Article - Don’t recruit, systematise!

articles leadership operations tools / process systems Mar 24, 2022

READ: 5 mins
AUTHOR: Janusz Stabik

How profit and more productive personnel are sitting right under your nose!

Digital agencies charge platinum rates for their services, but inefficiencies delivering that service see the bottom line look more lack-lustre than lucrative.

Gross margins often sit between 35-50% - but we’d like them closer to 65%.



This week’s blog looks at how you can dig deeper to deliver on your agency’s profit potential: whilst taking strides to tackle your recruitment conundrum at the same time.

Fools’ Gold

There’s a temptation in our business to jump at opportunities to expand, by offering new, additional services rather than focusing on becoming better, smarter and more efficient at what we do at base camp.


But not only is the profit right under our noses, so too is the personnel to produce it.


Digging Deeper

Take some lessons from the hospitality industry, and you’ll soon get how your workplace model could be more hospitable to our high fee earners.

The idea of Erchen Chang of Bao, checking the fridge temperature before she sweats over her slow-cook char siu pork and or even finely chopping the pickled vegetables which will construct her famed bao buns, is ludicrous.

That Rafael Cagali of Da Terra, sets to washing the pots and pans post service, is equally laughable.

These chefs are in a clear hierarchy where role and wage are defined proportionally to the end service being paid for and - importantly - each role is optimised to extract the most amount of value from their expertise. We're getting high value output, from high high value employees

The head chef is responsible for the inception of the given recipe on their menu: ingredients arrive prepared at their station, where the dish is made incarnate - if they’re even present that day.

In digital agencies, we tend to have a flatter hierarchy, employing too many head chefs, then diminishing their ability to optimise the time we pay them handsomely for.

Not only does this eat into our profit, paying creative thinkers to act strategically and then clogging up their space to do so with mundane, task-oriented work bores them…leaving them scouring LinkedIn at lunchtime.

 According to Gallup, engaged teams generate 21% more profit than their disengaged counterparts. When people are satisfied with their job they’re motivated to achieve great results.


The solution?

You need to give your senior account managers space to create, to innovate and to STAY with you as a result of this freedom.

Getting your talent doing more of the work they love and less of the work they loathe - will make your business more profitable AND reduce the need to recruit.


Cooking up Consistency

This model can only work if underpinned with a consistency of output which negates the need for micromanagement as a result of trust in systems and in the staff working within them.

We can’t make better food, let alone of Michelin star quality, without at first becoming consistent.

And consistency comes through systemisation.

The next phase is not going to be easy: it’s going to take an investment of time and your team’s expertise to assess what happens in your agency’s actions and implement change.


Recipe for Constant Consistency

1.      Define the method for creating and producing the service: make this definition the ownership of the individuals who do this action currently

2.      Document this method. You’re going to teach this to others, so make it clear and make it digestible. Use info-videos or get back to basics producing one simple one pagers: think recipe, not manual

3.      Action the method using these resources and make someone accountable for ensuring they’re followed

4.      Optimise the process: take it eac step, make it better, smarter, faster

5.      Follow the steps again: are the results achieved consistent?


Now the part where you really get cooking!

Evaluate the system you’ve created:

Define the steps in your methods which are TASK-BASED and take these off your ‘head chefs’ table: hiring virtual assistants to run them with trust in your systems’ consistency and the VAs skill to deliver their outcomes

What’s left on your senior account managers’ plates is the work you pay them to do, befitting of their salary: onboarding new clients and the time to create, strategise and innovate


A Case Study for Systemising Consistency

An agency we consulted had this exact problem of profit, process and personnel.

They defined the methods for their service provision, as described above, and concluded that they were losing 2 days for each of 6 fee earners on task-based steps within these processes, every month.

That’s a loss of 12 days per month; almost 30 working weeks a year.

Systemisation took 5 days and resulted in the employment of two VA’s.

Those 12 days were gifted back to the staff who could utilise them to mine that profit margin more efficiently: enabling the agency to onboard 14 new clients, realise that platinum revenue from their platinum service AND create happier creatives, more loyal to their company.


The lesson?

●       Systematise for increased profit margins

●       Systematise to retain personnel

●       Systematise to create happier and more efficient workplaces

●       Use VA’s systematically


Recipe for Systems’ Success

The steps above might mean some pretty big changes in your agency’s processes and workplace mix.

No fear: there’s a wealth of resources out there to support your steps towards systemisation.


We recommend the following as starting points:

●       SYSTEMology: the book by David Jenyns is an insight into operational clarity, organising and optimising how a business functions with practical steps for creating those recipes for consistency we discussed above

●       Chris Ducker has interesting things to say on the use of virtual assistants and how to maximise that element of your workplace

●       He also has a recruitment company - Virtual Staff Finder - to help you source VAs to come and run your systems and processes for you