The picture on the left is when I started Retailbound in 2006. The picture on the right is circa 2023. When I made the decision to start my own agency 15+ years ago, I knew what I wanted to achieve.  I wanted to help both product start-ups and established manufacturers scale their business in retail.

At least once a month, I get a request from a retail buyer who is looking to go out on their own and start their own consulting agency.  They always ask the same question – what’s your secret?

I share with them my 10 biggest lessons I have learned along the way since starting Retailbound. They are….


Creating a business is tough. I mean really tough!  The hours are long and the pay is low. You need a very good support system to cheer you on and keep everything in check. When I quit a stable high paying job many years ago, most people thought I was nuts. Not my wife!  She provided the support and confidence I needed to push through the long days and hard work to make my dream a reality!


If you have seen the 1991 movie “City Slickers”, Billy Crystal “Mitch” wanted to know the meaning of life from Jack Palance “Curly”.  Curly says “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean sh**!” Mitch says “But, what is the “one thing?” Curly smiles and says, “That’s what you have to find out.”  As per the course, Mitch is perplexed, but the moral of the story is that each person has to find what makes them happy, hold on to it, and remember it.

Find out what your “one thing” is and stick to it! It’s easy to get caught in the trap of constantly expanding your service offering as existing clients start enquiring about new things.  Do what you do best, and new business will continue to come to you.


Selling doesn’t just happen before a new client relationship. It occurs during every interaction with a client. Just like being married, you need to continue to convince your clients that they made the right decision every day.


This is one of the most important tips I can offer. Choose the right clients! It’s seeming simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many agency owners I talk to wish they followed my advice. When you’re starting out, it feels like you don’t have a choice; you need to work to pay the bills.

The problem is that if you’re not careful, you will find yourself months or years down the line and your mindset may have not changed. In my experience, this happens because we get caught up with the short-term gain and ignore the warning signs of a “problem client”.  Like a marriage, you hope the relationship with a new client goes the distance. I have been pretty good at selecting the right clients to work with. In 15+ years and the countless number of clients we have had over the years, I have only fired 5 clients.


Knowing what you’re worth is so important! While we charge an hourly fee for a specific number of hours per week, I guarantee me, and my team sometimes go over our “allotted hours” for the week.  Working with both clients and retailers don’t arrive in sequence with a timing plan. So habitually, every task or project we do goes beyond what’s expected and most our clients do take notice. We want them to see the quality first and foremost but when they see the value based on how far we go with the execution of our strategies, they are impressed. Don’t believe me??? Check the 60+ testimonials on my personal Linkedin page. Over-delivering is one of our core values. And because we always do it, it allows us to keep our prices at a certain rate without having to drop them or our standards.


This is an obvious one of course! Over the years, I have been very fortunate to surround myself with associates who are much smarter than me.  When I interview potential candidates for our agency, I take my time versus rush the process. My philosophy is “hire slow and fire fast”. In 15+ years, I have only fired 2 associates.  Trust the process!

One of the first things I did when I started Retailbound, was to create a Strategy Advisory Board. I figured there are things I did not know and wanted people smarter than me helping shape Retailbound as the company it is today.  Every few years, we change the members on the Board to keep things fresh here at the agency.


Networking is one of the most important lessons I learned along the way. It doesn’t matter if you run an accounting firm or a PR agency, networking is a great way to establish business connections and acquire clients.  

Networking has also helped me learn how different agencies run their businesses. Over the years, we have incorporated some of things I have learned from other agencies here at Retailbound.  Linkedin is a great tool to help you network with other agencies. A majority of our clients come from agency partner referrals.  I try to add at least one new person to my “network” each month.


When you first start out, it’s very easy to be accessible to both your clients and employees. However, as your agency grows and acquires more clients and employees, it becomes easier to lose sight of the importance of maintaining a personal touch with every client or employee.

Over the years, I have improved my time management skills. You have to create time for your clients. You have to create time for your employees or associates.  In order to run a successful agency, you need to have an “open door” policy. Making yourself accessible to both your clients and employees will definitely pay dividends for years to come.


If you want to be accessible to both your clients and/or employees, you need to standardize your workflow or processes. Our entire team of retail consultants follow a set of processes I developed years ago, including templates, content, tools, etc.  This helps with managing our time better but more importantly, lays the foundation for consistency in deliverables as well as provides a great framework for onboarding new team members.


Years of experience has helped me develop valuable instincts for running Retailbound. For example, our Director of Business Development recently brought to my attention a potential client he has been pursuing that was interested in our services. While on paper, this lead was a good match for Retailbound, there were “red flags” that I noticed during our conversations with them.   Obviously, we did not go forward with this particular lead. While I felt bad for turning down a potential client, I knew that if we moved forward with this lead, there could have been major problems for both us and our retailers in the future. A couple of $$ in our bank is not worth the trouble.

These are my top 10 lessons I have learned in 15+ years in business.  I hope these help you start a new agency or run a current agency.

While this is a “top 10” list, there is one more tip I want to give. It’s important to remember that no matter how busy things get, take time out to celebrate your victories and accomplishments as an agency!  I can’t believe I have been in business for over 15+ years. Here’s to another 15 more!