My Journey to Build a Business That Runs Itself

Journey to Build A Business

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Morning all,

Thu 18 March

I’m excited to write this blog because this is absolutely what’s top of mind for me at the moment.

My Transition Into Becoming Independent Of The Business

Taking Pearl Lemon to the next level in terms of being a business.

I’m in the process of figuring out how I can make the business run itself effectively which is no small order.

Let me walk you through what’s happening at the ground level.

I run an agency business (as some of you might know) over at Pearl Lemon.

My current challenges are as follows:

  • Client relationship management
  • Client retention
  • My sales team closing more deals
  • Stabilising the lead generation side of the business

With all of these things in mind, the ultimate end game come summer is to be in a position where the business continues to grow without me being directly involved.

To aide this – as of next week – March 22nd – March 26th – for the first time I’m going to be taking 3.5 full days off.

This means that I’ll check in on things Monday morning, and then be away until Friday day time – and see exactly how and where ‘the wheels come off’.

I’ve been trying to pursue this path for some time and I’m beginning to inch my way closer to it being a reality.

The reality of having a business that is truly able to run itself.

This reminds me I need to do some reading up on this subject other than just going off based on my intuition.

Although – with all of that being said the obvious pain points to my mind are clear to see.

This is a dream I’m trying to pursue – that Pearl Lemon could be at a stage where I could walk away from day to day runnings of the business.

Part of writing this blog is about continually reminding myself that this is mission-critical to my success and that I must drive forward in this direction.

Especially such that I can pursue other areas of my life.

As much as the process of building a business that runs itself seems logical – the process of doing it is as SCARY as hell.

Here are some considerations that worry me:

  • Who will have the same blend of technical as well as people skills I do to be able to manage clients?
  • What will happen when it comes to innovation and growth of the business? Will that stagnate slowly?
  • How will I be able to actually make any money and still not be involved?

These are all things that scare me that I’m not completely sure of.

Equally, however, I believe that the only way out is through.

With this in mind, I’m trying to brutally change things as effectively as I can.

I’m asking multiple people internally who’s interested in client relationship management.

A couple of people have said yes and I’m working with them to try and upskill them as effectively as I can – with the time that they have.

As I was discussing with Kent (another media agency owner) a couple of days back –

Some things are beginning to improve –

I’m significantly less involved with the lead generation side of the business when it comes to client management.

Prishani – my new head of lead generation is taking care of this.

I’m also having Federica put ‘new’ potential client relationship managers through the gauntlet of seeing how well they do under pressure to see if we can build better managers of people.

We continue to work on the lead-generation side of the business to increase the lead volume and to see if that will ultimately bring in more sales.

Anyway, my mind is a mess at the moment of ‘things’ I’m trying to resolve in order to make this transition go smoothly.

Broadly – to make this more practical for you (as well as me) – let’s go through different areas:



Ion is our head of sales and does a great job of this. Things that currently need refinement are:

  • We need a call feedback loop in place so that 1x per month everyone deep dives into listening to a call recording together to see what was good, what was bad
  • We need a team feedback loop in place so that Ion gets feedback from his team as to what could be improved
  • Ion needs some working parameters for what he can sell and what he can’t sell
  • We need the commission structure cast iron into stone
  • In general, we need someone to run due diligence on the team to see if they’re chasing leads, following up with leads and the like

If I work on these elements – our sales team will be in a significantly stronger position than they are now.

The other thing I still feel is absent is a full-time salesperson working on outbound. We have three people in the team who are kept busy enough but I feel we would benefit from someone who’s full-time and focussed upon sales alone…

I’m not sure on this yet – we will see.

Client Management

Client Management

We need someone who understands SEO and Lead Generation management well enough to be on calls with all clients and work through all of their challenges.

This will mean going through all of my old recorded calls to understand how I manage clients. Working to understand SEO and Lead Generation to an extremely high level, and then transition to working with clients.

They’ll also need to understand deal negotiation, dealing with client conflict and dealing with generally difficult situations.

Even the act of me writing about all of this this morning is spurring big action >>>


I’m trying to do everything I can to accelerate our movement in this direction.

Energy goes where attention flows – or something to this effect.

This is definitely space I’m most fearful of – but I’m confident that all I need to do is get through this ‘one week’ where many many things will go wrong…

And then I can come back the next week and start working to fix all of them (i.e pissed off clients)

Operations (SEO)


So this is the delivery of actual work and is the most challenging part of your business in many ways.

On the SEO side of our business – the challenge we have is that we need to be able to build link-diversity when it comes to landing our clients features.

Especially as clients progress with us and expectations increase.

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With this in mind – here’s what I think needs to happen:

  • The content team have a dedicated PR person who does 8 pitches per week per client
  • We also add a PR release for each client every 2-months to ‘wow’ them – and ask them for potential titles (even if it has little ‘SEO’ value)

Operations (Lead Generation)

Lead generation

So in this area, I have someone I’m hoping to build the organization around in Prishani. She seems invested and is potentially in this for the long-haul which is fantastic.

Then there is Lokesh who is working alongside her who looks more and more promising as time passes and could potentially be her 2nd in command.

They’ll likely need one more person who would be excellent on messages which will likely come in time from the placement programme.

In general, it’s just a case of upskilling the current team, building better processes, better reporting and all.

The delivery is challenging at the moment more than anything – because the team feels like it IS the right team.

So what I’m doing currently is –

  • Buying more courses to give to the team so we can improve our general cold outreach skills
  • Building better technology around the team we currently have so reporting gets easier (i.e having a reporting dashboard for our clients)
  • Testing different means of generating leads for our clients in order to drive results

Hopefully, these things will just improve themselves over time.



I have Lydia and my accountant Varun – and I’m hoping to give Lydia more and more access to my banking so she can manage more of my accounts which will certainly make things easier.

We’re definitely progressing in that direction – but there are still tasks I need to do which I don’t really want to do – so with Lydia (our head of internal operations) we’re slowly working towards a resolution…

I think the next steps are:

  • Give Lydia access to all my banking details with view access
  • Ask Varun what else she can learn so she’s in a position to be able to do everything
  • Ask Lydia to build training videos so if she’s away someone else can work through these elements

Lydia has already begun making payments internally and checking if client payments come in – but there are still certain payments she doesn’t make – however I am thinking I can send enough money into Transferwise and this will solve that issue in fact.



This is in relation to brand and lead growth.

Thankfully I feel in this space we are strong.

I’m a huge producer of content (as you can tell lol) and I believe this will pay dividends in the future as I keep building out my blog.

Then the SaaS software I’m building will be of huge benefit to my agency I hope (Serpwizz) in time.

Notwithstanding that there is the content team churning out content consistently which is excellent. Then the SEO team keep building links, and the PR team keep landing links.

I think if I establish one full-time Head of Content and PR that would be excellent to oversee all of the people on the placement programme.

But generally, there’s enough activity here that’s happening that’s solid.

Cold email I hope to ‘figure out’ how to make work, alongside PPC – these are the two current areas of focus – and if they don’t end up working – then maybe Facebook ads could be another area of focus – which I intend to get around to at some point.

Final Thoughts


With a business that’s so dependent upon services – it’s very difficult to replace yourself – but something that’s eminently achievable.

2021 is about working towards that goal and there are many oars I’m pointing in that direction so I can make my ship ultimately more buoyant – even if I’m not aboard – we will see how it plays out 😉