Helping Agency Owners Get Unstuck and Grow Revenue with Tim Kilroy

Tim Kilroy is a Performance Agency Growth Coach. He helps digital agencies increase their revenue, profit, and happiness without working too many hours or being salesy. With over two decades of experience in the digital marketing industry, Tim has founded, scaled, bought, and sold several agencies, learning from both their successes and failures. He is also the host of The Kilroy Report Podcast.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Tim Kilroy, a Performance Agency Growth Coach, to talk about his strategies for helping agency owners get unstuck and grow their revenue. They also discuss the challenges with building a marketing agency, the benefits of starting a business during a recession, and how to build a thriving company. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [01:41] How Tim Kilroy became an agency owner
  • [05:32] The challenges Tim faced building a digital marketing agency
  • [14:29] Tim talks about the lessons he learned from his failed business and why he founded a new agency
  • [21:30] The benefits of starting a business during a recession
  • [24:01] Why Tim sold his company, SpinShark, after one year
  • [26:17] How to build a thriving business
  • [33:18] Tim talks about coaching agency owners — and the people he appreciates for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Chad Franzen 0:02

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:19

All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of this show and if you are new to listening to my podcast you know I interview smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs and agency owners from all kinds of different organizations ranging from, we’ve had Netflix ,we’ve had Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard. We’ve had thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk on here. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners or their ideal prospects. Quick shout out to Jeanna Barrett of First Page Strategy, recent guest of mine, who I asked her who she’s grateful for is one of the questions I love asking. And she mentioned today’s guest, his name is Tim Kilroy. And he helps digital agencies and digital agency owners to generate more revenue, profit, and happiness without working a million hours a week without being salesy or doing anything else gross. I love that language that just really speaks to so many of us, has worked with hundreds of different agencies to help them with all kinds of different problems. And he’s got a group program as well, which we’ll talk about, as well. He’s also the host of The Kilroy Report Podcast. You have to check that out on your favorite podcast player. 

And of course, this is brought to you by Rise25, my company, where we help b2b businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can learn more about what we do at Alright, Tim, pleasure to have you here today. And we were chatting beforehand about your journey into the world of Energy Agency ownership. And now you own agencies and you coach agency owners as well. So you got your foot in different pots, so to speak. But I want to start with this story of after meltdowns, we’re going back about 20 years here. You had your meltdown to contend with, and found. That’s how you journeyed into the life of an agency owner because that’s what you had to do. So tell us the story about how that started. 

Tim Kilroy 2:12

Yeah, on January 2 2001, I couldn’t log into my email.

John Corcoran 2:21

I was like a lot of Twitter employees and last few weeks.

Tim Kilroy 2:23

Yeah, so I and, and so then I reached out to the IT group, which was normally like on top of it. And they didn’t respond to me, which is very weird. It’s like this is weird, huh. And then, at about 930 or so there was a knock on the door. And the FedEx guy was there with the letter saying, Hey, Jim, you’ve been fired? The FedEx guy? Yeah, that yeah, the FedEx guy he fired. I got fired by via a letter. Oh, geez. Were that were they the company that I was working for? announced they were shutting down the business unit. And, and so there it was, had been married for we’re had, you know, had a had a just bought a house had a kid on the way newly married. And, and then all of a sudden, there was? No, there was no, there was no income, it was very bad. And so as it you know, and so I started thinking, okay, great, I gotta get a job. And in 2001, there were not very many jobs for online marketers. as much of a thing quite yet. Well, no, you mean the headband. I mean, like, you know, people were spending bunches of money, but then, but then crash app, and suddenly, like, being online, stupid, and we’re not going to invest in that dumb, you know, and so the skills that I had developed over the past couple of years, which you know, revolved around, you know, marketing and content distribution and all that sort of stuff. Nobody needed him. And so I was looking really hard for a job and couldn’t find anything. And I couldn’t find, you know, I like nobody wanted my experience. And so I went from somebody who was, you know, sort of, at the cutting edge of, of what people were doing in the marketing world to the cutting floor, you know, like, there was just there was, like, nobody wants to hire me. And so, after finding out that, you know, at that point, I was, like, I couldn’t find a job. And I had this, this mortgage to pay and, you know, and a wife who, like she loves She wanted to eat every day. Sure, which was weird. I mean, she had a job, but Okay, so I wanted every day do one or the other of us and, and so I just thought, well, heck, I don’t like I don’t know, like, I don’t know what to do. And so I just thought I would just reach out to some of the people that I that I had met and worked with. And all of a sudden, you know, I got a client, and then another one, and then another one. And then all of a sudden, I had an agency. And and, and, you know, it was, it was like the worst of all possible agency constructs, as well. So I had no idea how to delegate anything I’d never, you know, I’ve been a manager in a retail store, but never managed professionals before. And so, like, I didn’t know how to delegate or manage or organize. And so I just didn’t do any of those things. And so I built this, this agency, which is like, I was the hub, and everybody was a spoke. And, you know, and so every project had to touch me or go through me. And also, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And so I said, if it had to do with marketing and sales, I said yes to it. So we did things as diverse as, as sponsor work at your organizing a window painting. thing for a local business, and doing, you know, paid search advertising for an online battery seller. Okay, yeah, definitely.

John Corcoran 6:42

Those two Yeah, totally get to Yeah,

Tim Kilroy 6:44

you know, right. Simple, right. And then we did a little bit of software development for somebody who’s doing it. And, you know, and, and I could talk about all this stuff, I couldn’t do any of it, necessarily what the certain thing I could, but all the other stuff, like I, you know, I was smart enough to know, like, oh, this fits with them, and that goes there. But I didn’t know how to put together a project. And I know how to put together a team. And so but the one thing I could do was hustle and sell. And so, you know, after a couple of years, we were we were pretty big. You know, I mean, still everything going through you though? Yeah, like, I mean, that was back in the day, it’s when a million dollars a year was a lot of revenue. Yeah. But we were running out of cash, because I couldn’t keep up with the billing. And like, I didn’t know, like, I was big enough to hire somebody to do that stuff for me. And I was too dumb to ask people for help. Because I thought, well, you people just knew how to do this. You know, and they and so I didn’t, I didn’t like I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I didn’t know who to ask. And so we got to the point where, frankly, like, we were starving for cash, because I was way behind in the billing. And find a way you should note that if you’ve not billed somebody for six months, they’re not happy to get and then you send them a bill and and are expecting a right away. Nope. We don’t do that. No. They don’t really like that. Oh, yeah. And so, you know, we ended up you know, we and I was so stressed out because I was working 50 million hours. And you know, like struggling to make payroll, because we didn’t have the right cash flow, and just all the crap, I just didn’t know what, how to do. And you know, and then I ended up shutting the business down because I had to shut down. Like, I had to stop, like, I could not take the stress, and the agitation, and the the pressure and the the constant juggling, I just couldn’t take it for another second. And so I had brought in some business partners to help out with all that stuff. And then they didn’t bring the kind of relief that I

John Corcoran 9:20

expected. Well, were they too similar to you or what why? Oh, no, no, they

Tim Kilroy 9:25

were. They were they were like bookkeeper, accountant sorts. But they didn’t know anything about the business. And so we could never get to a spot where where it was where like, where they understood what the business needed were I was able to explain it. They weren’t able to help with operations. So they were just this giant cost center. Yeah. And it was it was miserable. So One day I, I, I had a meeting with him. And I’ve just said like the like, if we’re done, like, like, I’m just gonna wind it down. How much been so painful? Yeah, it was then and I was left in this big giant hole of debt, it was so ugly that, like, you know, they had college FEMA, it was really bad. You know, and, and so, you know, here we are in 2004, I guess late 2004. And, um, and you know, I’ve just got this, this, this skill set in this understanding of, of marketing, but I don’t know how to run a business at all. So

John Corcoran 10:44

what did you do? I mean, did you have a plan? Or was it just like, I need relief, no plan, no plan,