You'll notice that we've named all the staged of the Convivio Agency Lifecycle model to include the suffix '-up'. That's quite deliberate, and isn't just to look snazzy. The idea is that you lead through each stage to end up with you and the business in a better place, on an upward trajectory.

And that's just as true in this stage.

Sell-up, not sell-out

We're on a mission to end the kinds of situation where a founder sells their agency and it's not a better result for everyone concerned. It happens too often.

We term this 'sell-out'.

The founder is just selling to get out of there. Maybe they've been ground down by years of stress and can't take any more. Maybe the market or the agency has hit a rough patch and is looking for a saviour. Maybe the founders are just finding the responsibility of what they've built suddenly overwhelming.

Another scenario for sell-out is greed. Your agency is laying the golden eggs, so how much more could you make if you sold the goose?!

The result of a sell-out is the owners sell the agency for less than they could otherwise have got, to a big business that trashes the wonderful culture and reputation the agency had. The staff end up leaving and some resent the founders for selling out when they were all on to a good thing. In a few years the agency is in a sorry state and gets absorbed into the bigger business, closed, or sold again.

So before you consider the Sell-up stage, consider if you might be selling-out, and should be applying the practices of any of the other stages first — including the Screw-up stage if things are problematic, or the Step-up, Smarten-up, or Scale-up phases if you just want to find ways to lift responsibility off your shoulders and grow the rewards you earn. In the Scale-up phase, you might even consider becoming the buyer of other agencies, rather than the seller of yours.

But, if you are genuinely planning to Sell-up as a strategic move, that will put the agency in a better place, and achieve the best outcome for the owners — taking a long-term view — then read on.