A Growing Agency’s Biggest Challenge: Scaling Project Management

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Michiko Morales

We’ve been lucky at Gabriel Marketing Group (GMG). We’ve grown quickly and steadily, year over year. To be clear, I don’t say that to brag about our success – a lack of humility is a sure fire “jinx” in my worldview, where superstition and dread are often far too present for idleness or over confidence. Instead, I say it to let you know that although we have grown significantly and quickly, the road to today has not always been a rose-lined Easy Street. Scaling a growing professional services organization is, well, frankly, super, duper flipping hard. And, I know we are not the only ones facing that challenge.

Scale challenges aren’t unique to agencies, of course. We are a technology marketing company specializing in start-ups and high-growth B2B software companies. Our clients grow fast, and, often, get acquired. Knowing that is our sweet spot, we see companies that struggle to scale effectively and successfully all the time. And, if they can do it all while actually making money, they’ve attained the Holy Grail. However, our clients, for the most part, are product companies, and that is very different than the agency model.

Primarily, most – if not all–agencies derive the majority of revenue from fulfilling service contracts, whether those contracts are based on hours or scope, project or retainer. Agencies need real, live talented people to fulfill contracts. And, in the GMG world, we need really, awesome, incredibly smart, fun, creative and dedicated people to do it right and keep clients coming back for more. (Looking for a job? We’re hiring!)

Sure, some agencies resell some software and mark up ad buys for incremental revenue, but usually, the revenue generated is a pittance compared to retainers and project work. Agencies don’t sell products, which means their ability to scale well is contingent upon their ability to find awesome people–which is very hard–and, manage projects and tasks succinctly and efficiently, deliver good work, and make a solid enough margin that they can invest BACK into the business to hire more people and start the cycle again.

Sound easy? If you think it is, you are way smarter than me. I think it’s hard–really hard. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and one piece of advice I can give to growing agency owners – from marketing to digital to design and others–is to bite the bullet and invest in cloud-based business and project management software.

The right cloud-based project management software will let you manage all your ongoing projects, allocate resources, has a built-in time tracker, manage inventory (if you are selling through hardware), integrate with accounting and billing software such as QuickBooks for billing, and more. After all is said in done, having a complete cohesive view of what your people are doing, how much time they have, their margin and what tasks and projects are the most profitable, you can crash through the ceiling of complexity to grow to the next level. The right project management software can change your strategy, and completely change your business–not to mention the stress level of the agency owner or partner who is craving constant insight and lacking the desire to micromanage the crack team of employees she fought so hard to find, cultivate and train.

At GMG, we started off with Basecamp when we were super small–one of our clients introduced us. But Basecamp, although good for a very early stage company (and cheap – yay!), lacks the features required for true cloud-based project management, including resource utilization, integrations, CRM–integrations or native–service desk, and automated invoicing. Then, we snagged Vorex as a client. Originally created for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who needed Professional Services Automation (PSA), Vorex was looking to continue to build out PSA software features and also target the online project management space. So, we are helping them do that. And, in the process, we are now a client and it is helping us change the business by allowing our team members to get more done, faster.

Vorex and other online project management providers have designed their products with the growing small business and boutique agency in mind. That means, completeness with simplicity to help us scale, fast. Vorex also debuted its new brand this week – in full disclosure, yes, we created it (and we love it!). Check it out at

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