Impressions of agencies and professional services, from the other side

I spent a majority of my professional career working in professional service agencies. Now that I am working with professional service agencies from the perspective of the organization REQUESTING the professional service, I have a lot of perspective.

The 9-12 month business cycle

In the agency life, you always hear that larger contracts for new prospects have a 9-12 month cycle. As crazy as that sounds in the moment, I now know what is behind this massive delay.

Companies often have issues prioritizing their work and planning resources effectively.

If a company is using a vendor, there is a good chance that the work they are asking for is non-essential to their bottom line. What does this mean? It means that a “sure thing” project at the beginning of the year can quickly become something else or totally de-prioritized by the end of the year.

Contracting is very different

Another reason why business takes forever to engage a new agency or vendor is due to the contract process.

Contracting is an organic process for an agency. Contracts start with, “yeah, we will do things for you. Sincerely, Agency” and then grow from there as companies refuse to pay and as other issues occur.

With the businesses procuring the work, they have significant legal and procurement teams behind them, justifying what they do.

This leads to lots of back-and-forth as legal teams send back contracts that don’t give the business every advantage.

The agency always says “yes”

It has felt like I am taking the agency’s side, but there are reasons why the companies hiring them take some of these precautions.

One reason is because agencies tend to say yes to everything you ask, no matter their skillset.

This is an actual problem.

If a vendor tells you they can do something, and then you hire them, what if they CAN’T DO IT?

As someone who worked at agencies for a long time, I can count on one hand the number of times we told our client we “couldn’t do something.”

In corporate life, funnily enough, it can be hard to get someone to say they will do ANYTHING.

Inactive listening

Another side effect of the “yes” to everything mentality is what I call inactive listening.

I have found in my contracting with agencies at my current life that the agency tends to recommend their solutions without considering the actual problem the client is trying to solve.

This used to annoy me when we worked with other partner agencies, and it certainly annoys me when I need to sign on the dotted line.

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