Starting Your Own Agency: Crazy or Cool?


Q. After five years in a mid-size PR firm, at age 29 I’m thinking about starting my own agency. I enjoy client work and recently helped my current firm win some new business, so I know the traps. My question to you and your readers: Crazy or cool? -BD

A. Several years ago, I seriously contemplated opening my own public relations agency. The dream was quashed by a long-time friend who opened a hugely successful firm in the “good old days” when he said it was easier to do. He said, “New agency creation is for the young and brave.” While he probably would encourage you to proceed, I suggest doing so with caution, assuming you can answer the following 10 questions:

  1. Do you still have a lot to learn about how agencies truly operate? Besides client service and business development, you need strong business, technology and marketing skills.
  2. Do you have a sufficient financial “nest egg” to hold you over during the start up phase that often runs a year or more?
  3. Have you studied and talked with others who have started their own firms? Paul Swiergosz offers some important advice in his Culpwrit guest post.
  4. Will any clients follow you to your new firm? If so, do you have a contract that would legally prohibit that from happening?
  5. Are you willing to work 24/7, if necessary?
  6. What will differentiate you from other agencies?
  7. Do you have a significant network of media and business contacts?
  8. Who can you tap when you land an assignment that requires more than you can handle?
  9. Have you created a credible business plan?
  10. Can you do so without burning bridges? If possible, you always want to hear an employer say: “You can always come back if it doesn’t work.”

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