Q & A: The thinkpeople family's Andy Agar on restructuring your agency
Knowing when to restructure your agency business can be difficult. Whether prompted by external developments in the marketplace, in-house resourcing issues or simply the desire to scale the business up or down, shaking up the management and operational structures of an agency can be risky unless handled carefully.
Here, Andy Agar, the executive chairman of The thinkpeople family of agencies, outlines the reasons behind the recent restructuring of his own business and offers some pointers to others considering a similar move.
Why did you feel there was a need to restructure?
The restructure was born out of a desire to reinforce the agency’s ethos and key proposition of ‘people first, brand second’. We want both our own people and our clients to flourish and providing the right environment to enable this is our key objective.
Within the core shopper agency, we were developing key talent and expertise that ultimately demanded its own identity. This restructure will allow those individual skills to be nurtured and brought to the fore, offering the members of the family more opportunity to grow and develop while delivering value and expertise to our clients and their customers.
How will the restructure affect the management of the business?
We have appointed a new managing director, Maria Sze, to our shopper agency whynot! thinkpeople bringing a wealth of experience to reinforce this part of our business. We have created a managing director role for our experiential and event production agencies (Trigger thinkpeople and The Assembly thinkpeople) and also one for the data and investment businesses (Focus thinkpeople and The Forum thinkpeople). Both come from within the family. All three MDs will be given autonomy in their respective agencies, ultimately working into myself and the partners to achieve our shared goals. A number of key group appointments will be filled to continue to move things forward.
Have you faced any challenges to the restructure and how did you overcome them?
All the partners were in agreement that this was the way to go, as were senior team members, meaning the changes were straightforward. We took a collective view and just got on with it as we would with any client business. Evaluate the opportunity, create the appropriate strategy and execute.
Do you see the structure of specialist agencies under a group umbrella as a trend that people need to jump on?
I'm not sure our decision reflects a trend. For us it is the right thing to do, providing an environment which promotes excellence and a strong degree of self governance. Other agencies may not have the strength of senior management to do this. We do.
Should more agencies think about clubbing together to provide niche insights across sectors?
Increased levels of inter-agency collaboration is certainly something watch out for in the future. We work regularly with specialists in certain areas, be that data or tech, and maintaining strong alliances will undoubtedly grow in importance. Particularly if as business owners you value your independence and have no desire to be consumed by a network.
There has been a lot of talk recently about how the traditional marketing agency model is dying a slow death. Do you agree?
I don't think agencies are dying a slow death but, as is also the case for the clients, one has to demonstrate strong foresight in a market that often resembles quicksand. Stand still for too long and you will get sucked under. There will always be a role for agency resource, that may sit externally or internally, depending on the client’s point of view. The key is to remain flexible at all times and to retain the ability to dial resource up or down rapidly will be important in the future. As will the ability for clients to call on specialists for particular products and services. Agencies will retain a key role here.
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