When we’re working with agency leaders we always explore how their team does the work, and whether they have a “process.” What we usually hear is that they have one, that it sets the agency apart and everyone “gets it.”
But when we speak with a few others, we hear a different story: the process is confusing, it’s selectively used and it’s not really enforced.
So the truth is time’s been spent time creating a process, but the energy hasn’t been spent to ensure it becomes a way of life for the agency.
This isn’t unusual in creative businesses. The idea that the creative process can’t really be quantified and that each person does it a little differently has resulted in an inherent distaste for anything that looks like it’s trying to force uniformity. “We’re not a factory” is a common response.
But the result is the agency doesn’t have its own methodologies, and its people have to spend time learning the individual style of the folks they’re working with. And then do it again on the next project. And again. They have to work harder to get the work done.
When an agency successfully adopts a consistent approach to elements of the work in creative, strategy, account and project management that occur in every engagement, it can become a focused, highly productive business. For example:
You can do more with less: when the expectations are clear and the work flow’s defined, you’ll save time while building the operational foundation needed to scale;
Do you need to onboard new staff or freelancers? With a process everyone uses, it’s easier to teach your agency to new colleagues and they become client-ready faster. This is especially valuable when you need to staff up quickly for a new client or project, and it also makes it easier to see when someone’s struggling;
Roles get clearer: everyone stays in their lane because accountabilities have been defined and reinforced;
You become more profitable: a consistently used process focuses your attention on the items that matter, and you’re more likely to prevent an expensive problem because you’re less distracted;
You’ll stand out from your competition: your process is important in bringing your agency’s expertise to your clients, and thus how your clients experience your firm. Along with your team, it’s what sets you apart.
If you want to know if your process is ingrained, look at a client being serviced by multiple teams from your agency: are the teams consistent in how they conduct the work and communicate to the client? Do you look like one company or several?
As people who’ve implemented processes that led to profitable and successful agencies, implementation isn’t the rocket science you may think it is, but there are a few requirements:
Leadership has to own it and make it important;
Leadership needs to explain the business reasons for implementing change;
Consistency – it needs to become as common as the “rules of the road” – everyone knows what a stop sign means and what side of the road to drive on – so plan on 12-18 months before it feels natural, with interventions along the way when a colleague or team goes rogue;
Simple and clear always wins – focus on making your agency easy to work for;
If a process has a client benefit (e.g., internal status reports becomes a client-facing status reports), it’s a keeper.
Our experience has been that the creative actually becomes better, teams become more functional, client focus deepens and profitability increases. This is when your agency really takes off and starts to soar, and you also become more difficult to beat in bids because you’re clearer on what’s needed to do great work.
And who doesn't want to do more great work!