Think of Your Agency as a Swiss Army Knife

You’ve just won a new account. Initial discussions with the client lead to long-term planning around initiatives that have you concerned; you really don’t have the people with the needed skill sets to handle these initiatives. So you start networking and fire up your recruiting efforts, hoping to find the person you need. As you draft your list of needed skills and abilities, you focus heavily on just those skills the new client needs.

Wait a minute… stop and think about other useful skills you might be able to acquire in a single hire.

Unicorns and Octopodes Need Not Apply 

Usually, agencies seek people with lots of tools in their tool-kits, as opposed to just a few very specific skills. But your individual creative people can’t do it all; that would be like expecting every person you hire to be a purple unicorn, or an octopus with tentacles reaching into every creative specialty—but your agency team can and should function like a Swiss Army Knife.

Creative people in particular need to be flexible and agile, able to switch from today’s work on a CPG account, to tomorrow’s effort on behalf of Big Pharma, to the next day’s work for a poly-coating manufacturer. They also need to be able to design, write or code, or have some background in different areas—interactive and print, or illustration and social, and so on. Creative talent—in fact, all ad agency employees—should be able to pull out the right tool for any occasion, or partner with a team member who can fill the skills gap.

No matter the need or skills required, you should be able to call on someone in the agency to provide the necessary know-how. If you can’t afford all of those skills in full-time people, look for independent contractors or freelancers who can step in to offer extra skills on demand. When you find a good contractor, consider how they might fit as a full-time team member.

Expand the Agency’s Tool Kit

Swiss Army Knife thinking is especially valuable when you are running a lean agency. A contractor who brings lots of tools to the table becomes invaluable (and maybe shouldn’t be a project-by-project contractor, but at the very least, on retainer to the agency).

Whenever you are recruiting or hiring, keep a list of skill sets, industry experience or creative talents you could use to expand your agency’s overall tool kit. It is helpful to map your existing skill sets, then talk to your managers about gaps you should try to fill. Discuss skills you need urgently in annual planning, and make it a priority to recruit those people.

Treat your agency team like a Swiss Army Knife, and add new tools whenever possible. Every day brings new challenges in this crazy business. Build a team with a wide variety of skills and capabilities, so you always have what you need in the agency’s back pocket. 


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