Forecasting: How to Manage Account Staffing and Workload

By | June 11, 2013
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“Agencies are bound by the limitations of human resources.” — The Marketing Agency Blueprint

Growth for growth’s sake is not a sound business practice. Instead, it’s better to take a calculated and controlled approach to scaling your agency.

If you grow too quickly then you risk not having the right leadership team in place, stretching your current team too thin, processes that can’t scale to accommodate and the inability to meet payroll.

Forecasting, on the other hand, gives you a firm pulse on your agency’s capacity. This ensures that accounts are properly staffed and workloads distributed, as well as helps you make smart hiring decisions—when the time is right.

Understand Your Agency’s Capacity

ForecastingAs a rule of thumb, each consultant is capable of doing approximately 120 client service hours per month. Note that this includes both billable and non-billable time on an account.

That said, position and other responsibilities within the agency have a direct impact on this number. For example, the CEO and other senior-level staff will have less capacity for client services as they are also responsible for day-to-day operational activities like finance, HR, business development and general agency management. 

Understand that as a service business, your agency’s ability to grow is directly tied to human resources. If you grow too fast or don’t have the right people in place, you risk under delivering on client expectations, high staff turnover and loss of accounts.

Accurately Forecast Workloads

For these reasons, it’s important to have a system in place to forecast employee time across accounts to ensure that workloads are evenly distributed. We recommend pairing historical and predictive data to get a good idea of where time is being spent.

  • Historical Data: Use a time tracking system (e.g. TimeFox) to understand historical performance by employee, account and project. This helps you get a better feel for how much time something takes to get done, whether time is being put into the right accounts based on their monthly recurring revenue and where inefficiencies lie.
  • Predictive Data: Forecast employee hours across accounts. This gives your team direction as to where they should be focusing their efforts, and you insight into available capacity. Note that the closer to capacity your agency functions, the greater profitability you can achieve.

Forecasting is both an art and a science; however, proper systems and processes can improve accuracy. Moving toward campaign-based clients can also help with forecasting, as one-off projects lead to greater variances from month to month.

Hire Smart

The exact time and type of hire will vary from one agency to the next. That said, if you have a forecasting system in place, you can more readily see if your team is under or over staffed, and therefore, make smarter hiring decisions. Check out our blog post, When Should Your Marketing Agency Hire?, for a set of questions that can lead your agency in the right hiring direction.

How do you forecast account staffing and workloads? Share your comments below.

For more on managing your agency’s infrastructure, check out session 2 of the Blueprint Series — Agency Infrastructure: How to Build to Scale and Prepare for Perpetual Change.