During periods of agency growth, as your clients, billings and projects multiply, it is important to make sure your central daily workflow system is functioning well and can provide all of the capabilities needed to serve clients well.
Since most clients need a range of agency services—strategic planning, creative, estimating, traffic, media planning, buying, and more—many smaller agencies “centralize” these services and share them across all client accounts. We’ve seen, as business grows and accounts get larger, that there comes a time when and this centralized services concept starts to fray, becoming less able to handle the workload efficiently and effectively.
One agency I consulted with had a great central traffic system that they created when there were about six people on staff. This system continued to work well until their staff numbered 28 people. At that point, with 350 projects in house at any one time, the system began to break down. Deadlines were missed, mistakes were made, and people became edgy and cranky.
“Partial” Team Service
The solution was to take several of the key accounts in the agency totaling about $1 million in revenue (or about one-third of the agency’s revenue), and form a team to work solely on that business. This team consisted of an account director AND an account manager. The account director faced outward toward the clients, and the account manager faced inward toward the work. In addition, the team consisted of a dedicated art director, copywriter and production artist. Plus, they assigned a couple of account coordinators. The team had the right to buy outside freelance services if necessary to support the in-house team.
Each day the account manager’s job was to manage workflow, estimating and any outside vendors. This person also coordinated with other agency services not included in the team—mostly digital/interactive functions and media planning and buying.
Having a smaller “book” of business compared to the total agency, and being fully responsible for all work from these particular clients allowed the team to do the work quickly and efficiently. The team met regularly to plan each day in their dedicated “war room,” a space set aside for them to use for anything from daily workflow meetings to brainstorming. Team members felt more loyal and committed to support one another since they were a smaller, more cohesive group. Not much got by them—from deadlines to typos, each team member felt and took personal responsibility.
And the Rest of the Business
And what of the rest of the agency, you ask? How did they respond to a lot of the agency’s business being handled by a select group of people?
Actually, they liked it.
The workload became more realistic, scaled down to about 200 projects in the agency at any one time from the remaining client list. So, all in all, this team segmenting was a good thing.
The really big agencies have done this for years. Because they have very large accounts with substantial billings, they are able to assign one full team per account. Of course, that is not possible in smaller agencies with lots of smaller accounts. Most agencies continue to have a central daily operating system. But, if you have so much business in your agency that the centralized system is becoming less effective, you may want to try partial team service.