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Managing a profitable agency in 2024: the keys to mastering time management

Often overlooked, swept under the rug, or even ignored, mastering the time spent on projects is key to your agency’s profitability, growth, and success.

Many management teams are aware of this, yet too few take the step of implementing an effective strategy for precise rather than ad hoc management.

85% of your profitability depends on time management: the figure is strong.

We know that the stakes behind implementing processes for tracking time spent are significant.

  • First is cultural resistance, because no one wants to feel monitored, spied on, or considered as a mere “workforce” without soul or intelligence.

This is likely the first feeling employees had when they were told they would now have to log their time.

However, it will be necessary to sensitize them in the right way, as they are the primary force that will enable you to achieve sustainable and controlled profitability.

By logging time, no more long days where they accept a client’s request at 5 PM on a Thursday at any cost.

Satisfying the client, yes, but not at the expense of profitability.

Raising awareness of each person’s strengths and weaknesses by analyzing the time spent can also be a convincing argument for further training if needed.

Additionally, having real-time access to each team member’s schedules, absences, and tasks allows everyone to move forward calmly without constantly needing to coordinate.

  • The second barrier to overcome is the perennial emotional aspect. Keeping a client you’ve had for several months (who always asks for project extensions without paying) whom you can’t say no to, or choosing to go for a big advertiser’s RFP (spending 80% of the project budget in pre-sales, sound familiar?).

All this can be measured concretely, and yes, it must be. You need to become aware of and precisely locate your time and expenditure loss points to grow and emerge stronger in terms of profitability.

  • The ultimate stronghold to overcome for effective time measurement processes is capturing the right metrics.

Each team measures in its own way, without finding a recipe that satisfies everyone’s taste for a long time with the right perspective. Putting an end to the multiplication of tools that you only use 10 or 20% of their potential while paying for useless licenses is possible!

Does it seem complicated? Here are the keys to mastering time management in 4 key points to oversee.

Measure profitability live: Is your agency making money?

Remember: 85% of your agency’s profitability is directly linked to the financial performance of each project.

The importance of this reality? Absolute. Every minute invested, every resource used must be optimized. Having an instant and transparent view of profitability gives you the power to react agilely, adjusting your strategies on the spot.

Excel, Google Sheets. In its early days (or maybe even today?), your agency surely used them.

It’s practical and easy to fill out… but not necessarily practical when the team grows from 5 to 10 in a year or from 30 to 70 employees in 6 months.

You quickly feel overwhelmed trying to aggregate data and manage essential metrics for each of your projects.

When your teams start a project, the idea is simple: the input must be simplified – the essential is to save time.

Do you have rate grids? Do you create quotes?

What if it were possible to transform them directly into sold time once the quote is validated – assignable to the schedule?

This would be perfect for saving everyone’s time.

This functionality exists in specialized project management tools for agencies.

Once the projects are created, you must control the allocated forces, your most precious resource: your employees’ time.

In a few words: project metrics control in 1 click, progress management, automatic billing, and the ability to evaluate the quality of deliverables (both client satisfaction and employee satisfaction – talent retention is a must!).

The equation is ultimately simple: to know where you currently stand on each of your projects – in other words, if you are making money or not on each of them, you must control their specific indicators: progress, planned workload, and billed.

But also, have the ability to check in real-time if you are selling at a loss or a gain at the very moment the quote is generated.

Based on this, you can either renegotiate with your client if you are at a loss – referring to concrete, planned, referenced, and visible data, or activate client billing at the right moment to best manage your cash flow – not just at due dates but in progress (which will completely or partly change your capacity to anticipate your cash needs with ease).

Introducing a custom management solution can change not just your employees’ lives, but also your capacity to anticipate your cash needs and control your cut-offs in 2 clicks.

"Thanks to Furious, we transformed our project management. We moved from ad hoc management to a proactive strategy that allowed us to save 5 hours per week, improve our staffing, and optimize our profitability. It's a complete game-changer for Pop For You."
caroline vignand agence pop for you
Caroline Vignand-Olivier
Managing Director - Pop For You Agency - Humanskills Group

Pop For You, a creative agency of the Humanskills Group – with over 400 employees across various skills, not only introduced a suitable business tool to manage its time but also aimed to simplify daily operations, including greater clarity on essential metrics for effective management.

The first step to running a profitable agency is underway: you have mastered the subtleties to introduce precise, concise, and effective tools and processes.

Refine your sold time ratio: billable services for profitability are essential!

Wanting to grow too much can lead to getting lost in formalities. And if this mantra with an easy rhyme were ultimately true?

By not counting them, we end up losing track and productivity.

When your agency’s non-billable operations – marketing, accounting, back office – take up too much space and time, your profitability inevitably suffers.

A target of 70 to 80% billable time is the right ratio to ensure sustained profitability for your agency.

A vital indicator of your agency’s financial health, you must be able to measure correctly the time spent billing and its opposite.

If we rewind and apply the perfect profitability recipe to the billable/non-billable time ratio, we could easily draw a tasty menu by skillfully balancing the following two scenarios:

  • Your utilization rate is below the 70% threshold: your agency is facing an overload of non-billable tasks.

You will then need to rebalance the spices and forces in presence either to sell more and fully occupy your production teams or reduce the internal project/internal staffing load that undermines your structure’s overall capacity to seek more billable potential.

  • Your utilization rate is well above 80%.

This may be a sign of controlled profitability but could also signal poor traceability of non-billable investments or under-investment in your agency’s growth (central functions, pre-sales). This scenario may also mean you are not selling your services at a high enough price.

The delicate balance is far from as simple as tasting the gratin dauphinois cooked by your daughter (or grandmother) and adjusting the salt or pepper. It certainly requires having some key resources and metrics at your disposal.

First, regarding your talents: are you sure they spend their time on high-value tasks for your structure? Does your best Art Director spend most of their time on billable projects? Are your developers more occupied with support (non-billable) rather than developing sites or features?

Then, can you clearly distinguish how much time each team and each business unit spends on pre-sales, internal marketing, and proper billing management? This will greatly help you see more clearly, and identify areas of efficiency, and potential waste.

The holy grail is to have a simple and real-time analysis summarizing the state of your billable vs. non-billable services. You will identify problem points to adjust them better afterward.

A Furious tip/experience regarding billable time: do not hesitate to measure them by skill type.

Knowing the billable potential by job category is essential.

  • We met an agency of about sixty employees that included 6 developers on the team.
  • Their billable sold time ratio was too low to ensure long-term profitability.
  • By analyzing the billable time targets per employee, we realized that the developers, although in operational roles, were only billed at 80% of their time on projects and spent the rest of their time on support.
  • The leverage point was quickly found: hire an additional employee for 100% support and reassign 100% billable potential to the 5 developers. A cumulative billable potential gain of +100%, more potential projects to handle, and more profitability.

Similarly, when the billable potential threshold of your project managers is at 50%, ask yourself questions… Are you selling enough? They should be at 80% or even 100% billable potential.

The essential communion between production and the commercial force

After mastering the spicy balance of billable services, mastering the staffing rate will be a formality if you are well-equipped!

We always come back to the basics, the perennial refrain of time logging plays a key role here, but measuring your staffing rate to keep your teams constantly busy or boosting the sales force also plays in the big leagues when it comes to profitability mastery.

To avoid slipping on a marble and falling into a lack of anticipation regarding team occupancy and the full use of everyone’s time, your slate should include several simple checkpoints.

It goes without saying, but it is good to remember: having a commercial pipeline synchronized with the entire agency’s schedule is essential.

Production capacities and potential needs for follow-up/commercial prospecting will be more visible.

Anticipate staffing, yes, with visibility, it’s better.

Because hiring internal employees costs money, and hiring without being able to staff at 100% costs much more.

Being able to forecast based on your commercial pipeline and upcoming projects whether you will turn to external skills or internal resources changes everything in managing your profitability.

Ultimately, the key for your agency is to have perfect harmony between the sales force, production capacity, and staffing.

Successful synchronization ensures not only the satisfaction of your clients – you meet project deadlines on time and can even engage in in-house business according to identified needs – but also optimizes the use of your resources – everyone is maximally occupied, and you can launch an external business if necessary, as well as concomitant recruitments – thus directly contributing to your profitability growth.

When sustainable profitability makes perfect sense: mastering your cash flow management

Controlling working capital is like the lighthouse of Brest for freight ships – without its light, you risk crashing your cargo on the rocks or never managing to make a profit – regardless of the pilot’s and his seconds’ exceptional skills -.

Swept away by the tropical storm eye of urgent projects at each rentrée or projects to close before the summer holidays, many agencies have visibility of only 1 to 2 weeks on their future planning – for lack of time to anticipate.

This becomes a problem when we all know that the heart of the reactor, the one that gives us the ability to be agile and invest, is each entity’s capacity to finance projects, reinvest, or simply keep the current structure running without fears about the financial future.

Anticipating the flows of your working capital is therefore the last keystone, the ultimate mastery to trigger to move towards sustainable profitability.

To unlock the three-masted ship’s cabin door, you will have to sail through several subtleties, avoid the siren’s pitfall of false analysis, and manage your crew with a firm hand.

If we dock and return to land to pass this last step and best anticipate your cash flow, you must be able to predict and adjust production (forecast your production capacity, adjust it in real-time), maintain commercial reactivity (we mentioned it previously, the balance with staffing rates must be constantly mastered), forecast and analyze (with the help of intelligent and predictive tools that will alert you at the right moments to adjust the course – on your gross margin to be adjusted, for example, or on accumulated FNPs…).

To ensure precise financial monitoring, aggregating all the company’s data on a single platform – not just financial data – ensures close-to-reality monitoring and therefore simple and smooth working capital management.

"Adopting Furious at ODW was a strategic decision allowing us to manage our working capital with unprecedented precision. It transformed uncertainties into clear opportunities, propelling our company towards sustainable success."
Alexandre Vernier
Founder - ODW Agency

Assessing the strengths and weaknesses present in your structure, mastering the balance of billable/non-billable services, and the equilibrium between commercial force and production, all serve the good health of your cash flow, and the life of your agency.

Once everything is well-tied, your profitability can only continuously develop, and the teams will be more serene in managing projects.

We’ve talked about it a lot: the importance of having an adapted business tool is in this context more than essential.

Furious: a true co-pilot for managers choosing profitability

You have navigated through troubled waters and piloted the best planes in the world to finally choose sustainable profitability.

We, at Furious, offer you this comfort.

A true autopilot for the largest French-speaking agencies (Groupe Ceetadel, Adveris, HulaHoop, Rébellion, La Haute Société…), we turn time management into a powerful ally, allowing you to boost your margins.

Concretely, with Furious, you can:

  • Automate: Everything – or almost. From converting a signed quote into scheduled time to automatic invoice reminders. Say goodbye to repetitive tasks.
  • Visualize in real-time: Access key management information of your agency always up-to-date in a few clicks.
  • Configure your custom views: Over 200 business widgets are configured to help you manage your agency with ease.
  • Easily manage your projects: An intuitive interface for all your employees, managed in “single” or “multi-agency” mode, the possibilities are numerous and endless!

Are you sure you’re selling each project at a profit if you include pre-sales?

Are you properly staffed to meet incoming demand profitably?

Are you selling well enough to grow?

If there is any doubt about any of these questions, do not hesitate to discover all the Furious features of our all-in-one ERP.

Furious is already adopted by thousands of clients – service companies (agencies, ESNs, consulting firms, engineering companies, SMEs…) – replacing an average of 7 tools (CRM, project management, invoicing, HR management…) and saving an average of 20% back-office management time!

Captain ready for takeoff? Request your demo and test Furious for free now!

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