How To Start (Or Expand) Your Agency In The USA

by | Oct 23, 2020

Ever thought about opening your agency in the USA? 3SidedCube is about to do just that.

Puff is part of the leadership team at 3SidedCube and has recently become the co-founder of 3SidedCube USA.

‘Around five years ago, we went to New York, did some networking and searched for some office space. We were only there for the week, but by the end  we realised we were not at all ready for any kind of move or set-up in America. We had a few US clients and a presence in the market, but our processes weren’t quite there, and we had other fires going on in the agency.’

‘We came back to the UK, put a leadership team in place and worked towards a place where 70% of our overhead costs are covered by reoccurring revenue, this gave us the financial freedom to be selective about the projects we take on and also to reinvest and grow in other territories.’

‘As most other businesses do when they look to have a US office, we had previously only considered New York, but after some initial research we narrowed it down to 4 possibilities: Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Charlotte, North Carolina. Whilst making our decision we had to have both a business hat on, and a personal hat and consider lots of factors.’

For example, the business side of us needed to consider:

  • Is there an established network we can draw upon in this place?
  • Are we close to our existing US clients in Washington?
  • Is there good office space?

 

But, the personal side of the decision needed to consider:

  • Is this move right for me and my family?
  • How would this change our lifestyle?
  • Would this city have the same quality of life and fulfil us in the same way?

 

‘The challenge with New York, is that it is just extraordinarily expensive to build a team. We went to Chicago next and networked with a few people we didn’t know in the industry and it was quite a welcoming place. The neighbourhoods are really lovely and the lifestyle felt very suited to my family.’

When discussing culture differences, Puff explains that in Chicago she was surprised at the ratio of men to women in tech. ‘People are surprised when I walk into a room, a room that is usually full of men. I think we can use this to our advantage, they aren’t expecting what they get.’

’23 days after setting up the US branch, we had secured our first global client for a brand we are really excited about. I hate RFPs, they aren’t fun and typically in the US they are followed by the letter. For the first deal we were about to make I did something a little out there. On the day of the proposal I told the client that they had 3 minutes to answer 8 questions. If they got them right, they would be sent the proposal, but if they didn’t then the proposal would self-destruct.’

‘We sent them to a website to do the quiz which not only showed them how technologically competent we were, but also about the fun side of our culture that is really important when defining who we are as a company. They weren’t used to seeing that level of creativity within a brief or a proposal and we won.’

‘One big difference we found quite quickly was that in the UK you would be competing against 3-4 agencies at the RFP stage, but in the US you can easily be competing against 40-50. Although, the budgets within the companies in the US is a lot bigger so one win would be worth considerably more there than in the UK.’

When asked about what she feels the differences will be culturally at 3SidedCube US, Puff suggests that whilst at the UK branch the processes have been refined over a decade, with the US branch she has moved back into start up mode where she does what she likes. A’lthough this is fun and exciting, I’m trying to take the learnings from the UK and take them with me into the US. It will be different, but I’m not yet sure how.’

‘Initially we applied for an E2 visa because that seemed to be the norm and we didn’t want to pay for an immigration lawyer because we thought we could do it ourselves. But before we finished, we found out that we qualified for an E1 visa. An E1 visa is for those that are already involved in doing business with the US, it should be quicker. Eventually we did go for an immigration lawyer. The process is long and soul-destroying but we are getting there.’

When asked about what success looks like the US office, Puff suggests that they have put a lot of metrics in place and that they have a long runway to get things set up. ‘If after 2-3 years it is a money pit, then we have learnt from that and I will return to the UK. We have a contingency plan in place but in all honesty that is not an option, we have US clients and we just need to persevere with it.’