Scott Empringham | [Top Agency Series] Scaling an Agency to Over $10M, Losing It All, and Rebounding in 14 Months
Smart Business Revolution

Scott Empringham is the Owner and CEO of Empringham Media Group. For more than 21 years, his passion has been helping Fortune 50 companies to break through the clutter using digital marketing and social media to drive results in areas that matter most — customer retention and acquisition. Scott’s mission is to share his digital marketing and social media expertise to drive new business, retain current customers, and conquest the competition.

Scott is also a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Orange County. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Scott Empringham, the Owner and CEO of Empringham Media Group, about how he scaled his digital agency to over $10 million, lost it all, and his journey to recovery. Scott also explains how his EO forum members, family, and friends helped him rebound and shares the lessons he learned from the experiences. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Scott Empringham’s experience scaling a business to $10 million, losing his biggest clients, and shutting down the business
  • How EO forum members helped Scott during the toughest moment of his life 
  • Scott explains how his young daughter helped him start to rebuild his business and how David Meltzer helped him pivot and rebound in 88 days
  • The lessons Scott learned after shutting down a mining transportation company
  • How — and why — Scott started creating and selling digital courses
  • Scott talks about the different ways he makes business decisions based on past experience
  • The role Scott’s father played in helping him rebound
  • The people Scott respects and admires

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.

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We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.

Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I am the host of this show. And every week I get to talk to smart founders and CEOs and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies and organizations ranging from Netflix to Kinkos’ to YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, Ace Software, and many more. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25 where we help to connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this week, we’ve got a great guest, his name is Scott Empringham. He is the CEO and Owner of Empringham Media Group. For more than 21 years, his passion has been helping Fortune 50 companies to break through the clutter using digital marketing and social media to drive results in areas that matter most – customer retention and acquisition. So we’re going to learn all about that here today. And we connected through EO, he’s a member of EO Orange County. 

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you’re listening to this, and have ever thought, “Should I start a podcast?” Well, I’ve been telling everyone I know for 11 plus years now that they just started podcasts, because you get to talk to smart people like Scott all the time. And it’s such a pleasure. So if you want to learn more about that go to And Scott, you’ve got this amazing story. When you and I first connected, I was like, I got to share this story because one, I love and respect your candor and your willingness to share. It’s, you know, it’s part of the spirit of Entrepreneurs’ Organization that you share candidly things you’ve been through for the benefit of others. And you’d scaled up your business to eight figures, 11 million a year in revenue, but you had about 80% of your revenue coming from your three biggest clients. And it all came crashing down in about three or four months. Horrible experience, had to lay everyone off. Just an incredible, incredible story. And you’ve rebounded from that, and are still rebounding from it, of course. But I want to hear the story in your words. So take us back to that period of time, if you will, what that was like as your business kind of crumbled in a short period of time?

Scott Empringham 2:49

Well, thank you first, thank you for having me, John, I appreciate it. And I feel like the same I have to say about your whole about rise 25. In the podcast, I feel lucky to be able to talk to you and Marty learned something from you. I would say probably for me, the story sort of starts in January 2018. Taken off, we just hit 10 million on our way to 11 million. Ford, Chrysler, GM, Home Depot, lots of lots of great clients. And we just launched a million dollar package. And I was convinced it was going to roll out to five or six other clients. And we’re going to get to 15. And my goal was to get to 20 and maybe sell it for 100 or 50 million and take take my earnings and travel the world. It didn’t work out that way. I ended up going the other way.

John Corcoran 3:39

Wow. And in retrospect, what are some of the takeaways from that experience? Obviously, customer concentration. So you were big in the car world, you had a lot of the big car companies were your clients, right? And then I believe that you said that the problem was that they decided that they’re going to they all like at the same time decided they’re going to take things in house.

Scott Empringham 4:03

But I had two clients that actually were behind in their payables to me, and I dipped into my line of credit, I figured their Fortune 50 clients, I’ve never had any problems with the before they were ad agencies themselves. I was selling the ad agencies who had the client accounts with the car companies. So it was a couple steps removed. Correct? Yeah, correct. And so after about 60 days, 70 days, I was buying lots of media at about $300,000 in just payroll. And every month, I would check in with my bookkeeper with the accounts to see where where we were at the receivables, and then went from 30 days to 60 days to 90 days to 120 days. I had to dip into my line of credit which I’d never done before but there it was convinced everything was going to be fine. And then one day I came into the office sometime probably in March or April, and I looked online, and I saw an article that said my client had lost the national account to this car cup And that’s how I found out, they lost the account. And then my phone started ringing. And then I put two and two together and I realized, holy smokes, they lost the account. That’s probably why they were holding on to my bills. And then simultaneously, about a week later, another ad agency, they lost their account, major car company client, and I got caught holding the bag after I’d already dipped in a line of credit, big time, expect the receivables to come in. At that point, I had about a month to figure out what I was going to do. But by then it was too late. I was already in the line of credit. And I was in big trouble.

John Corcoran 5:33

And you had to come in. I think you said it was on a Monday. And you had to let the whole team go.

Scott Empringham 5:38

Yeah, yeah. For the for the folks who are in EO or Entrepreneurs’ Organization. On a Wednesday or Thursday, I got together with my forum, that small group of folks, I sat down with them, we called an emergency meeting. And you know, in the forum, I had an attorney, and somebody who’s like a CFO, really, really smart people, very, very smart people. And I sat down with them. And I started doing kind of a brainstorm on options, like a team consult. I looked at my options, and I had a follow up meeting with two of them on Friday. And that Friday, one of the guys said, Listen, you have a big decision. My recommendation if we can go non install my recommendation, and I was looking for recommendations, by the way, I was looking for experience shares, I was saying, hey, 40s

John Corcoran 6:20

So there’s the big no, no, you’re not supposed to give advice and do normally. So it sounds like you’re you

Scott Empringham 6:29

know, fast by waiving that rule right now. 100%, I was waving the rule. And somebody said, Look, based upon these numbers, if you don’t shut things down on Monday, you’re gonna be in big trouble as it is you’re in, you’re in very, very big trouble, you’re gonna end up going BK and everything else. So they said, my recommendation on Monday, you shut it down, no sleep over the weekend, on Monday morning, I walked in, and I shut it down. And I called a meeting and just told everybody, it was over, and was the toughest, professional day of my life. And that began kind of a week, two week, three week, four week period, hiring an attorney to do the assignment for the benefit of creditor, also an EO guy. Winding everything down, shut everything down. Just a very, very tough time. And at the end, of course, I think I shared that part of the story that when I thought it was all over, it wasn’t over, the attorney said you need to go see the bank. Because the bank had called they said, We’re really sorry about everything. But you got about 90 days before we need to start making payments on the half a million line of credit. Or we got to we got it we got to get our money has that? Well, there’s only one thing one way they’re gonna get their money. And that’s how I sell my house. I had bunch of homes before I was down to one. And I was gonna lose that if I didn’t come up with the money. Wow.

John Corcoran 7:41

And then you also had a very dark period where it was right around Fourth of July. And you were had to make this decision about whether to be honest with your forum mates. So your forum mates are out there are having a good time are out enjoying Fourth of July, and you’re in this very dark space. And they’re messaging you on your phone. Tell us what happened there.

Scott Empringham 8:08

Yeah, yeah. Fourth of July, probably two o’clock in the afternoon. I hadn’t gotten out of bed the night before. I had a night of drinking. And I don’t drink anymore, but I did them.

John Corcoran 8:21

Another way you’d gone through a divorce around this time as well to add on to everything else

Scott Empringham 8:25

add on to everything else. Yeah, June and July were the toughest, toughest couple months of my life. I’d lost all you know, the homes, all my wealth was gone. Lost my marriage was bounced around and apartment finally ended up in my rental that I was renting out and had nothing and basically ended up half a million dollars in debt. And then right around Fourth of July rolls around and then I was just imploding. I was in a very dark place far beneath the waves. And I just didn’t know how I was going to get out and on Fourth of July. So people reached out to me on WhatsApp, my forum and they were all enjoying Mexico and Palm Springs and everything else. They said How you doing? And they knew kind of what was going on. But they said how are you and I just disappeared. And I was really in a bad place. And I finally messaged my decision to make which was, am I going to be honest and maybe ruin their Fourth of July, I was being sort of self conscious about it or just say I’m fine. I chose to be honest. And I said you know, I’m not doing so good. I mean, I was thinking some dark thoughts. And 20 20 minutes later, one of my forum mates pounded on the door he heard the bat in my in my voice in the WhatsApp. And he banged on the door and came and you know, who knows, maybe saved my life. I don’t know. But he was right there at a time when I really needed him.

John Corcoran 9:48

That is amazing what a good friend can do at those dark times. There is also a moment where you realize you you’re gonna rebuild and I think it was you were sitting with your daughter 100 And your daughter was helping you. Tell us about that.