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Scream if you want to go faster - how agencies navigate the dizziness of change.

With 61% of agencies offering more services than this time last year, 2020 proved that we are adapting quicker than ever before.

With the world changing at such a rapid rate, an agency-side career can feel like a go on the Waltzers. The buzz and excitement lures you in. Then all of a sudden you’re spinning, someone else is dictating the pace ‘Scream if you want to go faster!’ and you’re no longer

sure why you thought this ‘ride’ would be a good idea. But, you stick out, and as the world slowly becomes clear once again, you’re glad you did. Let’s face it – that’s why we industry folks love it. We thrive on the buzz, are fuelled by the excitement, and we’re able to step up and deliver when it counts.


And now, as we emerge from lockdown, is the time it’s really going to count. Here are a few proactive measures that will help you do just that.

 

Money matters

Profitability and cash flow are THE biggest agency concern in 2021 with 63% of agencies stating that margins had been static or shrunk over the last 12 months. 61% of agencies also said they are now offering more services than this time last year. This highlights the financial impact of change, and when adapting at pace, it’s often challenging to get accurate commercial insight from which leaders make key decisions.

Consider:

1. Update your agency’s financial governance guide. If you don’t have one, create one, and make it a way of working every day.

2. Financial and commercial training. As an agency you want to deliver an ROI to

your clients by maximising the potential of their budget, whilst making a profit. Profit is not a dark art, but the challenges of over servicing and scope-creep are taking its toll.

Everyone in the agency plays a role in making and saving money, so to help them make that

role a successful one, organise financial and commercial training. Something nimbl or The Alliance of Independent Agencies are set up to help you with.

3. A part-time or portfolio Commercial Director if you’re a smaller agency. They can help stabilise an agency during turbulent times, and prepare for growth when appropriate. Chat to someone like VisionFR, they’re specialist recruiters for financial roles within the marketing and creative sector.

 

Hello hybrid

With 73% of the employed workforce wanting flexible working to stay, there is no denying the impact to every business. The more we can adapt to be productive, creative, and inventive in every style of working will increase our client opportunities, the talent we employ and the calibre of work. This is probably the biggest challenge for leaders to date, because it's riddled with complexities and it is such an emotive subject. But with 46% of employees considering a move in the near future, employees will be selecting their next employers based on their ways of working and how they can maintain the all important ‘work/life balance’.


Consider:

1. Your agency approach to hybrid-working arrangements. Offer employees greater

flexibility on where, when and how they work. This is different to an employee’s legal right to

request flexible working after 26 weeks, keeping a distinction in terminology and policy is

important for legal purposes, yes dull, but important. Once you have agreed your overall

approach, define it in organisational context, and what that means for job function, role and

employee.

2. Invest in making it work effectively through a comms plan that balances synchronous workflow vs that can be better served via project management systems such as Slack. Train your teams, especially more junior team members and middle management who heavily influence client relationships. Appoint a team, or a go-to member of staff, for issue-response who will be able to share learnings and adapt ways of working.


Mindsets have changed and the more progressive leaders will be those that move forward by rethinking their frame of reference, and discarding legacy behaviours that add no value in today’s marketing place. These leaders will be more aware, more awake and more compassionate to individuals around them, and it’s this that will set them apart.

 

Love your little blackbook

Freelance will become an increasingly valuable tool for flexible resourcing, and positively, there are alternatives to the hefty 20% recruitment fees, but it does require some maintenance to be effective.

Consider:

1. Various ways of sourcing freelance talent. Sector-specific job boards can cast the net a little wider than your internal network, helping address skills gaps within the agency, getting a feel for the market (especially budgeting day-rates!) and building your pipeline, putting you closer to great talent when you need it.


Try: your existing memberships like Campaign Jobs, but you can also dive a little deeper into

specific sites like If You Could Jobs or Get Connekted two examples of the many options available.

2. HR Software to manage freelance information: HR software systems provide a cost-

effective way to better manage and segment your freelance blackbook - links to portfolios,

day rates, feedback on previous work.

Try: Breathe HR. This software has some really useful features and can be used by both

permanent and freelance staff.

 

There’s no doubt being agency-side is a wild ride, and with us coming out of lockdown and the world constantly changing, it’s going to be a little wilder for a while. But by slowing down just long enough to prepare yourself and your agency for what’s to come, you’ll ensure you’re in control. You’ve got this! And remember, we’re always here to help.


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