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10 lessons I've learned in 10 years of running an agency

October marks 10 years since I started Stratitude. I've learned many lessons along the way, here are 10 of them.
Stratitude MD Sylvia Schutte. Image supplied.

1. Be optimistic

A positive outlook makes all the difference. Even when you’re faced with problems and obstacles – optimism enables you to see the opportunity in every situation.

When my team and I reach a crossroads with a client or we don’t win a pitch, I always ask why and then take a good, hard look at what we did – to see how we can improve the next time.

As Oprah says, failure is a signpost to turn you in a different direction.

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2. Surround yourself with people you like

This doesn’t mean surround yourself with people like you!
You want people who complement you, not compliment you.
Whether it’s those who work for you or it’s your suppliers or clients, the people who share your values are the ones who will hang around and help you make great things happen.

3. Create an environment where the magic can happen

Let everyone be creative and allow everyone to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things. Some of the greatest work is the result of an individual taking ownership and running with an idea.

I am also the voice in the office who always asks: “Why are we doing this?” If I make my team think about and understand the bigger purpose behind a campaign, then the ‘how?’ comes naturally.

4. Keep on learning

The insights and ideas I get from partner agencies like AMIN Worldwide are priceless. The same goes for continuous training and exposure, where my team and I will learn about new trends and best practice from industry talks and courses.

You might not know all the answers but if you ask the questions, you’ll be amazed at what you find out.

5. Sleep on it

I’m very guilty of reacting without first thinking things through. By taking some time and literally sleeping on it, the solution usually ends up being in a completely different direction to my initial reaction.

While I often get this wrong, trust me, it does work. I even tell clients to sleep on a creative concept or strategy before giving feedback.

6. Care

I always say that anyone can prepare a plate of food, but you can taste the difference when someone cares about what they are dishing up. I drive care in the agency; care about the work my team and I do; care about the team I work with; and care about clients and their businesses.

Every time someone has stopped caring, it’s immediately noticeable and, shortly thereafter, there’ll be a resignation letter or a performance talk.

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7. Stay focused on what you believe in 

Stratitude is a full-service agency but I’ve often considered dropping some services to specialise in one or two disciplines. Then I remind myself that I started the agency because I could see a client’s frustration at working with multiple agencies and often being charged a premium to have the same work done.

8. Build relationships based on value

I cherish clients as if they are extended members of my team, and they see me and my team as extended members of their team.

We never take them for granted and always focus on helping them succeed – be it in strategies aligning with their business strategies, working with them, developing campaigns and measuring those.

9. Hire smart and then learn to let go 

As an entrepreneur, you’re hardwired to do everything yourself but, because you want to be involved in every single operation, the risk is that you start losing sight of the bigger picture.

Surround yourself with a team you can rely on and then trust them to make the right decisions. This frees up your time to grow the business beyond what you could have achieved on your own.

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10. You’ve got to love what you do – and love yourself 

While I keep office hours for meetings, it’s not unusual that I’m working early in the morning or late at night. Running a business takes time and dedication, so you have to love what you do.

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But it’s also about finding that balance and making time for your other passions and your family. I swim and run, which clears my head, and I go to the beach or mountain with my family, which helps put things into perspective.

By now, my team is used to me coming back from a holiday with a head full of new ideas, a well-rested soul and a heart filled with passion for what I do.

And with that, I say here’s to the next 10 years!

About Sylvia Schutte

Sylvia Schutte is the MD of Stratitude, a full-service marketing agency that provides strategic and creative solutions focussed on making an impact on their clients' brands and their bottom lines.



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