Yesterday evening we had the pleasure of attending another Agency Collective meetup in Bristol to talk agency growth. Led by a panel of influential agency owners (Chris Gee from Rixxo, Simon Barbato from MrB&Friends and Caroline MacDonald from Oggadoon), we got an insight into what it’s like to run a busy agency and scale up successfully. From recruitment, to business development and culture — here are a few things that resonated with me.
Recruitment: do it well, but don’t pay
Even the fairly sizeable agencies at the event last night told us that they don’t tend to use recruitment agencies. Instead, they prefer to invest recruitment budget into their people, creating an enjoyable environment where people thrive — the kind of working environment that attracts talent organically. It’s a great way of turning the recruitment question on its head.
When it comes to when to hire new people, all three agency owners prefer to stay ahead and recruit proactively, or on a rolling basis. We loved Caroline’s unorthodox approach to recruitment, asking people for videos instead of the usual CVs.
- Hire before it’s too late
- Try and stay one member of staff ahead.
It’s a great attitude to have, and shows how capability creates opportunities. That’s definitely something we can learn from.
We’re in the situation of needing more people in order to grow, so we really appreciated hearing from more experienced agency leaders.
Business Development: leaders need to play an active role
Simon said something that resonated very strongly with me: he felt that he should be involved in winning new business for his agency, because only he knows the full story of the company. Whenever he is involved in pitches, prospects seem to convert better — probably because he is in the best position to help them.
Here at Seeker we’ve been lucky enough to have all the business we need for our current size. We’ve been focussing on internal operations, improving our product, and developing staff. Now it’s the time to start looking outwards and populating that pipeline. I
see now that I need to free up more of my time so that I can devote more to networking, sales, and getting us to the next stage. Like Caroline said — only founders have that ‘beating heart’ connection to the business, and we need to use that passion and knowledge wisely.
Another business development tip: take things offline and pick up the phone or send a package. There is so much digital noise out there — this can be a great way to stand out.
Culture: invest in your people
As a working mother, flexible working hours were very important to Caroline. At Oggadoon, she’s made a big effort to accommodate people’s family lives and needs as parents. The whole company culture is flexible, and it’s been a big draw for new staff.
Chris has a daily fika, a Swedish coffee morning at 11 every single day. His whole business down tools, drink coffee, and talk about anything other than work. It’s a great way to learn more about the people in the business, and even visiting finance directors get roped in! What a great, unique way to build a positive team culture.
Simon’s agency have invested in personal trainers and fitness classes for staff. Even though the classes haven’t cost his agency that much, he’s got so much back from them already in terms of team morale and cohesion. Nothing like exercise to drive team bonds.
Pressure is an interesting beast, and it can be hard to know when to back off. All three founders had some wise words on when, and how, to apply pressure.
There is no need to apply unnecessary pressure to staff, as agency life has its own pressures. Try to understand, and work with people so that they feel supported. Caroline has a very open and honest three step rule when it comes to addressing recurring issues or concerns. In creative environments it’s important to have an open relationship of trust and feedback, especially when it comes to client work.
Being a Founder: let go more
Firstly, it was very comforting to hear that all founders have experiences in common! Like the fact that they don’t always make great employees… I certainly wasn’t always a great employee: stepping outside boundaries and not always towing the line. I remember getting frustrated about the way things were done, and I think that’s partly what pushed me to setting up my own agency.
All three founders underlined the importance of taking a break! They all said how important recharging is, and how we shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time off (that’s so me — I even feel guilty about going off to conferences!).
Another good tip — fit the agency round your life, not the other way round. I loved Chris’s “director o’clock” quip — sometimes owners need to be OK with coming in a little later if they are putting in the hours in the evenings and on weekends.
About the Agency Collective
They’re a community dedicated to agency growth — and we love them.
As soon as we were able to call ourselves an agency, we signed up! I spoke to Daniel in month two of starting the business, and we’ve been members ever since.We’ve gone from strength to strength: each time we go to the meeting we have progressed, and are facing a new challenge. One of our first challenges was the all-important one for a new business: cash-flow. Peter Hoole from Cact.us did a helpful presentation on cash flow at the Agency Collective, and we ended up hiring him for a consultancy day after that to provide us with some all important financial advice!
This time, our challenge was recruiting, and we learned a lot from the expert panel. Once we have overcome our talent attraction challenge, we will probably need to look at how we attract new business.
So why do we love Agency Collective? Well, the content is great: all 100% actionable advice, live documentation and templates — all aimed at putting you on a fast track to success. But the most valuable aspect for me is the social element, learning from those further along their journey: seeing where we want to be. It’s so valuable hearing them look back and reflect on their earlier experiences, telling us how they overcame their growth challenge.
If you’re interested in learning more, visit https://theagencycollective.co.uk/ or get in touch and we would be very happy to take you along to the next event as a guest.