Teams, clients, and cash: How to manage the three pillars of agency life
When I launched this series I had a simple goal. I wanted to call bullshit on the idea that agency creatives don’t need to be business smart. We talked to agency founders to learn how they turned creative success into business, took on lazy industry advice, and learned the difference between having a vision and having actionable goals.
To close things out I want to go back to basics. How can creatives play a more active role in growing their agency’s business and what sort of skills should they develop to do it. What are the tangible, actionable steps creatives can take to impact the finances, client relationships, and team dynamics within their agencies.
The smartest thing you can do as a creative–whether you’re leading a team or just starting out–is understand how money flows into and out of your agency. Creatives need to be thinking about finances, from long-term profit to short-term revenue. Once you understand that, then you’ll know how to contribute to it. Here are three rules to follow:
- Know where new business comes from – Business development isn’t just for the the accounts team. Creatives are a major part of the pitches process. An art director can be just as important to landing a new account than the account manager—if they know what they’re doing.
- Listen to your business leaders – For creatives, learning finance doesn’t mean sitting down with the accounting team. Talk to executives and agency leaders about financial goals, understand what’s driving the agency and what targets you’re aiming to hit. Then figure out where you and your work fit into those objectives. Where is money being driven into and out of your company and how can you be a part of it.
- Don’t just focus on the long-term – Agency pros tend to focus on the big picture, 12-24 month goals. Instead think about monthly and quarterly goals and how you can contribute to these short-term wins.
The biggest mistake you can make in agency life, no matter what your role, is not knowing the clients. The best agencies I’ve worked with know that clients relationships don’t stop at C-Suite execs and the accounts team. Employees at every tier need to be engaged with the client. There are three steps that any agency employee should be taking when it comes to client relationships.
- Forget about “partnerships” – It’s popular right now to talk about your agency-client “partnership.” Agencies think this word moves them closer to the client. Hey, it’s better than being a “vendor,” right? But we can do better. This is an emotional business and the agency-client dynamic is more like a relationship than a business partnership. Think of it as a budding romance. How much effort would you put into planning that first date? How intimately should you know your partner by the fifth date? When do you get engaged? Partnerships are temporary, relationships have staying power.
- Be High Touch – In these era of slimming margins everyone is trying to be …read more