If I knew then what I know now .... I'd have gone axe throwing
If I knew then what I know now is a series of bylines from small agency executives about the lessons they learned in building their shops.
Funny to think it was over 6 years ago when we were just a skeleton crew determined to put our heads together to form our own creative agency. With our hodgepodge group coming from different shops, with different experiences in tow, there was one mantra that resonated the most with our collective: we take the work seriously, not ourselves. And with that the hi5.agency was born.
As our client roster grew, so did our team. My focus was on helping secure new business while ensuring we were going above and beyond with the work we had. But as the ranks expanded, I started to hear rumblings of a spreading sentiment: "What about me?"
I had been spending so much time with my eye on the business that I’d overlooked properly managing and elevating our employees. We had to pump the brakes. The more I observed and spoke with team members, the more I noticed that they had all been anxiously awaiting feedback and guidance on ways in which they could improve within their own positions. Many were hungry and searching for more proactive routes to reach the next rung in their professional careers. In the chaos of helping build the shop, I had been so focused on the success of the agency that I’d overlooked the investment and mentorship of our team members.
With this 20/20 hindsight, the agency’s direction and ambitions are being adjusted so that our team’s development is at the forefront. During every performance review, we now provide roadmaps customized to each individual, organizing attainable milestones and timeframes to help lay out a path to reach their desired goals within the agency. Venturing into a new realm for hi5.agency, we’ve even developed new positions for some individuals who wanted to explore other avenues around our service offering.
Empowering individuals to become more vocal about their aspirations, as well as encouraging them to communicate their interests to see how we can integrate their hobbies within the workplace, has changed the whole shop’s dynamic. Team-building outings like bowling, axe throwing, karaoke and improv sessions have created new levels of bonding. We’ve established an education program that provides reimbursement for taking classes to not only improve one’s own skills but to come back and share any main takeaways with the team.
Here is my main takeaway: Don’t just say you are invested in your team, show them through your actions. No agency is perfect, but I’ve discovered through the trials and tribulations of setting up a new shop that the people and the energy they create is everything. Providing meaningful, career-oriented, achievable milestones and encouraging the team along the way has shifted my priorities and processes to become a bit more introspective. In turn I’ve seen organic growth in a brighter, more productive environment with our clients, our campaigns, and the work we create.
You can’t be all things to all people, but it’s vital that you take the necessary time to focus on the happiness and development of the team helping the agency fire on all cylinders. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Ad Age's Small Agency Awards contest is now open for submissions. To apply, go here. Also don't forget to sign up for Ad Age's tenth annual Small Agency Conference & Awards, to be held July 30-31 in New Orleans.