5 tips for growing a digital creative agency

Around 100 attendees packed How-Do’s recent Creative Industries Business Forum held at the stylish The Hive in Manchester.

Liane Grimshaw (former managing partner at Amaze) stole the show for me with a passionate summary of the key learning points that have framed her entrepreneurial journey so far. Here’s my summary from my notes:

1. Know when to say “No” – the more you can narrow your focus, the more you can become an expert and dominate a niche. Once you can dominate a niche and develop your own unique approach, the more price becomes an irrelevance.

2. Practice what you preach – why is it, she questioned, that marketing agencies have some of the worst and most unimaginative websites? Websites and literature that simply lists services…… Agencies frequently use words like “innovation” and “creativity” and then deploy “pedestrian” techniques for marketing their own services and solutions! You need to practice what you preach every day. You can’t have an away-day to create a strategy document and then expect this to magically change the agency culture overnight! The culture comes from the way you and your people act every day.

3. Trust your gut – this applies to selecting your people, strategy and interpreting your results. Probationary periods for recruiting new staff should be observed and people moved on if they do not fit into the company culture – shirking these difficult decisions early on often can develop into much bigger problems further down the line. Your intuition is rarely wrong.

4. Size does matter – there are pros and cons to being a small agency and likewise for larger agencies. Being smaller agency allows for greater agility, speed of decision-making and willingness to take more risks in terms of creative briefs. As agencies grow, the pressure to become more “corporate” in approach can result in employees trusting their own initiative less and starting to “lean on company processes”. Many large agencies could learn a thing or two from smaller agencies e.g. using smaller teams within an organization.

5. If you don’t want to get up in the morning, change it or let go – life’s too short. It may seem like a difficult decision at the time but trusting your gut instinct and making changes or walking away completely to start again may be the best decision for the longer term.

In the discussion groups that followed, these themes kept cropping up repeatedly. These principles can be applied to any business. Home truths – well said. Thanks Liane.

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