The cost of inaction (why doing nothing could send you backwards)

Image for Jay Neale By Jay Neale

As agencies grow, most soon recognise they need to make changes to their processes and systems. But they don’t actually want to. It’s a fairly constant battle. This is the problem, we need to sort it. But how much will it cost, how long will it take, how painful will it be? And that’s where the thought process decides it’s all too much and the status quo will do.

Well, I’m here to tell you that doing nothing won’t just keep you at a standstill. It’ll probably send you backwards. Essentially, the cost of doing nothing is that you end up in a place you’re not happy with.

Let’s look at the equation. What’s your particular pain? Is it inefficiency, lack of visibility on information, regularly busting budgets? And on the other side of the scales we have the pain of change management. Cost, time of introducing a new system, getting everyone on board.

That side of the scale will always remain the same. But the ‘pain’ side, left unattended, will just keep on getting heavier and heavier. It’s perfectly understandable to not want to add changing your systems and processes into the melee. I get it. But with a little focus on what you want to achieve, it can actually be fairly straightforward.

Here’s how:

Don’t sweat the small stuff

One of the biggest issues is this. Agencies realise something’s got to give. They start researching, looking into agency management systems or another solution for their problem. And then get massively bogged down in the finer details.

Here’s my advice. Look to the big rocks and forget the small pebbles underneath. You’re never going to solve every issue for every person. So don’t get the world and its wife involved. Yes, you want to engage your teams. But trying to sort one issue for one person isn’t going to significantly shift the dial of your business. This needs to be driven by an operations director or other top-level role, who has sight of the whole business and understands what will make actual, significant change.

What you’re looking for is something that will make a big difference to your everyday operations. Again, it’s very easy to get swept along trying to solve a problem that only crops up once in a while.

So sweep away all the debris and detail and look clearly at what the big issues are that you want to resolve.

Look beyond now

Another stumbling block in change management is timing. Often, agencies want to tackle things immediately. Here’s our problem, here’s what will solve it. All well and good in the here and now. But how about two years, five years, ten years later? If your agency has doubled in size, you’ll be facing completely different pains and will probably need to start the whole process again from scratch.

This is where you need to look to your long-term objectives. If it’s growing your teams, what do you need to put in place? If it’s taking on new clients, how will you manage this? By only tackling the immediate issue, you’re not seeing the bigger picture. Save yourself the time and hassle of doing it all again and look clearly at what you can do to resolve issues now and smooth the path for the future.

What are the big rocks?

These will be different for every agency, depending on size, goals and so on. But generally, the big things include team management, forecasting revenue, managing budgets, capacity, effective client management. Things that are really the bedrock of your agency’s success.

While you might think you’ll be fine muddling through, you’re really just setting yourself up for more problems. Think of it as an investment. Getting it right, right now, could lead to real, significant growth in profits long term. If you haven’t got the time or the expertise in house, bring in the right external team to do it, or recruit for the specific role.

Every month you continue with challenges going unresolved will bring a financial impact, and if your agency does start to grow, you’re just compounding the problem. It’s easier to put in a good, effective system when you have 15 people than it is with 25. Getting new starters to adopt the practice is easy. Engaging existing teams less so.

The cost of inaction might not be immediately apparent. But those niggling aches start to turn into nagging pains, and nobody wants that in their working life. It’s about being clear, focused and strategic. Not trying to solve every last issue, but getting the big things right. And you’ll find the little things will follow…

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