Meet Karl Sakas & Learn How to Get It All Done When You Work in Design

We are looking forward to our June Homegrown event with Karl Sakas, president of global consulting firm Agency Firebox.

Karl’s talk, 25 Hours in the Day: How to Get It All Done When You Work in Design, will show you “how to get it all done” and will show attendees:

  1. How to set (and uphold) priorities,
  2. How to delegate effectively as a leader (even if you don’t have your own team), and
  3. 3. How to successfully say “no” to colleagues and clients while maintaining relationships.

Get to know Karl a little better below before the event, and if you haven’t purchased tickets yet, make sure you do!



Tell us a little bit about yourself personally

I’m a fourth-generation business owner and the oldest of five kids. I grew up outside D.C., worked in New York for a few years, and happily relocated to Raleigh several years ago. I really like living in the Triangle.

Outside of work, I volunteer with Triangle AMA, where I’ll serve as the marketing association’s President-Elect in 2015-2016. I also volunteer as a bartender on a 1930s railroad car that travels around the U.S.


Tell us a little bit about your business and what you do

If you saw the show Mad Men, I’m like Don Draper’s business consultant. I help marketing agencies grow without the usual growing pains. My clients run digital agencies on five continents.

I started in the industry 18 years ago, as a web designer to businesses and non-profits. I realized I was better at business than design, and I shifted to the business side of things. More recently, I’ve run the business side of two agencies.

After seeing agency owners who loved design, marketing, and development but who struggled with the business side of things, I started my consulting firm in 2013. I love that I help my clients enjoy work more, and that I make their agencies more-stable places to work.


You work with many local and national businesses. Can you tell us a little about why do you think design is so important for businesses?

Design helps you sell more, and it can help you reach potential clients who might not have considered you otherwise. Not every customer knows good design, but most know bad design.

In a recent interview, content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi mentioned how he recommends agencies—to look at how they market themselves. If an agency isn’t consistently doing good design work for itself, why should clients think they’d get better work?


What do you think the most important skills are for a designer (aside from design!)

Be able to communicate about your work. This includes “selling” to clients (whether internal or external) on why they should use the design you created, and selling yourself (since building your personal brand is the key to standing out from the competition, whether you’re freelancing or seeking a full-time job).


At our Homegrown luncheon, you’re going to share a little bit about how we can get it all done. Can you share a little bit with us about how you get it all done and still have time in the day?

It comes down to prioritization. By knowing my priorities, I can always do the most important work. I also try to be realistic about scheduling. For instance, back to back meetings or calls means something’s going to run over. I schedule buffer time whenever possible.

I pre-schedule blocks of time for working on key activities. Running my own business, those key activities are billable time, sales followup time, business building time, and relaxation time. This is part of being strategic (instead of reactive) about time management. It’s also realistic—I may not know exactly what I’ll be doing during a particular block of business-building time, but I’m always glad I reserved the time, since there’s almost always something to fit it. You can use my free Time Bucket Template tool to choose where to focus, too.


What is the most difficult time management situation you’ve even dealt with?

A coaching client was out sick on Monday. When we spoke on Wednesday, he’d already spent 20 hours trying to catch up. It just wasn’t working. I realized he had three big obstacles: he wasn’t prioritizing, he was feeling overwhelmed, and he hadn’t fully recovered from being sick.

I looked at his calendar and “ordered” him to take that Friday off. He came back in on Monday—totally refreshed, and with a new perspective on what was most important to him.

After that, I helped him set up a process to better delegate work to his team, and to say “no” to unnecessary requests. It’s working better but it requires attention—time management is a continuous process, not a “one and done” thing.


Are there any good resources that you suggest for designers for typical design problems (time management, handling clients, etc.)

Beyond the usual publications, check blogs for designers you admire. If they aren’t writing about this aspect of their process, email them and ask if they’d consider it for a future article.

Tired of being in “reactive” firefighting mode? Get my free Time Bucket Template tool. It’s the first step toward becoming strategic about your time.

And check out my newsletter. The advice focuses in agency owners, but much of it applies to anyone in design and marketing. Sign up now to get free copy of my eBook, Don’t Just Make the Logo Bigger: Taking Clients from Painful to Profitable.


Is there anything else you’d like to share?!

Looking forward to meeting new people and catching up with friends at my AIGA Raleigh talk! It’s great to return to speak at the chapter.


About Karl:

Karl Sakas (@KarlSakas) has helped hundreds of clients since he started working in digital marketing in 1997. As president of global consulting firm Agency Firebox, Karl helps digital marketing agencies grow without the usual growing pains. He has advised agency owners on 5 continents about strategy, operations, and leadership.
Karl has written more than 100 articles on agency management, and he founded and runs an online community with 500+ agencies in 40 countries. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.



Homegrown, a Lunch & Learn series from AIGA Raleigh

Things change fast in our industry, and it’s important for us to grow our non-traditional design skills. This monthly lunch series brings local, “homegrown” experts together with designers for an intimate, indepth discussion of different skills or topics that will help designers add a few skills to their toolbox. Homegrown is your opportunity to have lunch with the smartest people in town.

Make sure you buy your tickets to see Karl’s talk!

By Tracy Maniaci
Published June 3, 2015