In this opinion piece, Bastion Collective founder and executive chairman Fergus Watts (pictured below) talks about how to identify dangerous cracks in the operations of small agencies; and how to avoid them.
It sounds counterintuitive but many small businesses in the marketing and communications industry hit a growth spurt only to crash and burn as a victim of their own success.
There are myriad reasons that a small agency on the rise might find dangerous cracks appearing in its operation.
The founders whose creative talents have inspired the success suddenly find themselves pulled away from what they do best to meet the growing management requirements of the business.
A drop in the quality of work and personal attention resulting in unhappy clients can be the consequence of a founder taking on too many roles outside their comfort zone.
The need to hire more staff to meet escalating demand is another time-consuming distraction and if done in a hurry can bring in the wrong people who quickly pollute the morale and lead to a merry-go-round of departures and new hires that won’t stick around.
Joining the fold of the right integrated marketing and communications agency can remove many of the growing pains for a small agency while still allowing sufficient autonomy to retain the enthusiasm of the start-up culture and the vital ingredients of their market success.
The larger agency absorbs the growing management, HR and finance functions and offers expert business advice while allowing management and key talent within the business to get back to what they do best.
The multi-disciplinary team created when several agencies combine under the one roof offers a new stream of business and in-house suppliers as well as providing a broader solution for clients.
Many clients appreciate having a one-stop shop for their marketing and communications agencies over the stress and time-consuming alternative of managing several agencies and trying to keep them all on track with a unified brand message.
Having access to a plethora of industry leaders and innovators in related agencies allows each division to tap into their expertise and experience and brainstorm together for integrated campaigns.
Staff often welcome the new opportunities for career development and training within the larger integrated network and more opportunities to boost their skill set.
Of course, choosing the right partner is imperative for a happy marriage.
While some companies might swallow their acquisitions whole, destroying their creative flair and leading to an exit of their top talent, the right agency acquisition or partnership will allow more autonomy in a collaborative environment which enables the business to preserve its start-up culture and retain its key innovators.
At Bastion Collective, our strategy is to acquire agencies to create a network of independent specialists with the focus on providing the streamlined integrated solution that clients are seeking.
Bastion Collective takes a shareholding in businesses that want a partner to help with growth and are looking to be part of a wider network.
While acquired agencies retain their CEO, Bastion Collective brings its financial, strategic and HR expertise, as well as new business opportunities with the stable of top brands among its clients.
The company now more than 180 staff in its combined agencies at offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles. Combined with a fully integrated sister agency of 100 people in Shanghai.
Together they offer creative, strategy, public relations, activation, digital, social, content, sponsorship, promotion, events, reputation management, media training, market research, government relations and Chinese market advisory services.
All integrated across regions.