rollercoaster agencies

I explained my theory about Rollercoaster Agencies to someone in AgencyLand last week:

In any agency market (be it all-the-agencies-in-Yorkshire, all-the-cool-digital-agencies or all-the-ones-big-enough-to-handle-a-multinational-FMCG-client) there will always be one or two businesses at the top of the tree doing really well – creatively and/or financially, although the two are of course inevitably connected.  And there will also always be one or two outfits that are wobbling. But it’s rare for one agency to keep the top spot for more than a couple of years.

Whatever the level or location, as an agency head count gets beyond the tipping point (which seems to be over 150 round here) there will always be times when they have to financially speculate on future needs, like moving offices, investing in IT and HR, buying in a complimentary business like digital or research or staffing up on Planners, Heads of Client Service and the like.

But it only takes one big client loss to make an all-equipped, all-singing, all-dancing agency wobble.  And the bigger the agency, the harder work it is to stabilise that wobble.

I’ve come to this conclusion because as agencies get bigger they tend to invest in Planning (i.e. my entire employment history).  And as they hit the top of the curve and start to shrink, the redundancies start (ditto, except mostly I jumped first).  I worked out with a Planner friend the other day that I’d spent half my career expecting to get made redundant at any minute. That’s hardly an environment for breeding committed, motivated staff and probably explains why freelancing suits me better :)

So my top tip for any job hunters out there is to find a potential employer who is being cranked up the rollercoaster, not hurtling back down again.

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