Process — a necessary evil and an elusive good. In agencies, we love it and hate it, but ultimately, we need it.
So, how do we make process work for instead of against us and our clients? We sat down with Pixel Dreams CEO, Kal Sayid, to talk about this seemingly dull topic that turned out to be pretty fascinating.
1. What are the key elements of good agency process management?
Absolute clarity and looking at extreme situations. Whether it’s a photoshop file or a really convoluted project, I’ll plan for the extreme requests or needs, because if you can handle those, then the day to day is easy.
If I was to die and somebody else needed to figure out the finances or set up a project, could they do it? Are there step-by-step instructions? There are a lot of tasks I don’t do often. If I didn’t create a clear process, every 6 months I do it, I would be lost. Sometimes it’s as much for me as it is for someone else.
Another approach that I have is doing the work. By being very involved, I am building out the process as we speak vs. building a process without being a part of it. Don’t build processes in a vacuum. That’s a challenge for a lot of businesses; they tend to build processes from a bureaucratic place without understanding the people or work involved.
2. How do you develop solid agency processes?
A key element is to understand that some people are more process-driven than others. Our creative director is an innovator; she can’t follow or build processes. For her, the process is not having a process.
Doing personality assessments opened up our eyes as to who is who. It’s the difference between haphazardly doing something well and then realizing it’s a superpower. When you find that person who is good at creating or implementing process and loves it, then you put that person on the project. They’ll think, “How can I duplicate it?” and then document it.
Make sure to also consult with all stakeholders and see what they have to say because each team will work on a different piece of your project and will have their own unique perspective.
3. Can you share some best practices around streamlining the creative workflow?
The answer lies in the word Kaizen.
Your process is going to continuously change and evolve depending on your circumstances. A process that worked at one time may not work at another. You need to be able to adapt. There is no ideal or perfect process. We should constantly iterate and improve, but sometimes iteration isn’t enough. You have to start from scratch.
There are certain areas in life and business where you want predictability. It’s not boring. It’s setting your mind at ease and being able to use your creative mind and energy for actual creative feats. I don’t want to think about how to do my header and footer — so there’s a template in Google Docs. There needs to be a balance between process and innovation. You don’t want to discourage either.
Pre- and post-mortems are also important. Include people who have a natural tendency to see the things that can and did go wrong.
4. What are some tips you have for processes related to agency-client relationships?
The word that sticks out for me most in that question is relationships. Relationships should be fluid with intent to serve. What may work for one person may not work for another. You’ve got to strike a balance between not creating a custom solution for each person but also being flexible enough that you can accommodate the different needs of different types of clients.
Be sensitive to what each type of client needs. The DISC system is really valuable to understand because you can better assess the person you’re speaking to and tailor the message. It’s not about changing who you are; it’s about being a good host and accommodating someone. If one person is detail-oriented and they require a lot of explanation, you’ve gotta meet them there. If someone wants you to cut to the f*ckin’ chase, then you gotta just give them the high-level thing. Understanding personality types is key.
Also, put birthdays in calendars and set it to yearly repeats. Pay attention to family situations and kids. We try to get to know our clients — within legal and respectful reason. In any relationship that you value, you would know this information. Writing details down shouldn’t be a bad thing. It means you care enough about the relationship to show that you don’t want to forget.
Be honest. Be kind. Be loving. Be fair. Be smart. It’s less of a process and more of goals and aspirations of how to behave.
5. How can you best document and standardize agency processes?
All details and reports should live somewhere, especially for retainer clients. For clients who aren’t detail-oriented, give them the big info upfront and leave everything else in the appendix.
Following standardized structures for folder hierarchy and document storage makes your life much easier and allows your client to find what they need faster.
Lastly, sending out minutes or contact reports is really important. A good way to ruin your relationship is to miscommunicate and rely on memory. Never rely on memory — not yours or the client’s.
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