You might find this hard to believe, but leading an agency isn't easy.

Okay, okay. Not the deepest insight there — but bear with me over the next few weeks as we'll piece together such basic stuff into some agency-changing insights.


So... One of the (many) reasons why leading a creative/digital agency is hard is because you simultaneously need to do the wild, innovative, creative stuff AND run a solid, predictable business that consistently pays the bills.

Founders of healthy agencies know by now that they need to keep their noses out of micromanaging the day-to-day — but they do need to be active in shaping what is done and how it's done. They must regularly revisit the basic details in between working on the big-picture.

How can we design our agencies so that the 'running the business' bit happens more smoothly and dependably, allowing us to safely focus more on what we find most rewarding?

In my view, this requires a little bit of guiding structure.

AgencyOps is part of a simple framework I've developed. It defines the 5 core areas in an agency — to help you focus on designing, reviewing and refining them.

The AgencyOps 5:

  • Sales: Everything involved in attracting prospects, winning clients, and keeping them.
  • People: Gathering, developing, growing and retaining a team to collaborate brilliantly in doing their best work.
  • Action: Everything involved in enabling the delivery of the work you do for clients.
  • Results: Ensuring the agency serves its owners, staff, partners, community and planet. Financial results, KPIs, delivering on motivations and interests, and climate impacts, among others. The outputs of the business, good or bad.
  • Knowledge: Gathering, synchronising, developing and sharing the learning and expertise in the business. Oddly, this is often the area that gets least attention — but it is the main thing the agency sells to clients.

I'll go into detail in the coming weeks, with some inspiration to 'dial up' your agency's capabilities in each area.

But first, as a very rough exercise this week, give your agency an honest score out of 10 for each, where 10 is "We're perfect, nobody in the world does this as well as us", and 1 is "We're doomed!"

In deciding on a score, consider the following for each area:

  • How much gets done on this, repeatedly and well.
  • How much improvement and advancement happens month to month.
  • How much noise that area of the agency makes, relative to achievement.
  • How often you as the founder need to get involved in that area.
  • How much you worry about it when you're away from the agency.

Even just having a list of these five core areas in mind is useful — prompting you to check in on each regularly.

In the advisory board meetings I guide agency founders through, we work through these 5 once every six months to review process. How could you work a similar rhythm of review into your board and management meetings?

Over the coming weeks I'm going to share some food for thought in each part of the AgencyOps framework.