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Waves on the ocean: What lies beneath your performance data?

When it comes to running an agency there’s a multitude of data to stay-on top of, from cash flow to profitability, client debtor days to utilisation rates.

The information traditionally used to analyse business performance is data that has risen up to the surface from an ocean of activity. To really understand the reasons for results being as they are, and to look to ways to improve them, we should also understand the human interactions that impact on the data. We have to dive deeper.

One manifestation on the surface of our ‘business ocean’ is money arriving in the bank account… diving deeper we should look at the journey of this money and see if the key moments reveal how we might have done things better:

The invoice

  • do we send invoices on time?
  • could invoices be broken down into stages and invoiced earlier?
  • could a % of the work be billed up-front?


  • are we tracking debtor days and taking action on late payers?
  • do we always get a purchase order signed off by the client?
  • are our terms and conditions good enough?

Work in progress

  • are we tracking time against the quote given to the client? Did we get the quote right?
  • are we identifying scope creep and billing the client accordingly?
  • are we meeting the KPIs for the value of work in progress?


  • have we identified prospective separately from speculative?
  • have we set and do we meet KPIs for the value of prospective and speculative work?
  • do we have a score system to evaluate the viability of a lead?


  • are we setting and meeting targets for thought leadership pieces?
  • are we using our employees network to share content?
  • are we positioning ourselves as partners rather than vendors?

For each element of your business you need to look beyond the surface results and understand how those figures came to be as they are. What is causing the success or difficulties, and how can they be improved?

About: Gary Baxter, Lightbox Consulting

Gary is MD of Lightbox Consulting. Gary specialises in helping creative agencies deal with their challenges by seeing through the symptoms to tackle the underlying issues. 

Gary advises owners of creative businesses on how they make the best business decisions for their circumstances. Through his extensive experience in financial and business management he brings an external perspective to facilitate open and honest discourse in an agency setting. 

Gary is an accredited member of the DBA’s Experts Register. Find out more and get in touch. 

Image credit:

Chris Barbalis | Unsplash


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