How reducing processes can improve your creative agency’s output and increase your profitability!

February 11, 2021

Many entrepreneurs in all sorts of sectors tend to rely on set processes to guide them and their teams to get their work done on schedule and to a specific standard. For many people, this is something that’s hugely helpful. It gives them structure to their days, weeks, months and even years. They always know exactly where they’re at with a project, and what needs to be done next. In fact, following set processes can have many benefits, especially for those in less creative roles. But what about those sectors that are based on creativity?

Many businesses that are based in a creative sector struggle to reach a point at which they are working efficiently. It’s common for these creative businesses to overburn on projects, over deliver (which isn’t always a good thing!) and simply struggle in business as a result. I work with creative agencies, mainly in the operations side of things. I help them to become more efficient and effective. However, for an ops guy, I’m actually not a huge fan of processes at all. In fact, I believe that most creative agencies only need the bare minimum when it comes to set processes. But why is this the case, and what can creative agencies do to streamline their processes and become more efficient as a result? That’s what we’re going to explore in this blog post today.

Parkinson’s Law and what it means for creative agencies

Firstly, let’s take a look at Parkinson’s Law. It is a strange phenomenon, but it’s one that I tend to believe in for the most part. This ‘law’ states that the amount of work you have to do fills the time available for its completion. In some ways, this works in your favour. If you have a large project that you’re rushing to complete, chances are that 9 times out of 10 you manage to get it in before the deadline, even when that seemed impossible at the start! However, it also means that you tend to keep on working on a project until you simply run out of time- even if the project doesn’t actually require any further work.

What about stopping when you have a concept that you’re happy with? This saves you time as well as effort, but still leads to a great outcome for your project. I often ask the question, Why do so many agencies like to take the safe route and present five varied ideas, instead of going in with confidence and presenting just two strong concepts that they know meet the brief? Why do they put this extra work on themselves? In short, I think the answer is that creative agencies get too caught up following processes to the letter, rather than using their project management skills to their best advantage and figuring out how to be more efficient within the time available.

It’s common for agencies to overburn on projects. That’s just the way it is. But if you decide in advance how you will use the budget and stop when you’re happy with the result, it’s far easier to actually make a profit on a project every once in a while!

What’s the alternative? Why should creative agencies stop getting so caught up in processes?

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not a big fan of processes. This surprises a lot of people when they learn about what I do. As a result, when I go into a creative agency to help them with their operations, I only implement the bare minimum amount of processes, and make sure that it is only those that they actually need. However, I am a big fan of implementing best practice, instead of rigid processes. This includes accurate proposals, good briefs, timely creative reviews, and more, depending on each specific agency and their needs.

From my experience, creative people need to have established ways of working to do their best work, this is true. But, this does not necessarily mean more processes. In my opinion, ensuring that a handful of best practices are in place to set some parameters, but still allowing for creative freedom, is the best way forward for most agencies and their teams. Some examples of these parameters to implement include, what’s the clear brief? How much time is actually available to complete the project- and hopefully it won’t all be needed, as I discussed with Parkinson’s Law! When does the work need to be done by? Putting clear parameters in place such as these, but leaving it up to the individual to decide exactly how the work gets done, is usually a good way forward that presents a happy medium between clear expectations and the opportunity to genuinely be creative.

How can agencies use this knowledge to become more efficient?

Some consultants will go into a creative agency and put forward a great strategy to improve its efficiency. But, where they fail is in successfully implementing the changes that are required to make a tangible difference to the way an agency operates. Instead, my method is to involve the key people right from the beginning. I listen to their views, reservations, ideas, and more, and work with them based on this. In my opinion, a collaborative approach where the consultant genuinely listens to the agency’s requirements, and they all work together to implement the right parameters and other strategies, is the only way to go if you want to implement a change management programme successfully. 

What’s my advice for agencies who want to become more efficient?

If you’re part of a creative agency, and you’re looking at ways in which you can become more efficient, there are a few things that I can recommend based on what we’ve discussed in this post. So, to finish, let’s take a closer look:

Parkinson’s Law isn’t always your friend. Don’t let a project take up all of the time allocated to it, simply because you can. Figure out how you will spend the budget in advance and once you’re happy with the work, stop! This frees up time and resources, allowing you to become more efficient as a result.

Don’t get so caught up in having rigid processes for your team to follow. The people who work in creative agencies are, of course, creative in nature. Giving them a broader set of parameters to work with allows them to use their skills to the best of their ability, and should hopefully lead to even better results.

Finally, if you are struggling with working efficiently and effectively as an agency, consider the services of a consultant who genuinely understands the sector and what you can do to change things for the better.

If you’re looking for a consultant who knows the creative industry inside and out, I can help! To find out more about me and how I can help you, please visit my website by clicking here , or get in touch to discuss your individual needs by clicking here.

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