What is an Intentional Agency?

The key to building an Intentional Agency is to beat back inertia.
Chip Griffin
Chip is the Founder & CEO of Agency Leadership Advisors and a longtime agency owner and executive. He helps PR and marketing agency leaders build better businesses.
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In an industry with many “accidental owners,” the idea of building an “Intentional Agency” may seem contradictory.

But just because many public relations and marketing agency owners never set out to build a “real” business doesn’t mean that they can’t reset themselves (and the business) to be more intentional.

But what does that mean, exactly?

The vast majority of agency businesses operate on inertia.

You may have started as a one-person freelancing operation that expanded as the client list grew to be more than the you could handle.

Your early customers were likely clients of convenience rather than strategic picks.

Perhaps the you left a business and took that company on as the first consulting client. Or maybe you had a side hustle that took off.

Then word got out about your good work, and some new prospects called or emailed. And, since just about every new freelancer or agency is looking for revenue, you said yes to whatever came in over the transom.

Meeting those clients’ needs was likely just as driven by outside forces.

There wasn’t much need for process because when you’re solo you probably can remember how you did it last time. And you don’t need to teach it to new employees for a while.

You probably used whatever software tools were cheap and convenient. And you outsourced your first overflow work to friends or people you found easily (and, likely, quickly).

Then you hired an employee. You likely waited too long because you were nervous about taking on someone else’s salary. And you probably focused more on the process than the selection. Oh, and the price had to be right, too.

Most agency owners don’t carefully plan that first hire to figure out the right balance between cost and experience. The drive is simply to get some help to relieve some of the pressure of overwork.

Of course, having an employee feeds the inertia beast even more. More mouths to feed means more revenue must come in the door. And that leads to more clients who can pay the bills but who may not be the right long-term strategic fits.

And when was the last time you really asked yourself what you wanted out of your own agency business? Do you feel like you’re working for the business rather than the other way around?

An Intentional Agency beats back inertia by encouraging thoughtful decision-making.

Why do you even have an agency business?

Why are some clients right for your agency (and others wrong)?

Why do you provide the services that you provide?

Why do you do certain daily tasks instead of handing them off?

Why should a client pick your agency among all the others out there?

Why did you choose to hire a certain individual?

Why did you choose not to hire for a particular need?

All of these whys are the tip of the iceberg.

You need to know the “why” behind your choices as an agency owner.

Don’t just make a decision to grow your agency because it’s the next natural step. Do so because it helps you achieve your personal goals.

Don’t just take on a new client because they’re willing to hire you and you need the revenue. Do so because it fits the story you want to tell about your business.

Don’t just hire an employee because you’re stressed and overworked. Do so because it adds to your talent pool and gets you closer to your own dream.

Don’t just say you provide a certain service because you think you might lose business otherwise. Do so because you’re good at it and it adds value to the clients who are right for your agency.

Don’t just make decisions to keep up with the Joneses or because it is what is expected. Do it because it feels right.

An Intentional Agency will have far greater likelihood of success than an Inertia Agency.

There are no guarantees of success in business, but thoughtful, deliberate decision-making wins out more often than not when it comes to creating thriving businesses that make owners happy.