What triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations?

March 16, 2021

If you own, work in, or even have simply observed a creative agency before, you have probably noticed one thing. They seem to exist in a perpetual state of chaos, somewhere on a spectrum from minor to major. Unfortunately this is the reality for many agencies in the creative sector. And, it happens because they are happy to accept this state of chaos. They believe that it’s just part and parcel of working in the creative sector, with so many different moving parts and creative ideas flying around. In addition to this, the majority of agency owners see making a profit as a by-product of their business, and not the main purpose. In fact, they are more motivated by having an agency that is respected by their peers, produces high-quality work, and wins industry awards. As a result, many owners earn less than they did working in senior roles with previous employers. But, even if these are the motivations of an agency owner, the organisation doesn’t always have to work in chaos! Many owners do eventually reach a trigger point where they realise that it’s not working for them. So, they look to seek outside help from someone who can review their internal operations and show them the light at the end of the tunnel and a more organised, efficient way of working across the board. 

So, in today’s blog post, I will be discussing what triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations. A big part of what I do is being just that person for creative agencies, so I have plenty of first-hand insight into what makes them tick, as well as what motivates them into seeking help for their specific internal problems. From feeling burnt out to losing clients as a result of inefficient operations, there are plenty of trigger points to be aware of. I would always advise a creative agency owner to seek support before they reach the peak of these trigger points. So, it’s good to be aware of them so you can recognise the signs in your own business, and when it might be time to turn to an outside specialist to support you before it becomes a bigger issue.

So, what triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations?

Agency owner burnout

Many agency owners find that they are feeling burned out.

This is an all too common problem that people in my line of work see with creative agency owners. Essentially, it means that the owner has started to get ill from the stress of running an agency that runs in a state of chaos. Or, perhaps the pressure of the long hours is having a heavy effect on their work/life balance, and starting to be detrimental to their relationships with their family or partner. Of course, nobody plans for this to happen. Often, burnout creeps up on them and they don’t realise what a negative impact it is having until it is too late. 

But, no matter what stage of burnout an agency owner is at, there are things that they can do to help resolve it and reinstate a healthy work/life balance. Often, this starts with internal processes. Once these are in order, many people are amazed at what a positive impact it can have, and regret not sorting it out sooner! If there is one major trigger for creative agency owners to be aware of, it’s burnout. So, make sure to regularly check in on yourself and how your work is affecting you. If you find that it’s negative, consider taking on the services of an outside specialist in internal operations to assist you. This goes for the rest of your team too, as they are probably feeling the effects as well!

Low levels of profitability (or none at all!)

As I’ve already mentioned, many agency owners are not primarily motivated by making huge profits. They simply want to produce great quality work and be recognised for this, and profit takes a back seat. However, even if they are aware of this within themselves, making very little profit (or even none at all) can start to take a big toll. This often happens when the agency owner realises that they need more personal cash. Perhaps they’re looking to do some home renovation, a family holiday, pay for private education, or take a sabbatical. They then realise that they simply don’t have the means to do this, and their business needs to step up its profitability. 

As a result, this can be what triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations. Such a specialist can come in and help them to see where they can increase their charge-out rate or decrease their costs, in order to bring in more cash and give the owner the financial freedom that they realise is actually fairly important to them. What a lot of agency owners need to grasp is that making a profit doesn’t have to come at the expense of being a well-respected business in the creative sector. You can definitely have both, but you may need to revise your internal operations in order to achieve it!

Client loss can be a major trigger

Many agency owners, and their teams, accept a level of chaos in their working methods for one major reason. They brush it off, thinking that it doesn’t matter because they are still delivering the work that the clients have asked for. That is, of course, until this is no longer the case. The agency becomes so disorganised that the quality of work drops, they start to miss deadlines, and client satisfaction levels go down the drain. This then leads to some difficult conversations and even clients walking away from the agency and their services altogether. 

Many agency owners don’t realise that their chaos is a problem until this happens. This is why it is often what triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations to support them. Such a specialist will work with them to reduce the chaos and put more streamlined internal operations in place, so that everyone has a clear path to follow to keep clients satisfied with the work being produced, even when things get busy.

Conversely, client wins can also trigger seeking support

Just as much as losing clients can trigger sourcing outside help, winning them can actually have exactly the same effect. Often, my services are sought out when an agency has won a very large client. Of course, this is good news! But, problems can arise when they don’t know how they will actually deliver the work with the current structure and team that they have in place. This can lead to panic, which furthers disorganisation within the agency and actually achieves nothing productive. Instead, agencies need to work on getting the right structures in place so that they can effectively deliver the work for this client, and any subsequent clients that they take on, big or small. 

Low levels of staff retention 

High levels of staff turnover is a frequent trigger.

This is a common problem in many organisations, and can certainly be what triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations. What happens is that the top talent within the agency is leaving or getting poached by the competition. Of course, it’s natural for this to happen sometimes, but when agencies are working in a state of chaos, the staff turnover rate tends to be higher. As a result, staff morale is generally quite low, there’s not enough profit coming in for significant pay rises or bonuses, and there are long working hours due to the disorganisation and there not being enough staff to cope with the work coming in. While this is a common agency problem, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Often, scrutinising the internal processes and looking at what could be changed to improve the team’s experience at the company can go a long way to improving staff turnover and creating a better working environment for everyone involved. 

Owner exit

Of course, the agency owner is not immune to the effects felt by the rest of their staff. This can lead to them wanting to exit the business, or take a back seat, themselves. That is, until they realise that they are the business. They are so involved in the day to day running of it, that it couldn’t possibly survive without them there every day. Of course, this is not an ideal situation for any agency to be in. Essentially, you want to aim to get to the point where the owner has effectively made themselves redundant, and the business can run without them being there every day. This usually involves a significant reorganisation of the business and its internal processes, which is why it is often what triggers a creative agency to seek an outside specialist in internal operations, so that they can make it a reality. 

In all of the cases that I have mentioned above, it would have been better if the owner had sought help a lot sooner, as the trigger point wouldn’t have been in such a bad place. Seeking the support of a specialist sooner rather than later prevents the trigger issue from getting worse, and will make it a lot easier and quicker to solve. So, what’s my advice to agency owners and others who may be experiencing these issues? Well, the key is to act as soon as something doesn’t feel right. This can save you time and money. In fact, the first stage of my system is the Discovery phase. I don’t charge for this, so agency owners have nothing to lose. In fact, they will get some free advice and know when they need to actually take some action. From there, our partnership can grow into something further, or you can leave it there if you decide you don’t actually need the support I can offer. To find out more about this and how I can help you and your creative agency, please get in touch with me today by clicking here to discuss your individual circumstances.

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