to do. And the last thing you might be doing is logging into something like Google ads and going now what am I supposed to do in here this week? So we just take care of all of that for businesses. So for the most part, it’s a done for you business, we’re introducing a done with you service. We can talk about that later, if you want. So done for you Google ads, Facebook ads, we stick to our living. That’s all we do. We don’t do SEO, we don’t do web design or app development. We just do what we do. And we do it, so we’re told, pretty bloody well.

CHIP: Excellent. And do you focus on a particular industry niche? Or is it more geographical?

MIKE: We don’t. A bunch of people have told me I’d be smarter if I did. No, half our clients are e-comm and half are lead gen. So we don’t even stick to one area. E-comm, we do everything we’ve got home builders, car shippers, fast fashion, retail, turmeric, everything in between, and half of our clients are in Australia and half are in the States. So I’m used to early morning calls as are the team and it works pretty well. Europe doesn’t work so much with the time zone, but States and Australia actually isn’t too bad, really seven hours different. So it’s not too terrible.

CHIP: Why I’m clearly not smart enough because I’ve managed to accumulate clients all around the world. So basically, anytime of the day or night, I may be on the phone with somebody, which I’m not sure my family appreciates, but you get used to it.

MIKE: Yeah, I don’t like asking my team to do that, so we try and stick to the areas that work well for that. I don’t want them having to get up at five o’clock in the morning. I don’t mind it. I’m an early riser. I don’t like asking them to do that.

CHIP: Well, you know, you one of the things I saw in your bio is that you thought you might want to be a helicopter pilot at one point which of course, grabbed my attention. But have you ever learned to become a helicopter pilot or just decide that was completely too much work?

MIKE: No, I did, I went down that road. I from five, six years old, I saw something on TV and Mom, I’m doing that – yes dear, of course you are – no, mom, I’m doing that. And I found myself in Hawaii, of all places, aged 20-21 and I just decided right hey, this is going to happen and I called every helicopter company in Honolulu. I got a job with one of them the next day. Yeah, sweeping the floor and helping systemize and computerize – This is the early 90s – helping them computerize their growing office. In exchange for, so I don’t want you to pay me and they said it sounds good. I don’t want you to pay me cash, I want you to pay me in flying time. And so they gave me a huge deal on the flying time. And I learned to fly – flying down the canyons of Kauai and around the volcanoes of Molokai and Maui it was it was quite epic. And then I went back to the UK. A few years later, I started working with the most prestigious helicopter company in Europe. They’ve got Lord Hanson they’ve got the Queen, client list is insane. We won’t go there. It’s just showing off. But if you’ve heard of them, we flew them. And I was in flight up. So be very clear. I wasn’t sitting in the front seat. But I would jump in every now and again. And and yeah, help the guys with test flights and so on, that I realized very quickly that they refer to themselves as drivers. And you’re basically a posh taxi driver at that point, and every man to a man and unfortunately, they were all men at that point were very, very few women in aviation. They couldn’t wait to retire, they’d all come out of the military and they could not wait to be done with it all. And I decided then I would rather be the bloke sitting in the backseat sipping the champagne than do this for a job for the next 40-50 years. So I decided then and there that that wasn’t going to be my career. But I yeah, I still love helicopters are still occasionally, very occasionally, sadly, fly. But one day, you know when I’ve got more time? I’ll get my license again. And

CHIP: Do you ever find yourself now sitting in the backseat with that glass of champagne yourself?

MIKE: Not so much, no, more the back of the Uber sipping on the water. But it’s an aspiration. But that is a really good sign of when to short a stock is when a company buys their own helicopter. That’s just before the fall. So there’s a tip for any stock investors out there.

CHIP: That’s an interesting one, I had not heard that one before. But I will now keep an eye on that one. So how did you pivot from from that to agency life?

MIKE: Oh, have to try and keep this under 58 minutes, shall we. I’ve always loved the business of business, I just love seeing businesses grow. And in the past, I kind of refer to that as I have these three circles. And it’s leverage and making things practical and usable. I love a good idea as much as the next person. But for me, it’s got to be usable, it’s going to be something I can do. Now or at least in the in the very near future. Asteroid mining is awesome. But how do I help clients make money out of it. So leverage, the next circle is the near future. I love just running over the next two or three hills and reporting back. And this is, this is where things are going. So I love spending time out there in the future, and the business of business. And so how to leverage the near future to grow business. That has always been my thing. And I’ve realized recently, it’s actually more about growing business people. Because I want the team here to continue to grow and learn the – everybody has a five grand a year learning fund. We spend a lot of time on self development and learning new things. We are as much a school as we are an agency. So that was a sort of slight distinction. But then I also realized I just love teaching, I’ve discovered I’m a teacher at heart. And so that’s why we’ve got the sister company AgencySavvy. And that’s where we teach a whole bunch of agencies how to do what we do, which is both on the technical side, how to run Google campaigns really, really well, as well as analytics and Facebook and shopping. And then also how to build and scale an agency. And so that is the stuff I love to do. And so I just I saw Perry Marshall, teach Google ads in 2004. And I didn’t have any idea of those three circles at the time. But looking back, it was absolutely the perfect way to get leverage for a small business. It was absolutely the future of advertising and marketing. And that was absolutely going to help all these businesses that I’ve been talking to, to grow. Because I’d been doing some small business consulting, I was always trying to help other businesses succeed. And they were doing pages and radio and letter box drops. And here was this thing of what do you mean, you only show ads to people when they’re looking for what you sell, and you only pay if they’re interested enough to click through to your website. This is this is awesome until I pretty much dropped everything else stopped paying Michael Gerber a fortune to license the E myth brand. And, and set up the agency pretty much then and there.

CHIP: So one of the things that struck me in what you said there was that you’re as much as school as an agency. And in that we all know that in the agency business, every agency owner will say, you know, we’re all about our people, our people are our biggest asset. And it’s absolutely true. But at the same time, a lot of folks haven’t structured a way to invest in their teams in the way that it sounds like you have with this learning fund. So talk a little bit about the learning fund, if you would, and how it is that, that you’ve seen how you’ve implemented it, and also how you’ve seen it pay off in terms of results.

MIKE: Yeah, sure. Um, how we’ve implemented it. So I don’t know the exact details on that anymore, because I don’t handle that anymore. It’s awesome.

CHIP: Well, are their standards as far as how people can spend it, or…

MIKE: I think there’s a limit on what you can get first year, it’s five grand, first year, it might be 2000 or something. But essentially, it’s five grand a year to invest in yourself now 80% of that, because I’m a massive fan of the 80/20 rule 80% of that has to be about career and professional development, the other thousand dollars is anything you want, that’s going to increase your well being. So if that’s a gym membership, if that’s learning Italian if that’s learning pottery, like, if you want to learn something that’s on me, you want to look after yourself. That’s on me, up to 1000. And then the rest of it, that might be flying to the States to go do a course it might be buying a course online or going to a workshop could be investing in a coach, I have two mindset coaches. And I am a big, big believer in coaching. And as well as coaching people, managing people. We also have an unlimited Amazon and Audible fund. So if there’s a book you want, please just go buy it, you don’t have to ask permission for that stuff. And I’ve actually seen, I’m in an amazing mastermind group in the States. And I’ve seen a little twist on that there where they actually pay their team to read books, to guesstimate, okay, this is a six hour book, we’re going to pay you 120 bucks to read this book, but you have to give a book report at the end of it. So you might have a lunch and learn 10-15 minutes to the team. And talk about what you got out of that book and what you implemented as well. And also if you if you go and do a course whether that’s a training with Google, and we don’t tend to learn a lot from those, but yeah, sometimes that can be good. Okay. Right. But or if it’s going to traffic and conversion in the States or, yeah, fly up to Sydney for something and then yeah, if you’re going to do that, you got to come back and tell the team what you got out of it, which also makes it much more applicable. And because I believe if you go into something, and if this could be as simple as reading the book, set your intention at the start, which sounds a bit woo-woo. But what do I actually want to get out of this. And knowing that, one, you’re going to implement stuff, and two, knowing that you have to teach it, after you’ve learned it means you learn it in a totally different way. If you know that you have, you know, maybe you’re taking notes as you read that book, or taking notes as you go through the conference where maybe you wouldn’t do before. So in terms of your thoughts about the impact that’s made, I think I want people to do work that they love. And so there’s a there’s a concept by Dan Sullivan called unique ability, strategiccoach.com, if you want to dive deeper into this, but he is an amazing thinker about thinking. And so this concept of unique ability is essentially doing work that you love. And being very clear on what that is the stuff that fires you up, and it fires up the people around you the stuff that gives you energy, the stuff that you feel you can always get better at, which for me is the business of business, right? I I’m told I know a bit about business. And I’m quite strategic. But I feel like I don’t haven’t touched this the heart of it yet, there’s so much there to learn that I want to learn, I just want to get better and better and better at that stuff. So it’s the same to the team, I say, figure out what you love to do. And let’s minimum try and get you doing that 50% of the time, the goal is 80% of the time, because we’re not stupid enough to believe that you can always do everything that you love, there’s always going to be bits to every job that you don’t particularly like. But that’s the goal. Because how wonderful would it be to be surrounded by a team of people. And again, Dan calls this unique ability teamwork. And you’ve got this whole team of people doing the stuff that they love to do. And so that just makes for a much happier, healthier team. And I think the learning fund is a big part of that. If I’m saying go figure out what you love to do, but then I’m not going to back you in that, I’m not going to help you learn stuff.

CHIP: Well I love that you have them teach and share when they come back from whatever training it is or whatever book they’ve read, because that that gives a real opportunity to spread the knowledge. But as you’ve noted, the you know, preparing to teach, and I find for a lot of people, the actual act of teaching causes you to retain a lot more of that information than you would otherwise.

MIKE: Absolutely, and it’s great practice for being in front of a client. I mean, if you, you know, but if you’re really new, and this is your first job out of uni, sometimes it can be pretty scary standing at the front of the room with everybody looking at you, I forget that having done public speaking for 15 years now, I forget that a lot of people is it is more terrifying than death, for a certain percentage of the population. But if you can’t stand in front of a room of 20 people in a very safe space and do that, then how are you going to go in front of that board meeting. So it’s a great way just to build presentation skills and practice. And also you’re talking about stuff that you really enjoy, which is way more fun than teaching something that you that you don’t. So…

CHIP: Right. And it’s you know, I think it’s something important to, as agency leaders to remind ourselves of that a lot of our teams may not be as comfortable speaking or presenting. And so to find opportunities for them to get that experience is great. You know, there are folks like us that you know, people joke that that I’ve never seen a microphone that I don’t want to grab. And that may not quite be true, but it’s not too far off. And but you know, a lot of the folks that work for you are not in that same boat. And there are agencies that will do presentation training for their teams and that sort of thing. But that’s those are going through sort of simulations. So I find that’s not nearly as good as having someone do a real presentation, you know, as you’re having them do as part of this learning fund. Tell me a little bit about AgencySavvy, because this is this is continuing that idea of education. It sounds like but to the agency community itself, as opposed to your internal teams. So you’re teaching them primarily how to do the paid digital advertising.

MIKE: So it started as PPC savvy few years ago, and I’ve been teaching Google ads, pretty much since a few months after I learned it. I’ve always been a teacher, I think I ran my first course in 2007. around Google ads, I still have somewhere around here a bubble pack with 13 DVDs in it. Remember that?

CHIP: Yes. You’re dating us now.

MIKE: If you’re listening to this in 2026. Yeah, we used to have these things called screens. So um, PPC savvy. And then again, it’s another Dan Sullivan thing. He has been a big, big, I’ve never met the bloke. But I consider him my mentor for the past 17 years, because I just I love the way his brain works. But he asked this question of what could you give 25 years commitment to and I realized I can’t commit to Google AdWords. Now Google ads for 25 years, because it probably won’t be here in five or 10 years time, you know, Google are just going to get to the point where we give them a credit card and they hook into zero and they just say yep, we understand where the profit comes from every business give us your credit card, and we’ll figure it out. But I could commit to 25 years of helping grow businesses again, like how do you leverage the near future to grow businesses and business people. And I do consider business savvy, as a sort of jumped straight to that. But there are so many types of business that I don’t feel remotely qualified to talk about in manufacturing, wholesaling, and that there’s so many different types of business. So scaled back the ambition a little bit and said, what, you know, the group of people that I know I can help, because I’ve done that journey, people that want to grow and scale their agency and you know, the first that get to get to seven figures and get some freedom, and time and space in their lives. Yeah, most, most people, I suppose you attract people that are like you, right. So most people in AgencySavvy have, have made a start, they’re starting to hire a team. So they might be sole owners with a team of 2, 3, 4, contractors, all the way up to maybe a sort of team of 15-20, I don’t have anybody in there that you know, is an agency of 100 people doing 50 million a year or whatever it is, because that’s not what I know. But also a lot of people in AgencySavvy have young families. And because I talked about that balancing act that we all do, and I talk about my my family quite a bit, and things that I’ve done along the way there. So it is predominantly for, you know, people that have already seen a little bit of success. And you know, they’ve got those first few retainer clients. And they want to grow that they want to get more freedom. So we teach Yes, all of the technical side of Google Analytics Data Studio shopping, and then the business side as well. And there’s something else I was going to say in there, but it’s completely escaped me, it’s gone.

CHIP: Well, that’s okay. You know what one of the things that you had touched on, there was the the importance of balancing with your family, or personal life, those sorts of things. And that’s something that I know, a lot of my clients are struggling with. It’s something that agency owners across the board are struggling with. And I think that that part of that comes from the fact that agency owners, generally speaking, haven’t done a good job of defining what it is that they actually want to achieve. Because once you know what you want, then you can start fencing things off, you can start setting objectives, you can you can guide yourself better. And so, you know, is that is that consistent with what you’re seeing? And if so, how do you work with the owners to help them see that and get what they really want?

MIKE: I think in America, I think you have quite a workaholic style.

CHIP: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

MIKE: I believe your typical employee will get one to two weeks off first year. Then it sort of grows at a day, a year after that, right. Whereas here in Australia, minimum four weeks, everyone’s getting four weeks off, if you come out of uni your first job, you’re getting four weeks off a year, and many places will offer five or six.

CHIP: Yeah, I mean, you’re right, that that is typically how it is here. And to me it is it has never made any sense. Because it’s not, you know, having that sort of seniority based vacation policy, it’s nuts. It’s nuts. It really has never made any sense to me, because you don’t need less time off just because you’ve been with an organization for less time.

MIKE: And then you move, and then potentially that will start again, it’s crazy. I just took five weeks off, and didn’t touch email, because my team are amazing. I didn’t log in once for five weeks. And the number of people even at this amazing group I go to in the States, which are these guys are just absolute, the best of the best. But 100 people from business and marketing, even that people don’t dare ask me, where did you go? And how was Whistler? And what was Vancouver Island like? It was How do you do that? And you please can you tell me how to how to do that for even just a week? And I was really surprised by that. Because I just I mean, okay, it’s the first holiday in 12 years where I haven’t touched email for that length of time. But it wasn’t that terribly hard to do. I think I think I think it just starts with the mindset of you don’t need to check your own email every single day. And that’s a biggie, I think so many people are absolutely buried in their inboxes all day and particularly the guys I work with at Google that that is insane their inbox practically scrolls past their eyes, while you’re sitting there, they have such an email culture. If they go like a day they get buried. But but many agencies are the same. But I think a lot of people believe that if I don’t do it, my clients will leave and it is ego destroyed. But that doesn’t happen. I was terrified of doing that seven, eight years ago, whenever it was I got out of my inbox. And I thought that they wanted me. If I’m not there, they’re all going to leave. They’re all going to, well, if Mike’s not answering my emails, then stuff it,. But nothing happened.

CHIP: Well, and the reality is clients are a lot more forgiving. And understanding than we in the agency community often give them credit for.

MIKE: And this is so much of a smaller part of their week that we think it is, when we’re dealing with a client, we assume that like, Well, why haven’t they replied to my email yet, because they’ve got 12 other things that they’re doing and, you know, marketing this tiny amount of their week, and your bit of the bit that you’re helping them with marketing is a tiny bit of the tiny bit. And it’s just not a huge priority for them and your email, because you made it 28 paragraphs long, it’s just gone straight to the bottom of the priority list. And they’ll deal with that in a couple of weeks, maybe. We make very sure we’re replying to client emails within 24 hours every time. But I have to remind the guys occasionally that they’re busy. And if they haven’t replied in a couple of days, that’s okay. And if you really need now to just jump on the phone,

CHIP: The phone, the phone, what’s that?

MIKE: Getting out of your inbox is one of the best things that you can do as an agency owner. And and obviously, we all believe that we can’t afford to do that can’t afford to hire someone to help me with that. But I think we can’t afford not to.

CHIP: But as we creep up on the end of the time we have available one of the things that that I’d like to do is, is have you take out your crystal ball and look a little bit to the future, particularly as it comes to, since we spent a bunch of time talking about education and training for employees as well as agencies, you know, what do you what do you see as the things that either agencies or their teams need to be learning about more, say, over the next, you know, 2, 3, 4 years, in order to to continue to advance their businesses?

MIKE: There are so many ways I could answer that question. But I’ll stick with the obvious easy one, machine learning. We have to understand at least the basics. I’ve been diving deep into this last two, three years. So there’s courses in agencies heavy on it. Now I’ve been talking a lot about it on stages around the world. I think we don’t, we shouldn’t be scared of it. And we shouldn’t be worried that the machines, the robots, whatever are going to take our jobs, I don’t believe they replace jobs, I believe they replace a bunch of tasks within our existing jobs. And yes, the nature of our job therefore will change probably quite a lot over the coming months to say like 3-4-5 years, the job that you do today may be unrecognizable. In five years, it may be called something fairly different. But there is still a huge need for for humans for a fair amount of time yet. So understanding how machine learning works, how it is affecting particularly advertising and marketing. Understanding the future is smart people playing with smart machines, it’s not us against machines, it’s how do we play with machines? How do you train your robot to be a friendly robot and work with you and get rid of all the mundane perhaps that you really don’t want you or your team to be doing? and start to think about how do we add more value to clients? How do we add more creativity? Or strategy? How do we just add more human judgment? I think this is the cost of prediction planets, as the accuracy of prediction increases that that’s the main thing that machine learning is particularly good at the purest of it, because that’s a massive oversimplification. But it’s really about prediction. Well, in order to make decisions, you need prediction and judgment. And so therefore, the value of human judgment will rise. And we need more people thinking about that, and looking at the big picture, joining the disparate dots across various domains, that’s a perfect place for humans to be and playing. But yes, agencies, in particular, have to understand that game and have to stay ahead of that wave. Because otherwise, you know, if you missed the first couple of waves, jumping on the third and fourth waves is really, really hard. So just staying ahead of it, understanding what Google and Facebook in particular, are taking that understanding how the machine works. That’s a that’s an absolute huge one. And then yes, working with the team to constantly be reskilling that’s why we introduced the learning fund, we have to constantly re skill and be resilient and flexible. Those are the things I’m trying to teach my daughters because I have no idea what they might be doing for a job 20 years from now. But I know if they’re flexible and resilient and they love learning, they’ll probably probably be all right.

CHIP: Well, this is I think this is a fascinating topic. And I’ll have to have you back on so we can take a deeper dive on on the machine learning concept, because I think it is a real, it’s a challenge and an opportunity for agencies in the future and figuring out how to master it.

MIKE: Yes, it is a challenge. It is not an easy path to tread for sure. But the opportunity for the agencies willing to take some risks and to understand how important data is to them and the world. Yeah, I could bang on for another 30 minutes about that. But yeah.

CHIP: But not on the show. But but but I will definitely have you back at some point if you’re willing to have that conversation, because I think it’s something worth continuing to explore. But in the meantime, since you know folks don’t have their own personal robots that figure these things out for them. Can you tell folks where they can find you where they should go if they’d like to learn more about you or WebSavvy?

MIKE: Sure. So yeah, WebSavvy.com.au. Don’t forget, we’re down here in Australia, and that’s WEBSAVVY nobody can spell savvy, it’s a really bad time to pick your hands up. But anyway, so WebSavvy, that’s the done for you and done with you side of things. And AgencySavvy.com is the training site. So if you want to have a look at our courses, or you can join a few hundred amazing marketers, from rank beginners to experts, we have an amazing forum. I’m in there every day when I’m not traveling. So it’s not one of those forums that you know, the main personality drops in once a quarter just for 10 minutes just to say hi, I’m in there all the time answering questions, as are all of the other members. So it’s amazing resource. And all of our courses are in the access to everything I’ve ever done, essentially. And they give me suggestions all the time. We want more material, they want more on mindset you can do and do another course on mindset, please. Now, if you but if you might find me. I’ll give you a couple of ways [email protected] savvy.com.au, if you want to ask me a question about anything we’ve talked about or anything we haven’t please either. Again, I love teaching, I love helping grow businesses. So flick me an email, or if you if you want a second pair of eyes over your Google account, we can do that too. And we audit an awful lot of agencies stuff as well as well as client stuff. or hit me up on Facebook facebook.com/MikeRhodes. So pretty easy to find.

CHIP: Excellent. We’ll include all of those links in the show notes. So if you happen to be listening to this on the treadmill or in the car, please don’t, don’t crash off of either of those. You can just go back and look at the show notes afterwards for those links. So, Mike, it’s really been fantastic having you on today. You’ve had a lot of good insights for the listeners. And I really appreciate your time,

MIKE: My absolute best, Chip, thanks for having me.

CHIP: Again, my guest today has been Mike Rhodes the founder and CEO of WebSavvy in Melbourne, Australia.