This past week, the AgencyAnalytics marketing team hosted a webinar on the topic of why agencies should consider staying remote. As more and more offices start reopening, this question is relevant to agencies and businesses of all sizes.
To discuss this topic, the team interviewed Jordan Snider, the CTO of the full-service agency Token Creative Services. In this article, I’ll review a few of the key concepts discussed in the webinar, including:
If you want to watch the full webinar, you can find it below:
Should You Stay Remote?
With the gradual rollout of vaccines and businesses starting to reopen, this is a common question that many agencies are facing: should you return to the office or stay remote on a full-time basis?
There’s no question that there are pros and cons to each option, although in this webinar we took the position of why staying remote may be a competitive advantage for many agencies.
If you do choose to keep your agency remote going, we’re also going to discuss a few best practices for optimizing the business, supporting your team, and continuing to scale in the most efficient way possible.
Advantages of Running a Remote Agency
As mentioned, Jordan is the CTO and co-founder of Token Creative Services, and likes to call their business an “impact agency”—meaning they like to focus their work on businesses that are making a positive environmental or social impact. Their team currently has 20+ team members ranging from animators, designers, developers, advertisers, and so on.
For context, their agency is 7 years old and has always worked at-least partially remotely so they have seen the pros and cons of running a remote agency first-hand.
Pre-pandemic, Jordan notes how working remotely was quite a rare thing for businesses and many of their employees have always appreciated the flexibility it offers. That said, not being able to meet up in person over the past year as a creative agency hasn’t been without its challenges.
A lot of their work as a creative agency is spent in team meetings, reviewing mockups, brand messaging, and strategizing.
Even though they were partially remote, the agency did have an office that helped bring together people's creativity. Also, having the option to bring clients into the office was a big advantage at the time. Since going 100% remote for the past year, Jordan notes how:
Even though many people want to work remotely, there’s always going to be an element of wanting to have some form of human interaction.
How Has Being Remote Benefited the Agency?
In this section of the webinar, we asked Jordan how he has managed to still enable their team’s creativity while being 100% remote over the past year.
As the CTO, Jordan is always looking for new technology that can help support the team. Inevitably, some more non-technical employees used to struggle with using things like project management tools, digitizing handwritten notes, and so on. Now that we’re a year into being fully remote, however, their team has gotten significantly better at using technology and tools to work efficiently online.
By being forced to go 100% remote they saw better adoption of organizational tools, better online communication, more documentation, and so on. As a business owner, seeing your technology stack and tools being used to their full capacity has been quite a major advantage for the agency.
In terms of supporting their team throughout the past year and as working from home got tiresome for some people, it often came back to provide better tools and resources.
Being in a fully remote environment helped us refine our ability to be creative virtually.
Coming out of the past year, this has helped their agency see a lot of positive change as a result of this.
Tips for Agency Owners to Overcome Remote Challenges
Below are several questions that we posed to Jordan in order to overcome the challenges of working remotely.
If agencies are struggling with working remotely, for example, helping their team be more comfortable working remotely, what are a few tips you can offer agency owners?
In response to this question, Jordan suggests that agency owners should lead by example.
Anytime you go into a new business environment, every company has its own way of doing things—for example, different project management, chat tools, and so on. That said, many new employees that may not be technical may have never used these tools and don’t even know what’s possible with them.
To solve this challenge, agency owners should consider using an employee onboarding process that shows them how to use each tool and what the value is to them.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to when you started the agency, what advice would you give yourself?
In choosing how to manage a team, whether remote or otherwise, do your research initially and then be confident with your decision.
A lot of us working in the digital space can be confident using all the tools available to us to help build and manage a team. That said, bring the right people on that will also be confident using these remote work tools.
At the end of the day, the tools you pick are one of your greatest strengths. Going with a cheap or free tool may have more of a cost than you think.
Any final advice for people trying to decide if they should go back to the office or stay remote?
For Jordan and his agency, being remote has been a blessing. That being said, regardless if you’re remote or not, people want to feel a human connection—people want to feel like they’re a part of something,
I would encourage all business owners to spend some time and invest in social culture with your team, especially outside of regular working hours. Help the team de-stress and bring them together.
Jordan suggests game nights or virtual lunches and says that has been the single most impactful thing they’ve done for their company.
Benefits of Remote Work for Employers & Employees
At this point in the webinar, our Product Marketing Manager Alex took over and provided several insights that we use at AgencyAnalytics to build and manage a remote team.
In terms of the benefits of working remotely for employers, below are several statistics if employees work from home for even half the week:
Saves an average of $11,000/year per employee
Increase in productivity by 15%
Decreases absenteeism by 15%
Saves 25% on office costs
In terms of the benefits for employees, working from home provides the following advantages:
Finally, working from home provides the following benefits to the environment each year:
Uses ~100,000 fewer gallons of gas by not commuting to work in vehicles
~2,000,000 fewer miles traveled by vehicles, which saves on environmental costs
Now that we’ve reviewed the benefits or remote work for employers and employees, let’s briefly discuss how we manage our team at AgencyAnalytics.
How We Work Remotely at AgencyAnalytics
The first key to success is by ensuring frequent communication with the help of online tools, including:
ClickUp for project management and process documentation
Slack channels for the entire team, individual channels for each department, and direct chat
Zoom for all of our meetings—although we are acutely aware that Zoom fatigue is real and try to keep our meetings spaced out throughout the day/week
In terms of data analytics and organization, we use the following tools:
As Jordan mentioned earlier, building culture is key to managing a remote team, which we do internally in a few different ways:
We have a Happy Hour Zoom call every Friday where we play games, celebrate holidays, and so on
We try to have in-person meetups in Toronto, of course, not for the past year but these will resume when possible again
We offer frequent promotions, profit sharing, and each month an employee is recognized with an employee of the month award
With the time invested in building the team's culture, it also helps new employees fit into the company much more seamlessly.
How to Effectively Manage and Grow a Remote Team
Now that we’ve discussed how we manage a remote team, let’s focus on how agencies can effectively manage and grow a remote team.
One key metric that agencies can use to improve their efficiency is by tracking and analyzing their agency utilization rate:
Agency utilization rate refers to the amount of time an employee spends focused on client-facing projects vs. their total contracted working hours. This metric gives you an overview of the time spent on tasks that actually earn you money.
A successful agency will typically have a utilization rate between 85 to 90%.
There are a few reasons you don’t want utilization to be too high including employee burnout, rushing work, and not having enough time for administrative tasks. Conversely, a utilization rate that’s too low means employees may have too much free time and the potential for more client-facing tasks.
To be clear, however, monitoring your agency utilization rate is not about being “big brother” and over-tracking your employees. Instead, this is about improving agency efficiency rather than employee monitoring. For example, time tracking tools can help you understand which work or clients may need to be prioritized going forward and how you can optimize your schedule.
Below you can see an example of an AgencyAnalytics dashboard that uses our Google Sheets integration for tracking agency utilization rates:
As you can see, this dashboard provides a quick way to see how the team as a whole is optimized for client-facing tasks.
Summary: Building a Remote Agency
In summary, this webinar discussed the benefits of keeping your agency remote and presented information in favor of staying remote, so agency owners can determine if going that route is right for them.
One key takeaway from Jordan and our personal experience at AgencyAnalytics is that spending time on culture-building activities such as happy hours, meetups, and employee recognition is one of the best investments you can make in terms of building and managing a remote team.