How do you make an agency scalable?

 |  By: Steve Johnson In: Agency management | Growth and scalability

Over the past few months, more and more agencies are telling us that they are now in the mood to plan for growth.

Synergist’s users talk a lot about the word scalability. But exactly what do they mean by that word?

For them, a key element of scalability is having an infrastructure that helps their future growth be as…

  • smooth
  • safe, and
  • manageable

…as possible. It’s all about avoiding as many future shocks and disconnects as they can.

So how can your decisions about infrastructure help in your growth plans?

1. Some systems simply don’t scale

Who wants to have to start all over again by replacing a management system that starts to fail? It happens a lot. Rob Hill, Managing Director of HMA, told us that they originally developed their own system in-house:

“It wasn’t scalable. We needed a system
that would take care of the 
agency fundamentals and allow us to
grow when we chose to.”

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How to make scalable HMA

[HMA clients]

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And Mark Beaumont, the Founder of Dinosaur, told us:

“We used to have another system,
but we outgrew it.”

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How to make scalable co-op

[Dinosaur client work: The Cooperative Food]

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It’s hard to put a cost on the process of having to start a new system over. There is one benefit, however. The final system is usually well chosen, because the team are in a far better position to know what they want from a system. But it's experience learned the hard way.

What triggers the failure of the old system? Sometimes it’s a question of running out of capacity, and sometimes it’s one of running out of the features needed by a larger company. When Mark Beaumont reflected on his choice of Synergist he said:

“We’re sorted now and for the future, and
I can see that I could run a 200-person
agency with Synergist. That’s very
Knowing you have a system
that can handle it all and pull it all
together and grow with you is a good feeling.”

2. Some systems are hard work

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re spending a lot of your time making your business function, rather than developing the business? If so, it’s the equivalent of constantly fixing your car’s engine rather than actually driving it.

Rob Hill said:

“One big reason for implementing Synergist
was to avoid wasting so much time
running the mechanics of the agency
when we want to focus purely on clients."

3. Some systems don’t give you the information you need to optimise growth

Another Synergist user, David Ladds, Director of Bladonmore, says that the right information is the key to growth:

“Thoroughly understanding time and the
value of time is key. For us to have scale
we need to know exactly how we spend
our time. It’s that simple.”

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How to make scalable Bladonmore

[Bladonmore client work]

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What sort of information do you need to aid growth? Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t only about knowing the current state of projects and clients. It's also about uncovering your hidden capacity for work you don’t yet have. The co-founder of a London-based creative agency told us:

“Synergist allows us to scale. It helps us
know what sort of projects we can take on.”

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4. Some systems encourage distributed decision-making

Finally, for some the biggest boost to growth is all about team members raising their game. How? By giving them access to the information they really need to make decisions, thus relieving the decision-making bottleneck at the top. Says Nigel Wilson, Managing Director of CleverCherry:

“Synergist has helped us be more scalable.
People are more empowered now.
Decisions that used to drop relentlessly
into my lap every day are now taking place
with no fuss. That’s a payoff that keeps paying.”

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How to make scalable CleverCherry

[CleverCherry client work for Yale]