Founded by Erika Taylor Montgomery in 2005, Three Girls Media, Inc. (TGM) is a full-service digital marketing agency that provides social media management, blogging, email marketing, advertising, graphic design, website design and development, and search engine optimization.
TGM saw a lot of success, but by 2022, Erika realized she was working too many hours as TGM’s President and CEO. She wanted to separate herself from the day-to-day grind of managing a team, producing creative, and developing marketing strategies. She was the only salesperson, too, which meant she handled a lot of sales calls and proposals. Erika’s assistant lightened the load, but even then, it was too much for the founder and her scrappy team.
Erika decided it was time to find more balance in her life. “We wanted to position ourselves for an exit strategy for the business,” she says. The problem was Erika wasn’t sure how to even begin exiting from the business. Beyond the Chaos Client Spectrum Group Online recommended Erika reach out for assistance to create her exit plan.
The Goal: Create an Exit-friendly Business
Erika was having lots of meetings and her email inbox was flooded with an overwhelming number of messages. Erika wanted Three Girls Media to run independently so she could enjoy some much-needed breathing room. Her goal was to separate herself from the daily management of TGM within 12 to 18 months.
But she needed to find a strategic way to remove herself from the business while allowing her 11 employees to continue working independently — without her input. TGM was a successful marketing agency, but it faced several challenges that made it difficult to exit the business.
TGM used Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to manage client invoicing, which made it difficult to manage all client payments at scale. The team used Trello internally as a storage system but not for project management. All project management happened via email, which meant Erika’s institutional knowledge was trapped in her inbox.
TGM also had the added challenge of employee management and communication. The company held one-hour meetings every Monday morning where employees shared their wins and project statuses. But without a project management platform and processes, Erika had to take her employees’ word for how things were going. Some employees completed their work in Google Docs, while others used Microsoft Word. Some employees were even tracking reminders and tasks on Post-It notes on their computers.
Overall, Erika wanted a more consistent, systematic approach for TGM. She knew it was high time to make changes in her business, so she began working with Chaos Killer Andrea Stevens to put in the work required to exit from TGM.
The Tactics: Procedural Improvements and Greater Clarity
“Beyond The Chaos met with us to understand our goals and the timeframe around them, as well as our business model and structure,” Erika explains. She and Andrea worked together to simplify TGM’s workflows and build a stronger foundation, so the business could take on more clients while decreasing Erika’s workload.
Cleaner Processes and Teamwork.com Migration
Since TGM used Trello to store resources, not to manage projects, they needed a proper project management tool to keep track of all communications, tasks, and work. BTC set the company up with Teamwork.com. This gave TGM a central list of clients, projects, and tasks and templates for training, onboarding employees, and onboarding clients.
BTC also created a centralized Google Drive to keep all folders, client materials, proposals, and statements of work (SOWs) in one place. Instead of siloing information in everyone’s email, anyone could access important information in a shared drive.
BTC educated TGM’s managers and employees on project management techniques and provided custom-tailored training based on how they use Teamwork.com. This method gave every employee one-on-one time to understand the software’s advanced features, which improved adoption. BTC also trained TGM’s accountant on time reporting practices in Teamwork.com, which allowed TGM to stop using QuickBooks Time and consolidate all business data into a single platform.
While TGM’s Monday standup meetings became more data-driven thanks to the addition of Teamwork.com, BTC recognized that the company still needed more opportunities for clarity and collaboration.
That’s why TGM added a Friday update email to its workflow. Account managers started sending a Friday review email to each client, explaining what the team accomplished that week and the plan for next week.
BTC also helped TGM create tasks for quarterly client check-ins. These simple, templated emails helped to check in on clients every three months as part of an ongoing retention effort.
To successfully leave the business, Erika needed to restructure TGM to offload client work to her team. With BTC’s help, TGM trained in-house marketing managers based in the United States and a handful of marketing specialists in the Philippines.
The Results: Building the Foundation for a CEO’s Exit
Beyond The Chaos helped streamline how Three Girls Media managed projects by adding consistency and transparency to all stages of its workflow. The time reporting and invoicing features in Teamwork.com alone were a huge help to overworked Erika. “Beyond the Chaos provided actionable steps for us to take to reach our goals and provided accountability and feedback along the way,” she says.
While Erika is currently working toward exiting the business, she believes that BTC laid the foundation for her to start exiting more graciously from the company she founded many years ago. “We are in a much better position as a business and have the structure and tools in place to allow us to meet our eventual goal — exiting the business,” Erika says. “Change isn’t easy but we’re grateful for Beyond the Chaos and the process we went through.”
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