Brandon Ward is an Agency Advisor for ZenPilot. ZenPilot helps agencies streamline operations and scale their businesses using proven systems and processes. As an Agency Advisor, Brandon helps agencies leverage ZenPilot’s solutions for their specific needs.
After studying marketing at Marshall University, Brandon held marketing roles at several start-up companies and was the CEO of a growing CBD business called Lifted Innovations. In 2019, he created his own agency, Advisory Cure, before joining the team at ZenPilot.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Brandon Ward discusses his professional background and how he first connected with Gray MacKenzie at ZenPilot
- Brandon reveals the lessons he’s learned from his conversations with hundreds of agency owners
- The confidence boost that comes from mapping out the systems within your company
- How ClickUp has helped hundreds of agencies get organized
- Brandon explains why he loves sales and what he’s looking forward to at ZenPilot
In this episode…
Owning a digital agency is no easy task. Some agencies are generating off-the-charts sales and need a path for scaling the company. Others are waiting to get organized before their business can take off. Either way, ZenPilot can help.
ZenPilot is designed to help agencies streamline their processes so they can offer quality services to every client and boost sales. As a previous agency owner, Brandon Ward knows that it can be difficult to achieve success without a great system. That’s why he implemented ClickUp from ZenPilot for his own agency — and eventually joined the ZenPilot team.
In this episode of Agency Journey, Gray MacKenzie is joined by Brandon Ward, an Agency Advisor at ZenPilot, to discuss the importance of mapping out the systems within your company. Brandon talks about what he learned from his mistakes as a former agency owner, how he got connected with ZenPilot, and what excites him about the company’s future. Stay tuned.
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To start your free trial, visit oribi.io/agencyjourney. Use the coupon code agencyjourney and get 20% off any plan.
And be sure to check out ZenPilot, where we help agencies optimize their operations using our proven systems and processes.
ZenPilot knows that you are tired of wasting time on trial-and-error — that’s why we provide tried-and-true solutions that will help you grow and scale quickly and sustainably.
So, what are you waiting for?
Go to zenpilot.com to learn more.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
Welcome to the Agency Journey podcast where we connect with agency leaders to uncover the hidden systems and processes that drive their success. Now let’s dive into today’s show.
Gray MacKenzie 0:08
All right, welcome into another episode of Agency Journey. I’m Gray MacKenzie. This week, I have a special guest bringing on Brandon Ward, who is believe it or not an Agency Advisor here at ZenPilot Brandon, welcome to the podcast. Thank you Gray, my fearless leader, it’s good to be here. I’m excited to have you on. So you and I first met probably close to two years ago now. Yeah, you’re running an agency at the time. And you’ve been just to kind of set the stage for everyone. You’ve been part of the team here at ZenPilot for the last 344 months, we’re going on for months to wrap it up for months right now. But our first full time hire on you get a little bit of a mix of a role. But really, it’s on the sales front. And and so helping agencies just getting on the phone with agencies figuring out where they are now, where they are trying to get to what’s the gap in between that? Are we part of that problem? is there other folks who should be part of solving that, that problem for them, and going from there. So let’s but let’s give people a chance to get to know you a little bit. Share your story. So immediately prior to this, you were running an agency. But what’s what’s the quick, the Brandon Ward life story here
Brandon Ward 1:25
to life story, the quick and dirty. So I’ve been in marketing for several years studied marketing at university was in various marketing roles at growing companies actually was a CEO at a growing CBD company at one point A few years back. So I’ve kind of lived in the marketing space. And after I got out of that CVD role, I had a lot of kind of bad experiences with digital agencies myself, and recognize that I was kind of tired of how there’s a lot of shady practices in the space. So I made a decision to jump in and kind of do things the way I would have liked to have been engaged with in an agency life, we had one good agency that we worked with during that time period. So it kind of like out of the you know, we talked with over 10 like that. So it was just you know, one out of 10 is not good, right? So that could have been a what’s Yeah, it’s it’s not a very good batting average. So but so for me, that’s I kind of I started like basically freelancing effectively mean another gal and then grew from there as as we started to gain some traction with clients and driving some results for them and did a little bit of full service more more SEO focus on web design, things of that nature. But yeah, there’s a lot of fun, learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes, you know, learned a lot about myself in that time period. So after some self reflection, you and I continue to talk ended up joining ZenPilot pilot, but But yeah, so the visor cure was the
Gray MacKenzie 2:54
the old school, the agency agency, I feel like you get the classic look, the story is either I was working at an agency, I saw how much money was coming in the top line and how little I was getting paid. So I went and started my own. Or I worked in marketing, and I I just hated all the agencies out there. So I’m building the anti agency, or you get the accidental, okay, I happen to be good at at this one thing that people kept paying me. And then I had too many people trying to pay me and I couldn’t do it. And then I accidentally I was like, well, I gotta hire somebody. And then it just fell into having five people on my team. And now I’m running an agency with all kinds of different things. So it really is kind of like those three buckets, isn’t it? It is 100%. Yeah, yeah. And you’re in the you’re in the anti agency can’t like I can definitely can do it better than these guys.
Brandon Ward 3:40
Certainly, yep. Well, you learn, it’s easier said than done to right. There’s a lot of complexity that goes into running a successful agency, which is been interesting kind of seeing where we are with ZenPilot and the things that we do kind of getting a look under the hood of some successful agencies, the agencies that are doing things well, and you know, hindsight is 2020, as they say, looking back at like, all the dumb things that I was doing that I thought I was doing well, you know, so it’s just it’s, it’s been interesting.
Gray MacKenzie 4:06
Yeah, that’s cool. To have that perspective. I want to circle back to that and ask you some questions. Do you remember the first time that we talked though, when did you connection you were living out in San Diego at the time, right? Yep. Yep. Were you in San Diego before was when you were CEO. Were you in San Diego at that point, or did you get your Okay, yeah, I spent a ton of time in Toronto though. Like that’s where the company was based. So I was traveling a ton time period San Diego to Toronto.
Brandon Ward 4:32
Yes. It’s literally like you know, opposite ends top different so timezone changes. Although overtime, I really came to love Air Canada and their flights, but it’s quite
Gray MacKenzie 4:44
quite the whole. So and now you’re in North Carolina. When did you guys move back? What we’re recording this in July 2021. You guys moved a little less than a year ago or almost a year ago?
Brandon Ward 4:56
Yeah, it’ll be a year in September. We made the move my wife and I moved made the move out here. You know, start at a young family. We just had our first baby girl, which is super exciting. Also exhausting. And you guys, as you know, you’ve got for yourself. But yeah, North Carolina, we’re living about 35 minutes north of Charlotte area is just such a great place to raise a family close to Lake Norman. And so it’s just yeah, we love it out here.
Gray MacKenzie 5:18
Yeah. That’s awesome. Do you miss San Diego, though? They’re things about San Diego. Miss for sure. Insert the weather joke here. Yes. Yeah, it’s burritos, burritos. Well, it’s funny that you came on board. Oh, so we work super closely with ClickUp said quartered in San Diego. So you, you got out of there just before just before coming on board. But what’s super cool about your story is you’ve done a bunch of different things. You’ve been in the marketing space, you’ve been in the agency space, you’ve been business leaders capacity. But at the agency, you were actually running ClickUp. And that’s how we originally got connected was? I think you would Didn’t you came across our Manifesto, right agency freedom manifesto originally.
Brandon Ward 6:02
Yep. And that really just opened my mind to the way you should be thinking about running an agency, the operational component that I had not yet grasp fully and the this how specific you guys were applying that to the agency world was what was a huge, huge upside. So that drew me to you guys.
Gray MacKenzie 6:22
And then we connected Wait a really good conversation, I’m going to pull up as we’re talking here, I’m going to pull up my notes that took about you, nice. Bye. But then we spoke I don’t know, we stayed in touch, we talked again about jumping into a ClickUp program, potentially, you held off. And then we wound up getting connected again, we were looking for someone in sales, you were thinking about especially baby on the way moving into like this is where what you want to pursue and what you want to master the stage your life. And and so anyways, just kind of just perfect timing, we’re really blessed to find you at that point in time and be able to, to go through kind of the discovery process and figure out what could this make sense could this work does not work yet a bunch of other options that you were looking at. And, and want to bring you on to the team, which we’re super excited about. And I’m trying to find where these notes are that I took right now. But the first time that you and I talked, let’s see if I can find this. I took some funny notes about where you were at as an agency. But maybe you can just from your perspective, we can talk a little bit about some of the things that you’ve learned now, because you’ve had hundreds of conversations with agency owners just in the last couple months here. Kind of if you have to put some of the common themes that you see from them, and overlay that on your own personal experience. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned here on the backside of that experience?
Brandon Ward 7:58
So I would say, well, one, knowing yourself and what’s important for who you are and where you are in life. And the focus you want to have in your career is very important. And that’s like, for me the shift into into a sales growth component was a big part of that. So coming out of the agency world, so that would be one but then from from an agency perspective, I missed the mark so much on like I was using ClickUp. That was one of the things right running the and I thought I was really ahead of the curve with ClickUp. I was not, but the structure, the processes, the systems are so critical. And without those things in place, it’s just very difficult to run an agency at in a scalable way. Otherwise, you’re just because you’re always figuring it out. Like as you onboard new clients, if you don’t have this stuff mapped out in a process to go through delivery. It’s just very difficult to consistently drive results for agent or for clients. And so for me, I hear that conversation a lot. People are trying to map out their processes. Nobody likes mapping out processes, because it’s heavy, hard work. But it’s crucial. And I think the thing that shifted for me, and we’ve talked about e myth ready myth a couple of times, actually, but it’s funny how it kind of resurfaces. And so the way I’ve been thinking about it now, though, is as agency owners, thinking about your business, almost like a franchise. And so by doing that you’re building systems, processes and operations so that you can get out of the way. And somebody else can come in and step into those roles. And so, without that structure, it’s just very difficult to get beyond a handful of clients with a small group of freelancers or a team that you have. So I think for me, it’s just you got to have that system in place, man. It’s easy to see it now. And but man, huge lesson though.
Gray MacKenzie 9:48
Yeah. It’s been cool to see a lot of agencies gain count because we get a mix. We get so many agencies who come to us because sales are kind of going gangbusters and it’s okay or Delivery needs to figure out how in the world we’re going to catch up and have something that works here as or as a rolling. And I’d say that’s maybe 60% of the folks who we want to work with are in that situation where it’s like, hey, sales is kind of dialed in, and we’re ready to go. But we’ve got another side of the coin, which is we haven’t poured the gas on on the sales side yet. And we’re, we’re doing well, but we’re not. We’re not, it’s not rocket fuel here that we’re, that we’re living off of. And what’s been really cool to see agencies go through the process of getting their infrastructure built out, and you got another person, you got one personality type in the agency space, that’s very comfortable selling something and saying, I’ll come back, and I’ll figure out how to do it afterwards, which was me, that was me. And then you get the other side, it’s like, you know, it’s clear that they don’t have the confidence to go sell consistently, because the infrastructure is not in place. And so we’ve had a lot of case studies where folks have come to us needing to get the delivery stuff figured out to give them the level of confidence to go sell. And I think either personality type, there’s a confidence jump, that happens either way, once you know, Hey, I know that I’ve got confidence now that we’re going to deliver a great product, not just once, not just a couple of times, not hit or miss, but consistently every time this is going to come out and and be quality work that there’s still a lot of variables in any type of marketing or, or business growth. So it may not mean that it’s a home run every time. But we know that we’ll we’ll give clients what they paid for. And we’ll deliver good work product in exchange for what they’ve paid us. But some people start, they started high level. And that gets amplified. And some people start at a much lower level in terms of the innate confidence that we have, I think a lot of it’s tied to how we’re how we’re wired as individuals. It’s funny to hear you say you’re in the kind of in the first camp as an entertainer, which probably led to a lot of the you were doing a number of different services at the time, even though it’s focused around SEO and web, right? Yeah,
Brandon Ward 12:01
yeah. Well, in as you know, often, when you’re early in the game, you’re just trying to figure out where you might fall, right, like what clients make sense, like industry wise, or what services make sense in terms of what you’re providing for them. And something I did find over time that I ended up working well with, like physical therapists, kind of health practitioners, that people of that nature, like doing their web, we’re getting their web presence up to date, working on their content, things of that nature. The challenge was, though, is because lacking those processes, I didn’t have clear, I struggled to delegate to my team for clear, clear, like roadmaps on what we need to be doing and what needs to be happening on a consistent basis. And without that visibility into a process, it’s hard to grow and push. And so it’s, it’s funny to like how you’re talking about the two groups, right? How the one has a super competent selling, but the delivery is kind of lacking, and then you flip it. But when you put operations in place for the salesperson, the team benefits a ton, because now there they have a lot more like happiness and satisfaction in their day to day. On the other side, the team gets that structure. But then the salesperson has this huge boost in confidence, usually the owner, right? So it’s kind of funny how it pushes in different directions, but ultimately ends up creating a very similar result. Right, you get it done.
Gray MacKenzie 13:20
Yeah. I saw sense why? What’s driving the desire to move into more of a sales go out of, hey, I’ve got my finger and everything. And I’m doing everything now into him and a master sales and the art of kind of the consulting, it’s really an art of consulting and helping people and figuring out, what’s the problem? Is that like, Is there a role for us to fill? Does the clients really want our help? And then what’s the how do we make that connection?
Brandon Ward 13:50
So a couple of things, one, well, with a growing family, you know, I’m the financial provider for my family. That’s a decision we’ve made internally. So the incentive the financial incentive in a sales role, obviously, you kind of you hunt and kill you kind of eat what you kill. Right? Right. So I love that component. I love the simplicity of sales. It’s a very, it’s a very the metrics of sales, your activities, what you’re doing your outreach, it’s very clear, you know, like, there’s a lot of ways to kind of be accountable. So I love the accountability bit that the upside for earning, but then the mastery component. I love people man like I love being of service. And I think and even when I was young, my favorite class in college was actually a sales class. And I love reading about like, I literally read a ton of sales books. And I just what I found was that when I was young, I didn’t recognize the importance of being in a company where you bought into what you were selling. So I discounted sales very early in my career because I was doing things I didn’t enjoy, necessarily. So coming back to kind of where we are now, sales When done, I think in a meaningful way. You’re genuinely trying to help people direct them to a solution that’s going to make their life better. It’s not trying to push things down people’s throats or force them. Do something like that style doesn’t work in the information-driven world that we have now. So my love of people and wanting to be of service. And also, that focal point of mastery is really what it comes down to. So like, knowing that I can drive growth for my family, knowing that I can make an impact at our company and the companies that we’re working with. And kind of be this guy that drives results on both sides, like is a very powerful thing.
Gray MacKenzie 15:24
Right? That’s awesome. That’s cool. See, from what perspective, what’s been I’ve been asked you this question yet, what’s been the weirdest part of moving from doing your own thing to being part of a team now it’s important?
Brandon Ward 15:37
Well, I’m stubborn, so sometimes, and but luckily, and I mean, I mean, I’ve worked for you guys, but you guys are genuinely some of the smartest guys I’ve ever worked with. And I have a ton of respect for what you’re doing, you give me a ton of autonomy to do what I’m doing. So I think what I’ve learned is, I need entrepreneurial elements in the work that I’m doing, I don’t necessarily need to be the guy in charge. And to be frank, I’d like the freedom that I’m not the guy that it all falls through now, I mean, you guys have a lot on your plate. So for me, the work-life balance that it provides is a big shift, which I’ve really enjoyed. So, and I like the focal point, you know, like, when you’re the boss, you have all the things that nobody else can figure outcomes to you like, so that’s a tough spot to be in man, for sure.
Gray MacKenzie 16:23
What, um, so ended this year. Looking forward in the future, we talked a lot about what some of the goals are, for ZenPilot, and some of the stuff that you’re working on right now, in terms of refining your skills. On the sales side, if we look at the theme of the next, I don’t know, quarter, a couple of quarters, what are some of the things you’re most excited about, and building out and achieving? Here on the team,
Brandon Ward 16:54
RL, MT, our outreach, you guys have done such a great job of creating content, and have built business effectively, solely off of content and inbound, I’m excited to kind of be able to pull that lever and throw some fire or some gasoline on our fire in terms of that. So I think having the opportunity to build out a powerful outreach program is one big thing that I’m super excited about. I know we’re expanding our implementation team too. So I’m excited to see how our services evolve. Because since we first talked a couple years ago, you guys have come a long way to in terms of the offering. So I think there’s a lot more clarity on who we can help and how we can help them and where we can help them. So it’s it’s those two pieces. So our evolution of services, and then my ability to make an impact for us as a company as a company level.
Gray MacKenzie 17:40
I think one thing that we should have done earlier was we bought in early him way back in 2012, in the HubSpot partner program, and at the time, it’s such a strong ethos of inbound inbound is the way to go still ethical way, if you do outbound you’re committing a mortal sin and why did you drop dearly and young and dumb, and I’m still young and dumb, but younger, never. There’s an element of like, yeah, this is what I want to do. And I still have the ethos of inbound. But I’m realizing there’s a lot of people out there who are struggling, we’re in such a super specific niche. It’s not like, Hey, we’re a, we’re a full service digital agency, I mean, you can throw a rock at any, any town of 10,000 plus people as at least one of those are a couple of those. We are if you’re an agency, and you need to get your systems and processes, right, we’re wanting, you know, there might be 100 different competitors in that wide of a space. But then if you go into we can get your systems and processes right? And will be streamlined all that inside one core tool that’s a smaller number. And then that core tool is ClickUp. That number there’s one right now and that’s like that is us who’s pure focus is we’re gonna work with with agencies exclusively. So we know all the ins and outs of their problems. And we’re gonna work exclusively on one platform. So we’ve become best in class and the best implementation partner in that specific toolset. And so you realize that, because we’re one of a kind, right now, there’s an awful lot of agencies out there who are trying to move to ClickUp and and we’re struggling through it. And so I think, figuring out how to how to find those people and get in front of them, and just let them know, Hey, we’re here, if you need help, we’d be happy to talk. I’m super excited about that. And not just relying on your inbound and content is awesome for that as well. But there’s an initial market there of folks who we should be serving and can be serving. So I’m excited to see you lead the charge and build that out here as we as we move forward.
Brandon Ward 19:46
Yeah, exactly. Because I mean, we’re planting our flag and getting out there and let people know Because ultimately, you don’t know what some of you don’t know things don’t exist and how can you get the help that you might not even know you need So, that’s the fun part.
Gray MacKenzie 19:59
Awesome. Well, I appreciate going on, you mentioned a couple things that we should give a quick plug to one we’re hiring. We’re hiring on the if you go to careers that then pilot comm you can see our open positions. But at the moment, we are hiring for super important position, which is our client coach. position. That’s kind of a technical account management role. It’s the person who is the direct line of contact between the client and our entire implementation team. So that’s a that’s a critical role as part of the business recruiting on the growth side of the business as well. So your careers that’s ZenPilot dot Com. You can check it out. If you’d like to speak with Brandon directly learn more about what we’re doing. As ZenPilot dot com slash demo is the easiest way to get them and Brandon, for people who want to reach you, personally. They want to grill you on what a terrible boss I am or whatever else. What’s the best way for them to grab you?
Brandon Ward 20:57
LinkedIn? LinkedIn, yeah. So Brandon Ward and ZenPilot, you’ll see me there as an Agency Advisor.
Gray MacKenzie 21:05
Great. Thanks for coming on. Brandon. This is fun to do with you. I appreciate you Gray.
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