Reasons to be cheerful
“Life must go on,” says business advisor Ian Cochrane, Chairman of Ticegroup, “there will be opportunities for positive thinking design agencies to help their clients to grow and thrive in this new trading environment.” Measures are being put in place to stave off recession and boost the economy, and Ian flags that there are at least three reasons to be cheerful:
- Borrowing should be easier moving forward and interest rates are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future. This will enable agencies to invest in staff, learning and technology to accelerate growth.
- Corporation tax may go down which will not only attract inward investment to the UK but automatically increase post tax earnings and the valuation of design businesses.
- The weaker sterling exchange rate will boost overseas sales potential.
“Agencies have a real opportunity to build and prepare their businesses ready for a possible trade sale in 3-5 years’ time,” says Cochrane.
On agencies’ financial concerns, accountants Green and Purple’s MD, Peter Carter also has some good news: those agencies who are service providers to the EU with few overhead costs in those markets, are in fact beautifully placed – they are now more competitive than a supplier in their client’s home country. “Any piece of work you quote in GBP now is worth the same to you as it was, but costs your clients less, because of the pound’s weakness, which will probably recover slowly but not for quite some time. If you already have any foreign-denominated retainers: happy days, they’re worth more to you than they were last month.”
Peter also flags that during the last few downturns we have seen a gradual shift where advertising and marketing spend is being seen as a recovery tool, rather than a discretionary nice-to-have, so agencies aren’t getting ‘switched off’ in a downturn, at least no more than other essentials like people and property costs. “Hold your nerve when quoting and tendering,” he advises, “you shouldn’t need to drop your prices to undercut ‘local’ competitors, and the UK has long had the edge in terms of sharp and effective design.”
The long game
“There is a long way to go until we are clear again on our working relationship with our European friends,” says industry expert Kate Blandford of Kate Blandford Consulting. “Stay calm, keep up those friendships, continue to do your extraordinary work, building healthy commercial futures for your clients’ brands.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by business development consultant, Catherine Allison of Master the Art: “Surely now, more than ever, agency CEOs need to project positivity, ensure agency staff remain confident and engaged, invest in their personal development and train them to represent the agency in the best possible way? Only then will they be best placed to convert those new business opportunities that do come their way.”
So in these extraordinary days, months and years ahead, this will be the time to really master your messaging to your clients on the value you can bring to their business; the ROI and commercial growth they can expect to see from investing in design. As the DBA’s CEO Deborah Dawton says: “UK design is world leading. Our industry’s proven ability to drive both business and economic growth has not changed, nor has the quality and effectiveness of our offer. UK design is a potent business asset and a sound commercial investment.”
It is our time to design a better future for business, government and society. The opportunity is there.
With thanks to the contributors from the DBA’s Register of Experts.