Learning from Client and Employee Turnover

Agency Leadership

It never feels good to lose a client or employee to another agency. But in the past, I let these experiences throw me off. I'd get caught comparing Barrel to other agencies, seeing only the public version of their culture, process, and company. I'd get lost thinking about how to stand out from a sea of agencies rather than how we can improve and get better.

I've learned that you can't take these moments to heart. The best I can do is to seek feedback, learn, and take action on ways to improve the future. Look forward, not back.

The more I let my guard down and connected with like-minded industry folks, the more I found that I'm not alone. We may be competing for new work or finding the best talent, but we all experience similar challenges.

The truth is that, as an agency, we've all been on both sides of these situations. In my experience at Barrel:

  • Clients have hired us to replace their existing agency in the past. Other clients have hired agencies to replace us. We once lost a project bid to an agency while simultaneously becoming their replacement with a different client.
  • Similarly, an employee once left Barrel to take a position at an agency that, just weeks before, was filled by our latest hire.

From this perspective, I realized that while we may face common roadblocks, our context is unique. We are where we are because of our unique journey. In that way, it isn't worth the time struggling to compare ourselves or stand out. We're all on our own path, playing our own game. The best we can do is focus on what's right in front of us: our current clients and team.

How can we make it feel amazing to work with us?

What do our clients appreciate about our collaboration?

What do employees value about coming to work each day?

In what ways can we improve our client and team experience?

I'm grateful for the countless lessons we have learned through the years. Many have shaped how we work and interact with clients and employees today.

Common Reasons Clients and Employees Leave An Agency

Anecdotally, here are some of the commons reasons clients and employees have cited leaving their current agency. I hadn't taken stock in these until writing this post; however, getting them all down feels like a helpful list to keep an eye on as we aim for continuous growth. I tried to focus on the factors within an agency's control.


  1. Work lacked creativity and fresh thinking
  2. Lack of enthusiasm toward client's product/offering
  3. Too expensive
  4. Managing too many workstreams, sub-par across all
  5. Slow and/or disorganized communication
  6. Falling short of expected results from the work
  7. Lack of design, UX, or development expertise
  8. Not able to work fast enough
  9. Work was not informed by data, insights, or best practices
  10. Required hand-holding, not bringing ideas to the table


  1. Unclear expectations and responsibilities
  2. No upward mobility
  3. Disengaged manager
  4. Work assignments not challenging enough
  5. Low compensation
  6. Feels unable to express opinion or give feedback
  7. No performance or feedback conversations
  8. Leadership disconnected from executing team
  9. Leadership uninterested in growth and change, stagnant process
  10. Little flexibility in at-home/office work days
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