One of our goals for 2017 was to grow our agency, not just financially, but operationally too.
In January, Maddie Cary, our Director of Paid Search, came up with the idea of having a Shark Tank program to meet this goal. The objective was for our staff to generate ideas to improve and grow our agency with the direction that nothing was off the table.
Growing an agency doesn’t only mean increasing revenue or adding new services. Other ways include becoming more efficient, improving the culture, or streamlining operations. Maddie pitched it to our Exec team (aka The Sharks) and immediately got the green light to roll it out to her fellow “Pointers”, as we call ourselves.
On sign up day, I was astonished to see that almost everyone in the company had joined a team. Over the next couple of weeks, groups of staff huddled around the office working on their ideas. One day, an Exec suggested a new process to an employee and she responded “Hey, you can’t do that now. It’s our Shark Tank idea!”
Shark Tank presentation day was hilarious. The office was decorated with fun shark gear, and there was even a remote-control Shark balloon that “swam” above us all day. The Pointers got into the spirit of the TV show, mimicking the style of the contestants with amazing accuracy. Some even got dressed up, including one wearing a shark costume, and it was a blast. Each team got 15 minutes to present their idea and answer questions.
Agency growth ideas
There were lots of great suggestions:
- A new integrated client report system that consolidates data from our Paid Search and Programmatic Advertising services. This is a big-time saver and great for our clients.
- Create a Wiki for Digital Advertising
- Meeting free Wednesdays, to improve productivity. Imagine a day with no interruptions.
- An office makeover to free up space and incorporate more into informal meeting spots
- Multi-service training for new staff, instead of just single service training
- Implementing Chatbots to help visitors on our website
- A conference room booking system
- New Tiered Service Levels which provide more clarity to our clients and meet our profitability goals
The Sharks had a tough job choosing the finalists and that’s a great problem to have. We used the following criteria:
- Increasing Profit
- Team Building
- Efficiency Automation
- Improving/Diversifying Services
- Process Improvement
- Workplace Nirvana
The finalists had a couple of weeks to flush out their concepts some more, and then they presented to the entire company.
The winner was chosen by the employees, not by The Sharks, and the winning idea was the New Tiered Service Levels.
Of course, ideas are great, that’s the easy part. Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of further definition before launching this program.
Meantime, we’ve implemented some of the ideas that didn’t win. The integrated reporting is about ready to go and the new office makeover is an overwhelming success.
Shark Tank Works
This was a great experience for us. We had some great learnings, including:
- Shark Tank is a great way to galvanize the company.
- The teamwork and camaraderie were terrific.
- Publish the Shark’s decision criteria upfront so every team knows how they will be measured
- Recognize that there’s a lot of time and effort that goes into this, often during “off hours”. I’d like to thank everyone for the work they put in.
- Avoid combining ideas/teams. We had three teams with overlapping ideas and The Sharks decided to have them combine for the final. That was not a good idea. It made it hard for the teams and diluted the concept. We should have picked just one team.
- Do it in a short period of time to keep everyone’s interest and attention. Because of scheduling, the final was pushed out a couple of times, so we lost momentum. Next time, we’ll lock down schedules from the start.
The best part of Shark Tank was that it was inspired by an employee, it engaged the entire company, and we are going to be better off for it. I can’t wait for next year’s Shark Tank.
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