Adapting To The Modern Workplace: Building A 7-Figure Agency

Yuxin Zhu

Yuxin Zhu

Growth is a primary function for most companies, all companies if we’re being honest! As we all question what drives growth (and how to do it quickly), we sat down with Zlatko Bijelic of 920 - FOUR and the Tako Agency, and Aakruti Desai and Veeraj Mehta of Puzzl to discuss company growth, how to adapt, and more.

Zlatko starts off by telling us that he and his team grew from 3 people to 22 people just last year – not to mention most of all, they broke seven figures.

Aakruti furthers this conversation by discussing how Puzzl came about. With backgrounds as xdesign agency owners, they were really frustrated with tools that seemed to be designed for them to spend as much time as possible on it – never really getting a lot of value out of it. So with this in mind, an eye on growth, and finding tools that work, the modern startup needs to have an edge.

But even with this edge, the 7- figure goal is a tough mark for any company, especially in this current landscape. As many brands recover from the pandemic and strategize for the future, how is a startup to succeed?

In this piece, we discuss building a successful business in a modern age. While the 7-figure goal is what we all strive for, we challenge all to recognize the foundational tenets of success as well.

replo x 920four x tako

A Matter Of Finding The Right Puzzle Pieces

While the puns may not lift your entrepreneurial spirits, Zlatko’s start to building his own agency will. From working in project management on Upwork, he created a profile in his 600 square foot apartment in L.A. that fueled a passion.

“I really wanted to get into helping other eCommerce agencies and any kind of web agencies really facilitate the work from client to developer, and back and forth.”

Communication he says is the enjoyable part of a key toolbox that he was able to leverage when driving projects from beginning to end. And by a matter of movement, Zlatko tells us that finally the cycle started. He got more jobs, more reviews, then hired by a couple different agencies as their in-house project manager.

But with great opportunity, comes great…cracks?

We’d love to say responsibility, and largely that is the case, but when discussing larger structures and systems, you tend to find what works and what doesn’t very early on.

Zlatko goes on to say:

“When you go through something you start to find little opportunities and things that are just not working for you and they’re not working for other people.”

A problem many bigger agencies face, the dreaded realization that broken systems inundate day-to-day operations. Something that became honestly mind blowing for Zlatko to consider.

How can agencies with broken systems continue to rake in money and sales opportunities? But better than that, a realization struck:

“If somebody with a broken system can do this, imagine what I could do with a good system. What if I did my own thing?”

With an urge to register the business, some designer friends, and project managers ready to come on board, Zlatko had jumped at the step to solidify his dream of doing it his way.

And then, about day one into the business they landed a client for $30,000 – an almost unheard of scenario in most respects. As the reality of this large first client landed, Zlatko found himself with a lean team getting everything done. From there, Tako kicked off and kept moving as they partnered with other amazing tech partnerships within the Shopify ecosystem.

Replo Logo

Build, test, and iterate on Shopify without the dev time

Replo has hundreds of templates to help you launch and test new landing pages - without writing a line of code.

Get Started Free

Challenging The Dream

When asked what one of the biggest challenges early on were, Zlatko tells us that hiring the proper people early on was difficult and challenging. The second being the financial side – a valid worry for anyone to face early on. But with those challenges and early obstacles, came an opportunity to diversify work style.

Something Zlatko says he prioritizes now is:

“Now we prioritize working from home and remote work – hiring people in different countries, states, cities – it doesn’t matter where they are. You just [have] to build this relationship with people by talking to them as much as possible.”

Again, we can see this as a direct challenge to the status quo of traditional work styles. Gone are the days of the traditional office, replaced now with intuitive tools, but not all work well when keeping a culture within a team.

Zlatko mentions Slack becoming an obvious piece to the puzzle to bring everyone under one roof and to have a more cohesive work experience. But still, despite a modern approach to work, there are barriers to consider, especially as projects add up.

This is where a few things matter, such as:

  • Conversation: Face to face conversation becomes important to get a gut instinct
  • Time For Tenacity: You can impress companies based on tenacity, how proactive you are, and taking ownership of tasks
  • Understand Goals: Consider vision and goals to avoid churn and retain a strong team

how much work can you do remotely

Running Remotely In 2023 And Beyond

To be remote or not to be remote…that is the modern question a startup Shakespeare would ask. Zlatko is a ‘to be remote’ proponent saying, “no, we’ve never had an office and we will never have an office.”

His reasoning makes perfect sense,

“Because nowadays with all the different tools and ways of running a project, communication, you have the Slacks – you have all these different things where you can do a lot more asynchronous stuff. I think that gives our agency at least the ability to work efficiently. Be on the same page without having to be next to each other.”

If you’re wondering how this works, you have to consider your business model first. If you’re deadline based, as Zlatko says, you then work based on what the client sets. While many teams operate in a similar fashion, this does not come without it’s own set of challenging.

One point to consider is learning to adapt. A challenge Zlatko faced head on which taught him the powerful, but tough, lesson – to figure out who you’re working with. But this is not the simple task. Adapting means figuring out how people work, what their strong points are, and what/how you talk to them.

“I think it all comes down to communication on both sides. Your internal communication with your team and your external communication with clients and how you bridge those gaps.”

People Have Personal Goals, Why Not Work With Them?

When we think with our business caps on, we all get down to objectives and metrics, but what if company-based goals can still be achieved if we also consider personal goals and passion?

We’re informed by Zlatko’s great take on why personal goals matter, “I think people want to learn things. People want to grow within their own careers. Knowing from the time that you hire somebody, you also have to understand that they’re not going to be here forever.”

A reality all business owners must face because as fickle as humans are, we also have this knack for outgrowing things too. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Afterall, no one likes stagnation deep down. Something Zlatko aptly mentions is the progression of personnel and how they expand over the course of a project. While you may love a team or project, things can change and people do find opportunities that allow them to further their careers along in other ways.

It may seem a tough pill to swallow, something Zlatko has also faced. But doing so with some tact and respect goes a long way, not just for the employee but for the future of the company. While in the past, owners could simply fire and move on from employees who want different opportunities, now there is a different approach.


A simple word, but a powerful result. By putting effort into internal and external relationships, you can see what people truly want and figure out how to make everyone happy (or at least try to with minimal aches and pains). It may seem lofty, but as the old adage goes, sometimes it’s just nice to be nice.

And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be decent to the humans you collaborate with.

Hindsight Is (Unfortunately) 20/20

We’d all love to say we do everything perfectly from start to finish, but again, we’re humans and to err is human. When asked if he could go back to the beginning and change something, Zlatko tells us, “documenting my process very early on.”

The admin. side to keep an eye on operations and growth becomes cumbersome over time, especially when you’re a startup and doing it all!

But much of this came with time and developing processes to really be able to push items down the pipeline. One useful first step is documenting everything. Zlatko mentions:

“Even if you have to record a voice note or you have to do something, document that process because I guarantee you one day you’re going to have to hire somebody to take that on because you probably don’t want to be doing that forever.”

zlatko bijelic

The Balance Of A Busy Leader

As a busy leader, Zlatko is a content creator, running two agencies, and running a coaching business – so how does he balance it all?

Writing helps.

In the beginning of April 2022, he tells us he started writing and publishing more as a way to figure out this “congestion of information.” Something that is so cleverly put, we all could take note.

He says, “there’s just too much going on, and podcasting was a way for me to get that out. But I think as humans, we also have multiple ways we need to do that.” YouTube and podcasts offer topic driven opportunities to gain perspective, but with writing, “you don’t have any boundaries.”

This applies to personal life and also dealing with the ups and downs of starting an agency, especially following 2020. But all of this comes down to a few key takeaways from Zlatko for building a job and personal life you can actually enjoy.

  • Shift Your Mindset: Do you want to create your life around your business? Or, do you want to create your business around your life? Either way, when you shift your mentality, you actually start to get more exponential.
  • Focus Your Energy Where It Matters: Ask yourself what gives you energy? What do you like? What gives you inspiration?
  • Creating Partnerships: Are you diversifying your customer base from different channels? Are you active with newsletters, industry updates, or on Twitter and LinkedIn?

How To Foster Valuable Partnerships & Systems

Partnerships can be excellent opportunities for many companies, but this does not come without some points to note. While the money coming in may be useful for operations and scaling to the next level, consider how your partnership actually works. By this, Zlatko mentions that custom work can become cumbersome when ultimately keeping an eye on customer satisfaction.

To combat some of these pain points, he has Shopify directly send them merchants for that additional trust factor. This moves things along and saves time in ways that other systems help with as well. Slack, Asana, Zendesk, Miro, Google Drive all become essential when maximizing workflow.

One thing to note is the choice to buld a customer portal, which brings all of those tools together to mitigate an unnecessary conversations about project updates. Something that has become an absolute game changer for the amount of inbound requests.

Replo Logo

Build, test, and iterate on Shopify without the dev time

Replo has hundreds of templates to help you launch and test new landing pages - without writing a line of code.

Get Started Free

A Piece Of Advice For Startup Agencies

Focus on one niche. By this he means, “focus on one thing that you’re really good. More does not mean more clients.”

When first starting out he used different pillars to create a website for the type of clients they wanted. But after a few months, the moved away from the first two options because there was a lot of backend, security, and server things going on that became a waste of resources.

So they went directly into Shopify to ultimately figure out how they could make a big impact on the merchant’s journey.

When they work in Shopify, they mainly stay on the front end side of things, but this is sometimes a tough task. To consider the direct impact of a customer showing up to their store purchasing and then how the experience goes. The tough part being that, “you constantly have to [build one thing], the next thing breaks, and it’s this constant whack-a-mole thing going on.”

So if you’re starting out, it may be a matter of focus on being the best in your area.

“Focus on being the best at running ads or in being the best at copywriting because once you start doing those things, and you do it really well, you build trust with those clients that you are working with. And when you build trust, those clients will actually come to you first.”

You may not be the one doing that work they are coming to you for, but they do trust your opinion to offer them a solution or name of someone who can help.

Bottom line: focus on one thing and do that really well to build trust, referrals, and even upsell opportunities.

Final Thoughts: Building Your Brand Your Way

Following our great chat with Zlatko, we find ourselves excited at the concept of starting from the beginning. All great ideas come from equally great work and attention put into something, but as Zlatko mentioned, the road is not always easy. But to combat those challenges, comes an opportunity to examine processes and how you foster personal and corporate goals.

Nowadays, you can work remotely but still play ball with the biggest of brands thanks to the host of highly intuitive platforms and tools. But, we cannot forget the importance of:

  • Niching Down When Possible: Do what you’re good at first. Do that so well you capture attention as you scale. It doesn’t help anyone by taking on more than you can master. While it takes time, put your energy into the things that you excel at. This goes for employers and employees alike.
  • Developing Meaningful Relationships: This goes for clients and employees. Take the time to talk and go over not only business objectives, but personal goals as well. Remember, we’re all human and we’re all looking to stretch our wings from time to time.
  • Building Workable Systems: Avoid the pitfalls of client work and take the time to plan out your system, tools, and management areas to end up ahead of the curve. You may see where things are broken and don’t work – so make the effort to create and foster growth with planning.
  • Communicating To Collaborating: In life and in business good communication skills go far. This could mean the difference between having an okay relationship with a client or an excellent one that you can collaborate with.

Ultimately, you have to build your brand your way. So, please consider these takeaways as you plan into 2023 and beyond. But why not start by looking at your Shopify store?

At Replo we offer ultra customizable landing pages for serious eCommerce teams, so if you’re interested in supercharging your Shopify store, then check us out!

Get the Latest

Ecommerce interviews and tips delivered weekly

We will never send you spam. Read ourPrivacy Policy.