Anyone who’s ever worked in an agency knows how demanding clients can be. If you keep your clients happy, you’ll keep your agency happy, right?
As an agency owner, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the day-to-day tasks of client service. It actually much better for your agency when you do exactly the opposite. Spend the bulk of your time developing your agency’s processes, people, and future, rather than talking with clients. You'll see these benefits for your agency when you step out of the weeds and into big-picture planning.
Maintain forward momentum. Employees throughout the agency see you as the visionary who sets the course. If you’re not tracking trends, keeping tabs on industry shifts, and anticipating new business needs and opportunities, no one else will. It’s your job to push the agency to evolve and to take your clients with you.
Attract -- and retain -- great talent. Employees want to work somewhere with a purpose. As the owner, it’s important to identify and retain people seeking more than paychecks. The more you’re able to get out of the weeds, the more opportunities you provide for your best people to grow.
Set the right precedents. Clients need to trust everyone on your team. If you’re too deep in day-to-day tasks, you’re communicating to clients that you don’t trust your people enough to let them handle things. Plus, it makes it hard for you to escape the office. Owners who operate at too granular a level can’t take real vacations, turn off their phones, or disconnect from work. It’s not healthy.
Your 5 Most Important Daily Tasks
Rather than spending your time answering clients’ day-to-day questions, devote your time to things only you can do. These are the five most important tasks you, as an agency owner, should do on a daily basis:
1) Work on new business.
Whether it’s pitching, creating content for your agency, speaking at conferences, or serving on boards, new business should take up about half of your time. You don’t have to be responsible for executing the new business machine, but you are responsible for overseeing it and making sure activity happens daily.
2) Mentor key employees and direct reports.
Hold one-on-ones with your direct reports, and allow them to set the agendas and schedules. Focus on both their immediate and long-term goals. The faster those people grow and learn, the better it will be for the agency.
3) Invest time in back-end business.
Financial metrics, billings, systems, and processes are all part of your agency’s “factory.” It’s up to you to make sure you have the right equipment, people, and processes for things to run smoothly and efficiently.
4) Get chummy with the C-suite of your biggest clients.
Ensure those clients are happy with your agency and the work you’re doing. You should act as a resource and confidante to each CEO or business owner -- at a peer level. Connect with other agency owners and industry leaders who might help you stay ahead of best practices and build your network.
5) Don’t be so quick to offer solutions.
If an employee comes to you because she’s stuck, ask her for solutions first before telling her what to do. Or, if she shouldn’t be coming to you at all, redirect her to the proper person. For example: “I think you should work with Bob on solving that; it’s his area of expertise and responsibility.”
Clients will always demand the best of their agencies, but as owners, long-term management of your agencies is key. If you’re clear about your intentions with your team, it will become easier to let go of the reins. At first, it might seem harsh to act unavailable or unwilling to help with small tasks. But the independence you’ll foster in employees -- and the time you’ll have to develop your business -- will be worth it.
Originally published Oct 1, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016