What connects the Sistine Chapel, Dinosaur Feathers and Revenue Maximisation?

Occasionally my interest in etymology, history, science and finance align to illustrate a principle that applies as much today in marketing services finances as it did to the great Renaissance artists.

OK, that’s a huge, huge lie. Occasionally I shoehorn them together to make a point that might seem mundane without a different angle.

These interests, with a little imagination and goodwill on your part, come together when the concept of a spandrel is expanded from its original architectural meaning to be used in evolutionary biology. First, some definitions.

In architecture a spandrel is the roughly triangular space between an arch and a wall. The arches used to support great domes gave rise to these spaces and many artists used these spandrels as a canvas. Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel springs to mind. Full of spandrels in fact.

In evolutionary biology a spandrel is the adaption of one characteristic for another purpose – the best example of which is the use of feathers by dinosaurs to fly rather than their original thermoregulation use (kept them warm to you and me).

As an aside there is a fascinating argument about whether music is a spandrel of speech in human development or vice versa.

Whether it is the by-product space of architecture or dinosaurs finding that feathers also enable them to glide from tree to tree the common factor is that the process has thrown up an unplanned opportunity.  The original feature can be developed into something unexpectedly valuable. By now, you might have a clue where I’m going.

The finance part of this thought came to me when I was sitting in on a meeting about a social media strategy which was made up of many different and interlinked elements. One project amongst many was about blogger engagement which caused some faces to light up as this was exactly what would excite the client far more than a complex social strategy. Put front and centre it was sold in. The other social stuff won’t be far behind.

This illustrated nicely to me the point that somewhere tucked away in every agency process there is a spandrel or two waiting to be discovered. It could be something you do but haven’t considered charging for like post launch support or a little gem tucked away in a larger process that clients would willingly pay for if only they knew about it. It could be the data collected along the way or, the holy grail of spandrels; it could be a technical development which can be resold. If you look hard enough there will be a spandrel in your agency. Find it, package it and sell it and you’ll have linked dinosaur’s feathers, Michelangelo to your agency process and maximised your revenue along the way.

If you need a hand to find your missing spandrel the author has spent the last 18 years unknowingly looking for them. Email him on if you’d like him to help maximise your agency’s revenues.

The 7 deadly sins for an Agency Finance Director

Indiscretion. You know what everybody earns, who has share options and who doesn’t, who got a bonus and who didn’t. Never be tempted to be indiscreet and never, never use it in your own review. You need to be trusted.

Hubris. When times are good remember its down to the hard work and creativity of your colleagues. Plus you’re always only a phone call from an unhappy client from harder times.

Dishonesty. This is obvious but I mean being honest with your boss. More difficult to do but you’re not paid to automatically agree with your CEO.

Lack of neutrality. It may shock you but I have heard of Agencies where office politics happen. Stay out, be objective.

Procrastination. That problem won’t go away if you ignore it, it’ll only get worse when people wonder why it took you so long to figure it out.

Complexity. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Impatience. Not everyone will see the world as you do. That’s why you do what you do and they don’t. Take a breath and explain again why it’s important to do timesheets/expenses/make money on a job.

The author, Simon Collard, has had a virtuous career as an FD in marketing services for the past 18 years. Thanks to Mark Bentley, Group FD at Cello for suggesting one of the above which triggered the rest. If you would like a chat about how I can help your Agency make more money please email