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Structural reviews: building your dream team

2021 is finishing more brightly – the world has woken up and 69%* of agencies have a confident outlook for the year ahead.

Your agency profile and positioning are facilitating your new business efforts and your proposition is delivering quality output for clients. But now that we can see a way forward once more, do your team and culture still match your ambition? Will they enable you to seize the opportunities that lie ahead?

Right now, for agency leaders inertia is not an option. So much has changed; attitudes, behaviour and norms have all shifted on their axes. What worked so well in life and work in the past no longer offer a guarantee of future success. The need to define and invest in your people from every angle is more important than ever, especially in a sector experiencing a scramble for talent and skills.

The process of reviewing and resetting your culture and forming the team you need, should be handled sensitively – all the more so following the discovery in the DBA’s latest Annual Survey Report* that 39% of member agencies have made redundancies in the last 18 months. These changes may have un-nerved many of those left behind in shrinking workplaces and add into that the mental fragility that has arisen from the past two years of disruption, uncertainty and isolation, and you face one of the biggest challenges of your leadership life. This is a review that poses great opportunity for the future of your business and can be achieved through the process below.

Getting fit for purpose - a simple approach

This five-step process, will give you the confidence to create and develop a top-performing team who will help you build the agency that you dream of.

Follow this, build a strong culture with the right people, and the business becomes magnetic – to talent, to clients and ultimately to success.

1. Defining Your Context
As with any journey an understanding of the destination is imperative so start by defining yours.

  • What are the core values which determine every aspect of your business?
  • What are you trying to achieve commercially and culturally?
  • What are the criteria, achievements and markers which will signpost and define your success?

2. Review Your Culture
Now that you have your direction set, next assess your culture to get an understanding of whether you are setting the ground for success or are you hindering your best intentions.

  • In what ways are you living and operating by your values (or not)?
  • Are your operating procedures using your values to attract, retain and get the most out of your team and ultimately deliver the best for your clients?
  • Are you encouraging and embracing the diversity, equality and inclusivity that allows creative businesses to deliver their best?
  • Are you creating/ offering a bespoke flexible working environment that balances individual needs with those of the business?
  • How are the differing levels of your business supporting others (particularly senior supporting junior members)?

3. Design Your Team
Now you have a blueprint for your culture how can you use this to define the team that will want to deliver for you, and will be capable of achieving this?

  • What roles do you need to provide your services?
  • What skills are required to deliver on the roles?
  • What are the outcome expectations of the roles?

4. Assess
You now have an understanding of the ideal team you need to build and can match this to your current people to bring to life the vision you have created. This won’t be a perfect process so to smooth the transition you are likely to need to bolster the development with training or new heads that reflect your values and bring new skills.

  • Do your people have the skills and attitude to contribute to the vision you are building?
  • What individual development requirements are needed for your current team?
  • What new skills do we need to develop or source?

5. Invest and Action
Now the really important bit. This is no arms-length exercise. To build a culture and team that is fit for purpose, you’ll need to lead from the front investing your heart and soul into the process as well as money.

  • How can we find the people with the skills we need?
  • How can we train our people to work as we need?
  • How can we create a strong employer brand which will attract future talent?
  • How can we activate a culture that is built on our values?
  • How can we retain our people?
  • How can we incentivize the team and our key people?
  • How can we create a continuous learning culture?


Putting it into action

During the last two years, perceptions of value, priorities and hierarchies have changed in the employee/ employer relationship making it more fluid than ever before. Attracting and retaining the best people, with the right attitude and skills will drive the quality and growth your business craves. As you undertake this exercise consider how you can learn from others – explore agencies you admire and seek external advice for inspiration and experience.  

Following the process above will enable you to focus on the task ahead preparing and shaping your team for the future.

Delivering this successfully will offer hard dividends in the form of profitability and, as importantly, in terms of pride, satisfaction and contentment from your clients and your team.

This is a beginning of a new chapter so make sure this is top of your to do list.

Enjoy the journey.

*The 2021 DBA Annual Survey Report will be launched in October. Find out how you can use the findings in the report to benchmark your charge out rates, salaries and more here.


The Annual Survey Report is exclusively available to DBA members.


Not yet a member? Drive your competitiveness by joining the DBA and gaining access to this valuable tool. Contact or call 020 7251 9229 to discuss the many benefits DBA membership can bring to your business.

About: About Jeremy Paterson

IF Media Consultancy is a business consultancy established by Jeremy Paterson which helps SME agency and creative businesses grow commercially, operationally and culturally.

If your business is in need of a structural review then please contact Jeremy to discuss how you can build your business into one that is capable of taking advantage of opportunity.

Jeremy is an accredited DBA Expert. Find out more here.


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