News & Views

Agency growing pains & gains | Agency Dealmasters

by Sol Welch
24th December 2019
Agency growing pains & gains | Agency Dealmasters, post image

In this interview with Agency Dealmasters, Julianna Richter, Partner, Waypoint Partners discusses agency growth, disruption and why diversity matters.

Julianna shared some fascinating insights gleaned through her impressive career, covering:

1. What she learned from working in a fast- growing agency.
2. Systems, processes and culture agencies must implement for growth.
3. Challenges of growth faced by small, medium-sized and large agencies.
4. How change and disruption are impacting companies right now.
5. Why leadership must be more representative.

Here are our favourite parts of the Q&A:

During your time at Edelman, the agency expanded dramatically – from around $100 million to almost $1 billion globally. What was it like working in a company going through that much growth and change?

It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating, It’s maddening! And sometimes it’s even terrifying. In the early stages, I liken it to a toddler. Learning, figuring things out, bumping into things and fearless. They don’t know what they can’t do. Later, they grow into the childhood and adolescent phases where they’re more aware of their surroundings. They’re also more rebellious, in a good way. Some companies take those chances that later in life they probably wouldn’t. There’s so much energy that can be harnessed in those early years. I was so happy to be part of that.

What systems, processes and culture need to be in place to grow and lead a company of that size?

What a company needs in a smaller stage of growth is not always what they need down the road. In the early days, the systems revolve around what the founders and the small team around them put in place. As things evolve, you need more rigour and consistency. You need to take the essence of what was so unique, special and entrepreneurial, and codify that somehow. Talent requirements also evolve – the people who work in start-ups aren’t necessarily the same people who want to be at a larger organisation. And you really need to evaluate roles and responsibilities. This is often overlooked because you’re running at such high speed and trying to do so many things. But as the company is building and evolving, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. It’s important to get ahead of that.

So when in a company’s evolution should it look at making a change to its employees and leadership team?

There’s not a magical number or exact revenue figure – I wish there were! It’s about the complexity of the service you’re offering and the size of the clients or the customers you have.

There are tipping point moments when you start to need a repeatable process. That’s an indicator that you need to evaluate your systems. I recently worked with a smaller agency moving into mid-size territory. The founder said to me: ‘My job was to come up with the idea, set the strategy and vision, hire the best people and then get out of their way.’  I love that. But it’s often a really big challenge for a founder – it’s their baby. It often requires an outside perspective to come in and point that out.

To listen to the full interview follow the link to the Agency Dealmasters Podcast

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