Why process is key to achieving peak profitability in the age of WFH

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With one in five agencies now 100% virtual, what does the so-called “new normal” mean for your agency’s bottom line? You may not be surprised to learn that productivity is one of the key benefits of the shift from in-office to remote work, and more than 80% of agencies agree.

How can agencies leverage productivity to achieve profitability? While there certainly are already profitability perks to having a remote team (hello, office-related cost savings!), are there other ways that agencies can maximize the profitability benefits of WFH (work from home)?

You betcha! The answer is process

We’re all familiar with the word process, and have likely thrown it around a few times in the workplace, but what exactly is it? According to the scholars at Harvard Business School Press, a work process, in particular, is “a specific ordering of work activities across time and place, with a beginning, an end, and clearly defined inputs and outputs: a structure for action.” 

To break that down in a less scholarly way, the work process is essentially the standard way in which things get done.

But why are processes so important? It's because when not in place, a lack of process prevents your team from being able to do exactly what they are paid to do.

And most importantly, process creates efficiency. When your team is working efficiently, it makes space for more important to-dos, which can lead to a more profitable agency for you and a team that is far from burn-out and full of bandwidth.

In this post, we’ll share just a few reasons why process is key to achieving peak profitability in the age of WFH. Let’s dig in!

No time is wasted figuring out who’s responsible for what

Have you ever gone to complete a time-consuming task, only to find out after the fact, that someone else already did it? Or wasted precious time figuring out who the right person is to go to for a particular ask? Especially with remote teams, when there’s a process in place where roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, there’s no time wasted figuring out who’s doing what, chasing down information, or having multiple people working on the same task that shouldn’t be.

 Let's say you have a new client you’ve just signed on for a project—what process do you have in place for how that new client is onboarded? What about for the team who will be working on the account? For starters, you might want to ensure the account team is selected and confirmed, hours are allocated for each team member, the client point of contact is confirmed, and the team is introduced by a senior team member on an introductory call. The onboarding process would be made clear to the team and client upfront, so there is no time wasted on either side, and the team can jump right into a project. Having a process in place ensures that the account work and results can roll in more quickly and clients will be happy and more likely to sign on or stay onboard past the project end date.

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Plus, when you know exactly who’s responsible for what, team leads can more easily determine where there may be gaps in resourcing and how to better distribute the workload—all things that are key to help you forecast your team’s bandwidth to take on more clients or not.

You know how much time your team actually spends on tasks While time tracking is the norm with most agencies, it becomes even more important for teams to keep an eye on when working remotely day in and day out. How can you ensure employee hours are balanced and staff aren’t on the brink of burnout? Time tracking—when done accurately, accounting for both billable and non-billable hours—can help with this. We mention billable and non-billable hours because it's often those pesky unbillable hours that add up. While you may not think meetings and emails are a big deal when compared to larger deliverables, this can be one of the most common ways that agencies lose revenue. 

Another sore point for hours? Overservicing. Forty-nine percent of agencies reported a profit loss of 11% due to overservicing. This is often because of inaccurately forecasting client hours, manual tasks, and inaccurate budgeting—which all come down to (you guessed it!) process. When agencies keep track of hours, this allows management to see where overservicing is a matter of processes not being efficient or as simple as a demanding client, with a larger scope of work than anticipated. At which point, it may be time to ask your client to increase the budget, and lucky you, you’ve kept track of hours to show them exactly how much your team has gone over their set hours time and time again!

If you’re saying “Heck yes!” to all of the above but don’t have a time tracking tool in place, be sure to look for a platform that has strong reporting functionality built-in. Make sure it integrates with the tools you’re already using, or better yet, consolidate your tech stack with a platform like Teamwork! If you’re not currently a Teamwork customer, be sure to check out our time tracking feature. We make it super easy to manage all of your client work in one place, including tracking all of your time and billable hours.

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Track your time and resources

Delivering projects on time and on budget for clients is paramount. Track all time spent on work for detailed breakdowns of resource usage, more accurate timeline estimates for new projects, and deeper insights into each project’s profitability.

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You can easily plan for the future

Predicting the future? Impossible. Planning ahead? It is possible when you have the right processes in place. Especially now with agencies largely remote, visibility into workflows, hours, and more is necessary more than ever before when making decisions. How can you plan for tomorrow or even a year from now, if you don’t know what your team is doing today? Successful agencies that are ready to enter their next stage of growth know what their teams are working on, where bottlenecks are, who has bandwidth, and ultimately, where they’re leaving money on the table. From a client perspective, this also includes being able to clearly see which projects and clients are bringing in the most value, too. Only then can you identify potential gaps in your resources, rejig roles while forecasting your bandwidth to take on new clients, or even tackle how to make an unprofitable account a profitable one. 

What’s next? Take a look at your tools

Knowing who’s doing what at your agency is key, but just as important, is knowing how your team is getting their work done. You could have the best hour trackers and project management tools in place, but not be using them to their full potential. Oftentimes, agencies pay for features that aren’t even being used, or if one team is using something, others may not be. 

If you're already using a project management tool, is it still helping your team work productively and efficiently? If it's time to start “shopping around” to see if another tool could work better for your agency, be sure to check our comparison page to see how a number of platforms stack up (though we’re partial to Teamwork for all of your client work needs, of course). If you have too many tools that are draining your budget or not being used to their full potential, always ask your team why you started using them in the first place. Perhaps it's finally time to say goodbye!

Either way, a central hub to keep all your team needs in one place–timesheets, project management, and invoicing is always best to keep things streamlined so no features are hidden and everyone—no matter where they work—has access.

Ready to reap the rewards of process = profitability?

Why just break even when peak profitability is right around the corner? Your team need not reinvent the wheel every day, and standardization of processes is key to avoiding that. We urge you to take a good hard look at your processes from end to end. Talk to your team, see what’s working and what isn't. This isn't a one-time job either! Agencies need to constantly reassess and identify areas for improvement. You may not think inefficiencies can really add up, but even the smallest ones may pile up over time. Set yourself up for success today by working smarter, not harder, with the right processes in place.

Want to learn how to build a more productive and profitable agency? Register for Teamwork’s very own free virtual summit, Bandwidth. Join us on June 22nd and you’ll walk away ready to take on any challenge that comes your way.

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