Coaching helped this agency owner reach his personal goals… and 3X his agency’s revenue in 3 years
Serial entrepreneur Mike King—the founder of Moz-recommended enterprise SEO agency iPullRank—has big goals beyond just running a successful digital marketing agency. When he and Karl Sakas connected in late 2018, Mike recognized that Executive Coaching would help him create the accountability structure he needed to reach those big goals.
With Karl’s help, Mike kept his goals front and center—which included increasing his compensation, creating space outside of the business to focus on other pursuits, and tripling his agency’s revenue in three years. Since 2014, iPullRank has delivered over $1 billion in incremental revenue for clients, and Mike was recently named Search Engine Land’s “Search Marketer of the Year.”
Getting back on track after a difficult year
iPullRank had run into some unexpected obstacles in 2017. Mike and his team spent the following year getting the agency back on track.
“At the end of 2018, we were back to a solid place and I needed help getting to the next level to make things run more smoothly towards my goals,” Mike explains. Connecting with Karl happened “at the exact right time,” as Mike was “already thinking about finding coaches for everything [he] didn’t feel [he] was good at.”
Mike realized Karl was a good fit right from the beginning.
“Karl offered a lot of value in our initial discovery discussions,” he says. “It helped that he had a great understanding not just of agencies in general, but my specific space.”
Beyond advice on specific challenges, much of their coaching revolved around reframing how Mike could take small steps now towards his future vision.
“The immediate win was Karl shifting the mindset of how I pay myself,” Mike explains. “[As the agency owner,] I was always thinking of myself as the last person to be paid.” Mike had mentioned a long-term goal of potentially selling the agency, and Karl pointed out that potential investors would expect him to be making a certain salary.
That suggestion completely shifted Mike’s perspective. “I began to pay myself first,” he says.
“Stepping out of client work is giving me space to work on the business rather than in it. I’m not the bottleneck anymore.”
–Mike King, Founder & CEO, iPullRank
An accountability mindset for whole-person coaching
During coaching, Mike now had space to pursue new goals—including ones outside of the agency. He and Karl began working towards developing an accountability mindset that would help Mike meet the high expectations he held for himself.
“Karl is laser-focused on my goals, helps me identify where I’m not living up to my own expectations, and keeps it all front and center,” he said in late 2021. “This year he has been even more valuable because, after I shared my more personal goals, he’s been coaching to the whole me rather than just the agency itself.”
One of the first things they tackled was getting Mike back into the recording studio. Mike had shifted to digital marketing after a career as a touring hip-hop artist. He wanted to release his first new record in over a decade, but he’d run into several false starts while simultaneously running the agency.
Beyond mere accountability check-ins, Karl helped Mike identify project management pieces that needed to happen to record the album—what steps could he take to get to the finish line? He suggested Mike book some studio time to create a tangible timeline, to break through the prior obstacles.
Mike noted: “This time, I actually got it done.” And he went on a multi-week tour to promote the album, while his team continued running the agency back home.
Another goal was preparing for the birth of his second daughter and creating the space to finally take paternity leave. To create a smoother transition, Karl suggested “stress-testing” the extended leave—by doing a test run away from the agency, to see what might “break” when he was out for a longer period. As an agency coach, this is the first time Karl “prescribed” a trip to South Beach.
After the new arrival, Mike was able to take a break—a huge improvement over not being able to take any time off after his first daughter’s birth.
And getting space away from the agency turned out to be helpful for the agency. Mike notes: “Stepping out of client work is giving me space to work on the business rather than in it. I’m not the bottleneck anymore.”
Graduating to the next level of accountability coaching
Accountability also played a role in Mike’s agency development. Karl coached Mike on coaching the iPullRank team.
That included knowing not just what to communicate to his team, but how to coach them. After discussing a particular recurring pain point, Karl pinpointed the root cause. Mike shifted his approach, and the pain point disappeared.
Karl also advised Mike on hiring a fractional CFO and a head of operations, to help him reach his long-term financial goals. Three years after their coaching relationship began, iPullRank has tripled its revenue—and is on track to keep growing. Mike has since graduated to quarterly coaching calls.
Giving agency owners the tools to implement their big ideas
Mike’s biggest strengths are his ideas and perseverance—he’s been able to accomplish all he has largely thanks to his never-ending drive to succeed. But having the tools and support from Karl’s coaching has helped him make significant progress towards the goal line.
“[Without Karl’s coaching,] I’d be less effective at holding myself accountable and I would continue to start good ideas and not finish them,” Mike says.
Mike’s advice to other agency owners who might think they’re not ready for coaching? “If you’re too busy to have time for help, that’s exactly why you need help from Karl. You need someone who can help you get the big picture view and guide you to stay on top of your goals.”
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