Searching for the perfect agency

Carina Linhares
September 28, 2022

It's time for this week's rundown of the My Biggest Lessons podcast! Pete Sena, founder of Digital Surgeons, joined Chris Meade on the pod to take a deep dive into his years of expertise and lessons in founding a brand experience agency. You can watch the full episode below! ⤵

Chris Meade had one rule when he started the My Biggest Lessons podcast: focus the show on brand owners, not agency people. So, who could persuade him to make an exception to this rule?

Pete Sena. A design-driven entrepreneur, Pete started Digital Surgeons in 2004 from his college dorm room at the University of Connecticut. With a passion for coding and design, Pete was determined to create cool things for cool brands. In the beginning, he took every single job that came his way, which contributed to the wealth of knowledge and skills he now has 18 years later.

Digital Surgeons is a brand experience consultancy, focused on brand strategy and design. They've built up their level of expertise to work with some of the largest brands in the world, including Fortune 500 enterprise brands, venture-backed startups, and even celebrities like Lady Gaga and Kanye West.

Pete has taken his years of experience with his agency and is now helping new entrepreneurs, brands, and agency owners find their purpose (alongside some angel investing). Starting from his dorm room wasn't an easy task, and there were many lessons Pete learned along the way to turn Digital Surgeons into the successful agency it is today. Curious to learn more? Keep on reading! ⤵

Finding your why❓

One of the biggest questions new founders and startups have when it comes to agencies is, "why should we hire you?". For Pete, the answer is simple: agencies can help you find your why.

A staggering 99% of startups fail, and most of the time, according to the data, it is because of product market fit. Pete's approach to solving this issue with new founders is 3 simple questions:

  1. What is the problem your product/service solves?
  2. What is the brand personality and how is it expressed?
  3. How do you express all of this across your channels?

Having an agency guide you through building your brand and brand experience can be the difference between making it or failing. 

Starting an agency ✅

For any budding entrepreneurs out there considering starting an agency, Pete has one piece of advice: "Don't start a f**king agency." Well, for the stubborn people out there, that's not his only piece of advice. 

If you’d like to start an agency at any cost, or even a brand for that matter, you need to really, deeply consider why you want to start this agency or brand. Ask yourself, "is there a very specific type of craft or tactic I want to deliver?". If not, an agency might not be the right answer.

Agencies are an incredible place for people to develop skills and portfolios quickly, whether you work for one or start one. But, if there's not a very specific problem you're looking to solve in the world, starting an agency is not the answer. 

Find your passion 🔍

One thing both Pete and Chris emphasize for new founders is to take your time finding your passion. Only a few people are privileged with knowing what they want to do from a young age and being passionate about it.

Pete's advice for young people just getting started in their careers: experiment. Open up your palate to a lot of different things, try things you might suck at, and put the reps in to see what works and what doesn’t. 

One thing Pete wishes he had done earlier in his career was to establish his Zone of Genius. Not paying enough attention to his own needs, he became miserable, even though his company was continuously scaling to success. After taking some time to discover himself, he realized that finding a balance between the things you're good at and the things that make you happy helps guide you in your work and direct you towards your passion.

Metrics don't always matter 📊

Yes, of course, numbers are important when running a business, but they aren't always driving the success behind branding. Creating a story, an experience that people want to get behind, something that people can relate to, is a huge force behind sales and success.

For Chris and CROSSNET, as an example, the brand experience is all about being active and creating memories with family, friends, and loved ones. By leaning into their brand voice and personality, they've been immensely successful in scaling their sales.


Want to learn more about ecommerce growth through the personal trials and obstacles of industry professionals? Subscribe to the My Biggest Lessons podcast on YouTube, Spotify, and wherever else you listen to podcasts.