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This former solopreneur created a fast-growing creative agency using the Scaling Up platform

By Verne Harnish

Kait LeDonne, founder of Brandwise Media, a Baltimore, Md.-based social media firm, came to a powerful realization in 2018. She didn’t want to run her business as a one-person operation anymore. She wanted to scale her business, like Mom’s Organic Market, which she had read about in Scaling Up: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0. She discovered the book at a Learning Day she attended at Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

“I’m a Marylander and am familiar with the chain,” she says. “I had the thought, I am really sick of doing this alone. I was enthralled by the idea of creating a great corporate culture.” 

That was in 2018. Fast forward to today, and LeDonne has grown Brandwise Media, which she started as a solo brand consultant in 2015, to 10 people—five employees and five contractors. The company is on track for $800,000 in annual revenue for 2021, nearly double what it was last year, and aims to break $1 million in 2022. 

Here’s what LeDonne did to put the company on the fast track to growth.

Attract the right talent

To scale up, LeDonne realized she needed to build a strong team. First, she asked her two contractors at the time to become employees. Although they had been running their own businesses, they were ready to become part of a larger operation. She also began hiring other team members, seeking referrals from colleagues and posting listings on Indeed and referrals. 

As she did this, she began putting systems in place for vetting talent, such as asking team members to work on a hypothetical social media campaign as a test assignment and using the Predictive Index, a tool to evaluate potential employees.  “We very much focus the interview on asking situational questions,” LeDonne says. “I ask them hypothetical questions that expose if they’ve lived the company’s Core Values or not.” Those Core Values are Learning, Freedom, Joy, Radical Accountability and Excellence.

Draft a strategy for scaling 

As part of her plan to grow the agency, LeDonne created the One-Page Strategic Plan, which she shared with her team through the Teamwork project management space. “It’s everywhere,” says LeDonne. “It’s pasted all over the virtual office.” 

As part of the plan, Brandwise Media sets quarterly goals. This past quarter, her team worked on three goals to increase revenue and profits, such as improving the speed of delivering projects. “We’re very transparent with numbers in the sense of where we are with revenue and where we want to go,” says LeDonne.

Focus on flawless execution

As LeDonne and her team have grown the business, they have set key performance indicators (KPIs) around delivering results for clients. For instance, for one author who hired the company to build her brand on LinkedIn, they set a goal of attracting 30,000 followers for her newsletter. It seemed well within reach, given that she had 800,000 followers on LinkedIn.

However, when they launched the newsletter, only 1,600 followers trickled in. They began to troubleshoot and realized that even though they had hit the button to notify her followers about the newsletter, some members of their team never received it. “We notified LinkedIn, and they re-pushed the newsletter for us,” says LeDonne. “Within a week, she had 52,000 subscribers.”

Master the Power of One

LeDonne also prioritized the Cash side of her business. She committed to becoming a “Profit First,” organization, following the principles set by Mike Michalowicz in his book Profit First Accounting. “It’s great to look at this as revenue minus profits equals the amount I have to spend on the company,” she says.

She also embraced the principles of the Power of One from the Cash section of Scaling up. The Power of One illustrates how moving any of the seven key financial levers of the business can improve cash flow.

To that end, LeDonne raised prices by more than 1%, to make sure the company was operating profitably. “We went on the warpath to reduce expenses,” she says. 

Ultimately, embracing the Scaling Up system has unleashed LeDonne enthusiasm to grow the company. “Numbers used to intimidate the heck out of me,” says LeDonne. But now that she has embraced tools such as KPIs, she says, “the opposite is true. When you know your numbers, you make what you can measure. Numbers switched from intimidating to exhilarating.”

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.