Despite running an agency for 15 years I have yet to reach the stage where any plans from one year to the next are identical. They’re rarely even similar! As the agency has grown, my role has had to evolve and it often seems that no one week is the same as the previous. In fact it sometimes feels like I need a new job description every 12 months!
So what is the difference now to when we were 20 staff? Well the first is the sheer quantity of work we undertake. I used to know every job, every customer and status. This is no longer possible and so, in the modern Redweb, reporting is vital, with the process to organise and schedule work (at a profit) increasingly complex. As the business has evolved over the years, we’ve placed much greater importance on the people who control our day-to-day activity.
As an agency grows, your management tiers must develop too. We have been through a number of changes over the years and have the tremendous advantage of a committed senior level. The grand scheme is that the senior tier is no longer scheduled for client work, allowing them time to plan their departments and manage the needs of their staff.
The larger we have grown, the greater our potential peaks and troughs of profit and loss have become. As the agency has broadened its services, we have seen greater specialism of roles and less opportunity to spread projects across non-specific teams. If all departments are busy then profitability is fantastic but if no one is busy, the salary bill and fixed costs can be daunting.
Despite this, I don’t think my stress levels have changed much. When the agency was smaller, issues that arose were generally things that I could solve personally. I was also in a first-hand position to foresee things and prepare the business to react. These days, however, I am normally faced with challenges that have escalated. Here it is important to ensure you have continued confidence in those around you. Jumping to conclusions or acting the hero is not helpful.
To have confidence in your team is vital, once you grow to a certain size. Trusting others, delegating and then realising they can do it better than you, is a rewarding experience. Taking yourself out of every loop is difficult at first, but reducing the number of emails that you’re CCed in is a virtue we all should learn.
Finally, does culture need to change as you grow? I’d say that it is impossible for a large agency to have the same culture as a smaller one. But that doesn’t mean it has to be worse. In fact, it should be better. The difference with a larger agency is that it needs to be worked at a lot harder to succeed, because with so many people, you can’t generate a culture by just going to the pub after work.
At Redweb we need to work hard to inspire people at the agency both at departmental and discipline levels. We know everyone is busy and we can all suffer from a ‘head in the project’ mind-set. However, providing opportunities to look beyond the current piece of work gives the agency vitality, independence and a sense to express its own personality.
So would I go back to smaller version of Redweb? No. I personally relish the unknowns that come with continuous growth. Our boundaries are currently only limited by our ability in getting the best people, delivering the best work for the best clients, in the best possible environment.
Redweb is a digital agency that puts a large focus on its people, which is fortunate as in 15 years the company has grown from a single shareholder to a staff roster of nearly 100, with clients such as the RNLI and Sky.
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