Our list of clients is growing much faster than our list of employees, which is great because growth is key at this stage for our agency, but it has also caused some growing pains internally. If you’re reading this and you’re one of our beloved clients, we’re sure you haven’t noticed, but keeping up with the pace of our growth has taught us some valuable lessons that I’d like to share with you.
One of the main advantages we have as a small agency is that everyone has a voice. Our brainstorms usually include 5-8 members of the team, lots of constructive dialogue, and sometimes even a bottle of wine. After about an hour, we split up to get our thoughts in order and put notes to the page. It’s common for one or many team members to come back and say, “these ideas don’t quite fit into the overall brand strategy” or even, “these ideas just aren’t good enough.”
Questioning ourselves is key in making sure that we are only working with the best ideas and maintaining high standards in the work we present to our clients.
Play to people’s strengths
Until recently, the structure and roles at 88 Creative were determined by the amount of time an employee spent at the company. This is because our policy was to promote from within and hire junior employees to fill their role. We recently realized that this wasn’t the best way for all of our team members to show off their skills and make our work better.
We analyzed the team and figured out what we were missing, and used that information to create a new role within the company. One of our team members actually created the job description and duties, and ended up filling the role because we knew that she would be the perfect person to fill it. People work best when they’re doing what they love and what they’re good at, and 88 Creative is focused on empowering each employee to do just that.
Because we’re small, we don’t have employees assigned to many of the traditional roles within an agency. This is an area where we have lots of freedom and room for innovation. Encouraging all of 88 Creative’s employees to tweak and shift their roles and responsibilities and even create their own role or job title is something that ensures everyone is happy and fulfilled when they sit down at their desk every day.
Build great relationships (and nurture them)
With the help of one of our partner agencies, 88 Creative is now one of the top search results for terms related to marketing agencies in Toronto. When we were revamping our website in 2015, one of the main goals was to improve SEO and at that time we had a blank slate to make that happen.
Our amazing SEO has become a gift and a curse, though. Companies from all over the world are looking to enter the market in Toronto and Canada so we get many unsolicited phone calls and emails from people looking to hire a marketing agency – which is awesome! – but we don’t always offer the service they’re looking for.
Many people call us asking for help with their SEO and SEM, Google Adwords, conversion-based social ads, and other highly technical services which we do not specialize in. We love content marketing and are focused on results for our clients, but we don’t base our strategies on algorithms and many of our activations are focused on long-term conversions along with other metrics and KPIs. We know that there are many companies out there looking for high conversion rates at the lowest cost possible, so we maintain great relationships with agencies in the city who are laser-focused on that – we’re happy to refer people to the experts.
We also partner with agencies who offer complementary services, like Toronto-based experiential agency Satori. They are amazing at organizing events and engaging with people IRL and they’ve done so for companies like Lego, Bacardi, and Chanel, among others, so when we’re looking to include an experiential activation for a client, we look to them.
Giving and getting
Hiring new full-time employees at 88 Creative isn’t always possible, even when we need the help. We know that there are so many people out there looking to gain relevant experience in the things that we’re doing, so when we need an extra pair of hands (and a great mind, of course) we look to YES (Youth Employment Services), a provincial government agency which is focused on getting people relevant work in their field. They offer support when it comes to finding and hiring interns and we’ve recently started taking advantage of it. Many interns are new grads looking for the right experience to get them in the door for their first job, and our position as a small agency allows the people we hire to wear many hats and experience a number of different roles in a short period of time. Getting the help we need while providing valuable opportunities for new grads or people looking to gain relevant experience has definitely helped 88 Creative continue to grow.
For the record, our graduate interns are compensated fairly because we believe any person who provides value to our company deserves it!
Nobody likes filling out spreadsheets, tracking time, and all of the other boring processes that go into creating efficiency, but we know that the most successful companies do it because it works. As 88 Creative started to grow and the many moving parts started moving quickly and simultaneously, we knew that it was important to create processes and be vigilant about applying those processes. Our main goal for standardizing some aspects of our company was to create a system that doesn’t stifle creativity and doesn’t take up the time that can be better spent on doing great things for our clients. The beauty of being small is having the freedom to be agile, and creating processes to streamline the boring stuff just adds to that freedom.
We know that there’s always room for improvement, and we’re definitely working on it, but we also know that it’s important to make sure that we’re always listening to each other, and working with our greater community. That is how 88 Creative is building its success.