Brutally Honest Advice for Going From Doer to Manager

May 17, 2023

Going from doer to manager in your agency is not something you want to take lightly.

It’s actually a big deal and something you better prepare for. Rachel Klaver and I know, because we have been there,… and fell flat on our face!

BUT we got up and now know better.

And we're here to share our brutally honest advice and our learnings with you!

This episode needs a story to start it off.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, Rachel was a teacher on a mission. Her ambition was becoming a principal. Because... that’s what you do. 🙌

During a career interview with her school principal, the principal made an admission: Principalship may look like the ultimate goal, but it was a step to be taken with caution. Because the big transition from doer to leader comes with many, many challenges. Proof in point,... the accomplished principal himself passionately missed being in front of the classroom.

Rachel never forgot the story.

Interestingly, it proved immensely valuable later down the track.

But let me introduce Rachel first.

The Making Of An Accidental Manager: Rachel Klaver

Rachel Klaver has done the miles with her marketing agency.

She started off on her own, found success.

That is... she grew and grew and grew. Until she realised her business was kaput! 😱

Deeply broken on so many levels! The agency was bleeding money, she was trying to do everything, staff were locking horns, and Rachel... was hating all of it.


As for the many mistakes, pitfalls and misconceptions...

She ticked them off, each and every one.

BUT ultimately she overcame them. And that’s when you learn and become better at what you do. (She also got a bit greyer in the process, but that on a side note.)

So, here she is! Ready to talk about all the do’s and don’ts when you’re moving from doer to manager in your business.

Going From Doer To Manager: 10 Is The Magic Number

Here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, we are a country of DIY-ers.
We’re (rightfully) proud of it too.

It’ll be no surprise that this side of our New Zealand culture also shows in business:
A staggering 87.5% of New Zealand businesses in 2022 had 5 or fewer employees (Infometrics NZ).

That’s a lot of small business owners!

And maybe, just maybe, there is a reason for that number of employees. 🤔

Because, it’s been Rachel's experience that something happens when you reach the 10 to 15 staff mark. Interestingly, it was the same for me.


Once you get to the double digits with your staff number, you get confronted with the need to make the transition from being the doer to being the manager of your agency. No more hiding or avoiding.

And while that sounds like a ‘Oh yeah’ kinda mention. It’s actually massive! And very few of us are prepared for it..

Both Rachel and I stubbled over it at our first attempt.


And we’re here to share our learnings so you don’t have to go through it like we did when the number 10 is looming.

8 Tips For Going From Doer To Manager In Your Agency

So let’s talk about the challenges AND the solutions when you make the transition from doer to leader.

1. Big Is Good... Or Not?

Somehow we have this idea (real or presumed) that business success can be measured by the amount of staff we employ. Rachel's business counted 14 heads, but successful it was not!

Growing your business and subsequently (inadvertently) having to face the transition from doer to leader may be right for you. BUT MAYBE IT’S NOT?! It doesn’t make your business less successful.

Maybe you’re a great teacher, but an unhappy principal!? 🤔

Our advice: Don’t get caught up in external pressure, simply because you are ambitious and want to perceive as successful. Do it because it’s the right thing for you and your business. 

2. Less Is More

Talking about making the assumptions: Rachel (and me) had the idea that in order to grow as a business, we needed to offer the entire range of services.

Because clients want a one-stop-shop, right?

Reality thought us both that not only are you spreading yourself thin, it’s also not possible to be good at everything. So when Rachel and I re-worked our broken businesses, we both clicked on how important it is to focus on what you love and what you’re good at.

Our advice: Reflect on what you really want to be known for. Play to your strengths and interests.

3. The Price Is Right

When Rachel set up her business, she was freelancing.

Her pricing reflected that situation. As her team grew, her prices... remained the same.

What she failed to recognise is that a larger team comes with extra cost... which she needed to allow for. (There is a reason agencies usually charge more. 😉)

Our advice: Get your pricing right when you’re small before you take on an extra person. That includes making sure you're paying yourself (Yep, she didn’t do that!).

Golden tip: If the transition from doer to manager in your business is looming, Rachel highly recommends reading ‘Profit First’ by Mike Michalowicz.

4. You Guessed It...Systems And Processes

Yep, systems and processes need to be on point.

Because as you’re moving from doer to manager, you’re no longer in control of how things are done. Unless... you have clear instructions and guidelines in place!

You’ve heard me speak about this numerous times. And Rachel is adding volume to my call. Bottom-line: getting systems and processes sorted is essential!

Our advice: You need to have your processes in place before you add more staff to the team. You can learn about how to do this in episode 79. You can find it here.

5. Take These Broken Wings...

At one stage in her business journey, Rachel had a business built on single mums and women with broken wings. Something that to this day she‘s proud of and continues to do... in moderation.

BECAUSE running a service-based agency can get taxing on the wing span and if the wheels come off internally,’re in trouble.

Not until it was too late, Rachel realised: when you’re in the business of fixing lame ducks, you can’t afford to put energy into fixing your own broken wings.

Our advice: Make sure your ‘internal affairs’ are in good order before your business grows to the point you need to make the transition from doer to leader. This includes your and the staff’s (mental) health, personal situations, internal quarles, power games that may be playing out, etc.

6. Making The Hard Calls Is Part Of The Deal

I know, I know... you don’t want to hear about this.

As a matter of fact, we’re not too keen to talk about it either.

But the reality is... neither Rachel nor I have been able to avoid making staff redundant during our business journey. We didn’t do it lightly either. In short, it was horrible.

But when the foundations of your business are broken, sometimes going back to the beginning is the only way out.

Trust us, we tried....

Rachel has a story about how her business was bleeding money left, right and centre. She also wasn’t paying herself. After some wise advice, she concluded one person needed to go. At the end of the bad news meeting,.. the person to be made redundant came out of the meeting... with a pay rise.

Or how not to be a business leader... 😉

Our advice: Making tough calls is part of being in business. And it doesn’t get easier as you transition from doer to manager.

It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

So when you looked at it from all angles, tried all the alternatives, and you’ve concluded that a hard call is the only way out, make sure you have support, both in business and personal.

7. Get that Business Coach... NOW!

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Going from doer to manager in your business is much harder than many of us expect.

The thing is, you don’t know what you don’t know.... But with what she knows now, Rachel wouldn’t go there without the back-up support of a business coach.

Our advice: Get a business coach to guide you through the transition. Don’t wait until the wheels come off. Proof in point: both Rachel and I now have a business coach. I’ve dedicated a previous blog and podcast on where business owner go for support and advice. You can find it here.

8. R For Reflection

Something else Rachel and I agree on…

As you make the transition from doer to leader, life doesn’t get quieter than it was before.

But contrary to what you may assume, keeping up with the go-go-go is not the way to be your best self as a business leader.

Our advice: Both Rachel and I learned that some business reflection time once a week, or every fortnight, is not a luxury. It’s the perfect way to keep the finger on the pulse and consider what you’re happy with AND what needs tweaking before it becomes an issue that forces you to go back to the beginning.

Moving From Doer To Manager And Need Help?

And that is all we have time for, friends.

To be fair, there is much more to say on the topic and, of course, everybody’s situation is unique.

So, if you want a listening ear, a business coach who has done the miles, or a marketing strategist who has her sh*t sorted, we’re your gals! Because we both made the mistakes, and we now know better.

We’d love to hear from you!

Connect with Rachel Klaver from Identify Marketing and Consulting Ltd






You can also find Rachel on TikTok. I haven’t made the jump yet, but it sounds like she’s plotting something she’s quite excited about. 😊

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