Rob Sandbach Managing Director 7 min read Real Dedicated Teams Dedicate teams are essential to providing true collaboration on projects. If teams don’t know each other they cannot develop trust and therefore work effectively but how dedicated are the teams provided to you?Is your agency’s team truly dedicated to mutual success? It’s one of the conundrums of switching to an agency partner as a tech business. The people you employ “get it”. They know what your business is all about and they know your processes. They’re immersed in your space and some of them have worked together for years. Surely using your own developers and your own processes are going to get you the best possible results when you’re looking to make an app, right? Well, probably not. And you know, or at least suspect, it to be true or you wouldn’t be here. Maybe this isn’t your first time attempting to design and build an app and you’ve realised your team doesn’t have the right skillset and you’ve dealt with these issues on your previous projects. It could be that you’re just dipping your toe into the app space having never tried and are worried about how your development team will be able to work in this new arena. In either case you need an agency partner; that much is clear. The problem with the agency model But what about the things you’re losing by not using your inhouse team? Agencies are notorious for their high staff turnover or “churn” rate. While working with an agency you may not be building up a stronger, more knowledgeable partnership as you’d hope. You might in fact be watching a revolving door of account managers, project leads and developers. That’s why we think the most important question to ask any agency is their staff turnover rate. It tells you everything you need to know about how they treat their team and how much they value long term thinking for their clients. Why is that? Agencies like to band people into groups. You’re receiving 10 hours of “senior developer” time. Who is this mysterious senior developer? The truth is he could be anyone. A faceless commodity substituted in to deliver cookie cutter work for whichever project is scheduled for that day. The worker might not even be an employee of the agency. No, really, often agencies will bring in contractors to deliver pieces of work who have never been involved at any other stage in the process. This not only undervalues the agency’s own employees and makes it impossible for them to form relationships with your team but also contradicts the agency’s supposed focus on long-term partnership by suggesting that anyone can deliver any work required. The fact of the matter is that somebody who is intimately involved in a project and with a client from day one will have a greater understanding of the requirements and value that can be added to the project. So why has the agency model focused on job titles and not individuals? It’s simple; in most agencies a combination of commercial model and aforementioned staff “churn” means that it is impossible to provide the same people to the same client on a consistent basis. Chasing cars Within the financial model of most agencies the new project is king because new projects are the lifeblood of the agency. The best staff are put on new projects, not long term engagements, because that’s the only way the agency can survive. A lot of agencies have the issue that as soon as a project is finished (or sometimes even sold!) their sales team needs to go back out into the wild to chase a new project the way a dog might chase a car. In the standard agency model it’s the new project which pays the bills; not the ongoing success of a project. This is a clear misalignment of goals between both partners. In fact, this is such a misalignment that this is no partnership. This is a client/supplier relationship. Your agency has reduced themselves from helping to lead you through the crowded and complicated app space to essentially giving you developers for an hourly rate. An hourly rate that’s significantly higher than you’d be paying for just getting your own contractors in or outsourcing the work to India or Eastern Europe. By building an agency based on real long term partnerships, shared returns over time and other innovative pricing models we don’t have that problem. We believe a true partnership starts by having skin in the game. Our pricing models are based around being paid for success; not just delivering work on time to a spec – Surely that’s the bare minimum you should expect! It’s about the people The other side of this problem is a lack of employee satisfaction. The average staff turnover in a digital agency is 30%. Let that sink in. Almost a third of the team working for you will leave every year. We build dedicated teams to serve our clients so they know who they are working with and, perhaps more importantly, our team knows yours’ as well. Oh, and that staff “churn” rate? Less than 1%. In fact we’ve lost only one employee in almost 10 years of business. But how do we manage it in an industry notorious for its staff turnover? Our recruiting model focuses on talented, young individuals and a strong apprenticeship scheme; not on hiring rockstars. We’re all about providing young and talented designers, developers and managers the opportunity to learn their craft. We provide a structured yet flexible working environment with home and flexible working built into right into the core of the business. By providing generous, per-employee training budgets to be spent on levelling up their own knowledge we put self improvement and growth at the core of everything we do. We believe the relationships and knowledge base that forms as a result of these longer term engagements is as valuable as it is rare. Some of our clients have worked with the same developers and managers for several years and are always impressed by the fact our team just “gets it”. Whether “it” is their business, their market or just the project our team is working on; that is what a consistent team can bring to the table.