Agency growth stories: Engaging with a professional performance coach

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The Future Factory interview Studio Output and Found on the power of a performance coach.

The Future Factory supports over 100 agencies per year on their growth journey. Whilst every agency is unique, the challenges they face rarely are. The Future Factory has interviewed some of the UK’s most interesting agencies to share how they operate and a few of the secrets to their success.

This week The Future Factory interviews Dan Moore, managing director of Studio Output and Found.

17 years into working together, Dan and his fellow shareholders have undergone a year of working with a growth consultancy, a performance coach and investing in sales training - a process he greatly recommends.

TFF: How is business?

DM: It’s really good now. We’ve had a transformational year – but it’s come from realising 18 months ago that we could benefit from some outside help.

A friend of mine had recently qualified as a coach and wanted to run some practice coaching sessions with people she knew. I’d never done anything like that before but knew people who’d benefitted from it, so I was very open to it. It really helped me personally, but more importantly, it opened my eyes to the importance of it for our business.

Off the back of that experience, we appointed a coach to work with my two fellow business partners and me. My pitch to the guys was: “I’ve still got the energy to go again, but the tank’s dry in terms of the knowledge to do it ourselves”. I was doing a lot of reading about business and sports leaders and realised that very few of them do it alone.

TFF: Was he a personal or business coach?

DM: He’s a performance coach, but his approach goes very deep – exploring both personal and business themes. He’s also given us new tools and techniques to work through issues and see things differently.

It’s been a big investment for us over the past year, but we decided to go all in and challenge ourselves – really go on a learning voyage, rather than just dip our toes. We know it’s delivered massive value for us already and has changed our view as to where our businesses can go.

This investment in learning and development, and the subsequent impact it’s had for us, opened my eyes to where else we could be skilling up. Last year, I met someone at a networking event who worked for one of the global design agencies and she’d recently completed an MBA, funded by them. It made me stop and think that if we’re going to compete with these people, we need to up our game – we can’t just accept we’re the underdogs anymore.

Since then, in parallel with the coaching work, we’ve invested in sales training across the leadership and production teams, and we’ve put more rigorous processes in place for client development.

TFF: Is there something you learnt that you would advise to another agency owner in a similar position?

DM: You’ve got to know what you’re excited about – whether it’s a sector, a kind of work or a way of working. Looking back at my career, I can see now that I hadn’t spent the time to truly figure that out. Over the years different types of projects and clients can creep in and before you realise it they’ve changed the identity of the business.

That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt – spending the time to think deeply about what you want to do, and if you’re right for it – so you’re not just high on the hope of it!

TFF:Are you still working with your coaches?

DM: Yes, and this year we’ll be bringing our leadership team onboard to work with him too. A lot of the work with Martin Palethorpe (our performance coach) is around mindset, with the net result being that I’m much more trusting that we’re doing the right thing now.

The process we’re going through has worked for countless other businesses, so it’s going to work for us too. We’ve successfully implemented a lot of change and we’re starting to see the effects – our pipeline for the next three months is already full, which we’ve never had before.

TFF: Do you think the clearer proposition you’ve been working on is what has lead to you attracting and winning the right type of work?

DM: 100% yes. We know there’s a need for what we do, we feel more confident talking about it and we’re having more focused conversations.

TFF: So the coaching process really has impacted every part of the business?

DM: Yes it has – it was a big investment for us, but we’ve embraced the challenge and affected a lot of change.

I think you have to go all in with something like this, and I know that that approach has helped us get to where we are now. The original catalyst for change was borne out of a year closing a business we had in China and restructuring our UK set-up. After that I knew we needed to get things right and not repeat past mistakes.

TFF: Would you do an office in another country again?

DM: No. I’m in a position in the business where I’m feeling really happy and I don’t want the millstone around my neck of businesses I don’t want to run. I’ve got an amazing team who are all very aligned with where we’re going, and we’re doing the kind of work we want to be doing.

TFF: Well done on getting to this point!

DM: It’s had its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else!

Alex Sibille is the co-founder of The Future Factory.

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