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3 Things You Must Have to Push Your Growth as a Digital Agency Owner

You’re stuck. In a funk. You’ve hit the ceiling.

You wake up one day, and you’re not happy with the work you’re producing, the state of your business, or the impact you’re having on the world.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 19 years, and I’ve experienced this state a multitude of times. If you find yourself here, you’re not alone.

As I put down Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday, there was a passage that jumped out at me as a brilliant solution to the above problems and so much more.

A solution I had embraced by dumb luck over the last two decades at various times. The same I had built into the fabric of my company, UGURUS, a business school for digital agency owners.

“The mixed martial arts pioneer and multi-title champion Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus, and equal. Each fighter, to become great, he said, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.”

-Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy

Ryan goes on to explain why the Plus, Minus, Equals framework is so vital to destroying your ego and maintaining the student mindset. There are always more talented people in the world at our thing, and by adopting this mindset, we can learn from them and their experience vs. suffer away through trial and error.


Books, podcasts, courses, and keynotes are all forms of looking up to someone you admire and pulling their experience into your worldview.

But I have to think that Shamrock means getting a better fighter in the ring with you – not just watching some tape. As someone who spent a good deal of time in high school and college boxing, there is a big difference between watching someone from afar get punched and getting a wallop in the ring so bad you pee blood.

The first entrepreneurial mentor that got in the ring with me was a Denver restaurateur named Noel. I was twenty-four, and he walked out the front door of his busy fine dining establishment on a packed Friday night with a tray full of gourmet sliders to our patio across the street. We had been enjoying a sunny fall afternoon with friends, and he thought we must be hungry by now.

I had never been inside his restaurant before that night. I became a customer for life.

Over the next six years, Noel taught me so much. Not through classes or lectures, but by showing me the good entrepreneurship could do in the world. How every interaction counts with customers, employees, and your community. Why the details and small things often have a more significant impact than the big stuff. He let me know when I was an idiot. But sometimes he just watched as I had to learn hard lessons on my own. And then he’d inquire about how that worked out.

Said differently, he jumped in the ring with me and gave me a few jabs to the face.


Every entrepreneur can leave a legacy. Not just with their products and services and lasting company. But with the lessons, they pass down to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I have no idea why I wrote my first blog post trying to help out other agency owners when I was running my digital agency. Conventional wisdom would suggest that sharing what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why as a business owner is probably a bad idea. People told me that my competition would use it against me. They said that my customers might discover how I’m selling and use it to get a better deal.

There were a lot of good reasons why not to do what I was doing. Until I read Shamrock’s quote, I hadn’t understood why sharing through my blog had been so influential. Teaching others about everything I was doing made me stop and think about what I was doing. As I wrote and recorded hundreds of videos, I found a lot of issues. Found myself thinking, “why the heck do I do that instead of this.”

In hindsight, I think one of my core values is to help others avoid the pain I’ve experienced. But in doing so, I ended up helping myself in unbelievable ways.

Teaching my process helped me improve my process.


There is that old quote by Jim Rohn, “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” This concept roots in the personal ecology that we have control over – who you interact with, where you build your network, and who you let into your inner-circle.

Back in 2011, I joined Entrepreneur Organizations Accelerator program. This program changed my life on a lot of levels. Up until then, I thought entrepreneurs were a bunch of people thinking of starting up a business. I didn’t realize that there was a tribe of established entrepreneurs focused on pushing themselves to the next level.

Each month we met in a confidential environment (i.e., “you DO NOT talk about fight club” sort of way). I got an opportunity to dig into my back of the house issues that I had yet to share with anyone on both the personal and professional side. I got new perspectives on old problems. Baggage that had been weighing me down for years got reconsidered. Let go.

Making this work has taken some measure of discipline. I still meet every month with one of my original group members. We meet for a three-hour breakfast once a month. Our meeting looks something like this:

  • Confidentiality reminder
  • One word open
  • Updates
    • Top and bottom 5% in business, family, and personal
    • The event that happened
    • The significance of that event to ourselves
    • The emotions this makes us feel
    • What’s coming up in the next 30-60
    • Presentation topic
  • Presentations
    • We live coach one another through our big issue
    • We ask questions to peel back the onion
    • We avoid advice and stick to reflection, and open-ended questions (why, tell me more, what I heard was…”)
  • Share experience
    • Based on the presentation, share a relevant experience
  • One word close

The basis of this meeting is going deep with a peer. We all have friends. Friends that we chit chat with and talk about the weather, a recent movie, or what books we’re reading. It’s not good enough to hang out with people like you. You have to go further if you’re to make this work like Shamrock’s fighters.

Get in the ring with your equals. Bloody yourself up by sharing what’s going on.


One of the truths I’ve learned about happiness is how much it depends on intrinsic vs. extrinsic behavior. Mastering a new skill will give you more sense of meaning and purpose than a certain number in your bank account.

There are three main intrinsic factors that matter:

  • Mastery
  • Relationships
  • Community

Shamrock’s Plus Minus Equals is a telling formula because it plays right into all three of these intrinsic factors. That’s why I’m recommending it if you’re in a funk. It’s backed up to help an individual not only master something (Plus), but to further your peer relationships (Equals), and give back to your community (Minus).

If you’re in a funk right now, not happy with where your business is at, or questioning whether you are leaving a professional legacy, take a moment to ponder each area of your life. Who is your Plus? Do you have a Minus? Your Equals?

Lacking in any of these areas could be a clue to an easy fix to get yourself to the next level. At UGURUS, we’ve built our entire community on this framework. Everyone that joins is assigned a Mentor, matched up with like-level peers, and encouraged to give back to the community by sharing victories, challenges, and experiences with others earlier in their journey.

Whether you find yours in our community or another, or out on your own, make sure you develop relationships at each level.

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