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Effective Planning for Small to Medium Sized Agencies | BrightonSEO 2018 | Pole Star Digital

Best practice advice for Operations to ensure you plan effectively as an organisation, to provide both the best work for your clients and ensure you run your own agency effectively as a business as well. I've drawn on advice from various industry experts on the topics of tracking time, scope of work and over-servicing, outlining best practice recommendations and common pitfalls/challenges. This is from the point of view of a small independent owner-run agency, but draws on examples from my time at network media agencies as well.
This was presented at the conference BrightonSEO in September 2018: https://brightonseo.com/conference-talk/effective-planning-for-small-medium-agencies-consultancies/

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Effective Planning for Small to Medium Sized Agencies | BrightonSEO 2018 | Pole Star Digital

  1. 1. http://www.slideshare.net/EllaGunson Briony Gunson @BrionyGunson POLE STAR DIGITAL Effective planning for small to medium agencies
  2. 2. Agenda. BriefintrotomeandOps 3areasofbestpracticeforeffectivePlanning Mosteffectiveplanningtool
  3. 3. Butfirst, alittlesecret…
  4. 4. Best practice inspired and informed by: My fuck ups Other people’s fuck ups We learn a lot from mistakes. See everythingas an opportunity for growth!
  5. 5. Imaynothaveallthe answers,butIknow someonewhodoes. Agency Owners Operations Directors Business Coaches Heads of Marketing SEO Influencers
  6. 6. Briefintroto MeandOps
  7. 7. OperationsDirector &SearchConsultant Briony Gunson. FAST WEB MEDIA
  8. 8. Project Management Process Development Resource Allocation & Capacity Project Scoping Client Services Team Development and Culture Other Avery variedrole. Operations Director “OnTheBusiness”
  9. 9. PoleStar Digital. T-Shapedwithvarious backgroundsproviding anintegratedapproach
  10. 10. Ifatreefallsin aforest… If my recommendations aren’t implemented, am I doing anything of value?
  11. 11. Because gettingstuff donecan behard. Plus, proving what you’ve done can be hard without Operations and planning in place…
  12. 12. Forexample: Howeasilycanyou answerthisquestion
  13. 13. Client Stakeholder Canyoupleasegivemeabreakdownofactivityover thelastsixmonths?Ialsoneedanoverviewof monthlyperformanceandabreakdownoftime. Tomorrowisokforthis,right?
  14. 14. “…whathaveIbeen payingyoufor andwhathaveIgot formymoney?”
  15. 15. Sure, noproblem! *gulp*
  16. 16. Thisperfectly legitimate questionshouldn’t equalsqueaky bumtime.
  17. 17. 3areasofbestpractice
  18. 18. Supporting effective planning. Tracking Time Scope Of Work Over Servicing
  19. 19. Supporting effective planning. Tracking Time Scope Of Work Over Servicing
  20. 20. Timeisour currency.
  21. 21. Timesheet confessional 54% Diligently filled in their timesheets 18% Do not track time
  22. 22. Whyisthis important?
  23. 23. If you don't have the data, how can you measure improvement? Quite apart from the billing aspect, if a job is longer than my forecast…I need to look at why. For repeated jobs, template it, automate it, change the way its done so it's less time- consuming. If you aren't tracking time then you don't spot this. If you don't spot this you can't correct this. Tim’s nailedit… @timdotstewart
  24. 24. Timesheetdatais essentialfor auditingand/orif youwanttosell youragencyin future… @stekenwright
  25. 25. Howweapproach timetracking… Harvest integration with Basecamp Weekly spot check vs retainer Frequent team communications Quarterly Strategy review with clients Defined Billable & Non Billable terms
  26. 26. Weusedata toinform ourinternal strategy. We built a working prototype time tracking capacity dashboard, powered by Basecamp + Harvest
  27. 27. Awordof warning… Tracking time is really important but it is also a double-edged sword. If there's an over-zealous approach to time tracking, it can have a detrimental impact on morale, productivity and creativity… But you can’t have a carte blanche either…
  28. 28. Time tracking donepoorly. Get it wrong, and time tracking is nothing more than an inconvenience for everyone. Staff feel like they're being micro- managed and spied on and that can make people fearful. It stifles creativity in some cases, because people become so conscious of tangible, physical output and hours spent that they're scared of "empty" hours spent strategising or researching. @staceycav
  29. 29. Time tracking donewell. It should help prevent being overworked or pushed by clients and line managers. And it should ultimately mean that, as a team, everyone's investing in the right areas to deliver better results for clients. It helps to be transparent about what the data is there for and to share findings and actions off the back of it... @staceycav
  30. 30. Meetinthe middle… Tool keep it simple and easy to track time Define agree on billable and non-billable Communicate why and how you are using the data
  31. 31. Supporting effective planning. Tracking Time Scope Of Work Over Servicing
  32. 32. Aclearscopeofworkislike yourguidinglight. Whoisdoingwhatandtheexpectedoutcome Howthisfitsintothestrategic objectives Projectparameters,e.g.budget,timings, etc
  33. 33. Whyisthis important?
  34. 34. Accountability Deliverwhatyousaidyouwould!Andensure theclientupholdstheirendoftheagreement Manageexpectations Avoidmiscommunicationandassumptions, pluscombatscopecreep Professionalism/Profitability Keepingprojectontimeandinbudget Importantfor allparties.
  35. 35. Howweapproach scopingwork… Complete a thorough checklist before any activity is kicked off Obtain sign off by both the client and agency stakeholders Create clear milestones and book in regular check ins
  36. 36. Awordof warning… Scope creep is a common challenge. If you’re drifting off course, ask why? Newopportunities? Clientleadingus? Unforeseen blockers? If SOW needs changing, acknowledge it in writing – have a conversation first Use timesheet data to back your point
  37. 37. Over Servicing. Tracking Time Scope Of Work Over Servicing
  38. 38. Onefinal confession…
  39. 39. Weall overservice!
  40. 40. It’sok! Acceptance isthefirststep torecovery…
  41. 41. Whyisthis important?
  42. 42. Business Timethatcouldbespentonotherclients or“onthebusiness” Team Issueswithscope,unclearwaysofworking, uncleardirectionorclientleadingus Client Perceptionofyourvalueandskills Anissuefor allparties.
  43. 43. Howweapproach overservicing… Review timesheet data regularly. Where, how and why are we over servicing? Understand company run rates, are we still profitable? Innovate how and where can we improve internal processes? Automate to Innovate!
  44. 44. Awordof warning… Robust new business process Establish compatibility – strategic needs, set up and values Don’t discount Strip back scope of work, but show them the dream! Over-invest in first 1 – 3 months On-boarding takes time! Recognise the value long term Don’t forget project management Industry standard: 20% project management time Build in additional margin if there’s a complex structure
  45. 45. Reframeoverservicing as“investment”. See it as “new business” What’s worth the investment long term? Look at run rate and estimate over-servicing % per client Lay track for clients Show them where you want to go - fine balance Show you care Be proactive, interested and engaged with them and their business
  46. 46. Growingyourexistingclient baseismoreprofitable… ...nomatterwhatindustryyou’rein, acquiringanewcustomer isanywhere from5to25timesmoreexpensive thanretaininganexistingone
  47. 47. Mosteffective planningtool
  48. 48. Trackingtimeanda clearscopeisall wellandgood… Butthebiggest challengewefaceis givingashit…
  49. 49. Onamissionto changethe waywework
  50. 50. Didyou know?
  51. 51. 17% Engagement Gallup
  52. 52. 17% Engagement 2:35 Productivity Gallup AmericanBureauofLabor
  53. 53. 17% Engagement 2:35 Productivity £23.6BN Churn Gallup AmericanBureauofLabor TheCultureEconomy
  54. 54. Havingaclear“why” helpspeoplegiveashit… Your why is why your staff get up and come to work in the morning It’s why they picked to work at your business and not one of your competitors It’s why they stick it out and come together as a team when the shit hits the fan
  55. 55. WhatdoImean By“why”? An organisation’s why acts like the beating heart – giving it life, warmth and energy
  56. 56. It’snot justfluff… PurposeisthekeydriverforMillennials. Yourcompetitorsinvestingin“why”and snappingupthebestpeople… Soitmakesbusinesssense!
  57. 57. Tasks Actions focused on real world results Processes Across our services, internal & external Strategy What we offer Clients Fit our values? Services What do we want to famous for? Culture Beliefs & Behaviours Why Your“why” canpower everyaspect ofyour business… Example“why”: Goingaboveandbeyondforrealworldresults
  58. 58. I’llleaveyou withonefinalthought…
  59. 59. Don’ttalk aboutwhat youaregoing todo,doit! EdwardAbbottParry @KatKynes
  60. 60. Thankyou! @BrionyGunson Briony@polestardigital.com