Here’s the ad agency structure kernel of truth you’ve been denying for too long. You can’t own/run a successful, scaleable agency and still be in the weeds of client work.
You just can’t do it.
I work with 200+ agencies a year and whether they’re small (1-15 people) or large independently owned agencies (100+ people) — if the owner is still servicing clients, they’re not servicing the agency.
If you were hit by a bus or abducted by aliens, ideally your agency would carry on. If your absence would dramatically change your agency’s monthly AGI, then congratulations — you just created company so you could be a day laborer. You simply traded one job/boss for another job/boss.
And I’m betting your current boss makes you work worse hours for worse pay. What a jerk, right?
Actually you’re right. You shouldn’t tolerate that life anymore. Not only is it a lousy job for lousy pay but you can’t grow your business because you’re the bottleneck. The sticking point. The black hole where ideas and innovation go to die because you don’t have the time to think them through or execute them.
If you are working in the business, you aren’t working on the business. Which means your agency will not scale/grow and no one will want to buy it because you’re too integrally involved. And if all of that’s true — why in the world would you take the risk, the pressure, the heartburn, and the worry? Just go get a job.
So what should you be doing with your time? Here’s how a strong agency owner should be spending his/her time (roughly) every week. This is your agency owner’s job description. Granted this is ideal and no one lives this 100%…but it gives you something to shoot for when structuring your ad agency.
50% of an advertising agency owner’s time should be spent on new business: I know…you hate me already. But it’s the truth. No one sells your agency like you do. Now granted, right now you’re selling yourself and your team so we need to shift that to selling the team. But even given that — this is a role you were born to play. You don’t have to be pushy or even sell. Instead you should be educating, connecting and helping. When you help a business owner/marketing leader — you will almost always see new business from it.
20% of an advertising agency owner’s time should be spent mentoring: You have hired some incredible talent. You know what they crave the most? They want to keep growing, and believe it or not — the teacher they most covet is you. They want to learn from your experiences. They want you to coach them through tough conversations. And they want to know you’ve got their back.
15% of an advertising agency owner’ time should be spent on the business: This is you looking at forecasts and crunching the numbers. This is you leading your leadership team in hitting the quarterly objectives. This is you meeting with the bankers and other professional advisors you employ. This is you — running your company but at a higher level. You have (or should have) critical people in place who have specialty expertise (like a CFO) that you rely on to make the big decisions quickly and decisively. Growing agencies do not wallow in decision making…they move forward and adjust as they go. Which requires a nimble and attentive leader at the helm.
10% of an advertising agency owner’s time should be spent on visioning the future of the agency: This is you putting together a one, three, and five year vision for your shop and then breaking that down into SMART goals at key milestones. This is you investing the time to share your vision on regular basis with everyone in your shop and get them fired up]
5% of an advertising agency owner’s time should be spent on client love: This isn’t daily client work. This is you hanging out with your best clients, playing golf taking in a ball game or whatever they love. This is you asking them how your team is performing and what could be better. This is you talking business with your clients, helping them identify some bigger-picture opportunities and being their confidante.
I can feel you shaking your head. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And for most owners, it is definitely more aspirational than it’s accurately descriptive. But it gives you something to shoot for. And even if you’re only 60% of the way there, imagine how much more productive and focused you would be.
I do know owners who live this kind of role and do follow this ad agency structure. They’re the same agencies who are making 20%+ profit every year. Why? Because everyone is aligned with their proper role and doing their part.
Including the owner, who is following the agency owner’s job description to a T.
P.S. Whether you own a traditional advertising agency, a PR firm, a digital shop or any other marcom type agency — this structure applies to you just as much.