Building a Better Agency by Building Stronger Teams

by Andrew Miller   |   Mar 27, 2019   |   Clock Icon 5 min read
Workshop Digital team member working at stand up desk

The last few months have been exciting and full of positive change at Workshop Digital. We closed out our best quarter to date, and that compels us to grow our teams in anticipation of even more success.

We don’t often blog about our internal operations, but I’m proud of our teams and want to share an inside look at a recent growth opportunity—and how we expect it will help us continue to fulfill our purpose “to build a better agency.”

In addition to hiring three new team members in January, and another in March, we promoted two of our more senior analysts to a newly created team lead position. I’ll explain what that means in a moment, but first it’s helpful to understand why we felt this was the right time to add another layer of management to a relatively small company.

Challenge #1: Anticipating future constraints in our growth plans

Adding more management to a small company is a slippery slope. If done poorly, or at an inopportune time (too early or too late), more layers can create unnecessary complexity in communications and performance management. This can slow down a company that prides itself on remaining nimble to handle a wide variety of clients and projects.

Moving too late can create other issues. If managers are spread too thin, there’s simply not enough time to effectively develop team members, set proper expectations, and support professional growth. Ambitious team members (SEO and PPC analysts in our case) are left without clear direction and lack the feedback they crave to continue growing. This can, and has, led to the departure of more experienced team members that want to grow, but can’t see the path before them.

Our current teams are nearly maxing out our managers’ ability to provide guidance, mentorship, and quality one-on-one time while still being empowered to be awesome at work and life (another Workshop Digital core value). This is not anybody’s fault, but it’s a reality of expanding teams. And we have started to see minute cracks in the foundation that could lead to larger fissures if not addressed proactively.

By dividing our management responsibilities among managers and the new team leads, we are creating a pressure relief valve for our managers so they can continue to provide high quality coaching and performance management as we expand.

Challenge #2: Great managers don’t grow on trees

Growing companies grow faster and more sustainably with guidance from experienced managers. It behooves us to build a deeper bench of future managers that can step into new roles when they become available. The more we can promote from within, the better it will be for maintaining our awesome culture.

None of us are born with the innate ability to manage a team. Management is a skill that can be taught, but it takes years to master. Great managers are also incredibly hard to find and usually have to be retrained on our management framework once they arrive. This can translate to several months (or quarters...gasp!) of lost opportunity when a management role goes unfilled.

Team leads help us build a better agency

Our solution to these challenges is to create a new position called team lead. An ideal candidate possesses superb technical skills, strong client relations abilities, and the desire and capacity to grow into a management role.

The team lead role is a vital one in the day-to-day workings of Workshop Digital. The role goes beyond analyst; team leads are also managers, mentors, and troubleshooters for our SEO and PPC teams. They assist in building and maintaining strong client relationships across their teams.

If it sounds like a big challenge—it is! This is where hiring “lifelong learners” comes in handy.

Our teams are stacked with ambitious, adaptable, capable, and eager people. In the long run, this our biggest competitive advantage and growth driver.

Our newest team leads

I am proud to announce the promotion of Morgan Jarvis (PPC) and Jack Boland (SEO) as our first team leads. They are embarking on a journey that will take several years: beginning as technical experts in their respective fields and evolving into great managers of people.

If we do this correctly, it’s a classic “win-win-win”:

  • Our analysts get better and more frequent communication about expectations and support in their professional growth
  • Our team leads take a large step forward in their own professional development and contributions to Workshop Digital’s growth
  • Our clients get even more interaction points with our team and support for developing long-term, forward-looking strategies to grow their businesses

I, along with our entire management and leadership team, have a high degree of excitement and trust that our growth is going to remain strong and sustainable with Morgan, Jack, and all future team leads helping us illuminate the path to building a better agency.

Portrait of Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller

Andrew is a data-driven marketer, speaker, and problem solver. He co-founded Workshop Digital in 2015 and as the VP of Client Services, he ensures our teams of passionate people have what they need to help our clients achieve their goals. Andrew regularly speaks to marketing and professional audiences with an authentic, passionate message to raise their collective marketing intelligence.

Andrew collects hobbies and devotes his time to his family, competing in triathlons, amateur gardening, and mentoring Richmond youth as a member of the Junior Achievement of Central Virginia board of directors.