If everyone's busy in your agency, no-one's wasting any time. Right?
Probably not right.
The Managing Director of a creative and branding agency once told us of no less than five different ways in which busy agency people waste time every day, even when they're working flat out and have the best of intentions.
“There’s a buzz in a busy agency. You can feel it, and certainly hear it,” he said.
But that very noise can be “the noise of working on the wrong things. In this industry you have to get to the essence of what’s needed, fast."
"If you allow the signal-to-noise ratio to become unbalanced, people waste their talents on things that won’t even help the client.”
“So cut through it."
You and your team will always have infinite demands on your time. It's the norm.
“There will always be over-demand for the resources you have. There are millions of ways to spend your time."
"The trick is to prioritise. What your gut feel tells you isn’t always right.”
Are your decisions led by logic? Emotion? Instinct? Or what? “You need something to help reconcile your head and your heart." It's not enough to be decisive. You need to base those decisions on something tangible.
Why devote huge amount of time doing generic things? Are you a generic agency? Of course not.
The trick is to make sure your team plays to your unique strengths where possible. Sounds obvious? It’s really not. You need tools to help you focus on the right specifics.
The amount of time wasted by most teams searching for elusive bits of existing information is extensive, repetitive and frustrating, and the busier the agency, the harder it is to find what you need in a hurry.
How did he address these five issues? Largely as spin-offs from a bigger issue.
He had bought a new agency management system, for the sorts of reasons that most agencies do. They wanted to get better visibility of job progress, have everything joined together, get early alerts of issues, and gain tighter financial control. But after implementation, he started to notice a number of by-products surfacing. With the system he began to realise that:
1. You can focus more easily on what helps the client.
Doing things that don't even help the client are a waste, and this becomes obvious from the data.
“Before our new system here we couldn’t see which areas of our business we should most focus on. It’s now crystal clear.”
2. You can give more attention to things you have prioritised.
Gut feel is often wrong, he observes. You need to reveal the hierarchy of important things, highlight the jobs that are starting to slip, the resources that urgently need attention, the margins that suddenly take a dive.
"You need a proper system” to cut through all the noise and show you what's important.
3. Decisions become better-informed.
Reconciling head and heart is tough without the right data in front of you. "Before Synergist we had a big heart, but we would work like headless chickens. Now, the data helps us make better decisions."
4. Actions that make you look generic are wasteful.
He found that the new data helps them steer their agency towards the patterns of work that make them shine the best. “It helps us focus on our point of difference.”
5. Time spent endlessly searching for data is a squandering of precious resources.
“We used to spend masses of time searching for information, or pulling together reports, or estimating work, or doing invoices. Such a waste."
"Now, that’s all cleaned up. It leaves more time for client focus."
"An agency bogged down in internal process-noodling can never be authentic because it’s oriented inwards rather than outwards”.
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