If you plan to grow your business at some point in the future, it makes sense to build in scalability from the outset.
Here, a number of MDs and other senior managers talk about some growth-related issues and implications.
What to look for in scalability
What we mean by 'scalability' is the ability to grow from 10 or 20 people up to 500+, all with exactly the same software, safely and reliably. The last thing any business wants is to discover they have suddenly outgrown their system during a crucial time of growth.
How can you outgrow a system?
An MD and two FDs give their comments here about scalability.
Rob Hill, Managing Director of HMA, described their previous system:
“It wasn’t scalable. We needed a system that would take care of the business agency fundamentals and allow us to grow when we chose to.”
“One big reason for implementing Synergist was to avoid wasting so much time running the mechanics of the agency when we want to focus purely on clients.’”
Managing growth was high on Tayburn’s agenda, as Steven Clark, their Financial and Commercial Manager, told us:
“Synergist gives us scalability. It’s all about growth. It makes growth more manageable.”
Steve Laird, Finance Director of Online Design & Engineering Ltd, told us:
“While with Synergist, we’ve grown from a £12m-£13m company to one that is about three times that size. Synergist has played a part in that.”
Sarah Weller, MD of Mubaloo told us:
"When working with FTSE 250 companies, you have to prove that you can do complex work, satisfy client requirements and always be professional. This comes from having the right processes and systems in place that grow with your business."
Chris Ross, MD RLH said:
"Clients demand ROI, quite rightly. And in recent years we've seen major corporate clients introduce comprehensive levels of procurement."
"Once in the know, agencies can greatly benefit from the process and the deepened relationships that can flow from procurement."
"Obviously you need to have good data so you are on top of it all. We chose Synergist."
Large clients want to see process
Scalability usually involves the ability to deal with larger clients, and larger clients almost invariably expect more information.
For Mubaloo, who are seen as the UK’s leading mobile consultancy and enterprise app developer, they knew they would have to deal with some very demanding organisations indeed. Their client list includes Cisco, Misys, Aviva, Schroders and Samsung.
And for independent advertising agency RLH, they decided to embrace the procurement route because of their largest clients. So process became crucial for them.
When every key component of your business is linked together in front of you, it creates powerful opportunities to make changes and track the effect.
Most changes in agencies and project-based businesses aren't monumental in themselves. But each has an effect, and the accumulative result can be dramatic. You get into the mindset of constantly looking for things to improve, and the visibility gives you a level of control over efficiencies, profitability and client service that you didn't have before. We asked Kent Valentine, MD of digital & creative agency Draw/Create, to describe the effect for them.
“The concept of marginal gains in elite sport was made famous in the London 2012 Olympics when Team GB cycling won a record 8 gold medals.
"It’s all about making aggregated small gains in many areas to improve overall performance, sometimes with massive results.
"Our new system [Synergist] makes it easy for us to do precisely this now.”
Matthew Fairweather, MD of the creative design firm in his name, says that Synergist gives them information to communicate with clients:
“Clients need to know where we are and how much we are spending.”
And Steve Laird, Group Finance Director of On Line Design Group, told us about the need to satisfy the largest of clients:
“Our clients like, it and we have some huge clients. They like the way we can give them details of time and costs on projects. Today, they want a certain level of transparency, and they demand periodic audits, where they come in and analyse the entire system. We sail through those audits every time.”
Clients are hungry for information
For some businesses using Synergist, communicating the quality of their project management system is part of their pitch. It can only help that you have a serious system of depth with which to track and analyse project progress.
Admittedly not every client is as big as those of the On Line Group (their clients include ConocoPhillips, Total, TATA, Dunlop, Novartis and e.on). But increased transparency is clearly a trend at every level.
When is the right time to go for growth?
There really isn't a mythical magic Moment of Truth when deciding to grow. But making such a moment happen, rather than simply drifting into it over time, is of course helpful for planning purposes.
Mark Beaumont, founder of independent creative communications agency Dinosaur remembers their magic moment well...
Says Mark: “There comes a time in every agency’s life when you stand back and have to decide where you want to take it. Do you want to just carry on trying to navigate the ups and downs? Or do you want more than that from it?
“We decided to get serious. Preparing the agency for growth, getting the basics right, making sure you’ve got the right people with the bigger picture mindset, having them run proper little cost centres and so on...
“And getting a serious system to drive through the efficiencies, give you what you need and be able to grow with you.
“These were long-term decisions. Getting Synergist was a key part of it, and I’m glad we did it.”
“Synergist shows people the effect of their actions much more clearly. It’s changed the way they do things. They’re working more streamlined. They’re more cost-effective, and do things in less time, which is better for the client.”
The Synergist effect on the way people work
LHM's comments makes several interesting observations:
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