BACK TO BLOG
Interviews

Growing An Agency to $2M ARR In 2 Years

Work Hero
November 19, 2022

Nate Turner

Co-founder & CEO of Ten Speed

Content marketing & SEO agency that helps SaaS companies grow their brand

Launched:  

1. Hello! Who are you, where are you located and what is your business?

Nate Turner, Co-founder & CEO of Ten Speed. We are a content marketing & SEO agency that helps SaaS companies growth their brand and hit their next revenue milestone. Specifically, we:

  • Develop content strategies to attract the clients’ ICP
  • Create optimized content and refresh existing content with a unique POV
  • Improve on-site and technical SEO
  • Support content distribution with social content creation and repurposing
  • Handle the content operations of scheduling, creative, and publishing 

We are a fully-remote agency with team members in 7 states.

2. What is your backstory and how did you come up with this idea?

My co-founder Kevin and I spent many years at Sprout Social building and scaling the inbound engine. Content marketing and SEO were a big part of the growth we achieved there. 

Kevin moved on to be the VP of Marketing at ReviewTrackers where he had a lot of success bringing a lot of our content & SEO learnings there. I began consulting for a number of SaaS companies and saw the opportunity to do more with content & SEO in these companies. 

Over time, we discussed what we had experienced from multiple companies and how we believed that there was a lot of opportunity for early and growth-stage SaaS companies to leverage what we could do to fuel their growth without having to build out a team in-house.

I think our biggest challenges early on were all related to defining our services in a way that reflected our deep experience as in-house SaaS marketers and were bringing substantial value to our clients. 

We did a lot of interviews with founders and marketers early on and still continue to solicit feedback and input from folks to make sure our services meet the needs of our ideal clients.

3. How did you get your first customers?

We started the company in the second half of 2020 with two of my consulting clients as our first clients and then launched publicly in December 2020. 

We found a lot of our initial growth from my existing clients or close connections in the space. However, we knew that would not sustain our desired growth for long, so we invested early in our own marketing to create quality content and build a brand that would attract the type of companies we want to work with.

We put a lot of attention on Linkedin and developing/fostering relationships with those who refer us work. This gives us a good balance of inbound and referral sources to continue growing.

4. Describe the process of launching your agency. What lessons were learned along the way?

Kevin and I put in a small amount (I think $2500 total) to get started — setting up the LLC and partnership agreement, logo design, etc. From there, we have been bootstrapped and using our profits to fund our growth. 

When we launched, we really just focused on leveraging our personal networks to get the word out and then focused on being a guest on as many podcasts as possible. 

There wasn’t anything substantial or flashy about the launch process. We knew from our experience at startups that there isn’t one thing that you do to magically transform your growth and that it is a series of compounding efforts over time, so we leaned into that from the beginning.

Our initial clients got a really great deal and were open to things modifying a bit as we worked out the kinks in our process. This was really helpful in allowing us to continue refining early on without feeling like we were locked into a rigid statement of work. 

5. Since your early days, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Our own content marketing and SEO have been a growing contributor in acquiring and retaining clients. We started our podcast in 2021 and have been focused on repurposing that into video clips for social and YouTube content. We also create our own blog content and guides, run a growing monthly newsletter, and create a lot of content for Linkedin. 

We also work to maintain relationship with our clients and partners that refer work to us, ensuring that they understand the successes we’ve had and any changes or additions to the services we offer. 

Being easy to work with, giving away a lot of value for free, and providing a good experience for people has gone a long way and will remain a core component of how we grow in the future.

6. What were your challenges and obstacles in growing your agency?

We haven’t ever reached a point where we considered giving up, but every day, week, and month is a rollercoaster for sure. 

We enjoyed a lot of growth in 2021 as companies continued to grow out of the Covid impact and SaaS companies were raising large rounds of funding. 

Given our focus on SaaS, we’ve certainly seen some of the impact from the broader economic challenges and valuation crunch on technology companies, resulting in budget cuts and layoffs for a lot of SaaS companies. 

Our focus has been to continue doing great work for our clients, manage cash flow closely, and take a 3-5 year outlook on this instead of wasting energy and focus on the near-term challenges.

7. What has been helpful to you to grow your agency?

There are A LOT of tactical and operational things that can eat up a lot of our time as we operate and scale the agency. 

We utilize OKRs to make sure we’re focused on the right things each quarter and work to make sure we reassess when we’re getting bogged down with low-leverage activities. 

8. What is your advice for anyone looking to start an agency?

  • Prove out your services with 2-3 clients on the side first. Don’t jump right in with no clients or understanding if your services will be valued
  • Build a network of folks that know you and your work, so they feel comfortable vouching for you, even if they haven’t been a client before
  • Make sure you understand the cost structures and how to manage cash flow effectively
  • Invest time and resources to build your own brand
  • Hire the best people you can and invest in their growth and development

9. How are you doing today and what does your future look like?

‍Despite some market challenges, we are still growing over 100% YoY and have a positive outlook heading into 2023. We launched at the end of 2020 and are now at $2m ARR and a team of 9 full-time and several contractors. 

We have made some really good investments into the foundation of our business, including SOPs, our PM process, proprietary frameworks, and automation, so we are excited to continue building on this in the next year. 

We have seen first-hand the value of pairing optimized content with really good content marketing and distribution, so we have been expanding our services to cover more of the content marketing and content operations side of things. We expect this will continue to benefit us as work with more parts of the marketing function for each company while staying focused.

In the next 5 years, we plan to continue growing at a reasonable to help more SaaS companies achieve their goals, educate as many people as we can with free content, and provide continued growth opportunities for our incredible team.

10. What are some of the platforms or tools you use and companies you partner with to save yourself time, money, and hassles?

‍Asana - project management for our entire team

Ahrefs - seo research & monitoring

Clearscope - NLP analysis & research

15Five - 1:1s, performance reviews, and team engagement

Slack - team communication

11. What book or podcast recommendations do you have for agency owners?

Books: 

  • Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits
  • The Business of Expertise

Podcasts:

  • 2Bobs

12. Where can we learn more about you? (website, social channels)

Website: www.tenspeed.io

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tenspeed/

Clutch: https://clutch.co/profile/ten-speed

Other social channels: https://www.youtube.com/@ten-speed

Growing An Agency to $2M ARR In 2 Years

1. Hello! Who are you, where are you located and what is your business?

Nate Turner, Co-founder & CEO of Ten Speed. We are a content marketing & SEO agency that helps SaaS companies growth their brand and hit their next revenue milestone. Specifically, we:

  • Develop content strategies to attract the clients’ ICP
  • Create optimized content and refresh existing content with a unique POV
  • Improve on-site and technical SEO
  • Support content distribution with social content creation and repurposing
  • Handle the content operations of scheduling, creative, and publishing 

We are a fully-remote agency with team members in 7 states.

2. What is your backstory and how did you come up with this idea?

My co-founder Kevin and I spent many years at Sprout Social building and scaling the inbound engine. Content marketing and SEO were a big part of the growth we achieved there. 

Kevin moved on to be the VP of Marketing at ReviewTrackers where he had a lot of success bringing a lot of our content & SEO learnings there. I began consulting for a number of SaaS companies and saw the opportunity to do more with content & SEO in these companies. 

Over time, we discussed what we had experienced from multiple companies and how we believed that there was a lot of opportunity for early and growth-stage SaaS companies to leverage what we could do to fuel their growth without having to build out a team in-house.

I think our biggest challenges early on were all related to defining our services in a way that reflected our deep experience as in-house SaaS marketers and were bringing substantial value to our clients. 

We did a lot of interviews with founders and marketers early on and still continue to solicit feedback and input from folks to make sure our services meet the needs of our ideal clients.

3. How did you get your first customers?

We started the company in the second half of 2020 with two of my consulting clients as our first clients and then launched publicly in December 2020. 

We found a lot of our initial growth from my existing clients or close connections in the space. However, we knew that would not sustain our desired growth for long, so we invested early in our own marketing to create quality content and build a brand that would attract the type of companies we want to work with.

We put a lot of attention on Linkedin and developing/fostering relationships with those who refer us work. This gives us a good balance of inbound and referral sources to continue growing.

4. Describe the process of launching your agency. What lessons were learned along the way?

Kevin and I put in a small amount (I think $2500 total) to get started — setting up the LLC and partnership agreement, logo design, etc. From there, we have been bootstrapped and using our profits to fund our growth. 

When we launched, we really just focused on leveraging our personal networks to get the word out and then focused on being a guest on as many podcasts as possible. 

There wasn’t anything substantial or flashy about the launch process. We knew from our experience at startups that there isn’t one thing that you do to magically transform your growth and that it is a series of compounding efforts over time, so we leaned into that from the beginning.

Our initial clients got a really great deal and were open to things modifying a bit as we worked out the kinks in our process. This was really helpful in allowing us to continue refining early on without feeling like we were locked into a rigid statement of work. 

5. Since your early days, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Our own content marketing and SEO have been a growing contributor in acquiring and retaining clients. We started our podcast in 2021 and have been focused on repurposing that into video clips for social and YouTube content. We also create our own blog content and guides, run a growing monthly newsletter, and create a lot of content for Linkedin. 

We also work to maintain relationship with our clients and partners that refer work to us, ensuring that they understand the successes we’ve had and any changes or additions to the services we offer. 

Being easy to work with, giving away a lot of value for free, and providing a good experience for people has gone a long way and will remain a core component of how we grow in the future.

6. What were your challenges and obstacles in growing your agency?

We haven’t ever reached a point where we considered giving up, but every day, week, and month is a rollercoaster for sure. 

We enjoyed a lot of growth in 2021 as companies continued to grow out of the Covid impact and SaaS companies were raising large rounds of funding. 

Given our focus on SaaS, we’ve certainly seen some of the impact from the broader economic challenges and valuation crunch on technology companies, resulting in budget cuts and layoffs for a lot of SaaS companies. 

Our focus has been to continue doing great work for our clients, manage cash flow closely, and take a 3-5 year outlook on this instead of wasting energy and focus on the near-term challenges.

7. What has been helpful to you to grow your agency?

There are A LOT of tactical and operational things that can eat up a lot of our time as we operate and scale the agency. 

We utilize OKRs to make sure we’re focused on the right things each quarter and work to make sure we reassess when we’re getting bogged down with low-leverage activities. 

8. What is your advice for anyone looking to start an agency?

  • Prove out your services with 2-3 clients on the side first. Don’t jump right in with no clients or understanding if your services will be valued
  • Build a network of folks that know you and your work, so they feel comfortable vouching for you, even if they haven’t been a client before
  • Make sure you understand the cost structures and how to manage cash flow effectively
  • Invest time and resources to build your own brand
  • Hire the best people you can and invest in their growth and development

9. How are you doing today and what does your future look like?

‍Despite some market challenges, we are still growing over 100% YoY and have a positive outlook heading into 2023. We launched at the end of 2020 and are now at $2m ARR and a team of 9 full-time and several contractors. 

We have made some really good investments into the foundation of our business, including SOPs, our PM process, proprietary frameworks, and automation, so we are excited to continue building on this in the next year. 

We have seen first-hand the value of pairing optimized content with really good content marketing and distribution, so we have been expanding our services to cover more of the content marketing and content operations side of things. We expect this will continue to benefit us as work with more parts of the marketing function for each company while staying focused.

In the next 5 years, we plan to continue growing at a reasonable to help more SaaS companies achieve their goals, educate as many people as we can with free content, and provide continued growth opportunities for our incredible team.

10. What are some of the platforms or tools you use and companies you partner with to save yourself time, money, and hassles?

‍Asana - project management for our entire team

Ahrefs - seo research & monitoring

Clearscope - NLP analysis & research

15Five - 1:1s, performance reviews, and team engagement

Slack - team communication

11. What book or podcast recommendations do you have for agency owners?

Books: 

  • Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits
  • The Business of Expertise

Podcasts:

  • 2Bobs

12. Where can we learn more about you? (website, social channels)

Website: www.tenspeed.io

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tenspeed/

Clutch: https://clutch.co/profile/ten-speed

Other social channels: https://www.youtube.com/@ten-speed