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Greg Hickman is the Founder of AltAgency, where he has trained and consulted over 700 agency owners, freelancers, and service providers. Greg specializes in helping businesses productize their services, monetize their expertise, and implement systems to improve client success and free up their time. With a wealth of experience from being a project manager at a large agency to founding his own successful agency, Greg has a deep understanding of the digital and creative agency space. He has a knack for creating systematic sales experiences and building team processes that scale.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [0:22] Transformative insights from Greg Hickman’s entrepreneurial journey
  • [4:27] Greg’s transition from full-service project management to specialized, productized services
  • [6:31] How Greg transferred knowledge from big agency structures to smaller, nimble businesses
  • [9:17] Maintaining simplicity in service offerings for operational efficiency
  • [14:49] The value of intellectual property through Greg’s experience with client-side training
  • [22:00] The complex evolution of pricing for services – from $200 to over $8k
  • [26:47] Greg’s journey into utilizing intellectual property to scale his business
  • [43:08] Insight into the hard decisions necessary to pivot an agency towards productized services

In this episode…

In an ever-evolving digital landscape, how can agency owners, freelancers, and service providers navigate the challenges of scaling, systematizing, and productizing their services? Can the journey from hands-on service provider to a more leveraged business model really be achieved without losing the essence of what made the business successful in the first place?

Greg Hickman, a growth marketing expert, melds productizing services, implementing systematic sales and fulfillment processes, and building the right team and systems to free up the owner’s time. Through his work, Greg has demonstrated that it’s possible to scale an agency or service-based business without being bogged down by custom, labor-intensive work. He emphasizes the importance of moving away from traditional time-for-money service models towards offering productized services or consulting packages that deliver value while optimizing operational efficiency.

In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, host Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with Greg Hickman, the Founder of AltAgency, to discuss the opportunities and challenges of restructuring services within agencies. Greg takes listeners through his journey of creating a productized service that leveraged his niche expertise, sharing transformative insights on transitioning from big agency structures to smaller, nimble businesses and navigating the hard decisions in pivoting an agency towards productized services.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “Most agencies die from indigestion, not starvation.”
  • “Choose the hard stuff first because then it’ll be easy later.”
  • “In today’s world, the lines between traditional agencies and consulting have become so blurred, it’s a huge opportunity.”
  • “Not everything needs to be recurring revenue, despite what everyone tells you.”
  • “Sometimes the best strategic move is walking away from the wrong clients.”

Action Steps:

  1. Evaluate and refine your service offerings to ensure they align with your ideal client profile to streamline operations. By specializing in specific services, agencies can improve their operational efficiency and deliver consistent results.
  2. Leverage intellectual property as a new revenue stream to minimize labor-intensive work. Intellectual property allows for scalable growth by providing value through expertise instead of time.
  3. Make difficult but strategic decisions, such as walking away from wrong-fit clients to protect your business model. This maintains the integrity of your service offerings and ensures the business stays on the path to profitable growth.
  4. Consider transforming one-on-one services into group formats or training offerings for scalable impact. This expands reach and revenue without exponentially increasing workloads.
  5. Regularly revisit and update your business goals and services to align with your changing life priorities. This ensures your business continues to serve your lifestyle aspirations instead of becoming a burden.

Sponsor for this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:15

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Greg Hickman of AltAgency. And Greg, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. We have a mutual friend Ian Garlic. That was a really cool episode. He runs video case It helps people collect amazing case stories. And it was interesting, Greg, I don’t know if you know this about him. But one part of the story was that his dad was an entrepreneur. And he told the story of his dad having live dolphins in a restaurant. Did you know that? And the funny thing is, you know, he’s in Orlando.

That’s strange, but Orlando is not that strange, I guess. But no restaurant was in Wisconsin, and they had live dolphins. Okay, so it was just really cool. It just gave me some creative juices flowing with that conversation. And people could check that out. I had a conversation with Todd Taskey. I don’t know if you know, Todd. Greg, he’s got the Second Bite Podcast. So he pairs private equity with agencies and he helps sell agencies. And so his podcast is called the Second Bite because he found sometimes people sell more on the second bite than they do on the first because when they sell the private equity and private equity sells again.

So again, just a valuation of the agency space and just Asia space in general. So there’s a lot of that was a really good episode, as well. And then Todd, actually, Kevin Hourigan of Spinutech was another one. He’s had an agency since 1995. And so he talks about the landscape of the internet, business and agency life since 1995. Okay, so those are all good ones. Check them out. And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25, we help businesses give to and connect to their dream relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that, we do that by helping you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company launch and run a podcast we do the strategy, the accountability and the full execution.

So Greg, we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background and make it look easy for people to, you know, basically create great content and great relationships, and they can spend the time running their business. You know, for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. And I’m always looking for ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decade to profile the people in companies I most admire and share with the world with their work. And so if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should have questions go to or email [email protected]. So I’m excited to introduce Greg Hickman, Greg and I have known each other for a while. And no one has worked for a while actually, we were his customers when he had his other agency. And so Greg Hickman is the founder of AltAgency, you can check them out at He’s trained and consulted over 700 agency owners, freelancers and service providers on how to productize their services and monetize their expertise.

And Greg came up, some of the things I want to dig deeper on is some of the things they do and help you create or makeover your existing service menu into your productized service suite. They help create and build this systematic sales experience. So you only sell the right people while optimizing your time and structure and deploy a new client onboarding experience and client fulfillment process that sets the clients up for success. And identifying and building the right team of people and processes to free your time. As the owner, scale your team and your systems delivering operating and communication kids for meeting your goal. So those are the things we’re going to kind of break down. We could spend like three hours on that stuff. But yeah, well, I’m gonna have you talk about some of the mistakes people make with these things. But let’s just start off first of all, welcome and just start off with talking about Alt Agency and what you do.

Greg Hickman 4:27

Yeah, thank you so much for having me again, Jeremy. Appreciate it. Yeah, so I mean, you kind of said it. We were a training and consulting company, focused primarily on digital agency owners, creative agency owners, some self identify as consultants or, you know, service providers, depending upon how big they are, how big their team is, but all of the clients that we work with, they, you know, started off as practitioner mass sort of the craft, and then they grow to a size where the building those skills no longer is helpful. And then growing the business, they need to learn business skills. They need to learn how to market themselves, they need to learn how to, you know, run a team, they need to install systems that, you know, create smooth operations. And that’s what we help them build out and install into their business.

Jeremy Weisz 5:30

You know, if you anyone goes to his website, You know, you can tell that Greg has lived this, because there’s pain in each of these bullets, Greg, okay. Yeah, their pain from your experience in each of these bullets, like, am I spread too thin and trying to do everything myself, my revenue feels unpredictable. So if you’re an agency owner, you know, you can tell that Greg has been in the trenches for many, many years. Because each of these bullets, you’ve lived, you live these things, and you’re like, Okay, I can help people, right. And so, I love that in your journey, I want to talk about some of the lessons along the way before we kind of get to those details. But I mean, you’ve kind of been on all facets of this meaning like you were at a big agency, then you were with a client hiring agencies, and you had your own agency.So maybe hit just a bullet on each of these and maybe a learning like, right off the gate, you worked with a big agency.

Greg Hickman 6:31

Yep. So I started off at an agency called TracyLocke, which is part of Omnicom largest one of the largest agency portfolios in the world. And I learned how the whole agency actually works, and specifically a full service agency. And I think, you know, the lesson that actually I didn’t really understand until years and years later, as we started training others in coaching other agencies is that what it was like I actually understood what full service means. Now, like, because you hear a lot of agents is like, oh, like, well, we’re stuck, because we’ll we’re full service. TracyLocke had maybe 20 clients, probably less than they were, you know, a multi million dollar a year, I think, eight figure a year business, if not more, with, like, we had, I think 400 employees inside of just TracyLocke doors. And every client used every service.

And so like, to me, that’s full service, like, if every single client is using your full suite of service, you are a full service. Whereas like, the lesson on that is I see a lot of people, they trying to be full service, but they’re really ala carte, and one client gets a combination of some, a different client gets a different combination. And that just creates a lot of operational complexity that eliminates the process, which is one of the most valuable things that we can create and utilize inside of our business. And so like, I just, I was a project manager. So like I was responsible for it. That’s why we started then started working directly with clients, and then pitching and all that stuff. Like I watched projects go from idea all the way through every single department. And they always went through the exact same way. Yeah, exactly the same order. And so that was that I went through a handful of other agencies.

Jeremy Weisz 8:36

Back to that for a second. Greg, what did you learn as a project manager that you brought to when you started your agency, because now that’s a key piece of making sure they’re smooth operations. And by the way, if someone’s listening, the audio, there is a video piece. And so you can see we’re on all AMC, and this is you could actually if you want to see Greg’s approach here, you can actually opt in and get this but this reminds me of a full service, like this first bullet that’s echoed out is are you still doing custom work for your agency clients meaning like, like you said, if you’re not doing the same thing for everyone, but you’re doing this for this person, this for that person, and calling it full service, then you’re doing a lot of work, apparently, well,

Greg Hickman 9:17

I’ve said and it’s usually the thing that, you know, I mean, the mistake, right, doing ala carte, each client is getting customized services. The classic saying of most agencies, you know, they die from indigestion, not starvation, right. It’s like there’s just too much complexity, especially when you’re a small company. And it’s you and a couple contractors potentially like to have five different services. And each client is getting different things like so many balls up in the air, for likely a person that is early days that doesn’t have the ability to manage All of that, like, it’s really difficult and so watching, like, and being a project manager. I mean, there were boundaries, there were timelines, there was like, hey, like, we don’t go outside of these areas to monitor, you know, scope and things like that. And hey, like, if we’re gonna hit this timeline, it needs to be on this side of the building by this date.

And or else that date is not realistic, like that delivery date is not realistic. And so there were internal timelines and boundaries and scheduling, the most important piece was, all of that was very clearly communicated to the client. So like the client understood, where things were at, at all times updated when things are late, or like there was a protocol for all of that. And then it just truly happens when you hear that the run like a well oiled machine, like these large organizations, despite being very labor heavy, ran pretty smoothly. I mean, again, like there’s definitely situations where they miss timelines and stuff like that, and have crappy client interactions, but like, for the most part projects, always flow through the exact same order.

Jeremy Weisz 11:19

Yeah, and so we’ll talk about other lessons you learn from there, but I love when I go to your site. I love reading these bullets here. Because it makes me aware of what we can be doing better? And sometimes you I know, You’ve fought through a lot of these things. And sometimes, you know, some people don’t know how to articulate what their issues are. And you’ve done it on the page, right? So like we have, are you charging for time and charge based? Are you charging based on value? Right? And so I love going through your page. So I encourage anyone, if you’re an agency owner go through Alt Because for me, it’s like, okay, what are the things that we are not doing? Because he’s articulated these things on the page gorm?

Greg Hickman 12:01

For sure. And then I’d say like, after a couple other agencies, that was the next big kind of aha was being client side when I was responsible for building out a small team within a digital department. And we had to leverage other agencies, and we worked with some big ones. And we worked with some really small ones. And the lesson there was, and this one’s kind of a key lesson that again, I didn’t realize how valuable that lesson was, until we’ve been teaching what we teach. And so you’ll see kind of the transition, but like every single agency that we brought in, there was a line item for them to train us on how they’re doing what they were doing for us so that we didn’t need them again. And so there was a timetable. And they knew it. And we made it very clear, like, Hey, we’re gonna pay you to consume, like, show us over the next six to 12 months, how to do this in a house where we don’t need you again, once it’s set up. And they’re like, just a, they were very on board with it. We were not the only ones that they did that with. And that was kind of an eye opener, too, which is now a key piece of what a lot of our clients do is like training, that leads to a whole new slew of ways to make money that is often way more profitable than doing the work in and of itself.

So like, I learned that when we were hiring these agencies, and then obviously I went out on my own, the first agency completely flopped. The next one was the one where we ended up working with you. And we were very specialized in who we served and what we kind of did. But even inside of that little ecosystem we were still to general is a system like this was system li Yeah. And for those listening, we basically were a sales and marketing literally just an automation boutique, like specifically for Infusionsoft now. And we work mostly with coaches, course creators, like authors speakers that were using Infusionsoft to automate their business. And we were like, if Infusionsoft was in the sentence, we did it. But then that very quickly was not helpful, because that was still too generalist, and we had to specialize even more packages and then productize. And so like that was the agency that kind of led me into where we’re at now, with AltAgency.

Jeremy Weisz 14:42

So I know you’ve had conversations with Brad Martineau from Sixth Division.

Greg Hickman 14:47

One of my conversations, my early mentors. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 14:50

What do those conversations look like now? Because he’s, actually I had him on the podcast a little while ago. And what What things do you talk about

Greg Hickman 15:03

when you are traveling? Well, on our YouTube channel, we had one of our more recent most popular videos with him. And we talked for like an hour and 15 minutes. And both of us talk extremely fast. And everyone was like, in the comments, people were like, I had to slow down the speed. But it was a masterclass. I mean, just like how to think about systems, right? Like, how do you make something systematic? What do you think about packaging up a service into a specific outcome and a deliverable? Versus just like having it be this open ended retainer? Why are retainers horrible? War stories, I mean, I’ll bring up things to him from time to time, even in text message that he that he basically taught me in 2017, that just now makes sense now,

Jeremy Weisz 16:02

like, what’s one of those things?

Greg Hickman 16:06

So he has this exercise that I’ve modeled and then adapted, called the return? And it’s, how do you design a business that like, I call it the Forever Business, like, if you if the business allows you to work this schedule on these types of activities, and make this amount of money that you would ride off into the sunset? Because you’d have, like, exactly what you wanted? And so starting with that, and what are those criteria that are important to you, and then building to meet those became way more relevant. I mean, like, when I first started working with him, and I learned this document, I didn’t have kids, they were not as old as they are now.

I did not have a seven figure business, I had not gone through a lot of trials and tribulations of building a business while also being a good husband, you know, a good father, and also taking care of myself and my team like, and so like, now, a lot of these exercises, I’m like, they have a whole new meaning. And I’m like, oh, like, this is this tool that you taught me? In 2017? Like, I’m still ROI from that today. You know, like, and that’s, like, we talked, we’re gonna talk about intellectual property, right? Like, I mean, so many of the things that I’ve learned through coaching and consulting and other people’s intellectual property, like they pay time and time again, for years, that it’s like, I’ve just seen the value of it. So yeah, I mean, our conversations are always, I’m always a student, honestly, when I’m talking to him

Jeremy Weisz 17:57

On the return, you know, if you’re talking about it’s, you know, it changes because you go through different stages of life, too.

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