Client work by Tayburn


Lifting the commercial awareness of an agency results in non-financial staff understanding how their work affects the health of the company.

But that requires a business culture shift, and culture is notoriously difficult to alter. The Wall Street Journal says ‘changing an entrenched culture is the toughest task you will face’ as a manager.

They cite a business book saying there are four hurdles to overcome: 1. People must understand why the change is needed. 2. Companies have limited resources. 3. Workers have to want to make the change. 4. Companies often have institutional politics, slowing change down.

Such change is normally slow. An article in the FT said:

‘Peugeot Citroen needs to change its culture to achieve profitability', its new chief executive said as they finalised a €3bn financial bailout. 

“The profit culture of the company is not very developed.

Making money is not at the core of the company,”

said Carlos Tavares, a former top executive at its partner Nissan.

Even in small agencies, getting team members to see the bigger picture and take a more entrepreneurial approach can be hard. The Association of Graduate Recruiters says that commercial awareness is the number one skill shortage in the UK.

So, how can you raise your agency’s commercial awareness culture?


It seems remarkable, but we do know of a way that makes commercial attitudes improve quickly and rather automatically. How?

Steven Clark, Financial and Commercial Manager of creative branding & design agency Tayburn, installed Synergist and discovered that the visibility it brings users is an eye-opener for them.

Previously, being always busy, everyone focused on their immediate task only. But using the system reveals to them how their work isn't in isolation at all. It affects others too, and it affects the health of the agency itself.

Steven had this to say:

“It’s been an education for the team. It gives so much more knowledge to the account directors, for example.

It’s increased the financial knowledge to non-finance staff tenfold.

“It’s given them more of a sense of responsibility, more discipline.

The team have become much more commercially minded now. They understand margins.

“It’s also helped our account managers and account directors earn more from existing clients.”

Increasing the sense of responsibility resonates with Natalie Gross, then CEO of Amaze, the digital marketing, technology and commerce consultancy. They, too, implemented Synergist:

“Making people feel responsible is so important.

There are ways to help people take responsibility.

Firstly it’s helping people understand that responsibility.

And secondly it’s about the systems and tools they have around them to do that.”

And Nigel Wilson, Managing Director of creative and digital agency Clevercherry, mentioned that installing Synergist delivers a self-sufficient process of education that happens pretty much automatically. He said:

“It’s educating the team.

They make better decisions now. It promotes self-education.

Team members are much more aware now of what costs go into a job.”

"There are ways to help people take responsibility." Natalie Gross, then MD of Amaze

Client work by Amaze


Commercial awareness is a topic that should therefore be higher on any agency’s agenda. It has such profound effects on the bottom line. Summary:

1. It keeps on delivering.

Like all shifts in culture, once it’s absorbed it tends to stay absorbed. New employees pick up on it as the norm, and it becomes part of the company’s ongoing character.

2. It affects behaviour.

It’s not just an abstract shift in attitude – such a change produces tangible changes in how your team members make their decisions every day.

3. It steers clients.

Increased commercial awareness affects how employees lead clients, helping ensure that decisions are positive for both parties.

4. It improves team engagement.

It has been repeatedly observed that team members become more actively involved when they see that their decisions are contributing to the bottom line. They grasp the bigger picture and feel more connected to the enterprise.

5. It can have an illumination effect.

Companies have often reported seeing ‘aha’ moments from their teams when they suddenly realise how everything fits together.

“It’s educating the team. They make better decisions now.” Nigel Wilson, Managing Director, Clevercherry

Client work by Clevercherry