Making A Creative Agency Creative Again

by Mark Appleton

We were recently called to help an agency in the North East of England halt the slump they were experiencing.

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We were recently called to help an agency in the North East of England halt the slump they were experiencing.

The owner, a fantastically talented Creative Director, described a culture of finger pointing, blame and self-preservation. He used the exact words 'culture change'. With these words ringing in our earrs, and the knowledge that a culture change is one of the most difficult things to implement in any business, we set off.

We spent some time with the senior managers of the agency in both a group scenario, that descended into chaos, and one-to-ones, that also descended into chaos. We spent time with the rest of the agency team, mostly in a one-to-one situation. This descended into finger pointing and some wild accusations.

Whilst these meetings weren't exactly pleasant, they did show us that it wasn't a culture change that was required, rather, it was the same old problems raising their head again.

There was project scope that was out of control. Estimating that made the back of a fag packet look comprehensive and yet, strangely, under servicing of clients. Each of these individually are classic cases that see agencies struggle to grow or simply vanish from existence. Together, they are part of the cardinal sins of running an agency.

All the above items occurring at once, sometimes all on the same project, meant that in-fighting across the team was pretty inevitable. Management berating team members for not keeping on top of things, team members pointing the finger upwards at management amidst claims of no-support. And all this, headed by a bemused owner, still working as the Creative Director, who was struggling to understand why they couldn't all just get on.

We reviewed our findings and actions with the owner and subsequently with the senior management team. We agreed on some, amended others and put a few on hold for later dates.

Our findings were put into action and are still being put into action as we speak. Some much needed immediate changes have been implemented. These are to shore-up the estimating and scope issues, which will ensure future projects don't fall into the same traps as the existing ones. We continue to work with the team to make the running of the agency smoother and provide regular advice and guidance on everything from improving profitability to processes and procedures.

The owner said: "It has been a real help having The Agency Advantage around to almost wipe the slate clean. Whilst some of what was highlighted we knew, it's hard when you are in the middle of it all to do something about it, bogged down as you are with the day-to-day running (of the agency) and work required.

"We are now giving serious thought to the hiring of a new Creative Director to free me up for new business and the running of the agency. I couldn't have contemplated that just a short while ago."

If you find yourself in a similar situation, why not give us a call to see how we can help make your agency the best it can be.

NB. This Insight has been reviewed and cleared for publication by the owner of the digital agency. Names have been removed at the request of those involved.

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