Growing your agency in times of uncertainty can no doubt sound daunting. But it’s still very possible. By maintaining a positive outlook and a proactive approach, you can open your agency up to inventive, new solutions and possibilities.
This month, we launched an online event series with agency owners and brand leaders, where we discuss the topics that keep us up at night and how to tackle them in the age of COVID-19. Our first event focused on the question, “How do we sustain growth during times of uncertainty.”
Our group of panelists all have experience leading teams during rapid changes in the industry: Omer Malchin, VP Brand at Wix; Ryan Stevens, COO at Clutch.io; Itai Bichler, Marketing Consultant and previous Head of Creative & Craziness at SodaStream; and Yuval Magid, Head of Business Development at Connecteam.
Each panelist provided a range of outlooks and actionable insight, but all agreed that necessity is the mother of invention.
Sustaining growth as a principle and a process
Of course, few could foresee the events that so profoundly transformed the global landscape in March, 2020. Our online event started with participants recounting their reactions to the COVID-19 crisis, from early news reports to recognition that the world was facing an unprecedented challenge. The rapidly evolving situation requires a new level of adaptability and strategic thinking.
Although the situation with COVID-19 is unique, the panelists saw it as an opportunity to think bigger-picture. Leaders and agency owners must reflect a broader approach to keeping a business moving forward under any circumstances.
So what did these industry leaders and agency owners have to say? Here are the 7 key takeaways from our online event discussing how to sustain growth during times of uncertainty:
1. Be prepared
Some situations will catch you by surprise and evolve differently than anticipated. It happens. Nonetheless, always keep an eye on emerging challenges, and devise “what-if” scenarios and responses as quickly as possible. Magid (Head of Business Development at Connecteam) noted that early on, Connecteam leaders questioned their readiness to handle COVID-19. Their team asked, “What are our core assumptions and what do we think will happen, so that we can respond better?” From there, the team mapped out a multi-step process, starting from a preliminary strategy and extending outward.
2. Be engaged
In an uncertain situation, you want to make sure that all members of your team are seen, heard and supported. Stevens said that Clutch has adopted an “all hands on deck” approach, adding, “We’re trying to empower our middle rung of teammates to make sure that our newest teammates have people to lean on and feel engaged.” From his point of view, there are now plenty of tools available to help you keep communication channels open with remote employees and maintain eye-level contact, no matter where you are.
“We’re trying to empower our middle rung of teammates to make sure that our newest teammates have people to lean on and feel engaged.”
Ryan Stevens, COO, Clutch.io
3. Be positive
Generally speaking, even in challenging times you should focus forward, and avoid letting uncertainty turn into negativity. Bichler (Marketing Consultant and previous Head of Creative & Craziness at SodaStream) noted that the prospect of change must be factored into all professional endeavors, and that maintaining a 'glass-is-half full' outlook is “not just a way of thinking, but a way of business.”
4. Be human
Business is still about people. Malchin (VP Brand at Wix) suggested that before thinking about your bottom line, consider the ways that events are affecting those around you. “Let your heart and common sense lead, rather than just pure business. If you do that, people feel comfortable doing what they need to do.” Malchin noted that customer-facing professionals tend to be more attuned to this concept than others, but it’s a mindset that ideally applies to everyone.
“Maintaining a ‘glass-is-half full’ outlook is not just a way of thinking, but a way of business.”
Itai Bichler, Marketing Consultant and Former Head of Creative & Craziness, SodaStream
5. Maintain relationships and be forward-thinking
You can easily get caught up in the moment. Still, it’s important to think long-term and plan for when the uncertainty settles down. As an independent contractor, Bichler finished accounts that he’d lost mid-stream because of the current financial crunch. This helped sustain client relationships beyond the ebb and flow of current events. Meanwhile, he continues to ask, “What are we going to do the minute it gets better?”
“Let your heart and common sense lead, rather than just pure business. If you do that, people feel comfortable doing what they need to do.”
Omer Malchin, VP Brand, Wix
6. Be flexible and go the extra mile
All panelists agreed that there’s no single right answer or magic formula. You must stay focused on the specifics of your own services, client base, and relationships. Pierre Harding, Institute of Web Design owner, added that now’s the time to add extra value, “I recorded a video and sent it to all my clients letting them know our agency will be conducting a detailed analysis to uncover any additional areas of opportunities to maximize their local exposure.”
Likewise, Lovage’s CEO Stephanie Casey said her agency’s focus right now is, “Serve the People.” That means taking on smaller projects, but providing the same level of custom-quality work, resulting in ecstatic customer reviews.
“I recorded a video and sent it to all my clients letting them know our agency will be conducting a detailed analysis to uncover any additional areas of opportunities to maximize their local exposure.”
Pierre Harding, owner, Institute of Web Design
7. Be creative
At the end of the day, uncertainty helps you push the boundaries and think creatively. Innovating in ways you’d never expect. Malchin listed a few examples of companies revamping their business model: a local coffee shop developing a delivery system; a construction firm shifting to home disinfection. According to Malchin, uncertainty can in fact become the catalyst to change—for the better and for the future.