Is It Time to Add a President or HR Director to Your Agency Team? - Smart Agency Masterclass: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies

Is It Time to Hire a President or HR Director to Your Agency Team?

By Jason Swenk on June 14, 2017

Hopefully you already know your agency employees are your biggest asset. But, is your agency “employee-centric”? Do you have the right people in place to find, lead and retain an awesome team? In this episode we’ll hear from a 15-year agency owner about why and how he brought in an HR Director and President to accelerate agency growth.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to know when it’s time to hire an HR Director.
  • Why you might want to bring on an Agency President.
  • When and how to get help growing your agency.

Today we have our first ever three-peat guest on the show! Founder and CEO of BrightWave Marketing, Simms Jenkins is making his third appearance and this time he’s sharing the strategies he has used to make sure his team remains his #1 most valuable asset. (You can find his first and second interviews here.)

Since the first couple times he was on the show in 2014, Simms says BrightWave has continued to innovate in the email marketing arena. His agency business has doubled and he’s authored two books on the subject. Today, BrightWave is working with huge brands like Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread, CarMax and Mattress Firm. He’s the first to admit their success is largely due to having and keeping the right people on his team, plus adding a few key people in his executive team.

When to Hire an HR Director

Simms says the real key to his agency’s success is the team and company culture. Those were the driving forces behind bringing in someone dedicated to attracting, engaging, and retaining agency talent. He hired for an HR position when his team reached about 25 and it’s been a great investment. In my case, I hired an HR person when my agency got to 50 employees but in hindsight, we’d have done better to have one as we reached 15 employees.

“We hired at a key turning point in the business. We needed to position [our agency] as an employer and make it a great workplace.” ~ Simms Jenkins

Most agencies are completely client focused as they climb the growth ladder. However, they forget their biggest asset is their human capital. An HR position is particularly important when your agency is in a growth phase. In most cases, human resource functions fall onto the owner and/or office manager which is time suck. And aside from saving the agency owner’s time and energy, having a dedicated HR person creates a better experience for candidates and new hires, leaving a favorable impression and smoother transition.

Besides, as an agency grows it’s important to have a process for finding, hiring, engaging with, and retaining talent. Even though it’s a non-billable position, this role is huge for agency growth.

Why Hire an Agency President?

Simms didn’t set out looking to add an agency’s president, it just sort of made sense. He had hired a consultant to counterbalance some of his own leadership weaknesses. After 6 months of consultancy, it was a natural fit with the team and culture, so Simms brought him on permanently.

Simms remains the CEO, focused on external factors such as: developing strategy, positioning and sales. His president is focused on internal processes like delivery, operations and creative. He says they collaborate very well together and having clear, defined roles helps the team understand the individual roles.

The Main Roles of an Agency CEO

CEO Simms says his role as CEO is threefold:

  1. Set the strategic vision for the agency. Also, communicate the vision, goals and values to the team.
  2. Provide resources to execute the vision. This includes providing the necessary leadership, skills sets and tools to get the job done.
  3. Understand agency financials. Provide a stable business environment by understanding where they’re at and where they’re headed financially, as well as identify potential obstacles in achieving financial goals.

I couldn’t agree more! In fact, I’ve found there are actually just 5 roles for an agency owner to transition into an agency CEO.

Simms’ final piece of advice for all agency owners is to know what you don’t know. He says it’s important to have some sort of trusted advisor to help you make decisions and get your agency to the next level. Whether it’s a Board of Directors, business coach, or mastermind group he stresses that every agency owner needs help knowing how to get where they’re going. And, if you need help, I might know a guy 🙂

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