When we first started, it was a team of former freelancer friends who decided it was more fun and productive to ride out together in some sort of an organization. The first couple years were party-work-party. It’s safe to say, our teambuilding skills were as sharp as anybody’s. The projects we did were mostly stress-free and fun. Those were the perks of running a small grassroots business that our founder established in a datsusara* fashion.
However, quality work brings progress and bigger clients with lucrative projects. We evolved into a full-blown agency and these are the challenges we face day in day out and how we slay them.
*The Japanese term “Datsusara” refers to the act of quitting
work as a salaryman and finding a new occupation.”
Standing out of thousands of similar business means getting more clients. Simple as that. In case of a single-talent company or a freelancer, this means finding prominent characteristic features and flying them high. This is where a personality might pull off the deal. In case of a wholesome web development agency, personalities get blended into a company image, and those from the perspective might seem pretty much the same.
At the same time, agencies are way more diverse and capable of accomplishing more and faster. Along with technical diversity, this is what we need to showcase:
A presentation is a signature style of an agency, something you’ll be remembered for, so there has to be no slack on that.
The avant-garde of any company is its website. Your homepage has to be representative of your service. You don’t want to be the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” case, right? We are constantly working on our website’s improvements both in performance and reflection of our essence.
Your website has to give a clear idea of what you are capable of and why you are the best (at least at something). A good showcase of the work you are proud of says more than a hundred references.
Don’t let guesswork define you. Speak up. This means you have to have your own voice and the channel to deliver it. The voice is your employees letting it out about whatever they are passionate about along with unique and relevant industry-specific articles that search engines love. The best channel so far is a company blog.
Whichever questions clients have, they must be addressed from the agencies professional standpoint. This demonstrates your 360-degree competence in the industry. On top of that, the specialized tech or design-related articles show your passion and loyalty to the field.
If the content output you generate is as full-flowing as ours, we recommend writing for the independent resources and interest-based platforms on Medium.
Visiting users come for a reason. Our duty is to file that reason. No customer should be overlooked or ignored. That’s why we try to reply to emails within 24 hours and within one hour to website customer fill-out forms. This is a definite bottleneck considering the time zones, national holidays and other differences. However, this is a huge advantage once you turn this policy into your strength.
You know how important it is to have a human reply to your query. The automatic replies are a thing of the past. Having said that, we do work on an interactive and intelligent chatbot currently, and make no doubt about it, we will be testing its functionality on our website.
Seeing the previous work is one thing. But there’s so much more that meets the eye in every project. Addressing the partnership from the standpoint of a client is what every potential customer gets eventually interested in. Our testimonial policy from the start is being brutally honest about everything.
We don’t post edited and censored feedback and for that, we’ve taken on Clutch.co as the one and only mediated testimonials source.
Whenever there are things we can improve, we are thankful for spotting those and we try to address them. That’s it. No hidden catch, no strings attached.
“ You just look at the issue and you say.. Good.”
Keeping Up With The Environment
Being majorly a remote/outsourced/outstaffed web and mobile design & development agency, we’ve struggled with an issue of being on the rear end of the ever-changing business environment. We’ve approached the problems of outsourcing from multiple angles and there are no blank spots left anymore.
The keys to staying relevant are quite obvious:
- Grow your expertise. Every adapted technology contains an immense potential to be studied. Mastering one bit should never be enough. We encourage our team members to grow professionally and gain as many skills in their belt. For example, our PMs make their own choices by either falling into the UI/UX field more or getting into coding.
- Reach out more. There are multiple social platforms today which have long become more than just past-time. Social media today is a powerful information source including all the leaks, rumors, arguments, etc. Adopting the strategic social media operation is a good way to stay updated while being entertained.
- Showcase the benefits of remote work. There are quite many. From the obvious financial ones to the national and cultural intricacies influencing productivity. In our case, we like to think of ourselves as being in between the super-efficient scrupulous technical team and an anti-corporate style grassroots company with the humane approach to business.
- Increase your talent pool. One thing agencies will always be beating freelancers in is the infrastructure and unconcerned work. You don’t have to be bothered by organizational things distracting you from work. This is a strong argument for the choice of an agency as a first workplace. We are constantly keeping our eye on young specialists and university graduates creating a healthy competition within the team while also scanning for talent.
The bigger the agency, the more responsibilities it has especially when times get hard. We have no right to get clumsy and heavy-footed. Retaining flexibility and the ability to generate more output with less resources is a crucial skill.
Adversities might be the consequence of failures or just the dry spell that happens every once in a while during the lifetime of any agency. But by no means do the hard times define them. Instead, they spur us to improve productivity.
These are the best practices:
There are people that know how to get the job done, and then there are specialists. The folks whose fortes separate them from the rest. It’s important to know your team’s fortes and capitalize on them.
The sweet spot would be an employee’s competence and interest in solving a problem. A lot of agencies practice substitutability in their workers, of course, having a versatile team is nice, but sometimes you’ve got to let the rockstars shine.
Time & Progress Management
If you are looking to get the best out of your team’s productivity, there is little you can do if you are not managing the time and effort ratio right. We utilize the Jira and Time Doctor combo to keep track of the feature progress and time spent.
The creative and mind-syncing tool that we’ve been dedicated to since we discovered it is RealtimeBoard. We’ve written about our several projects in RTB and it truly has been one of our most utilized weapon.
Whenever a freelancer works on a segment of a product, they are in charge of the success of the entire project as this is a prerequisite of them getting payed. In case of an agency, people are responsible for their parts only and this may at times dissolve productivity.
Ways to beat complacency:
- Setting deadlines. Being aware of the time segments designated for specific goals, helps set the priorities right and instigate urgency. The deadlines have to be abided by everyone in order to maintain their value. Every failure to meet a deadline has to be investigated not only from the standpoint of a violation, but also the fairness of the estimate itself.
- Creating checklists. Every project has its unique features as well as the crossovers with other projects. In order to avoid interference and discrepancy, some teams utilize internal checklists. For example, our UI/UX designer checklist contains the essential points our every project has to stand to. I know QA engineers are super-efficient with checklists, perhaps other teams can inherit some of their best practices.
- Synchronizing progress. The problem of separate teams or team members being detached from the rest of the crew might affect the productivity at different stages. The remote basis has a lot to do with this. Some teams might feel isolated, insignificant, and lonely if not properly included into the loop of the company life. We’ve described the strategies used to beat this in one of our recent articles.
Embrace The Grind
Agency development is a double-edged sword. You have your bigger clients and you clash against the bigger obstacles with bigger consequences. This is all part of the game of evolution. If you can leverage your team’s strong sides and grind against its weaknesses, chances are you’ll be successful.
At the end of the day, our greatest teachers along the way are our clients and their projects all with their unique challenges, discoveries and sometimes shenanigans. We are thankful for each and every of them one way or another.