Why Agency Chiefs Should Outsource Business-Planning

Viewpoint: An Outside Perspective Could Spark Innovation and Better Profit Margins

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Al Moffatt
Al Moffatt
So we're supposed to be in an economic recovery. Someone should tell that to agency CEOs, most of whom are still paddling like hell trying to avoid taking on more water. In the past 12 months, it feels like agency chiefs spent more time scurrying about the decks putting out fires and mopping up than they did steadying the wheel to chart a course into safer waters.

Small and medium-sized agency CEOs have always fought the incessant tug of getting sucked back into the day-to-day business. But now they -- along with many large agency chiefs -- have little choice as slashed marketing budgets, shrinking staffs, growing client demands and lower margins have distracted them from setting and guiding the agency's long-term vision and strategies in favor of just staying afloat.

Time to think, plan, motivate and lead has become so 2006. Of course, the agency model hasn't been rock solid since the demise of media commissions in the 1980s. But of late, the leaks in the boat are really starting to show, especially as agencies are faced with deciphering very complex rigging that includes social media, mobile marketing and procurement, just to name a few.

If principals are spending all their time with the crew, how are they going to discover new, more promising and profitable lands? Self-reliant agency types have never been good at asking for help. Today, they have little choice, not to mention time.

Just as clients have done for years, agencies may soon start to -- and perhaps should -- outsource a large portion of their own business planning, modeling and strategies to objective, independent third parties.

For instance, agencies need an outside perspective to develop new-business models that yield better profit margins. Agencies could use operational experts to recommend improved processes for getting work out the door in a more streamlined, efficient manner. Shops could also hire outside consultants to develop agency business plans, which are sorely missing from many agencies. And they could even outsource procurement negotiations to an entity that's more skilled at negotiations than they are.

Inviting perspectives from academics, business consultants and technology experts could spark innovative new ways to approach the agency business and it might just be the thing to allow stressed-out CEOs to go back to captaining the ship.

Al Moffatt is president-CEO of Worldwide Partners, an owner-operated agency network made up of more than 90 independent shops in over 50 countries.