13 Traits Startups Look for in an Agency Partner

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Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC)



women-workplace-office-handshakeYour agency should be more than just a service provider. A good organization can provide valuable assets to your business, so it’s important to choose wisely. From forward thinking to sharing common values, 13 entrepreneurs voiced what they look for in an agency partner.

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Accountability

Accountability is the foundation for any relationship with an agency partner. Ensure it is self-sufficient and proactive in helping you meet your goals. A great agency partner should anticipate opportunities and solve problems without you needing to ask. Too often service providers make their problems your problems, so be sure you have a group that is accountable and proactive.

-- Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc
2. Intelligent Leadership

If the agencies we work with are run by smart people who can see the big picture, things tend to go well. If they are run by shortsighted people, they tend to prioritize the wrong things in favor of making a quick buck now. If the agency is truly looking for a partnership (not just a situation in which it receives money), it could be a good fit.

-- Brennan White, Watchtower
3. Proof of Past Success

If an agency is going to get your business, it needs to prove that it has been there and done that. You don't want it to learn on your dime. Most of what you are paying for is not its time, but its experience. Ask the agency to show you specific proof of past successes, and then contact those companies to see exactly how the agency helped them.

-- Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com
4. Willingness to Be a Partner

As owners of a marketing agency, we have strategic agency partners. The key thing I look for is someone who wants to be a true partner and not just a vendor. I look for someone who can brainstorm with us to enhance the service we're offering to the end client. Ultimately, we're both bringing opportunities to the table.

-- Alex Frias, Track Marketing Group
5. Common Values

Relationships with partners or agencies will face both highs and lows. Find partners who are truly in on your mission and driven not only by performance, but also by the motivation to play a role in achieving the mission. Relationships not grounded on common values are prone to be an emotional roller coaster that may or may not end well.

-- Aman Advani, Ministry of Supply
6. Thought Leadership

The number one quality I look for in an agency partner is thought leadership. If I'm going through the expense to bring in an agency, that means I'm looking for thought leaders who can think three steps ahead based on prior experience. In theory, a partner will move faster and get better results than any internal team I would otherwise rely on.

-- Mary Ray, MyHealthTeams
7. Knowledge Sharing

The key to staying competitive is to constantly learn new things. One of the ways I add to personal experience is by partnering with agencies that offer a different background or perspective and are open to knowledge sharing. We bring different expertise to the table, create exponentially better value for clients and walk away with new proficiencies. It's a rewarding win-win scenario.

-- Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting
8. Honesty

An agency has to be able to act on your behalf. Make sure its interests are aligned with yours, and make sure you trust the partners to act on your behalf.

-- Ioannis Verdelis, Fleksy
9. Dedication to Customer Success

When we're partnering with agencies, we want team members who are equally committed to solving customer problems. The best agencies are the ones that are incredibly dedicated to creating customer successes -- not just customer happiness -- and are using data to demonstrate and improve those results. Result-driven agencies do the best work and are the ones we like to work with.

-- Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social
10. Ability to Grow

As a growing company, it is important to find an agency that can grow with you. Select an agency that understands your company and where it is today, but also one that has the ability to guide your company to where you want it to be in the future.

-- Ziver Birg, Zivelo
11. Personalized Commitment

Great agencies will spend time identifying the problem that's specific to you and coming up with a solution that's relevant to you. Mediocre agencies will throw in cookie-cutter solutions. And it all starts from the initial pitch. If the pitch is generic, do not hire the agency.

-- Ashish Rangnekar, BenchPrep
12. Steps Ahead

Prior to signing an engagement, I look for the agency to be one or two steps ahead. If it has great talent, that’s only so helpful. If it has great talent paired with a productized, process-driven experience (with designed deliverables, metrics and templates), it provides for an enhanced customer service experience.

-- Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind
13. Customized Services

When working with other agencies, we want one that really gets us at a fundamental level. Working with companies that follow a standard "formula" resulted in failures. Our biggest successes came from working with an agency that customized its services to our needs and understood exactly what we are trying to achieve.

-- Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive

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