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Big Agency or Small Agency……What Gives ?

Having a creative agency in Manchester’s Northern Quarter has its perks. Aside from the architecture, countless new bars, boutiques and restaurants – it sometimes feels like we have more creative agencies per square foot than anywhere else in the country…

Bless Ezra & Gil for their attempts to commandeer some ‘laptop free’ tables – it’s hard not to notice that amongst the almond lattes, arty industrial interior vibes and velvet couches everyone in there is either mid-interview, business meeting, accounts follow up or networking schmooze (with a laptop).

It’s an amazing community to be part of, with tonnes of business support, collaboration and knowledge sharing events (i.e drinks) to support freelancers, business owners, start-ups as part of the weekly calendar.

ALL this stuff is brilliant for talent pool, and has really put us on the map. The number of creative & Ad industry people moving North continues to increase, and we find ourselves all fighting to hire the same talented individuals.

So, why would a new developer or designer pick one agency over another, or over a freelance career; how do they choose? How do we write a job advert or post a job that stands out from the rest in a marketplace that is full of identical job vacancies and brilliant opportunities?

What can we as a small agency offer, that a 80+ agency with a ball pool, a slide and a rooftop casino can’t?

For me, the fundamental difference is culture – and no matter how hard you try, or how many bells, whistles & perks you throw in to the employment package a big agency culture is very different to that of a startup or a smaller studio.

Bigger isn’t always better.

It can mean big jobs & big name clients, elaborate team events and a wider variety of staff experience to facilitate personal development, there are huge benefits – but there are downsides too… Enter the investors, the suits, the power struggles, permission paralysis, the formalities, communication breakdowns and diluted creative work.

It’s really not all that bad – but it is a very different beast to the smaller owner-managed agency.

Call it boutique, lifestyle, niche, ‘our agency family’ (eugh) – but there are BIG benefits to staying small.

Being part of a genuine creative culture where everyone’s opinion matters can make work feel like spending 5 days with your friends – and we still get the big clients!

The junior creative speaks directly to clients, a senior developer still does the washing up & the MD get’s the brew’s on. The team are the heart of the work, and we really do deliver, reap the rewards and battle the storms together.

In my experience, starting out in a smaller studio allowed me to learn about all parts of the business and not just the job I was hired to do. I’ve developed great direct relationships with business owners, finance directors, entrepreneurs and decision makers. I have learned to understand the day to day challenges faced by designers, developers and project managers and been able to support them directly, and also built genuine relationships with clients that have helped to shape the work that we have delivered. Some of these opportunities would not have been possible or accessible in a corporate environment.

As part of a smaller team, you can define the direction and the quality of work and feel a real shared responsibility for how you are seen as a business – in these sort of environments I believe you really define the culture, because you are the culture.

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