Stepping up to running your own agency is the dream for many designers, however once you find yourself in charge you might find that it's all too easy to make mistakes that can result in chaos, inefficiency, overstretched and stressed staff, and ultimately missed deadlines and unhappy clients.
One way to keep things on track is by understanding the importance of good resource management. Float (opens in new tab) is a visual team planner that makes managing your team incredibly easy. It's designed intentionally for agencies, studios, and firms, and eases the vital business of keeping your projects on track.(opens in new tab)
With Float, project management becomes a lot less stressful and you'll find it easier to deliver on time and to spec with fewer unpleasant surprises along the way. You can't mitigate for every eventuality, but with solid project planning in place you'll be much better prepared for the inevitable obstacles.
Thanks to Float's beautiful UI you can plan projects in seconds, and with features like real-time updates and live notifications you can ensure that your teams have all the information they need to plan their time well.
But there's more to running an effective business than simply having the right tools. Read on for eight pitfalls you need to avoid if you want your agency to thrive.
01. Don't say yes to everything
Turning down work never feels good, especially in the early days of an agency when you're going all-out to build your profile, but if you want things to run smoothly then you're going to have to recognise when your plate's full.
It can be tempting to squeeze in an extra job in a rush of enthusiasm, but if the end result is having to juggle your teams across multiple projects while trying to keep assorted stakeholders happy, sooner or later you're going to hit a brick wall. Your employees will be over-stretched, deadlines will slip by and the end results are likely to be below par. Don't risk your team's moral and your agency's reputation; learn when to say no
02. Don't be inflexible
No project ever runs completely to plan, and no business ever runs entirely by the book. If you keep these two facts in mind and ensure that you're ready to adapt when things go wrong, then you'll be in a much better position to cope when you run into the inevitable hiccups that will crop up along the way. Good project management skills aren't about sticking rigidly to the original plans and specifications; if something's not working then you might need to refocus and reorganise.
03. Don't interrupt
The modern work environment is packed with all manner of ways to distract people from their work; even if you set aside the ever-present lure of social media, there's also the constant pinging of email and Slack notifications. And while it's tempting to keep people updated with a judicious @here message on Slack, you should ask yourself whether it's really necessary.
If you interrupt someone while they're deep in their work, it's going to take them time to settle back into their flow, and constantly shifting between work mode and comms mode can be draining. Giving your team time to ignore emails, set 'Do Not Disturb' on Slack and work uninterrupted can be a real productivity boon, and it's also a positive influence on their mental health.
04. Don't go overboard on meetings
Love them or hate them (we know, you probably hate them), meetings are essential, just so long as they're tightly planned and don't end up rambling completely off-topic. Meeting that start late and run overtime don't just waste precious work time, they also cost you money. Keep meetings to the point by using Google Calendar's 'Speedy Meeting' option; it'll end 30-minute meetings five minutes earlier, or 10 minutes for one-hour meetings, helping you to stay focused on the agenda and make everyone happy that they're getting out early.
05. Don't overload
As mentioned earlier, it's beneficial to know when to turn work down, but even so you'll almost always be in a situation where you have numerous projects on the go and you're relying on your staff to prioritise work effectively. This, of course, is the sort of situation where a team planner such as Float is invaluable, but you'll need to apply a bit of old-fashioned common sense on top of this.
Asking people to switch back and forth between a number of projects might hit those daily goals, but it can be a struggle for your staff. If you can break your team down into groups with responsibility just one project, they'll be able to focus better without having to shift mental gears every few hours and feel overloaded.
06. Don't micro-manage
No-one likes a manager who's constantly looking over their shoulder and suggesting ways they could work better; it's bad for team morale and it's not an effective use of your time. However a laissez-faire approach will often lead to bad habits becoming ingrained, so you need to find a good middle ground.
Set time aside every day to analyse and optimise the way your team works, and figure out improved working practices to take forward; by approaching management in this way rather than constantly being on everyone's case, you should find plenty of ways to boost productivity (and of course, profitability).
07. Don't avoid decisions
Sometimes the biggest hold-up on a project can be the business of waiting for someone to make a decision, especially if it's one with a lot of stakeholders. You can tackle this at your end by ensuring that you don't put decision-making off; if you've done with your research and you're communicating effectively with your team then it really shouldn't be difficult to bite the bullet, and make even the hardest decisions quickly.
Waiting on decisions from clients can be a different matter, especially if your point of contact has to refer to a manager, who may in turn prefer to kick the decision upstairs rather than take responsibility themselves. You can ease this process by employing a responsibility assignment matrix, which lays out exactly who across the project is responsible and accountable for all decisions, as well as indicating who should be consulted or informed about decisions.
08. Don't ever think you know it all
Finally, no matter how much you've learned over the course of your career, don't fool yourself into thinking that there's nothing left for you to learn; this kind of mindset leads to complacency and suddenly finding yourself completely overtaken and outclassed by a bunch of hungry new kids on the block.
There's always something new to discover, whether it's figuring out fresh tricks for finding more work, new methodologies to apply to projects or great ways to motivate your team. The best bosses are the ones who know this and keep pushing themselves to learn, no matter how long they've been in the business.
Find out more about how Float can transform your agency's project management, and get a free 30-day trial, here (opens in new tab).