It’s an all too familiar tale for entrepreneurs who own and run digital creative agencies.
You jump out of bed every morning thrilled to tackle another day of business, excited at the opportunities out there and how the future could shape up.
The challenge then comes in getting your team to share in that excitement and be equally motivated to drive the business forward. To some extent they can’t be blamed, they’re employees and they’re not going to see the ultimate reward you are, both financially and in the personal fulfilment of having built something of genuine value. Despite that, there’s a lot that can be done to get them on side.
Alongside that challenge, there’s also the huge amount of competition out there in the sector. Micro agencies are appearing left right and centre who can undercut at any opportunity, and an increasing number of big businesses are taking their marketing function in house. It’s causing a lot of agencies to start feeling the strain when it comes to driving financial performance and retaining and motivating key employees.
That’s where your culture comes in. And by culture, I don’t mean having a funky studio in the Northern Quarter with a pool table and regular staff socials. I’m not saying those things don’t play a part, because it does influence the decisions clients and staff make, but there’s a huge opportunity in going further than that and having a Performance Culture in your agency. It means everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, working towards the same end goal and ultimately enjoying what they do and delivering an outstanding service for your clients.
It’s the only way to deliver truly sustainable financial performance.
Here’s how to instil a Performance Culture in your agency.
#1 Clearly Communicate The End Goal
As the leader of the business, you should be absolutely sick of standing in front of the team and reminding them of the goals you have and what the steps are to getting there. If you want all the team to be on the bus with you, they have to be clear what the destination is. No journey is going to be straight forward, there are twists and turns and some bits will be unpleasant. It’s only when they know what all the hard work is for that they will stick with you and perform when it really matters.
Most importantly, what does it mean for them personally? We see far too many business owners get hung up on business objectives – client numbers, revenue targets, profit margins, and forget that the only reason any of us are in business is to deliver the personal life that we want. The team need to be clear on what the business goals mean for them personally.
It could be a financial reward, a change in their role, the time they can spend with their family, or any number of other motivators. Only then will they be truly bought in.
#2 Open Up The Finances & Track KPIs
As the agency becomes more performance focused the risk is that improved operational efficiency comes at the cost of stifling creativity. It’s the last thing you want as it’s that creativity and quality output that got the business to where it is today.
The best creatives out there don’t often have a commercial background, so if you want the team to believe in the path you’re on, you need to help them understand why it is that you’re now tracking their time and questioning budgets. How is it that their day to day activities are going to deliver on the goals we have?
With that understood, it’s a case of breaking down the long term business plan into short term, measurable KPIs that can be shared with the team on an ongoing basis. When the team can see the impact their work is having on the financial performance it becomes very fulfilling. Having KPIs across each area of the business gives you as owner the confidence that amongst all the noise things are heading in the right direction. You want a range of KPIs covering each function of the business – leads generated, pipeline value, conversion rate, average hourly rate, utilisation, revenue per head, net profit etc. Learning is an essential part of the journey with every positive being analysed so it can be repeated, and every negative being looked into so things that be put in place to prevent it from happening again.
#3 Implement A Rapid Appraisal Process
With the vision clearly communicated, progress being tracked and employees understanding where they fit in, the final step is to turn your team into individual superstars and keep them motivated. Long gone are the days of the annual appraisal process, with instant performance management being preferred by employees and more effective too.
At the very least have a quarterly appraisal process with measurable targets that are split between delivering results for the business and developing them personally. The latter is a huge motivator and becomes a win-win. Remember it’s a two-way process so give them chance to share their views on the business and your management. Their input can be priceless and it’s another way to remind them that their voice can be heard and you value their input.
Finally, be sure to give any feedback instantly. If its positive, do so in front of others and if it’s constructive, do so in private. If they’re the right employees who live and breath your core values, they will embrace any feedback as a way to improve and become the best they can be.
The Next Steps
Unsure on how to get started? Book your discovery call here and find out how we can help you along the process.