There is a shock almost palpable when a smaller agency has a ‘big fish’ on its roster, but there are numerous reasons why larger brands are putting their faith in micro-teams to deliver their briefs and while the ‘craft’ market continues its lofty reign across all design realms, it makes sense that using the power of introspection, we consider the advantages of being pint sized pines in a cork forest.
If you think that you are too small to make a difference
Try sleeping with a mosquito in the room
– Dalai Lama
A Touch Most Personal
As Millennials continue to dominate the global workforce, their generational traits become all the more apparent, specifically with reference to wanting to be treated as individuals. Arguably though, this has less to do with demographics as it does humankind, since, who doesn’t like to feel special? This ‘personal touch’ is truly a positive point of difference when stood toe to toe with the big boys.
Any small business will vouch for the immeasurable merits of retaining regular contact with clients on both a personal and professional level, as it is likely many of them have travelled a journey with you since the beginning, becoming more like family than clients, and with whom you share almost a unified sense of pride and unspoken understanding of the mutual benefits of the relationship you have.
‘Treat your client’s like family, and your family like client’s’
By surrounding yourself with people who share a sense of being on such a journey, you start to build a family, and brick by brick, person by person you foster yourself a strong clan, unified by a common goal and an ‘all for one, and one for all’ attitude that is invaluable.
Perfect people are often overlooked for job roles because their paper credentials may not cut the mustard in the eyes of big HR departments drowning in CV’s. Where larger conglomerates are often stifled by red tape and pro forma, their baby brothers in arms can be less formulaic in their recruitment process, uncovering the potential in people. In a small team, every employee is joining a family, and the fit within that unit is as important as the job role itself.
If you build it, they will come
So, you’ve assembled a team fortified with a Three Musketeers mind-set and just a touch of little man syndrome and underdog mentality – the smaller design agency is a force to be reckoned with, in a game which is fiercely competitive, those taking part leap into it with the sole purpose and unwavering dedication to raising the bar in terms of both work standards and client expectations of the power of truly great graphic design.
‘You play by your own rules, are motivated by personal aspirations (rather than competitor weakness) and see the landscape of achievement as infinite’.
Knowledge is Power
‘Small business owners are experts in their industries. They sacrificed time, money, and more to build businesses out of their passions’.
Access to expert knowledge is without doubt a tick in the pro’s column for the bantam weights in the ring who exhibit a refreshing enthusiasm and eagerness to succeed – these are the folks with nothing to hide behind, the ones building reputations are all the more aware that you are only ever as good as your last job.
Petite playboys though will likely admit to evaluating the risks associated with growing a reputation more often than they’re comfortable with, but this is no bad thing. The fluid suspension of this in the minds of small business owners ensures that drive is constant and affords them the inclination to try things that their big city comrades may not. Often dictated by bureaucracy, big businesses are less able to change direction or react to circumstance in quite such an agile way vs. the smaller, perhaps more streamlined environment where administrative processes will never curtail creativity.
Opportunity for creatives to be creative
If design is about solving problems, the first challenge is to find out what problem needs solving. This is not always the one considered by the client but could be a detail in the research.
Any big agency tends to have a layer of strategists who build the brief, while others send out an army of account execs to manage clients, processes and projects, however this can lead to funnelling within a project to satisfy the clients demand and schedule, before the problem has been demystified, or ideas have had the opportunity to be explored, resulting in potential ‘moments of magic’ being snuffed out before they have even had a chance to be brought to life.
“Creatives typically account for “less than half” of agency resources”. Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer at P&G issued a call for agencies to “strip away anything that doesn’t add to creative output”. “I’d like creatives to account for three-quarters of agencies’ resources”.
The need to employ creatives when taking a brief, seeing through the strategy and then delivering the design concepts at the boardroom is paramount in both understanding the needs of the project and building rapport with clients, instilling the trust vital when an idea demands that steps are taken out of the proverbial comfort zone. The role of the account manager therefore creates continuity and structure to a project when the ideas begin to flow, whilst allowing the creatives unlock the problem.
Still Not Convinced…
We get it – why take our word for it.
When we started work on this post, we sent an email to our team of four designers, simply asking them to consider what they feel are the benefits of working for a smaller creative agency. Excerpts of what they replied are featured below.
“It’s more personable. A tight knit team have a better understanding of each other (and their clients). In larger outfits the only person who would really know the client would be the account manager – creating a disconnect”. – Mike, Creative Lead
“One of the biggest benefits of working in a smaller agency is that you are involved in all projects that run through the studio – as opposde to working on just a few clients a larger agency might have. This is great for keeping designers fresh and motivated for each project”. – Ben, Senior Designer
“You have a voice! You’re not just a cog in a machine, you’re a bigger part of the machine. You have a much greater sense of being part of a team and you’re engaged in all of the projects whether directly involved or not”. – Angus, Lead Illustrator
“You work on a range of projects, so no two days are ever the same. Its also great that feedback comes from a wide range of designers with a varied range of experiences and skills”. – Ottilie, Graphic Designer
While there may be no ‘I’ in team, there is in win. These words uttered by Michael Jordan during his Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech will resonate for eternity.
What he meant by them was simply that you win by any means necessary – it takes both team effort and individual skill combined to create a winning formula – this, and a Michael Jordan-esque tenacity is engrained in our team at CellarDoor Bulls.
Take it Away Al
So, whether your attitude is still one of bigger is better, or perhaps you feel that the best things really do come in small packages, there is no doubt that Al Pacino sums all of this up better than anyone else ever could, so without further ado.
“No matter how good you are, don’t ever let them see you coming. That’s the gaffe, my friend. You gotta keep yourself small. Innocuous. Be the little guy. You know, the nerd, the leper, shit-kicking surfer. Look at me. Underestimated from day one. You’d never think I was a master of the universe, now would you?”
– Al Pacino as John Milton in The Devil’s Advocate 1997