New Biz Should be Business as Usual

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BART CLEVELAND: We’re seeing a great beginning to our business this year. We’ve picked up a couple of new pieces of business recently and have a number of prospects about to make decisions. How we manage this growth is a real challenge because we want our present clients to feel nary a ripple in our service to them. As well, we want our new clients to know immediately that they made the right decision. That means we have to be ready for added workload before it gets here.

Pardon my stating the obvious but the way an agency does this is by being appropriately staffed. I’m not talking about numbers of employees but their effectiveness. This is most important because staff is an agency’s biggest financial obligation. An agency that is over-staffed loses money like a colander loses water. Since a few percentage points of additional overhead make the difference in profit and loss for ad agencies, it’s incredibly important they be staffed in a way that maximizes work potential.

One of the keys to achieving this efficiency is to rethink the way you do things. We grew considerably in 2005. This caused us to dramatically change some of the ways we work. Our willingness to change has prepared us for the next level of growth we are now experiencing. Here are some of the things we’ve done.

We grew our staff’s abilities. We moved people forward in their skills set and the scope of their responsibility. I recommend doing this even before it’s needed so you’ll have a better cushion of time to hire appropriately when new biz comes in the door.

Some people resist change. We didn’t allow resistance. It caused some people to find another place to work. They wanted things the way they were. That’s shortsighted. An agency that isn’t growing is dying. I don’t know anyone who enjoys working at a dying agency. We made the improvement of skills a part of everyone’s job description. We rewarded those who embraced it. Some small rewards are as important as nice pay increases and bonuses. For example, find out what a deserving employee’s favorite restaurant is and buy them a gift certificate to take their family or friends out to eat on the agency. Give it to them privately with a little card of thanks.

When you must hire to meet the added workload already have someone selected. In other words always be in a hiring mode. Always be looking as if you were hiring tomorrow. Invest in bringing people into town to get to know them one on one. Email them and call them for casual chats. When it’s time to pull the trigger you’ll know who’s a match. They’ll be chomping at the bit to be a part of the team. This requires more work on your part but being proactive saves money and heartache when it comes to hiring.

Finally, ask your employees to help solve the problem of additional work. You might be surprised at how giving them the reigns will allow you to grow without having to add as much staff as you think you might need. Great employees want what's right for the company. If they can handle the workload they’d rather enjoy the added profits than add cost with more employees.

Efficiency can sometimes eliminate the need for adding personnel. Make it a priority and be the example of it. Don’t expect your employees to be more efficient and put up with the sloppy habits you’ve gotten away with when you were little. You know no one is going to do what you’re not willing to do.
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