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A hypothesis:

A talented digital creative gets frustrated with life working for someone else, being restricted by the process and people around him/her, not being able to really be creative. So he/she decides to leave and go freelance, picks up work straight away from their previous agency, not least as the agency need someone and it starts the money coming in. He/she talks to their network and gets some work from 2-3 other contacts as well. All of a sudden he/she needs some help so they give one of their oldest work friends a call and ask them to join, which they do. They realise they’ve got an agency so give it a name, design and build a website and get going.

They do some great work, get noticed and a couple of direct clients come calling, they take on a couple of developers as they want to retain creative control of the sites they are designing. They realise they’ve got a business, are in charge and have responsibilities to the people they employ, but they haven’t really got a plan for the next few months never mind beyond that.

Sound familiar? It won’t be surprising if it does, there are literally thousands agencies in the UK, many have less than 5 people, but are also more than 5 years old. So the initial growth phase that almost every new business experiences as the founders sweat all their contacts in the early months happened, but beyond that there has been very little growth unfortunately.

I see this quite frequently, and have done even more so over the last couple of months as I have talked to more and more agency owners. There are many questions/issues, all are completely understandable –

  • What’s the future for my business?

  • Why am I struggling to grow?

  • Why am i struggling to make money?

  • What’s the end game?

  • How do I generate new business?

  • What makes my agency different or better than the next one?

  • Do I need an account manager?

  • Do I need a project manager?

  • How do I get more work out of our existing clients?

  • Are my rates and costs competitive? Could/should I be charging more?

  • How can my systems be improved?

  • What are the key measures for the success of my agency?

  • How do I review and reward my staff?

  • Should I pitch for business? What does great pitch look like?

  • And many others……

So all of a sudden the owners of the business realise they are actually in charge, and that their team look to them for answers and for them to have a plan for their future and that of the business. That’s not what they started the business for, or why they started it, but is critical to the future success.

These challenges can sometimes be overcome in isolation, but as a whole they are hugely significant, and not easy to address as they usually require a skillset and level of experience that is neither with the founders nor anyone else currently in the business.

The Accidental Boss is the reason I set up The Digital Strategy Unit.

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