We started out as an agency ourselves, delivering large and complex projects for governments. We were very mindful about how we designed our business, wanting to create something to be really proud of, that we loved working in.
As we built the agency, we actively shared our methods through speaking at agency events, writing about them, or mentoring other agency leaders.
When the pandemic hit, hot on the heels of years of Brexit turbulence, we already had crisis plans and solid reserves we could deploy. We knew the business could survive for a long time, whatever happened in our market. We were in the fortunate business of being able to say 'no' to work that didn't fit our mission or values. (Putting the business in a solid position that allows it to say no, and defining what it should say no to are among the most important parts of an agency leaders role.)
But we started seeing other agencies close down or put themselves up for sale. The pandemic was just the last straw, they hadn't loved running their businesses for a long time. They wanted out.
We also heard of agency leaders who were stressed and exhausted. They weren't loving running their business either, but didn't see a way out other than keeping on keeping on. They felt like they were in a hamster wheel and just had to keep it spinning.
Then some agencies, such as those in e-commerce, had a boom time. But, even then, many felt a bit out of control, and that they weren't really making the most of the sudden new opportunities to embed sustainable growth in a healthy way.
The common factor was that these leaders got too absorbed into the 'daily doing' in the agency, getting hands on in the sales or client work, and called on for firefighting. They hardly spent any time in their role as CEO or board director — let alone as a shareholder. The agency's culture was un-curated, the strategy was non-existent, the positioning was whatever it needed to be for the next pitch.
We decided this was something we could help with, so we spent a year on research and experiments before re-directing Convivio from being an agency itself, to helping agency leaders make their time wearing their CEO and director hats more effective.