Marketing agencies tend to position themselves at the cutting edge of thinking and practice, yet like particularly stubborn homing pigeons, we keep returning to an outdated working model, one that costs many businesses far more than it brings in advantages.
For small companies, the office has become obsolete. It's an overpriced drain on resources, fulfilling a function that with a little creative thinking could easily be satisfied and even surpassed at a much lower cost. That's why I ditched mine.
Full disclosure: Agent42 EMEA Ltd technically has a registered office, but its sole purpose is to satisfy the legacy perception that 'real' companies are bricks-and-mortar entities. In reality, we operate a virtual office model and are rarely 'in the office'.
When I created Agent42 I wanted to focus on doing brilliant work for exciting clients by collaborating with talented and creative people. An office wasn't even in my top ten list of needs. When I explain this to others, I tend to hear the same concerns: "How do you keep an eye on what your staff are getting up to?", or even "Where do you meet clients?" My answer is usually the same: "Why do you need an office in order to have some social contact, be creative or get on with your job?"
Like many small agencies, Agent42's business is scalable. We have a core of five multi-discipline experts and then build a bespoke team for each project based on the skills required, time frame and geography. This core team, as well as the roster of specialists, has been built through nearly ten years of professional networking. If I didn't trust that they were capable of doing a brilliant job, and grown-up enough to work without supervision, I wouldn't have hired them in the first place.
As for meeting up and sparking creativity, imagine a Harry Potteresque Room of Requirement that magically provides a perfect space for every meeting, brainstorm or heads-down, solo proposal-writing session. We use our corporate memberships at clubs such as the Soho House Group to provide interesting environments for working, networking and meetings.
Some agencies encourage staff to go out or hire external meeting spaces to help them change creative gears - this is hardwired into our business model so inspiration, professional contacts and variety are the rule, rather than the exception. This trust and flexibility, along with mobile technology and cloud-based IT, means our team can work wherever they like and bring their A-game to every client brief.
By taking this approach, we have invested far less in the nuts-and-bolts overheads of the agency and far more in delivering better value to clients, allowing us to punch well above our weight in the market.
It may not be a question that you've ever asked yourself, but I would encourage any small business to take a long, hard look at their office overheads and ask one question: "Does my office act as a boost or a barrier to my business?"
Comment below to let us know what you think.
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