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Rise25 recently spoke with 20 agency leaders who provided valuable insights into running a thriving agency. Several emphasized the importance of clear communication, managing client expectations through transparency, and finding a niche to specialize in. Others highlighted the need to build strong client relationships, empower employees, and remain adaptable to change. Recommended strategies include pricing models, effective delegation, and focusing on core strengths while partnering for other services.

The featured agencies represent a diverse range of marketing, advertising, branding, and creative firms. Some are full-service agencies offering comprehensive solutions, while others specialize in areas like social media, lead generation, performance marketing, or particular industries like technology and HVAC. The agencies vary in size, geographic reach, and ideal client types — serving startups, scaling companies, enterprise clients, nonprofits, and global brands. Despite their differences, they all strive to drive measurable results for their clients through innovative, data-driven strategies.

Adam O’Leary, encite branding + marketing + creative


Adam O’Leary, the Owner of Denver-based agency encite branding + marketing + creative, emphasizes the importance of clear communication as the top tip for running a successful agency. “I think it’s key to over-communicate and make sure that you’re chatting with clients, discussing with clients any of the things that are coming up very frequently,” he advises. Adam also highlights managing client expectations as a constant challenge his agency has had to overcome, noting that ‘transparency, candidness, and those kinds of things’ are essential for aligning the agency and the client.

encite started in 2005 when Adam was a marketing director for a software company in Denver. After being laid off during the 2008 economic downturn, Adam chose to run the agency full-time. Over the years, encite has expanded geographically, with offices in Denver, Chicago, and New York City. The agency provides various services, including market research, brand strategy development, creative concept implementation, and media planning, all intended to help clients accomplish their marketing objectives and evolve into category leaders.

Learn more: Adam O’Leary on LinkedIn, encite branding + marketing + creative


Shannon Fitzgerald, The Hooligans Agency


Shannon Fitzgerald, Founder/Partner of The Hooligans Agency, emphasized the importance of being “innovative, strategic, and data-driven” in serving clients in today’s competitive landscape. “We really want to work with folks that we would, you know, also go and have coffee with,” she noted, underscoring the value of collaborative and values-driven relationships.

The Hooligans Agency, founded in 2020 during the pandemic to serve political causes and advocacy work, has since expanded its focus to include more brand-focused video production. The agency takes pride in its storytelling expertise, honed by Shannon’s experience as a TV showrunner. They help clients uncover the values-driven core of their business and products and craft a compelling narrative around it. Their ideal clients are those who embrace creative exploration and value the agency’s strategic, data-driven approach.

Learn more: Shannon Fitzgerald on LinkedIn, The Hooligans Agency

Corey Morris, Voltage Digital


Corey Morris, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Voltage Digital, understands the challenges of running a successful digital agency in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. “The key is to remain nimble and adaptable,” Corey advises. “As an agency leader, you have to be willing to pivot your services and strategies to meet the ever-changing needs of your clients.”

Voltage Digital has a rich history, having been founded in 2012 to provide comprehensive digital marketing solutions to a diverse range of clients. Today, the agency offers a suite of services, including web design, SEO, social media management, and content creation. Voltage Digital’s ideal clients are businesses seeking to elevate their online presence and drive measurable results through innovative digital strategies.

Learn more: Corey Morris on Linkedin, Voltage Digital


Julietta Dexter, Science Magic

Science Magic

As Founder and Chief Growth & Purpose Officer of Science Magic, Julietta Dexter emphasizes the importance of cultivating a robust ethical foundation for one’s business. “The values that I tried to live by right at the beginning in 1995 have been the guiding force,” she explains. “Every single thing I did in the business, whether I was deciding to work with a new client, pitching to a new client, or hiring somebody, I would ask myself, ‘Is this clever, considered, and considerate?'” Julietta suggests new agency owners give precedence to their values and guarantee they’re evident in the everyday running of the business.

Julietta’s agency, Science Magic, has a long history of working with purpose-driven brands in the fashion, lifestyle, and well-being industries. “The impetus has really been largely for us to work with brands that matter in a better world,” she says. Science Magic helps clients navigate the journey towards sustainable and regenerative business practices, focusing on people, profit, planet, and purpose. Julietta’s ideal clients are committed to positively impacting and aligning their business with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Learn more: Julietta Dexter on LinkedIn, Science Magic


James Littmann, TribeFirst

Tribe First

For running a thriving agency, James Littmann, Managing Director of TribeFirst, emphasizes fostering strong client relationships. “It’s 80% about the relationship with the client,” he explains. “You have to maintain that relationship, listening to their needs and communicating effectively every step of the way.” James also advocates for transparency, noting that sharing the agency’s knowledge and expertise can build trust and confidence with clients rather than giving away trade secrets.

TribeFirst is the UK’s leading crowdfunding marketing agency, founded seven and a half years ago by John Auckland, a published author and experienced copywriter. Over the last four years, the agency has secured nearly £70 million for over 130 companies and maintains a 100% success rate on the two primary UK crowdfunding platforms. James explains that TribeFirst’s ideal clients range from startups to Series A companies seeking to raise funds, as the agency specializes in crafting compelling narratives and “hitting the right rational and emotional hotbox buttons to convert investors.”

Learn more: James Littmann on LinkedIn, TribeFirst


Adam Burrage, Trident


Stagnation is one of the biggest challenges facing agency leaders like Adam Burrage, Managing Director of Trident. Adam explains that relying on a few “cash cow” clients can be risky, as businesses and client relationships can change unexpectedly. “You’ve got to constantly be looking for growth just because it might not always be there,” he says. To overcome this, Adam says his agency is always looking for growth. He emphasizes the importance of building a resilient, adaptable team. “Getting the right people on the bus,” as he puts it, is crucial for navigating the ups and downs of the agency business.

Adam’s father founded Trident as a print company, and he joined the business in 2006. Over the years, the agency has diversified its services, now leading with digital offerings as print work declined during the pandemic. While print remains a valuable service for Trident’s clients, the digital side of the business has become the primary growth driver. Adam acknowledges that the journey has involved a “learning curve,” as the agency had to swiftly create and implement processes and systems to prevent customer frustration. Today, Trident serves a range of clients, offering a full suite of marketing and creative services to help them achieve their goals.

Learn more: Adam Burrage on LinkedIn, Trident


Michael Moszynski, London Advertising

London Advertising

Michael Moszynski, the CEO of London Advertising, offers this advice for new agencies looking to get up and running: have a strong partner. “It’s a rough ride. I mean, it’s not for the faint of heart to ask, it’s not your own business. I know, 80% of new businesses fail.” He emphasizes the importance of having someone you can trust and who complements your skills, as two heads are better than one. Michael also stresses the significance of diversity, noting that people with different backgrounds, perspectives, and personalities are essential for building a well-rounded team.

Michael’s agency, London Advertising, has a unique and successful model. The agency was founded in 2008 to offer London-quality strategic and creative thinking to clients worldwide without relying on a network of local offices. This approach has paid off, as the agency has run campaigns in more local markets than the world’s largest agency network, WPP. Additionally, London Advertising is fiercely independent, having turned down an offer to be acquired by another group. Instead, the agency introduced an innovative employee ownership trust, where the staff now own the company and receive dividends from its profits. Michael’s ideal clients treat the agency as a true partner with a long-term commitment to building successful campaigns.

Learn more: Michael Moszynski on LinkedIn, London Advertising


Cara Ward, Pure Public Relations


As the Co-founder and Director of Pure Public Relations, Cara Ward has weathered the ups and downs of the industry for nearly a quarter of a century. According to Cara, the key to keeping an agency thriving is the ongoing practice of investing in and empowering its employees. “I think investing in the people who work with you—you know, they’re usually the most talented and enthusiastic. They’ve got a different perspective. And actually giving them that freedom that if they’re really good, let them be brilliant.” However, Cara notes that budget cuts have been an ongoing challenge, forcing the agency to be more creative and efficient. “I think budget cuts, but I think you can be creative. I think it forces you to be stronger, and I think as you get bigger as an agency, there’s a bigger responsibility for the staff and your overhead, so I think it is about being really efficient, really looking at the end goal and the objectives of the clients.”

Pure Public Relations was founded by Cara and her business partner in March 1999, making it one of the first agencies to combine the interiors and lifestyle industries with beauty and wellness. The agency’s mission is to deeply understand the businesses it works with and forge long-term partnerships rather than simply handing off campaigns. “We really understood the brands and really worked with them long term because we had, you know, an interest in the growth, and we were celebrating it with them and, you know, being like the room next door.” This approach allows Pure Public Relations to create impactful campaigns that drive commercial success for its diverse range of luxury and high-end clients.

Learn more: Cara Ward on LinkedIn, Pure Public Relations

Chris Muldoon, Punch!


When it comes to running a thriving agency, Chris Muldoon’s top tip is to “find your niche and just stick to it.” As the Co-founder of Punch!, Chris has learned that it’s easy for agencies to get distracted by trying to be “all things to everyone.” Instead, he advises focusing on what you can be the best in the world at, which for Punch! is outbound sales development. Chris notes that the biggest challenge in running a successful agency is managing the people aspect, as “talent is always an issue.” To overcome this, Punch! has become a very process-driven business, ensuring they have the right frameworks as they scale.

Punch! is a B2B lead generation agency that predominantly serves the SaaS, technology, and software industries. Founded in 2014, the agency started as a sports marketing firm before pivoting to focus 100% on outbound sales development. Using a combination of telephone, video, and LinkedIn tactics, Punch! helps its clients, often those with complex buying cycles and hard-to-reach senior stakeholders, open doors and book qualified meetings. With teams in the UK, Australia, and the US, Punch! has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years, even amidst economic challenges.

Learn more: Chris Muldoon on LinkedIn, Punch!


Emma Frew, Breeze Connection

Breeze Connection

Emma Frew, Managing Director of Breeze Connection, emphasizes the need for new agencies to price themselves for where they want to be in a year rather than starting underpriced as freelancers. “I think I would say, press yourself as if you’re not a new agency. That’s probably, yeah, don’t price yourself as if you’re just a freelancer working solo or anything like that,” she advises. Emma also highlights the challenge of finding the right team to work with, noting that it has been “really difficult to find the right type of people” and that she has had to learn to be more discerning in her hiring practices.

Breeze Connection is a nine-year-old agency specializing in Facebook feed ads, social media management, content creation, and influencer marketing. The agency also provides SEO, email marketing, website development, and branding services. Emma’s ideal clients are located in the central belt of Scotland, though the agency has also worked with clients in England and further afield. She emphasizes the need for new agencies to price themselves for where they want to be in a year rather than starting underpriced as freelancers.

Learn more: Emma Frew on LinkedIn, Breeze Connection


Katy Howell, Immediate Future


Over the years, Katy Howell, the CEO of Immediate Future, a 20-year-old social media agency, has weathered many challenges. Katy’s top tip for running a thriving business is to “make friends” — finding other agency owners and networking extensively, as she had to do when starting. Katy notes that one of the biggest struggles has been hiring the right people, emphasizing the importance of “hiring on values” rather than just skills. She also stresses the need to track cash flow closely, advising agency leaders to review their budgets and financial data regularly.

Immediate Future was launched in the early days of social media when platforms like MySpace and blogs were the primary channels. The agency’s mission is to “break the social boring” by leveraging its expertise in algorithms, data insights, and creative formats to deliver exceptional returns for its clients. Immediate Future serves consumer and B2B brands, with a client roster that has featured companies such as Sony Music, One Direction, Fujitsu, and IBM. While the agency’s focus has evolved with the ever-changing digital landscape, Katy’s advice to “learn to adapt and don’t be frightened of the change” has been key to Immediate Future’s longevity.

Learn more: Katy Howell on LinkedIn, Immediate Future


Kate Vasylenko, 42 Digital Marketing

42 Digital Marketing

Kate Vasylenko, Managing Partner/CEO of 42 Digital Marketing, advises that the key to running a thriving agency is to “be consistent and focused” with your strategy. She learned this the hard way when her agency tried to expand too quickly into different market segments, only to have those segments decline and force the agency to let go of staff. Kate also emphasizes the challenge of delegating and trusting a growing team as an agency scales. “It’s very easy when you’re doing that as a manager of other organizations. But when it is something yours, it’s my charter.”

Kate founded 42 Digital Marketing in 2016 after identifying an underserved market in B2B tech companies. Hailing from a background in global communications, Kate found inspiration in the rapid growth of the B2B tech sector and recognized the need for a more specialized marketing approach. Today, 42 Digital Marketing serves a global clientele, leveraging a distributed team to provide a range of digital marketing services tailored to the unique needs of the B2B tech industry.

Learn more: Kate Vasylenko on LinkedIn, 42 Digital Marketing


Amanda Walls, Cedarwood Digital

Cedarwood Digital

As the Founder of Cedarwood Digital, a thriving performance marketing agency in the UK, Amanda Walls emphasizes the importance of not overlooking existing clients while seeking new business. “A lot of the time when we have new clients come to us, they’ll say things like, you know, we’ve tried our agency for a while, and we’re just kind of doing the same thing, and I think it’s really dangerous to kind of get into that mindset or to get too comfortable,” she cautions. Amanda also cites staff and client retention as the primary challenges confronting her agency, as the competitive talent market and economic conditions put pressure on both fronts.

Cedarwood Digital was founded eight years ago and specializes in search engine optimization, paid media, and digital PR. Amanda explains that the agency’s focus on performance marketing, rather than full-service offerings, sets it apart in the crowded UK market. Cedarwood Digital works with diverse clientele, from small-to-medium businesses to multinationals, specializing in money and life-related sectors like finance, legal, and medical. As the agency approaches its eighth anniversary, Amanda is excited to continue growing and evolving Cedarwood Digital’s services to meet the needs of its diverse client base.

Learn more: Amanda Walls on LinkedIn, Cedarwood Digital


Ashlei Rolloff, Nerd Herd

Nerd Herd

Ashlei Rolloff, the CEO and Founder of Nerd Herd, emphasizes the importance of strategic pricing and productizing services for agency success. “Be very strategic about how you price your services and how you package your services,” she advises. Ashlei notes that a retainer model can be tempting, but it doesn’t allow agency owners to understand the profitability of individual services. By productizing their offerings, agencies can better control costs, price competitively, and make data-driven decisions. Ashlei also highlights the challenge of managing expectations, particularly in dealing with clients and internally. She implements the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to establish clear key responsibility areas (KRAs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) for her team, fostering transparency and continuous feedback.

Nerd Herd was founded in 2015, initially as a general marketing agency. However, after Ashlei transitioned the agency from her previous corporate role in 2022, she pivoted Nerd Herd to focus on the commercial and industrial HVAC industry. The agency primarily serves manufacturers and their sales representative firms, working with clients whose revenues range from $50 million to $300 million. Ashlei’s deep expertise in marketing to the B2B2C HVAC sector has allowed her to position Nerd Herd as a specialized agency in this niche, providing branding, strategy, and creative services to its target clientele.

Learn more: Ashlei Rolloff on LinkedIn, Nerd Herd


Steve Pailthorpe, Iconic Digital

Iconic Digital

Steve Pailthorpe, CEO of Iconic Digital, cautions against trying to be “everything and anything for everyone” and instead advises agencies to focus on their core expertise and carve out a niche. “Do what you can do well, and stuff that you can’t do well or stuff that’s not your core expertise, don’t try and in-house it, but work in collaboration and partnership with others who are operating in that best-class way,” he explains. One of Steve’s biggest challenges is overcoming the belief among small and medium-sized enterprises that marketing is not an art and a science. This misconception leads them to undervalue the importance of a strategic, data-driven approach.

Iconic Digital is a full-service digital agency headquartered in London that has been pioneering a scientific and innovative approach to digital marketing for the past 13 years. The agency’s client base is split, with 60% of its work coming from SMEs looking for an outsourced marketing function and the remaining 40% from blue-chip companies seeking expertise in search, paid ads, and marketing automation. Steve’s focus on delivering a guaranteed return on investment for each client has been crucial to the agency’s success and long-term client relationships.

Learn more: Steve Pailthorpe on LinkedIn, Iconic Digital


Jasmine Montgomery, Seven Brands

Seven Brands

Jasmine Montgomery, CEO of Seven Brands, attributes her agency’s success to its agility and adaptability. “It has been adapting really fast and being able to set up things really fast,” she explains. Jasmine notes that securing new business is her agency’s biggest challenge, especially in markets where bribery is often the norm. “Being able to keep your eye on the ball of new business is really difficult,” she says. “But we have a good reputation in our markets, and luckily, thank goodness, people called us.”

Jasmine started Seven Brands 14 years ago, intending to provide world-class branding and advertising to emerging markets. The agency works across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, often in places “where there’s essentially no rule of law.” Jasmine describes her team as ‘fearless’ and ‘culturally curious,’ working in the back of pickup trucks and alongside goats to serve large multinational clients looking to localize their campaigns and local companies aiming to go global.

Learn more: Jasmine Montgomery on LinkedIn, Seven Brands


Ben Childs, Digital Reach

Digital Reach

Ben Childs, the President of Digital Reach, emphasizes the importance of building an effective leadership team as a top tip for running a thriving agency. He explains that, as a full-service agency, it’s no longer feasible for him to be an expert in every aspect of the business. Instead, he relies on leaders who understand the agency’s strategic direction, target clients, and operational processes and can implement them effectively.

Digital Reach is a pipeline generation agency specializing in B2B, SaaS, and tech companies. The agency’s mission is to deliver revenue and pipeline for its clients, from initial brand exposure through a prospect’s website and digital infrastructure to the final sales conversion. Ben notes that the agency’s ideal clients tend to be larger startups with a strong market fit actively investing in sales and marketing, as well as enterprise-level SaaS and tech companies with established marketing budgets.

Learn more: Ben Childs on LinkedIn, Digital Reach


Gareth Hoyle, Marketing Signals

Marketing Signals

In navigating the complexities of agency leadership, Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director of Marketing Signals, emphasizes the critical role of assembling the right team. He underscores the importance of effective leadership from top to bottom, allowing agency heads to focus on strategic endeavors while ensuring every team member contributes to the agency’s success. Gareth’s insight highlights a common challenge in agency management: the constant need for adept leadership amid dynamic industry landscapes and evolving client demands.

Marketing Signals, established in 2007, has evolved from Gareth Hoyle Limited to its current identity, reflecting its growth and adaptability in the marketing sphere. Specializing in SEO (85%) and SEM (15%), the agency employs a unique approach to maintaining a balanced client-to-employee ratio, ensuring personalized attention and dedicated service for each client. With a team of 25 fully remote professionals, Marketing Signals thrives on a four-day workweek, prioritizing retention and attraction in an industry often plagued by recruitment challenges. Catering primarily to mid-sized and corporate clients in the UK and US markets, the agency’s commitment to specialized services and client-centric strategies positions it as a leader in the digital marketing landscape.

Learn more: Gareth Hoyle on LinkedIn, Marketing Signals


Ashtan Moore, Model B

Model B

As the Partner and Head of Growth at Model B, Ashtan Moore understands that the key to longevity in the agency world is a steadfast commitment to strategy and adaptability. “Strategy is king above all else,” Ashtan asserts, “and in order to do great strategy, you need a great team.” This philosophy has led Model B to staff its client accounts with highly experienced professionals who intimately understand the industry landscape and can deftly navigate the ever-shifting tides of the market. Ashtan’s second advice is universal: “Listen to what the world is saying around you, and be willing to adjust what you think the market wants to what the market is asking for.” By gathering significant data sets and heeding the voice of the customer, agencies can pivot their offerings to deliver maximum value.

Founded nearly eight years ago, Model B has built its reputation by catering to Series B and Fortune companies—organizations with the resources to make a meaningful investment in marketing and advertising initiatives. As Ashtan explains, “Great marketing and advertising campaigns take a little bit of time and iteration with very smart people, and we have those very smart people at Model B.” The agency’s sweet spot is helping growth-stage companies with robust funding unleash comprehensive, data-driven campaigns that drive tangible results over a sustained period. With senior-level strategists at the helm, Model B is well-equipped to guide clients toward marketing success.

Learn more: Ashtan Moore on LinkedIn, Model B


Charles Lockwood, ideometry


Charles Lockwood emphasizes the importance of focusing on process and documentation for operating a thriving agency. He shares that in the early days of ideometry, the founders were so focused on hustling and taking on as much work as possible that they neglected to plan around their available resources or document their processes. This initial approach limited their growth potential until they realized the need to build internal systems based on their experience. Now, Charles says their team has a monthly retrospective to identify areas for improvement and turn them into actionable steps for optimizing their processes. One of the key challenges he encountered was the transition to staffing up and implementing documented systems instead of overworking himself and his co-founder.

Charles founded ideometry nearly 10 years ago with his former coworker from the marketing department at Suffolk University, where they got an early start in social media marketing for higher education. After initially attempting to service colleges and universities, they shifted their focus to B2B tech companies, SaaS brands, and companies in industries like robotics. Ideometry offers a full spectrum of services to help these clients grow, including strategy, branding, messaging, lead generation, web design and development, social media, and thought leadership content. Their ideal clients are typically post-seed, pre-Series A B2B tech companies that have achieved product-market fit and need to rapidly scale up their marketing efforts with the support of Charles’ team.

Learn more: Charles Lockwood on LinkedIn, ideometry