In the beginning of your journey as a start-up PR agency, founders must throw themselves into establishing a name for their company and chasing new clients. Your first employees work around the clock, putting their blood, sweat and tears into those initial few years and making huge sacrifices to get your firm off the ground. Eventually, with a lot of work and a little luck, you’ll look down and realize that you’re flying—but what now?
Once you’ve established your agency, it’s time to take a step back and think about how you can make it grow. As an influx of potential clients and employee applicants come your way, use these four tips to help ease the growing pains and ensure you continue building off of the solid foundation you’ve laid:
1. Don’t take on every client that calls you.
It’s tempting to want to sign on every client that comes your way when you’re first starting out. Now that your firm is a bit more established, begin to think about client acquisition more strategically. If you know your agency can do a great job for a potential client or you’re interested in bringing on an account to challenge your team, go for it. But if a company’s market is not in your wheelhouse, it’s OK to say no. By being upfront with the fact that they are not a fit for you, potential clients avoid wasting time and money on a partnership that’s not right for either of you. Additionally, they’ll appreciate your candor and may end up referring other clients to you anyway.
2. Focus on quality over quantity.
It may be a cliché, but there is no better mantra for a growing PR agency. At first glance, it can look impressive to secure a large amount of coverage for your client, but it is much more worthwhile in the long run to focus on securing quality placements that will move the needle for their organization and expose them to the right markets. This rule is also true when it comes to employees. By taking the time to find the very best talent in the hiring process, rather than bringing on new employees just to fill seats, your firm will yield the greatest client results. Happy clients will help the agency grow by remaining loyal to your firm and referring other businesses.
3. Always be training.
When it comes to agency growth, you need to be two steps ahead when it comes to employees. Don’t wait for someone to put in their two weeks to think about who will take their place. Instead, always be training the next team before you need them. Hire one step ahead to make sure you’re training before you have the need for more team members. Also, make sure you provide your team with adequate training and development opportunities that will take them to the next level. The whole company benefits from employee growth and promotion, so never withhold the tools employees need to grow and succeed.
4. Cultivate the culture.
The more you focus on keeping your staff happy and engaged, the less turnover you’ll have. By retaining talent, your clients are happier and stay on longer. To maintain a high employee-retention rate, you must first create a culture that people want to be a part of. Cultivate a positive working environment by having an open line of communication with your employees, and invest in their health and happiness. Then, you have to look beyond the resume—yes, you want qualified people, but if those people don’t mesh with the organization’s culture, it doesn’t matter how much experience they have, because they are never going to last. Nearly every hire I’ve made in the beginning was for experience over culture, and it backfired almost every time. Now we rely on the “culture first, experience second” mantra.
As your agency continues to expand, make sure to step back and think about how the decisions you make impact the big picture. Will taking on that crowdfunding campaign put unnecessary stress on overloaded employees? Are you hiring someone quickly because they are the best fit for your culture or because you need to fill a slot? Have you allotted the time and resources necessary to invest in your staff’s growth, development and overall well-being? To sustain growth, you must ask yourself these questions constantly and never cut corners when it comes to your employees. Nourish your agency with positivity and opportunity, then stand back and watch it grow.
Catriona Harris is co-founder and partner at Uproar PR.