LeadershipTeam Structure

15 person agency team: Too much, too little

By January 22, 2020 No Comments
Mental quartering when team members pull agency owners in all directions
“Mental quartering”

Agency owner: “I don’t want a massive agency!”

Me: “What’s the reason for that?”

Agency owner: “Don’t want the stress that comes with running a 100+ people agency. I want to keep it boutique.”

Me: “I get that. So what is the ideal size of agency you want to get to?”

Agency owner: “Mh, do not want to get bigger than say like 15 people.”

Me: “…”

This stage is one of the most stressful of an agency! I am not taking into consideration the size of the problems (this multiplies the bigger your agency gets). I am referring to the number of problems.

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In my interview with Simon Barbato & Steve Richards from the Bristol based agency Mr.B & Friends, I asked them what their pivotal point was.

“A lot of agencies hit a glass ceiling at 15 people. That’s because the business is owner operated. The owner can only be across ‘so’ many projects a day. There are only so many hours in the day. That realisation was their pivotal point.” (Simon Barbato @ Mr.B & Friends)”

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Iain Valentine partner at Edinburgh’s Whitespace studio said the same thing (subscribe to our mailing list if you’re interested in hearing that full interview once it’s released).

He had two other partners. Each of them were managing one team of 15 people each, when they hit this ceiling. Depending on the number of partners in the agency your ceiling may be higher. Whitespace eventually made significant team structure changes. That allowed them to grow further and eventually exit to Dentsu.

The problem with that size of agency

At this point a lot of agencies don’t have a senior team. That means every single problem that goes through the agency goes straight to the owner, unfiltered. You are pulled in all directions. I call this ‘mental quartering’. You are unfocussed. Your agency stops growing.

Small vs big

It is a fact that when your agency is small (e.g. 1 – 5 people), your profit margins are higher than the margins of an agency that has 100 people. But that is relative to the size of the pie. Sinx from ustwo spoke about this when we did our fireside chat talky recently:

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In my interview with Simon Norris (Co-founder of Nomensa) I asked why he needs to have such a big team (150+ people). His response was:

“We want to make big changes in the world. There are companies we need to work with to make that difference. They would not even bother looking at us if we weren’t at our size.” (Simon Norris @ Nomensa)

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What next?

This week:

1. Take a step back from everything you are doing. Wake up at 5am or dedicate half a day walking and pondering.

2. Soak in everything you see, smell, touch and hear.

3. Think about why you are running your agency.

4. It’s time to grow or maintain your agency in the way that is aligned with that.

Remember, there is only a right or wrong if your strategy is not aligned with your ‘why’.

Your agency is around 15 people. You know why you are running your agency. Now is a good time to think about a senior management team. Hire or promote someone outstanding. Watch how they will take your agency to the next level for you.

Seems like this was useful. Check out our community of agency owners. Many of our agencies have passed the point of 15. Here’s your opportunity to learn from them. Find out more about our membership.

Nove you, Zank uuuuu! 🙂


The Agency Collective

The Agency Collective

A peer support community for agency owners. A safe place to talk about your challenges openly – when you need the help most. An opportunity for you to build new long lasting relationships with people who can provide support and leads for future work.

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