Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
Henry David Thoreau
It’s surprising the amount of data that even the smallest Agency can generate. Timesheets, invoices or forecasts it soon builds up and it can be daunting. The well ordered mind of a Finance Director will want to be all over it. We want to capture the data, ensure its integrity and organise it logically. Then, maybe, if we have time, we’ll share it.
The role of a FD is to make sure the rigour of good data prep goes on unnoticed in the background. The details that make it out for discussion should be simple and concise.
Systems and processes should be simple and unobtrusive. Spreadsheets should be logical and well formatted.
With all this in the background the Agency FD will be able to concentrate their effort on the real target; maximising profit.
Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.
Finance Directors come to agency life from a different angle with a different set of priorities, a different language. It’s not better or worse but it is important to realise it is different and we need to translate back and forth.
We need to try and understand what is important to an account director or a creative director and make sure our answers are intelligible and constructive.
It’s no good talking in jargon. Finance Directors more than ever will need to find a way to communicate, to explain, to find a common language.
To get your message across, to help people to manage job or client finances better; this is at the very heart of what makes a good Agency FD.
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.
Lucius Anaeous Seneca
All agencies should have a budget, its a direction of travel and a method to get there. I’ve said before and will say it again; all budgets are wrong from the moment they’re written.
What is important is the plan; how are you going to win and support new business, what is the effect of staff churn, how much should you pay your key staff, what is the effect of client attrition.
A budget alone won’t mean you reach port safely but the proper strategic thinking behind it certainly increases the odds.
Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face
You may have an incredibly well thought out budget with sensible assumptions but along the way you’ll be punched in face and those plans will be scrambled. A large client will leave, key people will leave, budgets will be cut and pitches will be won and lost. Whatever happens it is always about what you do next.
There are a few challenges here. One of which is about the difference between tactics and strategy. Clients and people will always change but if you have the right strategy it should pay dividends in the long term. The FD has an important role here in not only keeping calm but also in setting up management information that focuses on the success or failure of strategy over the long term; not just this month’s results.
The second issue which always crops up is about reducing headcount in the face of a business downturn. It’s a delicate balance here and whilst I always shy away from the macho brand of management that insists its best to cut early and cut hard. You’ll need to argue convincingly why this isn’t always the best approach. Cut too much and you’ll be in danger of limiting future growth, not enough and with too much emphasis on the next pitch and you’ll put the entire agency at risk. It’s a difficult job with no easy answers.
I’m a Finance Director who has specialised in Marketing Services. If you’d like a chat about how I could help improve your Agency’s profit drop me a line on email@example.com.