Agencies are beautiful, chaotic places to work. The nature of creative client work means the agency is always in a state of flux, growing and pivoting as clients do. The ability to adjust quickly is critical to survival, but it makes it all too easy for the vision to get lost in the daily shuffle.
Recently, I worked with a mid-sized agency in Chicago that had good people, solid work, and consistent clients. The problem was that they were stuck.
After a few years of stagnant billings and staff size, the owner decided to make a few changes. He instituted monthly “state of the agency” meetings, where he outlined the agency’s long-term vision and updated the staff on financial goals. He also established quarterly and yearly meetings that allowed the team to discuss goals and establish concrete action steps for achieving them.
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In the four years since instituting those changes, the agency has seen double-digit growth every year. Employees are happier and more energized, and the company is making a name for itself.
On the surface, it seems really obvious: You need a clear vision to grow an agency. But it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and, when you do, you often miss clues that something is about to go terribly wrong.
Why It’s Important to Look Up
Agencies that stay in tactical mode all the time will almost certainly miss warning signs that they’re wandering off-target. This is what I like to call “shiny object syndrome.” With digital marketing, there seems to be a new “shiny object” every year.
Focusing on your overarching vision will keep you from chasing every shiny object that comes along and help you pick up on warning signs for obstacles that could derail your goals.
A focus on vision also allows you to take regular inventory of your employees and clients. The wrong employee or client can cost you valuable time and money — even your reputation. But if you always judge them based on your long-term goals and values, you’re much more likely to keep your roster full of valuable individuals.
Articulating your long-term goals is just as helpful to your employees as it is to you. As a leader, sharing your vision may be the last thing on your mind. You’re juggling daily tasks, managing deals, and handling employees. But if you aren’t sharing your vision every chance you get, well-meaning employees can accidentally pull you off course.
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Without clear direction, they will make up their own job descriptions and may end up working against each other. But if you make a habit of sharing your vision, everyone will know where you’re going and how their roles contribute to the larger goals.
And don’t forget that your employees are also your most valuable assets! When you share your vision, they will ask questions and make suggestions, helping you sharpen your focus even further.
How to Bring Vision Front and Center
Focusing on the company’s vision doesn’t mean you need to hold an hour-long meeting every single week. But as a leader, you should be sharing your vision at least on a quarterly basis. Gather and present metrics that show the progress you’ve made, and give shout-outs to the employees who are moving the needle the most.
Encourage department heads to talk to their teams about how they can move the company closer to its goals, and regularly recognize and reward employees for their contributions. If you can give employees a vehicle for recognizing each other for positive contributions, that’s going to supercharge your efforts even more.
Smart people want to work for great companies, and great companies always keep the vision front and center. If you talk about the vision once and never bring it up again, your employees will think it’s not important to you. But if you make it a regular focus, employees will get excited about their shared goals and work hard to achieve results.
Image: Nicole Won