Over the last three months, I’d been having a similar conversation with many agency owners.  The conversation starts something like this:

“We can’t afford to hire anyone but we’re struggling to get the work done.”

We do a little math and realize that they have the right number of team members.  As I ask questions, sooner or later the owner says:

“Well, we have some people who are working 10+ hour days just to keep up and others who are less than 50% billable. I’m struggling to keep them busy.”

Ah ha…now we are narrowing in on the conversation.  What it often boils down to is that they have the right number of people but some of those people are occupying seats on the bus that the agency doesn’t need any more.  The really tough part of this realization is that you have three options, once you see the truth.

  • You can live with the bus seats as they are and continue to have under utilized team members while risking the burn out of your rock stars
  • You can invite the team member in the wrong seat to add to their skill set and move to a seat you actually need on the bus
  • You can ask the team member to step off the bus and replace their seat with someone with a skillset you need for the long run

There’s nothing or easy about resolving this situation.  Often times the person who is no longer in demand at your shop is someone who has been with you for a long time, been a loyal team member and wants to contribute.

But, if they haven’t invested in themselves to keep evolving their skills, they simply may not belong on the bus anymore.  As tough a decision as that is to make.

Here’s a good way to see if you’re in this situation.  Take a look at your existing projects and client commitments.  Now, build an org chart of the agency you’d create to service that business, if you were starting a brand new agency today.  The chart should be job functions, not names because you are not allowed to hire anyone for this new agency that works for you today, except for you, the owner.

With that freedom of not having to create the agency that allows you to protect your people, there’s clarity in the exercise.  You may or may not decide to make the changes necessary to become the optimum agency to serve your existing book of business, but at least then you’ll be making an informed decision.

There’s no harm in doing the exercise.  Just try it to see how close or how far you are from the idea shop. And then, you can decide if you want to pursue it or not.