It must have been around 4, maybe 5 years ago when an agency I was working for at the time – we were pretty small – engaged the services of growth consultants. Fantastic, super – exactly what we needed and indeed, they have had a hugely positive impact of the agency (which has grown in headcount and turnover) over the last few years. More over the growth guys were smart, successful in the agency market, engaging and passionate – they also inadvertently (I think) opened up a huge opportunity for me – which I was only reminded of in a quiet moment a couple of weeks ago.
It started with a statement to me – ‘People like you are the reason agencies don’t grow’.
Now, I’m a pretty chilled out guy and it didn’t bother me – because I could see the sense. Agencies needed to split their expertise into chunks, Devs, Creatives, FED, BED, AM’s and PM’s etc.. and up until then (the agency was about seven in number with approx. £500k turnover) I’d been covering PM, AM, helping with sales etc. ’Pod’s’ of teams were needed with expertise in specific skills.
So, individuals were recruited in the various skillsets and of course in the environment of a booming digital market the agency grew and grew and grew. It grew to a size where my inbuilt fear of a) responsibility and b) fear of any level of corporate commitment took over and despite being a Director – about 2 years ago - I decided to take my leave and depart.
I had a feeling that although this would be hugely successful - this ‘boil in the bag’ approach to agency design was commoditising people’s skills and expertise and could lead, when the market changed, matured and clients became smarter to an opportunity - for those who have a wider understanding and appreciation of ‘digital’ to benefit (to whatever level that is).
That is where we are now I think – we see clients bringing development, design, SEO, Advertising and PM skills in-house, because they see them as a commodity which they can baseline cost and income.
But the thinkers – those that have ideas wider than just a couple of channels, those that have empathy and an understanding of customer behaviour and real-life, those that can connect the dots – are outside the organisation, sometimes in agencies (in the guise of ‘strategists’ – although these are somewhat focused on specific channels and commodities – PPC, Search, Ad etc.) – but mainly in the ‘open’ freelance and consultancy market.
These are people that have worked across multiple roles in companies be it PM, AM, Sales, Dev, Product etc. have time and - dare I say - age and experience on their side and are happy to support leaders rather than be one.
Personally, being the reason agencies don’t grow - made me opposed to generic commoditisation and led me to do what I do now and enjoy hugely being a strategist helping numerous wonderful agencies and companies in developing CX, UX, Business and Digital strategies (normally altogether) and helping them grow.
So actually, today maybe if you are a generalist – ‘people like you are the reasons agencies and companies do grow.’