Shifting from organic growth to confidently planning for the future

John Argent is the managing director at Six, an award-winning Bristol-based creative agency. Founded with co-director Steve, the agency has been partnering with household names and building purpose-driven brands for over 25 years. The business has grown organically from a two-person team into a 40-strong agency. 

John says, “We never set out to build an empire. We wanted to do great stuff and enjoy it. So, we never put ourselves or the business under pressure to grow. But when we began to think about planning for long term sustainable success, we had to consider what that meant in terms of growing the agency.”

“We knew we couldn’t get there on our own.”

“We needed to shift from well run to outstanding, reduce dependency on key individuals, maximise our margins and ultimately plan growth. We recognised we had to approach things very differently from how we’d been operating and balance that with keeping our strong culture intact.” says John.

“Back in 2010 we began working with The Agency Works who helped us implement the Synergist agency management system, standardise what we were doing and add rigour – and move away from spreadsheets! From speaking with Jay, we could see the benefits of Synergist and the added value of working with The Agency Works.”

“That relationship deepened over the years from simply transactional, becoming increasingly strategic.”

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We now have a better run, sustainable business with optionsquote mark

John Argent, Managing Director, Six

“The Agency Works team have an expert understanding of agencies. They know how they run best; they get the financials and know what it takes to create more value. So we brought in their expertise to help us make the most of the data and what it was telling us. They could see where we were underperforming against our peers, point out where we were missing a trick and where our blind spots were. It was hugely valuable,” says John.

When John began to think about long term planning, he confidently turned to Jay and the team for expert help. John says, “We crunched the numbers together; Jay helped me put a financial strategy in place with greater rigour and more robust commercials. We established a growth goal and Jay showed us what the business would need to look like in order to reach it."

"He also gave us the operational perspective; the implications of what our goal meant under the bonnet of how we run the business – the headcount we’d need, the kind of metrics to apply to people, what we should be paying for and charging out. Now we’re working on what it’s going to take to get there.”

“He really acted as a non-exec director in the sense that I found it very useful having someone who understands the business intimately by virtue of the access they have to our data, so there’s no sensitivity. Having The Agency Works involved put us under scrutiny too, which is something Steve and I have never had before, and that made us more accountable.”

“Jay’s role is very much advisory counsel to agency owners. He’s the bridge between the strategic content and the tactical execution – between the intent and outcome. The Agency Works’ collective insight and wisdom that comes from working with so many agencies give us reassurance around their advice and gives Jay the courage of his convictions. There’s no doubt that we now have a better run business thanks to The Agency Works team.

We’re delivering on margins and operational effectiveness. By definition, it’s sustainable and in the best shape for smooth succession years from now,” says John.

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