... Was having a real 'reason for being' for the business, right from the start. What was frustrating us and the marketing directors we knew was that they couldn't justify their spends to the board. They had no means of rationalising why because last year they spent £3m they should get £3m or whatever this year. So our reason for starting this business was to be able to demonstrate the value achieved through marketing by providing return-on-investment models.
This differentiated us from our competitors. No other agency at the time claimed that they were able to define key performance indicators in advance of a campaign and then measure against them. We created bespoke tools that enabled us to do that. And these were owned by us, unique to us.
Another good decision was having external advisers. We had a couple of non-execs who we appointed immediately - one a lawyer and the other sales-focused. One of the most critical things they told us at the start was to focus on blue-chips that have budgets and will pay you on time.
OUR WORST ...
We'd created our own bespoke system for how to charge clients and how employees should account for their time, but neither connected. Now we have an agency management system that automatically integrates time and cost. This means that we can pull out information that helps us develop the business - for instance, productivity levels and whether we're charging clients correctly for time we spend on them. But we were late in introducing it. If we'd implemented it earlier, we would probably have made better decisions.
Six months on, we're seeing the benefits of that management information coming through - we're much more efficient. We didn't know who our most profitable client was, and that's such fundamental information to have.
We're still not there yet, because if you identify that a client is hugely unprofitable, you can't just suddenly charge double. They won't pay more and we just have to be more efficient. It's about understanding that and making the right decisions.