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Don’t Let Growth Become Your Kryptonite

For the most part the majority of in-house creative services groups struggle with the same challenges, usually originating from the group growing faster then its infrastructures and processes. This is a result of increased demand and volume of work­–which, in our world, isn’t a bad thing.

However, these challenges can lead to a team’s downfall. As an in-house group evolves so should its capabilities, team size, technology and, for some, geographies. The changes result in a need for a higher operating budget, including increased headcount and/or a large contingent labor workforce.

So how do you avoid growth challenges leading to your team’s demise?

Value Proposition
Regularly review your group’s value proposition, and ensure you and your leadership team don’t lose sight of it. The greatest value an in-house group brings to the organization is its institutional knowledge and cost savings. Your business decisions should be driven to regularly sustain these.

Team Size
The bigger your team, the higher the risk of being targeted for downsizing and/or outsourcing. Strategically plan for a flexible staffing model, determine the right staffing mix for your group and regularly staff up and DOWN as needed. Partner with staffing agencies to structure your flexible staffing model appropriately.

Core Competencies
Don’t set your team’s goals to “be everything to everyone.” Be selective in your core competencies and stick to them, regularly reevaluate them and adjust as needed. Don’t be afraid to identify work to be outsourced to third parties. There is still value in your team art directing and project managing projects—creative execution of all media types doesn’t have to be within your core competencies.

Principal Partnership Agencies
Take the charge in identifying and partnering with agencies to take on the overflow work and/or lead specific competencies. The key to success here is to ensure your team is involved with the creative process and handoffs. It also doesn't hurt to collaborate closely with your procurement group and demonstrate your commitment to what serves the greater good for the organization.

Lower-Cost Labor Market Solutions
For in-house groups with multiple locations, tactically evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each location’s operations. Most commonly you will find trends demonstrating a need for increased cost savings, which leads to shifting more capabilities and roles to a lower-cost labor market either domestically or internationally.

Power
Don’t get caught up in being so like an external agency that you infringe on other departments’ value propositions. If Marketing owns brand, identify how you can support them versus overtake them. Likewise, if communication and marketing strategy is owned by the “brands” or business units, structuring your account team to own this will likely not be well received. Instead, structure your account team to support and enhance what is already in place (in a non-threatening way, of course). In short, be comfortable with the value your team brings and be respectful of what other teams are positioned to bring.

Understanding the need for your in-house group’s structure and operations to inevitably change as it evolves is a good start. Strategically planning for the growth and the changes that come with that is imperative. Take advantage of networking with your peers to discuss common challenges and share lessons learned.

Please visit our website for more information on how Cella can also support future state strategic planning.


Cindy Ponce

As Cella’s Creative Services Practice Lead, Cindy Ponce is the lead author of the In-House Creative Industry Report. In addition, she consults with Fortune 1000 clients whose in-house teams span from small and mid-sized groups to large and global service providers. Cindy’s management competencies lie in building and managing internal agency model organizations globally and effectively managing cross-functional teams worldwide. She’s known for her passion and tenacity in delivering optimal solutions with exceptional service and quality work using proven methodologies. Prior to joining Cella, Cindy built and led an international team of 65+, servicing more than 40 countries. During her tenure, she spearheaded increased service offerings to include content development and interactive capabilities.

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