Don’t Worry, Be Ready: How Agencies Can Take Control in the Wake of the Coronavirus

Credit: DigitalVision / Getty Images by Klaus Vedfelt

Agency owners and leaders worry a lot, but the stress has escalated during the pandemic. Consumer confidence is on the decline, and the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that the U.S. has been in a recession since February.

Recession aside, agency owners spend too much energy wondering how we’ll manage if the economy takes a hit, a star employee leaves, or a big client bids adieu. In imagining everything that could go wrong, we ignore everything that could go right. We forget that being an agency owner or leader is one of the best jobs in the world — it gives us the freedom to build the life we desire.

Worrying about the uncontrollable future is pointless, but planning for it isn’t. Strategizing for what you can control is the best way to set your agency up for success post-pandemic. Even when a recession hits, it usually takes a few quarters for economic changes to hit agencies, so there’s time to prepare.

I know that’s easier said than done, but the following steps will help you take charge of your company in the wake of the coronavirus. Unburden some of your worry, live in the moment, and celebrate all of the amazing things about agency life:

1. Complete an agency owner life plan.

Set aside some time to fill out an agency owner life plan (don’t let the name fool you — you can do this even if you’re not an agency owner!). Ask yourself this: Where do you want your agency to go? Who do you want to surround yourself with? What do you want others to remember you for? If you think deeply through your answers, you’ll arrive at a clearer picture of your motivations and how you want your business to evolve.

2. Develop a one-page business plan.

List the key categories of your business along with barriers preventing you from growth in each one. Consider money as a potential category: Is lack of reporting preventing you from growing your bottom line? Could your software be hindering your progress? Once you have a list of categories and their growth barriers, identify the first thing you must do to overcome them. Tackle them one at a time in order of priority.

3. Create a business development program.

We all worry about the bottom line, even when the economy is doing great. To combat this fear, ensure your business can develop and your sales pipeline is full. I’ve found that the lead conversion cycle is longer than it used to be, which requires a bigger sales pipeline. If you’re like me, you don’t have time to fill this pipeline yourself (and neither does your creative team). Try hiring biz dev experts who can help tackle the problem.

4. Show employees and clients more love.

When my agency started to grow, I started taking one employee to dinner each month. We’d catch up and talk about family, work, and anything else on our minds. I loved it, and so did my employees. Likewise, you have to appreciate your clients. It’s easy to get frustrated when they constantly make changes or run over deadlines — but at the end of the day, they allow you to live agency life. It’s more important now than ever to show your current clients and employees how much you care.

Economic shifts are inevitable, so worrying about them doesn’t help. Checking in on your goals annually and retooling your business plans will help you focus on the positive and ensure your business remains strong — even when unfortunate events occur.