How to Operationalize and Create Templates at Your Agency
Suzanne began her career working with a Big Four and operations but did freelance marketing work on the side. She eventually transitioned into an agency at the Austin Lawrence Group.
Here are the main takeaways from the interview:
Any time you're working at your agency, whether with a client or internal, you need to be thinking "How do we operationalize this?"
You want to make sure your agency is running a well-oiled business, and the only way to do this is to make sure your operations are sound.
It will increase your profits and make running your agency more enjoyable.
This means regularly asking, "Do we have it?" "Should we build it?" Determining what is or isn't essential for doing your job as an agency will help you hone in on what is crucial for your operations. This includes evaluating tools and resources, or whether work should be outsourced or in-house.
Thinking this way will help agencies can streamline their processes to deliver better results. Operational inefficiencies will cause projects to fall off the rails or failure to deliver on services.
Document Your Processes
The one vital factor that separates successful agencies is documenting your processes. It's important to make process documentation embedded in your agency culture, right from the very start.
Determine the templates needed to deliver your services, and build them out for future use at your business. You want to replicate your successes.
For creative owners, the idea of documenting everything can be daunting or find it stifles their creative work. However, there is a way to balance processes with creativity. An example of this would be brainstorming. You can build out a template for how to capture ideas from a brainstorm and how to follow up on them.
The actual brainstorm sessions itself isn't regimented, but having a process afterward will ensure that there is progress after a brainstorm session and the best ideas are implemented.
Clients also want to have processes. That's a critical feature they're looking for in an agency. They want to know that an agency has control and a smart method of making sure things get done right. Clients are busy. They want to know what to expect when working with you and having a structure for the relationship.
Executives at a client's business have a lot on their plate. If you need their feedback to continue your work, it's essential to have a process to make sure they're able to get your agency what you need to keep moving ahead.
At the Austin Lawerence group, they do with a process of emailing key client contacts to ensure progress on the project. No client wants ever to be following up with an agency to know what they're doing or find out where there's a delay. It's better for the agency to be "annoying" to the client to keep a project moving ahead. You can have individual members of your staff document processes, or have it be team members.
The Austin Lawrence Group lets team members find the problem and work through it. They then feed it up to Suzanne and a strategist to fill out and build the official process. By having this bottom-up approach, it saves time across the agency templatizing operations.
Document as You Go
Every business has inside knowledge that everyone follows but isn't documented. It's so ingrained in the culture that no one usually thinks about it. However, the times that this becomes clear that there is an information gap during a new employee onboarding. This is a perfect time to figure out what isn't documented and taking the time to take care of it. It's essential to be continuing to build this inventory of fundamental knowledge.
The issue with process documentation too is that it often doesn't become apparent until it's too late or needed. That's why if there's a change in software, client on-boarding, overcoming a client issue, or some obstacle, it's a good time to document a process. It means recording as you solve the problem which is more convenient than going back later on.
This documented solution will be valuable to the agency as other team members encounter similar issues.
Suzanne's background in operations gives her insights and tips on that are valuable for agencies of any size.