How To Start And Grow A Creative Agency with Chris Do
The Road to Creative Success is Paved with Struggle
Building a thriving creative agency from the ground up is no small feat. It requires grit, strategic thinking, and the ability to persuade even the most skeptical clients that your unique vision and skills are worth investing in.
So how does one go from a fresh-faced design school graduate to the founder of a bustling creative empire?
Emmy award-winning designer Chris Do’s origin story provides hard-won insights into this challenging yet rewarding journey. In this blog post, we’ll explore the vital lessons Chris learned in those critical early days of striking out on his own and struggling to find clients.
You’ll discover how Chris leveraged his talent and relentless drive not only to land initial projects but also to foster fruitful professional relationships. We’ll also dive into his scrappy approaches to managing a fledgling team and budgeting constraints.
If you feel overwhelmed by the notion of turning your artistic passions into a business, take heart. Chris’ journey proves that with strategic relationship building, dedication to your craft, and a willingness to learn as you go, creative agency success is possible.
The trials ahead may be real, but so are the rewards.
Discovering Entrepreneurship: Leveraging Talent to Kick Open Doors
Entrepreneurship coursed through Chris Do’s veins from a young age. Though he lacked the terminology at first, his inclination towards building little money-making schemes—from selling discounted candy to designing t-shirts—revealed his natural bent towards delegation and enterprise.
This penchant would serve him well when opportunity came knocking after design school. Though Chris harbored self-directed dreams, his pathway unfolded with almost fairy tale serendipity:
A post-graduation advertising agency job materialized, offering experience plus valuable connections. When restlessness set in, another creative post arose to replace it. Just before desperation set in over a lack of next steps, his uncle phoned with a proposition: his business partner sought a design company investment vehicle.
Over the next nights, Chris scrambled to educate himself on crafting winning business plans. But his talents spoke for themselves even in those fledgling proposals. At their very first meeting, his uncle’s partner spontaneously scribbled a $5,000 good faith check, no concrete plans in place.
Such early affirmation imbued Chris with self-assurance to match his talents. Though the road ahead held unforeseen pitfalls, he felt success inevitable.
In truth, these early wins had deeper roots. During his studies and agency stints, Chris consciously focused on forging memorable connections by making himself invaluable. This seeded a crop of colleagues, classmates and bosses who leapt to hire or recommend him when he struck out alone.
Being unforgettable—whether through design brilliance or selfless assistance—paved the way for Chris’ earliest leads and opportunities. Still today, he traces many fruitful creative relationships back to those impressionable days when he branded himself as a standout talent before needing to utter a single sales pitch.
Luck may have propelled Chris forward initially, but he soon learned even fairy tale starts demand hard work. The influx of early referrals quickly overwhelmed his solo capacity. But rather than turn down requests, he demonstrated that innate inclination to delegate even in school. He tapped friends whose style he could augment and mentor, profit-sharing to retain motivation.
Chris knew that with trust in his unique vision and management, combined team strengths could outpace his individual contribution. This seed of enterprise that once manifested in youthful candy schemes and t-shirt ventures would grow into the thriving creative agency he heads today. For Chris Do, entrepreneurship has always been about leveraging his talents to kick open doors and broaden opportunities however possible.
Navigating Early Entrepreneurial Pitfalls Through Relationships
Chris Do’s charmed start soon met hard realities. Though his talents opened doors, beyond lay minefields unknown to design stars.
Chief among these: the client quest and puzzle of pricing work.
Chris exited school sans business fundamentals like estimating and sales. He and his makeshift team subsisted solely on previous connections throwing work their way—until the well ran dry.
With no contacts left to tap and coffers dwindling, Chris turned to cold calls, desperately dialing industry sales reps. But as a creative maverick, he simply didn’t fit the commercial mold. Call after call ended in polite refusals couched in praise of his uniqueness—faint comfort without contracts.
Just when all seemed lost, salvation came from an unlikely source: his office manager. While not in creative circles herself, she knew and believed in Chris enough to persist until she found a promising contact. Though it took months for that connection to blossom into Chris’ first big break, it opened the gateway to steady clients and income.
Doggedly pursue every personal and professional connection—even distant ones—for leads before resorting to cold contacts. Warm introductions pack exponentially more punch.
Even when contacts don’t immediately bite, persist. Doors often open months or years down the line.
Make sure to impress every single person you encounter—whether fellow creatives or those far removed from your industry like receptionists or significant others. You never know who might unlock your next game-changing opportunity.
The slim thread linking Chris to his manager’s acquaintance highlighted two truths:
The network seeds you plant may take extensive nurturing before bearing fruit. But once ripened, even a lone connection can alter the course of your business.
Everyone—not just industry insiders—can potentially catalyze your growth. The key lies in imprinting yourself as talented, unique and reliable on every person you meet, whether they hold your fate or not. You’re branding every minute; eventually, it will pay dividends.
For Chris Do, creative brilliance alone failed to ensure career liftoff. Only by ultimately recognizing relationships as the universal currency did he escape early oblivion. Once mastering this, he built his agencies into channels to keep paying it forward.
Scaling Through Selective Delegation and Mentorship
Chris’ natural inclination to delegate fueled his early growth spurt. While solo designers struggled to relinquish control, he instinctively hired help even before securing his first post-grad client.
Who comprised his initial team? Friends and classmates he’d impressed as wildly talented yet approachable. After art directing their work, he’d polish and present to clients—a perfect symbiosis allowing him to keep designing while delegating rote tasks. Everyone won: his friends gained real-world experience and income, while Chris won free time to manage relations and land fresh projects.
This reveal may shock entrepreneurs clinging to tasks in the name of quality. But for Chris, delegation was hardwired early on. In every childhood venture, he optimized profits by hiring helpers to handle mundane duties like sales, allowing him to focus on supply chain issues and marketing. He innately understood business as a web of symbiotic relationships between specialized functions. Trying to control everything himself violated this natural order and inhibited growth.
So what enabled Chris to rapidly scale using delegation? Several qualities stand out:
A talent stacked team for leverage: Rather than hoard tasks, Chris built a staff so skilled it embodied the whole of his expertise and more. By art directing their complementary strengths, he shaped an exponentially more capable creative force.
An eye for undiscovered potential: When scouting talent, Chris noticed diamonds in the rough—overlooked capabilities and eagerness to grow. Given space to shine, these protégés blossomed into versatile designers under his guidance.
A mentorship mindset: Chris viewed leadership principally as mentoring emerging talent. Through feedback and encouragement, he nurtured loyalty and skill. And as their capabilities expanded, so too did his capacity.
The key insight? Businesses scale fastest when founders shift from isolated technician to multi-armed mentor/director. By hiring, nurturing and orchestrating specialists’ passions into a harmonious whole, vision evolves further and faster than any solo effort.
Delegation only cripples operations when attempted haphazardly or haltingly. But done decisively under a strong guiding vision, it unlocks explosive growth. For young firms like Scythos, the roadmap is clear: attract talent; foster potential; coordinate strengths. The rest takes care of itself.
Leveraging Relationships and Momentum to Fuel Growth
For Chris, early momentum stemmed from tapping friend networks, not formal marketing. Classmates spread his name to employers, bringing freelance gigs that let him quit corporate posts. These connections provided his client base so referrals could multiply impact.
But overdependence on friends risked stagnation. As projects concluded, referrals slowed. So facing a yearlong dry spell, Chris pursued new links through cold calls and chance encounters. Outreach to industry reps proved fruitless—his commercial abilities didn’t sync with their needs. Still, persistence yielded an improbable meeting where small talk with his office manager’s girlfriend yielded a pivotal intro. This sparked a client relationship propelling years of growth.
Mine existing networks first: Friends and former colleagues provide the most immediate channel for securing early clients. Make impressions so colleagues sing your praises when opportunities arise.
Then build strategic new links: Once natural networks are exhausted, targeted outreach identifies potential mutual fits even in unlikely spaces. An open, curious mindset allows chance encounters to blossom.
Leverage referrals for exponential reach: Early clients provide references bolstering credibility for bigger contracts. Completing superb work seeds further referrals, elevating visibility.
Stay proactive between surges: When referrals ebb, persistently develop new relationships to preempt lulls. Proactively counter reliance on existing clients by continually planting seeds for next season’s harvest.
The path from scrappy startup to household name combines hustle, trust and a bit of luck. But mostly, it involves mastering the leverage of strategic relationships—both old and new—to maximize visibility. Each connection builds momentum priming the next ascent.
Key Ingredients of Long-Term Agency Success
Chris Do’s journey reveals several vital mindsets for creative entrepreneurs aspiring to build an enduring brand.
Leverage connections for early wins. Mine existing networks for your first client leads. Former employers and colleagues often provide initial opportunities to showcase abilities. Make outstanding impressions so associates spread your name when relevant projects arise.
Assemble and empower a support squad. Avoid overextending by bringing others onto the team early, playing to individual strengths. Guide and motivate members while giving latitude to develop. Hire A-players without ego or insecurity; their contributions push quality ever higher.
Stay proactive in outreach and optimistic in mindset. When referrals ebb, persist in nurturing new relationships to spark future collaborations. Believe unforeseen openings abound for those bold in exploring.
Adapt strategies while retaining core vision. As the terrain shifts, retool approaches to changing environments without sacrificing your creative spirit. Pivot to new models aligning abilities with market needs.
Persevere through setbacks. Inevitable rejections and dry seasons test but strengthen resilience to continue pushing forward. Maintain conviction in your gifts while refining pitches.
With a supportive community, adaptive outlook and dogged determination, visions evolve into ventures, then venerable institutions. Each phase requires renewed hustle. But by investing in people and possibilities, solo creators transform into household names.
Greetings! I’m Jack, founder of Scythos – where I’ve helped over 50 brands transform into unforgettable identities and stunning digital presences. As a brand strategist and creative consultant, I have over a decade of experience taking brands from wallflowers to the centre of attention.
Looking to get your branding noticed and your business thriving? Reach out anytime to brainstorm creative strategies for making your brand impossible to ignore. I love collaborating with passionate entrepreneurs to conceptualize innovative ways to connect with their audiences.
Whether you need help with a logo, website, content or entire rebrand – let’s chat! I’m always eager to share my ideas, creative concepts and expertise to help brands reach the next level. Together, we can make sure your business gets seen and heard. Follow along on social or send me a message to get the conversation started!