Get the right people on the bus

"When you first set off on your journey you need different people to the folk you'll need later"

Ian Harris | Founder | Agency Hackers

How would you explain what “get the right people on the bus” means?


It’s a funny expression "to get on the bus".

You hear some agencies talking about being a family, or a sports team. "On the bus" suggests a recognition that running an agency is a journey, and that people will climb aboard and step off along the way.

(It also implies that your team are passengers, which is interesting.)

The good thing about talking about "getting the right people on the bus" is that it shows an appreciation that when you first set off on your journey you need different people to the folk you'll need later.

From what I've observed, this is hugely accurate – and not everyone groks this right away.

In the early days of your agency you might need blacksmiths, throwing off sparks and energy, who fill the air with clanging noises and flailing arms. But later, once you have established pace and momentum, you need watchmakers, who bring quiet discipling and make small careful moves.

Same bus, different speed and style.

Who do you think should own the vision in an agency?


The vision is something the founder can't delegate.

If you don't have one, your team will bring one – and it will probably align with their personal politics and beliefs than anything to do with you making any money.

For example, one day Derek Sivers’ employees said: "Which profit-sharing plan should we go with?"

He told them: "You choose.”

Derek liked to empower his employees to make decisions, and would always let them vote on how the business was run. Six months later, his accountant phoned him: “Did you know that your employees set up a profit-sharing program?"


"Did you know that they're giving all of the profits of the company back to themselves?"

Oops. Derek realised that there's such a thing as over-delegation.

Delegating the vision is definitely over-delegation in my book.

Ian Harris' favourite interview question


Peter Thiel asks people: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

What a tit! It's a great interview question if your goal is to hire irritating smart-arses.

I don't think single interview questions are that helpful.

But I'm not one to take advice from: I'm not very good at interviewing. I want to like everybody, and anything concerning in people I always think I can change or improve.

It's not just me: agency owners often think they can turn toads into princes with one kiss. Unfortunately, you observe many kisses but very few miracles. Nevertheless, we remain very confident about the efficacy of our kisses – even though our stationary cupboards might be full of unresponsive toads!

Many agency owners have recommended the book Who: A Method for Hiring by Dr. Geoff Smart and Randy Street.

It details all the dumb things we do when we interview people. (The "Art Critic" talks about trusting one’s guts: it works fine for judging paintings, but it's inaccurate when it comes to hiring. The "Prosecutor" believes that tricky questions will reveal a candidate’s true potential. They don’t.)

Ian Harris' bio

Ian Harris is the founder of agency peer community Agency Hackers.


Humble promo of Ian Harris and Agency Hackers


Agency Hackers is running a fantastic event on January 24th in London all about agency process and operations – you can see what other agencies are doing to become more productive and more profitable. Check it out:

Daniel (Polymensa founder)

Explore other perspectives

Becky Simms
Co-founder @ Reflect Digital

"Focus on roles first, then people"

Read more

Christopher Kenna
Founder @ Brand Advance Group

"Who's never caught that bus, because they don't know it exists?"

Read more

Jessica Gregson
Co-founder @ Extra Brain

"The bus needs an MOT"

Read more

Neil Davidson
CEO @ HeyHuman

"I'm sick of this so-called advice with nothing behind it"

Read more

Andy Smith
Founder @ Strategiq

"Love it, but it has to be respected and understood before implementing"

Read more

The Rabbit Hole: Where to?

After spending the last 19 years of my life in the UK, what I know refer to as the 2nd chapter of my life (I grew up in Germany), I wanted to turn the page to chapter 3. In March 2022 my girlfriend and I decided to move to another country.

But where to?

Peak down the rabbit hole

Blindspot: Economics

I’m going to admit, that although I spend a significant amount trying to educate myself about economics, my knowledge would probably equate a tiny single atom in a pumpkin compared to a Keynes or Krugman.

It’s why I rely on people who study this everyday to give me an insight.

And although I don’t always understand what they’re on about, I thought this was one of the simplest explanations of how our economy functions and why we get this thing called inflation.

However, the BIG and far more important question to me is how much longer will this model work and exist. I look forward to a day where there is far less artificially generated demand - than truthfully necessary. 

But for now, here are the basics of our current economic engine...

Watch the video