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Agencies owners need to be big enough to admit where they are failing says Welch

Being brave enough to understand, recognise and act on where your agency is failing is absolutely vital to long term success according to Miles Welch, the former MD of Digitas and founder of agency consultancy business Milestone Advisory, who has recently joined forces with The Drum Network to launch a range of new consultancy products to help and support agency owners who want to build better businesses.

Last week The Drum Network, the arm of The Drum that now works with more than 100 agency owners across the UK to help them raise their profile and build their profits, launched its new Elite+ membership package, which includes a comprehensive Business Audit for all members to enable them to get an independent and clear view of where their agency is at and what steps it will need to take to achieve its objectives in the months and years ahead.

The Elite+ package also includes a host of benefits to enable agencies to maximise their exposure to potential clients, new recruits and other business partners across The Drum’s many on- and offline platforms and also includes access to a dedicated journalist to advise and guide agencies on all PR and editorial related matters.

As Elite+ launches, The Drum spoke to Welch to find out why he believes getting an independent expert in to review where your business is at on a regular basis is so important if you are looking to build a great agency.

Why do you advise all agency owners to review their agency business on an annual basis?

I genuinely believe that every business needs a sense check on a regular basis. It can be very isolating running an agency and any agency owner or agency management team can too easily become totally absorbed in client work at the cost of keeping an eye on the wider business. Bringing in some fresh eyes and thinking on a regular basis is healthy and can help you to identify issues before they become problems that will hold you back.

What areas of the business should such a review take into consideration?

Absolutely all of them. No part of a business works in isolation and one area very much impacts another, especially if it’s an area of the business that is under-performing. Everything from strategy and proposition, clients, people, operations and finance should be regularly reviewed and changed if needs be.

Why would you advise getting an external consultant to conduct such a review, rather than try to conduct it yourself internally?
It’s a matter of perspective and experience. Perspective from outside the agency from someone who knows the market and also has the experience of other agency businesses and the way they do and don’t do things. That is what we can bring to the party, real experiences from growing real agencies.

What is involved in The Drum Network’s Business Audit? What input do you get from the agency directors, staff and clients?

The review is comprehensive covering Strategy, Operations, Finance and the People areas of the business. We look internally at the business and financial information and conduct key stakeholder interviews to give a holistic picture of the agency’s  performance. We also use an online client survey tool to speak to an agency’s  clients, this brings some great insights into the process that can be used to decide the best way for the agency to grow and develop.

How long does your Agency Business Audit take and how quickly can the findings be delivered and acted upon?
Typically our business audit takes 4-6 weeks, but a lot depends on the availability of the agency  stakeholders and clients. The findings of the audit are presented back in the form of an interactive workshop during which we can make some key recommendations to move the business forward and the next steps to take.

Looking back at the many agencies you have advised, what are the common mistakes that agencies make which means they fail to really accelerate their growth?

There are common issues amongst all agencies, but every agency business needs a different way of solving them. We don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. The idea behind our business review is that it answers those questions and that the agency makes fewer mistakes and focusses on what is important for it to grow in the future.

Why do so many small to medium sized agencies struggle to make that next step up?

To quote Anthony Robbins - "If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten". I think that is very relevant to too many agency businesses. It’s hard to change the way you do things, but change isabsolutely vital if you want to move your business to the next level.

If you could advise the agency owners reading this to do just one thing tomorrow to improve their business, what would it be?

Every business needs advice. Get the best you can get.

For more information on The Drum Network’s membership options please click here or if you would like to speak to someone about how The Drum Network could help your agency please contact Chris Morton on 0141 559 6068 or email chris.morton@thedrum.com.

For more information on the consultancy products offered by The Drum Network and Milestone Advisory please click here.

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