To paraphrase what John Lennon once said, ‘life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’.
There is a lot of truth in that saying. The intention of having plan, a sense of structured approach and a path forward, is interrupted by the mania of everyday life, preventing us from getting to the desired outcome.
For agency leaders that might sound a little familiar.
Many of the engagements that we have in devising, developing, and delivering agency growth plans with leaders and owners start with the question, ‘Where do you want to go?’. This often elicits a strong response with some detail on agency size and shape, purpose and ambition. ‘How are you planning to get there?’…less so.
That in itself is hardly surprising. Agency leaders generally have only a fraction of their time to spend ON the business – thinking and planning. Instead, their time is consumed IN the business – in delivery, client services, HR, finance, new business etc. This is especially true in the early years of the start-up and grow up phases.
What difference does a plan make?
But this cliché of organised chaos, which is appropriate, can’t be sustained. Before you know it, years have passed and still there is no organised, structured plan for the growth and development of the agency towards a stated ambition at a point in time.
Having that plan alleviates the chaos. Here’s why:
- A plan for growth introduces a sense of focus and with it, to some extent at least, an element of calm. Not only does a growth plan set the direction, it also provides clarity – both for the leadership and the wider agency.
- A clear and communicable plan for the future can be a cathartic and galvanising stage of development, giving purpose and meaning to your ambition that may not have existed before.
- A fully formed growth plan also sets out the key components needed to deliver the ambition – the strategic pillars underpinned by measurable milestones and outcomes to benchmark progress.
What this means for agency owners is that you know where you are at any point in time, where you may have deviated from plan and how to course correct. Importantly, you can establish:
- Where are we?
- Are we where we should be?
- Do we have what we need to get to the destination?
You comprehend how far along the journey you’ve come and the distance that you have left to run. You also understand more about what you have, and don’t have, in place – how complete you are. You can think strategically about the skills and experience that will be required to deliver on the strategy.
Having a growth plan will attract talent and investment
When you are recruiting senior level people to the agency as it evolves and grows, they will expect there to be a growth plan in place. They need to understand where the agency is going, how it plans to get there and the contribution that they make to that.
It is an expected touchstone and will be required to attract skilled leaders into the business with something they understand and can buy into.
Equally, potential investors and acquirers will seek a growth plan as a reference point for structured, organised growth, evidence of a strategy and measurable progress against it.
The absence of this will be seen as a potential discount factor for investors and buyers. They also need to see the forward plan for growth and development because their return is based on that forward path.
Put time into where you are going
Agency leaders can be time poor and it can be easy for them to fall into the trap outlined by Lennon. But dedicating some of this precious resource into developing a growth plan actually optimises time going forward.
- There is certainty about the direction and the priorities.
- There is clarity on where to spend time, attention, and focus.
- There is cohesion throughout the agency as everyone understands the direction of travel and what’s required to get there.
But perhaps the biggest benefit to agency founders and leaders is that it also helps to drive the important behaviour that the most successful agency owners and leaders have – spending time ON the business rather than just IN it.