Forecast joined forces with BIMA to host a fantastic virtual hangout last week. Our panel, hosted by Amanda Leat, chatted all things profitability in the agencies throughout the pandemic, offering their tips, tricks, and stories from a year none of us expected! Read on for a reflection of the key takeaways and insights shared.
- The two ‘Ps’ Profit & People
- Staples in agency's toolkits
- Timesheets vs no timesheets
- Pricing transparency
- Staff wellbeing throughout the pandemic
- Diversity and Inclusion
Huge shoutout to the panel’s host Amanda Leat, COO at Tommy, and our wonderful speakers: Nick Towers CEO at Sagittarius, Caroline Goodwin, Operations Director at Tangent, Sophie Wooller Dent, Director of Digital Transformation at Croud, and our very own CRO, Rob Massa.
The two ‘Ps’ Profit & People
The agency world has been keeping their heads above water over the last 16 months by being iterative and adaptive. As Matt Sullivan, BIMAs new Managing Director said when introducing the discussion:
“Whilst the last 12 months have been hellish, some of it has been positive and many businesses have developed new approaches that they will not revert on.” It is now all about the two ‘Ps’ - ‘Profit’ and ‘People’. Being profitable as an agency is a difficult concept at any time. So Matt asked the panelists how they have navigated their businesses over the last year.
Mutually agreed between the panelists, was that no one entered the pandemic and remote work expecting projects to be profitable. It was an element worth sacrificing in order to focus on people, clients, and suppliers. If profit comes at the end of that, then that’s just a bonus! Rob and Sophie agreed that the beginning of the pandemic was all about survival, but now agencies have developed leaner ways of working. It's time to invest and grow. We loved Sophie’s point about the newly found feeling of ‘certainty’. The pandemic was:
“Surviving at first, now turning it into thriving!"
Staples in agency's toolkits
Caroline mentioned the biggest challenge for Tangent has been toolset and having the right blend of software. Implementing Forecast has helped them with reporting, capacity planning and planning projects with profitability in mind from the very beginning. Widely agreed between the speakers was that when it comes to digital transformation, there is never one tool to service everything, it is about finding a tool that reflects what you do, and how you do business.
Nick offered some advice that he received when Sagittarius was in its infancy:
"Advice to smaller agencies is to take software tools off the shelf, focus on client work, and use what is available to you."
Timesheets vs no timesheets
Ultimately, the benefit of logging time isn’t to micromanage or breathe down people’s necks. It’s to showcase to your clients how you are spending your time. As Caroline outlined, it’s really about offering a level of comfort to clients. Rob speaks with a variety of agencies on a daily basis and he believes 90% of them are tracking time, and those who aren’t usually are still in infancy. It did appear that everyone was, as Sophie put it, using:
The panel suggested that appropriate levels of insights and shared definitions are critical when logging time and keeping it fair and the data hygienic.
One of the keywords that kept cropping up during our hangout was “transparency.” Which, as Amanda moved from timesheets to pricing models, seemed to come up in everyone’s shared experiences of the last year. It seemed to everyone, that pricing conversations with clients have certainly changed, or at least become more upfront and transparent. Clients across the board have had to be more clear from the get-go about the outcomes they want, and the budget they’re willing to pay.
Cactus, the UK’s leading agency growth consultancy has partnered with Forecast to produce a Benchmark Report on the State of Agency Service Delivery.
Sometimes clients are transparent, but they’re transparent about not knowing what might happen! Caroline suggested that always ensuring you have the correct staffing levels as a baseline is important for these situations. Tangent is “built with flex in it,” she pointed out.
You must have project profitability targets, and Sophie suggests having a stake in the ground approach but a bit of leeway on either side.
Nick mentioned that Sagittarius measures ROI with “Happiness Index” and the company voice. This is a metric taken seriously by the board and allows everyone to share their highs and lows as a team. Amanda used this as a natural flow to the next topic of staff wellbeing and productivity. Our hangout coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week, and so the next question posed was.
Staff wellbeing throughout the pandemic
Unsurprisingly Nick, Sophie, Caroline, Amanda, and Rob all had fun initiatives going on throughout their businesses that aim to “create energy” and boost morale. Keeping company culture alive throughout the last year has been a complete must, and so if your biz is in need of some inspiration you could try:
- Cocktail Making
- Pizza Making
- Talent Shows
- Escape Rooms
- Nominating a Motivational Champ of the Week
And finally, to sum up, what was a super thought-provoking discussion, Amanda reflected that Covid-19 has not been the only shift we have reckoned with in the last year.
Diversity and Inclusion
Black Lives Matter and Diversity and Inclusion have made business leaders reflect on how well-represented society is in their brand. What are they doing to face this head-on?
“What gets measured, gets done.”
Publishing reports on D&I and consistently measuring how your business stacks up against the necessary representation are and will continue to be, a crucial measurement to ensure a fair share of voice for all backgrounds and communities within businesses.
Once again, a huge thank you to our co-organizers BIMA, our host Amanda and the fantastic speakers! We look forward to our next session with you all. Watch the full recording below: