Five HR Hacks Of High-Performing Agencies That You Need to Know

articles people and culture Jan 16, 2023

The team that works on your agency service is the meat on the bones of your business. 

A lean, strong and powerful team seems like an easily achievable goal - at the end of the day, you know your business and the kind of people required to run it. 

But knowing your onions as an agency owner, doesn’t necessarily make you an HR whizz. 

Our coaches advise multiple agencies, across the world, and we see trends within the highest performers - not only in what they do, but in who they employ and how they’re utilised.

Read on for our top five pointers to perfect your people and maximise their productivity. 

  1. Leadership team 

Is your leadership team awesome? Quite literally, are you in awe of your colleagues?

One of the key themes in high-performing agencies is that they have high-performing leadership teams. If you’re the MD of your agency, and you’re doing a lot of the coaching/mentoring to get your team on point, then frankly they are not good enough. 

But if you attend a leadership team meeting and you feel inadequate: that’s great. You should be the dumbest person in the room, you should feel they can drive the business… because they WILL DRIVE YOUR BUSINESS. 

This is the team you can delegate to. This is the team that will ensure growth. No weak links: they are the A-team.

If this doesn’t describe your top team, fix or replace the B players. 

2. Account Managers 

A ‘Janus’ role, the AM is the liaison between the agency and its clients. And high-performing agencies have them. 

Why? Surely keeping clients happy is easy enough for the specialist who knows what they’re producing for the client?

This is what that argument misses: whilst sales are transactional, account management is relational. And your agency needs someone with enough time to shower the client with attention, be their advocate, and develop their trust in the agency and its team. This turns a one-time sale into a long-standing partnership. Good AMs become your sales team’s secret weapon: their great work grows their accounts and, in turn, your business. 

Investment in AMs delivers:

  • Reduced churn. RETAIN clients and avoid the time and expense selling to fill the holes they leave which would stall your growth 
  • Upsells, cross-sells and referrals increasing your revenue.

What does this mean? Account managers are a canny hire for agencies that understand that clients count. 

3. The ratio of fee-earners to non-fee-earners  

Another key distinction between high-performers and the rest is the split between fee-earners and non-fee-earners.

In the agencies we see working effectively, there’s roughly a 70/30 ratio in this regard: 70% of the agency is the specialists producing the goods. The remainder are staff to support them to do so - and to run the business side of the agency. 

In teams of over twenty,, a non-fee-earner that is vital to your agency’s growth is a Financial Director. And that is  in addition to the account manager (or client services team)!

Get someone to study the numbers and take control of them. This is one of the most important hires a growing agency can make. 


4. Utilisation 

Utilisation is the amount of hours you have available to be billed versus the hours you actually have billed. Work it out as a % and see where your agency sits right now. 

  • >80% = Amazing, but be careful 
  • 66%-80% = just right 
  • 50%-66% = pretty average 
  • <50% = fix it now

Whilst pursuing 75% utilisation might be your goal, remember what those hours represent: hard graft and pressure. Sustaining >80% will make your workplace an incredibly stressful place to be, and you’ll probably see issues with staff turnover and burnout. 

But if you’re sitting around 50% utilisation then you are not maximising your specialists’ billable hours. Their time is being taken on other tasks: and that’s on you.

Redress the balance and cut out the slack time through one of the techniques we’ve covered in previous coaching blogs (such as systemisation, here.)

5. Meetings 

You’ve got the dream team and key players, but if you’re not managing them well, your collective game will still be sub-par. 

Effective management is, in part, about effective communication. And that happens during effective meetings. 

And, by the way, we don’t see ‘stand-up’ or ‘scrum’ meetings defining the communication in our high-performers. Whilst they might use them, they also use timed and regular weekly meetings, monthly meetings, quarterly meetings (all with agendas and clear purpose).  


  • It focuses on team and personal accountability towards KPIs
  • A systemised work pattern generates pace and sustains momentum: it creates a heart-beat within the agency 
  • It enables decisions to be made quickly and visibly. 


This boring business stuff might not feel necessary to your creative output, but is actually fundamental. 

In summary, some self-scrutiny might be needed as you seek to grow your agency - in terms of your current staff and those you’ll recruit next. But it’s also about how you USE the staff you choose. If you know your staff are awesome, and yet your growth is still stalling, perhaps your systems and processes need changing. 

For bespoke advice from our internationally respected coaches, seek us out via email, or book a consultation call.