Helen Flanders is the operations director at Something Big, Surrey’s leading creative communications and brand agency. Something Big was founded 20 years ago by creative director, Nick Butcher, and former client-side marketer, Sally Pritchett, and has since grown from two to over 30 people.
Helen says, “Being a sustainable and profitable agency has always been our goal, so it’s crucial I know what’s happening across the business at any given time. But with the agency management system we had, pulling out business-critical insight was impossible despite inputting reams of data. It was time-consuming too – creating reports could take days – multiple reports needed exporting into Excel and formulas adding to convert into insight.”
“We didn’t have real time visibility of what was happening or where the challenges were – we were missing critical shifts in the business and making decisions based on assumption rather than data.”
Having to run separate reports, often by several different people, made it difficult for Helen to get a full picture of what was happening across the business and in real time. Helen says, “Understanding where what we were doing was impacting other areas of the agency was very difficult. Without real time visibility we were always looking backwards; we couldn’t see today’s challenges and changes or plan for tomorrow. We were missing shifts in the business that we should have been spotting.”
“We researched agency management systems and found Synergist was considered one of the top for medium-sized agencies, so we brought them in for a demo. A lot of our wish list was around reporting so Synergist’s flexibility to build and tailor the reports we wanted was a big tick. We also went through our top five difficulties with our current system and quickly found that Synergist would do what we needed. Its visual appeal felt more user-friendly for our creative team too.”
They questioned why we did things and the benefits of doing them that way; they didn’t just replicate what we were already doing.
“It was clear from our conversations that The Agency Works not only understood Synergist inside out but also had an in depth understanding of how the different agency models work. I could see they were agency management experts and with financial backgrounds, operational understanding and commercial insight, I knew they could add value to our business beyond an agency management system.” says Helen.
“Alongside identifying the best agency management system, we were looking to change our accounting system and briefly considered a couple which managed both. However, when we discovered that Synergist integrates with Xero and other accounting systems we decided to go with the two best systems for the job rather than compromise on capability.”
“They helped us understand the implications of the choices we were making. The knowledge and understanding we gained around the effects of how inputting the right information would impact reporting, was invaluable.”
The Agency Works team met with Helen and their financial director several times at the beginning of the implementation process. Helen says, “Jay and Karen asked some important questions to understand how to set up the system to work best for our agency. They gave us a lot of food for thought and prompted us to think about things from a different perspective.”
“They guided us through set-up decisions; questioning our ways of working and giving us the benefit of their immense agency experience to settle on a set-up that would give us what we needed.”
“I liked the fact that they didn’t just take what we were already doing and replicate that in Synergist,” says Helen. “They helped us understand the implications of the choices we were making. The knowledge and understanding we gained around the effects of how inputting the right information would impact reporting, was invaluable. We wouldn’t have known any of it if we hadn’t talked it through.”
The Agency Works team delivered tailored training to small groups with similar needs. Helen says, “The small group training was really effective. For example, our account handlers need to understand more about the system than a creative who wouldn’t get involved in the finance parts of the system. So we were all trained only on what we need to know and as a result, the team didn’t spend hours unnecessarily away from paid work.”
“The flexibility of Synergist combined with The Agency Works’ knowledge and experience means now the data is there and easily accessible. So we have our finger on the pulse. We can see any changes coming and don’t get caught by surprise. It’s saving us so much time too – where one particular report used to take us three days to create, now it takes me two hours!”
“Traditionally we looked at the overall profitability of a project. Now we can see whether each piece of a project is actually profitable rather than the whole job. This level of reporting is likely to change our service offering – it has been a real eye-opener.”
“I can see the volume of specific activity we’re doing in real-time, which areas are growing, and which are declining – even month by month. And I can spot trends, something I’ve never been able to do. It gives you confidence that you’re on top of what’s happening.”
“They gave us a good chance to reset and look at what we were doing with our data from different angles so we could get more out of Synergist and ultimately our business.”
Helen says, “Even with a very capable system, we couldn’t have got to this point without the expertise of The Agency Works. What I loved about their approach was how they questioned why we did things and the benefits of doing them that way. If Jay and Karen knew there was a better way, we talked it through and implemented the changes. They gave us a chance to reset and look at what we were doing with our data from different angles so we could get more out of Synergist and ultimately our business.”