Owning the comeback: how to take control of your business’ future
It’s been a long thirteen months but the economy is finally waking up. In March the UK Treasury forecast growth in 2021 at 4.8% – just one month later this had increased to 5.7%. Positivity is back and it’s time to act.
This moment of re-awakening provides chance to assess your future direction and prime your design business to prosper. But how can you ensure your agency is best placed to seize the opportunities that lie ahead?
Start by understanding your business and its landscape today
This is not a solo activity. Working with your leadership team, and preferably an external advisor, critically examine the business to understand what is working and what isn’t, what’s changed internally and externally, and where the areas of future opportunity lie. Be honest, be frank and be brave. It’s so much easier to manage issues once they are clearly in front of you.
From the lists, distill the most pressing areas you need to focus on to deliver success. Allocate each one to an individual within your team to champion it and be accountable for its delivery.
Ambitions and targets
Once you have your challenges identified, imagine what a successful future looks like by setting the business a set of commercial and other related performance targets. Knowing your destination is essential to structured rebuilding and growth.
Commit your objectives to writing, and share them among your full team, so everyone is aligned on your mission and has a shared understanding of what success will look like.
Empowering your leaders
This time of change is the perfect opportunity to embrace and empower your senior team. An involved and engaged senior team will provide focus and will considerably improve the management of every aspect of your business. Use the process to identify your stars of tomorrow too, and start to give them appropriate levels of accountability and empowerment.
Proposition and positioning
Covid has changed the way consumers behave and redefined what they expect. While it is inevitable there will be some degree of return to pre-covid normality, many of the behavioural changes in consumers are re-set for good. Be aware your proposition, positioning and value may need to change to reflect the revised world in which we live. Is there still a demand for your services from client and consumers? What do you need to focus on and what do you need to change? Use this to recut case studies and create thought leadership which will drive your business development plans.
The re-awakening impacts clients as much as it does agencies. They too have been dealing with the here and now and have equally suffered with the pressures of remote working. Seize the opportunity to re-engage. Spend as long as possible listening to their current challenges, and use the knowledge gained to inform your responses and to cement the relationships for the future.
Any agency has a mix of clients, but for many the retention of clients is everything. You now have the opportunity to approach your roster in a smarter manner. Develop a process that allows you to understand the true value of your clients to your business. Which clients contribute the greatest gross and net profit? Which have the strongest future growth potential? Which allow you to deliver directly on your proposition? And importantly, which ones align with your values and your culture? Make brave decisions by dropping those that bring the least value.
Develop your team
In the same way that client rosters need to be assessed, developed and rationalised, so does your team. Identify your superstars, define growth and empowerment plans for them, and ensure they are fully engaged in the development of the business. For those who are performing less strongly, assess the underlying reasons why. Are they in need of training, additional support or a change of role? The new expectations of the business may mean some of your team will no longer have a role to play. If this is the case make clear confident decisions. Follow procedures and communicate the news sensitively to the individual, and when appropriate to the wider team.
Once you have a roadmap of objectives regularly track progress of your achievement towards your goals. Ideally on an operational as well as a financial basis. Use the resulting data to make decisions on timing, priority, investment and resourcing, and on-going relevance of the initiatives.
Build and live your culture
In the new world we’ll see a scramble for talent. Attracting and retaining the right people will be critical to your future success. Improve your performance in this area by defining a clear set of cultural principles:
- Values – work by them, hire by them and most importantly share them
- Be inclusive – develop and live by policies covering diversity, inclusivity and sustainability which encourage all stakeholders, clients, employees, suppliers and partners to make sure people feel that your agency is a place for them
- Be considerate – encourage people to want to give their all by offering flexibility and variety. Wanting to give your all is very different from being made to give your all.
Take action and make decisions
The real benefit of doing these exercises comes not from the identification of the tasks, but from the implementation of them. During times of change, procrastination is the greatest enemy, so gather data and make quick, clear and confident decisions which allow your agency to address its challenges and thrive.
Welcome to the new world. Be ready.
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