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By prioritizing “Cash,” this agency raised its profit margin by 4 percentage points

By Verne Harnish

When Angela Pointon, founder and president of the content marketing firm 11outof11, attended “Cash” day at the EO Accelerator program run by Entrepreneurs’ Organization, she was surprised by how much the subject interested her. “I think for me, it shouldn’t be a strength—I’m a marketer!” she says. “But it appealed to me—it was enlightening and interesting.”

That passion has fueled an ongoing commitment to applying the principles of Scaling Up: Rockefeller Habits 2.0 to her firm in Conshohocken, Pa., which started out as a freelance business in 2017, but now relies on the help of about 50 subcontractors. Last year, she hit $670,000 in revenue, and for 2021, she is projecting $1.1 million. 

Prioritizing healthy cash flow 

A lot of the firm’s success in applying the Scaling Up platform emerged from running a tight ship when it comes to cash. Early on, Pointon made the wise decision to charge retainers in advance—heading off the cash flow problems that often challenge businesses in creative industries . After learning about the Power of One from the Cash section of Scaling Up, which she re-read last year, she came up with the idea of increasing her retainers by a few percentage points. “What if we could get our retainer averages up even a few percentage points?” she asked herself. “What does that do to the bottom line?” 

Pointon now tries to increase the retainers for new clients by a few percentage points every year at a minimum while keeping existing clients at their current rates unless there is a change of service. She reevaluates her firm’s rates every six months or annually and pays close attention to whether the market will bear an increase. “If a client accepted, it would give me confidence to continue keeping it at that higher price rate,” she says. 

These efforts bore big results: The agency has increased its profit margin by 4 percentage points. 

Getting clear on core values

Although Pointon’s team is made up of subcontractors who have their own businesses, she believes it is important to align everyone who works with 11outof11 around the agency’s Core Values. She and her two silent business partners, who act as de-facto coaches for her, completed the core values while doing the One-Page Strategic Plan. They send a framed picture of the Core Values – such as “Find harmony & joy” and “Systematic & organized” to each new contractor they retain. Now they’re at work on finding their ideal Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). “One day I know it will be crystal clear,” says Pointon. 

Putting the right systems in place

Pointon and her team have also focused on execution. Using the knowledge and training platform Trainual, they have documented the agency’s processes and best practices. “When you are onboarding and training people, they can go through the modules without a human having to train them,” says Pointon. “It has made our onboarding of new team members much more efficient. If we can get everyone on the same page doing the same thing in the same way, we can be much more efficient.” 

Ultimately, Pointon has realized that putting consistent systems and processes in place is an important key to scaling up. “When I first started 11outof11, I was figuring things out as a I went along,” she says. “You can only grow to a certain point that way.” Now that she’s mastered “Cash” and formalized the way her team works somewhat, her firm’s growth continues to accelerate. “It’s been huge for us,” she says. 

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.