TL;DR

How: Cut down on activities that don't achieve the desired outcome.

Better Agency: How to be More Profitable (Part 2 of 5)

Have a clear objective in mind and only do things that get you there.

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Many agencies start out with its founders wanting to earn more than when they were an employee while still do very much the same things, but find themselves hit with the realities of bills to pay and clients to win. With little to no business experience, few manage to survive and even fewer are profitable enough to scale.

In this five-part mini series, James Ient, CFO at Compagnie Financiere Tradition (CFT), shares quick tips on how to run a more successful agency business.

Agencies need to buy time to understand what they do and why, analyse each activity and limit future activity only to those that are productive. Spend more time thinking and less time doing.

Working the core increases margins

Reducing your activities to key behaviours and characteristics to those that are essential to get the desired outcomes.

Reducing your activities to key behaviours (Pareto*) and characteristics to those that are essential to get the desired outcomes. Do you need a long email or would a 2-minute phone call be more productive? Is it better to spend two days on a proposal or take the client for lunch?

Pareto will help you do more things with high chances of success and do those things most efficiently.

* The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

“Sounds easy, but how do you do it?”

I break the overload chain.

I stop everything at 5 pm and start again at 7 am. Breaking the flow every day has given me the chance to actively and passively analyse what is left undone and formulate a way to do it the next day as efficiently as possible. Brain training like this then starts to be a natural thing, and it becomes natural to apply this to every task. Organisations and teams can adopt the same logic.

Bringing it back to the core is a daily habit. You and the team should have a review every day and ask yourselves if everything you did was core (or did you do anything random?).

“Working the Core” has helped win more work for the businesses I mentor by saving time on vanity projects and ego relationships.

“Working the Core” has retained clients by being more predictable and so reliable.

“Working the Core” has helped hire, train and retain staff through clarity in the definition of productivity and success.

Coming up next week: How agencies can win pitches against big agencies

Read the previous post: How To Win And Keep Clients

This post first appeared on James’ LinkedIn profile.

Featured image of Don Draper from Mad Men.


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After 20 years as a business operator and investor, I know a thing or two about business: When to start, how to scale, what can become sustainable and when to profit. I’m a not a woo-woo strategist – I believe the simpler the solution and the more widely understood the process, the more effective it’ll be.
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