the bank of [your agency name here]

I just read the brief piece in AdvertisingAge: Three Agency Trends for 2013, and the first trend is Slow payments from clients is the new reality! Ironically one of the other two is about consolidation. No wonder. What small- to moderate- size agency can afford to be the bank for a client?

They say it’s, “not great for agencies, however it’s the new reality in 2013”. No kidding, but I’ll bet it started well before the New Year.

So my question goes out to you folks in the agency world. Don’t you think you should work a little smarter this year? Maybe control costs – like the volume of resources you put into the client’s work?

Follow the money. It has never been more true – or essential.

I don’t mean reducing the wonderfulness of what you create, but keeping a watchful eye on where money is being spent. Time = Money.

Such as a creative deciding to spend (a lot) more time than estimated tweaking and re-tweaking a layout. Or that lovely back-and-forth between a proofreader and a copywriter on whether a serial comma is appropriate. Wastes time and money.

And while I’m at it, you can save a whole heck of a lot of cash if your account team exercises a little restraint when saying YES every time a client wants to be an art director. Those changes rack-up huge costs – which I’m betting you don’t usually track (they’re just small, quick changes), and certainly don’t bill.

I've said it before, everyone in your agency is responsible for ensuring a profit. That profit gets pretty thin when you’re carrying your client for 120 days. And when that profit is devoured by poor management of the client and staff – you’ll break even, or worse, have a really crappy year.

How long can you do this?

New Year’s resolution: call your entire staff together and decide exactly how you will manage your work – and your clients – for 2013. Agree to it and stick to it. And track everything – this means estimates, changes and timesheets. I stress tracking because next year, when do your year-end evaluation, and  you’re ready to re-negotiate client contracts, their value to your agency will be very clear.

And who knows, if you're awesome and efficient, one of the big holding companies may come calling.