A lot of agencies want to grow and scale but it really gets to be a problem when they lack the proper workflow and systems and are unsure how to streamline business processes. Agency owners can sometimes need help learning how to manage workflow in office. Many agency owners bristle when they hear these words but without a shared workflow process, it is impossible to deliver quality or consistency throughout your entire agency.
This often shows up as:
- A constant cash flow crunch and you don’t know why
- Not knowing if a project is profitable or worse, if a client is profitable
- A stressed staff who keeps re-inventing the wheel
- Everyone has their own way of getting work through the agency
These can all be warning signs that perhaps your workflow could use some improvement. Chris Wilson helps agencies of all sizes address their workflow issues so they can move forward, scale and grow. He has an extensive understanding of the operation, management and workflow processes of agencies.
Chris joins me on Build A Better Agency and we talk systems and workflow. I promise, it’s better than it sounds! We cover:
- The typical reasons that agencies decide they need to get better systems in place
- What Chris’ company Function Point does
- Mistakes that agencies make when it comes to starting to think about workflow and using a tool like Function Point
- How to figure out if your workflow process needs improving
- How to streamline business processes and workflow within your agency
- Why workflow allows people to put their brain flow in the right place
- Why systems have to be easy to use
- Why timesheets are absolutely necessary and why agency owners can’t be exempt from them
- Warning signs that your workflow needs improvement
- Making sure you have strong creative briefs
- Steps that you can take right now
Chris Wilson is the Founder and Chief Client Advocate of Function Point Productivity Software Inc.
As the company’s leader, Chris wants to create the world’s leading digital tools for managing the day to day hassle of running a professional service firm. Chris’ focus is on creating a place, a team and a culture where the best creators, communicators and collaborators can grow.
Chris has an extensive understanding of the operation, management and workflow processes of Design studios, Advertising agencies and Architectural firms, with experience assisting thousands of firms in standardizing their business of design.
Chris holds a Bachelor of Commerce with major in Service Industries.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://www.agencymanagementinstitute.com/chris-wilson/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- The Moment When Business Processes & Systems Become Vital
- How to Improve and Streamline Current Business Processes & Systems
- How to Know When it’s Time to Fix Your Process / System
- How to Fix & Streamline Business Processes Immediately (Action Steps)
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invest in employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew: Hey gang, Drew McLellan here with another episode Building a Better Agency. Today, we’re gonna talk about something that I know all of you dread thinking about and I know it’s struggle for many agency owners but we also know how vital it is to scaling your business. We’re gonna talk about systems and process and workflow, and my guest is an expert at it.
So Chris Wilson is the founder and chief client advocate of Function Point Productivity Software. As the company’s leader, he wants to create the world’s leading digital tools for managing the day to day hassles of running a professional service firm like ours. His focus is on creating a place, a team and a culture where the best creators, communicators and collaborators can grow. He has an extensive understanding of the operation, management and workflow processes of agencies, whether it’s a design shop, an ad agency, a PR shop. They also do some work with architectural firms. And has lot of experience assisting literally thousands of firms and standardizing their business of design.
So Chris has a Bachelor’s degree of Commerce with a major in Service Industries as well. So Chris welcome to the podcast, thanks for joining us.
Chris: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. That’s a great intro. I’m humbled when I think of what’s been going on in this last, well it would be 20 years that I’ve had Function Point this coming January. Yeah. So thank you very much.
Drew: So you’re out of the probationary period in other words.
Chris: Are we ever…
Chris: …out of probationary period?
Drew: No. No, unfortunately, we’re not.
Chris: Oh gosh, yeah. It’s great to be here. Thank you so much for asking me to join you on your podcast Drew. I’m humbled.
The Moment Business Processes & Systems Become Vital
Drew: I’m glad to have you. As you and I were talking before I hit the record button, workflow and system and process is really a struggle for a lot of agencies and agency owners in particular. We’re so creative by our nature and we’re so collaborative that sometimes it’s hard to fathom why putting ourselves in a box or in a process actually serves our business. But I think a lot of agencies want to grow and scale, and this is where it really gets to be a problem. And so talk to us a little bit about…I’m sure that there are some common pain points that people agencies are at when they come to Function Point. So what do you see, what are the…”I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moments for agencies, where they finally are ready to embrace some sort of system or process.
Chris: Yeah, great question. Of course, what is that “aha” moment right. What is the point where someone throws their arms up and says, “This is just not working,” and I think it’s a combination of events that lead someone to look for assistance in this way. And it can be a key person leaving that has been managing your Excel, your Word and all of the myriad of tools, to really just maybe going another month of not getting paid and saying, I love what I do but I have to make a living at it as well.
Drew: Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s often a pain point around cash flow, right?
Chris: Well, and of course that’s I think some of the most obvious ones. Cash flow, not being able to make payroll. Having the bank calling you with a challenge, as an operator of what was a small business at one time, I think we all can respect and appreciate that. I think there’s also something around size, Drew. A small firm can holler across the room, how are we doing on that new piece for AMI. But as firms grow, of course, communication gets far more complex and the need to be really succinct in what we’re sharing as a team and where we’re sharing, it becomes much more amplified when a mistake is made. So I think those are a couple of key points around that, what causes someone to really take a closer look.
Drew: Great. So I know that when you guys onboard, a new agency onto your software…actually let’s pause for a second…for the few people who might not be familiar with Function Point, help people understand what is the suite of… what does it do for agencies?
Chris: Yeah. Thank you. Function Point, as a company we are a values based, customer funded business where we really have a defined set of core values around focus. Focusing on our customers and what their needs are and doing what we say, growth of ourselves, personal respect for each other, a balance between work and play, that notion of, I like to get to work but I have a life outside of work and I like to be there as well.
We live by a mission to build a great place to work to come every day where we can really help modern businesses solve problems creatively and be more productive and more profitable in that work due to that. And as a product Function Point, as a product is really a solution, a software solution that provides a unique finance first approach to managing your agency. Provide key decision makers with insights into the key performance aspects of clients, of jobs, projects, staff that are contributing. Fundamentally, we are really about trying to reduce the stress and the hassle of just juggling so many things that go on in an agency.
Drew: But down to the basics, its project management software and accounting software, tied together, right?
Chris: Yeah. Workflow, a strong financial piece, your estimates, your briefs, tracking your time sheets, your expenses and tracking notes and communication between each other, utilization of team members and flowing all of that which helps to streamline business processes. We’ve got an excellent integration into the QuickBooks family of products and we want to reduce that redundancy of data entry and getting it into your accounting tools.
Drew: Okay. So not a full accounting tool, it combines with QuickBooks?
Chris: That’s correct.
Drew: Okay. Great. All right. I just wanna make sure folks understand that.
Chris: Really part of things for us.
Drew: So at what point…when an agency adopts, whether it’s your tool or any of the other tools out there, I am astonished at how often agencies change tools on a regular basis because it’s not working. In reality, it’s not the tool, it’s the agency. What kind of mistakes is your onboarding agencies, what kind of mistakes do you help them avoid, so that their implementation of your tool is successful and it gives them the results that they really want? What are the mistakes agencies make when starting to think about workflow and a tool like yours?
Chris: Yeah. Again, such a key part of our success with our customers. We see people that…I think of the KISS principle. I think about culture and building a rhythm of your business and I think about turnover and how that affects things, Drew. So when I think about keeping it simple…actually let me ask you a question. What is the agency or the most number of rate cards that you’ve seen in one of your client agencies?
Drew: Well, you know that…one of the thing that we work with agencies from one or two FTEs to 300, so that literally is all over the board.
Chris: I would say in a 20 or 25 person firm that…that kind of an area.
Drew: Are you asking their average billable rates?
Chris: Yeah. No, not their billable rate but the number of rate cards…
Chris: …that they have.
Drew: Yeah. I will say this and this may be from the AMI teaching but for most of the agencies that I work with, they may have a billable rate or a blended billable rate but they’re not varying it by client. So if it’s a $125 bucks blended rate, that’s just it across the board.
Chris: I think where I was trying to go is, under the KISS principle, we have come across agencies where we’re deploying the mentor tool and they tell us that they have 18 different rates and…
Drew: Oh, for different job functions.
Chris: Well not even for job functions but for rate category. So I’ve got a rate for every client, where they’ve adjusted something by $5 here or $10 there. And that’s what I mean by this KISS principle, if I pull us back to where I was really going about the errors that people make. They have a tendency to make things over complex, overly complicated. And then are trying to find workarounds for all of this complexity that cause…just processes to be in shambles. And so what we really, really stress with our clients is, keep it simple. Let’s start with a blended rate for instance. And if we have some people that are outside of that, okay, we can do some rates by services or rates by individual. But keep it simple and don’t have too many those.
The other area that we see a lot of owners having challenges is that they don’t want to share the financial information…
Drew: With their employees, you mean?
Chris: Yeah. So, okay, I’ve committed to buying Function Point, I’m looking at this financial page and it shows the number of hours and it shows how much we charge for that service and the total amounts. “Can you remove the dollars from this page, please? I don’t want my staff to see that.” And of course, it’s just removes so much opportunity for a staff person to recognize when they need to maybe…attack a problem a little differently. And then I think the other thing is, just actually committing to it and doing it. I have a bit of a saying that we’re all kind of full of it and things will work if we wanna work them. But they’ll fail if we don’t put any…but we give things a lot of lip service, which you actually have to do it.
Drew: Well, and I don’t know about you, I’m curious, but my experience has been the most resistant to systems and process, and actually, participating in them the way that they have been designed is the agency owner.
Chris: Yeah. Well…
Drew: It’s one of those…yes, I want this to happen inside my agency, I want to streamline business processes. Oh, time sheets, yeah, I’m not gonna do those.
Chris: I don’t have to do timesheets. Why would I have to do timesheets? Yeah. And of course, leading by example is just such a fundamentally, an important approach to the tools like this. I’ve often advised the owners, the best way to get your people to engage in the product, is to look something up just before you’re about to go see someone. So that they can recognize that you’ve been into the system finding out what’s happening.
Chris: Just come informed, all of a sudden that person is going to want to make sure that you know what they’re doing.
Drew: Yeah. Absolutely. And I am a firm believer in walking it out by example. So if timesheets are important, then you should be doing them too. And you know what, I think a lot of agency owners just like agency employees spend a lot of their time doing the wrong things. So if you’re not measuring and monitoring, then how can you correct it?
Chris: And that speaks a little bit to the turnover item that I mentioned earlier. When you have a strong culture in your organization and people are working together and you get a key person in your systems leaving, that can cost you dearly. And really effect the profitability of the firm until a new person is up to speed in that role.
How to Improve and Streamline Current Business Processes & Systems
Drew: So is there a process or a thought pattern that someone needs to go through. So if I’ve decided that I want to either have some work process or workflow process or I want to improve it, is there a thought process that someone needs to go through to really vet a process to know that it’s gonna work. Because I’m sure that amongst the clients you work with, there are all kinds of different agencies who work in all kinds of different ways. So how do you improve on your workflow process assuming that even the lack of one that is defined probably exists in some sort of tribal knowledge way?
So how do you, how do you improve upon it? What are the questions an agency owner should ask to identify if their workflow process needs improving and if so, how do I go about improving it?
Chris: How do you know if you need to implement a workflow process? I mean I guess, you might see just how down your backs, your clients are breathing…
Drew: Right. Everything’s a hurry up.
Chris: Are we working in the last minute important or are we working in the future important sort of a head space. I bring it back to values, Drew. What’s the value in the organization of managing the team and their stress and their desire to do a really good job for your customer? It’s always hectic in a firm, are you really doing the best creative, if you’re always…again, these are fundamental things. If you’re struggling for meeting payroll, are you really focused on doing great creative. There’s some simple questions like that. And I mean, I was speaking with some customers just this last week and one had a great story and I hope I have an opportunity to share it today while we’re talking.
Drew: Oh share it now. Bring it.
Chris: Well, it was a great story around, just they have that definition of what’s important to them operating in the agency every day and they’ve turned it into a series of repeatable processes. They do a daily huddle, so they bring everyone together for a quick 10-minute update, make sure there’s no one suffering from roadblocks and barriers. They do a financial review every week with the key decision makers and it goes through all of the jobs, it goes through what’s in the pipeline. What’s coming down? What are we just wrapping up? Are there customers that aren’t paying? How is cash flow? Are we all on track for payment for everything?
And then they also have this notion of strategy and driving their agency at a strategic level and not just always working in the agency but also working on it. And that comes from building that rhythm, that metronome of, a business process that’s repeatable. And people know where they can jump into it and jump out of it. And by doing that you actually have time to work on the important things with the right tools. Rather than struggling, well where am I gonna put this note about this job? They know where to go. They know how to put it there. It will be there, it will be seen by everyone. So perhaps coming at it from the opposite direction, where you…these are the things that we see that are working. That culture of people wanting to get on board. Yeah.
Drew: Yeah, I think it’s often not the employees who are resistant to the workflow. I think actually they welcome having some process. I think one of the things that we as agency folks and as creative people, we love the freedom and the ideation in our work. But I think we often don’t pay attention to is that, when I have to keep reinventing the wheel in terms of getting work done and when I can’t quite trust that you’re gonna do your part because I’m not sure that I told you about your part or I need to nag at you by your part, because I’m not sure it’s on your to-do list, but that sucks both energy and time out of our professionals. And that really workflow process allows everyone to put their brainpower where it belongs which is in solving the client’s problems.
Chris: And it has to be easy to use. It has to be easy to use. So when someone logs into the system or into any of the systems they’re using, they have to be able to find that that job, that’s like the one they’re now talking about doing. And be able to quickly manipulate it and change it to suit it now being done for this new customer or this different customer. They have to be able to grab proofs and do the same thing. Update them, manipulate them, change them easily and quickly. And get them someplace where everyone else knows they’re going to be. And then you have to track it through time and that’s where that rhythm comes.
Go back to the job page, let’s see how we’re doing on the burn down rates on this. Are we gonna make money on this or do I have to manage this client more tightly because the changes they are asking for are gonna kill this project? And so yeah, so I firmly agree that, if you don’t do these kinds of things, you’ll always be asking about that next paycheck for yourself and whether you’re gonna be the one struggling to get it.
Drew: Right. So I think one of the challenges for a lot of agency owners and leaders is, regardless of how you’ve defined what the workflow process is, how do you create compliance? How do you encourage compliance? How do you get everyone connected to the process and the value of the process in a way that everyone honors it, including by the way the agency owner?
Chris: Different strokes for different folks. We’ve had a lot of fun actually with this over the years, where we’ve seen agencies running some excellent games and some fun stuff, where for instance something as fundamental at time sheets. The ever-going time sheet…
Drew: Oh my God, the bane of everyone’s existence is like, you’re asking them to give blood every day.
Chris: And setting up simple things like, okay, we’ve got a dozen tickets for a show, including some popcorn and a refreshment, to some more serious activities where they’ve been a weekend away at a local resort for getting compliance. So we’ve always tried to take the attitude when talking about these things with owners that, you start with something that makes it fun and enjoyable and that leads people to the well to drink. And of course, a lot of owners are not willing to really pull the trigger if someone doesn’t comply. So I guess that’s the other end of it, if deployment doesn’t go great for certain individuals and they just aren’t participating, I mean there needs to be some consequences. And that’s a tough discussion. And perhaps that doesn’t happen enough.
Drew: Yeah, I think it’s a challenge. I will say one other thing that some of my agencies do, is that they and it’s not just getting people todo time sheets once or twice. It’s an ongoing thing where they will…if your time sheet is done by 10:00 the next morning and you have an entire week of compliance, your name goes in a drawing. So in a four week month, you’d have four shots at being in the drawing and they give away money.
Chris: Yeah. And a lot of…
Drew: And the argument that they make and I think it’s an absolute valid one is that the money that they give away is small compared to the errors that happen in time sheets when they’re not done properly and on time. I read a statistic that said a time sheet that is not done the day of is 67% less accurate. And so and it’s pretty tough as an account manager to manage an account if all the time is not in the system. So again, the cost of creating compliance is worth it to them compared to the cost of not having compliance.
Chris: But that comes back to that comment around garbage in, garbage out. As an account executive or someone responsible for the project. If they’re looking at the financial page and a key person on the job isn’t doing his share of informing us, putting his time sheets in, then the person’s making a total inaccurate assumption is to the state of the work and where the project is. So yeah, I’m a firm believer that if you do your time sheets every day, you’ll also bill more.
Drew: Absolutely, no doubt about it. You’ll pay for the program.
Chris: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Paying for the program is I don’t think really the question here. It will permit you to bill more just substantially. Even if you just do them on the day versus the day after, that comes back to what you were saying that 65%.
Drew: Yeah, I agree. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room which is the owner. How can an owner wrap their head around the importance of them being compliant? I can’t tell you. So at AMI, I do a lot of work with agency owners but I also teach bootcamps with account service folks. And so when I’m talking to the account service people and they’re talking about the challenges they have in terms of managing client work and getting everything done and knowing where they are on budget, oftentimes the greatest offender of all of that by the way is the agency owner.
So how do you help an agency owner recognize or do you think it’s important for the agency owner to model the behavior that they want their employees to have or is it okay for them to be exempt from, say time sheets?
Chris: I believe that the agency owner who is providing billable services to clients needs to be a participant in the finances of the job and that means that they’re putting in their time against the work. If they’re not active in that way, if they’re active in a different sort of aspect of their agency’s growth, perhaps we have a little leeway with them. But perhaps their personal assistant needs to assist them if they’re really can’t get into it but they have to be in that system. And using key points from it to assist them in their management of the firm, they need to have the value of their effort against jobs that they’re working on.
And in doing so, they’re going to build and they’re gonna rally their troops around them. They’re building their trust with their team members. So I think that it’s too easy for an owner to think that they don’t have to do it. That they’ll go through at the end of the month and put their time sheets against the jobs that they’ve been on or they’ll ask their accountant, I did $3000 for the work on this and two on that. But again, the accuracy of that is just lost in the weeds.
Drew: Yeah. Well the other thing is, I will disagree with you a little bit. I think an agency owner needs…I think all employees, including the agency owner need to record all of their time because that’s the asset that an agency manages. And so for an agency owner, so many of them complain that they don’t have time to prospect for new business, interview potential hires or to do the thought leadership writing that they need to do to propel their agency and differentiate it from others. Fill in the blank, they don’t have time, is the bottom line. And it’s impossible to manage and find the time if you don’t know where you’re spending it now. And so I’m a big proponent that agency owner should be spending about 50% of their time in the whole new business arena which is a plethora of tasks. Well, how do you know if you’re really hitting that metric or not, if you’re not measuring the time.
Chris: I certainly am a believer in metric space business management. So I’m really happy to hear you say that. It’s true. You don’t see a retail business without a price tag on a product. Your accountant or lawyer is certainly billing you by the minute. Do value based billing more appropriate, but manage your time to understand where it’s going.
Drew: Yeah, right. I don’t think time sheets always have to have a ton to do with what you bill a client. It’s really just about how I’m managing my resource.
How to Know When it’s Time to Fix Your Process / System
Drew: Which are the bodies that work in my agency including the agency owner. Yeah, absolutely. So really quickly when you think about workflow process, and you talked earlier about keeping it simple. So what are some signs that my current workflow process is not simple enough or needs to be refined? What are some warning signs that agency owner should be looking at? Because again, every agency has process whether it’s written down or not. So what would be warning signs to them that perhaps it’s broken?
Chris: Well that the simplest one is, just there’s stress around cashflow. That would be just the clearest sign that something’s going wrong. But then it starts to come down to other areas. When I was talking with this other client this past week, they were not doing regular reviews of working progress. Regular reviews around, the status of the profitability of a client and all of the work we’ve done for them over a period of time. They didn’t look at the markup between what a staff person bills and what you’re paying them.
So again, it comes back to the metrics that come from tracking of your time against work and seeing how much of it is actually ending up being billable to a customer. And if you can talk at that level about your business, then you’re in a good place. But if you’re stressed around cashflow, if you’re missing deadlines, if you know that change order didn’t get billed. Those are clear signs that you need to spend more time working on your business than you currently are.
Drew: So what I am hearing you say is a couple things. One, if you are in a constant cashflow crunch and you don’t immediately know why. Two, if you’re not able to at a glance know if a project is profitable or not or if a client’s profitable or not, if you’re not tracking that, if you’re billing a lot of time that doesn’t actually get actualized because you didn’t do a change order or it’s outside of the scope of work that you didn’t have a conversation with the client. And also, if your staff is super stressed, those are warning signs that perhaps your workflow could use some improvement.
Chris: Absolutely. Great. Great summation, Drew. Great summation.
Drew: So are there resources when you think about people wanting to wrap their head around workflow and streamlining their business processes? Are there resources, are there great books, are there things that you would point to for agency owners to explore if they know perhaps that their workflow isn’t all that it could be. But they want to wrap their head around that a little bit more before they’re ready to make a change?
Chris: Well I would start with participation in some of the events like those what you’re offering. The workshops for agency owners and how they’re running their business. If people are not participating in those events, if they’re not going to places where they are able to share stories with other owners, then that’s a fundamental missed opportunity to not only gain the understanding but also frankly, gain the inspiration from hearing people on what they’re doing. That’s one. There’s definitely a plethora of books around business management. I follow a couple of them myself that are really focused on the rhythm of business. I work with Verne Harnish’s Rockefeller Habits book.
Drew: Yep, that’s a good one.
Chris: Yeah. And I’ve been doing that for about five years now. And the one page plan…and doing the one page plan for the firm, updating it every quarter, making sure that we’re working 20% of the time on the business rather than just in the mechanics of it. And the second one is a book by Shannon Susko and it’s called the Metronome Effect. And it takes all of the assets of the Rockefeller Habits and really outlines a step by step process for driving it into your business.
Drew: That I am not familiar with, I’ll have to check that out.
Chris: Yeah. She’s actually from the area and actually works under Verne Harnish and the Gazelles and their group and been a really great mentor for our organizations. Yeah. Two great books to help you on that side. And yeah, I think that it just comes back to that notion of the owner driving a culture of accountability across his team. I wanna use the analogy in Jim Collins book Good to Great, around having the right people on the bus, making sure they’re in the right seat.
Drew: Yep. Absolutely.
Chris: And not being afraid when you need to, if you have someone who’s not playing along with the way your business runs to make those tough decisions and to help them find a place where they will be better for themselves.
Drew: Yeah, that’s so true. I have some agency owners who feel a little handcuffed by an employee, who’s a key employ, maybe they’re the only one in the shop that has a certain skill, or they’re the one that really owns a relationship with a really important client. And so that power or that value that they bring to the agency makes the agency owner really timid about forcing that person to follow the rules everybody else has to follow.
And what that does to the culture of the organization, where one person is allowed to get away with murder and the others aren’t. Or one person is not chastised for not doing their time sheets or whatever it is. What that does to the culture and the rest of the team is so detrimental. I get it, I understand the juxtaposition that they’re in. But being able to have everybody live by the same rules and work the same system so that the output is of a quality that allows you to run your business well, seems to be a business fundamental that we as business owners need to wrap our head around.
Chris: Well I think we’ve all had that outstanding performer who really shouldn’t be in the company.
Drew: Right. Yeah.
Chris: And you know what, and of course it’s always so difficult. But the sooner you remove that the healthier your whole firm’s gonna be.
Drew: Yeah. Yeah, I have many agency owners that as I walk with them as they are making that change. On the other side of it, they’re stunned at the response that they get from the other employees and even from themselves in terms of, for the sense of relief that they didn’t really realize how much pressure and tension that whole dynamic was putting into the shop.
Chris: And most people have someone in their firm that should… Let’s put it…I always like to put in a positive way, where they will be in A player somewhere else.
How to Fix & Streamline Business Processes Immediately (Action Steps)
Drew: That’s right. So if folks have been listening to us and they’re like, “Okay, okay, Drew, I get it. I need to improve my workflow process.” Give them a couple steps of either how they can start to think about a process that perhaps they don’t have in place, maybe they’re not using creative briefs or something else or that they recognize that the process they have is not as strong as it should be. So what are some baby steps they can take to begin to either improve an existing system or to think through and implement a system that they need but don’t have?
Chris: Interesting. I mean there’s lots of information available to us on the web and in seminars like that which you’re offering to your clients. But I think of creative briefs. Creative briefs is one of the most sought after topics on our blog post. Making sure that you have a strong creative brief that it’s always available in the same place for your people to look at. Get a simple system to manage your time against the estimates that you do. And make sure that your estimates, build that history as quickly as you can of estimates that you can use on a repeated basis. So that you gain accuracy from the results of previous jobs that you can add to the new work that you’re doing.
And just get people on board with some of those simple steps to start. Get your accountant or your bookkeeper or your admin people, making sure that they’re invoicing quickly. Getting them off to their customers and bring that information back to a weekly review of how the agency is doing. Sharing that information with the key decision makers in your agency will build that culture of accountability around them. And at that table people will start to say, we need to adjust this little process because we can improve profitability there. If I change this, I can have better communication within the team on how we’re working with that customer.
And I’ll make sure that change requests the clients just asked for gets put into the system so that we can bill it correctly. These are the discussions that starts to happen.
Drew: Yeah, your point about the weekly review is so critical. It does so many things, one, and this is a place lots of agencies really drop the ball, again, because they’re super busy. But taking that moment to do that review. One, you catch a problem, and it’s a small problem. Two, you’re training your staff that you’re looking. And so they’re gonna be more buttoned up as a general rule and if you’re going back to your account person for example and saying, “Hey, I see that we’re over scope but I don’t see a change order. What’s going on here?” And they know that you are reviewing that.
And again, it’s not just you the agency owner but it’s probably your leadership team. But all of that creates a spirit of accountability, it also allows you to solve a lot of small problems rather than trying to douse house fire precise problems. So that’s a great reminder to everybody that of all the things you said, you’re spot on all of them. But that’s really a critical one is that that’s one that I think a lot of agencies skip out of the, ‘I’m too busy category’ and they really need to put it back in the place. Absolutely.
Chris: And just to add one other item to that, Drew, and that is around the notion of working on your agency. Take a half a day, every month, with the two-other people or three other people, the key decision makers from your firm that you depend on to work on your firm. And go offsite and set yourselves up with some review of how you’re doing strategically across your firm. Who you’re targeting as clients, your rates how you’re doing, where are the issues that you can all be aware of and how can you started to bring a message back to the firm on a daily basis to adjust that and to address it?
Drew: Yeah. And for a lot of those listeners, a lot of you are EOS or traction aficionados. So that’s really what we’re talking about is that whether using Verne’s One Page Business Plan or are using the Traction Model, having something that holds you accountable to the bigger picture goals of your business. And that’s not a once a year activity, it’s not a once a quarter activity, it really is for some agencies weekly or monthly at the very longest, where you are constantly thinking about not just your head down in the grind of the day but you’re thinking about really where am I taking this business and are we taking the baby steps every day that get us to the goal line that we’re trying to get to. Absolutely.
Chris: That’s how you make it fun, right?
Drew: Well, right. Otherwise it’s the same all the time. And I was just chatting with somebody else and in our business, in the agency business, if your agency looks the same as it did a year ago, your relevance is slipping. And so you’ve got to keep evolving and changing and growing your shop, especially, in the time that we live in today where change is so ever present and at a pace, in a speed that is just promising to get bigger and better and faster.
Chris: That’s not slowing down.
Drew: No. Absolutely not.
Chris: It is not slowing down as I get older…as we all get little older.
Drew: I am not getting older.
Chris: There we go. I’m living fully present and because of that time is standing still.
Drew: Oh, I like that. This has been a great conversation Chris. If folks wanna track you down, they want to read more of your thought leadership stuff around workflow, if they want to learn more about you or about Function Point, where’s the best place for them to go to start that process?
Chris: Yeah, thank you, thank you so much. FunctionPoint.com, we’ve got quite a good series of blogs and blog posts around agency, agency operations. On LinkedIn, we’ve got a forum called the Business of Creatives and couple of thousand people in there that are contributing on a regular basis. It’s a really great spot. And for a little bit of fun, of course on Facebook, we try to really show our culture and who we are as a team. Twitter @functionpoint and my email is [email protected] I would love some and welcome some banter at any time.
Drew: Okay, awesome. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing your expertise. You certainly get to peek into a lot of agencies. So people can know that your voice comes from a very authentic place, I appreciate it.
Chris: My pleasure, my pleasure. And thank you so much for the opportunity.
Drew: You bet. Hey everybody, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully you are taking some notes and you are committed to tweaking your workflow process, at least a little bit to get yourself to be more profitable and more scalable and also to take some of the stress and pressure out of yours and your teammates lives.
As you know, you can always reach me [email protected] or find us on the web at agencymanagementinstitute.com as well. Always appreciate, reviews, ratings, feedback on the podcast, if there’s a guest out there that you want to make sure I know about and get on the show, would love to hear from you. Otherwise I will see you next week, I will be back with another great guest helping you build a bigger, better, stronger and more profitable agency. Talk to you soon.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency on how to streamline business processes. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com, to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free eBook and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients and doesn’t consume your life is possible, here on Build a Better Agency.
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