Episode 57:

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 a major in Service Industries.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • 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
  • 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

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Your workflow process needs improving if you're always working last minute.” - Chris Wilson Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

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, invested 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 McLellan:

Hey, gang. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Today, we are going to talk about something that I know all of you dread thinking about, and I know it’s a struggle for many agency owners, but we also know how vital it is to scaling your business. We’re going to talk about systems and process and workflow. And my guest is an expert at it. 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 a lot of experience assisting literally thousands of firms in standardizing their business of design. So Chris has a bachelor’s degree of commerce with a major in service industries as well. Chris, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. That’s a great intro. I’m humbled, when I think of what’s been going on in these last … Well, it’ll be 20 years that I’ve had Function Point this coming January. Yeah, thank you very much.

Drew McLellan:

So you’re out the probationary period, in other words.

Chris Wilson:

Are we ever out of the probationary period?

Drew McLellan:

No, unfortunately we’re not.

Chris Wilson:

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.

Drew McLellan:

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, sometimes it’s hard to fathom why putting ourselves in a box or in a process actually serves our business. 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. What do you see? What are the sort of, I’ve fallen and I can’t get out moments for agencies, where they finally are ready to embrace some sort of system or process?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. Great question. Of course, it’s kind of what is that aha moment. 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 and your Word, all of the myriad of tools to really just maybe going another month of not getting paid and sort of saying, “I love what I do, but I have to make a living at it as well.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think you’re right. It’s often a pain point around cashflow. Right?

Chris Wilson:

And of course, that’s I think some of the most obvious ones. Cashflow 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 the 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 what causes someone to really take a closer look.

Drew McLellan:

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 sort of what is the suite of … What does it do for agencies?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Function Point as a company, we are a value’s based, customer funded business, where we really have a defined set of core values around focus, focusing on our customers, what their needs are and doing what we say. Growth of ourselves, personally. 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 and do that.

Function Point as a product is really a solution, a software solution that provides a unique sort of finance first approach to managing your agency. Provide key decision makers with the 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 McLellan:

But down to the basics, it’s project management software and accounting software tied together, right?

Chris Wilson:

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. 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 McLellan:

Okay. So not a full accounting tool. It combines with QuickBooks.

Chris Wilson:

That’s correct.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, great. I just want to make sure folks understood that.

Chris Wilson:

[crosstalk 00:07:22] part of things for us.

Drew McLellan:

When an agency adopts, whether it’s your tool or any of the other tools out there. I’m 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, as 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 that agencies make, when starting to think about workflow and a tool like yours?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. Again, it’s such a key part of our success with our customers. I think, of the KISS principle. I think about culture and building sort of a rhythm of your business. And I think about turnover and how that affects things, Drew. When I think about keeping it simple … Actually, let me ask you a question. What is an agency or the most number of rate cards that you’ve seen in one of your client agencies?

Drew McLellan:

We work with agencies from one or two FTEs to 300. So it literally is all over the board.

Chris Wilson:

I would say in a 20 or 25 person firm, that kind of an area.

Drew McLellan:

Are you asking their average billable rate?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. No, not their billable rate, but the number of rate cards that they have.

Drew McLellan:

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. If it’s 125 bucks blended rate, that’s just it across the board.

Chris Wilson:

I think we’re always trying to go is under that KISS principle. We have come across agencies, where we’re deploying them into our tool and they tell us that they have 15, 18 different rates-

Drew McLellan:

Oh, for different job functions.

Chris Wilson:

Well, not even for job functions, but for rate categories. 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 processes to be in shambles. What we really, really stress with our clients is, keep it simple. Let’s start with a blended rate, for instance. Let’s use a … And if we have some people that are outside of that, okay. We can some rates by services or rates by individual, but keep it simple and don’t have too many of those. The other area that we see a lot of owners having challenges is, is that they don’t want to share the financial information.

Drew McLellan:

With their employees, you mean?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah.

Chris Wilson:

Yeah, yeah. 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 amount. 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 want to work them but they’ll but fail, if we don’t put any … We give things a lot of lip service, but you actually have to do it.

Drew McLellan:

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 Wilson:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

It’s one of those, “Yes, I want this to happen inside my agency. Oh, time sheets. Yeah, I’m not going to do those.”

Chris Wilson:

I don’t have to do time sheets. Why would I have to do time sheets? Yeah. And of course, leading by example is just such a fundamentally and important approach to tools like this. I’ve often advised 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.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Chris Wilson:

Come informed, come informed. All of a sudden, that person’s going to want to make sure that you know what they’re doing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I am a firm believer in walking it out by example, if time sheets 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. If you’re not measuring and monitoring that, how can you correct it?

Chris Wilson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). 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 a key person in your system is leaving, that can cost dearly. And really affect the profitability of the firm until a new person is up to speed in that role.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Is there a process or a thought pattern that someone needs to go through? 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 going to work? Because I’m sure that amongst the clients that you work with, there are all kinds of different agencies who work in all kinds of different ways. 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. 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 Wilson:

How do you know, if you need to implement a workflow process? You might see to us how down your backs your clients are breathing.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Everything is a hurry up. Yep.

Chris Wilson:

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? 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.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 McLellan:

Share it now. Bring it.

Chris Wilson:

Well, it was a great story around … 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’s cashflow? 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. Where am I going to put this note about this job? They know where to go. They know how to put it there. It will be there, it’ll be seen by everyone. So perhaps coming at it from the opposite direction. These are the things that we see that are working, that culture of people wanting to get onboard. Yeah, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think it’s often not the employees who are resistant to the workflow. I think actually they welcome having some process. One of the things that we as agency folks, and as creative people, we love sort of the freedom and the ideation in our work. But what 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 going to do your part, because I’m not sure that I told you about your part. Or I need to nag at you about your part, because I’m not sure it’s on your to-do list, that sucks both energy and time out of our professionals. A workflow process allows everyone to put their brain power where it belongs, which is in solving the client’s problems.

Chris Wilson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 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 job that’s like the one they’re now talking about doing.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Chris Wilson:

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 [inaudible 00:18:39] 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 our burn down rates on this. Are we going to make money on this or do I have to manage this client more tightly, because the changes they’re asking for are going to kill this project?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Chris Wilson:

I firmly agree, if you don’t do these kinds of things, you’ll always be asking about that next paycheck for yourself and whether you’re going to be the one struggling to get it.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. So I think one of the challenges for a lot of agency owners and leaders is, how do you … 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 Wilson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Different strokes for different folks. We’ve had a lot of fun actually with this over the years, where we’ve seen agencies run some excellent games and some fun stuff. For instance, something fundamental, like time sheets. The ever going time sheets.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, my God. The bane of everyone’s existence. It’s like, you’re asking them to give blood every day.

Chris Wilson:

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. We’ve always tried to take the attitude, when talking about these things with owners. 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, there needs to be some consequences and that’s a tough discussion. Perhaps, that doesn’t happen enough.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think it’s a challenge. I will say, one of the things that some of my AMI agencies do is, that they … And it’s not just getting people to do time sheets once or twice. It’s an ongoing thing where they will … If your time sheet is done by 10 o’clock 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. 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 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 Wilson:

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 as to the state of the work, and where the project is. Yeah, I’m a firm believer, if you do your time sheets every day, you’ll also bill more.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. No doubt about it. You’ll pay for the program. Yeah.

Chris Wilson:

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. It comes back to what you were saying, the 65%.

Drew McLellan:

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? So at AMI, I do a lot of work with agency owners, but I also teach boot camps with account service folks. When I’m talking to the account service people, and they are 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. 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 Wilson:

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 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. Perhaps, their personal assistant needs to assist them, if they 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 going to rally their troops around them. They’re building their trust with their team members.

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 $3,000 worth of work on this and two on that. But again, the accuracy of that is just lost in the weeds.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and 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 or to 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.

I’m a big proponent that agency owners should be spending about 50% of their time in the whole, new business arena, which is a plethora of tasks. How do you know, if you’re really hitting that metric or not, if you’re not measuring the time? Right?

Chris Wilson:

I certainly am a believer in metrics based business management. I’m really happy to hear you say that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Chris Wilson:

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 where appropriate, but manage your time to understand, where it’s going.

Drew McLellan:

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 am I managing my resource?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Which are the bodies that work at my agency, including the agency owner. Yep. Absolutely. So really quickly, when you think about workflow process and you talked earlier about sort of 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 owners should be looking at? Because again, every agency owner, 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 Wilson:

Well, the simplest one is just their stress around cashflow. That would be just the clearest sign that something is 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 work in 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 these metrics that come from tracking your time against work and seeing how much of it is actually ending up being billable to a customer.

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, 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 McLellan:

So what I’m 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 is 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, but you didn’t have the conversation with the client. And also, if your staff is super stressed, those are warnings that perhaps your workflow could use some improvement.

Chris Wilson:

Absolutely. Great summation, Drew. Great summation.

Drew McLellan:

Are there resources? When you think about people wanting to wrap their head around workflow, are there resources, are there are 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 kind of wrap their head around it a little bit more before they’re ready to make a change?

Chris Wilson:

I would start with participation in some of the events like those, which 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’re able to share stories with other owners that’s a fundamental missed opportunity. To not only gain the understanding, but to also frankly, gain the inspiration from hearing people and what they’re doing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Chris Wilson:

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 McLellan:

Yep. That’s a great one.

Chris Wilson:

Yep. 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 our 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 kind of takes all of the assets of the Rockefeller Habits and really outlines a step by step process for driving it into your business.

Drew McLellan:

That one I’m not familiar with. I’ll have to check that out.

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. She’s actually from the area and actually works under Verne Harnish and the Gazelle’s and their group, and been a really great mentor for our organization.

Drew McLellan:

Cool.

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. Two great books to help you on that side. I think that it just comes back to that notion of the owner driving a culture of accountability across his team. I want to use the analogy in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. Around having the right people on the bus and making sure they’re in the right seat.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Absolutely.

Chris Wilson:

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 McLellan:

Yeah. That’s so true. I have some agency owners who feel a little handcuffed by an employee, who’s a key employee. 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. That power or that value that they bring to the agency makes the agency really timid about forcing that person to follow the rules that 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 sort of 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 Wilson:

I think we’ve all had that outstanding performer who really shouldn’t be in the company.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. Yep.

Chris Wilson:

And you know what? And of course, it’s always so difficult, but the sooner you remove that, the healthier your whole firm’s going to be.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I have many agents owners that as I walk with them, as they are making that change. On the other side of it, they’re sort of stunned at the response that they get from the other employees and even from themselves in terms of sort of a sense of relief. They didn’t really realize how much pressure and tension that whole dynamic was putting into the shop.

Chris Wilson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). And most people have someone in their firm that should …. I always like to put it in a positive way, where they would be an A player somewhere else.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. If folks have been listening to us and they’re like, “Okay. Okay, Drew. I get it. I need to improve my workflow processes.” 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 Wilson:

Interesting. There’s lots of information available to us on the web and in seminars like that, which you’re offering to your clients. 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 in … 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 onboard with some of those simple steps to start.

Get your accountant or your bookkeeper, your admin people, making sure that they’re invoicing quickly, getting them off to the customers and bring that information back to a weekly review of how the agency’s 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, we can have better communication within the team on how we’re working with that customer. And I’ll make sure that, that change request the clients just asked for, gets put into the system, so that we can bill it correctly.” These are the discussions that start to happen.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Your point about the weekly review is so critical. It does so many things. And this is a place where 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 when it’s a small problem. Two, you are training your staff that you’re looking. And so they’re going to 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 and also allows you to solve a lot of small problems rather than trying to douse house fire size problems. That’s a great reminder to everybody. Of all the things you said, you’re spot on, on all of them. But that’s really a critical one. 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 into place. Absolutely.

Chris Wilson:

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 start to bring a message back to the firm on a daily basis to adjust that and to address it?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And for a lot of the listeners, a lot of you are EOS or traction aficionados. So that’s really what we’re talking about is that kind of … So whether using Verne’s one page business plan, or you’re 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 Wilson:

That’s how you make it fun. Right?

Drew McLellan:

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 and a speed that is just promising to get bigger and better and faster. Right?

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. It’s not slowing down.

Drew McLellan:

No, absolutely not.

Chris Wilson:

It’s not slowing down. And as I get older, as we all get a little older.

Drew McLellan:

I am not getting older.

Chris Wilson:

Yeah. There we go. I’m living fully present and because of that, time is standing still.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, I like that. This has been a great conversation Chris, if folks want to 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 Wilson:

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much. Function point.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 Creative and a couple of 1,000 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 McLellan:

Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing your expertise. You certainly get to peek into a lot of agencies. People can know that your voice comes from a very authentic place. I appreciate it.

Chris Wilson:

My pleasure, my pleasure. And thank you so much for the opportunity.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. Hey everybody, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully, you were 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 at [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.

Speaker 1:

That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency, 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 eNewsletter, 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.