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3 tips to increase your productivity as an agency owner

As agency owners, the input and influence we impart on our studio is often far greater than it should be. For the longest time, I was the “oracle”, or rather I believed myself to be. In the real world, we are often the bottleneck, holding things up due to our inexperience or inefficiency. Dare I say our unwillingness to let go? No, I wouldn’t do that. 

To grow our studios we need to increase our productivity. This doesn’t mean that we’ll work harder, but rather we become more efficient with our time. As a result, more work is completed by default.

As agency owners we expect our teams to deliver profit. It doesn’t matter what role you perform in the business, the ultimate goal of your employment is to add to the profitability of the agency. While we should have job descriptions and specifications for the majority of our team, often as owners, founders or directors we lack this for ourselves. 

If I was to ask you to write down your work schedule for the upcoming week, you’d struggle. Likely there’d be a few meetings booked in, and there are probably a few client projects you are involved in, but I’ll take a guess that 80% of your time is spent firefighting or reacting to whatever is put in front of you.

And this is wrong. Imagine we flipped the switch and you spent 80% of your week on the tasks that would drive your studio forward.

How would this change your agency? Could you increase profit? Could you find more of the right customers? Could you take some time out of your day to do the things you want?

The answer is of course yes you could. And here’s how

The truth is, that increasing productivity isn’t hard. There’s a process to it, one that I followed myself. More than anything else it takes discipline. Discipline to do the thing you need to do when you least feel like it. 

But if you commit to yourself that productivity is a priority here’s the practical framework popularised by Tim Ferriss in The Four Hour Work Week.

3 tips to increase your productivity

“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?”

Eliminate

You might find this hard to believe. But I’m a bit of a chancer when it comes to work. Don’t get me wrong, I have always worked hard. But I question everything and it’s served me well. Whenever I am confronted with any task I ask myself these questions?

  1. Do I need to do this task?
  2. Will I have to do it more than once?

The first productivity tip is to get rid of any tasks or processes that are unnecessary. Is this task positively contributing to the goals of the business? Do I need to do this task for it to be completed successfully? Are there other ways to do this task?

As we grow in business, many of the tasks we manage are not the roles of the MD, founder or creative director. They are our tasks because we’re the person who did them first and we’ve never let go since.

In my agency, I managed payroll, insurance and a heap of HR activities that were not a core competency of mine. They stressed me out, I was inefficient at them and frankly, there were team members better suited to this. 

Other tasks did not need to be done. They were not helping our business grow or at worst, they were a waste of time. Be ruthless and eliminate these tasks.

Activity to be completed

Make a list of all tasks you complete this week. Ask yourself if you need to do this task. If it doesn’t meet your business goals or personal objectives, get rid of it.

And if it does, let’s look at how we can make it as efficient a task as possible. That brings us to the second productivity tip. Automation.

Automate

I had a rule in business. If we completed a task more than once the process needed to be mapped out and if possible we automated this. To give you an idea of the power of automation, we created one workflow that supported the creation of folders for filing projects securely on our server. The workflow took less than 15 minutes to create but saved every user in our business 1 minute on every project.

That may not sound impressive to you, but we managed over 1000 projects a month. Not only that, we standardised the project folder creation process, so that there were no data entry mistakes, ever. This saved countless hours on data retrieval and file management.

If a task must be completed, but it doesn’t matter who by and there is a process to follow, automate it. Or at the very least, automate as much of it as possible. 

If you don’t know where to start with automation, look at the tools you currently use and the tasks you currently complete.

Google “Adobe Indesign Automation” or “Google Sheets Automation” for inspiration and a starting point.

Today more than ever with the advent of machine learning and AI, automating tasks is not only for our developer friends but for everyone in every business.

I use chat GPT to reply to challenging questions. It removes the emotion in my response and allows me to edit it once created to be a true response from myself. 

Working smarter, not harder couldn’t be more applicable today with the introduction of technology and systems. It’s up to you to figure out how to do these within your agency. But if you start small, it’ll become much easier to find bigger solutions.

Delegate

When you can’t automate and the task is essential to your agency, being the productive creative entrepreneurs that we are, we should look to delegating this body of work. 

Can you train someone to complete this task? What challenges might they face? If you could detail the stages and processes to successful project completion, what would they be?

When delegating tasks, we want to ensure that the task is completed to a satisfactory level. Sometimes, those completing the task will be slower than ourselves. Sometimes they’ll need assistance to fully understand the task at hand. 

More often than not will you feel like just doing it yourself, because it’s quicker and easier that way. Well, over time it isn’t and to be a truly productive agency owner, we need to empower our team to complete the tasks we do not need to manage. 

Once you have used these methods to increase your productivity, the next step is to use this time to maximise your output. Ask yourself, what tasks if you completed over and over again would make the biggest difference to your agency? Focusing on these will move the needle forward supporting your agency’s growth plans.

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