Growth is important for any business. As a creative agency leader, you will already know that your agency needs to grow in order to survive. However, it goes deeper than this. What an agency really needs in order to thrive in the long term is sustainable, consistent growth. This can be a hard balance to achieve. After all, there are many areas to think about, from attracting new clients to staff retention and everything in between.
Throughout my experience in creative agency operations, I have started to notice some areas that the vast majority of successful, growing agencies have mastered. This post is about these four key pillars that, once you get to grips with, will give your agency a steady foundation for future sustainable growth.
These four key areas are leadership, financial management, people, and processes. Each one is important on its own and covers many bases, which will be covered in later posts. However, it is when they all work together in harmony that you will achieve the best results. Whether your agency is just starting out or is well-established, these four areas will provide an excellent base to streamline your operations and drive growth. Here, I will provide a brief overview of each of the pillars and discuss why they are so important as a combination.
Firstly, good leadership is vital for growth. If you’re not setting a good example from the top, how is your team expected to learn and provide the high quality of work that you need?
Managing a creative agency often brings unique challenges. In their very nature, agencies are made up of lots of different moving parts and teams with vastly different talents and skills. These people will all have different working styles and preferences, which must be balanced to keep everyone satisfied at work. Then, you have client expectations to contend with, making for a one-of-a-kind situation for every single agency.
In part, refining your leadership skills just takes time and practice. However, two of my top tips for this are as follows:
- Encourage collaboration between teams. This will not only enhance everyone’s creativity (leading to greater client satisfaction!). It will also encourage an open, inclusive culture within the agency, which is helpful for staff retention - a key factor for growth.
- Set clear goals and communicate them to the whole team. Doing so minimises confusion and ensures that everyone knows where they stand and what part they have to play in the agency’s success.
Many agency leaders prefer to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to finances, however this is never the way if you want to achieve growth! I’ve found that the reason many leaders prefer to avoid this topic is partially due to a lack of understanding. After all, you’re probably not running a creative agency because you’re a genius at maths.
However, I believe that anyone can learn to get a solid grip on financial management so that they can improve profitability in the long term. My top two tips for this include:
- Set clear financial goals to give yourself something to work towards. From there, you can break the financials down into smaller steps which are a lot less daunting. I would recommend looking at financial targets, budgets, and revenue projections as a starting point so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the numbers.
- From here, you should be tracking your financial performance and analysing the results. This will help you catch any issues before they become bigger problems, helping your finances stay on track for sustainable growth.
People are your most important asset, no matter what sort of business you’re running. However, it’s no secret that staff turnover in the creative industry tends to be particularly high. So, if you want to encourage sustainable growth, this is an issue that you should look to address. After all, you need excellent creative work if you want your agency to grow, and you can’t produce this without the right people.
Investing in your people is my number one tip for ensuring you have a happy team who is more likely to work with you for longer. There are a few ways you can do this, but my top two tips are:
- Provide opportunities for career growth. Your people are going to progress anyway, so you may as well offer them opportunities to do it with you, rather than forcing them to look elsewhere! Instead of always looking to external hires, consider supporting your existing teams to strive for leadership and management positions, in both the short and longer term.
- Offer meaningful feedback and recognition. This will help your employees to improve their performance, but will also ensure that their hard work is being recognised, leading to higher levels of satisfaction at work.
Effective processes are essential for any creative agency that wants to grow. I am a big fan of lean processes that provide guidance whilst also allowing for the creative freedom that drives results for your clients.
It can be tricky to establish and maintain effective processes, especially if your agency has grown used to doing things in the same old way for years. This is where newer agencies may have the upper hand, as they’re not so set in their ways. However, investing some time and effort into streamlining your processes and ensuring they are driving optimal results will never be wasted for any agency. My top tips for doing just this include:
- Prioritise communication. If nobody knows about your processes, they won’t adopt them. Things will keep on happening in the same way, leading to missed opportunities for savings and growth.
- Continuously review and refine your processes. The creative industry is constantly evolving, and it’s important that you keep up. By regularly reviewing what you’re doing, you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure you don’t miss any opportunities for innovation and growth.
Why is it important to look at these four key areas?
Mastering these four key areas will give your agency a strong foundation for future growth. It’s important to look at them all in tandem because, between the four, most major areas of your agency will be covered.
I’ve discussed before that there is no silver bullet for agency growth. An agency that achieves sustainable growth needs to look at every aspect of their operations to see what can be improved. It is this series of improvements, and looking at the agency as a whole, that will give you the best chance of success.
However, it also goes deeper than this. By improving the core areas of your agency, the culture of the organisation will also start to shift. I’m a firm believer that a strong agency culture brings many benefits that contribute to growth, namely improved staff retention and a better reputation for your organisation in the creative world and beyond. So, if you want to foster a culture of innovation, creativity, and collaboration that assists with agency growth, looking at your leadership, financial management, people, and processes is an excellent place to start.
If you want to find out more about how these four key pillars can set your agency up for success and discover where you stand against them currently, you can take my free assessment by clicking here. It only takes a few minutes and will provide you with valuable, personalised advice on how your agency can improve.
As a creative operations consultant with over 25 years of experience, I have worked with agencies of all sizes that are looking for the same thing: consistent, sustainable growth. To find out more about what I do, please click here.