Growing Your Agency Business

by | Sep 24, 2022 | General

Want to scale your agency business?

Imagine how much faster you could grow if only you could have a small team of 3-10 people working for you.

But, how can you take your business from a ‘one-man-show’ to being able to afford to grow your team?

I sit down with Entrepreneur Vince Powers, who shares how he took his agency business from a one-man-show to an award-winning PR Firm. 


Here’s what you’ll discover:

1 – What were the key decisions and/or tactics that launched your business from zero to six figures?

2 – What were the biggest mindset shifts?

3 – What was the most expensive mistake you made in your business and how did you recover from it?

4 – What were the biggest hiring mistakes you had to learn from?


Vince Powers is the founder and president of Powers Brand Communications LLC, an award-winning public relations and content marketing firm based in Philadelphia. Recipient of Philadelphia Business Journal “40 Under 40” award. His clients range from emerging growth companies to nationally recognized brands in the consumer/retail, B2B space, and franchise brands working with both franchisors and franchisees. Connect with Vince at 



Share your comments on any of the questions below.

1- What is one nugget that encouraged you from this discussion?
2- What question do you have about scaling your business?
3- What tip can you add to help other entrepreneurs to hire a great team on a small business budget?



  • Please note that some words may not have been correctly spelled or transcribed correctly. Time markers listed may also be slightly inaccurate For best accuracy and learning experience please be sure to watch the video version here:


@05:37Yoon Cannon (

Well, hello everybody. We are back today I’m talking to Vince, and Vince is the owner of, which is a PR agency.

And we’re tackling and just talking about the conversation, the challenge of growing your team when you’re trying to scale your business.

So I’m excited that Vince has been able to to the grid. To kind of open up his challenges and his personal journey.

So I’m excited to learn from your experience. So, Vince Powers, let me talk to you guys a little bit about who Vince is.

He is the founder and president of Powers Brand Communications. They are an award-winning PR agency here in the Philadelphia area.

And he’s written as a recipient of many awards including the Philadelphia Business Journal 40 under 40 awards. Now, this is clients, they range from emerging growth companies to nationally recognized brands in the consumer, retail, and BTB sectors, as well as he tackles a lot of and helps a lot of franchisees and franchises.

So if you’d like to connect with Vince, his website again is But we are here today to talk about his challenges.

So anyway, welcome Vince, and thanks for joining us.



Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.


@06:57Yoon Cannon (

Yes. So Vince, it’s. Series really allows us to just talk about what are the lowest low points in your journey.

As an entrepreneur and in growing your business, would you say would you consider your business a family run business?



No, I started it. Okay.


@07:20Yoon Cannon (

I thought for some reason you were working with your wife or what not skip that part. But anyway, so talk to me about what was one of the lowest points in your journey and talk to me about what you did to overcome that.



So thank you very much for this opportunity. I would say instead of one of the lowest points, maybe one of the hardest points.

When I started this firm ten years ago, and previously, I had worked for large firms. I’d worked for a large international firm based out of Washington, DC.

We had several offices, several hundreds fee. I work for a larger firm up here in the Philadelphia region, again, between both the public relations advertising north of 100 people.

When I started this firm ten years ago, it was all of a sudden it was me. So, you know, I was was trying to figure out, how do I build my business, when do I hire, and who do I hire?

And I was trying to do everything kind of myself in the beginning. So one of the things that I learned early on was contractors are not a bad thing.

When I started to have a certain level of work coming in, I reached out to some people that I knew who didn’t necessarily want full time work for whatever reason.

They just wanted 1015 hours a month, maybe 20 hours a month. And they had certain areas of expertise that I did not like copywriting or design or research.

And it took me about the first 18 to 24 months. To really feel comfortable to bring on contractors. And you get to a point where they feel like employees.

And the great thing about contractors, quite honestly, is you can test drive each other. They can work with you, you can work with them if it’s not the right fit.

No harm, no foul. I just don’t give them any more business. I’ve had a couple of contractors who have become employees.

They’ve started as contractor, went to part time employee and then full time employee. So that was terrific because it kind of gave me an opportunity to see what their strengths were, how they fit in with my organization, my culture, and then for them as well as my firm, fit in with their lifestyle, their work life balance.

So I think that was one of the hardest things, was really kind of going from large to just one person and trying to figure out how to do it all.

And I pivoted towards the contractor model. Now, obviously, I have full time employees as well as part time, and still.


@10:00Yoon Cannon (

Contractors. So that’s how you built when you first started your agency? From zero to six figures is gathering a team of contractors?



Yeah, pretty much. Great. Great.


@10:17Yoon Cannon (

So then you did that. Was there a mindset shift? That had to happen? Where was your strongest?



Almost, I guess, difficult mindset shift in that journey. Yeah, again, great question. So, again, when I started, I didn’t want to turn away any business, so we would service clients across a variety of industries.

The only industry, really, we didn’t touch was pharma and life sciences, because that’s such a niche. We were doing everything from consumer marketing to professional services and B to b to nonprofit to higher education to manufacture ring.

Sort of all across the board and that was great. And the great thing about agencies is you can work on a variety of clients.

One of the shifts I had to make was to shed some of those clients and some of those sectors that really wasn’t our sweet spot, and to focus on an area that I felt had a great opportunity for growth and we had pretty good success.

And that’s when we kind of launched our franchise practice. We’d kind of done some things in the franchise space.

We’d worked with one or two franchise brands. I had kind of looked around and started talking to a number of franchise brands and felt like there was really a good need for a strong public relations firm both at the franchise or in franchisee level.

So that was kind of scary because we shed a lot of our clients and industries and said we’re going to really focus on our franchise practice and then also kind of our retail and consumer practice.

So now we have two primary practice groups. What tends to happen, what tends to surface is other organizations will come to us with project work, which is great.

We can handle that, whether it’s in higher ed or manufacturing. But as far as a business development and how we’re going to grow to where we want to be, we really focus on those two practice groups.

So when you said a minute ago that you shed some of your other industries, does that mean you fired your clients or you let them know you’re not going to be able to work with them anymore?

Well, we didn’t fire them per se, but we didn’t actively try to pursue growing in that space. And the majority of those were project based to begin with.

So when the project ended, it was just sort of a natural segue. And if they came back to me, then I would say, you know what?

We’re probably not the right fit for this next project, but let me give you somebody who would be a good fit for you.

And I did that with a few of the clients to say, here’s, They’ll be a good fit for you.

It all ended on very good note. Nice. Okay. Got you. And then you really just focused on the three different niches you’re holding it on now.



@13:14Yoon Cannon (

That was a big mindset shift, and I think a lot of business owners definitely struggle with the same thing, especially in the earlier or at least if they’re trying to ramp up or revamp for some people who have really been hit hard since the pandemic and just trying to take any kind of work.

So in the midst, I know you shared, and I just want to kind of drill down a little bit more into the details to kind of monitor yourself or how did you push yourself to resist on taking clients that just didn’t fit the niche that you’re focused on?



What was it that helped you say no? Yeah. I mean, it’s not easy because, again, you don’t want to turn away business.

But in the same regard, if I didn’t feel like we were the right firm for a client that was coming to us, I would be honest and say that I wasn’t trying to pretend we were something that we weren’t or try to do something that really maybe we were not the best fit.

I would always try to point them in the right direction, say, hey, I know this firm over here would be a good fit, or this contractor over here would be a good fit and be able to handle you.

It’s difficult, but I think that I knew in the big picture, in the long run, if we focused on our primary practice groups, we would be more effective and we would grow the way I wanted to grow in the long run.


@14:54Yoon Cannon (

So what would you say to somebody who is in a similar situation? But what’s happening for them is they want a niche.

They don’t have enough clients in that niche, and then they’re attracting clients they don’t want from them an area in industry they don’t really want to get a lot work from.



And yet money is screaming. It seems like it’s money talking, as in, hey, if I say no to this project, we’re not going to have any cash flow coming in the door.

And yet they’re not the right type of work that we want to do. What would you say to the person who’s struggling in that cycle?

Yeah, again, great question. Obviously, the first goal of any business is to stay afloat, is to stay cash flow positive.

So you have to get to a point where you’re comfortable enough to be able to say, you’re probably not the right fit for us.

If they’re early stage and they’re. Trying to get to a cash flow positive position, then, yeah, they probably want to work on some of that.

The other thing is if they don’t necessarily know what that niche might be again, we did a lot of sectors early on.

Kind of gave us an opportunity to see where our strengths would lie and what we would have most interest in and where we would be the best fit for clients.

So it’s a tough decision. It’s a tough call to make. At a certain point, it probably took us three or four years to get to that, to where we said, you know what, this is really what we’re going to focus on.

Didn’t happen in the first 90 days to six months.


@16:42Yoon Cannon (

I’m glad you shared that, that it took you three to four years. If you had to look back and if there were anything there were any strategies that you can think of, if you had to redo it, would there be anything that would have helped you shortcut that ring?



That down? Well, I think business development is always going to be on the minds of a small business owner because our job is not only business development and to manage the clients and my employees, and it’s hard to kind of do all of that.

And I experimented with a couple of things. At one point, I totally outsourced our business development, and I basically hired an individual who served as our director of business development.

And it was about a six month process and it was a good learning exercise. One of the things was he was able to generate leads, but they weren’t really the right leads.

They weren’t the best fit for us. There’s a certain size of client brand that. We tend to tend to work best with.

And he was able to make some introductions and get some meetings, but they weren’t the right ones. So, you know, I’ve gone back and forth with how to best handle business development.

At the end of the day, a lot of it still falls on me and my senior team. For us, we know our firm better than anybody, so that if we are talking to somebody or meeting somebody at a conference or at a networking event, that’s still going to be our best way to generate leads because still about networking and relationships and kind of getting out there and, you know, it was about a six to nine month process.

It’s something I still I’m still trying to learn from other entrepreneurs. How do you do business depth? I ask people that all the time when I sit down with them.

How do you do your best development? And there’s lots of different ways and you just sort of see what works and see what sticks and see what doesn’t.


@18:59Yoon Cannon (

So. So if our viewers can learn from some of those mistakes or even just not necessarily mistakes, but just what didn’t work.



Right. So you had a business development person that you hired, and then was that person contractor or an employee?

Contractor. Contractor. So were they dedicated to business development to you full time, or was that a part time gig for them?

No, I think this individual worked for a company that did that, and specifically within the marketing, advertising, and PR industry.

Okay. But I think each person probably has two or three agencies that are working for and they weren’t based in the Philadelphia region.

They were based in the Midwest, because we work a lot of national brands. So it wasn’t like they were trying to get meetings just here in the Philadelphia market.

But no, I mean, they were 15, 20 hours a month or so, probably dedicated to the business. And are you still working with that contractor?

I’m not. So if you were to learn from what didn’t work, when you said they didn’t bring you the right lead, what do you think was their approach?

Were processed. What didn’t work about the end result was that they didn’t bring you the right lead. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Yeah. So I’ll just give you an example. In the franchise category, there are a lot of emerging brands. An emerging franchise brand may have one or two or three locations.

And a brand that’s further along in its life cycle will have 50, 75, 100 plus franchisees or locations. We typically work with brands that are franchise brands that have 50 plus.

Some of our clients have over 150 franchise. Or territories or locations if it’s a retail brand, you know, he was making more traction introductions with brands at the emerging that had one, two, three, or four.

And again, there’s nothing wrong with those, but they weren’t really the best fit for us. I’m sure there are firms or maybe contractors that would do a great job with an emerging brand, but that’s a harder brand for us with our team to service.

Right. Got you. We told them that in the beginning. We said, this is our criteria, our specs that we’re looking for.

But it was probably easier for him to get the meetings with the emerging brands, so that’s kind of where he gravitated.

Got you. Okay. So definitely did work for what you were looking for as far as they were too small.

And you did give them the criteria. They just didn’t follow through because yeah.


@22:00Yoon Cannon (

Okay, so if you give us one or two of the tactics of what’s really working the best I know we’re going to a little rabbit hole, because our topic is really about challenging the challenges of hiring.

But just out of curiosity, can you give our viewers a little bit more on what has been working better for business?



Yeah, I mean, if you do good work, people tell their colleagues, they tell other people they work with. So, again, in the franchise category, I’ll just give you that as an example.

Again, if we’re working with a franchisee that might own eight or ten locations of a particular franchise brand and we do a good job, they sent an email to ten of their colleagues, and all of a sudden, we’re doing work for 40 or 50 locations around the country.

So it’s easy for me to say we’re a strong firm, and we’ve gotten break. Capabilities, and we would do a good job for you.

But it is so much stronger when somebody does that on our behalf and they do it without us even knowing it, quite honestly.

They’ll reach out to their colleagues and then they’ll circle back and say, hey, Vince, or Karen, who runs my franchise practice, FYI, sent this email out.

You might be getting some of my colleagues reaching out to you. So again, if we just focus on doing a really good job, and then obviously we try to stay visible on social media.

We’ve got some junior staff, and they’re always posting, because that’s important. Just to have a presence, people need to know what you’re up to.

And then every now and then there are certain awards that come up that, if it makes sense, we’ll apply for.

Those things. Just sort of go towards the credibility factor of an agency. When some clients are looking at agencies, yes, absolutely.

You’re right. If they’re looking at a PR agency. Actually want to see what’s the PR that the PR agency has for themselves.

To what you said, surprisingly, I think that is a foundational principle that a lot of people can easily forget.

The best marketing is that you do brilliant work and you don’t let up on these little sloppy kind of negative experiences.


@24:28Yoon Cannon (

And I know just as an example, somebody was trying to solicit me, and I wasn’t going to accept the phone call invitation, but because they offered, oh, by the way, just for booking this coffee together or whatever, virtual coffee, we’re going to send you a DoorDash lunch on us.

And I just thought that was clever. And I thought, oh, all right, you know what? That was such a great idea.

I’m just going to give you the meeting because it’s.



That was really clever. Yeah.


@25:02Yoon Cannon (

They never follow through, you know, and it’s not like I care about a ten dollar door dash lunch, but it sticks with you.

Well, my first experience, you said this and follow through.



It turns out there was two other things that they said they would do and they didn’t do. So it was just even little things like, oh, I’m going to set up a meeting with you.

And then they swapped and I had a meeting with one of their colleagues, a junior associate, and I thought, no, I took the meeting because it was you, not because it was a junior associate.

Yeah, but that’s just giving some specifics to really the same thing about paying attention to your work.


@25:50Yoon Cannon (

And I even sent them a little email to say, hey, by the way, I thought it was really clever, that DoorDash idea, and I thought maybe it would spark.

So. Hello.



But that awareness of quality. Are you doing what you say? Do you deliver on what you say? And then the over deliver, of course, is what we all hope we can do.

So that’s very powerful shared marketing, doing great work.


@26:20Yoon Cannon (

So going back to you’re growing your agency, you started out years ago, you started out with contractors, and you folded in some employees.

What in your journey of hiring your team, both employees and contractors, what do you think as you look back with some bigger hiring mistakes that other people can now learn from?



Yeah, good question. So I think one of the things is be careful of references. You meet a candidate, and most of the candidates who come to me,

Me, quite honestly, are within my network or my broader network, people refer them to me. Hey, Vince, my cousin is in the public relations field and moving from Philadelphia to Philadelphia from Washington.

Could you meet with them? Great. Perfect. Sort of that warm introduction. I love those kinds of introductions, but obviously sometimes we have to just post because we’re looking to hire and we just get resumes in, and we always say, could you share with us two or three references?

The references are always going to be glowing or why would they not give them as a reference? And I’ve just been pretty surprised.

Sometimes the person sharing the reference talks about this individual, and then you get them in and you think, that’s not quite right.

So just be careful of references. Understand that people who are giving them realize that they’re it’s. Trying to build up the candidates, whether it was a professor at a university or if they had an internship somewhere or something like that.

Obviously they want to build up that individual, but you kind of have to take it with a grain and salt, I think, sometimes.

Yeah, that’s important.


@28:20Yoon Cannon (

And you actually checked on the references? I work with a lot of entrepreneurs who I later find out they never even call the references because you’re in such a hurry to hire and you want to get that position filled because you’re overwhelmed and you’ve got way too much on your plate.



So that’s great that you even called the references, but to what you said yes, to be careful and mindful that they may not always match up.

Do you do any hiring assessments when you’re hiring, just to kind of see what their personalities are? I’m curious what your experience with assessments have been.

Give me an example. What do you mean by assessment? Like a disc? I’ll. Personality assessment. There’s the Colby test.

Just curious if you ever tried. No. I mean, it was harder during the pandemic when you could only meet them via Zoom.

I made a couple of hires to run the pandemic again. I have a much better feel when I can sit down with somebody in person and see how they just talk and answer questions.

You get a pretty good feel for how will they be in sort of day to day as a colleague in front of clients, working with my other employees, my other staff, I think you can get a pretty good feel for that.

Yeah, I can relate to that goal face to face. That makes a big difference.


@29:50Yoon Cannon (

So we’re talking about some hiring mistakes. If you had to think of just overall, just any kind of what he’s saying?

Was a decision that you made in the past that turned out to be an expensive mistake.



And how did you recover from it? Is there anything, any other mistake? Address and talk about how you recovered from a hiring standpoint, from any business standpoint, any other one of the things we always talk about is it’s always better to learn from the mistakes of others.

And this is our opportunity to share with our audience how they can avoid some costly mistakes. Yeah, I think, again, just the lesson of trying not to be everything to everybody.

Again, in my world, in the agency world, there are PR firms, there are ad agencies, there are digital firms, there are social media firms, there are the full service.

Agencies that are trying to do everything to everybody. And I always felt like if you could stay in your lane with your primary area of expertise, you would be able to do that really well, as opposed to an agency that does that says they do everything, but they do everything kind of average or kind of mediocre.

And it’s a hard thing to do because, again, when you’re starting out, you don’t want to turn away business, you don’t want to turn away revenue, you don’t want to turn away clients.

But I think you need to be true to yourself and say, well, this is really what I’m really good at, or this is what’s really going to differentiate me from my competitors.

So I’m going to stick to this and again, to what we talked about earlier. It’s a fine line. You need to sort of get the business up and going, and then maybe you can figure out from there what’s the best path forward.

And it’s been. Process. There’s no formula that someone says, on day one, I’m going to do this for two years, and then from years two to five, I’m going to do this, and then five to ten, you have an idea, but you really need to be openminded and just sort of flexible and look for opportunities as you’re growing again.

Our whole franchise practice started because one of our clients came to us about four years ago and said, we’re going to franchise.

Can you help us announce it? And we said, sure, we help them announce it. They went on and sold 30 franchisees in the next 24 months.

We started doing work in each of those 30 markets, and then that’s when I start to research and get more educated about the franchise world.

And that’s kind of launched our practice, but it was never on a business plan. I never had written down launch franchise practice.

It just kind of evolved. Involved. I kept my eyes and ears open, started talking to some of the people who were smart in that space, attended some conferences so I could learn more about the industry, talk to franchise.

Franchisees. Tried to figure out what the RF opportunity was, and then that’s kind of when we went off and launched it.


@33:20Yoon Cannon (

I love that. And then you shared earlier about being a specialist and staying in your lane and that some other agencies that are offering kind of an all in one messaging.

Can you give our viewers example, a few examples on especially for people who aren’t as familiar with the whole scope of PR?



Maybe they’re thinking, oh, it’s a new PR. It’s a news release. So talk to us a little bit about where you really shine and maybe some differentiation as far as what if some of your clients shared with you, maybe if they’ve used an all in one agency and what we’ve he’s.

What’s the difference in a PR from a previous all in one agency versus the PR that you do? Yeah, I think what it comes down to is that my team members are experts in what they do.

So my copywriters are fulltime copywriters. They’re not doing 10, 12, 14 different things. It might be as simple as writing a press release, but it has to be a really good, persuasive, interesting newsworthy press release.

And you need somebody who is a copywriter who knows how to do that. We’re writing remarks and speed beaches for CEOs of companies.

So you have to really have somebody who again, that’s their area of expertise. My media relations team, the team they’re the ones who are talking to reporters.

And editors and producers and bookers. That’s their expertise. That’s their world. That’s what they like to do, and that’s primarily what they do.

My team is involved more with our social social media influencers, bloggers, content. Again, that’s their world. So I think, again, what happens is, in a lot of agencies, they have people who are doing a lot of different things, but they’re not really experts at any one thing.

And when I started this firm, I said, we’re going to stay in our lane with PR and content. And content.

Content is all about storytelling. Every brand has a story. Is it interesting? Maybe not. But part of our job is to figure out how to make it interesting, how to make it resonate, how to make it relevant to ultimately who you’re trying to sell to.

And that’s not an easy thing today. Too. So again. When I started with the contractors. It was a good model because I was starting with copywriters or a designer or a media relations person.

A light went off and I thought it’s a good model because I’m getting clients who are saying to me what I really like about you guys is that your event team that does event planning and management.

They’re senior people who’ve done it. They’re not learning on the job. You’re a copywriter who’s writing this speech for our CEO loved it.

CEO loved it. So again, it all goes back to if you do quality work, your clients will to be happy and then they’ll refer because they talk to other colleagues all the time.


@36:53Yoon Cannon (

Yeah. So what I’m hearing then is from that, especially on our topic.



Of the challenge of hiring and growing your team. What I’m hearing is that you have made a concerted commitment to higher talent and that does make a huge difference.

Whereas I have have seen it happen in many different agencies where they’re trying to focus on profit margins and hiring the cheapest labor possible.

And you can see it, you can see the quality of the work where copywriting isn’t actually as easy as it might seem.

You read a piece, it just reads like me. Sometimes I read pieces, it sounds like a bot wrote it.


@37:43Yoon Cannon (

It doesn’t quite have any substance. It just says a lot of verbiage but didn’t really say anything insightful. So that’s what I’m hearing is that you have committed to hiring higher level talent and that has really helped you.

Get those unsolicited word of mouth referrals and landing even more franchise clients just from doing great work.



So, yeah, I love that you weren’t afraid to do that, because I just so from my view, I do see it happening a lot in businesses who are trying to just have a fatter cash flow.

Right? Yeah. So it’s easy to kind of cut corners and skip on putting a junior person or just somebody who’s maybe not even that advanced in the craft.

So somebody can say that they’re a full time copywriter or a full time this or that, but then when you look at their work, they just aren’t that strong skill set.

Right. Yeah. That was very valuable. Good.


@38:55Yoon Cannon (

Well, if you have any other words of advice to our audience, Agency owners or business owners who are maybe at that.

I’ve got three employees or five employees, and they’re trying to scale their company to the next level in hiring their dream team.



If you have any final words of advice, what would that be? Yeah. And again, this kind of goes into what you do with your firm, individuals who are sort of in your space, in your categories to understand.

For me, people understand agency and how agencies work and how agencies are structured, and see if you can touch base with them two, three, four times a year and just pick their brain.

There’s an individual that I work with, I don’t work with, but I reach out to them a couple of times a year.

He and I worked together in Washington, DC. For a number of years. 25 years ago. He built an agency, sold it, basically is retired, but I reach out to him a couple of times a year and just touch base.

And that kind of third party feedback is helpful because we get so busy being in the weeds, looking at the day to day, that we need that person to come in and help us take a step back and look at the big picture.

And that’s a hard thing to do because we’re always just looking at kind of day to day. Yes, absolutely.

Oftentimes your employees aren’t going to have the assertiveness to maybe cross that line and say, hey, by the way, and it’s just not their place.

Right. So no one else is holding you accountable or just giving you that observation that nobody else has really articulated.

So great.


@40:54Yoon Cannon (

I love that. Love that advice. And then for people who want to learn more about your PR, he.



And want to connect with you to see how you can help them. What’s the best way for them to reach out to you?

Sure. Well, the website is powers. ECB like boy C like Cat. And that stands for Powers Brand Communications .com. So

And then my email is Vpowers. That would be the easiest way to get in touch with me, and I promise I’ll get back as quickly as I can.


@41:30Yoon Cannon (

Awesome. Well, I appreciate you being candid and sharing about your personal journey and growing your agency, and I’m excited to see more franchise or being helped by your PR agencies.



Well, great. I appreciate the opportunity. I hope this was helpful and beneficial to some of the entrepreneurs out there.