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A three-step equation for building a successful marketing services business

Having spent the last 15 years in advertising, 10 of which was starting, growing and selling my own agency, Fetch, I can distill running a successful marketing services business into a simple, three-part equation.

If you do these three things, alongside being generally savvy at business and not an arsehole, you should give yourself every chance of gaining momentum and growing which, as we all know, is the fuel to a successful business.

Be disciplined with time

We have a finite amount of time in a day, week and year. If you’re going to commit most of it to work while you go into over drive in building your business, use it wisely.  This is how to dissect your time:

Spend 50% with People

If you look beneath the skin of any good marketing services business, the people are always key. I look at two key ‘people’; my staff and my clients, and just about in that order. Spend at least 50% of your time with your staff and your clients. This doesn’t have to be in a meeting room, doing an appraisal or attending a QBR. Go for a walk, have breakfast meetings every other day, invite people to things you enjoy doing or that you think they may enjoy. The more time you spend with people, the better relationships you build. After all, marketing services is built on relationships.

Spend 50% on marketing

You can have a brilliant agency with good talent, an innovative product, a strong client base but frankly, if no one knows about you then it’s all in vein. Someone famously once said “Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department”. Probably Michael O’Leary at Ryan Air.

Hire and empower a great marketing team but don’t let that be the end of it. So many marketing services companies have sub-standard marketing, the irony.

50% on the business

Yes, I can count – I know this brings us to a 150% but let’s face it, you’re not going to be doing a 9-5, 5 days a week are you? Spend the last 50% of your time on running the business from financials, vision, strategy, governance and all of the wonderful things that come with running a company. You could spend a 150% of your time just running the business, there’s always so much to do but there’s plenty of people who know how to run businesses, hire them and get back out of the office.

Let things go

The most natural thing to do when you’re looking to improve a situation, such as the success of your business or your productivity, is to think about what more you should be doing. This clearly is totally flawed because the more you do, the less you can do – see finite amount of time point above.

The question you should really spend time thinking about is ‘what can I stop doing?’. The brilliant thing, when you stop doing things, is that someone else often gets to do them and that more than likely will empower them, give them job enlargement and develop their skills, which is of course valuable to you.

Every now and then, perhaps 2 or 3 times a year, write down three things you can stop doing and perhaps one or two you could start doing or keep doing. Hand things over, be patient and coach people.

Feel good

You need to feel brilliant about your agency or marketing services business. If you don’t, how do you expect others to?

In order to feel good, you must do good – This is the soul of the business, or the culture some may call it.

Do good for your people, do good for society and do good for yourself. That may mean carving time out to do that yoga class at lunch or doing absolutely whatever it takes to win an award. Deliberating on giving staff free lunch? Just do it.

Take the necessary decisions in day to day life to ensure you are not only feeling positive, motivated and inspired individually, but also that you feel brilliant and proud about your business. 

James Connelly was the co-founder and CEO of Fetch, he tweets @Jamesaconnelly

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