Agencies That Build #8 All About the Agency | Chad Pytel

In this episode of Agencies That Build, we have with us Chad Pytel, Founder, and COO of thoughtbot. It’s a group of designers and developers collaborating closely with clients.

Per the #ATB tradition, we picked the brains of our guest for some common industry myths and handed him the Mjölnir to bust them. 


  • Your primary motive for getting into consulting should be to earn some money to bootstrap a SaaS product.
  • You should only hire experts for your agency

You must be invested in helping people scale while enjoying the process of the transition otherwise, you might get stuck on a consulting treadmill.

Be super clear about your priorities and be intentional about your work early on

Chad Pytel

If we rewind on all the episodes of this digital leadership series, this has been one common theme that every leader that appeared on our podcast talked about. This is what Chad also emphasized when we asked from a small agency perspective about what practices he recommends for leaders.

Following up on the best practices, Chad added, incorporate training into your hiring. There is one common mistake that agencies do while trying to scale. They work with unfilled positions for months and months waiting for experts to fill them. They end up paying recruiters 25% of the package for the said expert after say 3-4 months of hunting. 

Instead, hire and train people that fit within your culture for 4 months for that 25%. Training is a powerful tool because it enables you to hire more people than you’d otherwise be able to and it also makes the people you hire more successful. 

Then the conversation took a turn towards the hottest debate of the industry, Specialist vs Generalist. 

Chad had an interesting take on the whole situation. 

Generalist or Specialist – whatever you do, if you’re not consistent and intentional then your team will have a hard time working together. Even the agencies that position themselves as generalists have something that they’re good at, they provide specialization in that particular domain with small structured teams of developers and designers.

We also discussed with Chad the future of the technology and how the pricing dynamic has changed during this full remote work culture. Can we retain the prices of services as a nearshore agency while still working completely remotely? Find this and more on our Podcast and YouTube

TL;DR | Takeaways for All About the Agency

  • To close any productivity and communication gaps, remove the middleman between the founder and project team. “We fundamentally believe in having a small group of people who are good at what they do working directly with clients to create something.” ~Chad Pytel.
  • Aspire to build successful products AND successful businesses. Training clients to facilitate a meeting or prioritize planning helps them be lucrative in the future outside of your own business. 
  • Set specific expectations for your team in terms of communication and holding the company philosophy. This sets the bar for your team and allows them to have a growth mindset going into projects. 
  • Training is a powerful tool that enables you to hire more people than you otherwise would have been able to and sets your team up for success. Apprenticeships and other training programs are a great way to accomplish this!
  • Whether you are a specialized or generalized company, the most important thing is to know what your model is and stay consistent with that. This provides a basis for your team to execute.
  • Career advice from Chad Pytel, have an honest conversation with your founders about expectations and what you want to achieve before starting your company.


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