How Agencies Can Thrive in 2021

December 15, 2020

There’s no question that 2020 was an unusual year that has brought challenges to agencies of all shapes and sizes. So when we look ahead to 2021, perhaps we’re a bit more hesitant to dream up predictions of what to expect. But, the pace of business keeps marching forward, so despite the uncertainty that comes with the new year, we asked six industry experts to share their perspectives on how agencies can best prepare for the year to come.

“You need to establish your position of authority” - Drew McLellan, CEO, Agency Management Institute

One of the big lessons from the pandemic is something we’ve instinctually known for years. Agencies who differentiate themselves by having a depth of expertise (a position of authority) and share that expertise generously and often can create a community of potential buyers. That community values the teaching and wisdom from the agency, forming an arm’s length bond with them – growing to know, like and trust the agency for their expertise. What that does is it dramatically shortens the sales cycle once the prospect has decided it’s time to buy. Clients don’t want to take a risk when it comes to hiring an agency. They don’t want to risk their job so they hire an expert who has already proven that they know the client’s world.

“Manage your processes, and your processes will manage your people” - Corey Peck, Co-Founder and COO, Media One Creative

Taking on a process-centric view to management and organizational learning is nothing new, but this best practice is often overlooked and under-prioritized to more "urgent" matters. COVID-19 was the ‘Great Accelerator,’ allowing us to see trends that would have played out over 5 years take place in less than 12 months. It was also the ‘Great Revealer,’ showing the cracks in an organization's ability to find, execute, and deliver top-quality work in both a consistent and repeatable way. Organizations that prioritized the Acquisition (removing knowledge from people's heads), Interpretation (documenting) and Application of their best practices and core processes (building into playbooks, templates, and software) are the ones who not only survived during the last few months but thrived. In an all remote environment, these managers can now manage the established processes, and these processes - in large part - manage the people and the way they get work done day-to-day.

“Pace yourself and your company” - Vincent Dong, CPA, CA, Founder, Advice Software & Consulting Inc.

How did the 40 hour work week magically transform itself into 60 hours? This year has seen Zoom, Teams, Go-To and Google Chat been the ultimate saviors to efficient client and employee communications in back-to-back-to-back meetings. “Digitizing work” has taken on a whole new meaning especially when one is chained to their desk together with managing triple digit increases in their emails into the wee small hours of the night. Seeing one at home has taken on a new perspective. There is no longer and clear line between office and … home. You’re good, no great, at why you do. Want to thrive in 2021? Set up a framework to work at your peak best by considering regular breaks from your computer. Remember when you used to commute to the office? Replace it with daily exercise or ongoing virtual education. Regulate your alcoholic intake. Get plenty of sleep. Your clients want you at your best. Plan to be your best by taking care of yourself and tell your staff to stick to this with this framework. I have personally spent the last 7 months honing this!


[Webinar] The Year Ahead for Agencies: Experts Weigh In On 2021

Our panel discussed their 2020 business experiences while giving advice on how to thrive in 2021.

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“Level up your agency OS (Operating System)” - Nancy Murray, Managing Director, Deltek Agency Solutions

This decade requires a serious pivot to accelerate digital transformation. Running a tight financial ship is priority one and balancing performing culture whilst keeping focus on profitable project delivery is instrumental to face the post crisis challenges. Optimize your operating system to favor asynchronous communication and project collaboration.

Keep a close eye on high growth capabilities to strategically position the agency and have a deep understanding of your PeopleCurrency: revenue forecasted vs capacity. Scale is the fine art of maximizing revenue for each available FTE.

The epicenter: Being easy to do business with combined with a mature and organized customer journey.

“Prioritize profitable projects” - Drew Stein, Sr. Consultant, Premier Consulting & Integration

In this ever changing landscape, agencies need to prioritize efficient use of their capital and resources while providing value to clients through profitable projects. The key to this is to accurately forecast revenue and the resources needed to complete the projects on-time and within budget. To achieve this goal, agency leaders and team members need tools to empower them to make proactive decisions ensuring profitability at all levels within the agency (company, client, and project). This can be only achieved if live data accessible and easy to evaluate. 

“Invest in an ERP” - Avigail Schlosser, CFO, O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul

Imbuing an ethos of cost consciousness is an absolute necessity during changing times. Agencies should consider investing in an Enterprise Resource Planning tool to manage business operations such as Project Management, Account Management, Resource Planning and Finance. Professional Service businesses need clear visibility into their resource capabilities, skills and capacity for jobs and the changing needs of our clients. Managing business in siloed systems and excel spreadsheets is impairing the ability to make quick decisions that impact the quality of work and the bottom line. Invest time in researching and procuring the right solution for your business, and take charge of aligning the Leadership team to ensure change is managed from the top down.

Want even more insights to help you plan for 2021? Check out our webinar with our panel of industry leaders from SoDA, Worldwide Partners, and MAGNET Global Network.

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