Last week I met with the owner of an agency that's grown rapidly in the last year.
They've won lots of projects, recruited, and been putting in place all the process and culture they need as they grow. But, she told me, she feels like she's learning on the job, figuring things out as she goes — 'winging it'.
Just the next day, respected agency founder turned people-skills guru, Trenton Moss mused on LinkedIn:
My reply was "I hope not! That'd be like the wave going away for a surfer."
I've written before about why clients need agencies, and part of that need is down to agencies' ability to be a learning machine. As new things emerge, agency people are great at exploring and learning them.
The key is, it doesn't matter if it feels like we're making it up as we go along, or learning on the job, because we don't need to be the world expert on it before we can use that knowledge. We just need to be learning ahead of our clients.
Be better and more widely read, listen to more podcasts, read more blogs, attend more training, have more side projects to learn by doing, and however else you like to learn. You and your team must be constantly learning and pushing your skills into new areas where you feel you're winging it. Then find ways of using your emerging new knowledge and skills to benefit your clients as early as possible.
The best agencies become learning machines. They consciously embed this constant learning into the way the business works. They make it a clear part of their culture and processes. And it isn't just for teams, it's for the leaders and owners too.
Our clients need us to be surfing the big waves out on the wilder coasts between what is known to them, and what they need to know next month or next year. That's what makes us and our agencies valuable.
So, what could you do this week to make continuous learning more a part of your own life — and what could you do to make your agency more of a learning machine?
Notable this week:
- A good provocation from agency consultant David Baker: Don't you dare go back to the way things were!
- The Funsize agency share 9 lessons they've learned in 9 years in business.
- We published the latest Agency Senate insights from the most-respected agency leaders on how to be an effective leader while also being a good person (members only)
- In the next week we're publishing a major What Works report on using OKRs in agencies. If you want to get your hands on it first, subscribe to one of our plans (the start-up plan is open to genuine start-ups, but also to owners of larger agencies who just want to access our playbook and reports and don't need the more in-depth programmes)
- By the way, Trenton (mentioned above) is running a free taster workshop of his people skills for agency teams programme, focusing on adjusting your comms style to build great client relationships. He's a great presenter and has so many good insights, it's well worth your time.
Do you have a board or advisory board? Or are you thinking of starting one?
This year I have availability to take on a board role, and my colleague Joe has availability for two board roles. Find out more details about our experience and expertise, and set up a chat.
As ever, you can use my Calendly to book a coffee and a chat about your agency and your current adventures, and any questions you have. I'm an agency geek, and my main purpose is to be as useful as possible to agency owners. Challenge me!