How creative agencies can survive Brexit

Matt Davies | 23 June 2016 | 4 min read
@mattpauldavies

Agency Core CEO, Matthew Davies

How creative agencies can survive Brexit

Well here we are, Britain is leaving the EU. In many ways this is a sad day, perhaps even if you voted to leave. I believe many people in the UK don’t wish to be seen to be shutting the door on European friends and allies. However as an entrepreneur I have to believe that risk can lead to greater reward; there is always massive potential for our country no matter what the future holds.

An interesting question for us at Agency Core and all of our agency friends is: what does this mean for the approximately 20,000 agencies in the UK?

The creative industry is one of Britain’s greatest exports, the sector as a whole is worth more than £70bn (Creative Industries Economic Estimates, 2014) and one in 12 people work in creative service businesses.

I want to say up front that I’m not an economist; however I am a startup founder and as such I’m closely acquainted with risk and uncertainty! Here are my thoughts on how agencies can survive (and maybe even thrive) in a post-EU Britain.

Speak to your clients

Whenever the environment around us changes I think it’s often too easy to look introspectively, many of your clients may be feeling uneasy, and budgets could be tight. Now is the time for you to reach out. Call your customers, meet them face to face and talk about their concerns; you are perfectly positioned to help them overcome challenges.

Many of your clients will have customers and suppliers in Europe and indeed the rest of the world. They need a plan, and you can help them create one. How are your clients going to deal with leaving the EU? Who do they need to communicate to? What is their strategy? What marketing is required to help their business succeed? Lots of questions you can help them answer.

There is a lot of potential for you to win new work, to collaborate with clients and ensure growth, despite a potentially volatile marketplace. We all have a choice in how we react to any situation presented to us. We can move forward with hope, seeking new opportunities or we can be fearful and falter. What are you going to do?

Consider where you outsource

Do you have a ‘hub and spoke’ style business or do you currently outsource work at peak times? As the pound takes a tumble, it could be more expensive for you to use talent from outside of the UK than it has been in the past. While this is unlikely to be permanent, in the short term, do you need to consider other choices? Is there talent you could use in the UK instead?

I think this is something that simply needs to be monitored over the next few months, things will inevitably settle down, in the meantime, we need to remain agile, flexible and open minded.

And while the UK’s buying power might be temporarily diminished there is a flip slide to a weaker pound, let’s look at that next.

Consider targeting work abroad

Many Agency Core clients provide services outside of Europe and the UK; the common trend is to look towards Asia and America. When the pound is weaker, your services are more affordable for clients outside of the UK.

While there are fears about the UK’s image within the EU, our creativity is well respected across the world. Now could be an excellent time for you to look at new markets to ply your trade. I would recommend taking a look at the Department for International Trade website and Export Britain both of which offer webinars on how to start exporting and occasionally there are trade missions to others countries which you can join. These missions put you in front of potential contacts and could lead to stellar opportunities.

What unique skills could you bring to foreign markets?

Make sure projects are profitable

In uncertain times it’s more important than ever that we have a firm handle on our businesses. We should all be measuring what we’re doing, setting ourselves targets and adjusting to the changing political, and financial, environment.

Are you clear on how profitable each of your projects are? I would strongly advise you to make sure your team is tracking their time and that you understand where your resources are being spent.

Back in February, we chatted to Peter Czapp from The Wow Company about what it takes to make an agency successful, many of the concepts discussed are even more relevant now. Check out the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAx9TSXpHVw

Stay positive

Finally it is critical that we remain calm and positive. We cannot know what the future holds; however we can decide how we react to the challenges presented to us.

We are a talented, resourceful and tenacious nation; we must look forward and do the very best we can with our future.

It’s also important to note that you are not alone. Many agencies are in the same boat as you. I would recommend joining some of the great networks that exist, talking to your colleagues and working together for everyone’s benefit. In particular, I would encourage you to look at the Agency Collective and The Drum Network.

I’ll leave you with this; our country leaving the EU is a momentous point in our history and, as Dylan sung, “the times they are a changin”. However never forget that uncertainty always brings opportunity. It is up to us to find those opportunities and make the most of them.