Our people are our best lever for growth

Saatchi & Saatchi's Larissa Vince argues that your people are your biggest competitive advantage.

Larissa Vince, MD of Saatchi & Saatchi, is clear that people are the key to growth in our industry. We talked to her in the run-up to our Business Growth Conference on 10 July.

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Both agencies and clients are operating, almost without exception, in highly competitive markets. Growth is only going to come if you are performing at your best. For agencies, that means coming up with and making creative ideas which are outstanding and which stand out, even to customers who are indifferent to a brand, or oblivious to its very existence. And the only real asset we have to get to those ideas is our people.

Our one true competitive advantage

So, talent is absolutely a business imperative in our industry. It is a differentiator between agencies. It’s easy enough to copy another organisation’s structures and products, but it’s an impossible - or at least very lengthy- process to replicate that agency’s human capital, or the culture those people create.

Clients hire agencies because they want the most exceptional minds focusing on their business problems; that’s why they come to us. That is still our biggest advantage over the management consultancies because right now, they can’t attract that talent. But as well as being our competitive advantage, our people are also our best lever for growth.

The talent challenge

If we as an industry are to continue to grow, I believe that it is paramount that we put the time and investment into attracting, maintaining and motivating people. There are too few agencies out there that genuinely make their talent the focus of their business or acknowledge that their growth will come directly from the people they employ.

Exceptional people want to work in agencies that produce exceptional work, but making exceptional work requires exceptional people. It’s a never-ending virtuous circle.

Our responsibility as leaders

So it is a crucial part of an agency leader’s role to keep people motivated and supported to achieve their best. For example, at Saatchi & Saatchi, we have comprehensive training programmes, diversity initiatives, and a flexible working scheme, all of which are designed to address issues and sort them.

But creating a strong culture that retains people is not just about programmes, it’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. You have to know everyone in the building, recognise individual strengths and weaknesses, and put in place the right combination of structures and people in each department, that enables everyone on the team to excel at what they do best. And of course, be clear on what you are all there for - to make great work for your clients. We make sure that purpose permeates every training course, strategy day, and meeting we do.

It’s also about creating a working environment that is attractive to the broadest range of people. As an industry, we’ve woken up to the fact that we haven't always been great at diversity and that can only be a good thing. Exceptional people are, by definition rare, so we need to spread our net as widely as possible to find them.

The truth is that if you get the people right, you will get the work right. And if you get the work right, the growth will come. It’s just as simple, and just as immensely complicated, as that.

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