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Five tips to help create your agency's vision

'Tales from the non-exec’ harnesses the insights and lessons gained from the board rooms of marketing agencies around the UK and abroad from one of the most experienced non-exec directors in the sector, Miles Welch, the founder of Milestone Advisory and former CEO of Digitas and COO of Harvest Digital. Issues such as business strategy, exit planning, growth pains, expansion, culture, leadership, process and people will be covered in the form of tips, tools and advice. Powered by The Drum Network, ‘Tales From the non-exec’ is an essential read for any agency leader looking to grow a better business.

The suggestion of needing to create a vision for your business can, at first, appear far too touchy-feely for most senior agency executives to contemplate. You are working flat out on delivering client work and running the business, and the thought of taking management time away from that to do some reflective thinking can feel like a huge distraction.

In fact, for those agency owners who take the plunge and take time out of the agency to create a vision for their business, the reaction is one of relief and even regret that they hadn't done it many years ago.

A vision is also a very different beast from a business plan. It is a forward looking statement of intent, a flag in the ground and a point in the future to inspire and galvanise an organisation.

It’s a future image of what your business is in business for. It will align the shareholders and staff. It will influence everything from your branding to how your company is structured, from how you communicate, to what you offer your clients as you grow and develop.

So here are five tips to creating a compelling Vision for your agency business:

1. Your agency vision needs to be aspirational and difficult to achieve.

2. Your vision should be broad enough to be meaningful for three years, any longer is too long in this market.

3. Your vision should encapsulate the shared goals that the team has agreed to accomplish together and where your team is headed.

4. Does your vision create an emotional response with the audience? If it does, then buy-in is far more likely.

5. What are the KPIs that tell you you’ve reached it?

As a non-exec director, I meet many business owners who don’t have a clear idea of what their business stands for, where it’s going or what its ambitions are.

This type of business is both very difficult to market and difficult to invest in.

For example, acquirers need to not only understand the financials and the sector the business operates in; they need to buy into where the business is going and see a plan of how it is going to get there.

Ultimately, an agency business with a clear vision and a plan of how to get there is likely to become a far more valuable and attractive asset.

So, if you don't have a vision in your agency, take some time out with other key stakeholders to create one. You won't regret it.

Milestone are non-exec advisors to SMEs in the marketing communications sector. The team’s collective experience is substantial; agency leadership, corporate finance, M&A and preparing for exit. Miles can be contacted at miles@milestoneadvisory.co.uk.

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