Is Capacity Killing Your Agency | 5S Projects
Sonal Bhaskaran

Sonal Bhaskaran

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Is Capacity Killing Your Agency?

Working with our agency clients, whether it’s been in branding, marketing, web design or SEO or social media management, they’ve each had this list of revenue killers stopping them from scaling and taking on more business without either burning out or giving up.  The list is endless, but here are three common and critical warning signs that show if you’ll either hit that capacity limit soon or have already reached it without realising. 

The impact? You can’t take on more business = your agency simply won’t grow.

Every year, businesses lose up to 40% of their revenue due to inefficiency

1. EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN WAY OF DOING THE SAME THING. 

This is down to the lack of the right systems. 

I’ll say that again. Lack of the RIGHT systems. You might have a CRM, task management tool, change request system all in place but if you and your team aren’t using it effectively and the systems aren’t talking to each other, you may as well be using pen and paper as they both give you the same low ball result.

The biggest signs are: 

  1. Not everyone is using the same tool and have created their own version that makes life easier for them. You lose transparency of what everyone is doing, and any problems will go un-noticed until they become urgent.
  2. You’re not using the reporting functionality. Usually this is because either, the data that’s in there isn’t great, so you find the reports meaningless or the dashboards are too clunky and confusing. 
 

#the5Sfix

  • Bullet point the problems in your business right now, the impact each is causing and the consequence of working without fixing it. 
  • From the list, mark those causing the most pain as a priority. This becomes your “Must have” list.
  • Identify data that needs to pulled in from or sent to other systems such as accounting, social media, Slack, Teams etc. This is your “integration list” 
  • Clarify WHAT information you need to capture. For example, with retainer clients, you might want to tag repeat business or replicate a “deal” regularly. 
  • Next, look at the things that make you WANT to work in a tool, and this can be anything from the aesthetics, through to how easy it is to customise. 
  • Whether it’s CRMs or Task Management tools, make sure it covers what you’ve listed as priorities and start trialling. 
  • Don’t sign up just based on price. You need a system that will grow with you. Look at their plans and see which one matches your priority and integration list now and has the scope to grow with you. 
  • Don’t purely sign up based on recommendations of others – they recommend based on their business, their priorities and their likes. Unless you’re identical twins in every way, take them in to consideration by all means, but do your own research. 
  • Do the trial together with your team and create some sample cases that reflect what each person does to test out the functionality and have a clear list of what and what doesn’t work for your agency as a whole. Trials are there for a reason – USE THEM.
 

If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution

Albert Einstein

2. LESS THAN 50% OF YOUR TIME IS SPENT ON GROWING YOUR AGENCY

When I’ve done this exercise with clients, they’re working 60-70 hours or more per week. In almost all cases, over 45 hours of that time is wasted and not creating revenue or outcomes. And if you’re not generating revenue or profit, you’re close to not having a business. 

If you’re spending time on delivering your service to clients, you’re not marketing. If you’re not marketing, you’re not growing. And if your agency’s not growing, it’s dying. As the owner of your creative or digital agency, your role is to grow and scale it, and this means investing time on planning and strategising for your business, ensuring you have the right people in place to help make it happen. 

Imagine if ten of your ideal clients come through the door right now, the ones you’ve been wanting to work with for ages. What would you do to take them on without it impacting the hours your team and you are already doing? 

The first session with my clients is about offloading what’s in their head onto a list. It’s such a simple task but one we rarely make time for and you’ll feel the overwhelm lift immediately. Here’s what you can do to kickstart getting yourself in order to make way for building the right structure to scale those dizzy heights of growth: 

#the5Sfix

  • Sign up to a free time tracker for a week to see where your time is going or do a session with someone you know who can document while you talk it out (You can book your free call with me as well, and we can do this together).
  • Create categories for tasks such as admin, marketing, sales, strategy. service delivery and assign each task into it’s respective category. Keep it simple so it’s easy to track and not another burdening task for you to do. 
  • Time tracking tool suggestions: Toggl, Everhour, Hourslack, Harvest. If you already have a task management tool that you use daily, they usually have a time tracking function so go ahead and use that if easier. 
  • If you’re pushed for time and have a team, just start with you first to avoid it becoming stressful. 
  • Once you’ve done that – take a look. Usually owners are surprised at what they find, thinking they spend more time on marketing than they actually do, and less time on admin or service delivery than they actually are putting in. 
  • If categories such as admin or service delivery take up the bulk of your time, start going a bit deeper to look at the tasks you’re doing, if they’re in a place to be delegated, outsourced or scrapped. Check out the next warning sign below for more tips. 
 

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“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

Albert Einstein

3. YOUR PROCESSES ARE IN YOUR HEAD

Without clear instructions that are easily available to those who need it, you won’t have an effective team that can cope with demand. You’ll be stuck as the agency owner, the marketer, the sales person, the service delivery person until you or your business can’t cope. 

When I ask my clients whether they’ve documented their existing processes (service delivery (fulfilment), resource onboarding, sales and customer journey), the answer is always a “oh yep, we have that covered”. And it always transpires they don’t. 

Why? Because checklists and processes aren’t sexy. If each part of your business was a shoe, marketing would be the Jimmy Choos. It gets attraction and engagement and it’s fun right?. Processes would definitely be Clarks – not really the first thing you think of if you want to get seen, but they’re super reliable and supportive. 

Every business needs a pair of Clarks. because if you’re walking that long mile to personal freedom and profits, you need something that will support you through any rough and rocky roads ahead. Usually, the agency has something documented in one way or another but not everything OR has nothing at all: What we’ve seen with our clients is: 

  1. A couple of tasks that have a checklist and the rest is in the agency owners head,
  2. There’s a process created by someone but it’s neatly hidden away and not been shared or updated for two years or 
  3. Each person has their own way of doing things and it’s split across being stored in each team members head.
 

Imagine if you had to bring in more resources to cover workload in a certain service you provide, and you had no checklists that could just be picked up and followed. What would you do? Run yourself into the ground and put in the extra hours as only you know what to do to complete the project successfully? 

If that is the case, what if more of your ideal clients were queuing up to work with you? 

Documenting processes might be the least sexiest thing in the world of running your creative or digital agency, but it creates endless possibilities for you to identify what steps are redundant, what steps can be done quicker in order to increase capacity ten fold. 

 #the5Sfix

This can be seriously daunting if you even think about doing it for everything in your business. So we’ve broken it down into small chunks of steps, and giving you the first few to get you on your way to create a streamlined revenue generating machine that gives you more time back to handle more business and for yourself too. 

  • Get the team together and start brainstorming all the high level areas such as finance, marketing, service delivery or operations, HR, sales etc. 
  • Next, look at each area one by one and break these into sub parts.
  • Agree what is working well and what isn’t in each one. 
  • Prioritise the one that needs working on first based on your pain points and urgency of the problems.
  • Now you have a process plan, start thinking about the format that works for the majority. It could be a loom video, listing it out in a task management tool. Whatever works for your agency as a whole. 
  • Either agree to work on it together or assign a person to each function to be in charge of drafting the list of steps. 
  • Have a review meeting on a regular basis to feedback and revise until you have a final version that everyone understands. 
  • As you complete the high level steps, you can drill down into more detail for each one as part of your review sessions. 
 
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a successful agency. Invest a set amount of time each week in the diaries to focus on this. Having one person responsible for each and then coming together to review and revise means that you’re not swapping serving your clients for documenting processes. 
 
And remember, this isn’t a static document. Your processes will need to change as your business needs change. Create a culture of making small changes continuously. 

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