Scaling Up Without Burning Out — Handling Explosive Growth in Your Digital Agency featuring Brian Onorio of Walk West

Jun 30, 2021

Brian Onorio is the Founder and CTO of the full-service digital-first marketing agency Walk West, based in Raleigh, NC. He founded the privately-owned company in 2007 and today, the company specializes in research discovery, web design and development, social media marketing, content strategy and marketing, SEO, SEM, digital issue advocacy, video production, and professional development services. Brian is also the CEO of Proposa, a world-class service that makes it easy to create professional-looking proposals while reducing the amount of time it takes to create them.

During his time as a John T. Caldwell Fellow at North Carolina State University (and subsequently as Vice President of the Caldwell Fellows Alumni Society), Brian has lived the program's tenets to learn, grow, and serve others. Many of his industry awards, including those from the AVA, Marcom, and Hermes Associations as well as the Triangle Business Journal's “40 Under 40” Award, reflect his commitment to those same servant-leader traits. As a member of the Shop Raleigh board, he was able to gain insights into how to collaborate with local organizations and further your agency's expertise.

Brian talks about how he got into the agency space, building his own company from the ground up, the mistake of doing things alone in his first 7 years of the business up until scaling the agency, earning triple to quadruple their revenue, and handling the challenges that presented themselves during that point as well. Brian also gives his insights on why most agencies fail in their first five years of starting and how to prevent burnout when growing a fast-scaling company by hiring the right people and collaborating with the right mentors, advisors, and colleagues in the agency space.

This Cast Covers:

  • Starting an agency after quitting his job at 24 and at the worst possible time: during the 2008 economic crisis (1:09)
  • Growing pains of starting a company and then becoming a fast-growing scaling agency that most agency owners rarely talk about (4:07)
  • Why 92% of agencies fail within the first 5 years of starting and their biggest rate for failure (5:58)
  • A valuable lesson Brian learned about shutting up and setting up his team for success (6:52)
  • How to create leverage as the owner in the company to avoid burnout (8:15)
  • Closing the agency’s biggest deal of business without him ever having a conversation with the client (10:31)
  • Why it’s okay to relinquish some control and letting your team shine in areas they’re good at (12:56)
  • Are you afraid to pay top dollar for the right people? (15:27)
  • Why it took Brian seven years to value investing in mentors and advisors (17:34)
  • When growth-driven agencies consult Brian’s help to achieve operational excellence (21:55)
  • Tell-tale signs that an agency needs to get an advisor or consultant to come in and help (25:01)
  • Getting back to the fundamentals of generating leads, nurturing and closing leads (29:30)
  • Why every single problem in your agency  can be solved with revenue (32:18)
  • Using consulting work rather than agency work as a client acquisition model (34:57)

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