It's a priority for almost every agency to scale up and attract larger and more prestigious clients, as well as the best talent.
And change is inevitable as you grow, and it should be embraced, but how do you make sure you remain agile while scaling from a small to a medium-size agency, or from medium to a large one?
How to Grow and Still Keep Your Agency Agile
Learn to Work Collaboratively
Connectivity and innovation in technology are changing the way agencies work -- for the better -- and you'll need to embrace this movement as you grow your team and number of clients.
To start with, you should be using a project management tool to make every project visible to your team and where applicable, clients as well. Luckily, there are a lot of options available, such as Basecamp, Active Collab, and many more. Implementing a system like this means that your team and clients can keep track of what tasks are on deck as well as delivery dates.
In addition, collaborating on documents is something that can save time and reduce the back and forth that occurs when working separately on the same documents. I am a big advocate for Google Docs, but there are other alternatives. It's particularly useful when there are several team members working on a pitch or proposal document.
Transparency may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about remaining agile; however, it's important from both a team and client perspective. As you grow, people begin to feel more disconnected from leadership and clients and from knowing what's really going on in the company.
Implementing collaborative project management is a good first step torward being transparent as it allows complete visibility into a project and gives clarity on everyone’s responsibility for each element of a project or campaign.
Now, what level of transparency you put on the table is completely up to you, but I believe in putting as much transparency on the table as you can. Introducing something such Slack into your workflows means you can make internal communication visible to anyone in the company, and if it's the right fit for your agency, you can even do the same thing with your clients.
Creating a private channel in Slack for each client will allow the operational team and the client to get a full view of all conversations about their account. This can be scary, but it's equally empowering. If you want to give it a try, roll it out slowly. Test it with one client you have a strong relationship at first. You might be surprised at the results!
Define Your Culture
Building a great culture is tough -- really tough. But if you can get it right, you'll reap the benefits. This is especially true during high growth periods where the agency team can feel the stress as the limits of the company are tested.
It's easy to lose sight of your digital agency's culture as you grow and become busier, focusing on delivering more work for clients. But you should make culture a priority, remembering to adhere to your core values.
That's why it's so important to define your culture from the start. As you scale, these values, ideas, and attitudes will be imparted on new hires and used during hiring to vet candidates. This is what allows you to remain agile, helping new employees to immediately understand what the agency stands for, how people interact internally and with clients, and what the ultimate goal they are working toward is.
Focus on the Business Over Financials
People do their best work when they are in an environment they feel inspired and comfortable in. If you want to build an agency that continues to produce amazing results for clients, focus on the business, not the financials.
I am not saying that you should ignore cash flow. Cash is oxygen for an agency looking to scale. However, the focus should be on building a great agency, not just bringing in revenue. This type of financial pressure can create a toxic environment. Happier staff who truly enjoy working with your clients will do more for bringing in more new business than anything else.
This can be a tricky one to keep on top of because more revenue and more new business is alluring, especially if your goal is growth. But remember that you want to scale while also staying true to your values and delivering great results for clients. By focusing on this, you can both retain your culture and grow the agency.
Don’t Build Walls
As your staff number increases, it can be easy for barriers to be erected between teams, which often results in a lack of communication between departments. This causes duplicate efforts and can result in mixed messages to clients as teams work on the same accounts but without communicating with one another.
This is a difficult thing to fix once it's in place, so watch for signs of problems and try to implement fixes before it becomes ingrained in how people work.
The responsibility for this often rests with the leadership on each team -- make sure they are communicating with one another and are working to instill the company culture in their team members. And create processes that make it easy yet encourage different departments to work together and rely on each other.