If there’s a common complaint I hear from agency owners it’s that they don’t have enough hours in the day to get all the things done. From the moment you walk in the door (be it to your studio or virtually), you’re going from one dumpster fire to another, pinging and ponging in between slack channels, email, What’s App, Voxer and all those ‘got a minute' meetings. Before you know it, 6 pm rolls around before you’ve even started to get your work done. Let alone work ON the agency business. And you’re exhausted from all the juggling.
Here’s the thing. Have you ever watched the film ‘The Ugly Truth' with Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl? It cracks me up. You should give it a watch for a laugh but back to the ugly truth. You have time (and I’m not going to say something lame like how we all have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyoncé which technically is true). You have time. The problem is you squander it on the wrong things. You spend your time doing other people’s work for them. You spend time on things that are urgent but not highly leveraged things that are actually important.
What does that add up to? Feeling overworked, overwhelmed and you’re always behind the eight ball. As the agency owner you’re probably used to doing everything yourself and at times you probably are the most qualified and skilled person to get things done. But if you don’t stop all that juggling, you neglect the activities that are going to keep your agency growing and that keeps you on the feast and famine roller coaster.
So this isn’t a blog post on how to manage your time but rather a kick up the derriere to get you to stop juggling and stop managing time. And start managing your focus.
That being said, ‘what activities should you be focused on?’ I hear you ask. Great question.
You should be focused on highly leveraged activities such has filling the sales pipeline, developing and leading your team and building the systems and processes to scale.
Easy peasy lemon squeasy right? I wish it were that simple. In reality and in many agencies, the owner is the bottleneck. You are spending so much time hopping from issue to issue that you’re not focused. Every time you give your energy to something that’s urgent but not important, you’re taking away opportunity and potential from your agency business to grow and thrive.
You know the 80-20 rule right? Here’s how I think 80% of agency owners should be spending at least 80% of their time. Life isn’t perfect but if 80% of your time looked closer to something like this, then your agency is going to grow on purpose. It’s not going to grow by accident and it might end up being a monster that you didn’t set out to create in the first place.
You need to plan to this (it doesn't happen magically), hold yourself accountable (or get some accountability) and commit to your objectives, saying no from time to time and keeping the course.
Highly leveraged activities
Ideally, half your time is spent focused on highly leveraged activities. That means your vision, strategic growth, business development, pitching, creating opportunities, and signing new clients.
It’s also wise to know that there are different seasons to business. You might be in a season of building systems and processes to get ready for a season of growth. Whatever season you’re in requires you to work ON the business. That might be marketing, sales strategy, people strategies, systems, or a combination of these things. Leading, growing the business, and growing your skillset as the leader of the agency need to be in pace with each other.
Highly leveraged activities, growth and income-generating activities should always be a priority. Whenever something comes up that is dressed up as urgent think about the opportunity cost of giving that thing your attention. Your agency will struggle along for as long as you don’t prioritise highly leveraged activity.
A few of my clients take one “CEO day” per week to dedicate time to working ON the business. It doesn’t have to be a day but getting ritualistic about highly leveraged activities is how you make it happen.
Developing your team
The average age of employees in agency spaces is lower than in most industries. That’s a great thing and you have a team who are hungry to learn from you. As the agency leader dedicating time to attracting talent, how you onboard team members, and how you develop them and coach them into solution-driven superstars will go a long way to your company culture. (When I talk about culture, I’m not talking about ping pong tables, fancy coffee machines and beers on Fridays). Rather, how are you consistently working on creating a place where people work with you towards your vision and they don’t work in spite of you?
This 20% chunk of your time can include things like one-to-ones, evaluating your review process, and managing your incentive programs. Developing and nurturing talent and how your team communicates with clients, and suppliers (which will go a long way to creating raving fans and feeds into your business development activity).
Just as a pilot can’t keep a plane in the air without looking at the controls, you can’t keep your agency’s doors open if you don’t get to grips with the numbers. Building a dashboard for your agency so you know if you’re on track or off track. And being a creative soul I know you’re rolling your eyes because you don’t like numbers but you can’t manage what you don’t measure. I’m not asking you to become a CFO but you need to know what numbers to look at, and what metrics to measure so you truly know the health of your agency business.
Day to day
Of course, until your business has systems and processes and it’s running like clockwork you won’t be on the beach sipping a mojito all day every day. There are day-to-day and operational things to look after, there’s no escaping it just yet.
What are you waiting for?
I know that feeling when you’re in the grind, you think if you just get a few more projects out the door, win another couple of juicy clients. That sort of thinking will keep you stuck and keep you small. You’re not going to nail this overnight and you’re not going to be perfect. Focus on progress, start by looking at your week and planning around these core areas.
You’ll start to see that over time if you make incremental improvements day by day, week by week and month by month you’ll drive your agency forward. Your future self will thank you for starting today.
Need any help? Book a no-obligation connection call for us to pinpoint what's keeping you stuck right now. We'll take the agency gap quiz and set you on course for your next level of growth.