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Jumpers for goalposts? The danger of not setting out effective agency goals

'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.

Are you disappointed with your agency business performance? You may be setting your goals in the wrong way.

A common cause of an underperforming agency is that they end up setting the wrong types of goals in the wrong type of way.

I had a particularly sharp client recently suggest that lowering their goals, and therefore aspirations, could be a better way forward to avoid disappointment. Although you’d probably feel better about life if goals were easier to obtain, for an ambitious agency this isn’t an option. In fact, it’s often not the goal itself, but the way goals are developed and tackled that’s the most likely cause of failure.

I talked in previous blogs that creating a Vision for the business was a basis for a good strategy, its actually the best way to develop your goals too.

Having a three year vision and some clear KPIs allows you then to break that Vision down into manageable chunks and think about the short, medium and long term goals needed to achieve it.

If your aspiration is to be a £5m turnover business, what kind of shape do you need to be in one years time? What kind of investment are you going to need to make now to do that?

The worst thing for me is to meet a business six months or a year later only to find that things haven’t moved on. The business plan that was so carefully crafted at the beginning of the year is dusted off and reviewed, only to find that the targets haven’t been hit. I have a big problem with business plans and I’ll touch on this in a future blog.

Setting effective goals is a process that a business needs to go through. It’s not just a spread sheet activity. Here are some tips to developing them in the right way:

1. Do a PAST YEAR REVIEW with the team, what went well and what went badly? Why? What are the patterns?

2. Create some BEST ADVICE. From the issues you’ve identified what lessons can you learn that you can repeat and tell yourself over the next 12 months?

3. Are there any LIMITING MINDSETS in the team? What is the negative self-talk that exists in the business that may be limiting you and your ability to achieve the goals you deserve. Just because the business has always done something or achieved certain results is that a reason to keep doing it?

4. Do your RESEARCH. What are others achieving in the market? What are your competitors doing? What can you learn and do better?

5. What do you want to get out of the business in 3 years? Be honest. What is this all for! Match your personal ASPIRATIONS to that of the business and then assess your aspirations against risk, reward, experience and effort needed to get there.

Miles will be talking about effective goal setting at a Drum Network event on Thursday 3rd July in London. For more details and to book your seat click here.

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

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